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Free bike shares among measures Boston rolling out to make Orange Line shutdown less terrible, city says

Nicole Sandor picked up a bicycle at the Blue Bikes sharing station on Dartmouth Street near the Copley T station in Boston on Friday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Free 30-day passes on the Bluebikes bike share system will be available during the upcoming Orange Line shutdown, the city of Boston announced Friday, one of several measures the city is rolling out to try to reduce the turmoil from the month-long closure.

The free passes will provide users with an unlimited number of 45-minute bike rides from any of the system’s 400 stations across 11 municipalities and will be available on the system’s website and app, city officials said.

The announcement came as the MBTA and cities along the Orange Line scramble to prepare for the unprecedented shutdown from the evening of Aug. 19 to the morning of Sept. 19 so that crews can perform much-needed track upgrades and replacements.


City planners are working on deploying pop-up protected bike lanes on Columbus Avenue, Stuart Street, and Boylston Street in the Back Bay, anticipating more interest in biking into the downtown area as regular Orange Line riders seek alternatives.

They’re also working hand in hand with the MBTA to try to make the shuttle bus experience more bearable by identifying stretches along the planned route to remove parking, change lane configurations, trim trees, and in some cases eliminate car traffic altogether.

“Our city departments are meeting daily with the MBTA to adjust shuttle routes, set bus priority lanes, and create multilingual signage,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement. “As an Orange Line commuter, I will continue riding the MBTA to see firsthand how these alternate routes are working for our residents.”

Shuttle buses will be available at most Orange Line stations with connections to the Green Line at Copley Square and Government Center to travel through downtown, according to a plan released Friday by the MBTA.

At a walkthrough of the downtown area on Friday, city transportation planners joined Chief of Community Engagement Brianna Millor and representatives from the city’s Disabilities and Age Strong commissions to identify places where riders will need extra help with navigation. The shuttle bus routes released Friday do not include stops at Tufts Medical Center, Chinatown, Downtown Crossing, or State stations, further complicating commutes.


From left, Corinne White and Andrea Burns of the Age Strong Coalition, Neighborhood Liaison Maggie Van Scoy, Sarah Leung, Architectural Access Project Coordinator, Kirstie Hostetter, Transit Planner for the City of Boston, Chief of Community Engagement Brianna Millor, and Neighborhood Liaison Chulan Huang, were members of a delegation from City Hall on a tour to consider where to place signage along the Orange Line corridor between the State Street and Chinatown MBTA stops.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

The closest Green Line station to Chinatown, Boylston Station, doesn’t have an elevator, meaning riders with accessibility needs will have to find their way to Park Street or Arlington stations, both about four blocks away, or the Silver Line bus.

Around 20 accessible vans contracted by the MBTA will also be scattered along the Orange Line route to take riders with accessibility needs directly to the station closest to their destination.

While walking through Chinatown on Friday morning, staff brainstormed ideas, such as creating videos of the walking routes between stations to post on the city’s website and social media. They checked the status of pavement between stations to make sure a wheelchair could traverse the sidewalk and planned where to put signs to get the attention of commuters who may be looking at their phones.

The city and MBTA hope more people will consider taking other forms of public transit, including Bluebikes and the commuter rail, which will be essentially free for those with MBTA passes or tickets at stations in and around Boston.

Transit advocates are pushing for the MBTA to make its other subway lines and buses free to ride during the shutdown, something US Representative Ayanna Pressley and Senator Edward J. Markey called for last week. The shuttle buses will be free. The Red Line, Blue Line, and Green Line will still cost $2.40 a ride.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.