April 24, 2006

Officials Back Bus Route From Falmouth, Mass., To Providence, R.I.-Area Airport

By David Schoetz, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Apr. 22--BUZZARDS BAY -- The hardest part about air travel is often getting to and from the airport.

Currently, no major bus line, including Peter Pan Bonanza, which runs service on Interstate 95 from Falmouth south to Providence, R.I., and beyond, stops at T.F. Green International Airport, 13 miles south of Providence.

To get to T.F. Green by bus, Cape travelers must go from Falmouth to a downtown Providence dropoff, then wend their way about a half-mile to a different bus stop for the final leg. "You just can't get there," said retired Gen. John Flanagan, a transportation logistics professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and chairman of the Falmouth Transportation Management Commission. "It's four hours, if you're lucky."

With support from leaders in Falmouth and Buzzards Bay and interest from the Cape's two state senators -- Robert O'Leary and Therese Murray -- Flanagan is leading a push to connect Falmouth to T.F. Green with a direct bus route.

His cadets have been researching the topic since 2004. Yesterday, Flanagan called on any willing company to step in and provide a service he argues is in high demand.

The bus route, he said, would take cars off the road while tying together a transit network with stops in Buzzards Bay and New Bedford.

There, passengers could access the ferry terminal and seasonal workers could catch Cape-bound buses.

"Look at the $39 Southwest fare for a one-way to Tampa or St. Pete's," Flanagan said. "I challenge our bus company to provide that kind of service."

The airport is a popular hub for Southwest Airlines and nearly the same distance from Falmouth as Boston's Logan International Airport.

By contrast, the Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway Co. offers 16 daily roundtrips between the Cape and Logan, most of which start in Hyannis and take less than two hours.

Flanagan's idea may not be viable, Peter Pan Vice President Michael Sharff said.

When Southwest first started flying to T.F. Green in 1995, Peter Pan began offering stops at the regional airport on some buses. At most, Sharff said, those buses carried 100 passengers a day, only a fraction of which started on the Cape. "It was just a handful of folks using the service from Falmouth," he said.

In 2004, Peter Pan canceled the service.

Now that Southwest is also at the renamed Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and discount carrier JetBlue Airways flies into Logan, Sharff said, demand for bus service to T.F. Green today could be even less than in the past.

Sharff also stressed the "access" fees T.F. Green would charge the bus line would cause additional financial strain, especially if passenger counts are low. "We're a private company," he said. "Believe me, if we saw an opportunity, we'd seize it."

Officials from T.F. Green could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in an e-mail to Flanagan, David Cloutier, an airport vice president, said he supports having buses stop directly at the airport terminal.

The debate played out yesterday at the monthly meeting of the Cape Cod Transit Task Force, a roundtable of the Cape's transportation players. Clay Schofield, a transportation planner for the Cape Cod Commission and staff to the task force, said he thinks a subcommittee should be created to look into bringing bus service back to T.F. Green. "I think we've got a long way to go," he said after the meeting.

Flanagan said he's running short on patience. "They'll study and study and study," he said, "and they'll never get to action."


To see more of the Cape Cod Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes.

Copyright (c) 2006, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail [email protected]