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Disruptions begin with Orange Line shutdown

Challenging times ahead when students return to school

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Disruptions begin with Orange Line shutdown
Passengers board a Forest Hills-bound shuttle bus at Ruggles Station. BANNER PHOTO

Mayor Michelle Wu declared the shuttle bus service temporarily replacing the Orange Line mostly a victory on Monday, noting a few hiccups as the MBTA entered its 30-day shutdown of the line, during which the agency hopes to complete track work and other much-needed improvements.

But the real test for the system of shuttles, fare-free commuter rail rides, Green Line transfers and free Blue Bike rentals will come Sept. 8, when students are back in school and their parents are back from vacation.

“It is a little bit of a slower ridership period now,” Wu told reporters during a Monday morning press conference outside City Hall. “As people are wrapping up their summer plans, we will see as the weeks go on that more and more commuters are coming back in, in person and to school.”

Mayor Michelle Wu and at-large City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune exit Government Center Station after riding shuttle buses and the Green Line. PHOTO: MIKE MEJIA, MAYOR’S OFFICE

For Wu, the commute to City Hall, which she often does by public transit, begins with a bus ride to Forest Hills Station. Wu noted Monday that there was a lack of signage pointing bus riders to the shuttle service that is replacing the Orange Line between Forest Hills and Back Bay Station. At Back Bay, riders are expected to transfer to the Green Line at Copley station. While there is no replacement service for the Tufts Medical Center stop on the Orange Line, the Boylston, Park and Government Center stations are just one block away from the Chinatown, Downtown Crossing and State stations on the Orange Line.

While Wu said her commute went smoothly, at-large City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune reported that it took her 48 minutes to get from Forest Hills to Government Center, a trip that would normally take little more than 20 minutes on an Orange Line train.

“It’s a longer time, but that’s the sacrifice we have to make to get a better T that’s not catching fire,” she told the Banner. “I am cautiously optimistic that this will go well.”

Wu said she didn’t keep track of the time.

“It’s hard to tell, because we have many friends riding along with us,” she said. “We stopped to talk a couple different times along the way.”

Coming from the north, a Boston Globe reporter said in a Twitter thread that he made it from Oak Grove Station to North Station in 45 minutes, plus an additional 15 minutes riding the Green Line to Government Center.

As of Monday, there were few details about what the MBTA will do to facilitate transportation for the thousands of students who attend schools serviced by the Orange Line, such as English High School, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, the John D. O’Bryant school, Snowden International and Charlestown High.

Wu said MBTA staff wearing red vests will be at T stations to direct students. She also noted that BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper has secured 5,000 pre-loaded seven-day T passes for parents. The passes will help enable parents to ride to school with their children to help them navigate the new routes.

But, Wu said, added capacity will likely be necessary.

“We are still working and pushing for there to be some dedicated shuttles for specific schools, that might, for example, go the entire length of the Orange Line so students don’t have to get on and off the bus to the Green Line.”

But as for now, there are no guarantees.

“We’re still working on it,” Wu said. “There’s a long task list of things to do, and the deadline for getting many of the details around the surface level transportation alternative service was Friday night.”

Wu has emerged as a public transit champion during the Orange Line service interruption, appearing on social media and in news reports riding the shuttle buses and Green Line. During the Monday press conference, she described public transit as an essential public service.

“It is a public good as much as anything else we rely on every day,” she said. “Public transit is the same as public parks, as public schools, as public libraries.”