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.

Cruising past the million-mile safety milestone

Robert Boos thought his TriMet career was over before it began.

“I was 21 years old, thinking about going into the Coast Guard and kind of scared to death of driving a bus,” Boos recalls. “I applied at TriMet and got called into an interview. I thought I blew the interview.”

He didn’t. Thirty-one years later, Boos is our latest inductee into the Million Mile Club, which honors operators who have exemplary safety and customer service marks.

How far is a million miles? It’s like driving around Earth 40 times. Or making 172 trips from Boos’ home in Milwaukie to New York City… and back.

“Who thinks they’re going to be in the Million Mile club?” Boos says. “It’s almost impossible to do. It’s not something you think about. I guess it’s luck, that’s all I can say.”

However, it’s more than luck that the National Safety Council has given him a Safe Driver Award every year, earned by driving without a preventable accident—a feat that takes diligence and an unrelenting focus on safety.

Times certainly have changed since Boos began driving a bus in 1984. Back then, many of them didn’t have power steering. They also had less-advanced communications systems and high floors.

“I really like the low floor with no steps—it’s like driving a go-kart,” Boos says.

All in the family

Outside of work, Boos enjoys taking his 3-year-old grandson to the park, going out to sushi with his wife or hiking on the Oregon Coast at Cape Lookout or Drift Creek Falls.

His father, Keith, ran 12 convenience stores in the area called Keith’s Markets. Keith eventually left to work at TriMet, first as a bus driver for nine years and then a trainer for 18 years. Six months after Keith retired from TriMet in 2002, he suffered a massive heart attack while on a golf course. The next day, he had open-heart surgery and survived. Today, he’s in good health.

Don’t hit snooze

The secret to his success?

“All you have to do is be diligent,” says Boos, who drives Line 23 in the Parkrose neighborhood. “If you’re not going to get up in the morning or be on time, you’re not going to make it as a bus driver.”

There’s something about working at TriMet that’s helped him get up every morning for the past 30 years.

“It feels like I’m my own boss. I like the routine,” he says. “I sign in, get on the bus, go get my coffee. When I’m done, I park the bus and go home.”

Congratulations, Robert!

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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Do unto others: Selfless bus operator wins TriMet honor

It’s easy to see why TriMet bus operator Catherine McLendon is a customer-service pro. Her mantra: “How would I want to be treated?”

“It’s like that girl with the coffee who just got on the bus thanking me with her eyes for waiting for her,” says McLendon, who recently won our 2015 Operator of the Year award among part-time drivers.

CatherineMcLendon-MiniRun

McLendon, raised in Portland and now a Beaverton resident, today is on Line 56—a loop that runs from downtown Portland to Washington Square Mall. She greets riders with a friendly hello.

Before signing up for her current route, she had driven Lines 45 and 92. She especially connected with folks on the 92, which originates in Southwest Portland and heads toward Murray Road and Scholls Ferry Road in Beaverton.

“They’re fun, they joke around. It just feels like family to me,” McLendon says. “The last day I said goodbye, I started crying. I had bad allergies that day, so I blamed it on that. But literally my sunglasses were all steamed up.”

Family affair

Early in her career, McLendon worked in the food-brokerage industry and didn’t want to spend her career in a desk job. Her stepdad, Wayne Reynolds, also operated a TriMet bus for 21 years and knew she was a good driver. In 1994, he encouraged her to apply. She soon began driving a bus. She appreciates how TriMet has offered her stability, the choice to stay part-time, great benefits and the chance to expand her career.

Her husband, Martin, also is a TriMet bus operator. They had already known each other at work when one day he graciously cleaned her bus mirrors during a break. That good deed has led to a lifelong partnership.

Familiar territory

McLendon enjoys seeing the same faces on her Beaverton routes.

“You get to know how they’re doing, where they’re going, what their dog’s name is,” she says.

She makes a point to wave at cars when she’s leaving a stop, thank people and drive courteously. And if there’s an accident, she knows the back roads.

It’s no surprise she’s won 16 Safe Driving Awards and four Ace awards for helping Honored Citizen riders. McLendon even remains pen pals with several honored-citizen riders she’s met over the years.

Giving back

McLendon prefers the 30-hour per week part-time position because she’s able to volunteer with organizations like the SMART reading program and the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project. An incident from a few years ago also has motivated her to get her First Aid and CPR certifications.

So, what happened? She was operating Line 92 and stopped to wait for a man running toward her. He then collided with a pillar and collapsed in front of the bus. McLendon jumped out of her seat and realized he was having a heart attack. One of the passengers knew CPR and kept him breathing until an ambulance arrived.

A few months later, she saw the man at the same stop.

“I got on the microphone and said, ‘Don’t look now, but you won’t believe who’s at the bus stop.’ Once he gets on, everyone starts clapping. Tears are just popping out of my eyes because I’m so joyful he’s vertical.”

In bloom

Outside of TriMet, she gardens, spends time with her three college-aged children and cruises around with Martin on his Vespa. Her part-time status also allows her to run a flower business, Flowers by Cat. A florist since 1987, she used to have a booth at Portland Saturday Market. She now spends many summer weekends on the wedding circuit and says “peonies are the hot flower right now.”

Whether selling flowers, volunteering, or safely driving a bus, it’s a sure bet she’ll treat people well.

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

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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Our oldest MAX trains are getting makeovers

We launched our first MAX trains—what we call the Type 1—nearly 30 years ago in 1986. That same year, “Top Gun” graced the silver screen, Ronald Reagan lived in the White House and big hair was all the rage.

Since then, our Type 1 trains have logged 1.6 million miles in the metro area and over time, they’ve begun to show their age. With time, the trains’ body filler (like industrial-strength putty) has broken down, allowing moisture to get through. Also, the stairwells in these high-floor trains have signs of rust and corrosion.

Massive makeover

A bare Type 1 MAX train
A bare Type 1 MAX train

To extend their operating lifetime (for up to 20 years), we started refurbishing these trains in 2002. To date, 21 trains are fully restored and two are in process. The last three Type 1 trains are expected to be revived by the end of 2016.

From start to finish, it takes three people about six months—or about 3,500 labor hours—to refurbish a Type 1 train. Here are the key steps to refinish this train:

  • Remove equipment on the roof, exterior end and sidewalls.
  • Cover door and window openings.
  • Chip off old body filler and paint and grind the entire exterior to the metal.
  • Apply epoxy primer and three coats of body filler.
  • Use industrial-scale white body paint, then TriMet blue and yellow color coats.
  • Refinish and reattach doors.

“It takes a lot of effort to get all of the body filler down to the metal,” says Mark Grove, who is the Manager of Rail Equipment Maintenance at our Gresham facility. “We have talented light-rail mechanics like Bob Culpepper who help make this project happen.”

Grove also says it’s an “art form” to get the body filler flat and smooth. And unlike the original primer and filler, modern filler flexes with the metal of the train’s movement, which makes it last longer.

New signs, windows, HVAC

Mark Grove with a refurbished Type 1 MAX train.
Mark Grove with a refurbished Type 1 MAX train.

Type 1 trains are the only ones in the MAX fleet where its destination signs are hand-cranked by the operator. As part of the rehab, all Type 1 trains will feature new digital signage.

We’re also upgrading the HVAC systems, along with the old vented windows, and replacing them with single-piece fixed windows. This will increase energy efficiency and give you a quieter ride and more open space.

Finally, we’re replacing the old propulsion/braking resistors that are mounted on the roof. The old ones are at the end of their useful life.

“The new resistors have a 20% higher capacity, so they’re stressed less, will be more reliable and last longer,” Grove says.

Why not buy new?

Renovating a Type 1 train is far less costly than buying new. A new light-rail train costs up to $4 million. A Type 1 train rehab runs about $200,000. Cha-ching!

Next in line

Once all the Type 1 renovations are done, we’ll start makeovers on the Type 2 trains.

In the meantime, check out our brand new MAX trains! We’ll be welcoming 18 new-and-improved MAX vehicles to our fleet this year.

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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