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Live updates: The very latest on the Orange Line shutdown

Monday marked the dawn of the first work week under the MBTA's month-long shutdown of the Orange Line.

Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

MBTA head: Shutdown went “relatively smoothly” Monday

About halfway through the first full weekday of the Orange Line shutdown, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said that work was on schedule and that the unprecedented 30-day closure was going smoothly. 

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Poftak said that the ambitious project was progressing as planned, and is on schedule. 

“This is really the first Monday, the first weekday for the T to gauge how our alternative service plans are serving riders, and I would say we’re cautiously optimistic that things are going relatively smoothly,” Poftak said. 

Poftak shared some of the specifics about what workers have accomplished thus far. After removing old track over the weekend, crews completed rail replacement on the southbound tracks between the Downtown Crossing and State Street stations Monday, Poftak said. This is one of the six “slow zones” that the MBTA was aiming to fix during the shutdown. 

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Across the Orange Line, workers have replaced about 2,400 feet of rail track so far, Poftak said. 

Old track was demolished near Wellington yard. Workers are upgrading the signal system for trains near the Oak Grove and Malden Center stations. Construction materials were prepared for installation Monday near the Community College access point. Repairs to roofing at the Sullivan Station and Wellington stations began Monday as well. 

Teams of electricians were working to upgrade in-station lighting at the Forest Hills, Massachusetts Avenue, Stony Brook, and Assembly stations, Poftak said. 

Demolition work also began near the Jackson Square and Tufts Medical Center stations, where materials are being staged for future track replacement work. 

“We have an active work zone up and down the orange line, and we are taking full advantage of these 30 days of unencumbered access to the Orange Line to get lots of important work done,” he said. “We are just getting started.”

Officials have noted reduced traffic along the new shuttle bus routes, which has helped with reliable service. The MBTA is still urging people to avoid driving along these areas if possible. Poftak also noted that the agency saw an uptick in Commuter Rail ridership Monday. Certain fares are being waived on the Commuter Rail as the MBTA touts it as an Orange Line alternative. 

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The MBTA did not report any “major” shuttle bus issues as of Monday afternoon. Poftak said that there were around 100 to 110 shuttle buses running on the North side of the Orange Line route Monday, and about 50 to 60 buses running on the south side of the route. The agency does not have ridership numbers for shuttle buses, since the vehicles are not equipped to automatically track this information, and passengers are not required to pay fares on the buses. 

Due to “historical patterns,” Poftak said he expects to see a higher number of riders on Tuesday. 

Poftak stressed the importance of flexibility over the course of this shutdown. 

“To be realistic, we are going to find differing conditions than we expected on certain projects. Although we have a plan, I’m sure that plan is going to be adapted over time,” he said.

Orange line shutdown

‘Use your helicopter’: Spoofed – and unofficial – T posters have a laugh over the Orange Line shutdown (1:57 p.m.)

If you’re out and about along the Orange Line shuttle bus route, you may want to look closely at the nearby signage.

There’s at least one cheeky – and very unofficial – poster out in the wild that’s having a bit of fun over how riders should seek alternative routes during the month-long closure.

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“No Orange Line Service 8/19-9/16,” reads the poster, which is not all dissimilar to the actual signage informing riders about the closing. “Use your helicopter.”

The posters were created and shared on Twitter last week by a user named Steve H (@just_steve_h). 

Steve H wrote he created the posters to summarize Gov. Charlie Baker’s advice for T riders “for responding to this poorly-planned transportation meltdown.”

Baker and transportation leaders announced the shutdown earlier this month. Officials have repeatedly urged riders to seek alternative routes, such as by utilizing free shuttle bus or Commuter Rail service or the Silver Line, although one advised drivers to avoid the region altogether for the next month. 

Baker has also been critized over the years for not taking the MBTA during his time in office, but the Republican apparently opted to take the Commuter Rail into work on Monday.

Gov. Charlie Baker says he took the Commuter Rail this morning – and it was on-time (1:55 p.m.)

Gov. Charlie Baker said he rode the Haverhill line of the Commuter Rail for his morning commute on Monday.

Baker, a Republican who resides in Swampscott, has come under fire throughout his time in office for not riding public transit all that much.

But as T passengers – and the wider region – braced for the impact of the month-long Orange Line closure, Baker apparently opted for rails over roads on Monday.

“Took the @MBTA_CR Haverhill Line this morning. Glad to report it was an on-time commute,” Baker wrote in a tweet. “Thank you to all of the @MBTA riders today for their patience as the T embarks on the 30-day Orange Line rebuild.”

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The Haverhill line makes several stops at stations along the Orange Line’s northern branch.

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

Baker also expressed appreciation for the work of MBTA employees during the shutdown and says his administration is in close contact with T leadership.

“I want to also thank all of the @MBTA employees for their work to make everyone’s commutes as smooth as possible,” Baker said. “The team and I have been in close contact with the T over the weekend and today to monitor the diversion and construction progress.”

Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn says shuttle service needs to be expanded for Chinatown (1:39 p.m.)

After observing the “conditions on the ground” during the Orange Line shutdown Monday in Chinatown, Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn is calling for shuttle bus service to be expanded in the neighborhood. 

Flynn, who is president of the Boston City Council and whose district includes Chinatown, said the shuttle bus service — which is currently scheduled to run between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and then again between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. — does “not serve the community well.”

“Many residents travel to work, school, appointments, and other destinations that are beyond those hours,” he said in a statement. 

When the MBTA originally announced its plans for the month-long shutdown, it did not include plans for a shuttle bus stop in Chinatown. In response to pressure from city leaders, the transit agency added service to the neighborhood on the Silver Line, along with a “supplemental shuttle” running between Government Center and Tufts Medical Center and Chinatown for two windows each day.

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“While the MBTA added supplemental service to better serve our Chinatown community, both the route and schedule of the new shuttle service still do not work for our residents,” Flynn said Monday. 

The city councilor said it remains critical for the MBTA to “actively engage the communities impacted by the shutdown.”

“The MBTA needs to do extensive outreach to our Chinatown and immigrant communities, and make sure that language access is at the forefront of this outreach with materials and announcements in multiple languages,” Flynn said. 

Live map: Here’s where traffic is backed up in and around Boston (1:06 p.m.)

Bracing for the evening commute home from work? For those working in and around the city, the Orange Line shutdown has created even more congestion than they already are used to experiencing. 

“We expect to see more traffic congestion on various highways, intersections, and routes…for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians as MassDOT and especially the city of Boston make roadway changes to accommodate these buses,” Gov. Charlie Baker warned ahead of the shutdown

Check out the live map for the latest on traffic in and around Boston

Bluebikes just had its busiest weekend ever (12:51 p.m.)

Bluebikes, the Boston area’s public biking network, set a new record on Saturday for most rides in a single day.

On Twitter Monday, Bluebikes reported the all-time-high-number as 18,343 trips, and noted Sunday saw an impressive showing of cyclists using the service as well, with over 18,000 trips on that day, too.

In total, Bluebikes saw its busiest weekend ever, with over 36,664 completed trips.

While Bluebikes didn’t specify what exactly may have driven the numbers up, it’s probably no coincidence that Saturday was the first full day of the 30-day shutdown of the MBTA’s Orange Line — and that to provide alternative commuting options for would-be T riders, Boston has offered free Bluebikes passes, which allow anyone to make an unlimited number of 45-minute trips.

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Bluebikes operates nearly 4,000 bikes and 400 stations throughout Greater Boston, including Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Salem, and Everett.

We want to know: How is the Orange Line shutdown affecting you so far? (11:55 a.m.)

How did your morning commute go? Weigh in below, or email [email protected], and your response may be included a a future article.

Passengers report confusion on shuttle bus after no stops announced by driver (11:38 a.m.)

One of the shuttle buses carrying Orange Line passengers Monday morning reportedly caused confusion when the bus driver didn’t announce any of the stops, the Boston Globe reports

According to the newspaper, it took 26 minutes for the 9:38 a.m. shuttle bus traveling from Forest Hills to reach Back Bay, reportedly double what it would typically take to get between the stations when the Orange Line is running.

‘So far, so good’: Mayor Michelle Wu says her shuttle bus commute went ‘pretty smoothly’ (11:12 a.m.)

One of the Orange Line’s most prominent regular riders said her Monday morning commute aboard the shuttle buses went pretty well, all things considered.

“It went pretty smoothly,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who often hops on the T to get to City Hall from her home in Roslindale, told reporters at Government Center. “It was a little bit longer than a usual commute, but no real bottlenecks or traffic along the way. 

“Overall, (I’m) very hopeful that it seems like much of the planning and all the details we had discussed have been implemented, and so far, so good,” Wu added.

However, Wu said clear signage directing riders to where to load onto buses in some areas remains lacking.

Wu documented her experience on Twitter, noting that when she exited the 34 Bus at Forest Hills station, ​​there were no signs to direct passengers to the downtown-bound shuttle buses.

“There are also certain stops along the way where we should see multilingual signage, just directing people where to go,” Wu said. “But I did see a good number of staff on the ground at various stations, especially at the transit hubs.”

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The mayor, who took the 34 Bus to the Orange Line shuttle before transferring to the Green Line at Copley, also remarked that she saw a good number of Bluebikes available along her route, “so it seems that the supply is there and the rebalancing of the bikes is working out.”

Asked what feedback she heard from her fellow passengers, Wu said people were “pleasantly surprised” at the availability of the shuttle buses.

“When I got off at Forest Hills and eventually found our way to where the shuttle buses were, there were five lined up ready to go and everybody had a seat,” she said. “It was spaced out, it was comfortable on the shuttle buses.”

Wu said she hopes to be on the Green Line, which is also shut down between Union Square and Government Center, more later in the day.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu takes shuttle bus to work at City Hall (8:50 a.m.)

Shuttle bus from Oak Grove reportedly took wrong turn in downtown Boston (8:40 a.m.)

While most accounts from the shuttle buses ferrying Orange Line passengers Monday morning appeared to so far offer uneventful trips, one of the conveyances reportedly took a wrong turn in downtown Boston and got lost, according to the Boston Globe

The shuttle bus, which departed Oak Grove around 5:40 a.m., missed a turn for North Station, taking a loop around the Government Center garage onto the Rose Kennedy Greenway. According to the Globe, passengers started giving the driver directions back to North Station, resulting in the shuttle at one point briefly reversing on North Washington Street. 

After the North Station stop, passengers went on to give incorrect directions to the driver for how to get to Government Center, leading to the bus taking another loop around downtown. 

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One passenger told the Globe that the trip took about 45 minutes — 25 more than usual.

Another faulted the incorrect directions given by a passenger to the driver. 
“It wasn’t bad considering what it could have been,” the woman told the Globe. “Plus, the driver was nice and apologetic.”

MassDOT Highway Administrator says Leverett Circle, Charles Circle the ‘hot spots’ to monitor (8:10 a.m.)

So far, MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the roadways are looking “pretty smooth” as the Orange Line shutdown impacts the usual traffic flow around Boston. But he said officials are keeping an eye on a few key spots and he continued to urge people to plan.

“Leverett Circle is one of the big ones that we’ve been mentioning for a week now,” he told WCVB. “But also Charles Circle over at Sullivan Square. Those are the real hot spots that we’re going to be looking at throughout the morning to see if there’s adjustments that we need to make. But these bus lines are for sure going to displace a number of people on their regular commute and we’re going to really learn today where they’re going.”

Gulliver said so far it seems people may be heeding the urging of officials to work from home if possible or avoid unnecessary outings.

“That may be the case today and traffic is relatively light, but really we’ve seen that Mondays have been pretty light to begin with over the last year during the pandemic,” he said. “So I think tomorrow actually might be a bigger test for us.”

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View the state’s real-time traffic map for Massachusetts here.

Shuttle buses running every few minutes; MBTA shares navigation tool (7:00 a.m.)

First work week under month-long shutdown of the Orange Line begins (6:54 a.m.)

The MBTA’s month-long shutdown of the entire Orange Line began Friday night, with officials relying on shuttle buses, free commuter rail service at some stations, and increased services on other T lines to ferry passengers across destinations from Oak Grove to Forest Hills. Monday marks the start of the first work week when Orange Line commuters will have to navigate the range of service alternatives to get to work, school, and other appointments.

Train service on the Orange Line closed at 9 p.m. on Friday so that for 30 days, repairs can be made to the line that stretches from Malden across Boston. 

“Thirty days of 24-hour access will replace more than five years of Orange Line delays and weekend diversions,” the MBTA states on its website

The closure coincides with the MBTA also closing the Green Line and Government Center stations starting on Aug. 22 for 28 days.

The MBTA has said free shuttle buses are running between Oak Grove and Haymarket/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley. Meanwhile, free shuttle service is running between the Union Square and Government Center stations.

The shutdown has officials warning that it will cause ‘significant’ traffic delays throughout the region.

Find our full guide to the shutdown here. 

Read more about the Orange Line shutdown: 

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