Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

How We’re Speeding Up Buses

Sometimes a small change in our roads can have a big impact on how fast we all get home.

Recently, we’ve been working with PBOT and ODOT to improve intersections where buses (and cars) frequently get stuck in traffic. Here’s what we did at SW 4th Avenue and Harrison in Portland:

Before we worked with PBOT to tweak this intersection, left-turning cars would block buses from continuing east towards Naito. Just one turning car could cause delays to the buses that travel this busy corridor — including lines 35, 36, 54, 56 and 99.

But we saw an easy fix: Create a turn lane for eastbound traffic. Now, turning cars don’t block traffic. In the months since PBOT made this change, delays during the afternoon rush hour on those lines have dropped by nearly 20%. Small change, big impact.

We’ve worked with our partners to roll out similar improvements at nine other places across the region, from SE Stark at 82nd, to NE Holman at Airport Way, to the westbound approaches to the Hawthorne Bridge, and more. And there are dozens more intersections that we think can be improved. Think of these as the “low-hanging fruit” for speeding up buses and cars around our region.

This is just one small way we’re working to make transit — and the Portland region — better.          

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Watch: What happens behind the scenes during a MAX disruption?

What’s happening on the ground when MAX stops running and our construction crews descend on a section of track?

Lots, it turns out. Let’s look at one stretch of tracks between SW Adams and S 1st during our recent Hillsboro MAX improvement project.

In the weeks before the disruption started, we removed most of the concrete around the rails. While the exposed rails — also known by the Halloween-appropriate term “skeleton rails” — look dangerous, they’re safe to run trains over.

Once the disruption started, we were able to cut the rails out.

With the rails gone, we were left with a shallow empty pit.

From there we laid the new rails and switches…

…welded them together and secured them to the ground.

We poured the new concrete…

…and then we ran test trains to make sure the new switches and rails were safe.

Here’s a time lapse covering the time from the last train before the disruption until the first test train going over the new rails.

This was far from the only work we did the past two weeks. It was a lot to accomplish and we couldn’t have done it without your patience!

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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This Bus Platform Has Room for Bikes, Pedestrians and More

Last week, we tested a full-scale model of a new type of bus platform; one that accommodates bikes, pedestrians and 60-foot articulated buses.

We expect to have these extra-long buses running along Division Street, between Gresham and Downtown Portland, as soon as 2022. For this test, we borrowed a Vine bus from our friends at C-TRAN.

The purpose of the platform is to allow buses to stop without having to pull over (and cross a bike lane) to the curb. So it’s designed to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and scooter-ers who are passing through — as well as bus riders who are waiting, boarding or disembarking. (People on bikes and scooters are required to stop when the bus pulls up to let riders on and off.)

The test involved people using the platform in different scenarios while technical experts, transportation advocates and accessibility advisors observed. The adjustable platform allowed us to test two- and four-foot “step-outs,” the space between the bus and bike lane. We also tested wayfinding signs that instructed bike and scooter riders to stop and wait for people to get on and off the bus.

The next step is to integrate the feedback from the test into the design for the 30 platform stations we want to install in East Portland.

Want to keep up with the Division Transit Project? Visit trimet.org/division

Brian Lum

Brian Lum

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. 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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Buses to the Rescue

If you need buses, and you need buses fast, Alex Ubiadas is who you call.

Whether you need to quickly evacuate a large number of people, like during 2017’s Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia Gorge, or you need a space to warm up first responders during a winter emergency, TriMet’s Emergency Manager is the person who can make it happen.

“We’re the only people in the area who can move lots of people in a short period of time,” says Alex, “This is not our primary mission, but as a taxpayer-funded public agency, we believe this an important role for us to play in our community.”

When something bad happens, people across the region know to contact Alex directly. If it’s a valid public emergency, and there are extra buses and operators available, he’ll coordinate with TriMet’s Operations Command Center to make sure the buses get where they need to go.

A common misconception is that the buses and operators being used for emergencies are being pulled off their regular runs, with TriMet’s service suffering as a result. “We always have extra buses and operators standing by in case of any issues, like if we need to replace MAX with shuttle buses, or a bus breaks down, or an operator calls in sick,” explains Alex. “As a last resort, we’ll pull some buses off Frequent Service lines to replace MAX during lengthy disruptions. But we only use our spare buses and drivers for responding to emergencies.”

Water and other supplies for Eagle Creek Fire evacuees

2017’s Eagle Creek Fire was one of the largest — and farthest flung — emergency operations Alex has helped coordinate. As the fire raced through the Gorge, thousands of residents needed to be evacuated. Even though the evacuation zones extended far beyond TriMet’s service area, several buses were sent to help shuttle people to shelters and to bring water and other supplies to the evacuees. “Because the fire moved so quickly, we only had a couple hours heads-up on that request. With the amount of people we transported and the distance from Portland, it was our largest emergency operation in recent memory.”

TriMet has also recently provided buses that helped evacuate people during the 2018 junkyard fire off NE Killingsworth Street. And in 2016, TriMet buses took children from their school near the NW 23rd Avenue gas explosion to a safe location where their parents could pick them up.

Beyond evacuations, TriMet will provide buses to help police departments with transportation when a large number of people have been arrested, such as during a riot. Alex will also help arrange for warming or cooling buses. “If there is a fire during the winter months, we’ll often provide a bus for firefighters to rest and warm themselves. Likewise, in extreme heat, we can provide buses to help cool first responders or other people. A few years ago there was a large outdoor festival that had a lot of people from vulnerable populations attending. The county director of emergency management asked if we could provide a bus to help cool people who were showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”

One thing Alex has yet to provide buses for — but is prepared for — is an earthquake. “We have plans to provide assistance for major emergencies, such as an earthquake. The Portland Transportation Recovery Plan provides for TriMet to use buses to potentially move people but also supplies to distribution points within the city,” says Alex.

“I love that we’re able to do this,” continues Alex. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

As part of National Preparedness Month, Alex encourages everybody to visit ready.gov to learn how they can prepare for a disaster.

Header photo courtesy KPAM News Talk 860 & Afternoon Northwest

 

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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What You Want In The Next Generation Of MAX Trains

In a few years, we’ll be sending our high-floor MAX trains — which have been rolling since MAX first opened in 1986 —  off into the sunset. We’ll miss our Type 1’s (you never forget your first love…), but we’re excited about their replacements, the Type 6’s. Evidently, so are you.

Earlier this year, we asked what features you wanted to see in our next generation of MAX cars. Your requests were diverse and interesting, and we noticed some common themes. While we can’t yet make any promises about what our new trains will include, your suggestions are being used to guide our planning.

Here are your most common requests:

More and better interior displays

We’re on board with you here — clear interior displays that tell you where you are and where you’re going are essential. For our Type 6 trains, we’re asking for an upgrade from our current LED displays to dynamic route maps and next-stop displays. Our hope is for high-definition displays that can show graphics.

Comfortable seating and easy-to-navigate layouts

Your feedback on the open layout of the Type 5 trains — which were introduced in 2015 with the Orange Line — has been very positive, so the Type 6 trains will likely be similar. Regardless, we’re going to explore seat cushioning and layout options, so we can give you the most comfortable ride possible.

A safe ride

This is as non-negotiable for us as it is for you. For our Type 6 trains, we’re looking to add a silent alarm you can use to notify operators of security issues, higher definition on-board cameras for the recording as well as live streaming of security footage, and higher quality rear monitors so operators to have a clear image of what’s happening around the train during boarding.

There were several other common requests that we’ll be looking into, including WiFi, charging stations and USB ports, more leg room, easier boarding and exiting with wider doors and faster ramps, and more and better bike storage. Again, we make no promises but we’re looking at which requests we can accommodate.

So when you can expect these new train cars? Soon, but not too soon. You cannot go to the train store and pick out new cars to drive home (we wish…). These cars will be custom designed and built. We’re going to be looking for a manufacturer for these cars starting this year. Then the actual car design will kick off next year and manufacturing will start in 2020. If everything goes well, we hope to have the first new cars rolling in Portland by late 2021 or 2022. Stay tuned.

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Recap: Providence Park MAX Track Work

It may have only lasted six days, but we got a lot done.

The MAX track work last week outside of Providence Park allowed us to rebuild an aging section of tracks that was causing reliability issues. Here’s what we did:

There were several improvements we wanted to make going into this project.

The asphalt around the tracks had broken down, which made MAX trains sway as they traveled through the area. It was uncomfortable for you and it caused unnecessary wear and tear on our trains.

Technology has improved since this section of track was built in the early 1990s, so we ripped out the rails and the materials supporting them and replaced them with materials that will be more durable, reliable and longer-lasting. When replacing the rails, we secured them with a new grout that should keep the rails in place better —  preventing that swaying — while also proving to be more durable than asphalt.

Finally, we replaced the old switches and improved the drainage underneath them. This should also increase reliability and lessen maintenance needs.

We were able to accomplish other necessary work at the same time. We moved the poles that hold the overhead wires, which should minimize future disruptions. 

There is still a bit more work to do: You’ll notice some gaps in the pavement near the tracks that still need grout. It’s safe for trains to pass through but the street will remain closed for the rest of this week.

This necessary work wouldn’t have been possible without your patience. We can’t thank you enough!

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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MAX is Back at Providence Park. Thank You for Your Patience!

And that’s a wrap! We’ve finished our Providence Park MAX track work and trains are running normally again.

We want to thank you for your patience during this work. We understand how inconvenient these disruptions can be. We’re commuters ourselves, after all.

New rails outside Providence Park.

This six-day disruption allowed us to replace the rails and outdated switches near Providence Park. The next time you ride MAX past the stadium, we hope you notice the smoother ride. (Or at least that you don’t notice any bumps.) This necessary work should improve MAX reliability, as well.

We’ll share a video overview of the project next week, but until then: Thank you!

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Bus Driver by Day, World Champion by Night

That bus operator you thanked as you exited the bus this morning? They may have a whole other set of super powers you never knew about.

Take Tofer Sneed, a TriMet bus driver since 2014. This April, Tofer took home gold at the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in Barcelona, Spain. Watch to see him in action and to learn how he balances training with work:

Driving for TriMet is a great platform for pursuing your passions. Bus operators make more than $60k/year after three years, receive generous paid time off and get great medical, dental and vision benefits, even while working part-time.

Want to know more? Visit trimet.org/driveforus.

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Coming Soon to TriMet: Electric Buses

It’s no secret that public transit is good for the environment.

Consider:

Every day TriMet eliminates more than 200,000 car trips, and a TriMet rider’s per mile carbon footprint is 60 percent less than a car driver’s.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t do more. This Earth Day, we want to share our plans for a project that could be a major step towards making Portland an even more environmentally friendly place.

Soon, five battery-electric buses will run along Line 62 in Beaverton. These buses, which were paid for by a federal grant and funds from Portland General Electric, make up a real-world test of battery-electric bus technology that will helps us determine if we can roll out these zero emission, whisper-quiet buses across the TriMet system.

Want to know more about these buses, including the seriously cool technology powering them, our plans for the pilot program and when and where you can meet them in-person?

Visit our Electric Buses page.

 

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

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Celebrating The Extraordinary Women of TriMet

Here’s something you may have noticed if you’ve spent much time on our trains and buses: some truly exceptional women work for TriMet. The entire region benefits from their abilities, talents, and commitment.

For Woman’s History Month, we hosted a TriMet Women’s Pioneer Panel that featured ten extraordinary TriMet employees. Here are three of their stories.

Darlene Gastineau
Internal Audit Manager

Darlene was asked about the biggest obstacle she’s encountered and how she overcame it. In response, she told the story of her immigrant parents and large immediate family from China, so poor that everyone, even her mom and dad, slept in twin bunk beds.

She recalled working steadily in some form since she was a child. When in kindergarten she picked berries with her family.

Darlene continued to work and took out student loans to put herself through college. She became a single mother and at one point was forced to take legal action to protect herself against a man with whom she once shared a relationship.

What was most poignant and inspiring is that Darlene never saw these as obstacles and never let them stop her from moving forward in her journey. She had not even considered them challenges until asked to think about this question.

Darlene has been with TriMet for 11 years and serves as TriMet’s Internal Audit Manager.

Cindi Deibert
Manager of Bus Operator Training

When asked how she juggled work, family, school and other commitments, Cindi shared the time she was still a part-time bus operator.Cindi Deibert She worked a split shift – driving a route in the morning and another in the afternoon. At the same time, she was a wife, mother to twin girls and in school, pursuing a bachelor’s degree. One of her daughters is on the autism spectrum. She managed her 20-hour day through strict organization and prioritization.

Cindi urged the audience to set priorities and stay focused on what matters most – family. Cindi continues to help care for her daughter with autism, now 32.She works full-time as Manager of Bus Operator Training and is pursuing her master’s degree.

Cindy Kassab
Bus Operator

Cindy started driving for TriMet on April 6, 1976. She was 23 years old. More than four decades later, she’s still behind the wheel of a bus. Cindy hopes to extend her career with TriMet to at least 50 years, maybe longer.

Cindy KassabShe remembers a time when it wasn’t as easy to be a woman bus operator. She recounted a memory of a man who refused a ride when he saw who was behind the wheel. “Oh, it’s a woman driver,” he said. “I’ll wait for the next bus.” With a laugh, she told how the next bus came along and it was another woman driver.

Cindy’s interest in interest in photography began around the same time she joined TriMet. She’s now a master photographer of nature and wildlife. Cindy Kassab studied at the University of Portland. You can view her stunning photography on her website.

One definition of the word pioneer is to lead the way. What we learned from the panel is that these woman leaders of TriMet have been doing it all of their lives.

Interested in joining our team of extraordinary employees? We’re hiring.

Tia York

Tia York

I’m a Public Information Officer for TriMet. I’m here to help you understand our system, its people and how we all work together to make this place the best it can be. There was a time when I only took transit during emergencies, but the Orange Line changed everything. I hopped aboard one of the first trains to Milwaukie and never looked back. Transit transforms, empowers and unites.

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