Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

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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How It Works: Tilikum Crossing Art Lights

By now you’ve seen how Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, lights up the night — but how exactly do those lights work?

There are 178 LED lights aesthetically placed on 40 bridge cables, the four transmission towers above and below the deck, and on the Sonic Dish artwork along the Eastside Esplanade and future Willamette Greenway at the ends of the bridge.

Monitors from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, located in the water near the Morrison Bridge, collect data from the Willamette River. A program developed by digital artist Morgan Barnard translates the data into a colorful and aesthetic display.

(Video: December 2014 Testing)

The temperature of the river controls the color of the lights. Warmer river conditions will display warmer colors, like orange and yellow, while cooler temperatures will display cool colors, like green and blue.

Tilikum Crossing in September (Photo Courtesy: Victor von Salza)
Tilikum Crossing in September (Photo Courtesy: Victor von Salza)
Flickr
Tilikum Crossing in November (Photo Courtesy: Sky Schemer)

Notice how the lights seem to dance across Tilikum Crossing? That’s controlled by the tide. When the tide is coming in, the lights move towards the center of the bridge. As the tide goes out, the lights move towards the ends of the bridge. Additionally, the tide levels affect the speed of the lights. When the tide is higher or lower, the lights move faster. At midpoint, the lights move slowly.

Video Credit: Mike Warner

The speed of the river controls how quickly the colors change. If the river is moving fast, the colors will appear to move and cycle through quicker.

The river’s height affects the contrast in the lights. The higher the river, the more contrasted the colors appear, which affects the pattern and movement of the lights. This change varies with the season, so in the summer (when the river levels are pretty static) the bridge color will appear even and bright. In the spring, when the water tends to move more, the bridge colors will appear more fluid.

While a lot of scientific data is gathered to create this aesthetic light display, the bridge lights aren’t meant to serve as a weather tool. The artists, the late Anna Valentina Murch and Douglas Hollis, wanted these lights to represent a dialogue between the Willamette River and Tilikum Crossing — quite a poetic way to look at the lights, don’t you think?

Learn more about Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People

Learn more about our Public Art Program

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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First batch of new buses take to the streets

3500 buses (4 of 7)

For the fifth year in a row, we’re getting new buses for our riders—making your trips more comfortable, safe and reliable. As part of our ongoing bus replacement program, we’re adding 77 new diesel-powered buses to our fleet over the next several months! (Cue the cartwheels and back flips.)

You might see one of these new 3500-series buses — 10 of them will be on city streets this week. In the next few months, five more buses will arrive every week from the Gillig factory in Hayward, Calif., as we gradually place them into service.

Once we receive them from the factory, it can take up to a month to get a bus road-ready. We need to install fare boxes, exterior mirrors and radio systems, check the engine and air systems, perform road tests, and get licenses and paperwork approved by DMV.

All 77 are expected to be rolling throughout the metro area by the end of May. They join the 249 other “new” buses we’ve put on the streets since 2012.

Outside of being shiny and new, you won’t notice any big differences compared to the buses we’ve purchased the past few years. Like their recent predecessors, they’ll all have air conditioning, automatic stop announcements, an upgraded dispatch system for improved customer information, easy-to-clean vinyl seats, anti-microbial interior surfaces and low floors (which makes it easier to board). In fact, all of our regular-service buses will have low floors by the end of 2017!

The new buses cost about $470,000 each. Most of them will be housed at the Center Street Garage in SE Portland.

Younger fleet

We began our bus replacement program in 2012. By summer, we’ll have 326 newer buses on the road. About two years ago, the average age of TriMet’s fleet was 12 years. Once all the 3500s are in the regular rotation this spring, we’ll be very close to the industry average of eight years (Woohoo!).

Some buses in our fleet, such as the series 2200, 2100 and 2000s, have been running since President Clinton’s first term. They’ll stick around a short while longer for backup.

What’s next

We’re not done upgrading our bus fleet. We plan to acquire 50 more in fiscal year 2017, 57 the next year and 70 the year after that. It’s part of our commitment to bring more service to you — and make sure you get to your destination safely and comfortably.

Want to drive a bus? We’re hiring bus operators!

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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Parking and riding? Four tips to prevent car break-ins

No one likes to walk up to their car and see their window busted out and belongings gone.

Car break-ins are crimes of opportunity. Just the other day, I was walking through a parking lot with some fellow Transit Police officers and spotted a purse sitting in plain view on the back seat of a Honda Civic.

Whether using a Park & Ride, parking at your office lot or just parked on the street outside your house, take these few simple precautions to not become a victim.

Don’t give them the opportunity

Thieves will make a split-second decision to break into a vehicle. If they see something of value through the window, that’s an opportunity. Do not leave valuable items — purses, computers, phones, shopping bags — visible in your car. Better yet, leave them at home or take them with you when you go.

Leave it “showroom” clean

Even the small stuff like chargers and ear buds give thieves cause to think there may be a mobile phone, GPS or other electronics inside. Sunglasses and spare change might not seem like much to you, but for those doing “smash and grabs” it can add up. Tuck it all away and leave your car “showroom” clean — just like it came from a dealership

Stow before you go

If you absolutely have to leave items in the car, stow them in the trunk, under the cargo cover or in the console before you go. Even tuck that charger away before you reach your destination. You never know who might be watching what you’re doing after you park.

Lock it

An unlocked car is an invitation, not just to take the stuff inside but to steal the car itself. Don’t make it easy for thieves. Check to make sure it is locked before you walk away, whether you test the door handle(s) or hit the lock button until the horn beeps.

Taking these simple steps can keep you from becoming a victim. If you happen to see someone hanging around a Park & Ride or spot an item left on a platform, say something — Call 9-1-1 or alert a TriMet employee.

And, please remember, whether you use a Park & Ride, catch the train in your neighborhood or are just walking along a city street, be aware and be safe. Take just a moment before crossing train tracks or the street to look up, look around and make sure it is safe to cross.

Christina Hansen-Tuma

Christina Hansen-Tuma

I’m Officer Christina Hansen-Tuma with the Transit Police Division. Working in transit, I get to meet different people across the metro area and help make TriMet a system that my grandmother would enjoy riding. When I’m not on the job, I’m busy spending time with my kids and running in marathons!

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