Author Archives: TriMet Staff

Open data is making transit better, one app at a time

John Canfield

John Canfield’s start-up, Nimbler, just launched its fourth transit app.

John Canfield is the Founder of Nimbler and the VP of Risk Management at WePay. John previously worked at eBay, Zip2 and Creative Labs. John has a masters degree in electrical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Stanford.

I have been in the high-tech industry my whole career, working in start-ups and large tech companies. Over the years, the hot areas of innovation have shifted from the computers themselves, to packaged software, to the Internet, to mobile devices.

But I never heard people talking about transportation being a hot area of innovation until this last year.

Millennials are leading us away from the car-dominated America of past generations. They are looking for options. Start-ups and established players are offering an array new services — carsharing, bikesharing, ridesharing, and transportation apps of every sort.

Transit agencies are offering real-time arrival times so riders can find the best route and get there with a minimum of waiting. Uber, a five-year old start-up, just was valued at $18 billion — one of the highest private valuations ever. Venture capitalists around the world are taking notice.

The Portland area plays a special part in this transportation innovation. In 2005, an engineer at Google started working on a skunkworks project to build transit directions into Google Maps.

The big problem was where to get the data. Transit agencies had schedule data in proprietary systems that varied widely from agency to agency. Even if the data were technically accessible, many transit agencies did not want to publish it for free.

TriMet had a different approach. They proactively reached out to Google looking to partner. The result was the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), which is used to communicate schedule data.

Google launched its transit directions in Portland first. Now, Google and other apps offer transit directions around the world using GTFS.

TriMet also innovated by investing in open-source trip planning. Traditionally, when transit agencies wanted a trip planner for their website, they worked with private software companies to build one just for their agency. TriMet instead started a project in 2009 with OpenPlans to build an Open Trip Planner for the Portland area that combines bike and transit directions.

The start-up I founded, Nimbler, just introduced its fourth transit app: Nimbler Portland. At the heart of Nimbler’s routing lies Open Trip Planner and GTFS. Nimbler offers transit directions, bike directions and combinations of the two. Nimbler also integrates with TriMet’s real-time vehicle location feed to provide real-time arrival predictions that minimize wait time.

Without the innovative approach of TriMet working with Google, OpenPlans and Open Street Maps, apps like Nimbler would not be possible. Because of TriMet’s leadership, apps around the world are benefiting and innovating using open source and open data for transportation.

One bent bicycle wheel. And one bruised butt.

Last September, Ian Sutherland got hit by a MAX train near Gresham and lived to tell the tale.

It was the route he took to work every day. It was like clockwork. Except that morning.

“I was pre-coffee, running late,” says Ian.

So he took a later train. When his train stopped, he got off, put his headphones on, clipped into his bike and set out across the crosswalk. Only he failed to see that he didn’t have a green signal as he usually did.

“Pay just as much attention around the MAX as if you were crossing a freeway. Or operating heavy machinery. Oh and don’t put on your headphones or mount your bike until you’re well clear of the tracks.”

“The other people at the crosswalk were standing there waiting. And I just kept on moving… on autopilot.”

It wasn’t until he was in the crosswalk that he saw the other train. The one that was speeding towards him only 20 feet away.

At that point Ian had two choices: either go for it and ride the bike as quickly across the tracks as possible, or turn back.

He chose to turn back by making a sharp left turn only to get his back tire stuck in the tracks. He unclipped from his pedals just as the train caught up with his backside and his back tire.

He was thrown many feet through the air but landed well.

He blames the accident on his “complacency.” Asked what he would tell his little sister about riding MAX, Ian chose his words carefully:

Ian Sutherland“Pay just as much attention around the MAX as if you were crossing a freeway or operating heavy machinery,” he says. “Oh, and don’t put on your headphones or mount your bike until you’re well clear of the tracks.”

That’s really good advice… Ian narrowly escaped a serious accident.

As a result of this incident, he has graciously agreed to be a model for our “Be Alert” safety campaign. We’re glad you’re OK, Ian!

Watch NewsChannel 8′s story about Ian’s accident at kgw.com

3 ways to kick off the perfect Oregon summer

This is our city’s time to shine. Summer is Oregon’s reward to its citizens for all those gray months. And it’s catnip to tourists who you’ll no doubt be entertaining.

Here’s a breakdown of just a few of the must-dos in Downtown Portland as well as a long list of the lesser known goings-on inside and outside of Portland that shouldn’t be overlooked.

1. PIONEER COURTHOUSE SQUARE EVENTS

It’s called “Portland’s Living Room” for a reason. During the summer it’s rare to find the Square not teeming with music, flowers or food.

flicks on the bricksSome of our favorite events include:

Noon Tunes. Otherwise known as the perfect lunch hour. Enjoy free concerts every Tuesday and Thursday from July 15 to August 14.

Flicks on the Bricks is great way to spend an evening downtown. Come see the Square magically transformed into Portland’s largest outdoor movie theater! Live pre-movie entertainment begins at 7 p.m. every Friday from July 26 to August 16.

Yoshida’s Sand in the City. No time to go to the Coast? Then come to Portland’s biggest beach party. Sand in the City takes over the Square on July 18-20.

Finally, Festa Italiana brings Italy to Downtown Portland with lots of spirited entertainment and food from August 21 to 23.

2. OPEN MARKETS

Our area is known for its outdoor markets and every year they just keep getting bigger and better.

Farmers Market Here are three that can’t be beat:

Portland Saturday Market: A lot more than tie-dye and patchouli can be found at this downtown market which has become the largest outdoor arts and crafts market in operation with well over 200 booths. The food stalls and live music alone make the Saturday Market worth the visit. (Open Saturday and Sunday through December 24)

Portland Farmers Market: With eight locations all over Portland there are more than enough opportunities to see what foods you might fall in love with this summer. The most popular location is on the PSU campus at SW Park Avenue and SW Montgomery Street. There any Saturday you can visit over 130 booths of deliciousness. (Saturdays through December 20)

Beaverton Farmers Market: Open since 1998, Beaverton Farmers Market has been around even longer than Portland’s Farmers Market and it has just as many booths! (8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., May to November)

3. TRANSIT TO TRAILS

Enjoy the mild temperatures and rainless days while you can!Transit to TrailsThe Portland metropolitan area has more than 10,000 acres of parks and natural areas. Here are some of our favorite trails from North Portland to Tualatin to Buxton and a lot of points in between that you can visit by taking TriMet.

Of course this is just a very short list of some of the top must-dos. Even though the Rose Festival is over there are more than enough events to keep you busy until September! So enjoy the summer and let TriMet help make your trips easier.

Your comprehensive list of summer events

 

More service improvements are on the way

TriMet riders exiting bus

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say this: We’re increasing service again.

After several long years of service cuts and fare increases caused by the Great Recession, we are finally able to add more service.

This summer and fall, you can expect more Frequent Service, more new buses, better schedule reliability and less crowding:

  • More Frequent Service: This September, we’re adding weekday evening trips on our Frequent Service bus lines and MAX to restore 15-minute (or better) frequency into the evening hours. That’s good news if you ride Lines 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 33, 54, 56, 57 or 75. MAX Green Line will also run every 15 minutes or better into the evening hours.
  • Less crowding: Also in September, we’re adding more buses to Lines 4, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 33, 44, 76, 94 and 99 to relieve overcrowding.
  • Better schedule reliability: Schedules are changing on Line 71 (in June), Lines 20 and 87 (in September), and Lines 19, 22, 48 and 72 (in December) to better match schedules to traffic conditions and ridership.
  • More new buses: 90 new buses are joining the fleet in 2014, for a total of 249 buses replaced since 2012.
  • MAX reliability and safety: Over the next year, we’re investing in much-needed signal, track and switch improvements throughout the MAX system to improve reliability and on-time performance. 

We know riders want more and better service, and we’re excited to be in a position to grow the system again. These improvements should help reduce wait times, improve connections and give you a more comfortable ride.

Be sure to sign up for email updates for the lines you ride to get all the details about the upcoming changes.

Note: These improvements are part of our Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which assumes that the economy continues to improve and that the financial equivalent of TriMet’s labor contract proposal is accepted.

Meet our 2014 Operators of the Year!

Operators-of-the-year-2014

Newly crowned 2014 Bus Operator of the Year Andy Church (left), MAX Operator of the Year Jason Wang (second from right) and Mini-Run/Part-Time Operator of the Year Fernando Lopez (right). These are some of TriMet’s finest!

At a ceremony on Tuesday, three TriMet operators were recognized as the 2014 Operators of the Year. Operators qualify for the annual award based on outstanding driving records, customer service and attendance, and the winners are selected by their peers.

Bus Operator of the Year: Andy Church

Andy ChurchDuring his 11 years of driving, Operator Andy Church has earned nine National Safe Driving Awards, nine Superior Performance Awards and four years of perfect attendance.

Andy, who lives in Damascus, has qualified a number of times for Operator of the Month as well as Mini-Run of the Quarter when he was a part-time bus operator. He’s an “extra board” operator, which means he fills in for other operator shifts.

Andy has received many commendations from riders that highlight his kindness and helpfulness to his riders. His manager, Lyle Pereira, noted that Andy “has a great attitude, which is not always easy, but for him, it just comes natural.”

MAX Operator of the Year: Jason Wang

Jason WangJason Wang is our newest MAX Operator of the Year. The Lake Oswego resident started driving a bus for TriMet in 2000, and switched to MAX in 2007.

Jason is a high performer who has consistently qualified for operator recognition both as a bus operator and MAX operator.

He’s a Master Operator and has 12 Superior Performance Awards. TriMet’s Master Operator Program recognizes bus and rail operators who achieve overall excellence in safety, customer service and attendance.

You might see Jason up in the cab next time you ride a Red Line or Blue Line train.

Mini-Run/Part-Time Operator of the Year: Fernando Lopez

Fernando LopezMini-Run Operator of the Year Fernando Lopez has been driving for TriMet since 2003.

As a part-time or “mini-run” operator, Fernando has received eight Safe Driving Awards, which means he’s driven eight years without a preventable accident. He’s earned a 100 percent Customer Satisfaction Award and has had perfect attendance for the past eight years.

Fernando was also Mini-Run Operator of the Quarter back in 2009. Because of his long record of safety, good customer service and attendance, he’s qualified for that title for two-thirds of his 11-year career.

Fernando lives in Beaverton and he drives one of the busiest lines in our system: the 57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove.

 

Congratulations Andy, Jason and Fernando!

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My quest to ride every single MAX car

Dan Delany and his son on board car 107 in TriMet's maintenance shop.

For the conclusion of Dan Delany’s quest to ride every MAX car, Dan and his son came to TriMet’s Ruby Junction maintenance facility, where the elusive car 107 was in for repairs.

My name is Dan Delany, and I have been on every MAX car.

Like many people, I commute on the MAX trains from outside the city to work in downtown Portland every day. After riding for a few months, I started noticing the car numbers and wondering if I had seen all of the cars. I looked on Wikipedia and learned that there are 127 MAX cars, which made riding all of them seem like an achievable goal.

Once that thought was in my head, at the beginning of August I set out to ride every car. My rules were simple: it only counted if I rode the car at least one stop. Just seeing a car didn’t count; I had to actually ride it. (I did make one exception to this rule at the very end.) Some of my co-workers started to play along too. Our office manager particularly enjoyed letting me know when she rode a car that I still needed to ride.

I never went out with the specific goal of riding MAX cars; I just kept track of cars that I rode when I was riding MAX as part of my routine.

I started posting on Twitter about my project, and @trimet occasionally responded to my tweets with encouraging responses. When I got down to around 10 cars left, I started to be very aware of the cars that I hadn’t yet been on. Car 320 proved to be my nemesis for a while. I kept on seeing it when I was out and about but didn’t get to ride it. I saw it when I was driving in my car. I saw it on other trains while I was riding MAX trains. Once I saw it when I was waiting for my lunch at a food truck downtown. 320 was even in the news after an accident in November.

When I got down to 5 cars remaining, I started putting the list of remaining cars into my tweets, and @trimet told me at one point that one of my remaining cars was in the shop. It was a small effort on their part, but I appreciate that they played along with my goofy little project.

I rode 320 on January 2, just a few weeks after @trimet let me know that it was still out there. 320 was a bit of an event for me. My MAX stop is out near the end of the Blue Line, and when I arrived at the station that morning, 320 was going by on a train headed away from downtown, towards the end of the line. I had some time that morning, so I waited for it to go to the end of the line and come back. It took less than an hour.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to do that. 320 was the car that took me home on Thursday, February 6, the day that Portland’s big snowstorm really kicked in.

I still hadn’t seen 107, but @trimet stepped up and helped me out. On February 14, my son and I went on a tour of the MAX repair facility at Ruby Junction, and we got to see and board car 107 in the shop. Sure, it wasn’t moving, but going on a shop tour made up for that in a big way.

Thank you TriMet for playing along with my project and giving my son and I a fun daddy-son adventure!

 

About the author: Dan Delany is an engineer at New Relic, a software company downtown.  He tries to drive his car as little as possible.

Mid-day riders: More frequent buses are headed your way!

Frequent Service

Here’s some good news: Starting Monday, March 3, buses on 10 of our popular Frequent Service lines will come more frequently during the day. Thanks to an improving budget outlook, we are now able to add 15-minute service—which had been cut over the last few years due to the recession—during mid-day hours on weekdays.

Buses will arrive every 15 minutes during the day on the following lines:

  • 6-Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
  • 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th
  • 9-Powell Blvd
  • 12-Barbur/Sandy Blvd
  • 14-Hawthorne
  • 15-Belmont/NW 23rd
  • 33-McLoughlin
  • 54-Beaverton/Hillsdale Hwy/56-Scholls Ferry Rd
  • 57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove
  • 75-Cesar Chavez/Lombard

We’re also adding more buses on Line 4-Fessenden/Division during weekday evenings and all day on Saturdays.

This means less waiting, shorter travel times and better connections. Plus, when buses come more often, you have a bit more flexibility in your schedule (and a better chance of getting a seat). Many of our mid-day riders depend solely on transit to get around, so we know that better frequency makes a big difference.

This is just the first step toward restoring our Frequent Service network. It will probably take a year or two to get back to 15-minute service (or better) all day, every day—meaning evenings and weekends, too—but that’s our goal.

We’d love to hear how this change affects you. And as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions about your trips on TriMet. Thanks for riding, and we’ll see you on board!

Preview the new schedules effective March 3

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