How We’re Speeding Up Buses

Sometimes a small change in our roads can have a big impact on how fast we all get home.

Recently, we’ve been working with PBOT and ODOT to improve intersections where buses (and cars) frequently get stuck in traffic. Here’s what we did at SW 4th Avenue and Harrison in Portland:

Before we worked with PBOT to tweak this intersection, left-turning cars would block buses from continuing east towards Naito. Just one turning car could cause delays to the buses that travel this busy corridor — including lines 35, 36, 54, 56 and 99.

But we saw an easy fix: Create a turn lane for eastbound traffic. Now, turning cars don’t block traffic. In the months since PBOT made this change, delays during the afternoon rush hour on those lines have dropped by nearly 20%. Small change, big impact.

We’ve worked with our partners to roll out similar improvements at nine other places across the region, from SE Stark at 82nd, to NE Holman at Airport Way, to the westbound approaches to the Hawthorne Bridge, and more. And there are dozens more intersections that we think can be improved. Think of these as the “low-hanging fruit” for speeding up buses and cars around our region.

This is just one small way we’re working to make transit — and the Portland region — better.          

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Watch: What happens behind the scenes during a MAX disruption?

What’s happening on the ground when MAX stops running and our construction crews descend on a section of track?

Lots, it turns out. Let’s look at one stretch of tracks between SW Adams and S 1st during our recent Hillsboro MAX improvement project.

In the weeks before the disruption started, we removed most of the concrete around the rails. While the exposed rails — also known by the Halloween-appropriate term “skeleton rails” — look dangerous, they’re safe to run trains over.

Once the disruption started, we were able to cut the rails out.

With the rails gone, we were left with a shallow empty pit.

From there we laid the new rails and switches…

…welded them together and secured them to the ground.

We poured the new concrete…

…and then we ran test trains to make sure the new switches and rails were safe.

Here’s a time lapse covering the time from the last train before the disruption until the first test train going over the new rails.

This was far from the only work we did the past two weeks. It was a lot to accomplish and we couldn’t have done it without your patience!

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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This Bus Platform Has Room for Bikes, Pedestrians and More

Last week, we tested a full-scale model of a new type of bus platform; one that accommodates bikes, pedestrians and 60-foot articulated buses.

We expect to have these extra-long buses running along Division Street, between Gresham and Downtown Portland, as soon as 2022. For this test, we borrowed a Vine bus from our friends at C-TRAN.

The purpose of the platform is to allow buses to stop without having to pull over (and cross a bike lane) to the curb. So it’s designed to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and scooter-ers who are passing through — as well as bus riders who are waiting, boarding or disembarking. (People on bikes and scooters are required to stop when the bus pulls up to let riders on and off.)

The test involved people using the platform in different scenarios while technical experts, transportation advocates and accessibility advisors observed. The adjustable platform allowed us to test two- and four-foot “step-outs,” the space between the bus and bike lane. We also tested wayfinding signs that instructed bike and scooter riders to stop and wait for people to get on and off the bus.

The next step is to integrate the feedback from the test into the design for the 30 platform stations we want to install in East Portland.

Want to keep up with the Division Transit Project? Visit trimet.org/division

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. 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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The Plan for This Fall’s Hillsboro MAX Improvements

Our next MAX improvement project kicks off today in Hillsboro, where we’re replacing worn-out rails and tackling other important projects that will give you a smoother ride and fewer delays.

The entire project will take seven weeks to complete. Thanks to careful planning and a lot of prep work over the past year, we’ll only need to disrupt MAX service between Hatfield Government Center Station and Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport for two weeks in October.

During this time — from Saturday, October 13, through Saturday, October 27 — MAX Blue Line will be replaced by shuttle buses between those stations. We’re closing MAX Blue Line all the way to Fair Complex because that’s the next place on the line where trains can switch between the two tracks, which is an important safety requirement.

This project will focus on a nearly two block long stretch of the MAX Blue Line starting at SW Adams Avenue and E Main Street and heading east on SW Washington Street to S 1st Avenue. The rails in this stretch have undergone a lot of wear and stress since the Blue Line opened in 1998 and are at the end of their lifespan.

Despite being made of hard steel, trains wear rails down over time. This wear is more pronounced on tight bends, like the one between Washington and Adams. Ever hear trains squealing as they round a bend? That’s the sound of a train scraping against the rails, wearing them down.

If you were to look at a cross section of a rail, you’d see it’s “Ι” shaped. Over time the weight of trains wears down the top of the rails and bends them out of shape. Running trains over worn rails results in a rough, bouncy ride. If not corrected, running trains over worn rails can lead to an even-faster rate of wear and — eventually — a broken rail.  

We can grind the rails back into shape, but after enough wear, there isn’t anything left to grind and the rails need to be replaced. That’s where we’re at now. Twenty to twenty-five years might not seem like a long lifetime, but it’s typical for how much we use our rails.

The rails on this section of the Blue Line run down the middle of a street and are embedded in concrete. This means we have to rip up the entire track bed to get them out. While this is a lot of work, it also gives us the opportunity to do some other important work that will help improve the reliability of the entire Blue Line.

Switch and rails near Hatfield Station

We’re going to replace five switches — the machines that control which track trains can run on. These five switches are also nearing the end of the lifespans. Switches are sensitive to snow and cold weather, so four of them currently have heating elements to help keep them warm when temperatures drop. When we swap out these switches, we’ll install newer versions for all that have more-reliable heating technology. This will help us avoid issues no matter what the weather.

We’ll also be doing some important electrical work. The wires that power the signals can wear out, so we’ll be testing those and replacing them where necessary. In addition, one of the cables that provides electricity to the overhead wires that powers MAX needs to be replaced. This should help reduce the possibility of delays on MAX Blue Line.

We’re going to give the four closed MAX stations — Hatfield Government Center, HIllsboro Central, Tuality Hospital/SE 8th Ave and Washington/SE 12th Ave — a thorough cleaning and we’ll perform any necessary maintenance. After more than 20 years of heavy use, they could use a little TLC.

We’re also going to replace the tactile pavers — those bumps on the ground that warn you that you’re at the edge of the boarding platform. The current pavers are secured with grout, which has not held up well in our wet environment. They’ll be replaced by more reliable modular system that will last longer and require far less maintenance.

Finally, we’ll be laying some groundwork for future projects that will help us avoid another disruption.

Crossover approaching Hatfield Station

When we put the rails back in, we’re going to anchor them to the concrete in a way that’s more durable and faster to install, in order to minimize the time MAX Blue Line is disrupted.

At times, this work will be loud. This will especially be true the first three days of the project when we’re ripping out the old rails. Later, there will be noise from generators when we’re welding the new rails together.

There will be some road and sidewalk closures during this project. For the duration of the project, Washington will be closed for eastbound car traffic from Adams to 1st. During the two week disruption — October 13 to October 27 — both directions of Washington will be closed to cars from Adams to 1st.  Additionally, the sidewalk on the north side of Washington will be closed the entire project.

We’ll be working long hours to wrap up this work quickly so we can get trains running again. During the disruption, we’ll be on-site from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. But the end result — a safe, reliable and comfortable ride for the next 20+ years — will be worth it.

Get the details on the shuttle bus service that will replace MAX Blue Line between Hatfield Government Center and Fair Complex.

Dave Sauter

Dave Sauter

I’m a Project Manager for TriMet’s Capital Projects & Construction Division, working on track improvements on the MAX system along with other projects. I regularly ride public transportation — the Line 96 bus and the MAX Blue and Orange lines — so I personally know the value of transit that’s reliable and enjoyable. I was born and raised in Portland. My wife and I and our five kids frequently visit my parents who still live in the house where I grew up.”

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Buses to the Rescue

If you need buses, and you need buses fast, Alex Ubiadas is who you call.

Whether you need to quickly evacuate a large number of people, like during 2017’s Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia Gorge, or you need a space to warm up first responders during a winter emergency, TriMet’s Emergency Manager is the person who can make it happen.

“We’re the only people in the area who can move lots of people in a short period of time,” says Alex, “This is not our primary mission, but as a taxpayer-funded public agency, we believe this an important role for us to play in our community.”

When something bad happens, people across the region know to contact Alex directly. If it’s a valid public emergency, and there are extra buses and operators available, he’ll coordinate with TriMet’s Operations Command Center to make sure the buses get where they need to go.

A common misconception is that the buses and operators being used for emergencies are being pulled off their regular runs, with TriMet’s service suffering as a result. “We always have extra buses and operators standing by in case of any issues, like if we need to replace MAX with shuttle buses, or a bus breaks down, or an operator calls in sick,” explains Alex. “As a last resort, we’ll pull some buses off Frequent Service lines to replace MAX during lengthy disruptions. But we only use our spare buses and drivers for responding to emergencies.”

Water and other supplies for Eagle Creek Fire evacuees

2017’s Eagle Creek Fire was one of the largest — and farthest flung — emergency operations Alex has helped coordinate. As the fire raced through the Gorge, thousands of residents needed to be evacuated. Even though the evacuation zones extended far beyond TriMet’s service area, several buses were sent to help shuttle people to shelters and to bring water and other supplies to the evacuees. “Because the fire moved so quickly, we only had a couple hours heads-up on that request. With the amount of people we transported and the distance from Portland, it was our largest emergency operation in recent memory.”

TriMet has also recently provided buses that helped evacuate people during the 2018 junkyard fire off NE Killingsworth Street. And in 2016, TriMet buses took children from their school near the NW 23rd Avenue gas explosion to a safe location where their parents could pick them up.

Beyond evacuations, TriMet will provide buses to help police departments with transportation when a large number of people have been arrested, such as during a riot. Alex will also help arrange for warming or cooling buses. “If there is a fire during the winter months, we’ll often provide a bus for firefighters to rest and warm themselves. Likewise, in extreme heat, we can provide buses to help cool first responders or other people. A few years ago there was a large outdoor festival that had a lot of people from vulnerable populations attending. The county director of emergency management asked if we could provide a bus to help cool people who were showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”

One thing Alex has yet to provide buses for — but is prepared for — is an earthquake. “We have plans to provide assistance for major emergencies, such as an earthquake. The Portland Transportation Recovery Plan provides for TriMet to use buses to potentially move people but also supplies to distribution points within the city,” says Alex.

“I love that we’re able to do this,” continues Alex. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

As part of National Preparedness Month, Alex encourages everybody to visit ready.gov to learn how they can prepare for a disaster.

Header photo courtesy KPAM News Talk 860 & Afternoon Northwest

 

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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DALeast’s New Orange Line Mural

If you’re heading east across the Rhine–Lafayette pedestrian bridge in industrial Southeast Portland, keep an eye out for a large bird.

Or, more accurately, a hawk-like space-travel bio-vehicle.

That’s what celebrated artist DALeast suggests is at the center of his latest work, a stunning mural on the side of our new maintenance building on SE 20th Avenue.

Against a midnight background, electric blue streaks of spray paint suggest an avian form. To the right, we see a magnificent burst of white light; to the left, perhaps a red dwarf star.

The mural feels at once peaceful and alive, simple and expansive. As for what it means, DALeast would much rather let you draw your own conclusion.

The spectacular piece is the final public art project associated with the nearby Orange Line, which runs right through the site of our previous facilities maintenance building.

The new 10,000-square-foot facility is currently being renovated to include new workspaces, a media-enabled training room and more. So it’s fitting that on the outside, the blank expanse of wall facing 20th Avenue got a makeover, too.

We’re thrilled with the new mural, and for the chance to breathe life into a formerly nondescript industrial site.

Want more public art news from us? Sign up for Riders Club!

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. 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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What You Want In The Next Generation Of MAX Trains

In a few years, we’ll be sending our high-floor MAX trains — which have been rolling since MAX first opened in 1986 —  off into the sunset. We’ll miss our Type 1’s (you never forget your first love…), but we’re excited about their replacements, the Type 6’s. Evidently, so are you.

Earlier this year, we asked what features you wanted to see in our next generation of MAX cars. Your requests were diverse and interesting, and we noticed some common themes. While we can’t yet make any promises about what our new trains will include, your suggestions are being used to guide our planning.

Here are your most common requests:

More and better interior displays

We’re on board with you here — clear interior displays that tell you where you are and where you’re going are essential. For our Type 6 trains, we’re asking for an upgrade from our current LED displays to dynamic route maps and next-stop displays. Our hope is for high-definition displays that can show graphics.

Comfortable seating and easy-to-navigate layouts

Your feedback on the open layout of the Type 5 trains — which were introduced in 2015 with the Orange Line — has been very positive, so the Type 6 trains will likely be similar. Regardless, we’re going to explore seat cushioning and layout options, so we can give you the most comfortable ride possible.

A safe ride

This is as non-negotiable for us as it is for you. For our Type 6 trains, we’re looking to add a silent alarm you can use to notify operators of security issues, higher definition on-board cameras for the recording as well as live streaming of security footage, and higher quality rear monitors so operators to have a clear image of what’s happening around the train during boarding.

There were several other common requests that we’ll be looking into, including WiFi, charging stations and USB ports, more leg room, easier boarding and exiting with wider doors and faster ramps, and more and better bike storage. Again, we make no promises but we’re looking at which requests we can accommodate.

So when you can expect these new train cars? Soon, but not too soon. You cannot go to the train store and pick out new cars to drive home (we wish…). These cars will be custom designed and built. We’re going to be looking for a manufacturer for these cars starting this year. Then the actual car design will kick off next year and manufacturing will start in 2020. If everything goes well, we hope to have the first new cars rolling in Portland by late 2021 or 2022. Stay tuned.

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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E-Scooters Have Arrived. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Let’s cut right to the chase: Electric scooters are fun.

They’re a lot of other things, too, depending on whom you ask. Controversial, convenient, frivolous, potentially dangerous — it felt like we’d heard it all before the first scooter hit the streets in Portland.

Now that they’re here (Bird was the first out of the gates, deploying over 100 scooters overnight), you can see for yourself.

If you haven’t ridden one before, we’d suggest finding a quiet street to get your bearings. They’re surprisingly zippy, and there’s a bit of balancing involved. Once you’re comfortable, you just kind of…go. It’s fun, and you might feel a little silly, but you’ll probably also be smiling.

Once you leave the quiet streets for busier bikeways, and then later when you start looking for a place to park your scooter, you’ll appreciate knowing these ground rules:

  • Ride in the street or in the bike lane, not on the sidewalk.
  • Helmets are required. These things are quick, and it will make sense once you start riding.
  • Park your scooter by the curb, away from the sidewalk. Don’t park right at your bus stop or on the MAX platform.
  • Scooters can’t go on buses or trains, including the bike racks. The idea is that scooters work best for connecting with transit.
  • If you have a question or complaint, contact the scooter company (their info will be on the scooter) or PBOT.
Don’t park here.

We hope this pilot program goes well — after all, we support all kinds of active transportation. It will almost certainly require cooperation and patience, but that’s not such a bad thing, is it?

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. 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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Now Available: Reduced Fares for Low-Income Riders

If you have trouble affording your TriMet fare, relief may be available.

Oregon residents who are 18 to 64 years old and have an income less than twice the federal poverty level can apply to ride for a lower fare. If approved, you will save 50% off a single ride or day pass, or 72% off a month pass.

Application is a three-step process. You’ll need to…

  1. Show that your income qualifies
  2. Apply in-person at one of our community partner locations
  3. Pick up your personalized Hop card from the TriMet Ticket Office at Pioneer Square

We’ll walk you through each step. Find out if you’re eligible and apply today.

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Avoid Interstate Construction Traffic This Summer

Hearing the phrase “a good time to plan a vacation” about upcoming roadwork does not exactly inspire confidence in a smooth commute. But that is what’s being said about this summer’s I-84 and I-5 construction.

The projects, which run from July 8th through August 27th (with a brief early August break), will close three of the ramps that connect I-5 to I-84. Major traffic delays are expected for the length of the projects.

For many, MAX is going to be the best option for your commute. It may be crowded, but you won’t get bogged down in traffic. MAX Yellow Line is an alternative for I-5 in North Portland and the Blue, Green and Red lines can help you avoid I-84 (and parts of I-205).

Want to find the fastest way to work on TriMet? Plan your trip.

If don’t live near a MAX station, we have dozens of Park & Ride locations that provide free and easy parking near MAX stations.

Yellow Line riders have access to over 600 free parking spaces between the Expo Center and Delta Park/Vanport Park & Rides. Additionally, the Expo Center is allowing use of any other open spaces in its lot between July 8-20, July 25-August 6 and August 17-27, but a fee will apply for those.  

Red Line riders looking to avoid I-205 and I-84 have access to nearly 200 spaces at the Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center Park & Ride.

Blue Line riders have access to over 2,000 spaces at five Park & Rides between Cleveland Ave and Gateway Transit Center.

Similarly, Green Line riders have access to over 2,300 spaces at five Park & Rides between Clackamas Town Center and Gateway

Red, Blue and Green Line riders can also use the Gateway Transit Center Park & Ride’s nearly 700 spaces.

Many Park & Rides fill by 7-7:30 a.m. on a normal weekday, so we recommend arriving early.

See our full list of Park & Ride locations.

Buses will also provide a way through traffic during the roadwork. While they still may experience some delays, we’ve taken action to help keep them moving.

We’re anticipating significant delays approaching the Burnside Bridge during the ramp closure beginning July 25, so we’ve worked with the City of Portland to turn NE Davis between SE Sandy and SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd into bus and local access only on July 26-27, July 30-31, August 1-3, and August 20-24 from 6-11 a.m.. This should help keep Line 12, 19 and 20 buses moving.

Also during the ramp closures that start on July 25th, we’ve worked to restrict parking for additional hours on SE Morrison between SE 12th and SE 6th Ave and SE Madison between SE 10th and SE 6th. This will allow our buses to use the BUS ONLY lanes for longer as they approach the Morrison and Hawthorne bridges.

We will also have additional buses waiting at transit centers that can be pulled into service in case buses start to fill and go into “Drop Off Only” during the ramp closures.

Throughout the summer, C-TRAN’s express service between Vancouver and Downtown Portland is a viable alternative to MAX Yellow Line. C-TRAN is anticipating delays due to the expect congestion. Visit c-tran.com for more.

No matter how you plan on commuting this summer, transit will likely be a better option than driving for many who will be impacted by the I-5 / I-84 construction work. Here are helpful links for your commute:

Want to find the fastest way to work on TriMet? Plan your trip.

Worried about potential delays? Check out service alerts for your line.

New to TriMet? Here’s all you need to know to pay your fare and ride.

 

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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