A new year can inspire us to set resolutions and make better choices. Here are just a few ways transit can help you achieve a healthier, happier lifestyle and a cleaner environment.
Want to improve your health this year? Try taking public transportation!
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommend that adults average at least 22 minutes of daily moderate physical activity, such as walking, to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Incorporating transit into your commute encourages you to walk or bike as part of your daily routine. TriMet ridership studies show that bus riders will walk as much as a quarter mile to their bus stop, while MAX riders will walk up to a half mile to connect to light rail.
Watching your figure? Transit helps with that, too.
According to the Federal Transit Administration, light rail commuters are 80% less likely to become obese over time, and studies have found that men who commute to work on public transportation are 44.6% less likely to be overweight or obese because they are more active.
Become more zen this year: Public transportation reduces stress.
More than four tons of pollutants are avoided every day when people choose to ride TriMet instead of drive cars. Electric-powered transit such as MAX Light Rail and Portland Streetcar, along with our clean-running diesel buses, make transit a benefit to public health and help us all breathe easier.
We had our fair share of challenges—from freezing rain in February to a rare MAX derailment to an early “Snowvember” storm. Plus, MAX reliability really took a hit this year, which is why we’re scheduling some much-needed upgrades to tracks, signals and switches to get us, well, back on track.
Despite the rough patches, 2014 actually brought a bus load of good news for riders. (And no, we’re not talking about the now twice-a-year Streetcar Mobile Music Fest or even the much-anticipated return of Poetry in Motion.) Here are 10 highlights:
1. 90 (more) new buses joined the fleet.
This year, we sent 90 of our oldest buses to the scrapper and replaced them with new, state-of-the-art buses made in the USA by Gillig. They’ve got a ton of new features, but you’re most likely to notice the easy-to-clean vinyl seats, low floors for easy boarding, brighter exterior signs and smoother ride. And, in time for next summer’s heat wave, all of our 650 buses will have air conditioning. (Finally!) By 2017, the average age of our fleet will be eight years—the industry standard. And if you’ve ever wondered what happens to a bus after it’s “retired,” you really should watch this oddly satisfying video of a bus getting scrapped at the recycler.
2. Frequent Service is back.
Remember when “Frequent Service” meant every 15 minutes or better throughout the day, every day? Unfortunately, after the economy tanked in 2008, we had to cut back the frequency on buses and MAX due to budget shortfalls. Now, we’re gradually adding back service: In March, we increased weekday mid-day service to every 15 minutes on Frequent Service bus lines. In August, we bumped up weekday evening service on both buses and MAX. And in November, we added buses on various lines to improve connections and relieve crowding—especially at rush hour. More to come… Stay tuned!
3. There’s a new bridge in town.
It’s hard to miss the striking silhouette of the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, rising up over the Willamette just south of Downtown Portland. When the new MAX Orange Line opens next September, the bridge will carry trains, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians to and from destinations in the South Waterfront district, Southeast Portland and Milwaukie. Fun fact: At more than 1,700 feet across, it will be the longest car-free bridge in the U.S. This fall, we tested its aesthetic lighting system—a fantastic public art installation created by artists Anna Valentina Murch and Doug Hollis that changes colors based on the river’s speed, height and water temperature. Want more bridge? There’s not much to see now that civil construction is complete, but you can still geek out on our live video feed from our BridgeCams.
4. Ticket machines work better now. A lot better.
For a while there, it was pretty bad. You know, that sinking feeling when you discover that the ticket machine is out of order… again. We felt your pain and made some big changes to the way we service, track and manage the machines we all love to hate. Last year, we replaced our oldest machines, updated software and overhauled our maintenance procedures. Today, our ticket machines are up and running around 98% of the time. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever see an out-of-service machine—It’s going to happen from time to time. But it’s safe to say the days of “those $#%& ticket machines” are in the past.
5. We have a fair and sustainable labor contract.
If there’s one thing we’re thankful for this year (besides our riders, of course!), it’s a sustainable labor contract. Why is this good news for riders? Our new agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union 757—the union representing the majority of TriMet employees—puts us on a sustainable financial path while providing a fair and competitive benefits package for our team. It’s a huge step forward for TriMet, for our employees and for riders, because it means we can come together and focus on our common goal of making our existing service better and expanding our system to meet the growing demand for transit.
6. Youth fares went down.
In September, we lowered the Youth fare (the reduced fare for ages 7-17 and students in grades 9-12 or pursuing a GED). The Youth 2-Hour Ticket price dropped from $1.65 to $1.25, and the Youth 1-Month Pass fell from $30 to $28. We’re hoping this will make transit more accessible and affordable for our younger riders, and make it easier for families to get their kids to school, jobs and other activities.
7. Tickets will soon be valid for 2 1/2 hours.
Ever wished you had a little more time on your ticket? As of March 2015, we’re extending the transfer time on 2-Hour Tickets to 2 1/2 hours. OK, so “2 1/2-Hour Ticket” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that’s beside the point: You’ll have 30 more minutes to complete a trip or make transfers between buses and trains. A community advocacy group first brought up the idea of extending the transfer time a few years ago. We knew riders also wanted more frequent service, so we felt it wasn’t something our budget could accommodate, until now. But like many of you, we know that a little extra time can go a long way!
8. Crime went down 20% systemwide.
In April, we got word that reported crime on TriMet had dropped 25% on average in the previous year. On buses, there was one reported crime in every 255,000 trips. On MAX, one in every 91,378 trips. (Most of these incidents involve property crimes such as theft.) We believe this is due in part to community policing efforts and a neighborhood approach to crime prevention, along with increased Transit Police presence and more than 4,400 security cameras systemwide. It’s also worth mentioning that crime on TriMet pretty much mirrors the surrounding communities: A few high-profile incidents might make the evening news, but riding transit is as safe as walking down a busy sidewalk or going to the mall.
9. BRT is coming to Powell and Division.
Another standout in the “good news” category: This summer, the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project selected bus rapid transit (or BRT for short) as the best way to improve transit on Powell Boulevard and Division Street. Those are two of the Portland area’s busiest and most congested streets, and thousands of people depend on the 4-Division and 9-Powell buses to get to work each day. BRT will make commuting between Gresham and Downtown Portland faster, easier and safer, with upgraded stations, limited stops and possibly even dedicated lanes. New service could begin around 2020. Learn more about BRT on Powell and Division
10. Get ready to “tap on.”
It’s official: You’ll be able to use a fare card, smartphone or credit/debit card to pay your fare in the not-so-distant future. This year, we broke “digital ground” on an electronic fare system that will make it easier and more convenient to get around on TriMet. It’s easy: Just tap your card or phone on the reader as you board the bus or train. You’ll be able to load value onto your account by phone, on the web or at grocery/convenience stores. Plus, there will be daily and monthly pricing caps, which means free rides and savings if you ride frequently. Best of all, there’s no need to carry cash, find exact change or keep track of paper tickets. (Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to pay with cash if you want.) We expect to begin testing the new cards with riders in 2016. Sign up here to get the latest e-fare updates by email
It goes without saying the last few years have been a bumpy ride for Portland-area transit riders… Thankfully, with the improving economy—and now a sustainable labor contract—we’re in a position to start growing service again.
In 2015, we’re going to continue focusing on bringing you safe, reliable and convenient transit service. (And more of it!) On behalf of the more than 2,600 employees in our TriMet family, here’s to a safe and happy 2015 to you and yours. See you on board!
I'm TriMet’s senior marketing communications coordinator in charge of interactive media. I manage online initiatives and help build useful and usable online tools for riders. I also moonlight as a musician in my spare time.
While Transit Police officers ramp up their missions during the holiday season to help keep you safe, there are also steps you can take to protect yourself and your belongings when you’re out and about on TriMet:
Pay attention to your belongings. This is especially important when a bus or train is getting ready to leave a stop or station. Thieves may try to snatch items just as the doors are about to close.
Keep your purse, backpack, bag and shopping bags close. Don’t set them down on another seat or a bench. (And hey, that’s just good TriMetiquette, anyway!)
Keep your phone and other devices hidden. When listening to music, put your phone in a pocket or a bag that’s under your control.
When it’s dark out, stand near others in well-lit areas. Move toward the bus stop pole as the bus is approaching or toward the train as it arrives at the station.
Parking at a Park & Ride? Store your belongings out of sight. Put your stuff in the trunk or use a cargo cover in the back of your car. Thieves are on the lookout for quick “smash-and-grab” opportunities.
Here’s to a fun and safe holiday season for you and yours!
You’ve probably been bombarded with status updates and photo galleries of the new lighting system on the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People. We just finished our second lighting trial where the artist fine-tuned the color and motion program and its relation to the Willamette River’s activity.
Sadly, the lights will not be turned on permanently until September 2015, when the new MAX Orange Line opens. So until then, here are some interesting tidbits of information about the lights to hold you over.
There are 178 LED lights aesthetically placed on 40 bridge cables, the four transmission towers above and below the deck, and on the Sonic Dish artwork along the Eastside Esplanade and future Willamette Greenway at the ends of the bridge.
The lights change colors based on the Willamette River’s speed, height and water temperature.
This data is collected by a U.S. Geological Survey river monitor near the Morrison Bridge.
Specialized software designed by programmer Morgan Barnard takes that data and translates it into movements of color and light across the bridge.
The water temperature determines the base color.
The river’s speed controls the pace the colors change and move across the bridge.
The river’s height is displayed by a second color that moves vertically up and down the towers and the cables.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so get into the holiday spirit without the hassle of traffic, parking and gas! Gather up your friends and family, purchase some 1-Day Passes and let us take you to these holiday events in the Portland-Metro area.
November 28 – December 24 Stop by Macy’s in Downtown Portland and meet Santa! You’ll find him on Level A. Don’t forget to have your photo taken with Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, and check out the restored original monorail next to the train garden.
December 3 – 7, opens at 11 a.m. Toast to the spirits of the season! The Holiday Ale Fest features more than 50 winter ales you won’t find in the supermarket. (Sorry! No one under the age of 21 is allowed to attend.)
December 5 – 20 This year marks the 60th anniversary of Portland’s Christmas Ships Parade on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The first run will begin at 7 p.m. on December 5th down North Portland Harbor on the inside of Hayden Island.
November 28 – December 30 With over 500,000 lights, 150 choral performances, a petting zoo, carolers, puppet shows and hot chocolate, this special event is sure to be a holiday treat for the entire family.
December 13 – 14, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More than 250 artists and crafters will be selling their handmade goods during this holiday shopping event. The first 150 shoppers will receive goodie bags on both days—don’t miss out!
December 16 – December 23, 5:30 p.m. Join Chabad of Oregon at Director Park for the annual Portland Menorah Lighting ceremonies. Take part in post-lighting dancing, latkes and apple sauce on December 16th.
December 15 – December 31, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (except 12/24 and 12/31, runs to midnight) Houses in this Southeast Portland neighborhood have been decorating for Christmas since the 1920s. Don’t miss this Rose City tradition—you’ll find Peacock Lane between SE Stark Street and SE Belmont Street, one block east of SE 39th Street.
You probably didn’t know it, but today is International Day of Persons With Disabilities. The day was established in 1992 by the United Nations to highlight the importance of inclusiveness and accessibility in our society and development.
This year’s theme focuses on the opportunities for technology to improve the lives of the more than 1 billion people who live with some form of a disability. (That’s about 15% of the world’s population!)
When we design products, buildings, cities and vehicles in a way that is accessible and inclusive, it can make a huge difference to someone with a physical or mental disability. But it’s really much bigger than that: Accessibility makes the world a better place for everyone.
Anything you can do to improve accessibility is a benefit to all users.
According to the UN, “Evidence shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits.”
That’s certainly true for transportation. If you can get around, you have an opportunity to fully participate in your community.
And when it comes to building an accessible transit system, TriMet is fortunate to have the guidance of the Committee on Accessible Transportation (or “CAT,” for short). The CAT is a 15-member citizen committee that advises the TriMet board and staff on plans, policies and programs with the goal of improving access to transit services.
“Anything you can do to improve accessibility is a benefit to all users,” says Jan Campbell, the committee’s chairperson.
“When you hear the next stop being announced on the bus, or you see a family use the boarding ramp—these are features that were designed to help people with disabilities get around,” Jan adds. “But in the end, they make transit easier for all riders.”
TriMet service is a lifeline for many of us who can’t drive due to our age or a disability. Each year, 12 million rides are taken by seniors and people with disabilities who would otherwise have few options for transportation.
“That’s what’s good about TriMet,” says Jan. “We really do have one of the best transit systems here, and we have put a lot of effort into making it totally accessible for everybody.”
In partnership with the World Affairs Council, TriMet has recently hosted visitors from Canada, Turkmenistan, Egypt and Korea who wanted to learn about the accessibility of the Portland area’s transit system.
Buses, MAX trains and streetcars have ramps that extend for easier boarding if you need it, and most buses can “kneel,” lowering the first step closer to the curb. Just ask the operator.
All vehicles have priority seating areas inside by the door for seniors and riders with limited mobility, plus space for mobility devices.
At MAX, WES and Streetcar stations, there are textured tiles along the length of the boarding platform to warn you when you’re near the platform edge. You can feel these tiles with your feet or a cane.
Many bus stops and MAX stations have digital displays that show you when the next bus or train is expected to arrive. At some stations, including those on the Portland Transit Mall, you can also hear an audio announcement of the next arrivals by pushing a button.
MAX trains and buses announce their line name and destination over an external speaker system as they pull up to a stop. Inside, major stops and transfer points are announced over the speaker system and displayed on a reader board.
For riders who have a physical or mental impairment that prevents them from riding regular buses or trains independently, TriMet’s LIFT paratransit service can help keep them moving.