Shuttle bus service, local police traffic details combining to ease inconvenience, disruption to personal schedules
The “Great Unknown” – aka “The Orange Line Shutdown of 2022”– plopped down in the middle of Malden on Monday, and the results and reactions since have been immediate and expected.
Inconvenient? Of course.
The manufacture of a whole new army of commuters turned clock-watchers? Most definitely. Time and transportation are innately connected – always.
The proverbial “more questions than answers” syndrome? Well, some may take it that way, but not entirely so.
The MBTA announced the one-month shutdown (August 19-September 19) earlier this month following a string of concerning safety incidents, including the death of a man on the Red Line and an Orange Line train that caught fire over the Mystic River. Federal officials are in the process of investigating the transit agency’s safety practices.
MBTA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials have stated they believe their work crews can finish five years’ worth of repairs within the next four weeks. The $189 million project will replace thousands of feet of rail at Wellington Yard in Medford, crossovers that help trains switch directions, and signals at the Oak Grove and Malden Center Stations “to increase safety and reliability.”
One of the key elements of both the rollout and then this week’s implementation of the Orange Line shutdown has been the provision of information of essentially every aspect of the unprecedented project. At this point, according to a multitude of online, print and televised media reports, the tens of thousands of daily “T” riders who are directly affected by the shutdown are well-informed as to the best way to get to their destinations.
Here in Malden and in surrounding communities, there was a highly prioritized effort to get out information and ease the inconvenience and hardship in any way. Malden Mayor Gary Christenson was out at Malden’s two MBTA Orange Line Stations on Monday morning, the first commuter day of the shutdown, alongside Malden Police Chief Glenn Cronin. Both were handing out prepaid CharlieCards to cover the cost of the rides on the Commuter Rails. Also, in Malden, at both of the city’s two Orange Line Stations – Malden Center and Oak Grove – eight-hour manned police details are in effect, expediting both pedestrians getting across busy streets onto the shuttle buses and then safely waving the buses through traffic lights to save time.
Both the City of Malden and the MBTA have Ridership Guides on their official websites. Malden’s website can be accessed at www.cityofmalden.org. The MBTA website is www.mbta.com. Accessible on that website are both an explanation of the ongoing project, “Building a Better T,” as well as the regular feature, “Trip Planner,” which features up-to-date information on how to go from one place to another destination.
In addition to encouragements to use the Commuter Rail, the Green Line, regular MBTA buses or even more basic modes of transportation, such as bicycles, the main way of getting to riders’ destinations is provided by the “T” via shuttle buses. A rolling armada of these shuttle coach buses was in effect beginning this past weekend and multiplying greatly – dozens in use through the course of the day – in time for Monday morning’s regular commute.
According to a number of reports, the biggest negative about the Orange Line shutdown was the increased time of trips – anywhere – which was expected in advance. For example, a usual 26-29-minute trip from Malden Center to Government Center on the Orange Line is now 18-20 minutes longer – close to one hour – on the shuttle buses.
Overall, according to comments in online reports and social media; however, other riders expressed gratitude over the conscientiousness and detail spent on assisting the T’s plans by local municipal and public safety officials.