BOSTON >> U.S. Rep. James McGovern was able to catch his plane out of Logan Airport, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito had a chance to tout the benefits of Central Massachusetts living after the two elected officials arrived at South Station on Monday morning on the first express train from Worcester.
"We can bring more people to the Worcester area," Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican, told a crowd of media and officials assembled in the South Station lobby, saying Worcester offers an "affordable lifestyle."
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joined elected and transportation officials Monday to mark the start of non-stop train service between Worcester and Boston.
The lieutenant governor said there are more than 35,000 students in the area of New England's second largest city.
"Those individuals, many of whom will graduate from colleges and universities in Worcester, will be able to commute into Boston for a job or a co-op or an internship, and yet afford a quality of life in the Worcester area with housing that's more affordable than the Boston market currently offers," Polito said.
The express trains to and from Boston take about an hour platform to platform. The one-way cost is $10.50 per passenger.
"Everybody on the train was happy," remarked McGovern, a Worcester Democrat who said he would be able to catch his plane. McGovern told the News Service he had an 11 a.m. flight to Washington D.C.
After stops near Fenway and at Back Bay, the 8:05 a.m. train out of Worcester rolled into South Station at 9:12 a.m., a little shy of the scheduled 9:07 a.m. arrival time.
In addition to the inbound express train, an express train is scheduled to head west to Worcester from South Station at 7:35 p.m.
Those who wait to catch the 8:40 a.m. train out of Worcester will spend about an hour and a half going the same distance as the train makes every stop, and under the prior schedule there were trips in from Worcester that took even longer.
Delia O'Connor, of Worcester, told reporters the ride was "smooth," and shaved about 40 minutes off her morning commute to South Boston.
"As we came in the Pike was full of traffic and we were flying along," said MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve.
Polito also noted the traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike, saying, "As I was traveling this morning and saw the backups on MassPike, I was pleased to see this nonstop service work the way it did today."
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President Tim Murray told the News Service the added express service could make his home city more attractive as residents and businesses are "priced out" of Boston.
The state purchased rail lines between Worcester and Boston during the Patrick administration, where Murray served as lieutenant governor. Murray told the News Service the state had also invested in repairs on the lines and said "this was always the goal to get to this day."
A group of advocates, led by former Gov. Michael Dukakis, is pushing for a new investment in Boston's commuter rail infrastructure by building an underground link between the northern and southern track systems. The group has huddled privately for months at the State House, and has encouraged the Baker administration to embark on a $2 million study of the proposal, known as the North-South Rail Link.
A Brookline Democrat and transit advocate, Dukakis has said a link would obviate the expensive prospect of expanding North and South stations and new technologies would allow the tunnel to be dug without people above ground even aware of the work below.
"I fully respect Governor Dukakis, but I have done many tunnels. They are not done without any disturbance," MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola told reporters, saying the study would attempt to answer questions around "cost, schedule and impacts."
Pollack said transportation officials are still crafting the scope of the study and have heard suggestions from Dukakis. She said the study would address what impact a rail link would have on the plans for expansions at the two terminals.
"It's only a $2 million study, so I'm not sure we can answer all the questions, but we're going to try," Pollack told the News Service.
In addition to the twice-daily express trains between Worcester and Boston, the MBTA and its commuter rail vendor Keolis Commuter Services rolled out new schedules throughout the system on Monday.
DePaola said the old schedule sometimes called for "more trains scheduled to leave North Station than could fit across the drawbridge" over the Charles River, right outside the station. Pollack said the drawbridge is "in need of substantial investment."
DePaola said other parts of the schedules were shifted to give trains more time to turn around at the ends of rail lines.
"The whole idea was to make the train schedule more resilient so that we could have a consistent on-time performance," said DePaola, who announced his own plans Monday to retire on June 30.
Pollack said the new schedules offer new "reverse-commute options" for Littleton and Fitchburg, and the better service was achievable "without waiting for more dollars to be invested; without waiting for assets to be fixed."
Separately, Pollack and transportation officials are working to pour money into repairs on the system.
Referred to in initial press reports as a bullet train, the express service has been dubbed Heart to Hub.
"Worcester is the heart of the Commonwealth, and to bring the heart of Massachusetts and connect it to the hub of Massachusetts - which is our capital city of Boston - is really a connection between the central region where there's economic vitality and the hub, which is a world-class city," said Polito, when asked about the title. "And we're really thrilled that in under an hour you can connect the two in a commute that was very pleasurable, and it was on-time and a good ride."
Polito said her great-grandfather was "part of the immigration team that built Union Station" in Worcester in 1911.