Local leaders are raising concerns about passenger reliability and accessibility after state officials announced the entire MBTA Orange Line will be closed for 30 days in August and September and replaced with shuttle buses as the embattled agency works to update its infrastructure and keys to play maintenance.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who previously called for “drastic action” on the T, said she hopes the difficulties will now turn to progress in the long term.
“The truth is we’ve been past the point of making small fixes to the T for years at this point, and you can ask any commuter – I’m an Orange Line driver myself. We deserve more than a daily experience, the baked-in feeling of your body tensing up when you arrive at the train station because there will be an indefinite number of delays, or when you hear the speaker coming over the intercom and realize that it will be an unforeseen 10- or 15-minute stop while a problem is being fixed, or some of the much more horrifying incidents that we’ve seen even increasing in frequency over the past few weeks,” she said on Wednesday. “I am confident that this work, thorough, done in one go and done now, means we will save ourselves years of disruption in the long run.”
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who regularly rides the MBTA Orange Line, commented on what a 30-day shutdown means for commuters and the system as a whole.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said his city is working to ensure commuters and students can continue to reach their destinations during this unprecedented shutdown.
“This closure will undoubtedly have a negative impact on our community, particularly our residents who depend on the Orange Line to get to and from work and our students returning to school. I have already met with our team to see if there is anything we can do to help the situation involving the use of the S-Bahn to offset the disruption,” he wrote in a statement.
He added that he believes MBTA needs to focus on routine maintenance of existing lines on new projects.
Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne raised concerns about the need for reliable options during the works.
“We all know the Orange Line is in dire need of repairs so it is good to see that they are beginning this work, but MBTA also needs to ensure that Orange Line users can still get where they are going easily have to. The T is a lifeline for many of our residents that gets them to work, healthcare, school and more. They shouldn’t have to suffer a repeat of the problems we’ve seen recently with other T closures,” she wrote in a statement.
The NBC10 Boston Investigators examine what led to the current state of the MBTA.
Those views were shared by Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) interim director Josh Ostroff, who said he hopes the shutdown will bring significant improvements to make the hardships worthwhile for drivers.
“MBTA must have a shutdown mitigation plan consistent with the commitment we require from passengers. It must include free service for all alternative options for Orange Line passengers, including shuttle buses and commuter trains at affected stations, reduced fares throughout the system, unprecedented bus priority on local roads, and frequent public updates,” he wrote in part.
Rick Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City, also released a statement.
Today’s MBTA announcement to close one of the busiest and transit-dependent corridors in the city and region comes at a time when concerns about safety, reliability and lack of trust are at all-time highs. The public, workers and thousands of students return to the Boston area for the first two weeks of September. This is a time to encourage the use of public transit rather than shutting down a vital rapid transit line. As an alternative, the T should consider using the month of August for a full shutdown to complete emergency FTA work, then proceeding with extended night and weekend work in September to address lower-priority upgrades,” he wrote in part. He added that the T needs to offer alternatives that include the discounted fares and free shuttles mentioned by others, and also pointed to free Blue Bikes as an option for some.
“We need to hear more from Governor Baker and the T about additional alternative travel options for people who rely on the T because, at this time, that plan is inadequate and incomplete. While the work is necessary due to the lack of planning and mitigation measures, its impact can be unnecessarily brutal for both drivers and our region,” he added.
The Orange Line will be closed from Friday, August 19 through Monday, September 19, 2022, the longest entire line shutdown in MBTA’s history.
The Orange Line runs from Oak Grove Station at Washington Street and Winter Street in Malden through downtown Boston to Forest Hills Station at Washington Street and Hyde Park Avenue in Jamaica Plain. It serves an estimated 200,000 people every weekday, according to MBTA.
That closure is the longest full-line service diversion in the agency’s history, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.
The MBTA has come under public scrutiny and a federal investigation following several security incidents.
The Federal Transit Administration has been investigating the agency for months in response to some of the more serious incidents. In April, Robinson Lalin stuck his arm in a Red Line door and was dragged to his death last month. A fire on an Orange Line train last month forced passengers to evacuate to a bridge.
An early report from this FTA investigation identified four immediate issues that the MBTA should address. Then, after several incidents of runaway trains, the FTA directed the agency not to allow workers uninformed about safety to move trains.