Red Line shuttle buses cause delays, confusion for students

Several passengers pass through the ticketing station in Davis Square Station on March 15, 2017. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) began weekend repairs on the Red Line starting on Nov. 15, forcing riders to instead ride shuttle buses between Kendall/MIT and Broadway stations.

The weekend closure means the five stations between Kendall/MIT and Broadway, including ones frequented by traveling Tufts students such as Park Street and South Station, will not see weekend operation until the week after Dec. 15.

In a press release, the MBTA said that the repairs focus on “station improvements and track replacements at Park Street and Downtown Crossing Stations. The MBTA will replace and add new signage, clean, paint, and repair stairs/tile within the stations.”

According to the release, the MBTA will work to replace around 1,800 feet of track at both Park Street and Downtown Crossing. The press release says that, as a result of these closures, the repairs to Park Street will take place four months earlier than previously planned, while Downtown Crossing repairs happen a year earlier.

“The broad limits between Broadway and Kendall/MIT are necessary as these areas are ‘portal’ access points for work crews to load in construction equipment and materials into the underground portions of the Red Line. The broad closure limits also give the MBTA a valuable work window to perform work that would otherwise require additional service shutdowns,” the release said.

While these repairs are taking place, students have found it difficult to maneuver around the shuttle bus service. Isabella Getgey takes the Red Line every Sunday to work at the SMFA.

“With the new shuttle buses at Kendall station, it was really inconvenient. As soon as I walked out of the station, I was confused on where to go, and then I was on the bus for a really long time. I had to add like an extra 30 minutes to my commute, which means I got to work late,” Getgey, a sophomore, said.

Getgey emphasized that she found the new repairs to lead to confusion.

“On my way back from work, I was trying to get on the shuttles at the Downtown Crossing station. Downtown Crossing is already in a pretty confusing place, and I had to walk five blocks to go find the shuttles from this station. By then it was nighttime, it was in the cold and I was alone,” she said.

Getgey continued that the inconvenience may deter students from trying to go into Boston on the weekends if they don’t absolutely have to.

“Getting into Boston … already takes about an hour. Adding an extra 30 minutes to accommodate the shuttle buses is frustrating because getting there and back is a three-hour commute. It’s almost not worth it,” she said.

Lisa Battiston, deputy press secretary of the MBTA, acknowledged that the shuttle buses may run on a slower schedule than the Red Line due to traffic congestion.

“As these Red Line shuttle buses are operating in regular street traffic, customers should budget some additional commuting time. While the shuttles are designed to account for some traffic and congestion, the time between shuttle buses can certainly be subject to changes and fluctuations due to the large size of the diversion between Broadway and Kendall/MIT, the volume of buses involved, traffic, and other circumstances,” Battiston said.

Meg Guliford, a Ph.D. student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, also had a hard time finding the shuttle buses between the Davis station and Kendall/MIT station, even though riders were only notified about closures between the Kendall/MIT station and Broadway station.

“There was nobody there to tell me exactly what to do. [The sign] just said ‘shuttle bus,’ but there was nothing on the signage that said where those buses going towards Harvard Square would actually be picking us up. We all went to where the buses normally are at the bus terminal on College Avenue. I just sat there and waited with other people. Nobody told us it was across the street,” she said.

Guliford added that it would have made the change easier to navigate if there were people at the station directing riders to where the shuttle buses were located, saying that several people gave up on finding the shuttle buses and instead called an Uber or Lyft.

Guliford added that although the shuttle bus program is annoying, it is not a significant obstacle for riders.

“It was inconvenient, but it wasn’t insurmountable. I’d rather you get it fixed now than when winter comes, when it’s icy out and conditions are more tenuous, and people are having to stand outside and wait for a bus to get somewhere. Get it fixed, just let me know where I’m supposed to be,” she said.