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Orange Line shutdown

It wasn’t a normal Monday commute along the Orange Line. Here’s what riders experienced.

A commuter boards a shuttle bus in place of Orange Line service at Wellington Station.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Monday marked the first full weekday commuters navigated the MBTA’s shutdown of the entire Orange Line.

The T closed the line for 30 days, until the morning of Sept. 19, to finish badly needed fixes on its train tracks, promising five year’s worth of weekend and evening work will be completed in just one month.

Our reporters fanned out across the region to track how commuters fared during the first day of the workweek without the key Jamaica Plain to Malden subway line.

Here’s a look at how it went.


August 22, 2022


‘I hope it’s worth it’: While things appeared to go smoothly, some commuters are still angry — 6:05 p.m.

By Matt Stout, Globe staff

At Forest Hills station in Jamaica Plain, shuttle buses moved swiftly in and out of the station, while the stairs and escalator welcomed steady but small streams of commuters making the connection between bus and commuter rail train or shuttle and bus on a gray, humid afternoon.


“Everything we planned for is happening,” said Boston City Councilor Brian Worrell between passing out CharlieCards to commuters. He estimated that he handed out 30 to 40 in a half-hour, allowing people a free commuter rail trip if they needed it. The first day, he said, appeared to be going smoothly. “We’re checking off a lot of boxes.”

It wasn’t an antidote for people’s frustration, however. Jordan Goffigan, 22, of Roslindale, said his shuttle from Mass. Ave took 35 minutes, roughly double the time it usually takes his Orange Line train.

“It was terrible,” he said. The shutdown also meant he rode the commuter rail in the morning, a complete change from his routine that required he get out the door at 6 a.m. He said he usually leaves home at 7:30 a.m. to get to his non-profit job.

“I’m gonna have to live with it. There are no other alternatives,” he said. And of the work the T says the shutdown is allowing it to do? “I hope it’s worth it. I have to sit through this.”


Jaylen Jackson, 19, was not so optimistic. The Jamaica Plain resident said the 21 bus he took to Forest Hills struggled through more traffic than usual, and he was preparing for the shuttle bus he was stepping onto to meet the same fate.

“A lot of people are angry and upset,” Jackson said of the mood. He said he takes the T or bus when going to see friends, but that he also drives. Jackson said a month of commuters having to navigate roads with more hulking buses will not end well.

“I don’t think it’s going to go great,” he said. “It’s going to cause a mess.”

Shuttles added about 25 minutes to one Malden resident’s commute — 5:10 p.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Just past 4:30 on Monday, Johnnie Chambers stepped off an Orange Line shuttle at Malden Center into the wet afternoon weather.

Chambers, 64, works in maintenance and normally takes the Orange Line to State. The shuttles added about 25 minutes to the Malden resident’s commute, he said, but he thought the shuttles worked well, and his trips were “pretty smooth.”

“For me personally, I didn’t have a problem with it at all,” he said.

Sections of the Orange Line were replaced by shuttles in 2018 and 2019 so, Chambers said, he was used to it.

Joanne Trinh, 25, works for a non-profit downtown and has to be in person on Mondays. Trinh said she expected to see her commute time double, but the morning’s trip took an hour, triple the usual. The way back took about 45 minutes, she said at Malden Center station around 5 p.m.


“It’s not terrible; it’s just a waste of time,” Trinh said. “But I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get to work.”

Trinh said she feels worse for her friends who live in Chinatown who have fewer options.

T chief is ‘cautiously optimistic,’ construction project is off to a good start — 4:17 p.m.

By Emma Platoff, Globe staff

Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, said at a news conference at Sullivan Square Station on Monday afternoon that the major Orange Line construction project is off to a good start, and there are “no major shuttle issues reported so far” even as the transit system runs more than 150 shuttle buses across metro Boston.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that things are going relatively smoothly,” Poftak said. He encouraged drivers to stay off the roads to reduce traffic during the shutdown.

Construction is proceeding well and officials still expect it to be completed within the 30-day timeline, Poftak said.

Poftak said so far, 2,400 feet of rail have already been replaced, and highlighted a number of projects that are completed or underway. Notably, crews have already replaced the southbound track between Downtown Crossing and State Street, one of six slow zones the MBTA aims to address during the shutdown.

“We have an active work zone up and down the Orange Line and we are taking full advantage of this 30 days of unencumbered access,” Poftak said. “We’re able to accomplish five years’ worth of projects during these 30 days and we are just getting started.”


Watch as MBTA riders hurry to board Orange Line shuttle buses during their commutes — 3:55 p.m.

By Shealagh Sullivan, Globe Correspondent

Rather than boarding their usual Orange Line trains, MBTA riders hurried on Monday morning to catch the shuttle buses that have replaced the subway line.

At Forest Hills station Monday morning — the first weekday without the Orange Line — coach buses labelled “Orange Line Shuttle Bus” lined up as people arrived to board them.


Orange Line Shutdown: Sights from the first day of the MBTA Orange Line shutdown

A slooooow shuttle bus ride from Malden to Boston — 2:00 p.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

An early afternoon shuttle bus on the southbound route from Oak Grove slowed to a crawl between Community College station and North Station as cars flooded the bus-only lane.

The red pavement and Bus Lane signage was not enough of a deterrent for a long line of cars.

Frustrated riders sighed audibly. The ride from Oak Grove to Government Center stations took just over an hour.

Those who switched to the Green Line at Government Center found a packed platform.

Watching Orange Line shutdown, some drivers decide to skip the commute into Boston — 1:30 p.m.

By Matt Stout, Globe Staff

Newburyport’s Ed Cameron doesn’t ride the Orange Line, and he hasn’t taken the commuter rail to get to his job at the Pine Street Inn since the pandemic started. But he still awoke Monday calculating whether to take the hour-plus drive into Boston or to take advantage of the few remote work days he can manage.

He checked the GPS at 6 a.m. and then again at 8 — and saw nothing but clear roads. “It would be a 52-minute ride. That only happens at midnight,” he said.


Still, he chose to work from home, wary of testing the likely “ripple effects” of the shutdown. “I guess everyone is staying home. I don’t know if that’s success or people just chose to wait it out,” said Cameron, who is also a Newburyport city councilor.

He also is already sizing up a 7 a.m. departure Tuesday. “We’ll take tomorrow as it comes,” he said.

A grassroots effort emerges to help riders with Orange Line confusion and delay — 1:00 p.m.

By Shannon Larson, Globe Staff

Leading a convoy of cyclists. Designing a user-friendly map of MBTA closures and alternative routes. Offering to drive strangers who normally take the train.

With the Orange Line and part of the Green Line out of service for a month, a grassroots effort has emerged to help riders with the confusion and delay, with people volunteering in a range of creative ways.

“Everyone who relies on the T in Boston feels like we’re in this together,” said Alex Cox, who revamped an MBTA map of alternative routes after noticing people found it “extremely difficult to interpret.”

“We want to help each other see this thing through and hopefully come out with a better transportation system on the other side,” he said.

By Taylor Dolven and Emma Platoff, Globe Staff

Greater Boston’s bike share program Bluebikes announced its highest ridership weekend of all time during the first weekend of the Orange Line closure on Aug. 20 and 21 with 36,664 trips.

Bluebikes is offering free monthly passes that allow users an unlimited number of 45 minute rides during the Orange Line shutdown from any of the system’s 400 stations across 11 municipalities.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said during an interview Monday morning on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” that officials have seen “higher usage of Blue Bikes than ever before in the system’s history.”

People rode Blue Bikes near Government Center.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

“The silver lining of some of this Orange Line stuff is that people are trying out different methods,” Wu added. “When you remove financial barriers, the appetite is there, the demand is there.”

On Friday afternoon, the first day the free monthly passes were available, Bluebikes announced that more than 2,000 passes had been claimed.

Through shuttle bus window, riders see old Orange Line trains near Wellington station — 12:10 p.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

A 10:53 a.m Orange Line shuttle bus from Government Center took 45 minutes to arrive at Oak Grove station, the last stop on the line. Last Monday, when trains were still running, the similar trip from Haymarket station to Oak Grove station took around 20 minutes, according to a travel time tracker from TransitMatters, a public transportation advocacy group.

The shuttle bus driver announced all of the stops along the route, but still fielded questions from a few riders about where the bus was going.

Through the window of the shuttle bus near Wellington station, riders could see some of the oldest Orange Line trains.

Old Orange Line cars could be seen from the shuttle bus route near Wellington Station on Monday morning. (Taylor Dolven/Globe Staff) Taylor Dolven/Globe Staff

At Oak Grove, there were three shuttle buses in line waiting to take travelers toward Boston.

About a dozen more were waiting in a nearby lot where their drivers were on break.

Boston’s Ed Flynn: Shuttle service not working for Chinatown residents — 11:41 a.m.

By Danny McDonald, Globe Staff

Boston City Council President Ed Flynn said the T’s options in lieu of the Orange Line do not work for Chinatown’s residents.

In a statement, Flynn, whose council district includes Chinatown, said he was out talking to residents at 5 a.m., garnering feedback regarding the Orange Line shutdown.

His conclusion? “While the MBTA added supplemental shuttle service to better serve our Chinatown community, both the route and schedule of the new shuttle service still do not work for our residents,” said Flynn.

Flynn said the shuttle service is currently scheduled to run between 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. for Chinatown residents and again from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Those hours, according to Flynn, “do not serve the community well, as many residents travel to work, school, appointments, and other destinations that are beyond these hours.”

”To adequately serve the Chinatown community with shuttle buses, the hours need to be expanded, so that students and workers can get to their schools and workplace in the morning, and the elderly and persons with disabilities can get to their appointments during the day,” he said.

Chinatown was initially left out of the planned shuttle bus route that is replacing Orange Line service for 30 days. But the T ultimately provided a separate shuttle bus route for the neighborhood that circulates between stops near the Chinatown and Tufts Medical Center T stations and Government Center every 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In his statement, Flynn said the T “needs to do extensive outreach to our Chinatown and immigrant communities, and make sure that language access is at the forefront of this outreach with materials and announcements in multiple languages.”

The MBTA has already created 277 A-frame signs in English/Spanish and English/Chinese, at least 149 advisory signs posted on Orange Line station doors in English, and digital signs on 452 in-station screens in 10 languages, according to the MBTA. The T’s Rider’s Guide for service alternatives is available in six non-English languages.

Somerville mayor tests shuttle bus system with four rides before 9 a.m. — 11:19 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne stood in the center of a shuttle bus aisle, gripping a handhold and craning her neck to get a better view out the bus’s front window at the street.

The mayor was trying to see which lanes in the intersection of the Fellsway and the Mystic Valley Parkway in Medford were marked with white paint as “Bus Only.” As cars and buses jockeyed for position at the intersection with little regard to what was painted on the street, it was hard to tell.

“They’ve got stencils down, but I’m not sure anyone’s paying attention to that,” Ballantyne told three members of her planning and mobility staff as she gestured out the window.

As the first commute of the Orange Line closure began, the region’s mayors, like Ballantyne, have had a new role thrust upon them: transit system troubleshooter. It is not a job they wanted to be doing, but one many of them have thrown themselves into practically full-time in the two weeks since the governor announced the shutdown.

By 8:45 a.m. on Monday, Ballantyne was on her fourth shuttle trip of the day. She started the day with a shuttle from Union Square, then she caught an Orange Line shuttle to Assembly, and, after a press conference, went from Assembly to Wellington Station in neighboring Medford and back again.

A shuttle bus with no announcements. ‘This is a nightmare,’ one passenger said. — 10:50 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

A 9:38 a.m. Orange Line shuttle bus from Forest Hills station arrived at Back Bay station at 10:04 a.m. — a 26 minute ride. That’s double the time it took to make the same trip on the Orange Line last Monday, when trains were still running, according to a travel time tracker from TransitMatters, a public transportation advocacy group.

Passengers boarded at all six stops in between except for at Green Street. At times there were around 30 people on board.

The bus driver didn’t announce any of the stops, confusing riders.

Ruby Acevedo, 47, practiced her commute from Roslindale to Chelsea on Sunday, but without the station announcements on Monday, she wasn’t sure where to get off. The shuttle bus stops are not always located right in front of the Orange Line stations.

“There’s so much confusion,” Acevedo said in Spanish.

With help from other passengers, she made her way to Copley Station, where she boarded a Green Line train to Government Center. Then, she walked to Haymarket station to board the 111 bus to Chelsea.

“This is a nightmare,” she said.

Hair salon owner says shutdown already hurting business — 10:46 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

At tiny Elegance of Asia Hair Salon in Chinatown, shop owner Michelle Tang already knows the effect the Orange Line closure has on her business. Since the shutdown began, she’s noticed the pace of her clientele — mostly students and the elderly — crawled to a near halt.

Tang, 60, has owned the salon for 26 years and has never seen a transportation interruption so severe.

Tang had a long commute herself. She lives in Roslindale, and drove to park at a friend’s house this morning, which she said was a 40-minute walk from her salon.

“I just have to face it,” she said.

One hour from Malden to Government Center on a shuttle bus — 10:41 a.m.

By Danny McDonald, Globe Staff

In the teeth of the morning commute, one shuttle bus took an hour on the nose to travel from Oak Grove in Malden to Government Center in downtown Boston. At one point, more than two dozen riders were on the bus, but by the time it rolled to the curb at its terminus near City Hall shortly after 9 a.m., about half of that number remained.

In some respects, the ride resembled a typical public transit commute as it crawled through Malden, Medford, Somerville, Charlestown, and, finally, downtown Boston. A few people took business calls, but mostly the riders silently played with their phones, looked out the window with headphones on, or tried to grab a nap.

Nicholas Ventura, a 32-year-old Melrose resident, was among those to disembark at Government Center. He still had a 15 to 20 minute walk ahead of him to the office where he works as a job-training manager near Tufts Medical Center. His Orange Line commute is usually 45 minutes, meaning Monday’s commute took at least a half-hour longer than usual. His boss, he said, is understanding and is willing to give him some leeway in terms of punctuality. ”You really can’t do much,” he said of the shutdown. “The system is broken.”

He was already worried about the commute home.

“No one knows what that is going to look like,” he said. Another rider, Mohammad, who declined to give his last name, estimated the shutdown would tack on a half-hour to his commute from Oak Grove to Boston’s Chinatown, where he works as a research scientist. The Commuter Rail, he said, goes to North Station, which is about a 20-plus minute walk away from his work, so he tried his luck with the shuttle bus.

“I understand they need to do some maintenance, but it is frustrating,” he said of the shutdown.

Wu says her commute was pretty smooth — 10:34 a.m.

By Emma Platoff, Globe Staff

Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday morning that her trip into City Hall had gone “pretty smoothly” despite the closure.

“It was a little bit longer than usual commute, but no real bottlenecks or traffic along the way, buses and trains coming very shortly at each stop,” Wu said at a press conference outside City Hall. “It seems like much of the planning and all the details that we have discussed have been implemented and so far, so good.”

One hitch Wu identified: insufficient signage at certain stops, including at Forest Hills, where she said there was no sign indicating how commuters could get from their bus routes to the Orange Line shuttle buses.

“There are still some places where we need better signage, and signage in multiple languages,” she said.

But she said she heard positive feedback from the commuters she spoke with Monday morning.

“MBTA riders are always ready for anything,” Wu said.

Typically, Wu is driven to the Forest Hills T stop, and takes the Orange Line into work. On Monday, she took the 34 bus to Forest Hills, then the Orange Line shuttle to the Green Line, arriving at the Government Center T stop around 9:30. She estimated that it had taken her 35 minutes to get from Forest Hills to Government Center.

Shutdown prompts Chinatown fry chef to leave hours early for shift — 10:30 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

At a Chinatown salon, Liming He, 60, waited for his shift as a fry chef at a nearby restaurant to begin. He lives in Malden, and was worried about the long commute. He took a bus and a train, and left hours early to ensure he wouldn’t be late to work. He lingered at a friend’s business and watched television on his phone to pass the time. He will make this commute 12 times before the week’s end.

“Today was the first day, and I was worried about traffic,” He said through an interpreter. “That’s why I got here so early.”

Marie Zhang, 50, held a plastic tray of freshly baked matcha roll cakes as she looked out on the empty Taiwan Bakery.

Zhang lives in the South End, and said she wasn’t as affected by the closure but said the past two days of business at the salon have been much slower.

Smooth sailing at Ruggles Station — 10:10 a.m.

By Tiana Woodard, Globe Staff

At Ruggles Station, commuters loaded onto shuttle buses headed towards Forest Hills and the Back Bay with relative ease. Buses lined up back-to-back at the station’s various shuttle loading zones.

Only signs announcing the monthlong shutdown in English dotted the T station. Some flyers detailing the service changes in Spanish were available for takeaway.

Among Monday’s commuters was Devahn George of Norwood heading to a job interview in Needham. On a normal T day, George said he takes the Commuter Rail from Norwood Central to the Back Bay station and transfers onto the Orange Line.

“Now, it’s like you’re better off getting a job on the Red Line,” George said.

Though he didn’t use the shuttle services Monday morning, George said the buses would be part of his commute that afternoon. He said T shutdowns, like the current one, have factored into his ongoing job search.

“I don’t want to have to deal with this [stuff] everyday,” George said.

Passenger enjoys the features of shuttle bus — 9:57 a.m.

By Tiana Woodard, Globe Staff

A shuttle bus to Forest Hills had no passengers lined up as it stopped at Columbus Avenue near Ruggles station at 8:30 a.m. On board, Katie Clare, 21, basked in the features of the travel vehicle-turned-shuttle bus, which was equipped with cushioned seats and charging outlets.

The Fenway resident usually rides from the Massachusetts Avenue station to Forest Hills. Instead, she said she had trouble locating the shuttle stop that’s a few minutes further from her home.

“Now I have to factor in the stop that’s a little far away,” Clare said.

When Clare first learned of the T shutdown, she said she first thought, “How am I going to get to work?”

Clare estimated she’d be a few minutes late to work Monday morning. But at least her boss is understanding, she said.

‘As much as I hate the Orange Line, I kind of love it in a weird awful way’ — 9:28 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

On the Forest Hills Commuter Rail platform around 7:45am, riders crouched down to read the small font of the train schedules posted on A-frame signs. The next train wasn’t coming until 8:34.

“Do you think this will go to Back Bay?” one woman asked.

The woman next to her shrugged. “This is my first time down here,” she replied.

The MBTA is urging Orange Line riders to take the commuter rail while the subway line is shut down for 30 days. The service is free for those who flash a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket to conductors at stations in and around Boston.

Shannon Clark, 45, who works at Boston City Hall in the public works department, practiced taking the commuter rail to South Station last week.

“It wasn’t that bad, it was a straight shot,” she said. “I feel bad for people that are deeper into the Orange Line.”

She grew up taking the Orange Line, and even with all its problems, most recently a fire in July, Clark said she will miss it for the month.

“As much as I hate the Orange Line, I kind of love it in a weird awful way,” she said. “I missed the noise when I commuted in, people watching, and kind of the craziness of it, so this is really weird.”

Melissa Ramos, 32, bought an electric scooter one month ago, before she knew her Orange Line commute to Back Bay would be upended.

“It has really expanded my range,” she said.

Ramos said she is hopeful Orange Line trains will run more frequently once the shutdown is over. The MBTA cut service on the Orange, Red, and Blue lines by more than 20% in June because of a dispatcher shortage.

“I just want the schedule to go back to what it was before the summer,” she said.

In Chinatown, long commutes add to stress — 9:06 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

At Jia Ho Supermarket in Chinatown, some employees had a short commute on the Green Line but others braved a two-bus commute starting in Malden Center that lasted over an hour.

Rong Zhao, 50, who stocked vegetables into a produce refrigerator, will make the commute six days a week.

“I just need to leave early,” she said through an interpreter.

Another employee who asked to only use her last name, Wang, also commutes from Malden six days a week.

“It’s going to be more difficult, definitely,” Wang, 55, said through an interpreter. “Every day I have to get up early so I will be more tired.”

Outside the supermarket, Yong He, 63, locked up a black road bike. He usually cycles around the neighborhood, since he lives in Chinatown, but friends and family who rely on the Orange Line are stressed by the closure.

He, who is a chef, said he also hopes the closure doesn’t dissuade possible customers from coming to the neighborhood.

“Some complain about it being completely closed,” he said through an interpreter. “Boston is such a populated area and a modern city. They can’t just shut down transportation like this. They need to plan accordingly.”

Cars added to Commuter Rail for the shutdown, conductor tells passengers — 8:57 a.m.

By Matt Pepin, Globe Staff

There were more passengers than usual on the 7:12 Commuter Rail train from Franklin to South Station Monday morning, but train cars were not overcrowded.

A conductor told passengers more cars had been added to the train because of the Orange Line shutdown. All of them were the double-decker type. The MBTA reported via its commuter rail Twitter account that the train was running 5-15 minutes behind because of train traffic.

At Norfolk, the main parking lot was full by the time the train arrived at 7:26 and a large group of passengers boarded. It appeared to be more passengers than other Mondays this summer. It also appeared to be more like pre-pandemic ridership than during the last 28 months.

At the Ruggles station, which is also an Orange Line stop, the train began emptying out as usual, and a conductor made a familiar announcement.

”Ruggles! Station stop is Ruggles. Change here for the Orange Line,” he said.

Shuttle buses have replaced train service on much of the Orange Line, although the conductor did not mention that.

Sitting on a shuttle bus, commuters steel themselves for a long journey to work — 8:30 a.m.

By Danny McDonald, Globe Staff

Some people who missed the commuter rail braved the shuttle bus. Multiple riders aboard one bus expressed confusion about where exactly the bus would terminate, saying they planned to figure out the rest of their commute once they were in downtown Boston.

Brendan Conley, a 38-year-old Melrose resident, was headed to Braintree, where he works as a video editor. Typically he takes the Orange Line to Downtown Crossing, where he switches over to the Red Line. He expected his Monday morning journey to take 2.5 hours. Working remotely, he said, was not an option for him. Although the bus only had a handful of riders at Oak Grove just past 8 a.m., he expected the seats to fill up as it progressed toward Boston. He wished there was an express option for the shuttle buses.

“One bus that goes straight to the city from Malden, and another one that stops at all the stops,” he said.

‘So far, so good,’ MassDOT highway chief says — 8:13 a.m.

By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff

“So far, so good,’’ said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver in a telephone interview around 7:50 a.m. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Gulliver cautioned that it can take up to a week for the impact of major changes in the transportation network to take full effect. “It’s very difficult to draw a lot of conclusions from today,’’ he said. “It’s not unusual to see a bit of a bounce back after the first day… and then Tuesday becomes a disaster.”

Gulliver said highway traffic seemed less than usual for a Monday morning in August.

Gulliver also said that the shuttle buses now in use were generally avoiding becoming ensnared in traffic congestion.

He said officials are monitoring street and highway conditions in real time through a network of traffic cameras and if they spot a problem, police will be dispatched to the scene.

A one-end-to-the-other Orange Line commute poised to take longer — 8:10 a.m.

By Danny McDonald, Globe Staff

Brooke Cooper, a 42-year-old social worker from Malden, typically traverses the entire Orange Line, getting off at Forest Hills, a journey that can take an hour and 15 minutes.

She said she has had a conversation with her boss, the crux of which was that she would try to be on time, with the caveat that she did not know how long the commute would take.

Her trip to work is long enough as it is, she said, and she was disappointed that it is being further complicated by the shutdown.

“It is incredibly frustrating,” she said.

‘Why couldn’t they do this during the pandemic?’ — 8:00 a.m.

By Danny McDonald, Globe Staff

At about 7:30 a.m. more commuters at Malden’s Oak Grove station appeared to favor the commuter rail rather than the shuttle buses.

About 30 people waited for the commuter rail on a platform at the northern terminus for the Orange Line.

People also boarded the buses, which were queued up in the parking lot.

There was a mix of acceptance and frustration from commuters, who noted the commuter rail could get them into the city as quickly as the Orange Line, although it arrived less frequently.

“Why couldn’t they do this during the pandemic?” asked Scott Landry, a 63-year-old Melrose resident who works in a law firm in Boston. “They had two years.”

Some said they would have preferred to work remotely but had tasks that required them to be in the office. A few thought the shuttle buses were a lost cause. Some shrugged off the shutdown.

“It is what it is,” said Catherine Bailey, a 31-year-old nurse from Saugus who commutes into Massachusetts General Hospital.

T chief says no long lines for shuttle buses so far in Jamaica Plain — 7:50 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

T General Manager Steve Poftak was guiding people to the Orange Line shuttle buses at Forest Hills station at 7:30 a.m.

He said there had not been any long lines for the buses yet. At times, there were more journalists near the boarding area than riders.

“I think a significant amount of people are either working from home or they’re taking some other mode,” he said.

The T made changes to the shuttle bus route over the weekend, such as adding signage near stops like black and white flags guiding riders to the boarding area, he said.

Still, at times on Monday morning, riders were frustrated and confused, Poftak said.

“They’re still trying to work through what’s the best path of travel for them,” he said. “I think that will be a work in progress.”

No ‘steady stream of scrubs’ today — 7:40 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

Jonathan Morely, the emergency management manager for Tufts Medical Center, paced up and down Washington Street in a black vest that said “Frontline Strong,” talking to commuters and patients as they arrived.

Looking out at the crosswalk that connects the closed station to the hospital, Morely said he’s used to seeing “a steady stream of scrubs.”

“I don’t see that, so I’m a little nervous,” he said. “I don’t know what our staff is going to look like today.”

The hospital contracted with a shuttle bus company to move staff from parking garages to the hospital, and from the hospital to North Station, no easy feat since the MBTA hired “every shuttle east of the Mississippi.” The city is also not allowing the seven shuttles to drive on the roads that have been closed for MBTA shuttles, Morely said, so the Tufts shuttle buses are subject to the traffic expected as a result of the closures.

But the shuttles are for employees only and Morely, who helped shepherd the hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic, said he has fears that patients will delay care or cancel appointments due to the inconvenience.

Many appointments have been converted to telehealth, he said, and front-desk staff have been trained to help direct people seeking transit information. There were no red-shirted MBTA ambassadors at the closed stop, which Morely said he was frustrated to see.

“We have thousands of outpatients,” he said. “We are watching our no-show rate really closely . . . And I’m nervous that when patients get out of the hospital, who are they going to talk to?”

A shuttle from Oak Grove became lost in downtown Boston — 7:20 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

A shuttle bus that departed Oak Grove at about 5:40 a.m. became lost in downtown Boston after the driver missed a turn for North Station. The bus did a large loop around the Government Center garage onto the Rose Kennedy Greenway when passengers began directing the shuttle back to North Station, leading the driver to briefly reverse on North Washington Street. “Everyone hold your breath,” the driver said as she navigated the bus down narrow Medford Street.

After the North Station stop, the confusion continued as passengers gave incorrect instructions to the driver on how to get to Government Center, leading to another loop around downtown.

“It was a nightmare,” passenger John Keefe said after A Yankee Line bus employee stopped the lost bus near the intersection of Sudbury and Cambridge streets, letting everyone off.

Checking his watch as he walked towards Cambridge Street at 6:30 a.m., Keefe said the trip took 45 minutes from where he got on at Malden Center, 25 minutes longer than usual.

“If she didn’t listen to that passenger she would’ve been fine,” said Jodi Baptiste, another passenger on the bus.

“We could’ve walked from North Station and it would’ve been faster,” Keefe said, exasperated as the passengers marched towards Government Center along Cambridge Street.

Baptiste, an unflappable pharmacy manager in her 50s who commutes from Malden to Dorchester, refused to allow the unexpected detour to get to her, saying the experience was good overall.

“It wasn’t bad considering what it could have been,” she said. Plus, the driver was nice and apologetic, Baptiste said. “What are you going to do?”

The vast majority of the other buses appeared to be arriving at Government Center with no issue.

Steve Poftak, the general manager of the MBTA, at Forest Hills station — 7:10 a.m.

By Carlin Stiehl, Globe Correspondent

Steve Poftak, the general manager of the MBTA, directs commuters outside of the Forest Hills MBTA station.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe
Steve Poftak points out the way to help a commuter find the shuttles outside of the Forest Hills MBTA station.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Steve Poftak, the general manager of the MBTA, was at the Forest Hills MBTA station on the first Monday after the MBTA shutdown. With a safety vest on, he helped show commuters the route to the shuttles.

A white sedan in lieu of the subway — 6:50 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

On Washington Street, commuters disembarked from cars as they pulled up to Tufts Medical Center. On the other side of the street, workers in reflective vests and hard hats milled about at the Orange Line station.

John Scalise, a third-year resident, hopped out of his girlfriend’s white sedan. He’ll be relying on her to get to work in the mornings from their home Jamaica Plain, where the commute on the Orange Line from the Green Street station is usually “super easy.”

It’s either that or he drives himself, which he said could be an expensive endeavor. The commute home after his 12-hour shift will pose another challenge.

“My girlfriend’s schedule is impacted as well,” Scalise, 28, said.

Short detour to get to the train — 6:43 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Arriving at the Oak Grove station in Malden just past 5:30 a.m., Heidi Abendroth, 51, was moving quickly. She and another commuter had showed up on the west side of the station like normal but found they could not access the Commuter Rail and had to hike all the way around using a nearby street bridge.

The lack of signs was “a bit much on a Monday morning when people are [already] expecting a longer commute,” she said.

Abendroth, a nurse practitioner at Boston Children’s Hospital said she’s been worried about the new arrangement. “I do hope it goes well,” she said.

‘I came a little bit early today because I didn’t know what to expect’ — 6:32 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Bob Walsh, 73, is already an early riser, but headed to the Orange Line before he usually does Monday morning.

“I came a little bit early today because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said after arriving at Oak Grove Station in Malden at 5 a.m. on the dot.

Walsh, of Melrose, was greeted by shuttle bus employees in shirts and ties. What did they recommend, he wondered aloud, commuter rail or shuttle bus?

The shuttle buses could take 40 minutes even on the clear early morning streets, the employees told him. Commuter rail would only take 10. Walsh, who normally gets off the Orange Line at State, made the easy choice.

“With all this stuff going on, commuter rail will probably be quicker,” he said as he walked towards the platform.

A quick pace to get to work at Tufts Medical Center — 6:20 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

At Tufts Medical Center in Downtown Boston, health care workers in blue scrubs and other employees made their way into work early Monday morning, some of them speed walking to a 6 a.m. start time from a delayed commute.

Jess Landry, a 22-year-old pharmacist from Nashua, N.H., was nearly running from Downtown Crossing to make it on time.

She left her house at 3:30 a.m. to drive to the Alewife station in Cambridge, where she got on a Red Line train downtown. Usually, she leaves at around 4:30 a.m. to drive to Wellington, where she catches an Orange Line train directly to Tufts.

She said her employer has given staff plenty of communication on how to chart alternative paths to work and how to access vouchers for Boston Blue Bike subscriptions.

When she found out about the closure, she thought “Oh, [shoot], I have to find another way to get there.”

Final FTA report on T safety looms as agency gets to work on repairs — 5:15 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

With subway service suspended on the Orange Line until Sept. 19, the MBTA says it is hard at work making long overdue repairs and upgrades to tracks along the route.

The degraded tracks were flagged two months ago in a report by the Federal Transit Administration, which is conducting a nearly-unprecedented safety review of the T. The FTA found that the T is desperately behind on maintaining its tracks, especially on the Orange Line where trains have been forced for years to travel at reduced speeds due to track defects.

The FTA is expected to release its final report about T safety by the end of this month.

The Orange Line is also facing safety issues with its cars, which were put into service between 1979 and 1981. One caught fire July 21 when a side panel fell off and touched the electrified third rail, causing 200 passengers to flee while the train was on a bridge over the Mystic River.

T General Manager Steve Poftak said that when Orange Line service resumes on Sept. 19, riders will find deep-cleaned stations and board mostly new trains. Within five to ten days of the scheduled reopening, Poftak said six slow zones will be eliminated, allowing for faster, more reliable service.

First weekday of Orange Line shutdown begins — 5:00 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Shuttle buses were set to begin transporting Orange Line riders at 5 a.m. Monday, kicking off the first full weekday of the MBTA’s unprecedented shutdown of an entire subway line.

After a weekend where riders said they were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and frequency of the shuttle buses that began replacing Orange Line subway service Friday evening, Monday is a big test of the replacement service.

Cities along the Orange Line had just over two weeks to prepare for the unprecedented shutdown, which will lengthen the commutes of people taking about 100,000 daily trips and clog streets with as many as 200 shuttle buses.

The T has told riders to take the Commuter Rail, the Green Line, and shuttle buses as alternatives to the subway which runs from Jamaica Plain to Malden. Transit officials say the shutdown will allow the beleaguered transportation system to finish badly needed fixes on its train tracks, promising five year’s worth of weekend and evening work in just one month.

Monday also marks the first day of the shutdown of Green Line service between Government Center Station and the newly opened Union Square Station in Somerville. Shuttle buses will replace Green Line service at stations along that stretch until Sept. 19. The Union Square branch of the Green Line was the first new subway branch to open in the Boston area since 1987 when it debuted to much fanfare in March.

The MBTA reopened Green Line E branch service between Heath Street and Copley stations ahead of schedule on Sunday after more than two weeks of closure.


August 20, 2022


Orange Line shutdown has begun — 12:18 p.m.

By Laura Crimaldi, Camille Caldera and Kate Selig Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent

Crews work on the tracks at the Wellington T station in Medford.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Greater Boston woke up Saturday to a closed Orange Line, the first full day of the 30-day subway shutdown for a high-stakes repair blitz that is expected to cause delays and inconvenience while coinciding with the return to school, and for some workers, to the office.

From the Roslindale Village commuter rail station, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu urged people to consider taking the commuter rail, which will be free to ride at all stops in Zone 1A, 1, and 2 by flashing a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket.

She warned people to plan ahead for Monday, the first full workday during the shutdown. On Monday, Wu was planning to commute by shuttle bus, and try other options later in the week, including biking, commuter rail, and the Route 39 bus.

By John R. Ellement and Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker and other officials warned last week that “traffic congestion will be severe” on city streets and state highways during the Orange Line shutdown, as shuttle buses are deployed across Greater Boston to carry tens of thousands of daily MBTA passengers.

“We expect to see more traffic congestion on various highways, intersections, and routes...for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians as MassDOT and especially the city of Boston make roadway changes to accommodate these buses,” Baker said at a recent press conference about the impending shutdown.

By Leah Becerra and Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Cities and the MBTA hope 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.

Here’s your complete guide to the closures, with information on shuttle bus routes, maps, and schedules.

‘It’s really funny knowing this is the last one for the month.’ Orange Line riders catch the last train.

By Kate Selig, Camilo Fonseca and Jeremy C. Fox Globe Correspondent

Travelers took their last ride on the Orange Line for awhile Friday night, expressing a mix of nostalgia and resignation as the subway line is shut down until Sept. 19 for massive repairs officials warn will upend people’s lives.

The subway line closed at 9 p.m. and is being replaced by as many as 200 shuttle buses that will provide service from Malden to Jamaica Plain for the next 30 days.