• MBTA Cape Flyer - Could It Work for NJT?

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey

Moderator: David

  by transit383
For those unaware of the service, MBTA instituted a successful "Cape Flyer" a few years ago with direct seasonal service between Boston's South Station and Cape Cod. The service makes limited stops on MBTA's Middleborough/Lakeville Line and then continues onto the Cape Main Line. The Cape Main Line is a MassDOT owned corridor with freight service provided by the Mass Coastal Railroad and tourist service provided by the Cape Cod Central Railroad. In season, a dedicated MBTA train including a bar car and a bicycle car makes an outbound run to Hyannis Friday evening with an inbound run back to Boston late Friday night. On Saturdays and Sundays, there is an outbound train to Hyannis in the early morning with a single return trip back to Boston in the early evening.

The official MBTA Cape Flyer website can be found here: http://capeflyer.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

An existing thread on the MBTA forum can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=65&t=118618" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I've spent some time on the Jersey Cape lately and, after seeing the dormant CMSL line, thought about the possibility of a Cape Flyer type service for NJT. Could it work in Jersey?

Similar to MBTA, a dedicated train could leave Philadelphia Friday evening/Saturday & Sunday morning and make stops at Pennsauken and Lindenwold to intercept River Line and PATCO riders. Then, the train could divert to the Beesley's Point Secondary at Winslow, making seasonal stops at Richland and Tuckahoe. From Tuckahoe, the train could continue on the Cape May Branch making a stop at Rio Grande (with a bus/trolley connection to Wildwood) and then continue into Cape May. The return trip would depart late Friday evening and early evening Saturday & Sunday.

MBTA's service takes two hours and twenty minutes one way between Boston and Hyannis, costs $40 round trip, and has been successful the past few years. The travel time wouldn't be much different from an NJT Philadelphia to Cape May seasonal service.

Your thoughts?
  by CLamb
Does anyone know what they cost would be to bring the line back into shape? That's been the CMSL problem.

I wonder if there is any market for Cape May from Philadelphia. To the best of my recollection nearly all of the current visitors come from much further away.
  by glennk419
Is it doable? Absolutely!

All it would take is the dollars and will to make it happen. Looking at traffic on the GSP and ACE on any Friday night / Saturday morning / Sunday evening during the shore season, you would think there would be SOME market for the service. Whether it would be enough to justify the investment is the real burning question.
  by BigDell
The LIRR weekend Cannonball Express out to Montauk in the summer is always a sellout as well. It saves "some" time, not a huge amount, but several of my colleagues reserved their seats and use it to get out the East End on Fridays after work. Of course, that's running on existing, working trackage and infrastructure…
I think a "Jersey Coast Flyer" is a lovely idea but startup cost… Not so sure it'd happen. A lot of my NY friends who go to the sure take the Sea Streak on weekends and go to Sandy Hook, they seem to love that. A lot of the others take the NJCL to Point Pleasant to hit the beach and Martell's, and they DO complain it's a long haul, but much easier than driving.
  by rrbluesman
I think it is possible and I believe it could work, but there are at least three problems: the extraordinary cost of rehabbing the Cape May Branch, ConRail between Winslow and Tuckahoe, and the lack of interest of NJDOT, NJT, and the state of New Jersey in doing anything to expand or improve any rail service in south Jersey. I wrote both of these parties recently about the current expansion, rehab, and preservation initiatives for several lines in south Jersey, and quoting from their response, "This is a placeholder for consideration of a future reactivation of the line that would benefit movement in the region. As of this date, we have not initiated any planning planning or engineering studies for this proposed project. Such studies will require detailed analysis of the need, market and economics of such a service along the line. At this point, they are listed here as a future long-range proposal to be studied at some point in the future." If there was enough demand for service their attitude might change, but I don;t see anyone but us railfans wanting it, so I doubt the parties in NJ government are going to change their minds anytime soon.

So there is clarity about the letter I quoted from, I had written NJDOT, NJT, and several other agencies about current restoration and rehab proposals as I am an architect and planner who is involved in several such projects in neighboring states and was hoping to get my foot in the door on a consulting basis for projects in south Jersey (after I read the state rail plan and the plan's call for preservation and restoration of rail infrastructure, which I cited in my letter to them).

Do I think it could work, yes, absolutely, and I can think of several alternatives to make it happen. With politics as they are, I think a train service like the Cape Flyer is a long shot and unlikely for consideration at present.

  by glennk419

Thank you for your thoughtful post. One of the obstacles that you noted, Contrail, may become moot if the proposed pipeline to B.L. England ever goes through which would leave CA-51 as the only traffic on the southern end. The downside of that could be that they pull out south of Winslow altogether which means that there would be another 27 miles of track without a caretaker to deal with.
  by rrbluesman
Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that the SRNJ (JP Rail) had rights over the Cape May Branch to Tuckahoe.

  by glennk419
To the best of my knowledge, SRNJ only has rights on the NJT ACL from Winslow to Pleasantville (AC?). CSAO CA51 still serves the Beesley Secondary all the way to Tuckahoe with most traffic these days being cars for interchange with CMSL to/from storage .
  by YamaOfParadise
Small note: The Cape Flyer really isn't the MBTA's initiative or service, despite using their equipment; it's organized and run by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (though I suspect Keolis is the actual rail operator still). The impetus for that service is in no small part driven by the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, which are the only two ways to get on and off the Cape by automobile... which when combined with the absurd traffic flows during the Summer makes it really hard to get on and off the Cape; so rail service can do just as well to get on and off of the Cape from that perspective.
  by mgdemarco
Interesting thread as I have spent a lot of time on the ACL and the FLYER. A Jersey FLYER would face a lot more challenges and cost than the Cape FLYER. In 2013, the first year of the FLYER, it was run on Friday evenings as an extension of the Middleboro commuter train. The distance from Middleboro to Hyannis is shorter than Winslow to Cape May. The FLYER also benefited from tracks that are actively used by The Cape Cod Central and Amtrak ran to the Cape as late as 1996 so the work needed for the FLYER was nothing like what would be needed south of Tuckahoe.

The FLYER also benefits from a broad collaboration and coordination between MassDOT, MBTA, Keolis, and CCRTA. The Steamship Authority also plays an important role as they shuttle riders free of charge between Buzzard's Bay and Woods Hole for trips to the Vineyard, another key draw for the FLYER. Discounted ferry tickets for both islands are sold on the FLYER.

Who would partner with NJT to help out?
  by mtuandrew
mgdemarco wrote:Who would partner with NJT to help out?
I'd start by getting Cape May and Atlantic Counties on board. They'd be in a position to jointly apply for an FTA Small Starts (>$75M) grant for an engineering study and EIS, then another grant to actually complete the project. They'd have to provide a matchs, but for most Federal programs, grants don't need to be matched with money per se. In addition to the counties' own staff time, land, equipment usage, and funds, the grant application can apply time, land, equipment, and funds from the stakeholder town/ships, organizations (tourism boards, etc.), private companies (CSAO, CMSL, etc.), NJ Transit, and the state of NJ. It'd be a lot of money to front, but many hands make light work.
  by MickD
I'm originally from Bergen County,but have lived on The Cape
quite awhile now and have used The Flyer since it started..
And I'll just add to what mgdemarco observed about the shorter
distance from Middleboro to Hyannis that the only stretch of
track re-habbed was from Middleboro to Buzzards Bay..
Quite a difference in mileage between that and Winslow to Cape May..
Once the Flyer crosses the bridge at Buzzards Bay it's about 35 MPH to Hyannis..
  by mgdemarco
How would run time play out for a Jersey flyer?

About 45-50 minutes 30th Street to Winslow Junction with stops only at Pennsauken and Lindenwold?
Winslow Junction to Cape May about 60-65 miles. What is Winslow Junction south rated for? (assuming the track was fixed/restored down in Cape May County)
Ballpark 3:15 30th Street to Cape May with a couple stops South of Winslow and no wait for the bridge?
  by peconicstation
As has been noted there are many inherent differences between the Cape Flyer service and any type of train service to Cape May.

Cape May has not had regular, non-tourist focused, passenger train service since 1981, and in the last decade that the services ran, they were very limited.
Limited as in a single year round, rush hour trip to Lindenwald in the morning, and back to Cape May in the evening.
From late June to Labor Day each a year a 2nd rush hour trip was added (running 1 hour after the year round train in the AM and 1 hour earlier in the PM), and a single SSH trip to
Cape May in the morning, and back to Lindenwald in the evening.
These trains ran with heavy subsidies from NJ DOT (much higher than the subsidies for Northen NJ Commuter Service), and had their last hurrah during the summer of 1979 due to the 2nd gas crisis of the 70's.
Cape May service ended in the Fall of 1981 when the FRA declared the tracks to be in such poor shape they slapped a 15mph restriction on them.

Another important difference is that people in greater Boston of all backgrounds use transit (myself included), and use it 7 days a week, not just for commuting.

  by mgdemarco
Geography also plays a role as the Cape FLYER gets to Buzzards Bay and the canal in 1:20 from South Station and a lot of people get off at this stop. A Jersey Flyer would have a much higher percent of riders getting off at Cape May with a longer run time.