Readers Say

‘A necessary strategy’: Readers are in favor of more T shutdowns

"I think short-term pain for long-term gain is very acceptable."

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Passengers board an Orange Line train at the Forest Hills Station.

Despite initial skepticism about the monthlong Orange Line shutdown, Boston.com readers were pleasantly surprised by how the MBTA handled the unprecedented closure — so much so that they think the transit agency should keep extended closures going until the T is fixed. 

In the 30 days that the Orange Line was closed, the MBTA was able to complete five years of improvements to the line’s track and signal infrastructure. Those upgrades were needed, but came at the cost of increased traffic and disrupted commutes for many in the Greater Boston area. We asked Boston.com readers if they thought the service disruption was worth it, and if the MBTA should consider doing it again. 

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We’re only a few days removed from the end of the shutdown and the MBTA has warned that it may take a week or more to notice the changes in the speed of the Orange Line, but our readers are feeling optimistic.

Sixty-six percent of the 109 readers who responded to the poll said the shutdown actually went better than they thought and 85% said they would be in favor of similar closures in the future if it means more progress is made in improving the T.  

“It’s terrible and embarrassing that the MBTA is in this situation; however, they have handled the shutdown very well. They completed the work, communicated well, and all staff were extremely helpful to confused customers,” Kevin from Boxborough said. “If they can continue this track record of competence and accelerate the past-due repairs, I think short-term pain for long-term gain is very acceptable.”

How do you feel about the Orange Line closure now that it's done?
It went better than I expected.
67%
76
It went worse than I expected.
11%
13
It was fine.
22%
25
Should the MBTA do more extended closures to make faster progress on T repairs?
Yes
86%
98
No
14%
16

This summer, the MBTA was ordered by the Federal Transit Administration to fix glaring safety issues after a number of dangerous incidents, including a fatal accident on the Red Line. For some readers, the problems are so big that extended shutdowns won’t cut it. Mal from Franklin said he’d rather current management be removed altogether. 

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“I think MBTA management has proven they are out of touch with the people’s needs and it’s time for the federal government to step in and get this back in tune with the customers and not the management’s theory from their desk,” he shared.

At the start of the shutdown, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the closure was an opportunity to start taking more serious steps toward improving public transportation in the region, and Boston.com readers largely agreed.

Now that the Orange Line has been successfully completed, would more shutdowns be a good idea? Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers weighing in on the issue. 

Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.

Should the MBTA do more extended closures to make faster progress on T repairs?

It seems to be the right, albeit challenging, approach.”

“Given the backlog of deferred maintenance, this is a necessary strategy.” — Bruce, Milford

“I’ve been riding the T in various ways since I started working in Boston right out of college. It’s been bad the entire time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stranded, forced to get off a train, delayed, or just generally frustrated with the service the T provides. It’s too early to tell if the 30-day Orange line shutdown will have lasting, positive effects. If it does, I’m all for it. I will happily find alternate commuting methods or work remotely for a month if it means I’m frustrated less for the next five years.” — Kyle, Somerville

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“I think the T has to make itself reliable if it expects people to ride it like their jobs depend on it. If extended shutdowns improve reliability then I’d say go for it.” — David, Northbridge

“For decades the idea that major infrastructure construction must be performed while keeping the railroad or highway open to traffic or service at all cost has forced projects to be built in small segmented sections over many many, many years. I have long believed that many of these never-ending segmented construction projects end up being more disruptive over time, than even a 30-day shutdown.” — Tom O., Jamaica Plain

“Yes it was successful and it was completed on time! I think the city handled it well, adding shuttles, buses, and even working with BlueBikes to allow for mobility. Car traffic was manageable. 30 days of disruption definitely outweigh five years of staggered construction!” — Elizabeth, West Roxbury

“Honestly, I want to know who the project planners are for this stuff because this being planned originally for over FIVE years is ridiculous. Safety work should be prioritized and done as soon as possible even if it means closures. Plan it out and give rebates and alternative means of transportation to folks.” — Tracey

“I was fortunate enough to be able to take the commuter rail from Malden Center which worked out well, though I did walk to Copley to avoid the shuttles. I think if the MBTA were able to plan ahead better, the overlap of Green Line and Orange Line closures could be avoided and reduce the confusion/shuttle transfers. If additional planned shutdowns mean a faster path to safer and quicker trains then it seems to be the right, albeit challenging, approach.” — Allison, Malden

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“The timing could have been better planned so that it did not interfere with the start of school, but it appears to have been the most effective way to complete significant repairs and maintenance with the greatest efficiency.” — Alex, Roxbury

No, it was horrible.”

“No. Created more traffic and now people are limited in moving through the city due to new bus lanes staying. All it came out to be was an excuse for city leaders to keep ‘temporary’ changes permanent. We have yet to see any real change in service as of yet. Privatize the system and hold people accountable in our local government for not vetting the changes with the public.” — Drew, Wakefield

“I take the T everywhere I can, but when I did have to get in the car the traffic was horrific. We need some way to mitigate that to some degree.” — Donna, North End

“The only reason that there was an extended shutdown was because of MBTA’s neglect of their rail system. I lived in Chicago and they’re constantly [doing] maintenance work on the L during the day when it isn’t rush hour. Maybe MBTA should talk to other cities to see how they handle maintaining their rail lines without long-term closures.” — Jayson, Back Bay

“No, it was horrible. I understand the necessity of closures following a train fire, but it was unbelievably disruptive for so many people. Did 93 close for even a day during the Big Dig? Replacing the Orange Line with shuttle buses that were inaccessible and couldn’t fit strollers was completely inequitable. At one point, my baby had a pediatric allergy testing appointment at MGH, and my husband had to walk 2.5 miles to take him. Why? Because he couldn’t fit the stroller on a shuttle, and he missed an MBTA bus that comes only once an hour at that time of day. It’s not even like bus service was increased to help transit traders.

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“Another huge negative: state police were traffic detail near the shuttle ‘lanes’, and they would frequently park on the sidewalk, completely blocking access so that pedestrians had to walk in very dangerous streets to get around. This whole exercise was a giant middle finger to anyone who doesn’t own a car.” — Julia, East Somerville

​​Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.