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Mayor Michelle Wu & Boston Transportation Department Share Updated City Preparations Ahead of Orange Line Shutdown

Mayor Michelle Wu and Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge today shared updates on the City’s preparations ahead of the MBTA’s Orange Line repair shutdown. The Mayor and Chief Franklin-Hodge presented design changes to Boston’s streets to ease traffic congestion for MBTA shuttle buses, including priority bus lanes in key areas and street closures. Boston transportation officials are also helping commuters utilize alternative transit options by expanding bicycle access and bike lanes, and conducting community outreach for those most impacted by the shutdown. 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’s Orange Line will shut down for a month of safety repairs. Since the MBTA announced the shutdown 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 & Street Changes

 

The City of Boston is making temporary changes to roadways on the MBTA’s shuttle diversion routes. The MBTA announced two major shuttle bus routes between Oak Grove and State Street/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley. This shuttle service will be at no cost to riders, ADA compliant, and help connect riders to Green Line service to fill-in service gaps.

 

The shuttle service will bring as many as 200 shuttle buses onto City streets. To allow these shuttles to move safely and efficiently, the City is implementing multiple changes, including bus lanes, transit-only areas, and parking restrictions. Since Sunday, City crews have been changing street markings and signage to create transit hubs at Copley Square and Government Center. This includes dedicated bus lanes, parking restrictions, and curb space to allow shuttle buses to load passengers and queue. Additional street changes will be made in the coming weeks at North Station.

 

In partnership with MassDOT, dedicated bus lanes are being added on the Gillmore Bridge between Cambridge and Charlestown, Rutherford Ave., and in Sullivan Square. These will reduce travel time and improve reliability on the northern shuttle bus route. 

 

Other street changes, including parking restrictions, are being implemented at points along the shuttle route to create space for loading and to ensure buses can safely make turns. Signal timing adjustments will be made in advance of and during the shutdown to support shuttle movements.

 

Several streets will be closed to general traffic to allow 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 hubs at Copley Square and Government Center will include operations and dispatching facilities for the MBTA shuttle program and passenger waiting areas. The City is working to secure tents to allow passengers a covered place to wait during rainy or hot weather. The transit hubs will also allow easy access to Bluebikes for passengers and wayfinding to help guide pedestrians to nearby destinations. 

 

 

Department Collaboration

 

The Boston Transportation Department has been working closely with the Office of Neighborhood Services, Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, the Disabilities Commission, the Age Strong Commission, and the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion to ensure commuters and local businesses are aware of the service changes and to address questions and concerns. 

 

City departments have been working in Chinatown and the Downtown Crossing area to ensure residents are aware of the gap in the MBTA’s shuttle bus services. On Wednesday, City officials held a meeting in Chinatown to answer questions on the gap in shuttle services in the area. On Tuesday, Immigrant Advancement hosted a meeting with immigrant community leaders to identify potential gaps in access and outreach, and the Equity Cabinet hosted a virtual information session where 300 attendees joined to receive up-to-date details on the City’s response to the shutdown. 

 

To help the Chinatown community, the City worked with the MBTA to get a stop added to the Silver Line - SL4 outbound route. The Surface Artery @ Kneeland Street stop creates direct access to Chinatown from South Station. This is an important connection for previous southern route Orange Line riders who have switched to the Commuter Rail during the shutdown.

 

City transit officials are working on wayfinding street markings in Chinatown and translated guides so commuters in this area are aware of Green Line, Silver Line, and Red Line alternative routes.

 

 

Boston Public Schools

 

Boston Public Schools (BPS) continues to work closely with the City and MBTA to support students preparing to ride the MBTA, especially during the Orange Line shutdown. BPS has secured 5,000 Charlie Cards loaded with free 7-day passes for students and families to practice using any new routes in advance to ensure they are comfortable navigating their trip to and from school. Students should plan for delays and ensure they leave additional time to get to and from school. Students arriving late due to transportation issues will not be penalized. BPS will also plan to provide additional staff support to help guide students along the Orange Line shuttle route. Students will also be provided healthy breakfast even if they arrive “after the bell.” 

Families can also apply for a waiver on the BPS Transportation Support Portal for students in 7th and 8th grade only to receive yellow bus service instead of MBTA service.

 

Students and families are encouraged to contact the BPS Transportation Helpline at 617-635-9520 or by email at schoolbus@bostonpublicschools.org. The Transportation Hotline is open for students and families from 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. on days that school is in session. In addition, the hotline is open for limited hours on school vacations, typically from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 

 

 

Accessibility 

 

To increase accessibility for persons with disabilities, the City of Boston is designating curb space for accessible vans in addition to the curb space designated for shuttles. The City’s architectural access team has been reviewing conditions along the shuttle bus routes, looking specifically at accessibility of the sidewalks that are being dedicated to the buses and accessible vans. Several places in need of safety repairs have been identified and the Public Works Department has been patching and leveling sidewalks throughout the week. The City will also relocate any accessible parking spaces that are located on City streets where parking is being removed for pop-up lanes.

 

More on accessibility, including a guide for people seeking accessible travel options, can be found at boston.gov/orangeline

 

 

Communication and Outreach

 

To supplement the MBTA’s communications efforts, the City of Boston has created a one-page guide in 11 languages explaining the shutdown and outlining alternative transit options. These flyers are being distributed by City staff and community organizations. The multilingual flyers can be downloaded at boston.gov/orangeline.

 

 

Alternative Transit Options

 

Boston is expanding access to alternative methods of travel, including bicycling. Last week, the City announced free 30-day Bluebikes passes during the upcoming MBTA Orange Line shutdown. These bike share passes will be available to anyone, and provide an unlimited number of 45-minute trips at no cost. Passes will be available on bluebikes.com and in the Bluebikes app beginning Friday, August 19th. Additionally, the City will be providing more bike storage racks downtown and installing temporary bike lanes along Columbus Ave. in the South End and along Boylston Street in Back Bay. 

 

MassDOT, the City, our municipal partners, and transportation advocates are also partnering on identifying safe biking routes between Cambridge, Somerville, and Charlestown to ensure that cyclists are better accommodated during the Orange Line diversion period. 

 

Commuters are strongly encouraged to take the MBTA Commuter Rail where possible. During the 30-day shutdown, riders can use the Commuter Rail within the City of Boston at no charge simply by 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 Rail - simply show your CharlieCard to the conductor to ride the train. The City distributes CharlieCards at Boston Public Libraries and Boston City Hall.

 

 

Moving Forward

 

The City remains committed to a transparent and collaborative process during the shutdown. More information on the City’s response to the shutdown can be found on boston.gov/orangeline. MBTA riders in Boston with questions, concerns, and ideas are welcome to email the City at orangeline@boston.gov.

 

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