Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

(More) new buses are on the way!

3100 series bus
A “3100 series” bus at our prep facility in June

It’s here! The first of 70 new buses is now on site at our prep facility in NE Portland.

The new buses (which we’re calling our “3100 series”) are even more fuel-efficient than the 50+ buses we purchased last year, and they have a few improvements for both riders and operators. They’ll be going into service gradually starting in Mid-July, replacing some of the oldest buses in our fleet.

Fresh from the factory

We expect to receive three to five buses per week for roughly 18 weeks this summer and fall. Each bus will be driven up to Portland from the Gillig factory in Hayward, California.

Then, it takes our crews about two weeks to get each bus ready for service, including DMV title, license and registration.

The new buses will be put into service at our Merlo and Center Street garages. We’ll replace buses that are highest on the “ready for retirement” list first.

What’s new for riders

New passenger seats
New composite passenger seats
  • Seats: The most visible change you’ll notice on the 3100s is the seats. They now have a composite seat frame that weighs less, costs less and should show less dirt and fingerprints than the stainless steel frames in the 3000s.
  • Boarding ramp: We’ve made boarding easier for customers by making slight modifications to the boarding ramp and adding a new ramp guard to help direct mobility devices farther into the bus before turning down the aisle. And a new ramp warning light inside the vehicle will alert riders on the bus that the ramp is going to deploy.
  • Efficient engine: The 3100 series buses have a 2013 EPA-compliant engine that has a bit more fuel and emissions efficiency than previous models. It won’t make your bus go faster, but the innovative cooling system we pioneered improves fuel economy by 5-10 percent. And the ultra-low-emission engine keeps pollutants out of the air.
  • Transmission: The transmission has a load-based shifting program that can tell when the bus is on a hill with a lot of riders, and shift accordingly to match conditions.

Other features

Like the buses we added last year, the 3100s come with standard air conditioning (hooray!), automatic stop announcements, easy-to-clean vinyl seats, larger windows, handrails and a gently sloping floor at the rear exit, a next-generation GPS dispatch/tracking system and improved windshield visibility for operators.

A better bus fleet

In addition to the 55 buses we purchased last year and 70 coming this year, we will be replacing another 184 buses over the next three years. By 2017, we will have replaced all of the remaining high-floor buses in the fleet (those with steps at the door), and reduced the average age of our bus fleet to eight years (the industry standard).

Learn more about the features of our next-generation buses


TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

Jennette Zarko

Jennette Zarko

I'm TriMet's Web and Social Media Communications Coordinator. I help develop and maintain TriMet's web and social media content. My family uses a combination of carpooling, Portland Streetcar, biking and riding Line 38 to get to work and school. It’s just how I like it - a little different every day! You can also occasionally catch me performing around Portland with various improv groups.

More Posts

From the archives: Jerry the TriMet Rider TV commercial and behind-the-scenes Jerry photos

In the late ’90s, Jerry the TriMet Rider made his television debut in a stop-motion commercial directed by local animator Cameron Gray. It follows Jerry onto a bus, where he notices the air conditioning and frequent service (new concepts at the time), and dreams of the day when he can take the MAX Red Line to the Portland Airport for a vacation to the tropics. It’s silly and fun—check it out!

And, when searching around, we found some behind-the-scenes photos of Jerry. He looks like a fun guy to hang around. What do you think?

Hi! I'm Jerry!
Hi! I’m Jerry!
Jerry and baseball
What a playful guy!
Dreamboat Jerry
Flowers and groceries—the perfect man.
Jerry and dog
Man’s best friend.
Shopping cart Jerry
Gone shopping.

Do you remember Jerry the TriMet Rider?

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

Marisa Scheidegger

I'm TriMet's marketing communications coordinator. I write content for TriMet's web and social media, and customer-facing print materials. When I'm not working, I'm spending time with my husband and two incredibly bright and funny kids.

More Posts

Congratulations to our Operator of the Year award winners

General Manager Neil McFarlane has unveiled the results of TriMet’s 2013 Operator of the Year election. At an employee ceremony Thursday afternoon, May 9, he announced that the following operators had been selected for the honor by their peers:

Bus Operator of the Year: Willie Jack

Willie Jack, Operator of the Year 2013
Willie Jack, Operator of the Year 2013

With his seniority, Willie Jack could choose just about any route he wants. And these days, he chooses Line 17. It touches so many schools, work-sites, medical facilities, restaurants, stores, parks and other destinations as it travels from SE 134th and Powell and Concordia University and back out again.

If you’re on the 17 and getting a ride that’s amazingly friendly, on-time, safe and smooth—take a look in the driver’s seat and see if you’re in the capable hands of Willie Jack.

He has been inducted into the Million Miles of Safety Club and was also TriMet’s Operator of the Year in 1985.

Here’s what we heard from one customer who starts their trip on Line 71 and transfers to Willie Jack’s Line 17, “I take this particular bus to dialysis about three times a week and I have had him as my driver for about 4-5 months now. I am in a wheelchair. Yesterday the 71 was late getting to my connecting stop, and the 71 [operator] honked the horn, and this operator [Willie, on the 17] waited for me to get off and to get to his bus. I would have missed my dialysis had he not waited. I thought that was just great and he is a wonderful driver.” The customer added that Willie Jack was especially helpful when she came back to the 17 after a few months as a LIFT rider, post-surgery.

MAX Operator of the Year: Ivan Semenyuk

Ivan Semenyuk, MAX Operator of the Year 2013
Ivan Semenyuk, MAX Operator of the Year 2013

Is there anyone who hasn’t gotten a ride from Ivan? He works a busy Monday-Friday shift, operating the Blue, Green and Yellow lines, crisscrossing the region from Hillsboro to Gresham, Clackamas to Expo Center. Our numbers show he provided more than 323,000 rides last year!

He is now a two-time winner of MAX Operator of the Year. He won the award for the first time in 2008 and then again this year.

Ivan has received many commendations, including, “I received a bag turned into lost and found for a customer, who did not speak English. This operator talked to them on the phone and translated for me, and helped get the bag to them, as they were elderly.”

Part-Time Operator of the Year: Terrie Sweet

Terrie Sweet, Part-Time Operator of the Year 2013
Terrie Sweet, Part-Time Operator of the Year 2013

Do you commute to Marquam Hill in the morning on the 61 or 64? Maybe you catch the 38 from downtown Portland out Tualatin way in the afternoons?

Then you might be riding with Terrie Sweet, whose split shift schedule makes a sustainable commute possible for hundreds of commuters each week.

Four generations of Terrie Sweet’s family filled a table in the report area for the awards ceremony. “Grandma won!” exclaimed the littlest guest.

Million Miles of Safety

The ceremony also honored eight operators for reaching a prestigious safety milestone and earning admission into TriMet’s Million Mile Club. This is no small achievement.

It’s estimated that it takes at least 29 years of safe driving to reach the million mile mark. That’s the equivalent of driving 182,000 one-way trips on Line 25-Glisan/Rockwood; 15,000 roundtrips on the MAX Blue Line; or two trips to the moon and back. Million Mile Club operators must earn 29 annual Safe Driver Awards from the National Safety Council.

Congratulations to:

Chris Wolff

Teresa Woods

Douglas Hills

Rose Jordan-Fairley

Greg Butler

Karen Asio

Dennis Withrow

Howard Lee


WEIGH IN: Discuss this post on Facebook

Anyone lose a fuzzy zebra bike? (A journey through TriMet Lost & Found)

An umbrella. A weed wacker. A cell phone. Some dentures. A paint gun. And one furry, spotted bicycle.

What do these things have in common? They’ve all been turned into our Lost & Found department recently. Lost & Found, located at our Center Street office in SE Portland, is staffed by station agents like Kathy Guirado, who told us that some of the items left behind on buses and trains are anything but “common.”

From wine and whiskey to dog food and cat litter pans, our Lost & Found department receives a steady flow of weird, lost items. A few years ago, someone even left a human skeleton on board! (That’s the weirdest one we’ve seen.)

DSC_2132 DSC_2133 DSC_2138 DSC_2141 DSC_2148 DSC_2153 DSC_2154

In 2012, our Lost & Found department processed more than 26,000 lost items. For years, umbrellas were the most frequently lost item… These days, it’s cell phones.

Visit our website for more information on what to do if you find or lose something on TriMet. We’ll do our best to get your item back to you as quickly as possible. (Note that unclaimed items turned into Lost & Found are given to charity after 14 days.) Once, we returned a plane ticket to the airport so a rider wouldn’t miss her flight!


Meet a “Gold Master Operator”

Rolynd Puckett, TriMet Gold Master Operator
Veteran operator Rolynd Puckett earned the distinction of “Gold Master Operator” for his safe driving, attendance and customer service. He is one of only three TriMet operators to receive this honor!

Long-time bus operator Rolynd Puckett has been awarded the distinction of “Gold Master Operator” as part of our Master Operator Program.

TriMet’s Master Operator Program recognizes bus and rail operators who achieve overall excellence in their duties as professional drivers.

Operators earn Superior Performance Awards (SPAs) each time they go 1,960 hours of work without any preventable accidents, warnings, reprimands or suspensions.

To reach Master Operator status, a driver must accumulate 10 SPA awards. For Grand Master level, an operator needs 20. And to achieve Gold Master ranking, he or she needs 30 SPA awards.

They also must have excellent records of attendance and customer service.

I have met a lot of neat passengers over the years, made friends with people on the bus. It is special when a rider you haven’t seen for a long time gets on and still remembers you.

Rolynd has 30 SPAs meaning he has driven 58,800 stellar hours. (That’s 6.7 years!) He is one of only three operators at TriMet to receive the Gold Master Operator award.

He also has logged 13 years of perfect attendance, 11 of which were consecutive—no small feat.

Rolynd said receiving this award is “a real honor. My career at TriMet has been a great experience.” He continued, “I couldn’t ask for better coworkers. We really are a big family and we are all in this together. We try to help each other out where we can.”

He has been a TriMet bus operator for 38 years and is second in seniority; only one other current operator has been at TriMet longer.

Rolynd has driven countless routes and currently drives the first Line 67-Bethany/158th bus of the day from Merlo Rd/SW 158th Avenue to Portland Community College/Rock Creek Campus.

Riders say he is “friendly and warm” and “the nicest bus operator I’ve ever had.”

Rolynd and his wife of 42 years, Penny, enjoy camping, fishing and clamming together. He’s also involved in activities at his church, including participating in a choir that visits retirement homes and care facilities to entertain residents. He joined TriMet right after his service in the Navy.

As a reminder: Bus Driver Appreciation Day is coming up. Mark your calendars for March 18, 2013, to celebrate and honor all TriMet operators! Of course, you can submit a commendation for an operator any time at

Our response to The Oregonian “TriMet overtime” article

Shelly Lomax is TriMet’s Executive Director of Operations.

The Oregonian has an article they call “TriMet overtime: ‘Exhaustion has become part of the culture’ at transit agency.” We wanted to take this opportunity to provide some further information and to assure you that we have a safe system that you can trust.

The story stems from when a MAX train hit a bumping post at the Expo Center in 2011 and there was speculation that the operator may have fallen asleep. This was an extremely rare and unfortunate event for TriMet—but we followed up with the appropriate investigation and discipline regarding this incident.

Since then, The Oregonian has asked for years of complaints against operators, hours of service (HOS), pay records and collision data to determine if there is a pattern of this type of behavior.

We have a few bus operators who choose to work a lot of overtime, and at times taking just a few hours off between service days. While this is rare it complies with our HOS policy. We are vigilant when it comes to improving safety because we can always do better, and we will.

Every day we do a lot to ensure a safe operation:

  • Our operators are trained professionals who all receive annual safety training and refresher training when appropriate.
  • We comply with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s requirement that we have an HOS policy approved by ODOT for our rail operators and have applied a similar policy to our bus operators. The HOS policy defines a service day differently between bus and rail. As we negotiate the next contract, we hope to work with the ATU to improve the hours of service policy and further strengthen our support of safe operations.
  • Our negotiated HOS policy limits the number of hours a person can work in a week and the number of consecutive days a person can work; it also requires a period of rest within the service day. Additionally, operators have the ability to pass up work or request later work under certain circumstances so they can get the rest they need.
  • If an operator is feeling tired, we have safety measures in place. If we get a complaint about unsafe driving or concern over a sleepy operator, we perform a field fit-for-duty check on the operator.

Bus and MAX operators come to work each day prepared to deliver safe and reliable transportation for our customers and our community. It is a responsibility every operator, and in fact, every Operations employee, takes very seriously.

Safety is our core value. There is no greater priority. We can always improve our safety efforts and will continue to do so—hand in hand with our entire Operations Division, Safety and Security Division and the ATU.

Shelly Lomax

I’m TriMet’s Executive Director of Transportation. I started at TriMet as a bus operator in 1987. I have direct responsibility for the Transportation Division, which includes all bus, MAX, WES and LIFT operations. I work every day to keep TriMet service safe, dependable and friendly.

More Posts

Behind the scenes: filming TNT’s “Leverage” on TriMet

Roberta Altstadt is TriMet’s public information officer.

How do you transform the TriMet MAX system into a subway system? Well, it takes a lot of people and equipment, 80+ hours and special effects.

Screenshot: behind-the-scenes video of "Leverage" on TriMet
Watch behind-the-scenes video of “Leverage” on TriMet.

When a producer with the television show “Leverage” first approached me to do some filming on the MAX system, I had no idea what we were in for. The TNT show, which is filmed and set in Portland, was actually doing an episode where some of the characters were visiting Washington, D.C. (The episode is called “The Rundown Job.”) That meant the MAX system—which mainly runs above ground and is powered using overhead wires—needed to double as the underground, rail-powered subway system.

Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane
Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane in Robertson Tunnel. See more behind-the-scenes photos for “Leverage” filming on TriMet.
TM & © Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Photographer: Erik Heinla.

The only real underground stretch of the MAX system is the Robertson Tunnel. With MAX trains running through the tunnel 20 hours or more a day, we could only give the “Leverage” crew a four-hour window in the middle of the night. Either they would need to shoot overnight for several days or we needed a plan B. That ended up being a maintenance bay in TriMet’s Ruby Junction Rail Operations Center.

See behind-the-scenes photos of “Leverage” filming on TriMet

The week of filming began with setup—hours and hours, days and days of it. Crews descended on our Ruby Junction facility in Gresham beginning on Tuesday. Each crew had a specialty. There was the electrical crew, the lighting crew, the audio crew, the rigging crew and the camera crew. Wave after wave came into the light rail maintenance bay with all their equipment and rigging. Green screens went up on the walls and tarps over the skylights to turn this room into a faux tunnel. The setup took several days and about 30 hours.

Beth Riesgraf and Director Dean Devlin
Beth Riesgraf receiving direction from Dean Devlin. See more behind-the-scenes photos for “Leverage” filming on TriMet.
TM & © Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Photographer: Erik Heinla.

Over in Southwest Portland, the crews started showing up at TriMet’s Washington Park MAX station across from the Oregon Zoo about 6 a.m. on Thursday. They had to prep the area up top for a few scenes and 260 feet down on the platform, they had to transform Portland into D.C. TriMet and Portland-area signs and maps were covered with D.C. subway signs and D.C.-area maps. At one point I went down to check on things and found a man with his young son and a furrowed brow analyzing a map with stops like Potomac Ave. and Anacostia on it. “Sorry sir, we’re in Portland and that’s a map of D.C.” I explained. “I thought things looked a little off,” he replied.

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

About 4 p.m., the filming up top began. Take after take of the same action. Then about 5 p.m. it was time to head back down to the platform. Some 75 crew members and actors were joined by about 200 extras. This posed some challenges since the MAX was still in service. I kept trying to divert riders to one section of the platform only to be told, “I’m an extra here for ‘Leverage.’” Wow, their extras really did look like TriMet commuters. The real riders passing through on the trains had to be surprised when they saw the packed platform and D.C. signs.

Ruby Junction with green screen
Ruby Junction with the green screen. See more behind-the-scenes photos for “Leverage” filming on TriMet.

At midnight, the filming began on the platform and then the last train rolled through westbound about 12:40 a.m. and the action began in earnest. The production had rented two MAX trains—one for the eastbound side and one for the westbound. They needed the timing of one train arriving on one side of the platform while the train on the other side was pulling away. With all the rehearsal that was done, crews were able to get those shots pretty quick and then it was time to climb down on the tracks and walk into the tunnel for more filming. It’s cold and dirty in there. Setup had to be quick since there was no way to have equipment staged ahead of time while the MAX trains were still running. Still, things went relatively “fast”. The filming finished earlier than planned and we walked out of the tunnel back to the platform about 4:30 a.m., a half hour before the first train of the day rolled through. Remember though, some of us had been there since 6 a.m.

Cast and crew
Cast and crew of “Leverage” on the Washington Park platform. See more behind-the-scenes photos for “Leverage” filming on TriMet.
TM & © Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. Photographer: Erik Heinla.

For me, it was home for a quick nap because by 3:30 p.m. I was at Ruby Junction in Gresham for the next night of filming. “Leverage” crews had been doing more setup for most of the day already. We moved the MAX train into the building. Many of us piled in along with cameras and monitors and the filming began. It was wild being inside at one end of the train with the action going on at the other end. Then came take after take. Actors talking with directors; producers talking with directors; actors talking with producers. Adjustments were made, coffee was drank, makeup reapplied and more filming. By 8 a.m., I was wondering out loud how much longer this could possibly go on. “That’s a wrap,” came about 8:45 a.m. Saturday morning.

Learn more about “Leverage” and when you can watch it

“The Rundown Job” aired nearly three months later. I was interested to see how they pieced the different scenes shot at different locations together. In all, the footage that took some 80+ hours of setup and filming whittled down to about six minutes and 15 seconds of the episode. In the end, the MAX system made its debut as a subway, I learned a lot about Hollywood-style filming and I got a pretty cool souvenir: a “D.C. subway” system map in TriMet colors.

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

P.S. If you get a chance to watch the episode on rerun, take a hard look at the MAX train as it rolls into the tunnel. What’s missing? (Overhead wires)

The production company for “Leverage” reimbursed TriMet for all costs including staff time and use of TriMet facilities.

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.

More Posts

Solar energy project near PSU now online


Over the last few months, you may have seen crews putting the finishing touches on the large solar-panel structure at the MAX turnaround near Portland State University (also clearly visible from I-405). Last week, we flipped the switch, and we’re happy to report it is up and running!

The new clean-energy system has 253 solar panels that will generate more than 64,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and shave nearly $5,000 off of our power bill each year. Plus, it serves as an eye-catching landmark for the south end of Downtown. It’s the largest solar project in Downtown, and the first on a MAX line.

WATCH: Online dashboard shows how much solar energy is being generated

Our overall contribution to the project was just $4,702, so our investment will be recouped within the first year of the system’s operation.

We sought and received a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build the $1.2 million steel structure surrounding the utility buildings at the MAX turnaround.

The design of the solar array, and other environmentally friendly features, helped the project win approval from the City of Portland’s planning and sustainability commission. In particular, the project was praised for obscuring views of the pre-fabricated utility buildings.

Incentives and tax credits will reduce the $366,000 cost of installing the panels by more than 70 percent. The installation will receive an $85,591 incentive from Energy Trust of Oregon and a $42,795 grant from PGE’s Clean Wind fund. The project is also pre-certified by the Oregon Department of Energy to receive a Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC). Over the next few months, we will identify a business “passthrough partner” willing to take the tax credit, spread over five years, in exchange for a $134,765 payment to us.

The solar panels were manufactured by SolarWorld in Hillsboro and installed by REC Solar.

WATCH: Online dashboard shows how much solar energy is being generated

TALK ABOUT IT: Discuss this post on Facebook

John Fall

I help TriMet communicate about the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project by coordinating the project website and managing project social media (in addition to general writing and copyediting). I'm also a mean cook who likes to improvise recipes—ask me for one the next time you see me on the 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th.

More Posts

The right place at the right time: Operator Richard Silverman rescues toddler in traffic

Operator Richard Silverman
On Tuesday, TriMet Operator Richard Silverman was driving along 82nd Avenue when “a little pink thing” dashed across the lane to his right. Photo courtesy Kate Mather/The Oregonian

Somewhere in NE Portland’s Sumner neighborhood this Thanksgiving, there’s a mother who’s grateful that a bus driver was in the right place at the right time.

In the thick of Tuesday morning’s record-setting rainstorm, Operator Richard Silverman was driving his Line 72 north on NE 82nd Ave., not far from the airport. As he prepared to make a left turn on to NE Killingsworth St., “a little pink thing” dashed across the lane to his right. He stopped the bus and saw a little girl in pink pajamas and rain boots toddling across the busy street in the blinding rain, right toward his bus.

Richard stopped the bus, positioned it at an angle to block traffic in both northbound lanes, and contacted Dispatch. The bus was about half full; one of the customers got off and retrieved the girl, who looked to be about two years old. The police arrived within minutes, with the mother—who had also called 911—on their heels. Richard says the little girl was drenched but calm, “not saying anything, just busy looking at everybody looking at her.”

Sobbing, the mother told Richard that the first floor of their apartment was flooding, and that the little girl must have slipped away in the confusion as the family relocated upstairs. After interviewing the mother, the police left; mother and daughter went home; and Richard and his riders resumed their trip toward Swan Island.

In December, Richard Silverman will begin his 15th year as a TriMet operator. Before TriMet, he drove trucks and taxis and was a steelworker—“Whatever would help me feed my family and raise my kids.” As a bus driver, Richard’s seen a lot, but rescuing a toddler from traffic? “That’s a first for me,” he says. “I’m just glad it had a happy ending.”

Jessica Bucciarelli

I work in internal communication at TriMet, which means I help employees stay in touch with what the agency’s doing and get the information they need to do their jobs. Sometimes I’m sitting at a computer writing a newsletter, other times I’m out at a bus stop at the crack of dawn with my notebook and camera. I grew up riding TriMet, and today I enjoy having a “behind the scenes” view of the service I use just about every day.

More Posts

OMSI exhibit focuses on Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge and Willamette River

Did you know construction is under way on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge across the Willamette River between South Waterfront and OMSI?

It’s the first bridge to be built in Portland in over 40 years, so we want to keep everyone up-to-speed on how it’s going and what the bridge means for Portland and the river.

That’s why we’ve partnered with OMSI (and several exhibit sponsors) to create interactive kiosks featuring fun videos about the river’s role as important habitat for many animals, and about the decisions made to ensure the right bridge design was picked for the location and the project.

Be sure to stop by the kiosks on your next OMSI visit! And to learn more about the bridge and the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, visit

John Fall

I help TriMet communicate about the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project by coordinating the project website and managing project social media (in addition to general writing and copyediting). I'm also a mean cook who likes to improvise recipes—ask me for one the next time you see me on the 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th.

More Posts