“Orange Line shutdown will cause ‘severe’ traffic congestion throughout the region, officials warn”—Boston Globe, Aug. 15.
Is the T out to get us? That’s the conclusion some people have come to in the wake of the dire descriptions — by transportation officials themselves — of what it’s going to be like around here starting Friday, when the entire Orange Line closes.
In case you’ve had the luxury of not following the saga, the 30-day Orange Line shutdown is going to have such far-reaching ramifications that even if you don’t take the Orange Line, or even know anyone who does, trouble is coming for you anyway.
Whether you drive, bike, or walk, MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver warned at a press conference on Monday, “your commute will likely be longer.”
Even if you walk? It’s almost like the T — fed up with the public’s endless criticism — is out for vengeance.
What will it do? Erect “sidewalk closed” signs on both sides of the street, forcing pedestrians into the path of rogue Orange Line shuttle buses? Or send teams of tourists out to stroll seven abreast, the better to infuriate the locals?
To give the T credit, the agency has offered a plausible explanation for the unprecedented move. The closure, we’re being told, will allow it to complete five years of revitalization work in 30 days.
Maybe that’s true — but how do we know for sure? It sounds suspiciously like the pitch a sleazy salesman would make as he marks up the price just so he can lower it? Five years? Sweetheart, I can do it for you in a month.
But even if we accept that an expedited plan is the way to go, why right now?
It’s hard not to imagine beleaguered T leaders sitting in their lair, gleeful at the prospect of sweet payback for the relentless griping and ridicule.
Hee, hee, hee. Let’s spring it on them when school is poised to start and workers are being called back to the office. And hey, let’s shutter part of the Green Line, too. That’ll show ‘em.
Earlier this week, with what’s left of our sanity ticking down to the Friday night start of car-mageddon, a scary map of Boston and environs appeared in news stories. It was superimposed with an ominous red haze that spread from Dorchester to Revere, from the sea to Somerville.
What did this sinister map illustrate? Was it municipalities with elevated levels of COVID, monkeypox, or polio? Or cities and towns where the risk of fire or new luxury condos was particularly high?
No! It was a Massachusetts Department of Transportation map showing potential traffic congestion during the MBTA closures. Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford — they all appeared to be suffering from some horrible red rash.
How bad is it going to be? The MBTA is basically telling people to shelter in place. “Consider rescheduling trips through the area that are not absolutely necessary,” the T said in a statement.
Through the AREA? Like the area where we live, work, go to school, seek medical care, drop our kids at daycare, visit elderly relatives, grocery shop?
Needless to say, faced with this existential threat, as Bostonians we did what we do best — mock our overlords on Twitter.
Jeremy Siegel, a GBH Morning Edition cohost, let loose with a tweet that showed an official map of MBTA routes that he’d updated with tangled black lines.
“An easy to understand map I made of transit/traffic around greater Boston next week,” he joked.
This almost overnight disappearance of the Orange Line came as a surprise, but maybe it shouldn’t have. The T has been crying out for help for years, and recently its desperation seems to have escalated. So many of its trains have tried to run away that in July federal transit regulators ordered a “safety stand-down,” and the passengers are trying to get away, too.
In July, when an Orange Line train approaching Somerville caught on fire, one passenger leapt into the Mystic River, figuring she was better off on her own. A couple of weeks later, when a commuter train lost power and stalled on the Framingham-Worcester line, passengers took it upon themselves to bust out of the hot train and climb a fence to safety.
The T is encouraging people who can work from home to do so. But if we had been allowed to do so in the first place we probably wouldn’t have been on the T at all anyway.
If your boss doesn’t go for T-induced remote work, you always could quit and apply to work at the T. The agency was fishing for applicants on Twitter recently and played up the “extensive benefits” — free public transit among them.
Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.