This winter has brought a staggering amount of snowfall to the New England area. The amount of snowfall has affected transportation to and from Wheaton College, which has been challenging for both faculty and students. These unfavorable conditions have resulted in a reduced schedule of the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional transit Authority (GATRA) buses to Wheaton, as well as reduced hours of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) trains in Boston.
“I think our operator handled the situation properly. If the Governor called for a state of emergency then we have to be off the roads just like everyone else,” said the Director of Customer Relations at GATRA, Joanne Laferrara.
Faculty, staff and students who live off campus have felt the brunt of these storms, as they are unable to drive to campus on the icy roads. Many faculty members use the MBTA trains in the Greater Boston Area, and are inconvenienced by the reduced schedule. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that many of the train lines are making fewer stops, which will continue until an undecided time in March.
The impact that the snow has had on commuting for faculty and staff members has been severe. Assistant Director of Student Activities, Lizette Zajko, said, “I reside in Norwood, [which is] about 20 miles from Boston, and my commute to Wheaton was a little rough at times. I was falling on the line of the Boston storms and it took me quite a while to get to campus.”
Zajko added that the fact that this is a residential college greatly benefitted the students in this instance, as she said, “I would say that it did not significantly impact Wheaton students due to the fact that we are primarily a residential campus.”
Though this may be true, interruptions in the GATRA schedule were especially inconvenient for those Wheaton students who do not own cars and have no other means of transportation. Chisomo Billy ’18 said, “I got stuck at the train station when GATRA didn’t show up. I waited for an hour and a half, but still [nobody came]. A different GATRA took me back to Wheaton.” Ashley Donovan ’18 said, “The commuter rail shutting down made it hard to see my friend in Worcester, I wasn’t able to make my connection because they had shut down all the trains.”
Laferrara explained that keeping everyone informed was a fluid and changing process depending on the severity of the weather.“[Updating the GATRA schedule] changes from day to day. We take into consideration the weather alerts, the condition of the roads and [we] want to give people enough time to get home. For example, one day the commuter rail was stopping service at 7 p.m. We stayed in service to meet that last train so commuters could get home.”
“Safety is our number one priority,” Laferrara said. “I think many people have been inconvenienced due to this weather especially if the students use the commuter rail. But I think people realize [these were] totally unusual circumstances [and] have managed to adjust and were very patient [with us].”