Boston Transit Subway Shutdown

An older subway car, with spots of rust on the exterior shell, is parked with its lights on at the Orange Line’s Wellington Station train yard July 13 in Medford.

Two days after announcing that the Orange Line would be shut down for a month, the MBTA has announced that all Green Line service north of Government Center will similarly be offline and replaced by shuttle buses for four weeks between August and September.

Service on the Green Line, including the newly opened Union Branch, will be unavailable in both directions between Government Center and Union Square stations from Monday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 18, the T said.

Commuters on the Green Line Extension will be diverted to shuttle buses, just like the Orange Line riders whose subway line will be entirely offline from the night of Aug. 19 through Sept. 18. The buses that replace the trolley service that only began in March will not stop at all regular stations, the T said.

The latest weeks-long closures come as the T is already operating most of its lines at reduced weekend service levels daily because of the agency’s failure to properly staff a key subway dispatch center, one of the many safety issues flagged by the nearly unprecedented Federal Transit Administration’s investigation of the T.

“Obviously, we don’t like to be in the position of pulling service back like this,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Friday afternoon. “But in this case, it advances a number of our capital, reliability and safety projects. It also helps get us in position to get the Medford Square Branch open as well.”

The T said the Green Line shutdown is necessary “in order help facilitate the opening of the Medford Branch and to allow crews to perform final-phase construction work” and “to allow for continued work at the private Government Center Garage project.” The Green Line Extension’s Medford Branch was to open late this summer, but that has now been pushed off until late November.

“Much of the work to be performed during the diversion in service from August 22 to September 18 is tied to the opening of the Medford Branch, including the advancement of final-phase construction elements on the GLX project and the East Cambridge Viaduct,” the MBTA said in a press release. “The start date has also been affected by the availability of Safety and Operational support crews that were previously prioritized for GLX, but are now re-allocated to other critical MBTA construction work, including in the MBTA’s response to the Federal Transit Administration’s Safety Management Inspection directives.”

Poftak told reporters Friday that the T was already planning for a multiweek shutdown of the Union Branch around this time period and that it “just happened to overlap” with the Orange Line shutdown.

“And then there is again as a secondary factor, it is necessary to close the Orange and Green Line at least at Haymarket to allow continued demolition of the Government Center Garage,” he said. “So these overlapped on the calendar in such a way that they we thought rather than having multiple diversions, multiple closures and multiple service modes on this part of the Green Line, we would have it be consistent and we would give our forces the unencumbered access to the entire workspace that they need.”

Though he said that ridership on the Union Branch has been “pretty good” since the extension opened this spring, Poftak did not have an estimate of the number of people who will be affected by the decision to suspend service.

A T spokesman later estimated that about 2,500 people board trolleys at Union and Lechmere stations each weekday.

The T’s general manager maintained Friday that while the Orange and Green Line shutdowns will be disruptive, they are responding to calls from T riders who are frustrated with the MBTA and its shoddy service.

“I get that. I’m a regular commuter, I talk to folks on the T. I know that there’s a sense of frustration. And I’ve heard and felt that folks wanted bold and decisive action and what we are doing is bold and decisive,” Poftak said.

He added, “I’m in the position of asking folks to be patient and to allow us to make some of these bold and decisive decisions rather than stringing out some of these construction projects, literally for years. We’re going to be able to get them done and get them get them done efficiently, and what you’re gonna have is a better customer experience at the end of it.”

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