Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Speeding up MAX reliability improvements

Throughout TriMet, we have been focused on improving MAX on-time performance (OTP) — our measure of reliable service — and doing it safely. Back in January, I shared our plans to improve. We’ve made some progress, and we hope it’s making a difference in your ride. MAX OTP improved from 75 percent last November to an average of just above 85 percent in June. We still have a ways to go, but we are on track and remain dedicated to achieving our long term goal of 90 percent.

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The MAX system is very complex. Over the course of a day, it is in operation for about 22½ hours and provides more than 120,000 trips. It has many moving parts that include 145 vehicles, more than 130 miles of track and overhead wire, more than 250 track switches and nearly 200 rail operators. (And that doesn’t include the many mechanics, cleaners, rail controllers, yard workers, engineers, field operations staff and others who keep our system running safely every day.) There are many events that can cause delays to the system — here’s an update on how we are addressing some of them.

Starting on time, staying on time

To get you where you need to go on time, our trains need to start their day on time. We have improved how we track which trains are ready for service, along with how that is communicated between our maintenance and operations departments. Using the new web-based system speeds up that communication and gives us more time to focus on getting vehicles ready for service safely.

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Our managers, operators and maintenance teams also are working to ensure that our maintenance and operational checks are completed safely and in a timely manner, so our trains depart from the rail yard on schedule. But that’s just the beginning. To stay on time, we’re adding a portable data display to trains that will provide our operators with the current time and the time their train is scheduled to be at the next few stops. These mobile tablets are like the mobile data terminals on our buses that provide operators with key information, such as the time points for where they should be on their routes. I’d like to note that these are important tools to help our rail operators do their jobs, and operators will be instructed on how to use them while safely operating the train.

Uncovering common culprits

We’ve struggled with debris building up in switches, rail joint and track boxes on the Steel Bridge. This has given false indications that the track way on the bridge is occupied when it is not, leading to some significant train delays. The area of issue was in a section of the embedded track where all the MAX lines converge on the west end of the bridge. Crews have now removed the concrete around the track, which has improved drainage and gives our staff better access to keeping debris out of that equipment and also trouble-shooting any electrical issues which can rise from time to time.

Improving the tracks

Our maintenance of way department has been hard at work tackling several track projects. Some have temporarily disrupted MAX service; some have not. On the Red Line, near the Mt Hood Ave Station, crews worked overnight during non-service hours several days in a row last spring, installing anchors to the rail ties. In extreme heat, rails — which are made of steel — can expand and kink, requiring trains to run slower through the area. The new rail ties keep the rail in place. This summer we have experienced several warm days above 80 degrees, where rail temperatures can approach 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the ambient temperatures — so far we have not had any rail movement. This saves approximately 25 to 30 minutes of time throughout each service day, adding back over 150 hours of increased on-time performance over a one-year period.

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During our 1st Avenue MAX Improvements project in May, crews installed new switches and rail and improved the track bed. This disrupted MAX service on 1st Avenue for two weeks, but it has paid off with the removal of slow orders along that stretch of rail.

Now we have another big project approaching fast: From Aug. 21 through Sept. 3, the Rose Quarter MAX Improvements project will replace switches just east of the Rose Quarter MAX Station and redesign the trackway, which will create a smoother ride. We will also upgrade the signal system, which will keep trains running on schedule into and out of the station. Like the work on 1st Avenue, this will require a major disruption to MAX service. Once again, we are asking for your help by adjusting trips to avoid the rush hours, using bus service or other transportation options. Learn more at trimet.org/rosequarter

Thank you for your patience as we continue our work to increase MAX on-time performance. We have much more to do, but we appreciate you staying with us as we keep MAX moving.

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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Bus Operator of the Year Alex Ohly’s laid-back approach works

OOY 2016 - alex

Alex Ohly loves to tinker. If it involves an engine, even better. After all, he does own six 1980s-era Volvos.

When he moved to Oregon in 1990, he sought machinist jobs after a career making eye-surgery instruments in St. Louis. One big problem: the United States was mired in an economic recession. Also, pay was low for the work, and most of these positions didn’t offer employer-sponsored insurance plans.

However, he loved to drive and saw TriMet had a need for bus operators.

“I took it as a temporary job. I really just needed insurance. As it turned out, I really liked it. It’s like I’ve been in-between jobs for 26 years,” laughs Ohly.

Fortunately, the 1990 recession quickly passed, and Ohly’s career stability at TrIMet helped him weather the most recent economic downturn. How? Well, he’s good at what he does. For the past 21 years, he’s driven safely, which has earned him a National Safe Driving Award each year (no preventable accidents during that time). And he shows up — he had nine straight years of perfect attendance.

It’s about the people

His approach to his profession is simple.

“You have to try to understand people,” says Ohly, whose workday typically begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. “A lot of times, people are upset for whatever reason when they get on the bus. If you’re kind to them, it goes away.”

Alex Ohly_3

“When operating a bus, I never sacrifice safety or people’s comfort. Just go smooth and take it easy. Go with the flow.”

His approach has culminated into being our newest Bus Operator of the Year, an award he says blew him away when his name was announced in front of his peers.

He’s also a Master Operator, which is an honor given to operators who earn at least 15 Superior Performance Awards, earned by working at least 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, or reprimands.

Life away from TriMet

When he’s not driving his usual Line 48-Cornell or Line 88-Hart/198th, you’ll likely find Ohly and his wife relaxing at their Lake Oswego home. They’ve grown roots, including, at one time, a vegetable garden.

“Unfortunately, we shared the garden with raccoons, so that didn’t work too well,” he says.

Now he spends much of his free time either with his grandson or thinking about fly fishing. He owns quite a few fly rods, but instead of catching fish, he works on the “art of casting” in his large backyard. No question, when the time comes to catch real fish, Ohly will be ready.

Interested in driving a TriMet bus? We’re hiring bus operators! Consider a career with TriMet and see where it takes you.

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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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.

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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

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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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