All posts by 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.

Shuttle connects you in Hillsboro—and it’s free!

There’s a new bus shuttle that now serves North Hillsboro, connecting people to jobs, education, community services and events. Best of all, it’s free!

Ride Connection, Washington County, the City of Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to offer this service, officially called North Hillsboro Link.

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This shuttle is perfect for commuters going to and from Orenco Station where you can connect with the MAX Blue Line or with bus Line 47-Baseline/Evergreen.

In addition to the Hillsboro Chamber partnership, the service was made possible by Federal Transit Administration funds along with the guidance of the Governor’s Regional Solutions Team and ODOT. The Hillsboro shuttle offers service to major employers such as Intel, Radisys, FEI and Reser’s Fine Foods, among many others. Service begins at 5:29 a.m. and lasts until almost 7 p.m. All shuttles also have bike racks and wheelchair-accessible lifts.

See the full schedule and route map

This is all part of our grand plan, especially on the Westside, to offer shuttles in areas where our ridership can’t support regular bus service. Did you know there are already two other free shuttles in Tualatin and Forest Grove?

Flexible routes

Don’t worry, shuttle drivers won’t pass you by. If you’re along the route and not near a designated stop, simply signal to the driver to stop. You also can request stops along the route when boarding, along with being picked up or dropped off outside the route for one leg of the trip. It’s best to schedule these off-route stops in advance. Just call our friends at Ride Connection at 503-226-0700.

Weather and holiday schedules

On days with severe weather such as ice or snow, shuttle schedules may follow snow routes and all service may be suspended until the weather improves.

The shuttles don’t run on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

In the future, we hope to add more shuttles like this in the metro area. Stay tuned!

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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Huh? What’s an “all-electric” hybrid?

Now on the streets—you might find yourself aboard one of our newest all-electric hybrids! This next-generation of hybrids is designed to be our most efficient for fuel and emissions.

Thanks to a $2.5 million federal grant, we were able to purchase four of these buses, which are similar to a Toyota Prius—just a smidge bigger. Here’s how they work: a diesel engine powers a generator, which starts the bus and electrifies the energy storage system. The electric-traction motor then turns the wheels.

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It’s a hybrid—but electric!

“All-electric hybrid” may sound contradictory. These hybrids, though, are different and have even more awesome features than the last four we launched into service in 2012.

Everything on them can be electrically powered 100 percent—and for up to two miles! (Our older hybrids can’t do this because the diesel engine powers the hydraulic steering and air compressor.) If there’s not enough energy stored in the battery, the generator starts and uses the diesel engine, which also recharges the battery.

Another cool feature is what’s called Stop/Start Drive. As the bus slows to about 8 mph—and as long as the lithium-ion battery has enough juice—the engine shuts off and the battery takes over.

During shut-off, the bus’ accessories—such as the lights, air compressor, hydraulic steering and air conditioning—are battery-powered. As the bus leaves a stop and moves faster than 10 mph, the engine starts again.


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These buses use regenerative braking, too. This means when the brakes are applied, kinetic energy is captured and can be used immediately or stored in the battery for later use. The batteries also provide acceleration power.

Good gas mileage, low emissions

We won’t know until they’ve been in service for a while, but we expect these new hybrids to get at least 6 miles per gallon … just like our other four hybrids. In comparison, our newer fleet of standard buses get between 4.5 and 5 miles per gallon. In a 50,000-mile stretch, our all-electric hybrids would use about 1,719 fewer gallons of fuel when compared to our standard diesel buses. At over 50,000 miles, this saves about $4,000 worth of fuel!

The diesel engines on our newest hybrids also run even cleaner, as they comply with 2013 EPA regulations as opposed to the less-strict standards from 2010.

We’re often asked about getting more hybrid, electric, biogas or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. We’re considering all of these quickly-evolving technologies, but as we test them, we look for cost-effectiveness of a bus’ entire lifecycle before making wholesale changes to the fleet.

Shhhhh …

And they’re quieter than our other buses. They’ll still make some noise, but we’ve never put a bus on the streets that’s basically as loud as a typical passenger car. Folks who are visually impaired will still be able to hear it.

Down the road

We’ll watch how our newest hybrid buses perform on the streets to see if we’ll buy more of them. Battery technology continues to improve and buses are being tested that can go 200 to 300 miles (wow!) without a recharge. These hybrids just may be great transition toward all-electric buses in the future.

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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Sign of the times: Older MAX destination signs going digital

The iconic MAX destination signs on our “old” trains—those made between 1983 and 2003—are going digital.

We’re phasing out the older signs as we replace the communications systems on 105 train cars. Yes, this includes the old-school roll signs that have to be hand-cranked by our MAX operators (a time-consuming task).

Since last year, we’ve been installing LED destination signs on the front, side, interior and back of these trains so you can more clearly see—even on those dark, dreary December days—where your train’s headed. We’re also upgrading the speaker systems so you can hear us better and be able to listen to any special recorded announcements.

Doug Jones is a TriMet engineer working on the project. He says with the opening of the new MAX Orange Line, it didn’t make sense to buy new destination roll signs that included “Orange Line.” Plus, there was simply no room left on the old hand-cranked roll signs.

“It’s good timing to work on this project as we expand our MAX network,” Jones says. “It’s a more flexible system and improves service to our passengers.”

A destination roll sign prior to replacement.
A destination roll sign prior to replacement.
A new interior LED sign.
A new interior LED sign.

It takes six people about four days to strip out the old communications systems on a train and install the new equipment. More than one-third of the trains are done, but not without some challenges.

“Working on the oldest trains is more difficult than expected because we’re using the existing conduits that pipe underneath,” Jones says. “It takes a lot of effort to pull through the new cables because the space is tight.”

You’ll still see the older signs around for a bit longer. But don’t hold your breath—all MAX signs will be digital sometime in 2016.

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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Moving forward with cleaner, more energy-efficient buses

Our buses continue to become more fuel and emissions efficient.

Although our older buses consistently meet federal emissions standards, our newer buses—which make up about one-third of our fleet of 655— emit far fewer particulates into the air.

Why?

A big reason is our newer buses have a diesel particulate filter that removes soot from the exhaust. We’ve also retrofitted 196 of the older buses with these special filters, which remove at least 98 percent of the black powdery stuff.

Diesel particular filters removes most of the soot from the exhaust from our buses.
Diesel particulate filters remove most of the soot from our buses’ exhaust.

Our newer buses also emit less smog-inducing nitrogen oxide (NOx), a pollutant caused by fuel burned at high temperatures. The technology converts NOx into oxygen, nitrogen and water before it exits the tailpipe.

Smart sensors

Another technology that reduces fuel consumption by about five percent is called Sensotop. Made in Germany, it’s a shifting algorithm that uses sensors to change the gear-shifting calibration based on weight and terrain.

For example, a full bus going uphill requires more power—which Sensotop helps provide—while a bus with fewer people going downhill or on level roads requires less. These sensors are on all the buses we’ve purchased in the past three years, and we’ve also retrofitted 40 older buses.

Cool cooling system

In the transit world, we’re also pioneers of a NASCAR-inspired electronic cooling system that reduces engine drag, maximizes horsepower and improves fuel economy by up to 10 percent. Developed for military heavy equipment, it’s on about half our bus fleet. EPA actually gave us a Clean Air Excellence Award for helping bring the technology to the transit market (Woohoo!).

Improving MPG

Cars in the United States average about 25 miles per gallon. Our buses made in the early 1990s averaged about 4 miles per gallon. Our newer fleet typically gets between 4.5 to 5 miles per gallon with the added challenge of having air-conditioning systems, more electronic accessories and stricter emissions standards.

Getting an extra half-mile per gallon may not seem stellar, but for the scale of our vehicles, it’s a 12 to 25 percent improvement. And if you have 40 passengers on board who would have otherwise driven a car, it’s like getting 180 to 200 miles per gallon!

What’s next?

We’re buying 77 more buses by mid-2016 that will be low-floor, low-emission and air-conditioned. This purchase will help us get our fleet closer to an average age of eight years, the industry standard.

Riders often ask about getting more hybrid, electric, biogas or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. We’re considering all of these quickly-evolving technologies. In fact, four of the latest generation HybriDrive® Series buses should hit the streets sometime in October. As we test these new technologies, we look for cost-effectiveness of a bus’ entire lifecycle before making wholesale changes to the fleet.

Learn more about our new buses

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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Dedicated to Driving: Operator of the Year grows roots in Oregon

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Driving a 40-foot-long TriMet bus has its challenges. But it’s nothing like the school bus Lyn Simons drove in Grants Pass, Ore.

“I like this better. It’s not as loud — kids can get really loud,” says Simons, chosen by her co-workers as 2015 Bus Operator of the Year.

Simons also appreciates the variety of routes.

“There’s some kind of run for everybody,” she says. “There are the busy runs and there are the laid-back runs.”

Today she’s driving a busy run, Line 6, which begins near Providence Park and ends at Jantzen Beach before returning downtown.

Simons simply loves driving. In addition to her school bus gig, she’s also worked for a charter company in Tigard before joining TriMet in 2002.

Simons, who lives in Milwaukie, seems to have grown roots in this area. It’s understandable, as her hometown, Eagle Mountain, Calif., is a bona fide ghost town. The desert community shuttered in the early 1980s after the demise of the Kaiser Steel iron mine, where her dad had worked for many years. (Eagle Mountain also was the origin of another Henry Kaiser endeavor, Kaiser Permanente.)

“A lot of the kids I grew up with still pine for Eagle Mountain,” says Simons. “Everyone knew each other. It was safe.”

Despite her preference as a homebody, one thing gets Simons out of the house — her six grandkids. She and her husband, Jay (also a TriMet bus driver), go to Texas and California twice per year for visits. Even with her desire to be behind the wheel, she flies to those destinations.

Above all, the affable Simons aims to please her riders. She says one of the most stressful parts of her job is when one of her passengers tries to make a connection and traffic is at a standstill.

Simons likes the people she works with, the pay and benefits and, of course, being home every night.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m grateful for it.”

Congratulations to the 2015 Operators of the Year: Lyn Simons, James Hilliard and Catherine McLendon.

Interested in a career with TriMet? We’re hiring bus operators!

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.

More Posts

Former footballer finds dream job with MAX

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James Hilliard vividly recalls his first day as a TriMet bus operator in 2006.

“It snowed. It was scary,” says Hilliard, who grew up near Los Angeles. “I remember going downhill toward Highway 30 and there were big rigs at the bottom of the hill flying through at 50 miles per hour. I was able to safely stop the bus on the snow. I was the happiest person ever.”

Since that first day, Hilliard has won seven National Safe Driving Awards and nine Superior Performance Awards. To get that award, he had to work 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or instructions. He moved up to operate light-rail trains in 2008. This past spring, his TriMet colleagues voted him as the 2015 MAX Operator of the Year.

“I was really surprised to get the award,” says Hilliard, who drove the first Orange Line train September 12 with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and other dignitaries on board. “I was going up against some well-known, high-seniority people. It was unexpected.”

Love at first sight

It also was unexpected that Hilliard ended up in Portland. While living in California, he had worked for a telecommunications company which had a big project in Oregon in 1998. He flew his wife, Shawnese, and kids to Portland to visit.

“My wife got off the airplane and just fell in love with Portland,” he says.

The next year, the family sold their house in Los Angeles and moved north. His wife now works at TriMet as a road supervisor.

“I like it here,” Hilliard says. “People here are much nicer. You get seasons. It’s a much slower pace.”

Recruitment

And thanks to his good friend, A.K. Rucker, a long-time TriMet bus driver, he’s found a home.

Hilliard, who played college football for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University, was also a defensive lineman and linebacker for the Oregon Thunderbolts, a semi-pro team coached by Rucker.

He knew Hilliard sought a career change, and Rucker quickly sold him on TriMet.

Early riser

Hilliard gets up early to begin his shift at 5:23 a.m. and ends a little after 5 p.m. He works four 10-hour days each week.

“I love being able to operate a train—I get to lock myself up in the cab and roll,” Hilliard says. “I always wanted to come to rail when I first came to TriMet. It feels like I’m doing my own thing. And when I’m done with work for the day, I’m done.”

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Safety first

Although Hilliard enjoys his career, there are on-the-job challenges. Notably, he must stay vigilant about safety.

“The people standing on the platforms with headphones on, walking on the tactile strips, concern me the most,” he says.

He also says when it first rains, it makes the tracks slippery. He combats that by using extra traction sand dispersed from the train that helps with both braking and propulsion.

Gone fishing

If he’s not at work, it’s family time. He lives in the Montavilla neighborhood with Shawnese and their three kids. On his weekdays off, he takes his son, a junior at Central Catholic, to school and attends his football practices.

And whenever he gets a chance, he’ll head off to go salmon fishing (although halibut’s his favorite).

When he’s not enjoying family or fishing, the service he brings to TriMet and his passengers is invaluable.

“His approach to safety and customer service is top notch,” says Don Allison, his supervisor. “James is one of the kindest, most professional employees we could hope to have.”

Congratulations to the 2015 Operators of the Year: James Hilliard, Catherine McLendon and Lyn Simons.

Interested in a career with TriMet? We’re hiring bus operators!

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.

More Posts

Zipcar moves into two more transit centers

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We have more ways for you to move around town as Zipcar has expanded to the Willow Creek/SW 185th Transit Center in Hillsboro and Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center in Northeast Portland. Our car-sharing friends have just added two dedicated parking spots to these transit centers as well as a third one at Gateway/NE 99th Transit Center.

“The relatively quick uptake in these areas demonstrates very strong demand for more sustainable alternatives to car ownership in areas further away from the urban core,” says Jeremy Nelson, General Manager for Zipcar in the Portland metro area.

Zipcar also has vehicles available at the following locations:

There are 18 Zipcars available at TriMet transit centers and more than 200 within a five-minute walk of transit stops in the metro area. Look for the large green signs: “Zipcars live here.”

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“I’ve been really amazed by the demand we’ve received for Zipcars at transit centers surrounding Portland in all directions,” Nelson says. “What started as a modest launch at two transit centers has grown to eight in a little over a year. We’re going to continue to push these boundaries as demand dictates.”

Zipcar can be used by the hour or daily. Gas and insurance are included. Check out all the Zipcar locations at TriMet transit centers.

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.

More Posts