Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, a regular Orange Line rider, says she’s among the tens of thousands of residents who will have to make adjustments to their morning commutes on Monday when the region begins to fully feel the effects of the disruptive 30-day shutdown.
Wu spoke with reporters about the Orange Line shutdown Saturday at the Roslindale Village station, before catching a 2:32 p.m. train on the commuter rail. She and the MBTA are pushing the commuter rail as the best alternative option for those who regularly ride the busy subway line.
“It’s something that I didn’t take very frequently because it’s usually so expensive to ride, but it will be free throughout the duration of the shutdown and it’s probably the best alternative to getting to where you need to go as fast as possible,” Wu said.
Saturday was the first full day of the Orange Line closure and the first test for the coach-style shuttle buses that are replacing train service throughout much of that line. Buses will also replace a portion of the Green Line, from Union Square to Government Center stations, that will also close for 28 days on Monday.
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Wu said she plans to ride shuttle buses into work on Monday to “see how those are working,” and ride the commuter rail or bike to City Hall on Tuesday or Wednesday. She also plans to mix up her commute throughout the shutdown by trying out the 39 bus from Forest Hills station, which she said runs a parallel bus route.
“This is not ideal to have coach buses as public transportation vehicles by any stretch, for ease of accessibility, for the navigation on our streets and for loading times and all that, so we’re doing the best with what we can,” she said.
“But the reality is that this is something, there’s a window of time and the MBTA is trying to make the most of it with the time that they have.”
Wu said the shuttle buses were procured from all over the country, and bus drivers have been “coming from everywhere” to supplement the region’s staffing shortage. She said lots of training was needed to help familiarize the drivers with challenging city roads that have been reconfigured to accommodate the new buses.
Boston Transportation Department staff was out riding the shuttle buses after the Orange Line closed at 9 p.m. Friday, Wu said, noting that tweaks are already being made to the routes. More changes are expected throughout the process, she said.
Wu said the shutdown will also be particularly disruptive for commuters settling back into busier fall work schedules, and students returning to school at the K-12 and college levels. She said the city has been working with the MBTA to make this process as “smooth as possible,” which has included setting up dedicated lanes to speed up buses along the diversion route.
People used to their normal commute will find that extra space has been blocked out on certain roads to allow buses to make wide turns, and new lanes have resulted in limited available road use for motorists.
“We are feeling as prepared as we possibly can be for something of this magnitude,” Wu said. “We just want to ask for everyone who is commuting to be patient with one another, be alert and just kind of look around.”
The MBTA said work completed during the Orange Line shutdown — undertaken as part of its efforts to comply with federal directives issued following repeated safety incidents throughout the system — will include 3,500 feet of track replacement to remove six speed restrictions, crossover replacement, and signal upgrades.
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