Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Department of Transportation share updated city preparations ahead of Orange Line shutdown
Mayor Michelle Wu and Street Leader Jascha Franklin-Hodge today shared updates on the city’s preparations ahead of the MBTA Orange Line repair shutdown. Mayor and Chief Franklin-Hodge introduced design changes to Boston streets to ease traffic congestion for MBTA shuttles, including priority bus lanes in key areas and street closures. Boston transportation officials are also helping commuters use alternative transportation options by expanding bike access and bike lanes, and conducting community outreach activities for those most affected by the closure. The mayor and chief made the announcement from the city’s traffic management center, which will be used throughout the shutdown.
Beginning at 9:00 p.m. on August 19, the MBTA Orange Line will be closed for a month of safety repairs. Since the MBTA announced the closure earlier this month, the City of Boston has participated in daily meetings with the T, neighboring cities and transit advocates to mitigate the impacts on residents.
Shuttles and street changes
The City of Boston is making temporary road changes on the MBTA shuttle detour routes. The MBTA has announced two major shuttle routes between Oak Grove and State Street/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley. This shuttle service will be free to passengers, ADA compliant, and will help connect passengers to Green Line service to fill service gaps.
The shuttle service will bring up to 200 shuttles to the streets of the city. To allow these shuttles to travel safely and efficiently, the City is implementing several changes, including bus-only lanes, transit-only zones and parking restrictions. Since Sunday, city crews have changed street markings and signage to create transit hubs at Copley Square and Government Center. This includes dedicated bus lanes, parking restrictions and curbside space for shuttles to load passengers and queue. Additional street changes will be made in the coming weeks at Gare du Nord.
In partnership with MassDOT, dedicated bus lanes are being added on the Gillmore Bridge between Cambridge and Charlestown, Rutherford Ave., and Sullivan Square. These will reduce travel time and improve the reliability of the Northern Shuttle Bus Line.
Other street changes, including parking restrictions, are implemented at points along the shuttle route to create space for loading and to ensure buses can make turns in completely safe. Signal timing adjustments will be made before and during shutdown to accommodate shuttle movements.
Several streets will be closed to general traffic to allow for shuttle operations, including:
- State Street between Congress Street and Washington Street
- Dartmouth Street between St. James Street and Boylston Street
- Washington Street (northbound only) between Arborway and Williams Street
The temporary transit centers at Copley Square and the Government Center will include operations and dispatch facilities for the MBTA shuttle program and passenger waiting areas. The City is working on securing tents to allow passengers to wait in a covered place in rainy or hot weather. Transit Centers will also allow easy access to Bluebikes for passengers and wayfinding to help guide pedestrians to nearby destinations.
The Boston Department of Transportation has worked closely with the Office of Neighborhood Services, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Age Strong Commission, and the Office of Economic Opportunity and inclusion to ensure commuters and local businesses are aware of service changes. and to respond to questions and concerns.
City departments have been working in Chinatown and the Downtown Crossing area to ensure residents are aware of the gap in MBTA shuttle services. On Wednesday, city officials held a meeting in Chinatown to answer questions about the shuttle service gap in the area. On Tuesday, Immigrant Advancement hosted a meeting with immigrant community leaders to identify potential gaps in access and awareness, and the Equity Cabinet hosted a virtual information session attended by 300 attendees. contacted to receive up-to-date details on the city’s response to the closure.
To help the Chinatown community, the city worked with the MBTA to get a stop added to the Silver Line – SL4 start line. The Surface Artery @ Kneeland Street stop creates direct access to Chinatown from South Station. This is an important connection for former South Route Orange Line riders who switched to commuter rail during the shutdown.
City transit officials are working on orienting street markings in Chinatown and translating guides so commuters in this area are aware of alternate routes for the Green Line, the silver line and red line.
Boston Public Schools
Boston Public Schools (BPS) continues to work closely with the city and the MBTA to support students preparing to ride the MBTA, especially during the Orange Line closure. BPS has secured 5,000 Charlie Cards loaded with free 7-day passes for students and families to practice using all the new routes ahead of time to ensure they are comfortable navigating to and from school. Students should plan for delays and ensure they have extra time to get to and from school. Students arriving late due to transportation issues will not be penalized. BPS also plans to provide additional staff support to help guide students along the Orange Line shuttle route. Students will also receive a healthy breakfast even if they arrive ‘after the bell’.
Families can also request a waiver on the BPS Transportation Assistance Portal for Grades 7 and 8 students only to receive yellow bus service instead of MBTA service.
Students and families are encouraged to contact the BPS Transportation Hotline at 617-635-9520 or email [email protected] The transportation hotline is open to students and families from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on days when school is in session. Additionally, the hotline is open for limited hours during school holidays, typically 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
To increase accessibility for people with disabilities, the City of Boston designates curb space for accessible vans in addition to curb space for shuttles. The City’s Architectural Access Team reviewed conditions along the shuttle routes, specifically looking at the accessibility of sidewalks reserved for accessible buses and vans. Several areas needing safety repairs were identified and the public works department repaired and leveled sidewalks throughout the week. The City will also relocate all accessible parking spaces located on City streets where parking is removed for ephemeral lanes.
More accessibility information, including a guide for people looking for accessible travel options, can be found at boston.gov/orangeline.
Communication and awareness
To complement MBTA’s communications efforts, the City of Boston has created a one-page guide in 11 languages explaining the closure and outlining alternative transportation options. These pamphlets are distributed by City staff and community organizations. Multilingual flyers can be downloaded at boston.gov/orangeline.
Alternative transit options
Boston is expanding access to alternative modes of travel, including bicycling. Last week, the city announced free 30-day Bluebikes passes during the upcoming MBTA Orange Line closure. These self-service bike passes will be available to everyone and offer unlimited 45-minute rides at no charge. Passes will be available on bluebikes.com and in the Bluebikes app from Friday August 19th. Additionally, the city will provide more bike storage racks downtown and install temporary bike lanes along Columbus Ave. in the South End and along Boylston Street in Back Bay.
MassDOT, the City, our municipal partners and transport advocates are also teaming up to identify safe cycling routes between Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown to ensure cyclists are better accommodated during the Orange Line detour period.
Commuters are strongly encouraged to take the MBTA commuter rail whenever possible. During the 30-day shutdown, passengers can ride the Boston City Commuter Rail for free by simply showing a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket on board. This encompasses zones 1A, 1 and 2 on all commuter rail lines. The CharlieCard does not need to be loaded with funds to access the commuter train – just show your CharlieCard to the conductor to board the train. The city distributes CharlieCards at Boston Public Libraries and Boston City Hall.
The City remains committed to a transparent and collaborative process during the closure. More information about the city’s response to the shutdown is available at boston.gov/orangeline. MBTA runners in Boston with questions, concerns and ideas are invited to email the city at [email protected]