South Coast Rail Explained

Michael Silvia
by Michael Silvia

New Bedford residents have a love/hate relationship with South Coast Rail, the rail line that will restore train service to Boston from Taunton, Fall River, Freetown, and New Bedford. We love the idea of being able to take a train from New Bedford to Boston for work or recreation. We hate that South Coast Rail has been promised so much in the past, that most New Bedford residents either sigh or laugh when they hear that “South Coast Rail is coming soon” in the news or from a politician’s mouth. In 1991, Massachusetts Governor Weld made the infamous promise to a Chamber of Commerce audience at White’s of Westport, “If you don’t have commuter rail by 1997, you can sue me.” Who’s ready for a class-action lawsuit? Four governors later, and 16 years past the deadline, we are not much closer to having South Coast Rail service even though Governor Deval Patrick has recently promised $1.8 billion of funding. Even the most optimistic forecasts state that South Coast Rail service wouldn’t start until 2018, or more than two decades past Weld’s promise. Based on what I know today, 2020 would be a more realistic estimate.

South Coast Rail is an expensive, complex project. There’s a lot of information (and misinformation) out there. With this article, I hope to explain the basics of South Coast Rail, examining the past, present and future of the project. For those that want to delve into the 100+ page documents produced by the state, check out my document sources at the bottom of this article.

Origins of South Coast Rail

South Coast Rail TrainSouth Cost Rail was first proposed in the 1980s with the intent of bringing economic development to the Fall River and New Bedford areas. New Bedford and Fall River peaked economically in the 1940s and declined significantly in the 1970s. New Bedford, once the whaling capital of the world, glass capital of the world (known as the “City of Light” at one point) and textile producing powerhouse, became a shell of itself with the fishing industry (mostly scallops) saving it from becoming a Flint, Michigan. South Coast Rail was to become the economic stimulus needed to boost New Bedford and Fall River’s economy.

South Coast Rail service will allow people to commute to Boston for higher paying jobs and bring significant tourism in the southcoast, Massachusetts. For New Bedford, it would stop the one-way migration of our most talented workers. Rather than commute, many simply relocated to Boston. New Bedford and Fall River generally have twice the unemployment rate of the state average. South Coast Rail would help bring New Bedford’s unemployment rate closer to parity with the state average.

Proposed South Coast Stations

South Coast Rail is a network of 10 new train stations that will run southward from Stoughton to Taunton and then fork off to Fall River and New Bedford. New Bedford is proposed to get two train stations, a King’s Highway station and the Whale’s Tooth Station just off of Route 18 near downtown New Bedford.

  • New Bedford Branch: King’s Highway and Whale’s Tooth Station (Route 18)
  • Fall River Branch: Fall River Depot, Battleship Cove and Freetown
  • Others: North Easton, Easton Village, Raynham Park, Taunton and East Taunton.

Heading North, these stations will connect to the Stoughton Station. Check out an interactive map here.

South Coast Rail Stations Map

New Bedford Station Types

Not all train stations will be the same. For South Coast Rail there are four types;  Multimodal Hub, New Center, Village Station and Park-and-Ride stations.

The Whale’s Tooth Station on Route 18 in New Bedford will be a larger, Multimodal Hub Station. It will combined bus and rail with structured parking. Other Multimodal Hub stations will include Fall River Depot and Downtown Taunton. Here’s a conceptual look at The Whale’s Tooth Station.

Whale's Tooth Station Ceoncept

The King’s Highway Station will be a New Center station proving rail only with surface parking. Other New Center stations will include Freetown and Raynham Place. Here’s a conceptual look at King’s Highway Station:

King's Highway Rail Station

The other types of stations:

  • Villiage Station – Rail only with limited parking. Village Stations include Taunton, Barrowsville, Easton Village and Stoughton.
  • Park-and-Ride Station – Built to include sizeable surface lots to serve transit riders driving to the station from around the region. Park-and-ride stations include Taunton Depot and North Easton.

South Coast Rail Timeline


About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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  1. I’m optimistic this will happen for the Southcoast…We have reached a new era in U.S. where we just don’t rely on cars to get around and transportation funds are not focused primarily on car roads…Highways are a system that have been proven to be extremely expensive to maintain and adding lanes to highways have been proven to be a waste of huge money because adding lanes never work…I seen this happen first hand on Rt 3 South of Nashua near Lowell where they added a couple lanes to decrease the commuter traffic but it proved to not change a thing after all the money was spent…Now, they will have to maintain a bigger highway therefore costing the state even more to maintain…Just look at the super highways of Los Angeles for an idea of what a headache they are!

    There are studies that show that kids don’t think driving is as cool as it used to be and they would rather ride a bike or the train…and many cities are already leading the way by changing the way different parts of the city are interconnected. In a compact dense city like Boston, you can easily get around by bike in no time with much less of a hassle than if you were to drive, deal with traffic, parking issues, gas…many there are realizing this! I have 2 friends who moved to Boston about the same time 5-6 years ago and have been living car free and love it…One gets around by bike, the other walks or takes public transit…The higher cost of living is offset by the money they save in insurance, gas, fees, parking and all the other hidden costs of owning a car.

    We have a dense compact city here in New Bedford that can easily be connected if the leaders plan it correctly…It can happen, we just need patience, persistence, and proper planning!

  2. I was born and raised in New Bedford and have returned back to the city where I live with my husband and son. We are very excited for the prospect of this rail system, as my husband commutes to the city each day for work. What’s equally exciting are the concept plans for both the Route 18 site and Kings Highway. I just hope that New Bedford does it right and makes these places safe spots where people will want to go, will feel safe parking their cars at or walking to. We need to keep the riff raff out. I see it happening on Purchase St… so many great restaurants and stores popping up, but many people don’t want to go down there, because they don’t feel safe.

    The multi-family homes and townhouses proposed look beautiful, but please, Mayor Mitchell, do not make these low income homes. New Bedford has enough of that. New Bedford needs a face-lift and a better reputation. Make these homes homes that working middle class people will want to live in and commute from. Let’s not pour all of our hard earned tax dollars into these locations and have them not be what we want them to be. Station landing ( in Medford has done it right, we can too.

  3. If it is built, and I say ‘if’ for several reasons, it will not provide transportation from either New Bedford or Fall River until sometime around 2040…maybe later; but, I have to ask: who does this benefit? The estimated travel time from New Bedford to Boston is almost two hours, slightly less from Fall River; now, add to that the 15-20 minutes it will take a person to drive to the train station, park, and then board the train and you are already over two hours; next, add 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes for the time it will take the rider to get from South Station to where ever it is they are going to work once they arrive in Boston, and you have a daily commute of almost two and one-half hours; now multiply that time five, add in cost of parking, then add the cost of a monthly rail pass (it will be the most expensive ticket sold by Mass Bay Commuter Rail) and you have something that will be within reach of a very small, elite, well heeled, and well educated group of commuters…so, tell me, how does this massive expenditure of public funds in any remote way provide any benefit to either New Bedford or Fall River or to the legions of unemployed people who live in those two cities? This is the biggest lie ever sold to the people of Massachusetts, maybe all of America in history.

    • This may not benefit legions of unemployed people directly… But it will benefit people that can provide jobs for the legions of unemployed

  4. Since when does a 5 hour daily commute help a low-income, unskilled, unemployed worker except in China or Malaysia? How many people do you know who will spend $350-$400 a month (source: MBTA fare info page) for train fare plus $100 a month for parking, leave home more than two hours before they have to be at work, work eight hours, then travel another three hours to get home every day? Do you think someone – anyone – will do that in order to earn $10-$15 an hour? I don’t know a lot of people who’d do that for $45-$50 an hour (I traveled to Boston every day for almost 20 years and it took a little over two hours total per day for $32 an hour…); this is a scheme to benefit the rich and will do nothing to change or enhance the economic circumstances or opportunities for the mass of chronically unemployed and under employed people in the South Coast area, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder in New Bedford and Fall River…it will do even less for the so-called ‘middle class’ (howsoever you want to define that group) in that those people have jobs, families, and homes – and they’re not going to get up at 4:30 AM, leave home at 5:00 or 5:30 and then get home at 7:00-7:30 that night when their children have soccer games, school projects, and the whole range of things kids want to do with their parents…hogwash, pure, unfettered, high octane hogwash…dreaming of a day trip once – maybe even twice a year to Boston begs the question of why those same people aren’t doing exactly that now inasmuch as the trip to Boston via intermodal means [read: automobile to Taunton, bus to Boston, Red Line to Kenmore Square for the Red Sox game] is far cheaper and takes far less time than the hallowed day-trip, er, I mean COMMUTER rail does…oh, did I forget to tell you that there are other, cheaper, faster routes than the one currently being touted by the rail roaders?

    • Look up “agenda 21” “sustainable development” That’s what this is.

      • Toronto Crack Pipe

        This is a scam sold to you by the state. The only ones benefitting from this is the illegal drug trade, illegal immigrant’s, 40 year old suspended license guy and gangs. Just watch the influx of crime happen before our eyes. we will by importing the dregs of Boston into our already crime ridden city. Aside from maybe a doctor visit in Boston there would be no use for this service. for the cost associated with this it would be cheaper for the state to pay foe limo service to each person that works in Boston. I’ve taken the bus for years and they did a good job of getting me to work on time. The market won’t support a rail system. period! don’t trust anything that has “Smart growth” , Sustainable development, Or “regional planning”. its a ploy to get control over your individual freedoms.

    • When I lived in new york I knew people who traveled over 2 hours each way to commute to work. For people who dont have car/cant drive/emergencies this would be very beneficial. Some people dont mind the traveling and yes it costs money to travel but so does gas/insurance/car repairs etc. Coming from a city where majority of people use public transportation I can really see the benefits of having trains. The buses out here aren’t very reliable, They are barely on time and some run once an hour, I just hope the trains have a better schedule. I dont have a vehicle so I can def see how this would be beneficial but by the time it is finished hopefully I am not still in New Bedford.

  5. i understand Gov. Romney brought the southcoast project to a halt . if the administration wanted to put a hold on the construction of the rail , why didn’t they continue with the study ? Too many years have been wasted ! You can’t tell me the Enviromental people & the Engineering people with the help of fly-over’s taking aerial photo’s of the proposed rail route’s haven’t a clue to how they want to proceed !!!!. My i suggest they have NASA conduct the study ! They for awhile now have collected much knowledge of the surface of Mars . Here on the plant Earth they should be able to finish the study by the end of the week ! So what are they doing ? spending money on more meeting’s , more studies ! Let’s face it , we should take our head out of the sand so we can understand what in hell is going on ! The people associated with this project i believe are trying to make a career out

    • I wanted to finish my previous commentary by saying this is getting to be a lifetime career for some . I’ ll be 82 this year , so i doubt I ‘ll ever be able to ride the rail’s back to my root’s BOSTON !!! Look’s to me the people making the study will be long time retired & i for damn sure will be a very long time dead ! !!!!! And you guessed IT ! STILL
      NO RAIL !

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