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BPS back to school

As back-to-school traffic adds more buses to streets, Orange Line shuttles taking twice as long for some

Roxbury Prep school student Tyson Barnes waited at the Forest Hills T Station for his bus with fellow students on Thursday.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Shuttle buses have been carrying thousands of Orange Line riders around Greater Boston for two-and-a-half weeks as the subway line remains shuttered for track upgrades until Sept. 19.

But the unprecedented project faced its biggest test yet on Thursday: the influx of Boston Public Schools students and teachers returning to class.

As kids and adults traveled from here to there without the key Jamaica Plain to Malden subway line, our reporters documented what locals experienced.


 

September 8, 2022

 

Student caught a ride in, but needs the shuttle bus to get home — 1:40 p.m.

By Laura Crimaldi, Globe Staff

Mercy Lopez, a third-year student at Northeastern University, got a break Thursday from her regular commute during the Orange Line shutdown. Her mother gave her a ride to campus from Hyde Park.

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But in the early afternoon, she was back waiting for a shuttle bus to Forest Hills Station. With the Orange Line out of service, her commute is 20 minutes longer, she said.

“It’s a huge difference,” she said.

Rider says MBTA staff gave her conflicting information for trip — 12:55 p.m.

By Laura Crimaldi, Globe Staff

Portia Davis and her dog, Halston, used public transportation Thursday for the first time since the Orange Line closed last month.

“I don’t think they should have shut it down,” she said. “I’m from New York. I’ve never heard of them closing down the Manhattan subway system. Never.”

In the morning, Davis said she used The Ride to get to an appointment near Ruggles Station. It ended earlier than she expected, so Davis decided to treat Halston to a commuter rail ride to South Station and then take the Red Line back home to Beacon Hill.

At Ruggles, Davis, who was using a scooter, said MBTA staff gave her conflicting information about where she could catch a train into the city. For a while, she waited at the wrong track, watching Amtrak trains speed by as commuter rail trains stopped at a different platform.

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“They need to communicate better with each other because I could have been halfway home by now,” Davis said.

She said she’s skeptical of MBTA reports about how the shutdown is going.

“They say, ‘Oh, it’s running OK,’ but a lot of people are saying they’re late for work. Today is the first day of school so we’ll see,” she said. “You know, I wonder if they are going to shut down any other lines in the future.”

Shuttle bus collides with car, slowing traffic in Jamaica Plain — 11:55 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

A 9 a.m. trip from Forest Hills to Government Center via shuttle bus and subway took close to an hour this morning in heavy rush-hour traffic, which included dozens of school buses.

That was likely longer than the average because an Orange Line shuttle bus and gray Honda Civic collided as the bus turned from Washington Street to Williams Street in Jamaica Plain.

The collision resulted in significant damage to the Civic’s left front headlights and bumper and blocked traffic on Williams Street for about 10 minutes. The driver of the bus behind the one involved in the collision got out to direct traffic. By 9:20 shuttles were rolling once again.

An Orange Line shuttle bus and gray Honda Civic collided as the bus turned from Washington Street to Williams Street in Jamaica PlainAlexander Thompson

Northeastern junior says he started biking when Orange Line service was suspended — 11:35 a.m.

By Deanna Pan, Globe Staff

For Northeastern University junior Ethan Liu, 20, there has been one at least upside to the Orange Line shutdown: Ever since service was suspended at his Chinatown T stop, Liu has been riding his bike to State Street before catching a bus to his co-op in Burlington.

“It honestly might be faster,” Liu said of his new commute Thursday morning as he was exiting the Downtown Crossing T station. “I don’t really have to wait for the Orange Line to come.”

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When the shutdown ends, Liu said he’ll keep biking until the weather worsens.

“It’s free,” he said with a chuckle. “It definitely wakes me up.”

Devoted Orange Line rider says ‘I gotta hang in there’ — 11:30 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Around 10:30 a.m., students at UMass Boston waited for the commuter rail at Oak Grove station in Malden. All told, the trip to campus - an odyssey of trains, buses, and subways - could take as long as two hours.

Calvin Moy, 19, who is studying computer engineering, said he has to wake up a lot earlier to make it to class on time. “I’m really tired in class,” he said.

David Morales, 58, used to arrive home in Melrose from his job as a custodian near North Station when it was still light out sometimes. Now, the trip is much longer, especially when he has to wait as long as 45 minutes for an MBTA bus at Oak Grove.

He has been taking the commuter rail during the Orange Line shutdown, which is faster than the shuttle buses but less convenient because it doesn’t run frequently, he said.

An Orange Line rider his whole life, he is hopeful the monthlong shutdown will improve service.

“I’ll be glad when the trains are up and running,” he said. “I gotta hang in there.”

‘Today is gonna be a true test,’ frustrated commuters say — 11:10 a.m.

Jit Patel from West Roxbury took his son J.J. to the Learning Project School on his bike to the school as they waited at a light on Tremont Street in Roxbury Crossing. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

By Jessica Bartlett, Globe Staff

Ferdinand Draper arrives early at Tufts Medical Center these days. Because he knows the trip home will be tough and wants to get a head start.

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“That’s why I’m here now,” he said as he walked into work at 7:30 a.m., an hour-and-a-half after leaving his Waltham home. “I leave maybe quarter to four, four o’clock, and I won’t get back to Waltham for almost another two hours.”

The worst stretch is the bus trip from Central Square in Cambridge over Memorial Drive, he said.

“It’s a real hassle. Now that college students and Boston Public Schools are coming back in, a lot more people are driving. Today is gonna be a true test.”

Robert Sanders, in town from Georgia for work, was trying to catch an Orange Line shuttle bus at Tufts. For the second straight day, he wasn’t having much luck.

“We’ve already been standing here for over 30 minutes. Nothing’s shown up yet,” he said. “We were out here yesterday, too. Finally we ended up walking because we didn’t see a shuttle come around … It’s getting very frustrating to start off (this way) in the morning.”

Lily McCarthy used to take the Red Line to work from South Boston. But with the state of the MBTA these days, she’s found that it’s simpler, if slower, to walk.

“It’s nice getting more steps in, but it’s adding an extra, probably, 40 minutes to my commute,” she said. But with the Red Line on a weekend schedule, “it’s just not worth it,” she said. “It’s easier to put a podcast on and just go.”

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Denise McLeod used to take the train into downtown Boston, but once the Red Line schedule was scaled back, she started driving in. Her jobs at City Hall and the Wang Theatre let her park at a discount. But traversing the stretch between the two by car is a chore.

“Because the Orange Line,” she said. “Everything’s backed up traffic-wise and you can’t go right down Tremont like you used to … it’s bus lanes only. It’s just too much.”

Shuttle bus takes nearly three times as long as subway did — 10:00 a.m.

Jewel Quaye (left) and Jada McPheter (right) at the Forest Hills T Station.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

The morning rush hour Orange Line shuttle bus ride from Forest Hills to Back Bay took 40 minutes — nearly double the time it took on the same morning shuttle bus route on Aug 22, according to a Globe analysis, and nearly three times as long as the Orange Line on the last Thursday it was running, according to the TransitMatters travel data.

The narrow streets of Jamaica Plain were clogged with cars and school buses. At times the shuttle bus had to wait for two stop light cycles to pass before proceeding. The stretch between Forest Hills and Green Street was particularly backed up — taking nine minutes to traverse.

‘Ten! Only room for 10!’ Drivers call out number of seats left on nearly-full shuttles buses — 9:55 a.m.

By Ivy Scott, Globe Staff

The morning surge of commuters at Jackson Square station ebbed and flowed after 9 a.m; some buses barely hesitated at an empty curb before pulling away, while others spat out a string of passengers before letting on seven or eight people from a growing queue near the station.

During the occasional long gap between buses, the crowd swelled, and as shuttles approached, drivers would call out the number of seats left on nearly-full buses: “Ten! Only room for 10!”

Myriah Douglas and Jason Penney were among one dismounting group, making their regular pilgrimage from Forest Hills to bring their four-year-old son, Vaughn, to daycare.

“It’s been better in some ways, because we’re not waiting as long for the bus to arrive,” Douglas said.

“When we show up, we know a bus will be right there,” Penney added. “It’s not like with the T where we’d show up to Forest Hills as the train was pulling away, and then have to wait 11 minutes or 20 minutes for the next one.”

The main downside, the two agreed, was how congested the buses can get during peak travel times.

“Sometimes, I’ll miss a shuttle on purpose so that I don’t have to stand in the wheelchair accessible area,” Douglas said. “There’s not as much room as on the train, so I’d rather just wait for the next one.”

Penney, a Boston resident for decades, said the city’s transit system has always been “both a blessing and a curse.” He said the T has gotten too expensive and appreciated that shuttles are free, but doesn’t consider it a viable long-term solution.

“It’s a great temporary fix, but not something I would want permanently,” he said.

A school bus is 52 minutes late. Six-year-old’s take: ‘Worst day of my life.’ — 9:50 a.m.

A young student rode a school bus in Dorchester.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

By Deanna Pan, Globe Staff

Dominga Vega anxiously eyed the incoming traffic coming from where she stood on the sidewalk next to her parked car at a bus stop near Roxbury Crossing station. Her two youngest children waited impatiently beside her. Vega’s oldest children — students at the John D. Bryant School and Boston Arts Academy — had made it school on time Thursday.

But her 6-year-old daughter, Isabella, a METCO student, was still waiting for her bus to the John D. Runkle Elementary School in Brookline. They had arrived at Isabella’s bus stop at 6:45 a.m. The bus was supposed to pick her up at 7 a.m. Now it was 7:40 a.m. They had been waiting for nearly an hour.

“This is the worst day of my life!” Isabella cried.

Vega, a South End resident, blamed the delays on the Orange Line shutdown.

“Because of the closures, the METCO buses are also impacted,” Vega said. “Now they have more traffic and the children aren’t able to get to school to get their breakfast on time.”

“The next two weeks are gonna be outrageous,” she added, “for parents, for traffic, for trying to get the children transitioned in a routine.”

At 7:52 a.m, Isabella’s bus pulled up to her stop.

“Finally!” Isabella said. She shrieked as she scrambled away from her mother, trying to pull her in for a hug.

Vega was still worried about how her older children would navigate the transfers and shuttle buses on their way home from school Thursday afternoon. They’re also scared and anxious about the changes to their school routes, she said.

Vega is frustrated because she believes parents weren’t given enough time to prepare for the Orange Line shutdown and its ripple effects.

“It’s a lot of inconsistencies for parents and children to get to school on time,” Vega said. “It’s bad for the first day of Boston Public Schools.”

Traffic slows shuttle bus to a sloooow crawl — 9:40 a.m.

Special Education Coordinator Pat Mahoney greeted students arriving for their first day of school at Madison Park High School.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Smooth commuting in Medford for students, workers — 9:25 a.m.

By Samantha J. Gross, Globe Staff

At Wellington Station in Medford, the shuttles came like clockwork, and commuters seamlessly flowed from shuttle to MBTA bus or vice versa.

For one 22-year-old student, Thursday marked the second day of school at Northeastern University.

And his second try at commuting.

The data science student, who moved to Medford from the Hubei province of China, heard about the Orange Line closure just days before the school year started.

“A few days ago I got the news that it would be closed until September 19. I think it won’t take long. It’s just 10 days of so,” said the first-year student, who asked not to use his name. “It’s kind of inconvenient. It would have been like 30 minutes. Now it’s like an hour.”

Nearby, Kendrick Doyle, of Nahant, waited for his bus under an overhang near the Wellington sky bridge that connects the station to the public parking structure. He has opted for the Orange Line shuttles to get to work since his car has been undergoing repairs over the course of the MBTA closure.

Doyle, 59, now takes a bus from Nahant to Wonderland, where he takes the Blue Line to State Street. From there, he walks to Government Center and takes a shuttle to Wellington. From Wellington, he takes a bus into Everett, where he works at a Costco store as a food preparation demonstrator.

He said the shuttles are always on time, and he’s never had to wait. At Government Center, he says the shuttles are always “all lined up” when he arrives.

“This is only temporary. They have been doing a great job. It’s tough on them but they are doing a great job,” Doyle said as he waited for the bus to Everett. “Before they did this, it was running fine. Hopefully they get that five year project done in the one month like they said.”

For high school student, 45-minute commute now takes nearly two hours — 8:55 a.m.

By Deanna Pan, Globe Staff

As he approached Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where teachers and staff were greeting students outside — hip hop music blaring in the background — Steven Pinto, 15, groaned: “Freshmen. So cringey, bro.”

Pinto lives in East Boston. He started his journey to school Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m., catching a Blue Line train at the Airport T stop. Before the Orange Line closure, Pinto only needed 45 minutes to get to school. By the time he reached school grounds Thursday morning, with 5 minutes to spare before class, he had been traveling for nearly 2 hours.

He was lucky he made it to school in time.

“I got confused,” the high school sophomore explained. “I found out about those shuttle buses [this morning].”

‘It’s been very smooth here,’ says Mayor Wu at Jamaica Plain stop — 8:50 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Mayor Michelle Wu started the day at a Boston Public Schools bus garage before 6 a.m. and rode a bus to Forest Hills station where she met with student Miracle Young, 16, to ask about how her commute was going before she and other officials briefed the media on the city’s efforts to get students to school around 6:30 a.m.

“It’s been very smooth here,” she said as students in hoodies and backpacks crowded the platform behind her.

Wu said that the city is doing much better job covering bus routes this year compared to last year. Every one of the city’s 590 bus routes will be covered this year by about 790 drivers, she said.

The city has also introduced several yellow bus routes to replace Orange Line service, like one that operates from Forest Hills to Charlestown High School.

“They’re getting a one seat ride there,” the mayor said.

Acting Superintendent Drew Echelson said the district has installed new GPS units in all its buses and route an on-time arrivals are being tracked in real time.

“It’s really important at this point in time that we have good data,” he said.

The district also signed up 500 families whose children previously took the Orange Line for yellow bus service, he said.

André François, the head of the Boston School Bus Drivers’ Union, also out at Forest Hills station Thursday morning, said that about 75 bus driver positions remain open, but the union is working with the city and Transdev, the company that operates the buses, to ensure that the buses run on time.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’re going to make sure we get it done,” François said.

Wu said that the open positions are the result of the city trying to hire more bus drivers than it needs to provide a “cushion” rather than a shortage.

“It’s a long day for many of our young people, but it is worth it, and we’re so excited to welcome them back,” Wu said.

One student counting down the days until Orange Line shutdown over — 8:45 a.m.

By Deanna Pan, Globe Staff

Johnathan Alfonso, 17, a senior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, was up at 5 a.m. Thursday morning and out the door of his Charlestown home at 5:45 a.m. Normally, it takes Alfonso 20 minutes on the Orange Line to get to his Roxbury school. This morning, he budgeted an hour for his commute — with some wiggle room. He’s counting down the days until Sept. 19.

“These next couple of days are going to be rough,” Alfonso said on the shuttle from Copley Square to Roxbury Crossing.

Shuttle buses arrive like clockwork at one stop on the shuttered Orange Line — 8:40 a.m.

By Ivy Scott, Globe Staff

At 7:30 Thursday morning, a steady stream of shuttle buses pulled into Stony Brook station. The small cluster of passengers never grew to more than seven or eight people before a fresh Yankee or Bailey coach arrived like clockwork, every three to five minutes.

Megan McManaman and her son, Luca, stepped off the bus just before 8 a.m. and paused to adjust his backpack. McManaman said the duo took the bus just one stop, from Green Street, and would walk the rest of the way to her son’s elementary school near Jackson Square.

“Normally we’d walk or take the T, but he’s enjoyed riding the buses,” she said.

“Well, not this particular bus!” he chimed in, explaining that his favorite shuttles are “the really big ones” with the comfortable seats.

McManaman added that she’s been pleasantly surprised how frequently the buses pass by in this area, but hesitates to ride further than Back Bay if she’s on a tight schedule. Normally she works near Tufts Medical Center, she said, but has been working from home since the shutdown and plans to continue doing so until service is back to normal.

“If I went to work, it’d be tough to get home in time to pick him up from school, just because you never know how long it’ll take with traffic,” she said. “It’s great if you have all the time in the world, but most people don’t have all the time in the world.”

‘Have to leave way earlier,’ 11th grader says — 8:05 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Kaleb Sawyer, an 11th grader, was waiting for a shuttle bus at Forest Hills to make his way to Cathedral High School in the South End.

He used to take an “easy” ride from Forest Hills to Tufts Medical Center on the Orange Line train before transferring to a bus. It took about 20 minutes.

“I have to leave way earlier,” he says now. “I used to be able to leave at 7:20 around that time. Now, I’ve got to leave at seven for a 30-minute commute.”

He also has to do the last mile and a half of the commute, from Ruggles Station to Cathedral, by Blue Bike, or if there aren’t enough, on foot.

However, Sawyer is “wishy-washy” on whether he wants the train back. He likes the comfort of the shuttle buses, he said.

T chief says there has been an uptick in traffic after Labor Day — 7:55 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Dozens of high school-aged kids filled the lower busway platform at Forest Hills station around 7:15 a.m. Thursday. This is what MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak calls “crunch time,” when kids are awaiting the 32 bus to take them south to Hyde Park by the time school starts.

Just when it looked like there was no standing room left on the platform, the 32 arrived.

“Two 32 buses, love to see it,” Poftak said.

The Orange Line shutdown means those buses are sharing city streets with more than 100 shuttle buses carrying people who would normally be traveling by subway. Poftak said there has been an uptick in traffic after the Labor Day weekend.

“We’re seeing slightly elongated travel times on the shuttles,” he said. “We’re hopeful that simmers down.”

As the kids filed onto the buses, more filled the platform space behind them. Two more 32 buses pulled up minutes later.

Two BPS buses collide at bus yard in Hyde Park — 7:42 a.m.

By Travis Andersen, Globe Staff

Two Boston Public Schools buses collided at the BPS bus yard in Hyde Park early Thursday, sending one man to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Boston police Officer Andre Watson said the collision was reported around 5:39 a.m.

The cause of the crash, he said, remains under investigation.

It wasn’t immediately clear how, or if, the crash would affect the morning commute for BPS students.

A reporter for WCVB-TV tweeted out footage fo the chaotic aftermath of the crash, with yard workers in yellow vests walking and jogging toward the impact to assess the situation.

Further information about the crash wasn’t immediately available.

Traffic woes disrupt North Shore commuter’s travels — 7:30 a.m.

By Jessica Bartlett, Globe Staff

At Tufts Medical Center, Hope Ramsay, who lives on the North Shore, was walking into work on Thursday and bemoaned recent gridlock.

“I usually do take the train in but . . . I’ve been driving in. Traffic has been crazy,” Ramsay said. “So I leave usually an hour and a half before work, but now I leave like two hours. Just because you never know what the traffic is gonna be like. Today I got right in. Yesterday it took me so long to get to work. It was ridiculous.”

Orange Line closure ‘big inconvenience,’ says student who had to get up at 5 a.m. — 6:55 a.m.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Jewel Quaye and Jada McPheter, two friends and John D. O’Bryant School 10th graders from West Roxbury, trudged through Forest Hills Station to get on an Orange Line shuttle bus Thursday morning.

“I want to go back home,” Jewel said with a burst of fatigue-tinged laughter. “It’s too early for this. The sun isn’t even up yet.”

The pair of students have to wake up much earlier than last year, around 5 a.m. due to the Orange Line closure.

“It’s a big inconvenience for me,” Jada said before the two girls stepped onto a waiting bus.

A two-hour commute: ‘I take two buses and then I get picked up in Chelsea’ — 6:47 a.m.

By Jessica Bartlett, Globe Staff

Elizabeth Wallace, who works at Tufts Medical Center, was seated outside the hospital waiting for a shuttle at 6 a.m. Thursday.

“It takes me two hours to get home. Two hours,” she said. “I usually get off like around Malden and then grab a bus to get picked up. My husband drives me in because I don’t know the timing and I gotta be in early. Going home, it takes me usually about two hours. I take two buses and then I get picked up in Chelsea.”

Wallaced added: “I’m exhausted.”

Boston Public Schools welcomes back most of its nearly 50,000 students Thursday — 6:35 a.m.

By Christopher Huffaker, Globe Staff

The first bell this year brings with it uncertainty, with the usual concerns about bus transportation worsened by the ongoing shutdown of the MBTA’s Orange Line. The district is also in the midst of both a leadership transition, with a new superintendent, Mary Skipper, joining later this month, and a state-mandated improvement plan, with Thursday also marking another round of deadlines.

This will also be the fourth school year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many preventative measures, including mandatory masking, no longer in place.

The district has over 660 drivers in place for 590 routes, said BPS transportation chief Delavern Stanislaus, but continues to hire to cover for absences. To fill bus monitor vacancies, school-based staff will be stepping up, Stanislaus said.

By Alexander Thompson, Globe Correspondent

Weeks into the Orange Line shutdown, some commuters at the Forest Hills station said they’ve largely adjusted to the disruption.

“It’s perfect,” Lorna Servedio said as she sat aboard a shuttle bus on her way to a Back Bay law firm around 5:40 a.m.

Even though it used to take 10 to 15 minutes to get to work but now takes 40, Servedio, 63, just wakes up earlier.

“I don’t mind as long as I get to work on time,” the Roslindale resident said.

Outside, Diana Williams, 55, waited on the platform. The bus Servedio was on was a regular MBTA bus, she was waiting for one of the plush motorcoaches.

“If I’ve got to go all the way to Assembly, I’m going in style,” Williams said.

Williams, who works at Mass General Brigham, said her commute, which involves transferring to the Green Line, takes about an hour and a half, up from 50 minutes before.

“I adjusted,” she said.

By Nick Stoico, Globe Correspondent

When the MBTA announced a monthlong closure of the Orange Line from mid-August into September, colleges and universities along the route braced for the disruption and the obvious impact on students and staff who rely on the T to get to school and work.

Now in the midst of the shutdown, and with thousands of students returning to Boston and beginning classes this week, college officials say the transition has so far been about smooth as one could hope.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” said Roxbury Community College Interim President Jackie Jenkins-Scott. “We feel very fortunate because we’re right at the Roxbury Crossing stop and so far . . . our students are getting here.”

Classes resumed at Roxbury Community College last week, and like several higher-education institutions in the area, the school implemented a policy to ensure nobody is punished for running late because of transit delays, a college spokesperson said.

Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, where students returned to class on Tuesday, also sits right along the Orange Line. About 80 to 85 percent of students and staff use public transportation to reach the campus, according to Brendan Hughes, director of public relations for Bunker Hill.

Hughes said the challenges brought on by the closure have been consistent with what the college expected — longer commute times for students and staff, with many making multiple transfers along the way.

“I think those challenges, though inconvenient, have largely matched our expectations in the first week of the semester,” Hughes said in an e-mail. “We are closely monitoring the situation this week as colleges and universities as well as K-12 schools start the school year.”

Hughes said the MBTA has been a good partner throughout the closure.

“We’re especially grateful for the robust signage and staffing they’ve provided at the Community College shuttle stop, as well as the work of the City of Boston in setting up bus lanes for shuttles on the roads around our campus and the Boston Police and Massachusetts State Police for traffic management at the shuttle stops and the streets around our campus,” he said.

The MBTA has an online guide to help college students navigate the transit system. Several institutions offer discounted semester passes for the T.

Boston transportation chief ‘cautiously optimistic’ about first day of school — 5:15 a.m.

By Taylor Dolven, Globe Staff

Boston’s Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge said he is feeling “cautiously optimistic” about Thursday’s start of school without the Orange Line. Construction has been halted for the next few days in much of the city, especially along the shuttle bus routes, he said.

“We know that this is going to be a challenging first day of school,” he said Wednesday. “It’s never easy, but this is going to be a particularly challenging first day.”

Although the first few weeks of the Orange Line shutdown have been relatively smooth, Franklin-Hodge said the city is seeing an uptick in traffic congestion.

School bus drivers have been instructed that they are allowed to use the city’s new bus lanes, created for the shutdown, which could help speed up the trip to school. Still, Franklin-Hodge said, the city is advising students, parents, and teachers to leave extra time for their trips and to avoid driving.

“If you can avoid being on the roads, especially during the first few days of school, that helps make sure that there’s space for buses to travel,” he said.

In Boston, the first day of school. And a shuttered Orange Line. — 5:00 a.m.

By Christopher Huffaker, Globe Staff

As commuters make their way around Boston Thursday morning, the already-strained transportation system will be stretched even further with over 50,000 Boston students and teachers joining the fray, returning to classrooms for the first day since the Orange Line shut down temporarily last month.

The ongoing shutdown coincides with an already challenging day for Boston Public Schools. On the first day last year, just 57 percent of buses arrived on time — and that was the district’s best first-day performance in six years. More than 1,200 buses were late. Some never showed up at all.

And on-time performance is high-stakes: as part of its improvement plan averting a state takeover, the district must begin immediately reporting on-time arrival rates to the state and achieve a monthly on-time rate of 95 percent of better.

The Orange Line shutdown is likely to make matters worse, beyond just adding to traffic woes. In recent years, BPS stopped providing bus services to most seventh- and eighth-graders, instead providing them with T passes. The overall number of students relying on the MBTA is over 23,000. School officials estimate approximately 4,676 students live within a mile of an Orange Line stop and receive a T pass from BPS. Hundreds of families have requested waivers to take district buses this year rather than use the T.

Among measures to manage the closure, the district is sending “ambassadors” to MBTA stations to help guide students and providing 5,000 CharlieCards to families. Students who arrive late to school due to the closure will not be penalized.

Read previous coverage on Boston Public Schools and the Orange Line shutdown

Amid uncertainties, Boston Public Schools reopens doors to new school year

By Christopher Huffaker and Jenna Russell, Globe Staff

The first day of school in Boston always brings with it suspense, particularly over whether buses will pick up students on time — or at all. But the first bell this year comes with more questions for families than usual, as Boston officials race to implement mandates from the state while welcoming new leaders in critical positions.

And the usual uncertainty has been heightened by the shutdown of the Orange Line, which thousands of students use to get to and from school. Boston has hired more bus drivers than ever before, in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year, when more than 40 percent of buses were late to school.

By James Vaznis, Globe Staff

Mano Katsompenakis’ 13-year-old son, Yiorgo, had a pretty simple commute to the O’Bryant School of Math and Science in Roxbury last year. He would catch an Orange Line train in Charlestown at around 6:30 a.m. and if all went smoothly with the T he would arrive about a half hour later at Roxbury Crossing, a short walk to the O’Bryant.

But when Boston Public Schools reopen Sept. 8, right in the middle of the 30-day shutdown of the entire Orange Line, Yiorgo and potentially thousands of other students could face more daunting commutes, with shuttle buses replacing trains to carry passengers along often congested city streets.

By Adria Watson, Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and school district leaders last month announced an agreement with bus drivers to provide additional transportation for students as they head back to school in the midst of the 30-day Orange Line shutdown.

The agreement between Boston Public Schools, the city, and the district’s bus drivers union includes contracting with additional companies to drive transport vans (known as 7D vans), along 45 routes to serve students who travel to schools outside of the city.

By Adria Watson, Globe Staff

Boston Public Schools is providing 5,000 pre-loaded CharlieCards ahead of the start of the school year to help students and families prepare for the 30-day closure of the Orange Line.

The CharlieCards are loaded with free seven-day passes so that children and families can try out new routes they may consider taking during the shutdown.