On August 5, the MBTA announced the closure of the Orange and Green Lines serving the communities of Malden, Medford, Somerville and Boston in an effort to improve the 120-year-old express line. With an average of 101,000 commuters depending on the Orange Line each day from Malden to Jamaica Plain, riders and neighboring businesses are bracing for a “transportation emergency” starting this week.
Planned projects include track repairs to address delays, improved signage and infrastructure upgrades at several stations as part of a 30-day revitalization and safety work plan. In addition, Green Line service is suspended between the Government Center and Union Square until September 18.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a press release that the decision to close the Orange Line — which was prompted by a Federal Transit Administration safety inspection and followed multiple train derailments, injuries, a train fire, a passenger death and crash – was not taken lightly.
If the double whammy of financial strains related to COVID and rising supply costs due to inflation weren’t enough, local businesses, especially smaller, non-branded stores, are bracing for reduced footfall due to the shortage of travelers in the area. The proliferation of franchises in Boston already poses a challenge to local businesses — but now, the closings pose an additional threat to independent retailers.
Ana Ramos, a manager at Tradesman Coffeeshop located on Northeastern University’s financial district campus, notes that while it’s still early for a major change, the shop is unusually quiet for a Monday morning. The cafe opened in 2015, closing for less than three months during the 2020 COVID lockdowns––but began seeing an influx of students and working professionals soon after. “When schools are out, we still have the corporate crowd. It’s too early to tell, but I’m certainly looking forward to the closings [deter] travelers not to stop for coffee,” says Ramos, who has worked at the shop since 2019. “We are coffee fanatics and passionate about hospitality,” she continues, “the local community relies on us, just as we do in them.”
In the North End, Tory Ano, a local guide, is skeptical about how long the closures will last and expects construction to take more than 30 days. She says, “This place is the closest you’re going to get to authentic Genoa cannolis in Boston,” of Caffé Vittoria, a rustic mainstay that opened in the North End in 1929 that also doubles as a get-together for the Italian affluent. of Boston. American history. She adds, “Covid was already brutal for businesses, and while tourists will end up seeing this place on Yelp, [MBTA] closures will prevent the community from discovering hometown gems.”
The closures present “severe” congestion on Greater Boston streets as riders who rely on the MBTA seek alternative transportation. Last week, State Highway Administrator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Jonathan Gulliver said the closure would “have significant regional travel impacts beyond transit users,” based on traffic modeling. Along with announcing the closings, the MBTA also signed a $37 million contract with A Yankee Line, a Boston bus company, to run 200 passenger-carrying vehicles along the Orange Line.
At the Forest Hills station in Jamaica Plain, Cheryl Daniel, a graduate student at Northeastern University, believes the closing of the Orange Line is the result of MBTA negligence and will leave thousands of people of color behind. This is the direct result of the MBTA’s lack of value for brown and black communities. People’s livelihoods depend on the Orange Line. Without functioning, how are we supposed to access our basic needs?” she says, “The chaos over the next month during the first month of school could have been prevented.”
The effect of the lane closures is expected to have a domino effect on road traffic. Boston officials in recent days have begun preparing for an influx of buses into the city, as workers began installing the first temporary bus lanes Sunday night around Copley Square, which will reach the Government Center later this week. Over the weekend, the T published “A Rider’s Guide to Planning Ahead,” outlining upcoming closures, alternative travel options and accessibility. The guide is currently being translated into eight languages.