Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Parking and riding? Four tips to prevent car break-ins

No one likes to walk up to their car and see their window busted out and belongings gone.

Car break-ins are crimes of opportunity. Just the other day, I was walking through a parking lot with some fellow Transit Police officers and spotted a purse sitting in plain view on the back seat of a Honda Civic.

Whether using a Park & Ride, parking at your office lot or just parked on the street outside your house, take these few simple precautions to not become a victim.

Don’t give them the opportunity

Thieves will make a split-second decision to break into a vehicle. If they see something of value through the window, that’s an opportunity. Do not leave valuable items — purses, computers, phones, shopping bags — visible in your car. Better yet, leave them at home or take them with you when you go.

Leave it “showroom” clean

Even the small stuff like chargers and ear buds give thieves cause to think there may be a mobile phone, GPS or other electronics inside. Sunglasses and spare change might not seem like much to you, but for those doing “smash and grabs” it can add up. Tuck it all away and leave your car “showroom” clean — just like it came from a dealership

Stow before you go

If you absolutely have to leave items in the car, stow them in the trunk, under the cargo cover or in the console before you go. Even tuck that charger away before you reach your destination. You never know who might be watching what you’re doing after you park.

Lock it

An unlocked car is an invitation, not just to take the stuff inside but to steal the car itself. Don’t make it easy for thieves. Check to make sure it is locked before you walk away, whether you test the door handle(s) or hit the lock button until the horn beeps.

Taking these simple steps can keep you from becoming a victim. If you happen to see someone hanging around a Park & Ride or spot an item left on a platform, say something — Call 9-1-1 or alert a TriMet employee.

And, please remember, whether you use a Park & Ride, catch the train in your neighborhood or are just walking along a city street, be aware and be safe. Take just a moment before crossing train tracks or the street to look up, look around and make sure it is safe to cross.

Christina Hansen-Tuma

Christina Hansen-Tuma

I’m Officer Christina Hansen-Tuma with the Transit Police Division. Working in transit, I get to meet different people across the metro area and help make TriMet a system that my grandmother would enjoy riding. When I’m not on the job, I’m busy spending time with my kids and running in marathons!

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5 tips for a happy—and safe—holiday season

The holidays are a time of wonder and goodwill, and for the men and women of the Transit Police Division, a time to step up our patrols on the TriMet system. In an effort to keep the Grinch at bay, we need your help to make sure your belongings (and those holiday purchases) make it home with you.

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Lt. Rachel Andrew chats with a rider on how to travel safely this holiday season.

So far this month, we’ve noticed a good thing—riders being more courteous to each other. This is something we hope to see year round! But please don’t get complacent—thieves will strike when you least expect it.

Here are the top five tips to make sure you have a happy and safe holiday season:

  1. Pay attention to your belongings.

Too often we see someone hang up their bike on MAX and then go sit down with their back to it. A thief could make off with your bike and you wouldn’t notice! So far, two-thirds of reported thefts this year were items left behind or lost and never turned in to Lost & Found, so please keep track of your things.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings.

We can all get so caught up in our phones or devices that might not notice someone watching us. Look up every so often to see who is around you and trust your instincts. When you hear, “Doors are closing, please hang on,” on MAX, make sure to hang on to your phone and other items. Thieves often look for opportunities to snatch-and-run as vehicles are about to leave a stop.

  1. Don’t leave valuables in your car at Park & Rides.

Leaving items, especially valuables, in plain view in your parked car is an invitation to thieves. If you must leave packages or other things in your car, make sure they are out of sight or locked in a trunk. If a thief walks by and doesn’t see anything worth breaking a window for, they’ll likely move on.

  1. See something. Say something.

If you see something suspicious, please say something. Tell your operator or call 9-1-1 immediately—we’ll decide what’s important. You never know, your call could prevent a crime.

  1. Look and listen when crossing tracks and streets.

Please listen for approaching trains and look both ways when crossing tracks. Take your time and don’t run across—a few seconds could save your life.

All year round, Transit Police officers patrol the system, hopping on trains and buses, and interacting with riders at stations and transit centers. During the holidays, we increase our missions to keep those looking to spoil the season from targeting you and your stuff.

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Happy holidays from the Transit Police Division!
Christina Hansen-Tuma

Christina Hansen-Tuma

I’m Officer Christina Hansen-Tuma with the Transit Police Division. Working in transit, I get to meet different people across the metro area and help make TriMet a system that my grandmother would enjoy riding. When I’m not on the job, I’m busy spending time with my kids and running in marathons!

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“Santa Bob” steps down from his sleigh

Our very own “Santa Bob” has delighted riders for nearly 30 years as he maneuvered his sleigh—er—bus through the streets of Hillsboro, Beaverton and Portland. But before this holiday season begins, Santa Bob, aka Bob Foster, will be turning in the reins of his Line 88 bus.

“Santa Bob” retires

After 34 years of operating a TriMet bus, Bob is retiring. A few years into his job behind the wheel, Bob, who resembles the jolly old elf, began moonlighting as Santa for TriMet employees and families across the Portland metro area. TriMet riders also enjoyed their brush with Santa!

“Sometimes kids will say to their parents, ‘Look it’s Santa!’” says Bob. “That’s a tremendous responsibility, because you’re a walking billboard.”

With Bob retiring, will this be the year without a TriMet Santa?!? Kids of all ages: never fear, it’s a TriMet “Santa Exchange”!

Santa Mark takes the reins!

Santa Bob is handing the reins of his 40-foot diesel powered “sleigh” to Santa Mark. Mark Larson has been a TriMet bus operator for 25 years. For the last two to three years, some riders on the lines 54 and 56 that travel through Beaverton, Tigard and Portland, have been doing a double-take due to Mark’s resemblance to St. Nick.

“I get quite a few comments ranging from, ‘You look like Santa,’ ‘Have you ever thought about playing Santa?’ ‘Mom, he looks like Santa! I told you he was real!'” says Mark.

Santa Mark (left) is ready to take the reins from Santa Bob (right), whose last day on the job is November 20.

What does it take to be a TriMet Santa?

Being a TriMet Santa takes driving skill, great customer service, a Santa-like appearance and a degree in SantaClausology. Both men have attended the International University of Santa Claus.  Santa Mark has his Bachelor of SantaClausology; Santa Bob has his Master of SantaClausology and is working on a Doctorate.

Santa Mark knows he has some big boots to fill.

“I never wanted to replace Santa Bob—in fact, you can’t replace him!” says Mark.  “As to taking over as TriMet’s Santa? All I can say is HO, HO. HO. Who needs a ride?”

Follow Santa Bob on Facebook, and check out Santa Mark’s website.

Roberta Altstadt

Roberta Altstadt

I’m TriMet’s public information officer. I communicate with the news media on all TriMet-related topics. When I’m not busy working, I like learning new skills, gardening, and going for walks with my sweet three-legged dog, Ernie.

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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 157 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 60 more buses by mid-2016 that will be low-floor, low-emission and air-conditioned. This purchase will help us lower the average age of our fleet to 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

LynSimons-Bus

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.

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