Wu outlines Orange Line’s back-to-school plan
School is about to start for Boston Public Schools students, and this year’s transportation situation has an added wrinkle: the ongoing Orange Line shutdown.
“We worked so hard and part of me is so frustrated because we wanted to prove to everyone that it was possible to have a great first week [of busing to schools]’ Mayor Michelle Wu said Java with Jimmy Wednesday. “We were way ahead of where we’ve ever been. All things have been settled. … And now the Orange Line (Shutdown) increases the difficulty of the challenge.”
Wu said she was grateful to everyone who participated in adjusting the plan when the city was notified of the closure.
“We have encouraged and provided anyone who normally has an MBTA pass in grades seven to twelfth, they can come back and use the yellow bus,” Wu said. “We’re giving waivers so people can do that when they feel safer and more comfortable.”
Officials have also renegotiated with the bus drivers’ union to add van drivers to the traditional yellow bus lines, Wu said. The agreement includes hiring additional companies to run delivery trucks on 45 routes to serve students heading to out-of-town schools, the authorities said globe.
“There are a lot of young people, especially students with disabilities, who have internships outside of the school district to get the services required by law, and they also need transportation, so these are usually some of our yellow bus drivers driving students from Boston to other schools, sometimes one after the other,” Wu said. “We have contractors with vans running some of these routes so that more of our bus drivers can be available.”
BPS is discussing the possibility of MBTA offering shuttle services for Boston students going to school along the Orange Line, although the feasibility of doing so is based on commuter numbers on current shuttle buses, the company said globe.
Meanwhile, students who are late for school during the closure will not be penalized, BPS said globe.
The Orange Line shutdown is scheduled to remain in effect until the morning of September 19, seven school days after the students return to most BPS schools. According to that globeDistrict leaders identified 28 schools impacted by the closure of the Orange Line and estimated 4,676 students live within a mile of the Orange Line and receive a T-pass from BPS.
On Java with Jimmy, Wu emphasized that the city had “absolutely no direct authority over the T” since a change in 2015 This eliminated the city’s “minimal power” over the T through a vote in a local Budget Advisory Council. Still, Wu said the city has some less direct ways to influence the system.
“We as a city are responsible for the streets that the T-buses travel on, we are responsible for what we reserve for parking versus bus lanes, or the signals and how they react and how quickly they change and for what type of vehicles,” Wu said.
The plans for the Orange Line shutdown were unveiled to the public on August 3. Wu said the city found out beforehand, but only two days later. Wu said the city could have stepped down because the Orange Line is not under its authority, but instead recognized the widespread impact of the shutdown and stepped in to help.
“No matter whose problem it is, it will affect every single person who lives in our city. We tried to do our best to just step in and support and drive many of the changes that actually led to certain changes in the plan and big goals that I don’t think the T would necessarily have achieved on their own.” said Wu.
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