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Metra issues further inconvenience commuter students

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Metra issues further inconvenience commuter students

Graphic by Annalisa Baranowski for the DePaulia

Graphic by Annalisa Baranowski for the DePaulia

Graphic by Annalisa Baranowski for the DePaulia

Graphic by Annalisa Baranowski for the DePaulia

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Signal issues plaguing Metra trains came to a head on Feb. 28, with major delays inconveniencing commuters all over the city and surrounding suburbs.

The delays began at 8:30 a.m. and afflicted Metra BNSF, Milwaukee West and Milwaukee North, the Heritage Corridor, North Central and SouthWest lines.

The delays reached their peak during rush hour, leaving thousands of commuters stranded at Union Station.

“The root cause was human error in the process of deploying a server upgrade in our technology facility that supports our dispatch control system at Chicago Union Station,” said Amtrak president and CEO Richard Anderson in a public statement. “We failed to provide the service that Amtrak customers, Metra commuters and the general public expect of us.”

The delays negatively impacted DePaul commuter students, with several students being unable to arrive on campus on time for classes.

“The signal issue impacted me last week; I was late to class around 30-40 minutes,” said John Reyes, a freshman commuter student from Vernon Hills. “I didn’t arrive [until] 12:00-12:15 for an 11:20 class.”

DePaul commuters not only risked being late to class, but to jobs that require transportation by Metra.

“I was  impacted by the signal issues last week to the point where I was almost late to class and work every day,” said Allison Terry, a sophomore political science major commuting from Midlothian.
“I barely made it to class, and as someone who is extremely punctual, that was pretty troubling.”

Students have said that the signal problems have become commonplace, with late trains not coming as a surprise.

“The signal problems have gotten so bad that I basically expect the train to be late every day,” Terry said. “It’s really been making me stress over getting to work and class on time. Most of the time I’m barely making it. It’s just really annoying because I pay $200 a month to use this service and it hasn’t been pulling through.”

DePaul has a massive commuter population, with nearly 90 percent of students either commuting or living off-campus, according to DePaul Division of Student Affairs. For students commuting from suburbs without CTA trains and buses, the Metra is a solution to long drives in city traffic and struggiling to find parking on campus.

“It’s an easier way to get to school than going all the way downtown and back up to Lincoln Park,” said Nathalie Hoste, a freshman commuter student from Edison Park

Students have said that while the Metra has been a great cause of inconvenience lately, they are still dependent on their services. This can cause further inconveniences where campus involvement is concerned.

“I think that the Metra does what it can the best that it can even if there are some problems, but because I take the train every day I feel like I’m missing out a lot on campus life,” Terry said. “It’s not like I can stay late and simply drive home. My schedule has to run on Metra’s schedule.”

An additional issue impacting DePaul Metra commuters is the added cost of taking the train on a regular basis. Unlike the CTA, in which fees paid to DePaul cover the daily fees of CTA trains and buses are covered by the U-Pass, DePaul Metra commuters do not receive any assistance from the university in paying for Metra transportation.

“The only other issue I face is having to pay over $150 for a monthly pass to and from school,” Hoste said.  “It’s expensive and they don’t offer discounts for college students, which makes it harder to pay for my ticket on my own.”

While the Metra does not offer a discount for college students, full-time students enrolled in grade school and high school can purchase reduced One-Way, 10-Ride or Monthly Pass, according to the official Metra website.

The lack of a college student discount has not gone unnoticed, with a petition being crafted on Change.org. The petition currently has 17,929 signatures out of a goal of 25,000.

“If [commuter students] were able to receive a discount I would have so much more disposable income,” Terry said. “I’m currently working two jobs to afford the 200 dollars a month for the train as well as other expenses.”

The issue of Metra fees was a point of contention for many in 2018, when Metra fares increased, with all ticket options being impacted. There was not a fare increase for 2019.

Similarly, Metra trains run on a less consistent basis than CTA trains and buses, making it much more imperative for students to get to the trains on time.

“Commuting an hour away can be really stressful, especially during the early hours in the morning,”  Reyes said.  “My first class on Mondays and Wednesdays don’t start until 10:10 a.m., but I’ll have to head to the 7:19 a.m. train because the next train won’t come until 9:40 a.m. If I take the 9:40 train, I’ll be very late, arriving at 10:40 a.m.”

Despite the signal issues seeming to have passed recently, DePaul students will likely still face headaches regarding their daily commute.

“I believe that DePaul is majorly focused within the city, rather than also focusing outside the city. Sure they have a commuter lounge and commuter appreciation, but I think that commuters is not much of their focus,” Reyes said.  “They focus heavily towards on-campus students as they reside within campus, but not much to commuters since they live outside of the city [and] DePaul.”

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Metra issues further inconvenience commuter students