MBTA officials cautiously optimistic after first weekday commute during shutdowns

Early Monday morning commuters board an Orange Line shuttle bus at Sullivan Station. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Early Monday morning commuters board an Orange Line shuttle bus at Sullivan Station. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Commuters put the MBTA's alternative transportation plans to the test on Monday morning for the first weekday since the Orange Line and a portion of the Green Line shut down.

No major incidents or slowdowns were reported, and transportation officials said the commute went relatively smooth.

“[I had] some pre-game jitters this morning, but feeling good," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Monday morning at the Forest Hills station.

There was, however, a minor accident involving a shuttle bus and another vehicle, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

The bus was traveling inbound toward Government Center and was about to turn onto the Fellsway when it collided with a box truck that was also turning left in the lane beside it, Pesaturo said. They bus and truck made contact that caused "minor damage," and no injuries were reported.

The entirety of the Orange Line has been offline since Friday, as the T makes repairs over the course of 30 days. The Green Line has also suspended service for all stops north of Government Center. Both projects are scheduled to be completed on Sept. 18.

Shuttle buses are replacing trains at most of the affected T stops.

Poftak said traffic was light on Monday morning, "So the buses are really able to circulate as opposed to being stuck. So that’s very helpful.”

MBTA ambassadors were stationed at the Orange Line stops on Monday morning to help commuters find their way, sans access to their normal mode of transportation.

Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara was also out helping Spanish speakers navigate the diversion.

“The MBTA should prioritized having Spanish-speaking transit workers in locations like [Jamaica Plain] where there’s a big Latino community and where there is a big immigrant community as well," she said.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu took the shuttle bus to work Monday morning: "I got on the bus with my fingers crossed and it turned out OK," she said on WBUR's Radio Boston.

Still, Wu says she was taking notes on ways the city and the MBTA could improve the experience.

"I did not see multilingual signage in places that we need it and expect to have it, and so just making some tweaks there and send that feedback to the MBTA," she said.

Wu mentioned city staff have a Slack channel where they will share feedback like this on their commutes. The hope is to bring the comments to the MBTA to fix in the coming days.

Some commuters are skeptical that the work will be completed on schedule, like Tonya Johnson of East Boston, who said Monday, "We'll see. I don't know, but I hope so — after a month of it being shut down."

But Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler told WBUR on Sunday night that all Orange Line work is on schedule after the first weekend of the shutdown.


"We are where we wanted to be from where we started on Friday night, when we closed the system and the last train ran," Tesler said. "So these first two days have gone as we had hoped they would."

An MBTA construction crew works on the Sullivan Square station platform. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An MBTA construction crew works on the Sullivan Square station platform. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Tesler pointed to the recent completion of track work on the Green Line E branch, which reopens Monday, as a good sign for the work on the Orange Line: "This is bigger, and this is different, but we have experience doing this, and we're confident we're going to keep on schedule."

On Monday morning, Poftak said the T finished three of the projects it planned — one of which removed a speed restriction between Downtown Crossing and State Street.

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Some commuters were planning for an alternative form of transportation on Sunday night to avoid the T's shuttle buses altogether. About two dozen people gathered outside Forest Hills to practice the 5-mile ride downtown.

Ben Stinson said he already bikes to work every day, and had some tips for new riders.

"Stay out of the door zone, stay away from the big box trucks as much as you can, don't assume that cars are going to stop and stop signs and let you through cross walks," he said. "But despite all the risks, it's a lot of fun."

Cyclist union volunteer Sarah Dylan Breuer helped organize the event.

"It's really important to be able to help out people who need the Orange Line in every way possible, so doing that and also encouraging people to try commuting by bike — that's a real pleasure," she said.

Cyclist union volunteers will be leading group rides every weekday during the shutdown.

With reporting from WBUR's Simon Rios, Meghan Kelly, Amanda Beland and WBUR's Newscast 

This article was originally published on August 22, 2022.



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