LISTEN: Legislators File to Extend Commuter Rail to Cape Cod

HYANNIS – Local legislators are calling on the MBTA to establish commuter rail service between Boston and Buzzards Bay, with potential plans to extend it to even more Cape Cod towns including Barnstable.

State Representatives Dylan Fernandes and Kip Diggs co-filed the bill that would direct the authority to establish the route within one year of passage, with a required study of the infrastructure needed to potentially bring the service to further towns like Sandwich, Yarmouth and Barnstable.

Fernandes said that potential route schedules would be required to align with the commuting patterns of residents, rather than being geared towards bringing tourists on Cape. 

According to the 2021 Cape Rail Study, bringing commuter rail to Buzzards Bay would reduce emissions by 3,400 metric tons of CO2 – equivalent to eliminating almost 9 million miles driven by gas cars.

The following is the full statement from the office of Rep. Fernandes:

On Wednesday, Representative Dylan Fernandes introduced legislation to begin the process of restoring Cape Cod commuter rail. Rep. Fernandes was joined by co-filer Rep. Kip Diggs, along with Reps. Steve Xiarhos, Chris Flanagan, and Barnstable Town Council President Matthew Levesque.

Fernandes’ bill directs the MBTA to establish commuter rail service between Buzzards Bay and Boston within one year of passage, while also requiring a study of the infrastructure needs of establishing on-Cape commuter rail service to Falmouth, Bourne, Barnstable, Yarmouth and Sandwich. The bill requires potential route schedules to align with the commuting patterns of residents, ensuring that this route will not be another tourist rail.

“We are at a pivotal moment for transportation on Cape Cod,” said Rep. Fernandes. “By revitalizing Cape commuter rail, we can expand access and opportunity for the Cape and Island residents and unlock new avenues for connectivity through the region. Cape and Islanders deserve fast, reliable transit that connects our region and workforce with the rest of the Commonwealth.”

“Cape Cod residents deserve a transportation system that is safe, effective, and affordable to use, and rail service is a critical part of that overall transportation network,” said Rep. Xiarhos. “I enthusiastically support passenger train service between Buzzards Bay and Boston as a way to help residents in this area who commute into the city for work, and to offer more options to those who wish to visit Cape Cod for tourism. The more options we are able to offer to people here on Cape Cod for their transportation needs, the better for our economic development and way of life.”

“Cape Cod needs this. The tracks are already here, we’ve had passenger rail in the past, and with the completion of South Coast Rail it’s more important than ever. With our lack of infrastructure, we need additional ways to get to the Cape other than using a car,” said Rep. Diggs.

The 2021 Cape Rail Study found that bringing commuter rail to Buzzards Bay would reduce emissions by 3,400 metric tons of CO2 – equivalent to eliminating 8,716,066 miles driven by gas cars. Rep. Fernandes’ rail plan for on-Cape commuter rail would reduce emissions even more. The study also found that Cape commuter rail would eliminate 295,000 car trips annually, enough to drive around Earth over 600 times.

Rep. Fernandes’ bill proposes utilizing existing infrastructure on the Middleborough/Lakeville Line and the Cape Cod Line to run passenger rail service. Currently, this route is only used for tourist summer rail on schedules that do not align with the commuting patterns of local communities. With the start of South Coast Rail service this year, Cape commuter rail would be able to connect to a regional rail system that terminates in Boston.

Cape rail infrastructure was previously used for passenger rail. The Cape Cod Branch Railroad was established in 1848 to connect Cape Cod with the rest of the Commonwealth. The Cape Cod and Hyannis Railroad route even provided service directly to Falmouth as recently as 1988. The only passenger rail left on-Cape caters to tourist weekend schedules. Since then, Cape Cod has seen significant population growth, traffic congestion, and demand for public transportation.

“Millions of residents in Massachusetts already have commuter rail access and Cape and Islanders can no longer be left out,” said Rep. Fernandes. “This bill is a first step towards making that vision a reality for our region.”


About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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