State and Boston officials today detailed their latest efforts to provide alternatives for Orange Line riders and Green Line riders north of Boston for the month-long shutdown that starts Friday night - and to caution that eliminating train service that normally handles 100,000 people on weekdays will affect everybody else in the region as well.
At a press conference this morning, officials said drivers can expect to see more congestion in part due to all the big, lumbering charter buses being called in to mirror most of the Orange Line route and the Green Line north of Government Center, but also because of the pop-up bus and bicycle lanes Boston is beginning to paint in key areas, such as around Back Bay and Government Center.
Pedestrians and bicyclists, meanwhile, need to be even more cautious than normal when crossing or riding along streets because those buses are so big and lumbering.
Officials said they hope riders will switch to commuter rail where they can - flashing a CharlieCard will get you a free ride on Zone 1, 1A and 2 commuter-rail stops. That includes some of the roughly 5,000 Boston public-school students who would normally take the Orange Line to and from school, Boston Streets Chief Jascha Franklin-Hodge said.
Franklin-Hodge said a BPS help line will try to help students and parents find alternate routes to and from school. He added the city is also working to ensure "accessible" transit for disabled and senior city residents.
Franklin-Hodge and state officials urged companies to let their employees work at home where possible - and to be more patient with workers who show up late due to problems getting to and from their jobs over the next month.
Officials from cities north of Boston served by the Orange Line and the new Green Line Extension were not part of the press conference.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak acknowledged there will be no shuttle service between Back Bay and Government Center, but that riders will get free transfers to the Green Line there. He said providing shuttle buses on dense, narrow downtown streets would have proved too challenging.
Baker started the press conference by pointing to billions of dollars he said his administration has poured into the T since he took office to make up for decades of deferred maintenance - he served as chief of administration and finance during one of those past administrations.
He said all of the work the T and its contractors will do over the month-long shutdown was already in the T's "asset management" system, but that a month-long shutdown will mean a tremendous amount of work can be done simply because the T won't have to spend long hours just bringing in and then removing tools and material to restart service at the end of the night or weekend, as has been done with other T repair projects.
He said the idea to just do five years' worth of work in a month was entirely the T's idea, and that the state went to the feds with the proposal, rather than federal rail investigators, already pressing the T on a variety of safety issues even before that train caught fire over the Mystic River, forcing the T to do so.
Poftak said his "confidence level is quite high" that all the work will get done in 30 days and service will resume Sept. 19 better than ever, with smoother, faster rides and almost all new Orange Line cars. He said T managers have devoted a considerable amount of time to "choreographing" the delivery of equipment needed for the work to points along the Orange Line, especially in the tunnel section downtown, that a buffer has been built into the schedule to allow for any unexpected issues and that there are even some additional projects ready should the work actually go faster than expected.
More specifics on the shutdown.