Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

More service brings more riders: adding up TriMet’s ridership stats

Riders often tell us what they want their transit service to look like: more frequent buses, more trains, better connections and early morning and late-night trips. More and better service, clearly, are big motivators to getting you on board.

Since fall 2013, we’ve been making big strides toward getting service hours back to the high levels that predate the Great Recession—and now we’re almost there.

When we looked at our winter quarter ridership numbers (December–February) compared to the same period the previous year, we got some insight into just how these service improvements affect riders’ habits. So we were pretty happy to see a 2.8% increase in overall ridership this last quarter over the year before. It’s a small percentage that tells a big story, considering three very different factors that go into it:

Rides on buses were up 4% overall, and up 5.4% on our Frequent Service lines.

Bus Weekly Boarding Rides

Bus ridership has been growing pretty consistently over the last year since we started adding back service that was cut during the recession. In September 2013, we began making improvements to return Frequent Service to every 15 minutes or better.  (Our 12 Frequent Service bus lines are our most popular lines, providing more than half of all bus trips.) We’re making good progress toward delivering the improved bus service that riders want and deserve. 

MAX Light Rail ridership was up slightly, increasing 1% over the previous year.

MAX Weekly Boarding Rides

WES Commuter Rail ridership was down 10.7% (about 170 rides a day).

WES Weekly Boarding Rides

Why the drop? We’re not sure, exactly, but our manager of service performance and analysis suggested low gas prices as a likely factor. As gas prices fall, some riders may be going back to their cars for some trips.

Are you a WES rider or Highway 217 commuter? We’d like to hear what you think: Let us know at

More service, more riders

The demand for transit is strong in the Portland area, and we’re excited to be in a position to grow our system again. As we add more service on the street, more people are noticing (and taking advantage of it!).

Where do we go from here? We’re looking ahead and planning future improvements, particularly for bus service. We’ve been asking riders in different parts of town what improvements they’d like to see as resources become available. Learn more and share your vision for the future of transit in your community »

Want to dig in to the data? Check out our complete performance dashboard and sign up to get updates by email »

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Specialist. 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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TriMetiquette: You told us what makes you cringe on board

Back in February, we asked for feedback about which transit etiquette, or “TriMetiquette,” rules riders should follow. Well, the results are in!

After sorting through 1,071 responses of what bugs you while you ride, we’ve narrowed it down to three TriMetiquette sub-categories: Noise, Gross and Space.


About 45% of the responses mentioned annoyances involving noise. Two hundred and seventy-seven responses were about people talking too loud while on board (“Speakerphone is not for the bus!”), and about 207 replies referenced riders playing music or games too loudly on their personal devices.

“Turn your music down, we can all hear it coming from the headphones and it sounds awful. Keep your voice down during both face-to-face and phone conversations—if the phone connection is poor, call them later—we don’t want to listen to you yell into thin air.”


This sub-category covers a range of pet peeves including feet on seats and smoking (“People always ignore the non-smoking signs and smoke right next to passengers”) to odd smells (“Bathe, for the love of all that’s holy, and not in Axe.”) and offensive personal grooming habits (“No cleaning your ears or clipping your fingernails on the bus”).  Overall, 51% of the received feedback fell into this category—164 replies were specifically about feet and dirty shoes on seats.

“No feet on the seats! I think that feet on the seats is unclean, gross and it makes it difficult for other people who really need a seat (when the bus or train is full).”


Leading the way with a whopping 639 replies and 60% of the responses were frustrations about space. Riders really can’t stand seeing other riders take up more than one seat (“One butt, one seat”), stand too close for comfort (“Please do your best not to lean on your fellow passengers”), exit the bus from the front (“Remember, exiting by the front door keeps everyone waiting“), or hop on the train before letting others off.

“Stop blocking the door when people are trying to get off the MAX.  Stand back and let people exit before getting on.”

But the pet peeves don’t stop there—we also received plenty of feedback about practicing common courtesy, like giving up your seat to seniors, people with disabilities or others who could really use is, and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze

We want you to have an enjoyable ride, but that can’t happen without your help. So, let’s be considerate to one another, use headphones while we ride, keep our belongings  on the floor and our feet off the seats!

Jessica Ridgway

Jessica Ridgway

I'm TriMet's Web and Social Media Coordinator. I develop content for our website and social media channels. I'm a daily MAX rider and an adopted Oregonian.

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visits Portland

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx stands with TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici on the Tilikum Crossing, Portland’s newest bridge, scheduled to open September 2015.

Earlier this week, United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx visited the Tilikum Crossing and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, highlighting how transit creates ladders of opportunity to help Americans get to the middle class.

Tilikum is a Chinook word meaning people, tribe, or family. The name honors the people who lived in the area as long as 14,000 years ago. While the name reflects on our past, this Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is an investment in our future.

Transit is vital to our future prosperity. 

From getting employees to work, to cost effectively easing congestion, to giving seniors, youth and people with disabilities full access to our society, TriMet plays a key role in shaping our region.

More than two decades in the making, the Portland-Milwaukie project demonstrates what federal investments can do when we have the opportunity to plan for our future. The Federal Transit Administration’s $745 million grant was matched locally by a mix of public and private contributions.

To date, this project helped create nearly 12,200 jobs just when our region needed jobs most.

More than 500 firms have worked on this project, 80 percent from Oregon. Nearly 25 percent of these firms are Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms—companies owned by women and people of color. DBE firms have earned more than $168 million in contracts through this project. Men and women working in the construction trades have logged more than two million hours and earned more than $101 million in wages and fringe benefits.

We are proud and honored to have Secretary Foxx’s support. Mark your calendars—the MAX Orange Line will open on time, and on budget, September 12, 2015.

Read Secretary Foxx’s blog post about his visit to Portland at


Neil McFarlane, TriMet General Manager

As the General Manager of TriMet, I'm responsible for running the agency. I've been here at TriMet since 1991, when I started as project control director for the Westside light rail project. When I'm not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family and riding the bus and MAX. Maybe I'll see you during my commute.

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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

Tilikum Crossing may look done, but there’s much to do before the Orange Line opens

Crews inspect the deck of the Tilikum Crossing bridge.
Crews inspect the deck of the Tilikum Crossing bridge in late May. Construction work on the bridge will continue for several months.

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project is progressing well. Like all of the region’s past light rail project’s, this one is on time and on budget.

You might even think we’re almost done if you travel down Lincoln Street in Downtown Portland, or over the Ross Island Bridge with a view of the new transit bridge, or past the project’s MAX station sites in Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and north Clackamas County.

But we still have much work ahead of us before the new Orange Line opens for service on September 12, 2015.

Although construction between Southwest 5th Avenue in Downtown Portland and the Tilikum Crossing in South Waterfront will be “substantially complete” in August (to use construction terminology), there is construction work remaining for the bridge and the five-mile-long portion of the project east of the Willamette River.

From a distance, Tilikum Crossing, the new transit bridge over the Willamette River, may look finished. But crews continue work installing rail, lighting, safety railings and the overhead catenary system that powers light rail trains and streetcars.

The eight new MAX stations along the segment of the project east of the river have more construction scheduled, as do the Park & Ride facilities at the SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek and SE Park Ave MAX stations. And all along this segment, crews continue to install trackway and electrical systems, which include signals and overhead power.

The project is also making more than $68 million in improvements that will make it easier and safer to access MAX stations and to bike and walk nearby. For instance, crews have been constructing many bicycle and pedestrian improvements between Powell Boulevard and the Willamette River. They’ve also been busy with other infrastructure improvements in Southeast Portland—working on roadways and sidewalks along Southeast 17th Avenue, beginning work on the new Lafayette Street-Rhine Street pedestrian overcrossing, and continuing to install public art.

In Milwaukie and north Clackamas County, crews are working to complete the Kellogg Bridge over Kellogg Lake and Southeast McLoughlin Blvd/Hwy 99E while placing a new multi-use path under the bridge where it crosses the lake. Track construction also continues, as do improvements to on the Trolley Trail where that regional bicycle and pedestrian route is adjacent to the project alignment.

Crew members construct walls for the SE Park Ave Station Park & Ride, in northern Clackamas County.
Crew members construct walls for the SE Park Ave Station Park & Ride, in northern Clackamas County.

And there is more work to be done once the entire 7.3-mile light rail route is substantially complete. Every TriMet light rail and bus operator—more than 1,500 women and men—must be trained to operate on the route. Light rail operators, of course, will be trained over the entire route. Bus operators will be trained on the parts of the project where buses have access—the Harbor structure that keeps the vehicles separated from traffic between Southwest Moody Avenue in South Waterfront and Naito Parkway, and on Tilikum Crossing, if current bus service planning results in the routing of any existing bus lines over the bridge.

The project has connected Portland Streetcar tracks to both ends of the bridge, which completes the CL Line loop, so all streetcar operators will also be trained in operating on the bridge.

Finally, two weeks prior to opening, as TriMet has done each time when opening a new MAX line, simulated revenue service will start. During this time, trains will operate for 14 days on the new line as if in service, but without accepting passengers. This process tests all of the systems and signals along the route to ensure they are working on opening day and allows everyone to be well-rehearsed prior to opening the light rail line.

The SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek MAX Station and Park & Ride lies just south of where SE Tacoma Street in Portland crosses over McLoughlin Boulevard/Hwy 99E.
Construction continues at all of the eight new MAX stations east of the Willamette River. Above is the SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek MAX Station and Park & Ride in SE Portland.

As construction and operator training continue over the next 15 months, you can follow the project’s progress with videos, photos and construction updates by “liking” the project page on Facebook. We’re also on TwitterFlickr, and YouTube.

We’re looking forward to seeing you on opening day—September 12, 2015!


Rob Barnard

Rob Barnard

I am the Director of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project.

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Meet our 2014 Operators of the Year!

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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