Commuters disappointed with delays a week into the Orange Line’s reopening


Olivia LeDuc

Orange Line Chinatown station

By Maeve Lawler and Olivia LeDuc

In the week following the Orange Line’s reopening after its 30-day shutdown, many Emerson students and Orange Line riders across Boston feel burdened by delays. 

The shutdown, from Aug. 19 to Sept. 19, allowed for the replacement of 3,500 feet of track and tie, as well as two crossovers to facilitate the movement of Orange Line cars. Crews also installed upgraded signals at Oak Grove and Malden stations while installing new train vehicles. 

The MBTA warned that existing slow zones would impact the speed of commutes a week after reopening the line on Sept. 19. A service alert on the MBTA’s Orange Line website reads, “Speed restrictions are in effect on some areas of the Orange Line while the new track and ballast settle. Track engineers are monitoring, and will increase speeds when each section is ready. Please allow extra time for your commute.”

Gov. Charlie Baker told GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” on Sept. 19 that several of the six slow zones have been lifted, and the rest are expected to be gone by the end of the week. 

Roslindale resident and senior journalism major Annie Bennett found the construction during the shutdown inconvenient because shuttle buses only went to Copley, making it difficult to be dropped off closer to campus. Now it’s reopened, yet she is still unsatisfied. 

“What I’m really annoyed about is that I feel like it’s not any better,” Bennett said. “The trains are better quality but…I get to the station and the next train is leaving in 30 minutes. That’s not reasonable. People rely on this for their commutes and the train is supposed to leave every 10 minutes.”

Mattapan resident and sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major Keianna Grant has been taking the Orange Line since she was in high school and is familiar with the ins and outs of Boston’s public transportation, but still reported the obstacles of relying on the Orange Line to get around after its reopening.

“Things have been different since the Orange Line got quote-unquote ‘fixed,’” Grant said. “Before the reopening, there used to be a mix of the old trains and the new trains. So most of the time I would ride on the old trains.” 

Grant also noted that the slow zones were not fully fixed upon reopening, making the older train cars seem faster than the new ones. 

On the Orange Line, it takes Grant over an hour to get from her door to Emerson. Before the renovation, she said she could rely on the trains getting her to campus on time because the trains were on their normal schedule. 

She emphasized the slow zones are very inconvenient when commuting to campus, and also mentioned some of the buses, specifically the 22 and 23 buses to Ruggles, “take longer to run to certain Orange Line stops.” 

Grant would like to see more communication between MBTA officials and riders while the slow zones are still in place.

“With the new [trains], yes [they] do come on time but they stay still, [train operators] don’t tell you why it’s happening,” she said. “There was a lot more communication when there were the old trains in place.” 

Bennett hopes her shared complaints are only short term, as the Orange Line re-acclimates to full-time use. 

“I hope that I’m wrong,” Bennett said. “I hope that they get it together and that it works out well.” 

However, when The Beacon spoke with Boston Orange Line commuters at the Chinatown station, they echoed Bennett and Grant’s annoyance with delays. 

Yllaena Santos, a Boston Latin School student, said the Orange Line train at the Chinatown station had been moving very slowly every day. But despite that, Santos complimented the revamped train’s look, adding that she is getting used to riding the Orange Line after a month-long break. 

Santos’s friend from Boston Latin School, Violet Huang, also focused less on the delays and more on how the “new look is better,” she said.

During the shutdown, Emerson students voiced complaints similar to those post-reopening.

Navigating alternate routes of transportation on shuttle buses was troublesome for sophomore visual media arts major Mike Sarfaty while the Orange Line was down. 

The shutdown also inflicted inconveniences on class schedules. Brooke Minus, a sophomore journalism major, said her professor showed up to class 25 minutes late because of major delays on his route.

“[The professor] said the traffic was so bad … He was on the train for two hours,” Minus said during the shutdown. “He said that he was going to try to be early for class every day, but mostly he’s probably going to be late.”

Other students who weren’t as reliant on the Orange Line felt less of an impact from the shutdown. 

Junior visual media arts student Mason Jeffrey utilized Boston’s free blue bikes during the shutdown. Jeffrey noted the city’s efforts to maintain accessible transportation.

“The Orange Line being down is an inconvenience but I do like how they are making convenience out of it,” Jeffrey said.  

Camilo Fonseca contributed to reporting.