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Red Line passengers scramble for shuttles

By Alexander C. Kaufman
Globe Correspondent / November 6, 2011

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Buses replaced Red Line train service between Harvard Square and Alewife stations yesterday, leaving frustrated commuters scrambling to nab seats on the crowded shuttles as the MBTA launched four months of weekend repairs.

MBTA customer service agents who were posted at the stations directed a steady stream of subway riders, many of whom said they were not aware of the service disruption scheduled to continue through March 4, when workers are expected to complete the $80 million project.

While most riders took the shuttling in stride, many said they wished the MBTA had better advertised that it was temporarily closing the Red Line’s last three stops.

“Notification was extremely late,’’ said Kurt Hanson, 40, holding his 2-year-old daughter as the bus navigated afternoon traffic in Davis Square. “But typically the subway on weekends is 10 minutes or so late, so we don’t mind the bus.’’

Moments after catching the shuttle at Alewife station, Morgan Beaudry, 21, who drove down from Keene, N.H. to spend the weekend at Boston University, studied Google Maps directions, hoping the unexpected bus ride would not derail her travel plans.

“I wish I had known,’’ she said, clinging to the safety bar as the bus bucked while stopping for a red light. “We had the whole thing planned out and now we’re just winging it.’’

Nick Shirra and his wife, Brittany, said he hoped transportation officials would do a better job of communicating changes in service, as the shuttle stagnated in traffic, delaying their planned sightseeing journey through Boston.

Lydia Rivera, a spokeswoman for the MBTA, said officials began posting signs announcing the Red Line changes two weeks ago, and started announcing the service disruption over loudspeakers since the beginning of last week.

“We had a communication outreach plan for this bus shuttling,’’ she said in a telephone interview. “Signs were strategically placed for customers to see and know that this service is going to be by buses.’’

For Vincent Fisher, 45, the two stops from Cambridge to Somerville caused less consternation than last week’s subway station closings, when commuters were shuttled between the Red Line’s Kendall/MIT and Broadway stops in weather that began as frigid rain Saturday and turned to snow.

Rivera said the buses are slated to run as often or more often than the Red Line trains. “[But] as with anything like this, we’ll iron out the kinks,’’ she said.

However, many passengers said they were running between 10 and 25 minutes behind schedule yesterday as they packed into cramped Harvard-bound shuttles.

“It’s going to be a such a pain,’’ said Kira Kazamatsuri, 22, visiting from Waltham.

Alexander C. Kaufman can be reached at akaufman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlexCKaufman