In Appreciation of the Commuter Rail

If you’ve ever stood on the platform near Weygand, you know the familiar sight of a purple-striped train speeding down the tracks, headlights blinding and horn blaring. You know what it’s like to slide into a seat and hope that just this once, the conductor won’t actually check for a ticket (they always do). And if you’re like me, you look forward to these trips on the Commuter Rail.

I live on campus, but I find myself taking the train once or twice a week to go home, leaving for the weekend in the afternoon and coming back to campus in the early morning. I usually tell myself that I’ll do homework, or answer emails, or find something vaguely productive to occupy the forty minute ride from my hometown to campus, but most of the time I find myself staring out the window as the city turns into suburbs, suburbs into power lines and patchy forests, then back into cities.

We live in a fast-paced society where attention is a commodity. It’s important for our mental health to slow down. I find myself daydreaming far less than when I was a kid. The low rumbling and continuously changing landscape are the perfect ambience for the stream of consciousness type thinking that many of us are sorely missing as busy students. The Commuter Rail is the perfect spot for those looking to zone out in peace (as long as you remember to get off at your stop).

The Commuter Rail isn’t perfect. Tickets are expensive, depending on how many zones you are traveling through. I can’t pretend that forking over $5.25 for a one-way ticket doesn’t make me shed a tear on the inside. The train only comes every hour or so, so if your trip is time sensitive you might just be out of luck if you miss it. From my experience, the times are consistent and the ride is quick. As someone who hates driving with a passion (and certainly doesn’t want to drive with these gas prices), I’m grateful to have access to such a convenient service that allows me to visit when I get homesick (or want to see my dog, or just really need to do laundry).

In a climate-challenged world, trains are exactly the type of efficient, low carbon footprint transportation essential for creating a more sustainable society. We need accessible, affordable public transportation more than ever. I like to think that those future systems would look something like the Commuter Rail. I’d take the train everywhere I go if I could, but for now I’m content to take the train to school and dream in forty minute intervals.

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