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‘Outrageous and inconsiderate’: Commuters in Somerville condemn Green Line closure

Riders question why the MBTA is shutting down parts of Green Line and the Orange Line concurrently

A train pulled into Union Square on Saturday. The station in Somerville — which has only been open since March — is slated to close for four weeks in an effort to complete construction of the Green Line Expansion into Medford.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

SOMERVILLE — Commuters who rely on the T expressed frustration and confusion over the weekend as to why the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has chosen to close part of the Green Line simultaneous to its Orange Line shutdown.

The Green Line north of Government Center is scheduled to be shuttered between the Government Center and Union Square stations from Aug. 22 to Sept. 19, a closure that’s intended to facilitate the completion of the Medford Branch, which has been delayed three times. The Orange Line will also be closed for repairs and replacement of tracks between Aug. 19 and Sept. 19.

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Both lines service cities to the north of Boston, such as Somerville and Malden, and their tracks run parallel between Haymarket and North Station.

Michelle Sylvain, 23, of Somerville, said on Saturday that it is “crazy” for the MBTA to close the northern part of the Green Line at the same time as the Orange Line.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said, sitting with her toddler on a bench at Union Square, one of the stations that will be closed. “Ubers are expensive, the Orange Line is going to be shut down, and there’s really no other line, except the Red — but that doesn’t take me where I need to go, like the Green and the Orange. It’s going to be tough.”

Sylvain, who rides the T from Union Square to work in Boston almost every day, said she expects the closure to “take a toll” on her finances and her schedule.

“We already leave an hour before work, but we’re going to have to leave like two hours now,” she said. “It’s a little frustrating.”

Lyah Conserve, 18, of Lynn, is in a similar situation — and she’s “very upset” about it.

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“I hate the T,” she said after exiting a train at Union Square station on her way to work Saturday. Whether it’s delays, closures, or construction, “they always have something going on.”

Still, she depends on the T to commute to school in Boston and work in Somerville, and as a result, spends dozens of hours per week on public transit. “I literally live on the T,” she said.

But with the Orange Line and part of the Green Line slated to be shuttered for much of September, she feels left in limbo.

“My plan was, after the Orange Line was shut down, I could take the Green Line and switch over to the Red Line,” said Conserve. Now, that’s not an option.

“Honestly, I don’t really know how I’m going to get to school,” she said.

Customers will have access to free shuttles throughout the closure. But Conserve said she has struggled with slow shuttles in the past, including drivers who didn’t have directions. Buses are also often “hectic” and “packed to the max,” she said.

To Conserve, the concurrent closures of the lines feels “outrageous and inconsiderate” of riders like her.

Steve Poftak, the general manager of the MBTA, told reporters on Friday that multiple factors were involved in the choice to close the lines for the four weeks. The MBTA had already planned to shutter that section of the Green Line in its attempt to finally finish the Medford Branch and also needed to stop service around Haymarket Station during demolition at the Government Center Garage, he said.

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Parts of the Green and Orange lines were closed in March after a construction collapse at the garage and again in June after a developer discovered damage to a column that required immediate repairs.

A rider stepped into a trolly at Union Square on Saturday. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Genevieve Cook, 20, of Somerville — who commutes to work from Union Square to Haymarket on the Green Line — said the cluster of closures caused her to become resigned to the realities of the MBTA.

“It’s not like I’m surprised,” said Cook. “The Green Line has never been great at effective transportation. But I’m not happy about it.”

Poftak said that “rather than having multiple diversions, multiple closures,” and multiple modes of service on the Green Line, the closure is an attempt to be “consistent,” while also affording workers “unencumbered access” to the workspace they need to complete the Green Line Extension into Medford.

Christopher Newell, 66, of the South End, said that the importance of completing the extension into Medford — which took three decades to materialize, and has been delayed since December 2021 — outweighs the inconvenience of the closure.

“The line that goes out to Medford, to Tufts University — that’s really important,” said Newell. “It’s a great thing.”

On Friday, the MBTA said that the Medford Extension is now scheduled to be completed by late November.

Newell said that the repeated delays were “to be expected,” since “these projects are fraught with peril.”

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The stop at Union Square, which was also part of the extension, opened in March and has been shuttered several times since. For Newell, it’s worth the wait.

“It’s really amazing that they built this station, and if there’s a little setback, so what?” he said. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Pam McCarron, 82, of Chinatown, said that although closures are inconvenient, she still appreciates the T. Without a car, it’s her only option, and “it’s just so freeing, even with the aggravations.

“I believe in having public transportation,” she said. “But it’s not always going to be perfect.”


Camille Caldera was a Globe intern in 2022.Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.