MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2022
Over the past three weeks, I have been very focused on advocating to the MBTA and MassDOT in advance of the shutdown of the Orange Line and the Green Line from Union Square to Government Center.
It's been a daily cycle of phone calls, meetings/briefings, and communication with MBTA staff and officials, MassDOT staff, and Cambridge and Somerville city officials and transportation planning staff. I've also been working closely with my legislative colleagues and in conversation with the House Transportation Chair and leading advocates, and taking my advocacy to the press, too.
I've been doing all this because I see the unprecedented shutdown of the MBTA as a transportation emergency. And I recognize the T's maintenance and safety issues as a catastrophic failure of state government.
We will learn a lot more about the reality of the situation when the Federal Transit Administration publishes its investigative report, due any day now. From there, the legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation will continue with oversight hearings. I would expect Gov. Baker will be asked to testify. There must be accountability, and there will be some big debates about how to proceed. For my part, I am committed to continuing to advocate for a world class public transportation system.
As a representative of Cambridge and Somerville — including Union Square station, Lechmere, Assembly, and the East Somerville neighborhood adjacent to Sullivan Square — working to anticipate the impacts of the shutdown and advocating for robust mitigation measures has been my top priority all month. For the transit riding public and the public at large, there's no way to put a happy face on this outrageous and unacceptable situation.
That said, I am pleased to report this advocacy has had a positive impact. Last Thursday, the MBTA responded by releasing a list of dedicated bus priority lanes north of downtown Boston. Bluebikes memberships have been made available free of charge to all Cambridge and Somerville residents. The shuttle buses are free of charge and typically air conditioned, with comfortable seats and WiFi. The MBTA has made real efforts at responding to feedback and concerns.
On Friday, I participated in a test run of the Orange Line replacement shuttle bus along with Senator Jehlen and other state and city officials and staff. We started at Government Center and proceeded to Oak Grove and back, making each replacement stop along the way. It was a great opportunity for us to take notes and offer feedback to the MBTA. Our test run was also featured in this segment on NBC Boston.
This morning, I took the Green Line shuttle bus from Union Square to Government Center, and after getting some work done at the State House, took the same route back to Union Square this afternoon. I posted Twitter threads of my inbound and outbound trips. Again, this was a great opportunity to witness how the system was performing, to see the results of our advocacy, and to take notes on ways the MBTA and MassDOT can improve the operation going forward. The Boston Globe included my experience taking the shuttle bus to the State House in this account of riders' experiences today.
By most accounts, today's commute — the first test of the simultaneous Orange Line and northern Green Line shutdowns on a weekday — went pretty smoothly. Traffic was light on the second-to-last Monday in August, and most commuters in our Cambridge and Somerville district found things to be fairly reasonable. Concerns continue to be raised across the system with regards to signage, impact on vulnerable transit riders, and metrics of success.
While today seems to have gone okay — I was again in contact with MBTA officials this evening — offering notes and feedback from my experience today. As I suggested to them — the T will have to continue to look for improvements and efficiencies in this operation because traffic is only likely to get much more difficult, especially after Labor Day.
If you're looking for information on how to navigate the shutdown over the next four weeks, the MBTA's Rider's Guide to Planning Ahead is your place to start. The City of Somerville has also posted information on this webpage, and the City of Cambridge has posted information on this webpage. As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.
To be sure, this is a sad moment for our public transportation system and a major inconvenience for many hundreds of thousands of commuters. And yet, I remain focused on continued improvements and 100% committed to organizing, advocating, and legislating in all the ways necessary for us to get to a place where the MBTA is truly world-class operation.
Yours in service,
Rep. Mike Connolly