The announcement two weeks ago that the MBTA will shut down the entire Orange Line for 30 days to make long-needed repairs sent Malden Mayor Gary Christenson into meeting after meeting.

“I would say the biggest thing is just the upending, you know, changing the normal way of life so abruptly,” Christenson told Morning Edition hosts Paris Alston and Jeremy Siegel on Wednesday. “This is a lot like COVID in a way, that it's the unknown. We've never experienced anything like this, and as a result, we're doing everything we can internally to try to prepare for it as best we can.”

In May 2022, an average of 10,329 riders embarked every day from the three northernmost stops on the Orange Line: Oak Grove, Malden Center and Wellington. Though many come from neighboring suburbs, commuters in the city of 60,000 will see their commute times lengthen significantly.

Christenson said he’s been asking the MBTA to add express shuttles that go from Malden to downtown Boston during peak hours.

"We've never experienced anything like this, and as a result, we're doing everything we can internally to try to prepare for it as best we can."
-Gary Christenson, Malden Mayor

“We think makes a lot of sense for those that are looking for just a direct connection into Boston,” Christenson said. “And we are starting to see a shift because on Tuesday night, the [MBTA] general manager, Steve Poftak, did indicate to us for the first time that they will consider it, not at the outset, but soon thereafter if the demand is there.”

An MBTA spokeswoman said it will likely be a real-time decision.

“The shuttle buses will be focused on serving and stopping at each station (Oak Grove to Haymarket [ending at Government Center] and Forest Hills to Back Bay [ending at Copley]), as not all people on a shuttle bus are going downtown,” MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston said. “However, if the T sees crowding occurring at certain stations and the T has the bus shuttle capacity, then staff may make a decision in real time to offer a direct Orange Line station to downtown shuttle option.”

Battiston said passengers going downtown should consider utilizing Commuter Rail service, which will be free during the shutdown to passengers who show their CharlieCards.

Though Bluebike will provide free 30-day passes for the duration of the shutdown, Malden has no bike rental stations within city limits. There are some in neighboring Everett, and Malden has signed an agreement to bring Bluebikes into the city, Christenson said.

“I'm not sure if they'll be here in time for the shutdown, but they are coming,” he said.

In the meantime, detail police officers will be stationed at major intersections along the shuttle routes during rush hour to help shuttle buses move through Malden streets faster.

“I think the biggest thing we're trying to do is help people get from point A to point B,” Christenson said. “So we're going to have the routes that have been agreed upon fully staffed, intersection to intersection, to make sure that our residents who are already going through a tumultuous time don't have to have add to that by waiting at an intersection, waiting at another intersection. We're going to try to essentially get them in and out as quickly as we can.”

"All that maintenance deferred is coming home to roost."
-Gary Christenson, Malden mayor

Christenson said he understands the frustrations of residents who are seeing their commutes upended, but he was hesitant to be to forceful in his criticism of the MBTA.

We're playing the hand we're dealt,” he said. “If you've watched and noticed, we have not been out there beating the drum because their drum has already been beat. It's up to the state and in some instances the federal level to figure this out as best they can.”

He noted that city officials have for years expressed hesitance to expand the MBTA and Commuter Rail service, in part because of concerns that the existing system needs so much work.

“We need to do more to take care of what we have before we expand,” he said. “Our feeling is that should have occurred a long time ago, and now we're seeing why that is. Because all that maintenance deferred is coming home to roost.”