Concord Academy’s Entertainment Representatives recently announced the return of a shuttle service between CA and the Red Line’s northern terminus station at Alewife 12 miles from campus. This minibus service will run weekly on Saturdays and depart from campus at noon, later leaving Alewife Station at roughly 4:30 p.m.

Though there already is an existing Commuter Rail station in Concord Center, the ride itself to Boston can be unnecessarily lengthy. The MBTA has the inbound ride from Concord to Porter Square scheduled to take 32 minutes on weekends and 48 minutes for those who want to ride to North Station. Though the outbound times are shorter, the ride to Concord is still estimated to take 29 minutes from Porter and 39 minutes from North Station.

These times assume the trains leave on time. However, according to the Boston Globe, the Fitchburg Line, the train line that Concord Station is on, has the worst average reliability in the system, with an average of only 78% of trains departing on time, a notable dip compared to the 84% average reliability across the service. The fact that one in five trains is delayed can be attributed to the fact that the Fitchburg Line is the 2nd longest line in the Commuter Rail system, stopping at 17 stations over 53.7 miles. What this means is that a minor issue with a signal at Ayer or North Leominster miles up the line can impact the reliability of the train throughout the entire system.

Considering all this and the fact that the MBTA only has Commuter Rail Services scheduled for every two to three hours on weekends, it can become tricky for boarding students to plan a weekend trip and get back on time for dinner.

Compare this hour and 15-minute round trip time with the predicted 40-minute round trip of the CA shuttle service. Entertainment Representative Zhaoyi Meng ’24 said, “The whole point is that it avoids the long commuter rail ride in. [The shuttle service] is scheduled so you can eat lunch at CA, go to Boston, and get back in time for dinner.” Regarding setting up this service, Zhaoyi mentioned, “It was not that hard. We just needed faculty to drive and have a minibus each weekend.”

Though this shuttle will alleviate some of the timing issues presented by the Commuter Rail, students will still have to face the challenges of Boston’s subway system—a system that has been recently defined by mounting delays—if they want to travel within the city. The recent increase in “slow zones,” or lengths of track where subway trains’ speed must be reduced due to aging tracks among other defects, added by Massachusetts State Governor Maura Healey, can increase the ride time on any of the four subway lines. She states, “[The issue is due to] aging infrastructure, years of underfunding, and a challenge to keep repair speed up with the deteriorating condition of the system.”

Notably, according to Transit Matters, an MBTA-focused non-profit that champions mobility in Boston, the Red Line has 182 speed restrictions and a 101-minute median time from Alewife to one of the two southern terminuses at Ashmont. Though the number of restrictions is down from 236 last month, compare this 101-minute end-to-end ride with the pre-pandemic’s roughly 38 minutes, and a clear unreliability becomes apparent. This is to say that despite alleviating regional rail time challenges and pressures, the difficulty in planning a trip relying on the MBTA still proves to be somewhat challenging to students.

Though the MBTA has a long way to go before becoming a fully reliable system, the return of the Concord-Alewife shuttle should ease some community members’ stress when traveling into Boston.