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MBTA to expand Silver Line service to Chinatown during Orange Line closure

Boston officials had raised concern over a lack of shuttle bus service to the neighborhood when the T branch closes.

John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe
Orange Line:

The MBTA will add an outbound stop on the Silver Line 4 route to provide service in the Chinatown area as the Orange Line shuts down for 30 days beginning Friday night.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak confirmed the addition while addressing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce about the overall closure on Thursday morning.

The agency announced the additional Silver Line service on Twitter Wednesday evening following calls from city leaders for a shuttle bus stop in Chinatown during the unprecedented shutdown.

According to the MBTA, the Silver Line’s Surface Artery at Kneeland Street stop will be extended for access to the neighborhood.

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Poftak said the agency is also adding a “supplemental shuttle” to run every 30 minutes between Government Center and Tufts Medical Center and Chinatown from 5 to 7 a.m. and between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Additionally, Poftak noted the MBTA intends for the Boylston station on the Green Line, near the Chinatown and Tufts Medical Center stations, to provide connections to riders in the Chinatown area.

“Running buses through the heart of downtown Boston is extraordinarily challenging,” he said. “We’ve tried to address that by piggybacking on the Green Line here. We’re also going to try and run as much additional service on the core of the Green Line as we can … to absorb the needs of our customers.”

Poftak added that because the Boylston stop is not accessible for people with mobility challenges, the MBTA will have accessibility vans available at the Park Street and Copley stations for those who need transportation to either Tufts or Chinatown.

Mayor Michelle Wu, City Council President Ed Flynn, and a handful other elected officials wrote to Poftak on Tuesday after learning the T’s initial service diversion plan did not include shuttle bus stops at four Orange Line stations: State Street, Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, and Tufts Medical Center.

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Officials were particularly concerned about the lack of the latter two stops, which Chinatown residents rely on heavily to go to work and school, and for health care access.

“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 Medical 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 shutdown begins at 9 p.m. on Friday. The historic 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.

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.

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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.

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

Boston officials haven’t been the only local leaders who’ve called on the MBTA to clarify or change plans this week.

On Monday, Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn told GBH’s “Greater Boston” that in her limited conversations with MBTA representatives, there have been no “clear answers.”

Lungo-Koehn believes there should be express shuttle buses from Medford directly into Boston to avoid overcrowding.

Asked if she had received a commitment from the MBTA for that idea, Lungo-Koehn said, “No, we have not.”

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