As green, orange line service stops, local businesses stop

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 upgrade the 120-year-old fast line. With an average of 101,000 commuters relying on the Orange Line from Malden to Jamaica Plain each day, commuters and nearby businesses are bracing for a “transportation emergency” starting this week.

Planned projects include track repairs to bypass traffic jams, upgrade signs and renew infrastructure at several stations as part of a 30-day revitalization and safety work plan. Additionally, Green Line service is suspended between Government Center and Union Square until September 18.

MBTA chief executive Steve Poftak said in a news release that the decision to close the Orange Line — which was prompted by a Federal Transit Administration safety inspection and followed numerous train derailments, injuries, a train fire, passenger fatality and collisions – was not taken lightly.

If the double whammy of COVID-related financial strains and rising supply costs due to inflation weren’t enough, local businesses, especially smaller, unbranded stores, are bracing for a drop in footfall due lack of commuters in the area. The proliferation of franchisees in boston were already posing a challenge to local businesses – but now the closures pose an additional threat to stand-alone retailers.

Ana Ramos, manager of the Tradesman Coffeeshop located on Northeastern University’s Financial District campus, notes that while it’s still early days for substantial change, the store is unusually quiet for a Monday morning. The cafe opened in 2015, closing for less than three months during the 2020 COVID shutdowns – but started seeing an influx of students and working professionals soon after. “When the schools are closed, we still get the business crowds. It’s too early to tell, but I really expect the closures [deter] commuters to stop for a coffee,” says Ramos, who has worked at the store since 2019. “We are coffee fanatics and we are passionate about hospitality,” she continues, “the local community relies on us , as we do on them. .”

Caffe Vittoria in North End, known for its cannolis and Lavazza coffee. Image: Mehr Singh

In the North End, Tory Ano, a local guide, is skeptical about the length of the closures and expects construction to take more than 30 days. She says, ‘This place is the closest to authentic Genoa cannolis in Boston,’ about Caffé Vittoria, a rustic mainstay that opened in the North End in 1929, which also serves as an anthem to Italo American from Boston. the story. She adds: “COVID was already brutal for businesses, and while tourists will eventually see this place on Yelp, the [MBTA] the closures will prevent the community from experiencing hometown gems.

The closures portend “severe” congestion on Greater Boston roads as commuters who rely on the MBTA seek alternative transportation. Last week, Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the closure “would have substantial impacts on regional travel beyond just transit users,” based on traffic modeling. In addition to announcing the closures, the MBTA also signed a $37 million contract with A Yankee Line, a Boston bus company, to operate 200 vehicles to transport commuters along the Orange Line.

At Jamaica Plain’s Forest Hills station, Northeastern University graduate student Cheryl Daniel believes the Orange Line closure is the result of MBTA negligence that will leave thousands of people of color in limbo. “This is a direct result of MBTA’s lack of value to brown and black communities. People’s livelihoods depend on the Orange Line. Without it working, how are we supposed to access our basic necessities? she says, “The next month’s chaos during the first month of school could have been avoided.”

The effect of the line closures should have a domino effect on road traffic. Boston officials have in recent days begun to prepare for the influx of shuttles into the city, as workers began setting up the first temporary bus lanes Sunday evening around Copley Square, which will reach the Government Center later. this week. Over the weekend, the T published Cyclist’s guide to planning ahead, outlining upcoming closures, alternative travel options and accessibility. The guide is currently being translated into eight languages.