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Boston leaders call on the MBTA to add shuttle bus stop in Chinatown during Orange Line shutdown

"What's important is making sure that our immigrant neighborhood in Chinatown is treated fairly and with respect during this process. In my opinion, it has not."

Lane Turner/Globe Staff
Boston City Council President Ed Flynn Lane Turner/Globe Staff
Orange Line shutdown:

As the plan currently stands, Orange Line riders can hop on free shuttle buses to get around when the T branch shuts down for 30 days beginning Friday night.

But not in the Downtown area.

Shuttle buses will not serve four Orange Line stops: State Street, Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, and Tufts Medical Center.

Now, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, City Council President Ed Flynn, and other city leaders are asking the MBTA to reconsider adding at least one more shuttle stop in the Chinatown area, either at the Chinatown station or at Tufts.

Many residents in Chinatown rely on public transportation to get around, the cohort of lawmakers wrote to MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak in a letter on Tuesday. Walking to other stations for shuttle service will be difficult for residents with disabilities and senior citizens, they wrote.

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“As you know, Chinatown is the neighborhood that is particularly reliant on the MBTA for transportation, especially our immigrant neighbors and residents of color who use the MBTA to get to and from Chinatown,” the letter says. “Many use the Orange Line to go to Tufts Medial Center for healthcare and work, and students at the Josiah Quincy School are also reliant on the Tufts Medical Center stop to head to their school.”

The lawmakers note the MBTA is asking riders in that area to use the Silver Line or Green Line to get to Tufts.

However, “that is not an easy option for many given the distance between stations and the lack of connections to the Silver Line for those coming from the north,” officials wrote.

“We therefore ask that the MBTA reconsider its decision in excluding both Tufts Medical Center and Chinatown from having shuttle bus stops,” the letter says. “We need at least one shuttle bus stop in the area. We also want to reiterate the importance for the MBTA to do extensive outreach to these communities, and make sure that language access is at the forefront of this outreach with materials and announcements in multiple languages.”

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The letter was also signed by state Sen. Nick Collins, state Sen. Lydia Edwards, and state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz.

“What’s important is making sure that our immigrant neighborhood in Chinatown is treated fairly and with respect during this process,” Flynn, the District 2 councilor who represents Chinatown, told WCVB. “In my opinion, it has not.”

On Monday, during a press conference, Poftak said the area around Tufts presents challenges for running an adequate shuttle service.

“It is one of the more challenging geographic areas,” Poftak said. “Not possible for us really to run an efficient shuttle down there.

“The Boylston stop is a healthy block, but it’s a block away from the Chinatown block,” he added, referring to the Green Line’s Boylston station.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesperson, told Boston.com by email on Wednesday: “There is an ongoing dialogue between the MBTA and the City of Boston regarding the impacts of the Orange Line work and alternative transportations options.”

The shutdown begins at 9 p.m. on Friday. The unprecedented closure is expected to give work crews around-the-clock access to the rails to make improvements officials say will provide for faster and safer trips.

During the shutdown, the T will offer free shuttle buses between Oak Grove and Haymarket/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley.

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Would-be Orange Line riders can also ride the commuter rail in Zones 1A, 1, and 2 at no charge by showing their CharlieCard or CharlieTicket to conductors. Trains operating parallel the Orange Line will be making stops at Forest Hills, Ruggles, Back Bay, North Station, Malden Center, and Oak Grove.

The MBTA has released this graphic to show how riders can get around during the Orange Line and Green Line shutdowns.

The MBTA is also closing the Green Line between Union Square and Government Center stations beginning on Aug. 22 for 28 days.

Free shuttle bus service will replace Green Line service between those stops.

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