Groups of day students walking into the Chapel or the Performing Arts Center five minutes after Chapel or Announcements begins has become a common phenomenon since October this year. The new train schedule for the fall and winter seasons significantly impacted the train students at Concord Academy, delaying their daily arrival by a few minutes. However, this is not a simple schedule change designed to coordinate with passenger’s daily agendas – more details exist behind the scenes.
“These bi-annual schedule adjustments optimize investments made in the commuter rail network and help ensure predictability for our passengers,” said David Scorey, the CEO of Keolis, the company that manages Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter Rail. According to Keolis, the new schedule will benefit passengers in the way of allowing trains to use new rail infrastructure and to avoid conflicts with freight trains. By being dishonest to the public, the “improved predictability” for passengers proposed by the company now seems very questionable. Unsurprisingly, not all customers find the new schedule more predictable.
“What makes the difference is the [new schedule’s addition of] two minutes combined with the fact that the train is already late, which usually happens two out of every three times in the morning, making everything very stressful,” said William Tran ’22, a day student who commutes by train. With the new schedule, all train students like Will have a near-nonexistent chance of arriving at Chapel or Announcements on time, which has resulted in these students being unaware of events happening on campus.
As a response, the school administration has told train students to walk faster in order to arrive on time. However, most day students do not think this is a realistic solution.
“No one seems to realize how hard it is to walk faster in miserable conditions when you are tired but still have to walk for six minutes, with a heavy backpack,” shared William. The inconvenience brought by the change of train schedule causes day students at CA to rush to campus under inhospitable weather and physical conditions while they still miss some of the updated information and seniors’ moving life stories.
Regarding the schedule change, the delicate relationship between MBTA and Keolis results in a series of backstage manipulations. MBTA permitting freight trains to run on the same track with commuter rails symbolizes the prioritization of commercial dollars over taxpaying commuters, which substantially disrupts the schedule for taxpayers and the passengers. The train schedule should benefit the public rather than the freight trains because taxes paid by the public keep the commuter rail on business. Nevertheless, Keolis, a private company that the MBTA awarded the contract to for $2.68 billion ending in 2022, lost $29.3 million of public money in its first year of operation due to poor oversight. The freight companies have wide leeway in Massachusetts, where some freight companies built the tracks initially, giving them a grandfathered status that allows them to have the right of way. If the rails are even jointly owned, then it’s feasible that Keolis is deferring more control to the freight company because it helps inject more money to replace the money lost. Despite the speculations, the company should elaborate on the purpose of changing the schedule and be honest about how the current commuter rail system functions because taxpayers deserve more transparency in Massachusetts’s public transportation system. Keolis should also broadly collect comments and feedback from customers once in a while to ensure quality service.
In conclusion, Keolis and the MBTA should stay communicate more clearly about the change of the train schedule. Since there is nothing much we can do about the schedule changed by Keolis and the MBTA, teachers and club co-heads can send out emails for information after Announcements as well to keep the day students aware of events on campus. Hopefully, they will solve the conflicts about the schedule as soon as possible so the day students at CA and other commuters in Massachusetts can obtain a more manageable schedule.