Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Victor Ornelas becomes first MAX operator to reach “Gold Grand Master” status

Gold Grand Master Operator Victor Ornelas

Gold Grand Master Operator Victor Ornelas

Victor Ornelas recently became the first MAX operator ever to be awarded the distinction of “Gold Grand Master” Operator. He is one of only four operators to achieve this status.

This honor is part of our Master Operator Program, which is designed to recognize bus and rail operators who achieve overall excellence in their duties as professional drivers. Victor has completed more than 58,800 superior driving hours.

This is no small accomplishment. To attain this milestone you would have to drive 6.7 years nonstop. He has 27closing in on 28years of safe driving with excellent attendance.

This award is truly an honor. I didn’t set a goal to become a Gold Grand Master, I just showed up every day and did the job the best I could.

Victor is a seasoned operator who has had some close calls. Ornelas recounted one moment that has stuck with him over the years. While stopped at the Lloyd Center/NE 11th Ave MAX Station, some kids were playing around on the platform as riders were boarding. After the doors closed, Victor prepared to pull out of the station. Transit-MallJust as he began to roll, a teen was pushed by friends between the MAX cars. Fortunately, Victor was alert to the potential hazard. He secured his train and saw that the young woman had fallen between the cars. His attention to his surroundings and driving skills likely saved her life.

Victor and his wife of 34 years, Marilyn, enjoy traveling and spending time together when he’s not working. He joined TriMet right after his service in the Air Force. He was stationed out of Fairchild in Spokane, Washington.

“I came to Portland and applied at TriMet and at the Post Office,” says Victor. “I went to both interviews and TriMet won the draw, thought I would give it a try. Just think, I could’ve been your postman!”

Forest Grove makes investments to improve bike access to transit

Forest Grove bike shelters at 19th and Pacific U

Covered bike parking keeps your bike dry during the rainy season while you hop on the bus or train to finish your trip. Pictured here is the sheltered bike parking near Pacific University on Line 57.

If you live, work, or study just a little too far away from the bus stop or train station to walk, biking to transit is a great option to consider. If there’s room, you can bring your bike with you on board, but often demand is high and bike parking comes to the rescue. Parking your bike at the stop or station allows you to complete the rest of your trip on transit hassle-free without always watching after or worrying about your bike.

Forest Grove bike shelters 19th and B

Covered bike parking at 19th Avenue and B Street

We are very happy to highlight the city of Forest Grove’s efforts in providing high quality covered bike parking at three locations along Line 57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove in Forest Grove.

Forest Grove applied for grant funding for these three bike parking installations through Metro’s Regional Travel Options (RTO) grant program. This program aims to increase the awareness of non-single occupancy vehicle travel options such as biking, walking, transit, ridesharing, telecommuting or working compressed work weeks.

To accomplish these goals, the RTO program provides strategic investments that contribute to economic, environmental and socio-economic health and prosperity for the region. Through this successful grant award, costs for the project were shared between Metro and the city of Forest Grove.

Covered bike parking at 19th Avenue and 19th Street

Covered bike parking at 19th Avenue and 19th Street

We love to see our regional partners making investments in improving access to transit, which helps us to build a better system and allows safe and convenient connections for riders.


Behind-the-scenes at the TriMet Ticket Office

Georgea Edwards and Erin Block

Customer Service Representatives Georgea Edwards and Erin Block assist a rider at the TriMet Ticket Office at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

It’s fitting that Georgea Edwards and Erin Block work in Oregon’s most visited public space, Pioneer Courthouse Square—also known as “Portland’s Living Room.”

For many TriMet riders, Georgea, Erin and their colleagues are like family. They are two members of a Customer Service team that staffs the TriMet Ticket Office, which is adjacent to Pioneer Square’s fountain. Housed there for more than 25 years, it remains a vital resource for transit riders.

“TriMet is often the only lifeline that many of our riders have,” Erin says. “I take great pride in the work I did as a Trip Planner [in TriMet's Customer Service call center] and feel even more privileged to be able to help the same people in person now that I work at the TriMet Ticket Office.”

I take pride in the work I did as a Trip Planner and feel even more privileged to be able to help the same people in person now that I work at the TriMet Ticket Office,” says Erin.

While TriMet offers riders options like a mobile ticketing app and ticket vending machines to buy tickets and passes, the ticket office maintains a steady customer base that visit every month.

DSC_3694“We are part of their regular routine,” says Georgea. “We work with them to update their Honored Citizen identifications cards, help them plan trips and make sure they get their monthly passes.”

Since TriMet opened the ticket office in 1984, the space has seen a few renovations. Previous iterations included the Lost & Found (now at 4012 SE 17th Ave.) and a bike rack where cyclists could practice loading their bikes on buses. But the core mission of the office has remained the same: selling tickets and passes, and helping riders plan their trips.

“The most noticeable change for us was when we added the 30-Day Pass,” Georgea says. “This was a big help to riders who may not have been able to stop in on the first of the month or didn’t have the resources for a monthly payment at the start of each month. Now they get the discounts of a monthly pass no matter when they purchase the pass.”

Her recommendation is to buy a 50-cent vinyl sleeve to protect the pass (available for purchase at the ticket office). “This will help ensure the expiration date doesn’t wear off before the pass expires,” she says.

Nowadays, Georgea and Erin see a steady stream of riders every day of the week instead of huge lines when monthly passes go on sale. That said, they still suggest patience for those who are looking for a quick visit.

“The vast majority of riders visiting the ticket office are Honored Citizens and they come to us because they need our assistance,” Georgea says. “Sometimes processing their requests takes a little longer, and that’s okay. It’s why we are here.”

In 2012, TriMet moved its ticket outlet sales program to Pioneer Square. “We process requests for more than 130 vendors in the region who sell TriMet tickets to their customers,” Erin explains. “We have outlets that have regular standing orders and then others that submit requests as needed. We are distributing more than $3 million in tickets each month.”

Next time you’re down at Pioneer Square during the day, stop by and say hi. Georgea, Erin and the rest of the ticket office staff will be happy to help you!

The TriMet Ticket Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Note: Questions about citations and exclusions are handled by the courts, not the ticket office staff.

Public transit brings the world to us as we ride

Lenny Anderson

Photo: Jonathan Maus

Maybe it all goes back to an admonition from my late father to his teenage son when the latter asked for the car keys way back in the ‘60s: “What’s wrong with public transportation!”

That was not a question!  As kids we rode the Blue bus into Portland from Multnomah, but it did not get you to many other places in Southwest at the time. We had our bikes for that and later the use of the family car, despite the admonition.

Why public transit? It’s where we can be a part of the “polis,” (Greek for “city”) and experience our community at its most diverse and stimulating…

Getting out of Portland really showed me what public transportation or transit can do. A spring and summer in Athens, Greece, after high school introduced me to “big city” transit: the trolley bus to the beaches south of Athens or the old subway to Pireaus where you caught the ferry to Agina or Hydra for a day’s swimming.

And then Paris… where the Metro is part of what makes Paris Paris!

Followed by college in Chicago where we used the “L” and the “IC” to get to the Loop, and finally when I got to the Bay Area, it was the SF Muni (N Judah streetcar to the beach!) and the brand new BART system under the Bay.

Later, travels in South America and Europe where a lot was to be seen from transit: the “Mann” express bus to Mira Flores in Lima; the “Bongee” (streetcar) to Santa Teresa and the 554 bus in Rio; Frankfurt’s S-Bahns, U-Bahns and Strassenbahns to name a few.

Then a return to Portland in the mid 1980s just as the first MAX line opened… Riding it was just like the Strassenbahn in Frankfurt where my wife and I were married in 1985.

But it was the first Gulf War that finally got me out of my little BMW 1602 and onto the TriMet buses to my job on Swan Island from NW PDX. I was boycotting Big Oil! But three buses?? And it took me three times as long than the drive, until I recalculated my morning routine.

Drive: coffee, read the paper, 10 minute walk, then 12 minute drive for a total of at least 45 minutes.

Bus: Walk to the bus stop, read the paper, bus to Rose Quarter Transit Center, practicing German with a fellow rider, read the paper some more, then the bus north and a walk down the hill or a wait for that 3rd bus to Swan Island for a total of 50 minutes! A wash.

Lenny takes in the moment at his surprise retirement party.

Lenny takes in the moment at his surprise retirement party.

And then letters to TriMet and finally five minutes of face time with then General Manager Tom Walsh. I said: “10,000 people working on Swan Island, 10 minutes from MAX! Why no direct bus service?” And a couple of years later, TriMet proposed a new line, the 85-Swan Island, running nonstop from MAX to the Island! Yes!

In ‘98 we got C-TRAN to run an express bus to Swan Island, the “191,” but that’s another story.

Then came the Swan Island Evening Shuttle in 2000 and Interstate MAX and all day 85 service in 2004. And the Swan Island TMA (Transportation Management Association) was off and running.
Why public transit? It’s where we can be a part of the “polis,” (Greek for “city”) and experience our community at its most diverse and stimulating… All colors, all ages and a lot of different languages. We can “bathe in the masses,” have a random conversation with a fellow rider, and feel a part of the larger community that is really what makes this a great place!

And as more of the world discovers our little secret, public transit brings the world to us as we ride.

Northeast Portland resident Lenny Anderson is retiring this month from his post as the executive director of the Swan Island Business Association. He’s a long-time advocate for transit in the region. 

How to name a bridge


Chet Orloff is the Director Emeritus of the Oregon Historical Society and a 22-year member of the Oregon Geographic Names Board. He has also founded and edited the journal Western Legal History, and served as Senior Editor of the Oregon Historical Quarterly. Mr. Orloff is the chair of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge Naming Committee, which is asking the public to help name the new transit bridge over the Willamette, which will open in 2015. 


OK, people of the region, what are we looking for when it comes to naming the new bridge over the Willamette River?

We have another three weeks to get more names up on the chalkboard for consideration for naming the bridge. We’re looking for names that not only connect to the natural and human history of this place over the past 10,000+ years (yep, that’s right), but will work for people of this region in 100, 200, and 300 years from now.

So, time to put aside the frivolous, the cute, the immediate. Think big, think outside your own and our own box of “now.” We have a bigger assignment: naming something whose name will last well beyond our own time.

Is the name inspirational? Not just because it inspires us at this moment, but will inspire people 100, 200, 300(!) years from now. Yes, that is the challenge.

So, when you’re thinking about a name, think about its origin. Where did the name come from? Does it reflect the fuller history of this place? (This “place” being not just part of Portland, or Washington/Multnomah/Clackamas County, or this bend of the Columbia, but part of all of this tri-county region.) Does it reflect the stories of the people who have lived here, for 10,000 years, for the last 200 years, for the past 50 years? Yes, we have to dig deep and not simply go for the “obvious,” the popular, the name(s) we know because we read the newspapers and magazines. We have to go deeper than that.

Is the name inspirational? Not just because it inspires us at this moment, but will inspire people 100, 200, 300(!) years from now. Yes, that is the challenge.

How do we do that?

Well, think about the names of places that have lasted. Why have those names lasted? It’s not easy. (Remember, this bridge is designed to make it through the “Big One”—the subduction earthquake that will rattle all our fillings.)

Does the name reflect how the new bridge connects us as a community? Does it reflect such other themes as “people,” “connections,” “bridging,” “the river,” “the river bank” and the “people and villages” (of the native Multnomah and Clackamas Indians) of people who have occupied our region for thousands of years?

Yes, we want to think about the long term, not just the ephemeral and recent occupants.

Think history, geology, geography, flora and fauna.

Let’s get creative, while being grounded (pun intended!) in what this place is built on (stone, soil, water, plants).

Who really mattered here? Not just the briefly interesting, creative, popular, productive, influential, or impressive. Who truly affected this place and all of us who have lived here?

And, who was local? Yes, that’s a challenge. But, there are a few folks who mattered. People whose influence affects us all, and will do so for generations into the future. If you don’t know who they are, it’s time to take the books off the shelf and do a bit more study.

And, think about how the name will roll off the tongue.

But, mostly, think outside the box of the ordinary, the “right now.” We want to give this bridge a name that will last long beyond our own time. That’s what we’re looking for.

Think you have the perfect name for the new bridge? You can submit your name ideas until 5 p.m. on December 1, 2013. 

Chet Orloff
Chair, Portland Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Bridge Naming Committee

Transit apps are plentiful in Portland, thanks to TriMet’s open data

John McBride's was one of the first browser-based transit apps developed using TriMet's open data.

In 2008, John McBride developed, one of the first browser-based transit apps to use TriMet’s open data.

We’re lucky to live in Portland.

Someone at TriMet had the foresight eight years ago to realize that most of us would become umbilically connected to our smartphones… And that there was a whole community of open source developers here in the Portland area willing and able to “show off their stuff” by developing useful applications using data supplied by TriMet… And that these developers would do the work for free! Amazing.

How could they have known?

I have no idea, but the results were astounding. Rather than paying in-house developers, or hiring expensive consultants to develop apps, TriMet simply made its schedule and arrival data available to anyone willing to sign up. The developers did the rest, pretty much on their own, with occasional support for the folks at TriMet.

I shudder to think how much it would have cost TriMet to develop nearly 60 unique transit applications. In fact, I don’t think TriMet could have purchased the kind of creativity exhibited in these apps at any price. There’s a difference between work done for money and work done for love. And trust me, these developers work because they love what they do.

When I developed, my objective was to create something simple and reliable just for me. Lots of other folks use it, but it was created for my particular commuting situation.

Each new app builds on existing ideas. That’s the beauty of open source development: Developers share ideas. The focus is on the end product.

Fast-forward 5 years. I still use my app at least twice a day, both on my desktop and my iPhone. But in all candor, my app was quickly eclipsed by other developers going beyond simple arrival information. Each new app builds on existing ideas. That’s the beauty of open source development: Developers share ideas. The focus is on the end product.

I attended the INIT TriMet Open Data Series last Wednesday and learned about all kinds of cool things that might happen as a result of TriMet’s recent upgrade to INIT equipment (for tracking its fleet of buses). For example, we may soon see apps that:

  • tell riders how full the arriving bus is and perhaps advise them to wait for the next bus
  • tell riders a bus is going to skip a stop because it’s full
  • give riders historical arrival information for a given stop so they can choose which stops to use

I’m sure we’re going to see lots of new map functionality, too, including animated buses moving on a map. And of course, there will be lots of things I can’t even imagine right now.

During the meeting, a representative from INIT added that if a bus has a sensor, they can make the data available. That’s when the brainstorming started… A sensor for bike rack availability? A sensor that tells riders the temperature inside the bus? Crowdsourcing data? Imagine being able to tweet your fellow passengers! Oh boy. Let me have at it.

The sky’s the limit!

Like I said, we’re lucky to live in Portland.

About the author: John McBride is a Portland area resident and daily TriMet commuter who has been living here almost 18 years.  Being a New York City transplant, he knows a thing or two about mass transit.  John describes himself as a compulsive hacker whose daytime job is crunching numbers for the planning department of a local credit union. He’ll tell you he loves all things “tech”—especially things with bright colors and blinking lights. John developed, one of the first browser-based transit apps in Portland and winner of the CivicApps for Greater Portland for “Most Useful App.” 

Behind the scenes on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project

Jake2 (2)

Jake Devilliers is a Superintendent of Civil Work with Stacy and Witbeck. He and his crew have been working on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project from OMSI to SE Powell Boulevard since May 2012.

We recently stopped by a construction site along the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project to learn what it’s like to build the region’s newest light rail line.

Jake Devilliers works as a Superintendent of Civil Work with Stacy and Witbeck, the prime contractor on the project’s West and East segments. A member of Operating Engineers Local 701, Jake and his crew have been working on the stretch of the project from OMSI on the east bank of the Willamette River to SE Powell Boulevard since May 2012.

Tell us about your current work on the project.

I’ve been working on the Powell Boulevard on-ramp from SE 17th Avenue. It has been an ongoing process but we are nearly complete.

How long have you been working on the project?

I started on the West Segment of the project in January 2012. Then, in May 2012, I was transferred to the East Segment.

What are some of the other areas on which you’ve worked?

The crew I work with started near OMSI and around the new SE Water Avenue. Once we finished the roadwork at Water Avenue we moved in between the SE Grand Avenue overpass and SE 8th Avenue. Then we moved to SE 11th and 12th avenues. Now we’re at SE Powell Boulevard and Gideon Street.

What is a typical day like for you?

The day starts with stretching exercises that help the crew stay limber during their physical workday. Then we go over start cards. A start card is a form that we fill out each morning that identifies hazards, and how to reduce them. It also reviews working conditions like weather and any project changes from the day before. We also review JHAs, which are job hazard analyses. Then, we start excavating and placing rock for the light rail lines. Coordinating and planning is a big part of my day. I’m always looking ahead and communicating with other crews and subcontractors.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced while working on the project?

A lot of the challenges I face are traffic and pedestrians. Trying to reconstruct Portland’s major intersections is very difficult. Always having a safe route plan for vehicles and pedestrians while still getting the work done can be challenging.

What is your favorite part about working on the project?

My favorite part is doing a very challenging piece of work, getting everything done and seeing how good the road and new sidewalks and track crossings look.

You’re an expert in building roads. How did you learn that trade?

When I first started, I had a boss who would explain things and teach me how to build roads. The key is, know every step along the way, from start to finish. I make sure we are building quality roads that I can be proud of. I learned how to build roads by being aware of my surroundings.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

All my time goes to my wife and son. When I am not working we stay busy going fishing, riding bikes, camping and hunting. One of my family’s favorite places to camp is on the east slope of Mt. St. Helens.