Infrastructure Committee: public transportation update

Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Tom Cahir joined the October meeting of the Infrastructure Committee, updating the committee on regional transportation.

Tom said they have been working on improving the system from top to bottom, fixing bus routes from all 15 towns so passengers can get anywhere on the Cape in a relatively efficient manner. CCRTA buses made 1.6 million trips during the last calendar year.

In addition to schedule routes that run on the hour, they are finding ways to make DART – the Cape’s Dial a Ride Transportation service – sustainable. With 24 hour notice a DART bus will pick passengers up at their home and take them where they need to go, making 800 to 1000 trips a day. Additionally, a
Boston hospital bus goes to 16 Boston hospitals on weekdays, making stops in Wellfleet, Barnstable, and Sagamore.

Tom said the Cape Flyer train from Boston to Hyannis is one of only a few railroads whose revenue exceeds operating cost. Cape Flyer runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday for 15 weeks in the summer, connecting seamlessly to ferries and other transportation.

In order to keep up with technology they brought in Daniel Fitch. Daniel also teaches at Bridgewater as an adjunct professor.

Daniel, who also attended the meeting, is focusing on passenger usage of fixed routes and DART. He said the fare box is directly connected to a mobile data computer, providing ridership information with geo stamps. Fixed route is a flag-on service, so people can flag down a bus anywhere on the route. They then map all the boards and alights. Comparing collected data to current scheduled stops, they are able to plan stops according. Daniel is also making sure posted schedules align with what is actually happening.

The buses have a cellular connection to move data, with store-forward ability when connectivity is an issue. Daniel said information from the buses is received close to real time. When riders pay their fare, they are registered but not identified. “If you use a Charlie card, it’s tied to the ID,” he said, “but we don’t know who that is.”

The CCRTA is partnered with Next Bus, so you can see a schedule approximation based on real time data and historical data. They were also among the first in the state to provide data to Google Transit – so estimated travel times are accurate.When asked about using smartphones for ticketing, Tom told the committee that the MBTA is moving away from the Charlie Card and looking at the next generation. CCRTA is working with them to make sure the Cape is able to continue accepting what they issue, making travel seamless.

Members of the Infrastructure Committee inquired about the possibility of tourists not needing a car once they arrive on the Cape – in the interest of reducing traffic on the bridges and our roads. Tom said they can get people to the Cape without their cars, and are now working on getting them around. He also said 15% of the busses run on biofuel and they have talked about electric busses. There is car charging available at the Hyannis Transportation Center, which has not yet caught on. “We’re all things transportation,” Tom said, “so we wanted to make it available.”

In short, they’ve been doing a lot of what’s on their wishlist. “It does take a long time to get things done,” he said. “I wish things could happen quicker, but I am satisfied and pleased.”

You can read more about the Cape Cod Transit Authority on their website,

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