Malden anticipates Orange Line reopening but will the commute be better?

By Michael Cao

As Malden residents anticipate the promised re-opening of the Orange Line by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), commuters expressed mixed feelings about the suspension, which was intended to facilitate major repairs and upgrades of the transportation system. 

The MBTA’s Building a Better T 2022 program suspended the Orange Line on Aug. 19. This included three stations that could impact Malden residents. Passengers were provided with shuttle bus service as alternative travel options. 

The Malden Center station during closure. Photo by Michael Cao

William C., interviewed by Neighborhood View outside the Malden Center Station and who asked that his last name not be used, said he has been riding the T for more than four decades. “The shuttles are nice to ride on, luxury buses are nice and comfortable,” he said. “But it’s still not as quick as the train at the Orange Line, which goes directly to stops.”

He also said that he has seen the MBTA fixing the same track many times over the years. He expressed disappointment. “I hate to say this, but they are doing a lot of work for nothing,” he said. “They are working to get paid but they are not fixing anything. Fixing this, fixing that. It can’t be broken over and over.” 

During the suspension, Malden Center station was partially closed. The main entrance of the station became a shuttle bus stop for passengers. Under the guidance of MBTA staff, buses stopped there to unload passengers and to load new passengers to go to Oak Grove station. According to MBTA official website, the MBTA worked with third-party companies like Yankee Line, Inc to provide more than 160 buses for free shuttle service. 

Malden City Councilor Carey McDonald posted this on Instagram. See full text here:

One of the MBTA’s priorities was to upgrade the signal system. Lisa Lepore, MBTA acting deputy chief, Capital Transformation, said in a publically released video that the new digital signal system, which replaced the old relay system, would provide greater reliability and greater repair optimization.

During the closure, the MBTA website provided weekly progress reports and the MBTA social media account showed multiple videos to highlight progress.

Not all commuters were impressed.

“You got to understand something. This time the federal government is watching. While in the past, nobody was watching,” said Michael F., another commuter who asked that his last name not be used.  

The MBTA’s Twitter account posted twice during the last month that Gov. Charlie Baker personally checked the program progress. The first time was Aug. 29, and the second time was Sept. 6. 

When asked if the Orange Line closure interrupted his daily commute, “Yes and no,” Michael F. replied.  “The buses are comfortable, but the biggest interruption is they shut all the stations down.” 

However, Michael F said MBTA personnel “are doing the best they can.” He did not think the upgrade would be fully done, especially in a short time. “They are going to finish the safety things. You are not going to have all these stations painted, you are not gonna have all these floors completely redone.” 

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a Sept. 13 public release that 82% of the overall work has been completed and the Orange Line would resume normal service on time on Sept. 19. 

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