The Plan For Rose Quarter

From Sunday, August 21, to Saturday, September 3, we’re making improvements near the Rose Quarter to improve MAX reliability and make for a smoother ride.

Much like the work we completed along 1st Avenue in May, we’ll be replacing switches and improving the tracks just east of the Rose Quarter MAX Station. Switches in this area are 30 years old, so crews will replace the wooden ties (which were standard back in 1985) underneath the switches with a concrete track structure and much more durable and robust materials.

We’ll also realign the section of track that runs westbound into the Rose Quarter MAX Station. We’ll begin by removing the rails and that run into the old Trolley Barn. Then, we’ll smooth out the curve into the north platform, which will create a smoother ride into the station. This new design will help eliminate some long-term maintenance challenges and reduce wear and tear on the tracks. As part of the realignment, crews will adjust the overhead wire and relocate two existing poles.

We’ll also be updating the antiquated MAX signal system in the Rose Quarter area. Signal technology has improved dramatically since these were installed back in 1986. This will be the first time in MAX’s history that we’re upgrading the original signals — it’s kind of like rewiring part of your house. We’re most excited for this upgrade because it will decrease the chances of a signal malfunction, which causes train delays.

All of these much-needed renovations are to improve MAX reliability and keep trains running on time, but this work will disrupt regular MAX service for two weeks as we’ll have to shut down service along Holladay Street between the Rose Quarter and the Lloyd Center/NE 11th Ave MAX Station.

We know this two-week disruption will be a hassle, but it’s all for a good cause — to create a better and smoother ride for you.

Learn more about this MAX disruption and how your trips will be affected

Sarah Touey

Sarah Touey

I’m the resident engineer for TriMet’s Maintenance of Way projects. I seek out adventure by traveling and exploring other transit systems across the country, spending time at the beach with family and friends, and continuously remodeling our house with my husband Jarrett.

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Minimizing Heat Delays on MAX

Last year, we shared a bit about why our trains slow down when it heats up — basically, temperatures above 90 degrees bring the possibility of rails expanding and kinking, or overhead wires sagging.

We know how it feels to slow down in extreme heat.
We know how it feels to slow down in extreme heat.

Before we go any further, we should answer a common question: Why didn’t we build track that can withstand higher temperatures? Surely, places like Phoenix don’t have this problem — right?

It’s true. Hotter places like Phoenix, which experience many 90+ degree days, don’t have this problem. But they do have trouble at the other end of the spectrum, when it’s cold out. This is because transit agencies build systems to work within the temperature range of their region, with the rails and overhead wire resting (neither expanded nor contracted) at the average temperature. For reference, the average temperature here is about 55 degrees, compared to 75 degrees in Phoenix.

Nobody wants a slower trip in extreme heat. You’ve got places to be, and we’re trying to stick to a schedule. That’s why we’re looking into ways to speed trains up when it’s hot out — we’ve already come across a simple solution that seems to work: track anchors. These were initially installed along the new Orange Line track for other reasons, but later we noticed that the rail here didn’t seem to affected by high temperatures.

So last spring, crews installed similar anchors to the rail ties of a segment of Red Line track that we knew to be especially prone to sun kinks. These have kept the rail in place, even on warm days (when rail temperatures can approach 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the air temperature). This simple step, which didn’t even require disrupting service, saved approximately 25 to 30 minutes of time throughout each service day, adding back over 150 hours of increased on-time performance over the course of a year.

There’s also the issue of overhead wire sagging in the heat and potentially damaging the pantograph (the arm that connects MAX to the wire) if it drops far enough. So we’re looking into ways to give the counterweights — which keep the wire taut — more room to move.

This summer has been curiously mild, but we’ll use the hot days ahead to gather more data on how these potential solutions hold up in real life. Eventually, when we’re confident that they’re worth the investment, we’ll implement these upgrades on a wider scale. And we’ll be able to keep moving, right through the heat.

Related:

Why Our Trains Slow Down When It Heats Up

Monitoring MAX On-Time Performance

MAX System Reliability Improvements

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Specialist. I'm here to help tell our story, and to share the interesting things I find along the way. When I'm not here, you'll find me out riding my bike and taking pictures.

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Instagram Roundup: July

These are decidedly not the dog days of summer — our month on Instagram began with local hero Moshow the Cat Rapper proclaiming his love for public transit (see below). Then we started to see lots of Pokémon, and we even got a check-in from a cartoon slice of bacon.

And on July 19, everything turned orange as BIKETOWN, Portland’s new public bike share program, hit the streets with an opening event along the MAX Orange Line. (This also happened to be Portland Streetcar’s 15th birthday.)

Here’s what we saw this month:

Follow @ridetrimet on Instagram »

Portland bound #transitisbetterineurope #misseurope #pdx #selfie @glideslope

A photo posted by Jose Lariz (@pierreazis) on

🐥 🚌 🎱 “a heart so true” #pokemongo

A photo posted by segreen (@segreens) on

Olympus Mju ii // Rollei Chrome 200 cross processed

A photo posted by @now.developing on

TriMet Orange Line, end of line art. Morning commuters! #Commuter #Early #Art #Portland #TriMet #MAX

A photo posted by Big Milky (@oregonjacques) on

Livin’ today to the MAX!

A photo posted by PDX bacon (@pdxbacon) on

we are tired of driving… good thing portland comes with a chauffeur. #justopherontheroad

A photo posted by ⓒ ⓗ ⓡ ⓘ ⓢ ⓣ ⓞ ⓟ ⓗ ⓔ ⓡ (@therealcwalk) on

As always, tag @ridetrimet and #GoByTransit to share your ride!

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Specialist. I'm here to help tell our story, and to share the interesting things I find along the way. When I'm not here, you'll find me out riding my bike and taking pictures.

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BIKETOWN launches at Tilikum Crossing

Last Tuesday, BIKETOWN — Portland’s new public bike share system — hit the streets. We were at the launch event at Tilikum Crossing:

Ready to try it? Check out our tips for getting the most out of BIKETOWN.

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Specialist. I'm here to help tell our story, and to share the interesting things I find along the way. When I'm not here, you'll find me out riding my bike and taking pictures.

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Speeding up MAX reliability improvements

Throughout TriMet, we have been focused on improving MAX on-time performance (OTP) — our measure of reliable service — and doing it safely. Back in January, I shared our plans to improve. We’ve made some progress, and we hope it’s making a difference in your ride. MAX OTP improved from 75 percent last November to an average of just above 85 percent in June. We still have a ways to go, but we are on track and remain dedicated to achieving our long term goal of 90 percent.

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The MAX system is very complex. Over the course of a day, it is in operation for about 22½ hours and provides more than 120,000 trips. It has many moving parts that include 145 vehicles, more than 130 miles of track and overhead wire, more than 250 track switches and nearly 200 rail operators. (And that doesn’t include the many mechanics, cleaners, rail controllers, yard workers, engineers, field operations staff and others who keep our system running safely every day.) There are many events that can cause delays to the system — here’s an update on how we are addressing some of them.

Starting on time, staying on time

To get you where you need to go on time, our trains need to start their day on time. We have improved how we track which trains are ready for service, along with how that is communicated between our maintenance and operations departments. Using the new web-based system speeds up that communication and gives us more time to focus on getting vehicles ready for service safely.

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Our managers, operators and maintenance teams also are working to ensure that our maintenance and operational checks are completed safely and in a timely manner, so our trains depart from the rail yard on schedule. But that’s just the beginning. To stay on time, we’re adding a portable data display to trains that will provide our operators with the current time and the time their train is scheduled to be at the next few stops. These mobile tablets are like the mobile data terminals on our buses that provide operators with key information, such as the time points for where they should be on their routes. I’d like to note that these are important tools to help our rail operators do their jobs, and operators will be instructed on how to use them while safely operating the train.

Uncovering common culprits

We’ve struggled with debris building up in switches, rail joint and track boxes on the Steel Bridge. This has given false indications that the track way on the bridge is occupied when it is not, leading to some significant train delays. The area of issue was in a section of the embedded track where all the MAX lines converge on the west end of the bridge. Crews have now removed the concrete around the track, which has improved drainage and gives our staff better access to keeping debris out of that equipment and also trouble-shooting any electrical issues which can rise from time to time.

Improving the tracks

Our maintenance of way department has been hard at work tackling several track projects. Some have temporarily disrupted MAX service; some have not. On the Red Line, near the Mt Hood Ave Station, crews worked overnight during non-service hours several days in a row last spring, installing anchors to the rail ties. In extreme heat, rails — which are made of steel — can expand and kink, requiring trains to run slower through the area. The new rail ties keep the rail in place. This summer we have experienced several warm days above 80 degrees, where rail temperatures can approach 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the ambient temperatures — so far we have not had any rail movement. This saves approximately 25 to 30 minutes of time throughout each service day, adding back over 150 hours of increased on-time performance over a one-year period.

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During our 1st Avenue MAX Improvements project in May, crews installed new switches and rail and improved the track bed. This disrupted MAX service on 1st Avenue for two weeks, but it has paid off with the removal of slow orders along that stretch of rail.

Now we have another big project approaching fast: From Aug. 21 through Sept. 3, the Rose Quarter MAX Improvements project will replace switches just east of the Rose Quarter MAX Station and redesign the trackway, which will create a smoother ride. We will also upgrade the signal system, which will keep trains running on schedule into and out of the station. Like the work on 1st Avenue, this will require a major disruption to MAX service. Once again, we are asking for your help by adjusting trips to avoid the rush hours, using bus service or other transportation options. Learn more at trimet.org/rosequarter

Thank you for your patience as we continue our work to increase MAX on-time performance. We have much more to do, but we appreciate you staying with us as we keep MAX moving.

Doug Kelsey

Doug Kelsey

As chief operating officer, I oversee our transportation, maintenance and information technology divisions. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family and being active outdoors, especially cycling. I'm a huge basketball fan, and I'm proud to be a co-founder of one of Canada's largest high school tournaments.

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Bus Operator of the Year Alex Ohly’s laid-back approach works

OOY 2016 - alex

Alex Ohly loves to tinker. If it involves an engine, even better. After all, he does own six 1980s-era Volvos.

When he moved to Oregon in 1990, he sought machinist jobs after a career making eye-surgery instruments in St. Louis. One big problem: the United States was mired in an economic recession. Also, pay was low for the work, and most of these positions didn’t offer employer-sponsored insurance plans.

However, he loved to drive and saw TriMet had a need for bus operators.

“I took it as a temporary job. I really just needed insurance. As it turned out, I really liked it. It’s like I’ve been in-between jobs for 26 years,” laughs Ohly.

Fortunately, the 1990 recession quickly passed, and Ohly’s career stability at TrIMet helped him weather the most recent economic downturn. How? Well, he’s good at what he does. For the past 21 years, he’s driven safely, which has earned him a National Safe Driving Award each year (no preventable accidents during that time). And he shows up — he had nine straight years of perfect attendance.

It’s about the people

His approach to his profession is simple.

“You have to try to understand people,” says Ohly, whose workday typically begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. “A lot of times, people are upset for whatever reason when they get on the bus. If you’re kind to them, it goes away.”

Alex Ohly_3

“When operating a bus, I never sacrifice safety or people’s comfort. Just go smooth and take it easy. Go with the flow.”

His approach has culminated into being our newest Bus Operator of the Year, an award he says blew him away when his name was announced in front of his peers.

He’s also a Master Operator, which is an honor given to operators who earn at least 15 Superior Performance Awards, earned by working at least 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, or reprimands.

Life away from TriMet

When he’s not driving his usual Line 48-Cornell or Line 88-Hart/198th, you’ll likely find Ohly and his wife relaxing at their Lake Oswego home. They’ve grown roots, including, at one time, a vegetable garden.

“Unfortunately, we shared the garden with raccoons, so that didn’t work too well,” he says.

Now he spends much of his free time either with his grandson or thinking about fly fishing. He owns quite a few fly rods, but instead of catching fish, he works on the “art of casting” in his large backyard. No question, when the time comes to catch real fish, Ohly will be ready.

Interested in driving a TriMet bus? We’re hiring bus operators! Consider a career with TriMet and see where it takes you.

Andrew Longeteig

Andrew Longeteig

I’m TriMet’s Communications Coordinator. I share what’s happening at the agency with the media and general public. When I’m not working, I’ll either be watching the Blazers or at a rock concert.

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BIKETOWN is coming

We know from our work creating the TriMet Bike Plan that our riders care about and rely on bike access. When BIKETOWN, Portland’s public bike share system, makes its debut tomorrow, many riders will have a new option for connecting to transit. That it’s healthy, fun and convenient is icing on the cake.

How does BIKETOWN work?

Ride for a single trip ($2.50), an entire day ($12) or for a whole year with an annual membership ($12/month).

Unlock a ride at the station using the computer and keypad on the back of the bike, and you’re on your way.

When you’re done, lock up at the station — the smart bike will know that you’ve finished your ride.

We like bike share because it extends the reach of transit, making trips by bus or train more accessible to more people. It also helps to make one-way bike trips possible and reduces barriers to biking like ownership, storage, maintenance and concerns about theft.

BIKETOWN

I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing how riders combine trips between BIKETOWN and TriMet. Personally, I’m excited to use bike share for short trips, connections to daytime meetings, getting out of the office for lunch and running errands after work.

BIKETOWN

A few things about BIKETOWN I’d like to point out:

  • If you ride on the Transit Mall (5th and 6th avenues) in Downtown Portland, be sure to stay on the left side of the roadway in the shared lanes and bike lane on portions of SW 5th. Please stay out of the transit lane(s) on the right side of the roadway, as these spaces are only for buses and trains.
  • Don’t bring the bikes on board. One of the best things about bike share is that you only use it when you need it — just park or pick up a bike wherever you’re connecting to the bus or train. (Plus, it doesn’t make sense to pay for bike share time on top of your transit fare.)
  • When you end your ride, if the BIKETOWN station closest to your destination is full, you can lock your bike at a public bike rack close to the station marked with an orange sticker for no additional charge. If you lock your bike at a public bike rack further from a station, a $2 fee applies.
  • The bikes don’t come with helmets, so bring your own if you want one and you plan on riding that day. Keeping a helmet at the office might be a good idea if you plan on riding during the day.
  • Cross tracks straight on. Crossing tracks at an angle or turning across tracks is risky — your wheel can slip into the trackbed and result in a crash. When in doubt, walk your bike across the tracks and check out these safety tips for riding a bike around transit vehicles.
  • You can make money using BIKETOWN. A little bit, anyway: Members who spot bike share bikes locked at public racks will be rewarded with a $1 account credit for returning them to a station.
  • Sneaker Bikes!

BIKETOWN

There are 100 BIKETOWN stations, which means lots of overlap with transit in Portland — take a look at the service area and station map to see what your next trip might look like.

As BIKETOWN establishes itself, we’ll continue working with our partners to encourage smooth connections for transit and bike riders. We hope to see you on a bright orange bike soon!

Learn more about BIKETOWN

Jeff Owen

Jeff Owen

I’m TriMet’s active transportation planner. I work with our regional partners to improve conditions for combining transit trips with walking and biking, including sidewalks, crossings, trails, bikeways, and bike parking. Away from work, I can be found walking, riding my bike, hiking or cheering in the Timbers Army.

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