Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Moving forward with cleaner, more energy-efficient buses

Our buses continue to become more fuel and emissions efficient.

Although our older buses consistently meet federal emissions standards, our newer buses—which make up about one-third of our fleet of 655— emit far fewer particulates into the air.

Why?

A big reason is our newer buses have a diesel particulate filter that removes soot from the exhaust. We’ve also retrofitted 196 of the older buses with these special filters, which remove at least 98 percent of the black powdery stuff.

Diesel particular filters removes most of the soot from the exhaust from our buses.
Diesel particulate filters remove most of the soot from our buses’ exhaust.

Our newer buses also emit less smog-inducing nitrogen oxide (NOx), a pollutant caused by fuel burned at high temperatures. The technology converts NOx into oxygen, nitrogen and water before it exits the tailpipe.

Smart sensors

Another technology that reduces fuel consumption by about five percent is called Sensotop. Made in Germany, it’s a shifting algorithm that uses sensors to change the gear-shifting calibration based on weight and terrain.

For example, a full bus going uphill requires more power—which Sensotop helps provide—while a bus with fewer people going downhill or on level roads requires less. These sensors are on all the buses we’ve purchased in the past three years, and we’ve also retrofitted 40 older buses.

Cool cooling system

In the transit world, we’re also pioneers of a NASCAR-inspired electronic cooling system that reduces engine drag, maximizes horsepower and improves fuel economy by up to 10 percent. Developed for military heavy equipment, it’s on about half our bus fleet. EPA actually gave us a Clean Air Excellence Award for helping bring the technology to the transit market (Woohoo!).

Improving MPG

Cars in the United States average about 25 miles per gallon. Our buses made in the early 1990s averaged about 4 miles per gallon. Our newer fleet typically gets between 4.5 to 5 miles per gallon with the added challenge of having air-conditioning systems, more electronic accessories and stricter emissions standards.

Getting an extra half-mile per gallon may not seem stellar, but for the scale of our vehicles, it’s a 12 to 25 percent improvement. And if you have 40 passengers on board who would have otherwise driven a car, it’s like getting 180 to 200 miles per gallon!

What’s next?

We’re buying 77 more buses by mid-2016 that will be low-floor, low-emission and air-conditioned. This purchase will help us get our fleet closer to an average age of eight years, the industry standard.

Riders often ask about getting more hybrid, electric, biogas or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. We’re considering all of these quickly-evolving technologies. In fact, four of the latest generation HybriDrive® Series buses should hit the streets sometime in October. As we test these new technologies, we look for cost-effectiveness of a bus’ entire lifecycle before making wholesale changes to the fleet.

Learn more about our new buses

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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Dedicated to Driving: Operator of the Year grows roots in Oregon

LynSimons-Bus

Driving a 40-foot-long TriMet bus has its challenges. But it’s nothing like the school bus Lyn Simons drove in Grants Pass, Ore.

“I like this better. It’s not as loud — kids can get really loud,” says Simons, chosen by her co-workers as 2015 Bus Operator of the Year.

Simons also appreciates the variety of routes.

“There’s some kind of run for everybody,” she says. “There are the busy runs and there are the laid-back runs.”

Today she’s driving a busy run, Line 6, which begins near Providence Park and ends at Jantzen Beach before returning downtown.

Simons simply loves driving. In addition to her school bus gig, she’s also worked for a charter company in Tigard before joining TriMet in 2002.

Simons, who lives in Milwaukie, seems to have grown roots in this area. It’s understandable, as her hometown, Eagle Mountain, Calif., is a bona fide ghost town. The desert community shuttered in the early 1980s after the demise of the Kaiser Steel iron mine, where her dad had worked for many years. (Eagle Mountain also was the origin of another Henry Kaiser endeavor, Kaiser Permanente.)

“A lot of the kids I grew up with still pine for Eagle Mountain,” says Simons. “Everyone knew each other. It was safe.”

Despite her preference as a homebody, one thing gets Simons out of the house — her six grandkids. She and her husband, Jay (also a TriMet bus driver), go to Texas and California twice per year for visits. Even with her desire to be behind the wheel, she flies to those destinations.

Above all, the affable Simons aims to please her riders. She says one of the most stressful parts of her job is when one of her passengers tries to make a connection and traffic is at a standstill.

Simons likes the people she works with, the pay and benefits and, of course, being home every night.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m grateful for it.”

Congratulations to the 2015 Operators of the Year: Lyn Simons, James Hilliard and Catherine McLendon.

Interested in a career with TriMet? 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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Former footballer finds dream job with MAX

JamesHilliard-MAX

James Hilliard vividly recalls his first day as a TriMet bus operator in 2006.

“It snowed. It was scary,” says Hilliard, who grew up near Los Angeles. “I remember going downhill toward Highway 30 and there were big rigs at the bottom of the hill flying through at 50 miles per hour. I was able to safely stop the bus on the snow. I was the happiest person ever.”

Since that first day, Hilliard has won seven National Safe Driving Awards and nine Superior Performance Awards. To get that award, he had to work 1,960 hours with no preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or instructions. He moved up to operate light-rail trains in 2008. This past spring, his TriMet colleagues voted him as the 2015 MAX Operator of the Year.

“I was really surprised to get the award,” says Hilliard, who drove the first Orange Line train September 12 with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and other dignitaries on board. “I was going up against some well-known, high-seniority people. It was unexpected.”

Love at first sight

It also was unexpected that Hilliard ended up in Portland. While living in California, he had worked for a telecommunications company which had a big project in Oregon in 1998. He flew his wife, Shawnese, and kids to Portland to visit.

“My wife got off the airplane and just fell in love with Portland,” he says.

The next year, the family sold their house in Los Angeles and moved north. His wife now works at TriMet as a road supervisor.

“I like it here,” Hilliard says. “People here are much nicer. You get seasons. It’s a much slower pace.”

Recruitment

And thanks to his good friend, A.K. Rucker, a long-time TriMet bus driver, he’s found a home.

Hilliard, who played college football for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University, was also a defensive lineman and linebacker for the Oregon Thunderbolts, a semi-pro team coached by Rucker.

He knew Hilliard sought a career change, and Rucker quickly sold him on TriMet.

Early riser

Hilliard gets up early to begin his shift at 5:23 a.m. and ends a little after 5 p.m. He works four 10-hour days each week.

“I love being able to operate a train—I get to lock myself up in the cab and roll,” Hilliard says. “I always wanted to come to rail when I first came to TriMet. It feels like I’m doing my own thing. And when I’m done with work for the day, I’m done.”

P1030353

Safety first

Although Hilliard enjoys his career, there are on-the-job challenges. Notably, he must stay vigilant about safety.

“The people standing on the platforms with headphones on, walking on the tactile strips, concern me the most,” he says.

He also says when it first rains, it makes the tracks slippery. He combats that by using extra traction sand dispersed from the train that helps with both braking and propulsion.

Gone fishing

If he’s not at work, it’s family time. He lives in the Montavilla neighborhood with Shawnese and their three kids. On his weekdays off, he takes his son, a junior at Central Catholic, to school and attends his football practices.

And whenever he gets a chance, he’ll head off to go salmon fishing (although halibut’s his favorite).

When he’s not enjoying family or fishing, the service he brings to TriMet and his passengers is invaluable.

“His approach to safety and customer service is top notch,” says Don Allison, his supervisor. “James is one of the kindest, most professional employees we could hope to have.”

Congratulations to the 2015 Operators of the Year: James Hilliard, Catherine McLendon and Lyn Simons.

Interested in a career with TriMet? 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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Cruising past the million-mile safety milestone

Robert Boos thought his TriMet career was over before it began.

“I was 21 years old, thinking about going into the Coast Guard and kind of scared to death of driving a bus,” Boos recalls. “I applied at TriMet and got called into an interview. I thought I blew the interview.”

He didn’t. Thirty-one years later, Boos is our latest inductee into the Million Mile Club, which honors operators who have exemplary safety and customer service marks.

How far is a million miles? It’s like driving around Earth 40 times. Or making 172 trips from Boos’ home in Milwaukie to New York City… and back.

“Who thinks they’re going to be in the Million Mile club?” Boos says. “It’s almost impossible to do. It’s not something you think about. I guess it’s luck, that’s all I can say.”

However, it’s more than luck that the National Safety Council has given him a Safe Driver Award every year, earned by driving without a preventable accident—a feat that takes diligence and an unrelenting focus on safety.

Times certainly have changed since Boos began driving a bus in 1984. Back then, many of them didn’t have power steering. They also had less-advanced communications systems and high floors.

“I really like the low floor with no steps—it’s like driving a go-kart,” Boos says.

All in the family

Outside of work, Boos enjoys taking his 3-year-old grandson to the park, going out to sushi with his wife or hiking on the Oregon Coast at Cape Lookout or Drift Creek Falls.

His father, Keith, ran 12 convenience stores in the area called Keith’s Markets. Keith eventually left to work at TriMet, first as a bus driver for nine years and then a trainer for 18 years. Six months after Keith retired from TriMet in 2002, he suffered a massive heart attack while on a golf course. The next day, he had open-heart surgery and survived. Today, he’s in good health.

Don’t hit snooze

The secret to his success?

“All you have to do is be diligent,” says Boos, who drives Line 23 in the Parkrose neighborhood. “If you’re not going to get up in the morning or be on time, you’re not going to make it as a bus driver.”

There’s something about working at TriMet that’s helped him get up every morning for the past 30 years.

“It feels like I’m my own boss. I like the routine,” he says. “I sign in, get on the bus, go get my coffee. When I’m done, I park the bus and go home.”

Congratulations, Robert!

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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Pardon our dust! Upgrades are coming to our oldest MAX stations

This spring and summer, you may have come across crews at MAX stations putting in underground cables to power TriMet’s future electronic fare (e-fare) system. Riders who use our oldest MAX stations will notice more construction coming soon—as we get to work on even more improvements to make your ride better.

Starting next week, we’re updating 14 stations from Hollywood/NE 42nd Ave Transit Center to Cleveland Ave in Gresham. These stations opened when we launched our first light rail line, the Eastside MAX Blue Line, in 1986.

E 172nd Ave Station is among the original Eastside MAX Blue Line stations, which opened on Sept. 5, 1986. The station and 13 others will get makeovers that include sleeker shelters, added lighting, a more open look and feel, and equipment for TriMet’s upcoming e-fare system.
E 172nd Ave Station is among the original Eastside MAX Blue Line stations, which opened on Sept. 5, 1986. The station and 13 others will get makeovers that include sleeker shelters, added lighting, a more open look and feel, and equipment for our upcoming e-fare system.

There’s lots of work to do:

  • Add more and brighter lighting
  • Upgrade security cameras to digital technology
  • Give platforms a more open look and feel
  • Update the design of shelters
  • Add digital information displays
  • Install cables and equipment for e-fare

The construction will take about five years and will be broken up into phases. We aim to do as much as possible in work zones, rather than closing the entire station, to make the work less of an inconvenience.

FutureStationDesign

The first phase will focus on platform entrances and getting the stations ready for e-fare. Crews will start working on Monday, August 17, at our Ruby Junction/E 197th Ave Station, and you’ll see workers soon after at our E 102nd Ave, 122nd Ave and 148th Ave stations.

Learn more about how we’re making transit better

Roberta Altstadt

Roberta Altstadt

I’m TriMet’s public information officer. I communicate with the news media on all TriMet-related topics. When I’m not busy working, I like learning new skills, gardening, and going for walks with my sweet three-legged dog, Ernie.

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Do unto others: Selfless bus operator wins TriMet honor

It’s easy to see why TriMet bus operator Catherine McLendon is a customer-service pro. Her mantra: “How would I want to be treated?”

“It’s like that girl with the coffee who just got on the bus thanking me with her eyes for waiting for her,” says McLendon, who recently won our 2015 Operator of the Year award among part-time drivers.

CatherineMcLendon-MiniRun

McLendon, raised in Portland and now a Beaverton resident, today is on Line 56—a loop that runs from downtown Portland to Washington Square Mall. She greets riders with a friendly hello.

Before signing up for her current route, she had driven Lines 45 and 92. She especially connected with folks on the 92, which originates in Southwest Portland and heads toward Murray Road and Scholls Ferry Road in Beaverton.

“They’re fun, they joke around. It just feels like family to me,” McLendon says. “The last day I said goodbye, I started crying. I had bad allergies that day, so I blamed it on that. But literally my sunglasses were all steamed up.”

Family affair

Early in her career, McLendon worked in the food-brokerage industry and didn’t want to spend her career in a desk job. Her stepdad, Wayne Reynolds, also operated a TriMet bus for 21 years and knew she was a good driver. In 1994, he encouraged her to apply. She soon began driving a bus. She appreciates how TriMet has offered her stability, the choice to stay part-time, great benefits and the chance to expand her career.

Her husband, Martin, also is a TriMet bus operator. They had already known each other at work when one day he graciously cleaned her bus mirrors during a break. That good deed has led to a lifelong partnership.

Familiar territory

McLendon enjoys seeing the same faces on her Beaverton routes.

“You get to know how they’re doing, where they’re going, what their dog’s name is,” she says.

She makes a point to wave at cars when she’s leaving a stop, thank people and drive courteously. And if there’s an accident, she knows the back roads.

It’s no surprise she’s won 16 Safe Driving Awards and four Ace awards for helping Honored Citizen riders. McLendon even remains pen pals with several honored-citizen riders she’s met over the years.

Giving back

McLendon prefers the 30-hour per week part-time position because she’s able to volunteer with organizations like the SMART reading program and the American Red Cross Pillowcase Project. An incident from a few years ago also has motivated her to get her First Aid and CPR certifications.

So, what happened? She was operating Line 92 and stopped to wait for a man running toward her. He then collided with a pillar and collapsed in front of the bus. McLendon jumped out of her seat and realized he was having a heart attack. One of the passengers knew CPR and kept him breathing until an ambulance arrived.

A few months later, she saw the man at the same stop.

“I got on the microphone and said, ‘Don’t look now, but you won’t believe who’s at the bus stop.’ Once he gets on, everyone starts clapping. Tears are just popping out of my eyes because I’m so joyful he’s vertical.”

In bloom

Outside of TriMet, she gardens, spends time with her three college-aged children and cruises around with Martin on his Vespa. Her part-time status also allows her to run a flower business, Flowers by Cat. A florist since 1987, she used to have a booth at Portland Saturday Market. She now spends many summer weekends on the wedding circuit and says “peonies are the hot flower right now.”

Whether selling flowers, volunteering, or safely driving a bus, it’s a sure bet she’ll treat people well.

Congratulations to the 2015 Operators of the Year: Catherine McLendon, James Hilliard and Lyn Simons.

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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Buses keep getting cooler

And we mean that literally.

If you think the heat wave we endured over the last couple weeks felt epic — well, you’re not wrong. It was our second-hottest stretch on record, and it made going about our business both difficult and uncomfortable to some degree. We reached the point where air conditioning becomes essential — especially when we’re on the move.

But for bus riders, getting a ride with A/C hasn’t always been a guarantee. That’s why, over the last four years, we’ve put 249 new buses into service as part of an accelerated bus-replacement program. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, we suspended our regular bus purchases; since then we’ve redoubled our efforts to return the fleet to an average age of eight years (the industry standard).

Today, we have more vehicles with amenities like:

  • low floors
  • air conditioning
  • better lighting, inside and out
  • larger windows
  • easy-to-clean vinyl seats

See the full list of features on our new buses »

At the moment, there are only nine buses in the fleet — about 1.5 percent — that aren’t equipped with air conditioning. By next summer, the delivery of 77 new buses will complete our replacement program, and you can rest assured that the next bus you catch will be cool.

New bus, anyone? 🚌🚌🚌🚌 #3400series #TriMet

A photo posted by TriMet (@ridetrimet) on

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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New rules for vaping and service animals

As you know, we have a set of “Rules for Riding” in place to help our riders and employees feel safe and comfortable while on the transit system. Effective today, we’ve revised our rules on two issues that we know are really important to riders—smoking and service animals. Here’s what’s changing:

“No smoking” now includes vaporizers

Smoking (anything!) is already prohibited on all TriMet property for the health and comfort of our riders. But we’re updating our rules to specifically call out vaporizers/vape cigarettes in addition to e-cigarettes. Many of you have called or written us about riders vaping at stops and stations, and this change will allow us to enforce the smoking ban more effectively. So, when you see a “No Smoking” sign, that means no smoking—of any kind.

As to where you can and can’t smoke, there is an exception to the rule: Smoking is allowed outside of bus shelters and MAX stations along public sidewalks, such as in Downtown Portland.

By the way, if you see someone smoking regularly at a stop or station at around the same time of day on the same days of the week, let us know. Enforcement actions include a $250 fine or even an exclusion from the system.

If you smoke, please be courteous to your fellow riders and smoke away from the shelter, and definitely not on buses or trains!

Companion animals must be in a carrier

For the safety of our riders, we’ve revised our definition of a service animal. Effective today, pets that provide emotional support or companionship (“companion” or “comfort” animals) are no longer considered service animals and will have to ride in a closed carrier. Only guide dogs, signal dogs or other animals trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability will be allowed on board outside of a carrier.

So how can operators tell if an animal is really a service animal? Operators can ask, “Is that a service animal?” and “What service is your animal trained to perform?” But that’s about it. By law, if a rider claims their animal is a service animal, we have to take their word for it. We know some people abuse this policy, but there’s really not much we can do about it.

Keep in mind, many riders legitimately need and use service animals to help them get around—and it may not always be obvious that an animal is a service animal.

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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Our oldest MAX trains are getting makeovers

We launched our first MAX trains—what we call the Type 1—nearly 30 years ago in 1986. That same year, “Top Gun” graced the silver screen, Ronald Reagan lived in the White House and big hair was all the rage.

Since then, our Type 1 trains have logged 1.6 million miles in the metro area and over time, they’ve begun to show their age. With time, the trains’ body filler (like industrial-strength putty) has broken down, allowing moisture to get through. Also, the stairwells in these high-floor trains have signs of rust and corrosion.

Massive makeover

A bare Type 1 MAX train
A bare Type 1 MAX train

To extend their operating lifetime (for up to 20 years), we started refurbishing these trains in 2002. To date, 21 trains are fully restored and two are in process. The last three Type 1 trains are expected to be revived by the end of 2016.

From start to finish, it takes three people about six months—or about 3,500 labor hours—to refurbish a Type 1 train. Here are the key steps to refinish this train:

  • Remove equipment on the roof, exterior end and sidewalls.
  • Cover door and window openings.
  • Chip off old body filler and paint and grind the entire exterior to the metal.
  • Apply epoxy primer and three coats of body filler.
  • Use industrial-scale white body paint, then TriMet blue and yellow color coats.
  • Refinish and reattach doors.

“It takes a lot of effort to get all of the body filler down to the metal,” says Mark Grove, who is the Manager of Rail Equipment Maintenance at our Gresham facility. “We have talented light-rail mechanics like Bob Culpepper who help make this project happen.”

Grove also says it’s an “art form” to get the body filler flat and smooth. And unlike the original primer and filler, modern filler flexes with the metal of the train’s movement, which makes it last longer.

New signs, windows, HVAC

Mark Grove with a refurbished Type 1 MAX train.
Mark Grove with a refurbished Type 1 MAX train.

Type 1 trains are the only ones in the MAX fleet where its destination signs are hand-cranked by the operator. As part of the rehab, all Type 1 trains will feature new digital signage.

We’re also upgrading the HVAC systems, along with the old vented windows, and replacing them with single-piece fixed windows. This will increase energy efficiency and give you a quieter ride and more open space.

Finally, we’re replacing the old propulsion/braking resistors that are mounted on the roof. The old ones are at the end of their useful life.

“The new resistors have a 20% higher capacity, so they’re stressed less, will be more reliable and last longer,” Grove says.

Why not buy new?

Renovating a Type 1 train is far less costly than buying new. A new light-rail train costs up to $4 million. A Type 1 train rehab runs about $200,000. Cha-ching!

Next in line

Once all the Type 1 renovations are done, we’ll start makeovers on the Type 2 trains.

In the meantime, check out our brand new MAX trains! We’ll be welcoming 18 new-and-improved MAX vehicles to our fleet this year.

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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Heads up! Trains are testing along the Orange Line

Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, and the new MAX Orange Line don’t open until September 12, but we’ve got light rail trains and buses already out testing the new routes. That means you’ll see trains and buses in areas they may not have traveled through before.

Our operators are always scanning their routes for pedestrians and cyclists, but an extra set of eyes always helps! Please be on the lookout for buses and trains in both directions, especially along the MAX Orange Line and near Tilikum Crossing. If we all stay alert, everyone will stay safe.

Be safe around trains

Stay off the tracks. At 30 miles per hour, it takes MAX trains two blocks to come to a complete stop, and they can’t swerve around you!

7563423082_fd9f1a52ec_zBike across tracks straight on. Crossing tracks at an angle or turning across tracks is risky. Your wheel could slip into the track bed and cause you to crash! When in doubt, please walk your bike across the tracks.

Please wait if you see a train coming. Flashing lights or a lowering gate means a train is approaching the station. It is illegal to bike, walk, skate or drive around lowered gates.

Cross legally. The only legal and safe place to cross train tracks is at designated crosswalks.

Stay alert around tracks. Headphones, music and texting can be distracting and keep you from noticing an approaching train.

Do not trespass on tracks. It’s illegal and can result in a fine or jail time.

Be safe around buses

Please stop, look and listen for buses before crossing the street.

Bike signals closeupWhile biking, please pass on the left if you see riders are boarding or deboarding.

Make sure the operator can see you. If you can’t see the operator—either in the mirror or directly—he or she can’t see you.

Don’t cross in front of a stopped bus. Traffic going around the vehicle may not see you!

If driving around a bus, please give the operators extra space as you change lanes. Buses cannot stop as quickly as cars.

We want you to stay safe while you’re out and about, so please stay alert while walking or biking around buses and trains—and share these tips with your family, friends and neighbors. Let’s all work together to keep everyone safe!

Find out more about the MAX Orange Line, check out the calendar of opening events and sign up to get updates by email.

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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