When Bryan Scrafford relocated from northern Virginia to Boston in March to work for the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), he looked for housing near public transportation. He found what seemed like an ideal location in Jamaica Plain – on the Stony Brook Orange Line MBTA stop. It’s a half-hour ride from Downtown Crossing, which is a few blocks from JALSA on Beacon Street.
Yet he recently learned through social media that the Orange Line will close for repairs for a month. The shutdown starts at 9 p.m. Aug. 19, with service slated to resume on Sept. 19.
“Obviously, it means I can no longer take the T into the city, including downtown,” Scrafford said.
Scrafford has become all too familiar with Orange Line woes since moving here. Earlier this year, he experienced a previous shutdown due to construction work on a garage. When the line has shut down in the past, he has tried several alternatives. One is ridesharing, but it costs $25 one-way, much more than the $2.40 T fare. Another is the shuttle buses that the MBTA has offered during past shutdowns and also will be offered during the upcoming closure. Yet Scrafford is wary of them.
“When I used the shuttle bus, it took an extraordinarily long time to actually get from the Stony Brook station to wherever I actually was going,” he said.
Scrafford was one of several Boston-area Jews to discuss the impact of the Orange Line closure. The shutdown caps a tumultuous summer stretch for the T that has included multiple accidents and closures on different lines – notably an Orange Line train that caught fire on a Mystic River bridge on July 21. Of the 200 or so passengers who escaped, one did it in a particularly dramatic way: A woman jumped out a window into the water.
“The T is on fire,” said JALSA executive director Cindy Rowe. “Buses, trains. We don’t have to live like this. We could have started investing in public transportation.”
“It’s like owning a house,” she said. “You’ve got to do the roof, the foundation, not put these things off for so long. Now we’re in a crisis.”
“People in our city rely on public transportation,” said Rabbi Andrew Oberstein of Temple Israel in Boston. “It’s how they get around to the places they need to go, including the grocery store, school, work, including synagogue. Not everybody has a car. Not everybody is able to use a private vehicle for transportation.”
Although Temple Israel is on the Green Line – not the Orange Line – it recently rescheduled a summer walk in the Arnold Arboretum to Aug. 27, in the middle of the shutdown period. Although the arboretum is accessible by a bus line, the only nearby subway stop is the Orange Line Forest Hills station.
“I haven’t heard anybody yet say they want to come but are unable,” Oberstein said. “We do our best to accommodate someone if they need to arrange a carpool.”
Last summer, Rowe helped lead a demonstration against climate change at the State House. The closest T station – Park Street – is used by both the Orange and Green lines.
“People have to come into Boston for all kinds of reasons,” Rowe said. “For events, meetings at the State House, demonstrations in front of the State House.”
Not only is the Orange Line facing a month-long shutdown, the Green Line is currently having a shorter shutdown of the “E” branch and another is planned between Union Square and Government Center from Aug. 22 through Sept. 18.
“These are central lines for how people get into town, to see and meet with their state representatives and senators,” Rowe said. “It’s going to be causing a major disruption on lots of different levels.”
Thirty years ago, when Rowe and her husband moved to Brookline, they chose a location for the same reason Scrafford did this year: It was close to public transportation.
“I’m a big supporter of public transportation,” she said. “I don’t like driving – it’s not good for the environment. I made sure to move near public transportation. It’s the way you should commute into a city. It’s efficient … it’s good for the environment. It is a public service. We have to make sure people have access to it and everyone can afford it.”