What to know about the Orange Line reopening — and the next T shutdowns

Old and new subway cars are parked at the Orange Line's Wellington Station train yard on July 13, 2022, in Medford, Mass. (Charles Krupa/AP File)
Old and new subway cars are parked at the Orange Line's Wellington Station train yard on July 13, 2022, in Medford, Mass. (Charles Krupa/AP File)

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Credit where it's due: The MBTA delivered on time this morning.

For the first time since mid-August, Orange Line trains are back on the tracks and the Green Line has reopened north of Government Center. And so far, nothing is on fire. They're even handing out $5 Dunkin' gift cards at certain stations. T officials say they completed five years of improvements during the monthlong shutdown. You'll notice some differences immediately, but others will take some time.

A big focus was removing six slow zones on the Orange Line — stretches where trains were required to slow down due to poor signal or track conditions. (According to the advocacy group Transit Matters, those slow zones were adding several minutes to Orange Line trips each way). But don't expect your trip to speed up this week; the six slow zones will remain in place for another five to seven days so that crews can make sure the new track settles properly as trains run over it. Once they're satisfied, they'll let trains return to their normal speeds.

It's a similar story for the resumption of Green Line service between Government Center and Union Square; after about a week, T officials plan a to lift a speed restriction on the viaduct across the Museum of Science to allow trolleys to go 25 mph.

Those (eventually) fasters trips will also have a little shine to them. With the reopening, the T is doubling the number of new Orange Line cars in service from 30 to over 70 — meaning it will now be more likely that you'll board a new car than an old one. (You can check out photos from inside the new cars here.)

On the commuter rail, the MBTA announced Sunday that it is keeping Oak Grove station as a permanent Zone 1A stop on the Haverhill commuter rail line. But remember: today also means that commuter rail riders have to resume showing proof of payment — not just CharlieCards — on local trips.

So, what happens to the old Orange Line cars? According to The Boston Globe, most will go to a scrapyard to get torn apart by “big shears,” though at least two get to retire to a museum in Maine.

What's next? The Orange Line is hardly the only part of the MBTA system plagued by deferred maintenance and speed restrictions. While T leaders say they're not planning to completely shut down any other lines in the near future, expect many more smaller service suspensions ahead — beginning this weekend in fact:

Starting this Saturday, shuttle buses will replace trolley service on the Green Line's D branch from Kenmore to Riverside for the first of three nine-day stretches — basically every other week through the end of October.

There's talk of an extended partial Red Line closure later this fall, after someone briefly posted details on the T's website. But any such work won't happen until after September.

The T is also experimenting with late-night diversions to give crews earlier access to tracks for overnight work. For example, shuttle buses will replace the Red Line's Ashmont branch for the first four weekday nights of October starting at 8:45 p.m.

Keep an eye on your mailbox or bank account this fall; we got new details Friday on Gov. Charlie Baker's administration's plan to send refunds to taxpayers under a revenue cap law. Here's what to know.

First, the Baker administration plans to send the refunds automatically to eligible taxpayers beginning in November via direct deposit or as a check sent through the mail.

Second, the Baker administration now estimates that refunds will be about 13% of the whatever you paid via the state's 5% income tax this past year. They also released an online "refund estimator." You just have to plug in a few details (i.e. how much you paid in state income tax) that you can find on the state's online tax portal.

There are no income limits for these refunds, (to the chagrin of some legislators) meaning the highest earners will get thousands of dollars back. But there could be more targeted tax relief ahead. House Speaker Ron Mariano said negotiations are moving forward on the tax relief bill that was scuttled when the automatic refunds emerged this summer "under these new circumstances."

P.S.— The Makers, our annual series highlighting local emerging creatives of color, just dropped this morning! You'll be hearing their stories all week on the radio, but you can also read about all 15 artists here. (We'll also be highlighting a few in this newsletter over the next couple weeks.)

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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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