Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Renewing our bus fleet

If you ride often, you know we have some old buses. The kind that make you feel like you’ve time-traveled to 1995, when multi-colored cloth patterns were kinda cool, the Blazers played in Memorial Coliseum and Portland’s own Everclear released “Santa Monica” to the world.

That era is fading away, however, as we’ve put 326 new buses on the road the past four years. All of our new buses have amenities such as vinyl seats, easy-to-read LED signs, better interior and exterior lighting and onboard GPS (which improves the accuracy of our TransitTracker) — features lacking in some of our older buses. And our entire active fleet now has essentials like air conditioning and low floors for easy boarding. (We’ll keep some of the older buses as backup.)

This past February, the first batch of 77 new diesel-powered buses (the 3500 series) took to the streets. By the end of the month, they’ll all be in service.

Our buses are getting more efficient in fuel consumption and emissions, led by eight hybrid buses, four of which have all-electric capabilities. We’ve also tested some fully electric buses, technology that’s quickly advancing and certainly something we’re considering for the future.

And we’re not finished. (Not even close.)

We’re getting 151 new buses in the next three years, which will help keep the average age of our fleet to an industry-standard eight years. This way, your next ride is less likely to remind you of the time before flip phones.

Learn more about the newest buses in our fleet

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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Meet Justina Carrillo, Our Part-Time Bus Operator of the Year

As a TriMet bus operator for the past 13 years, Justina Carrillo has had her share of good days and challenging ones.

One day was downright bizarre.

“I had one passenger tell me how to rob a bank,” she says. “He said ‘Just remember, these are the keys so you won’t do hard time.’ I laughed so hard.”

Another day that stands out for Carrillo happened just last month — her co-workers voted her as the 2016 Part-Time Bus Operator of the Year.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” says Carrillo, who typically drives Line 33-McLoughlin/King Rd and Line 85-Swan Island. “It surprised me. People are still coming up and saying they saw me on the website. It’s very nice to be recognized.”

Carrillo, no doubt, deserved the award. She’s already collected 21 National Safe Driving Awards — meaning no preventable accidents in 21 years of driving — and six Superior Performance Awards, earned by working at least 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or suspensions.

The secret to her success?

“It’s about safety first and trying not to take everything personally,” she says.

Getting started

Growing up in SE Portland, Carrillo’s parents always used TriMet. She even recalls riding buses on TriMet’s predecessor, the defunct Rose City Transit Company, as a young child.

“It’s funny that I drive professionally because my parents never drove,” she says.

After her parents passed away, Carrillo needed “something to do.” She started as an operator and trainer for LIFT, our paratransit service.

She spent 11 years at LIFT and was looking for a change. Another colleague persuaded her to apply to become a bus operator. It wasn’t the smoothest transition.

“At first, I didn’t like it,” Carrillo says. “My co-worker said to give it six months. She was right, because after six months, I really started to like it. It was like a second hat.”

Twenty-four years later, she’s still with us.

Justina Carrillo (3 of 3)

Pastimes

Carrillo has a life outside TriMet, which usually involves catching salmon or trout in the Columbia River.

“I’m not into catch and release,” she says. “I want to keep it if I spend all that time out there.”

She also tends to her vegetable garden where she grows tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers.

One of her favorite pastimes is bingo, although it’s lost its popularity over the years. Carrillo says there used to be a dozen or so bingo halls all over town. Now there’s just a few left, including her favorite, DAV Bingo, in NE Portland.

No stopping her

Five years down the road, Carrillo envisions being in the same career. She may go full-time, but really appreciates the flexibility of her part-time schedule, which is 30 hours per week.

Her shifts go by fast because she enjoys what she does (despite the occasional advice on how to rob a bank).

“I like the people on my route,” she says. “I also love seeing the city and seeing the changes going on in the Portland area.”

We’re hiring bus operators! It’s $15/hour to start, and $28/hour after three years, with great benefits (including a 401K plan)! On average, part-time operators have the opportunity to go full-time after six months.
Interested? Apply today!
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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Settling down: Jeffery Evans’ winding journey to MAX Operator of the Year

OOY 2016 - jeffrey

Jeffery Evans was in a rut. He was working as a revenue officer for the IRS in Colorado, collecting delinquent tax returns.

“It’s a lot worse than it sounds,” he says.

He kept at it because of the good wages. The stress, though, took its toll.

One day, his wife suggested he quit. So he did. Together they traveled the world — Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand and all over North America.

Eventually, their travel funds ran dry and reality set in — they had to return to work. But they were not keen on Colorado, or where they had met and lived previously, the Bay Area.

“We rented a truck and drove up I-5,” Evans recalls. “We had no idea where we were going to go, but knew we wanted to check out Portland and Seattle.”

They never made it to Seattle. The couple stumbled upon a condo in Lake Oswego’s Mountain Park community and quickly began their second careers, his wife with the State of Oregon and Evans, with TriMet as a bus operator.

Train buff

He spent seven years operating a bus, but he always had his eye on MAX Light Rail. His love for trains goes back to his early childhood days in Kankakee, Illinois.

In the mid-1950s, his family had a small house near the main railroad line. Every afternoon, Evans’ mom would take him out into the yard to see “Harry the Choo Choo” engineer pull up and blow his whistle. Evans, about three years old at the time, would smile and wave. His dad began calling him “Box Car,” a nickname his brother revived when TriMet hired him as a MAX operator in 1998.

He’s paid it forward. He gets joy from seeing a child on a platform or sidewalk with their parents, giving an extra toot on the horn, or ring of the bell. “It always lifts me up,” he says. “It makes a good day that much better.”

His longevity and dedication to his profession has paid dividends as well. Just last month, TriMet bestowed upon him one of its highest honors — MAX Operator of the Year.

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MAX and bus operators qualify for this award based on outstanding driving records, customer service and attendance. Fellow operators vote for the winners.

“It was a feeling of excitement and shock,” he says when he first learned of the award. “It was like I was standing away watching myself, almost like an out-of-body experience.”

So long … and thanks for the memories

Coincidentally, a week after he became MAX Operator of the Year, Evans retired. He and his wife are leaving Oregon and building a house in Sedona, Arizona. They’ll move in next month.

He won’t quickly forget TriMet, however, where he made many great memories and friends. He enjoyed the independence his job brought, which allowed him to trade shifts with co-workers so he could take longer vacations.

As a bus operator, he fondly remembers driving an extra service bus and picking up three high school prom-bound couples whose limo had broken down on SW 5th and Washington. Evans picked up the kids, who were noticeably excited (and relieved), and cruised down NW 23rd with the prom-goers waving out the window to bystanders on the sidewalk. Once they got to Montgomery Park, the official yearbook photographer took photos of all the couples exiting the bus.

Also, earlier this year, he briefly appeared in a Siemens commercial filmed in Portland and Gresham, a process he enjoyed being a part of.

Final stop, Arizona

Evans is excited to explore Arizona’s wilderness on foot and motorcycle. He plans to backpack through the Grand Canyon and Sycamore Canyon. He looks forward to cruising on his motorcycle down to Baja and central Mexico.

Jeff Evans

Will he miss Oregon? The short answer: Yes.

“We have many friends we’ve made over the years here,” he says. “As it turns out, the best time of year to visit Oregon is the best time of year to be out of Arizona. I envision about this time every year loading up one of our vehicles with camping gear, heading to Southern California and driving up coast. We’ll hang out in Oregon until I see the first rain cloud, and get back to Arizona.”

It appears Evans is ready to grow new roots in the desert.

“I think Sedona is going to be our final stop — this place is perfect for us.”

Interested in a career with TriMet? Apply today!
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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2016 Operators of the Year

Each year, three operators are chosen as the TriMet Operators of the Year. The winners are selected by their colleagues and qualify for the annual award based on their driving, attendance and customer service records.

Here are 2016’s Operators of the Year:

Justina Carrillo, “Mini-Run” Operator of the Year

Justina lives in Southeast Portland and has worked as a part-time, or “Mini-Run,” bus operator since 2003. She’s received 21 National Safe Driving Awards, which mean zero preventable accidents in 21 years, and six Superior Performance Awards (awarded each time an operator drives for 1,960 hours without any preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or suspensions). Thank you, Justina!

Jeffery Evans, MAX Operator of the Year

Jeffery started as a bus operator in 1991 and moved to MAX Light Rail in 1998. The Beaverton resident has earned 11 Superior Performance Awards and has been chosen twice as Rail Operator of the Quarter — once in 2002 and again in 2015. (He also briefly appeared in a Siemens commercial earlier this year!) You rock, Jeffery!

Alex Ohly, Bus Operator of the Year

Alex has been a TriMet bus operator since 1990. The Lake Oswego resident has earned 21 National Safe Driving Awards, 15 Superior Performance Awards, three Ace awards for helping his Honored Citizen riders — not to mention, nine straight years of perfect attendance! Alex is also a Master Operator, a title given to operators who earn at least 10 Superior Performance Awards. Way to go, Alex!

Congratulations Justina, Jeffery and Alex — Thanks for keeping us all moving!

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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The Plan for First Avenue

We’ve made a big fuss about how the upcoming First Avenue improvements could make for a difficult commute over the next couple weeks, and you’re probably wondering what on earth could possibly create such chaos.

When we say improving, we’re talking about demolishing, replacing, flushing, installing, repairing and upgrading — below, you’ll find insight into what exactly we’ll be doing over the next couple weeks.

Early in the morning on Sunday, May 8, crews will begin saw-cutting around the portions of track that are being removed on First Avenue. Work has already started at Elmonica, our rail maintenance facility in Beaverton, to prepare the rails that will replace these sections.

Rails are being prepared for installation along First Avenue.
Rails are being prepared for installation along First Avenue.

Once the cutting is done, we’ll begin demolition of the trackway under the Morrison Bridge. This involves removal of rails, switch machines, wooden ties and salvageable cobblestone from around the switches. (Why that last one? The City of Portland has required us to replace the cobblestone when we’re done.) A few days in, the same demo work happens at NW 1st & Couch. Once the prep work is done at both locations, we’ll install new materials like track, switch machines, conduit, rebar and a new isolation membrane that guards against stray currents.

We'll be replacing track and switches like this — which are part of the original, 30-year-old MAX alignment — along First Avenue.
We’ll be replacing track and switches like this — part of the original, 30-year-old MAX alignment — along First Avenue.

Once everything is in place, we’ll align the rails to assure they are the right distance apart and check their vertical and horizontal placement. Then the concrete will be poured, first under the Morrison Bridge and later at Couch.

During the second week, we’ll begin the third major project near Skidmore Fountain. The curved section of rail here wears quicker than straight track and will be replaced. This part of the project should take about five days.

The curved section of track near the Skidmore Fountain will be replaced.
The curved section of track near the Skidmore Fountain will be replaced.

Final cleanup of the trackway should be complete by Saturday, May 21, but surfacing on First Avenue — including putting those cobblestones back in — could continue through May 27.

While all this track work is going on, some of our other crews will have a good opportunity to make some other improvements along First Avenue — a sort of silver lining to an otherwise very disruptive project. Maintenance crews will be able to flush and improved drainage under the Morrison Bridge (we don’t need to tell you why this is important), track drains will be cleaned, hardware on the overhead wire will be replaced and the feeder breaker at the Morrison Bridge substation will be retrofitted.

While track work is being done, other crews will have a chance to make repairs.
While track work is being done, other crews will have a chance to make repairs.

We’ll also be repairing and improving the surface alongside the rails that will benefit all street users. (Cyclists who make the bumpy crossing at Couch will be especially happy.) These projects may be supplementary to the track work but they’re critical to the bigger picture along First Avenue: We’re going all-in on these improvements, because that’s the smartest way to give our riders more reliable service into the future.

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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Hop Fastpass Will Change the Way You Pay Fare — If You Want It To

When it makes its debut next year, Hop Fastpass™ will change the way many of us ride transit. It will be a convenient option for lots of riders, allowing them to pay their way toward a daily or monthly pass, protect their balance even if they lose their card, and automatically reload funds so they’re never stuck without fare. But rest assured, you can always pay with cash, too.

We’re introducing Hop Fastpass as another option for TriMet, C-TRAN and Portland Streetcar riders — one that many have been dreaming of for years. (Electronic fare systems have been hugely successful in leading transit cities around the world.)

We’ve designed Hop Fastpass to be inclusive and accessible, but you don’t have to use it. You’ll still be able to pay with cash or purchase fares at ticket vending machines or on board buses, just like today. We want to make this clear, especially after seeing some inaccurate information floating around lately.

We do have programs to benefit low-income riders

The benefits of affordable transit are undeniable, and we’re on board. We lowered the cost of Youth fares to $1.25 back in 2014, which helps make transit more affordable for students and low-income families.  We also have $1.5 million dedicated to two programs that provide free or reduced-cost fares to non-profits and community-based organizations that serve low-income individuals and families. These groups are then able to offer fares as part of a suite of services for their clients.

For the many low-income families and individuals who ride frequently, Hop Fastpass offers a great advantage over paper tickets: the pay-as-you-go pass. This allows riders to pay towards a 1-Month Pass in increments as small as $5 – once they’ve paid the equivalent of a monthly pass, the rest of the rides are free that month. This eliminates the upfront cost of a pass while making its significant discount more accessible.

We’re (really) expanding our retail network

Right now, riders can purchase fare from about 130 retailers throughout the service area; with Hop Fastpass, there will be about 500 fare outlets. In the future, Hop Fastpass fare can also be loaded online, using a smartphone app, by phone and at our ticket offices.

And remember: You can always pay fare in cash on buses and at MAX stations.

Each rider needs their own card, but one person can manage multiple accounts

Lots of riders travel in groups, like families or classes, which is why Hop Fastpass will allow one rider to manage multiple accounts. Each rider age 7 and older will need their own card to use Hop Fastpass (just like each needs separate fare today).

Plus, there’s a big benefit to using individual cards: It will allow us to offer pay-as-you-go passes. Pay for two 2½-Hour Tickets in a day and ride free until the end of service; pay the equivalent of a monthly pass in one month and ride free until the next month. This extends the value of passes to more riders, without the upfront cost.

To kick things off, we’ll be giving out about 200,000 free cards, many of which will be available to low-income riders. Otherwise there will be a one-time $3 charge for a new Hop Fastpass card, which is designed to last for up to 10 years. The low card fee (which, when taking advantage of balance protection available with a Hop Fastpass card, is less than the cost of losing a single 1-Day Pass) will help us maintain a wide-reaching and convenient retail network.

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You’ll know when you’re running low

The theme of Hop Fastpass is convenience, and that means not having to worry about your account balance. The easiest thing to do is set it and forget it — register your account and activate automatic reloading, so you’re never stuck without fare. But even if you don’t do this, you can always check your balance online, using the app or by phone. And if your balance is running low, you’ll get an alert when you tap on board. And if you don’t have money on your Hop Fastpass card, you can always pay with cash on the bus or at the train station.

Your personal information remains private

Hop Fastpass users’ credit or debit card information will be assigned secure, randomly generated alphanumeric tokens. Cybersource, owned by Visa, will handle all the payment processing for Hop Fastpass and will marry the digital tokens with the corresponding credit or debit card numbers.

Your personal information is safe, too — in fact, we’ll allow you to register your Hop Fastpass account using a four-digit security PIN that you create. We’ll tally the taps on your card to make sure you’re charged the correct fare and to cap your fares once you’ve paid the equivalent of a daily or monthly pass.

We want to know what you think

We know our riders want an electronic fare system, and we want Hop Fastpass to work for as many people as possible. We’ve welcomed public input every step of the way, and we’ll continue to share our progress and listen to riders before, during and after the system makes its debut.

Send us a note or sign up for email updates about Hop Fastpass (especially if you’re interested in the chance to become a beta tester) or to learn about upcoming public meetings and hearings.

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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Making MAX better will take work, time and patience

The oldest section of the MAX Light Rail system has been providing service to TriMet riders for 30 years — and it’s showing its age. So we’re tackling important necessary updates and improvements that will create better — and more reliable — service.

Improving on-time performance

In the past few years, riders have seen MAX delays and disruptions climb. Some of those delays are because of mechanical issues with sections of track called switches, problems with the electronics that operate signals and other complications with elements of the MAX system. As part of our concentrated efforts to improve MAX on-time performance, we will be replacing and upgrading some trackway materials and elements. In addition to making the system more reliable, many of the improvements will allow us to remove precautionary orders where trains run slower in specific areas.

A system well traveled

Before we take a look forward, let’s take a look back. The first section of the MAX system opened on September 5, 1986. Since then:

  • 666.4 million trips have been taken on MAX
  • 73.9 million miles have been traveled by MAX
  • 367,000 miles, on average, are traveled each month by all MAX trains combined
  • 13,000 miles, on average, are traveled each weekday by all MAX trains combined

It is a system well traveled and now it’s time for targeted major replacements and upgrades.

max-improvement-slide (5 of 7)

Taking MAX into the future

The MAX system is made up of track, switches, overhead catenary (power wire) system, traction power substations, signals and communication systems. Upcoming replacements and upgrades will touch all of them. With MAX trains running about 22 ½ hours a day, it is not possible to do all the work necessary in 1½-hour segments. So our focus is to be strategic and lessen the affect on our riders as much as possible. But the projects will affect you and require your patience, understanding and involvement, possibly even altering how and when you ride. The improvements will lead to MAX disruptions — some service impacts may be a day, others a few weeks in duration.

Here’s a look at some of the major work being planned to make MAX better:

1st Ave MAX Improvements (May 8–21, 2016)

The 1st Ave MAX improvements combine three projects into one. Crews will replace switches — sections of track that allow trains to move from one set of tracks to another — on 1st Avenue near SW Morrison and near NW Couch. They’ll replace wooden ties and other elements under and next to those tracks with updated, longer-lasting materials. At the same time, crews will replace rail in the Skidmore Fountain area. Rails wear over time and this section along 1st Avenue is part of the original MAX alignment in use for three decades. The construction will make it necessary to adjust MAX service, including reducing the number of trains running on the system. We’ll be talking more in the coming weeks about how this will affect your MAX trips during the project.

Rose Quarter TC Improvements (Aug. 21–Sept. 3, 2016)

Later this year, work moves to another of the oldest sections of the MAX system — the Rose Quarter Transit Center area. We’ll be replacing switches as well as realigning the track just east of the transit center, which will require moving poles that hold up the overhead power wire and replacing the signal system, among other work. As with the 1st Ave MAX Improvements, MAX service will need to be adjusted during this project.

SW 11th Ave/Steel Bridge Improvements (2017)

Coming in 2017, we expect two more big projects. During one, crews will replace switches, install new rail and reconstruct the track bed at SW 11th Avenue in Downtown Portland, where the original MAX alignment ended. In a separate project, we expect to begin making improvements to switches, signals and the track across the Steel Bridge.

There are other projects in the works, such as:

  • A four-year replacement of overhead power contact wire from Cleveland Ave in Gresham to Lloyd Center.
  • Upgrade and repair platform areas at Gresham City Hall and Washington Park stations.
  • A multi-year effort to design and upgrade the oldest elevators on the MAX system.

We have an aging system and we have work to do to take MAX into the future. It won’t be easy and we’ll be asking for your patience and understanding during the projects, but the projects will improve the system and your ride.

What we’ve already accomplished

Our Maintenance of Way crews are always busy performing maintenance and improvement projects. Here’s a few recent projects completed:

Doug Kelsey

Doug Kelsey

As chief operating officer, I oversee our transportation, maintenance and information technology divisions. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family and being active outdoors, especially cycling. I'm a huge basketball fan, and I'm proud to be a co-founder of one of Canada's largest high school tournaments.

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