Category Archives: Q & A

Why our trains slow down when it heats up

Many of you have asked why our trains slow down when it’s hot outside. We know extra delays can be frustrating, but there are two important reasons why our speeds go down when temperatures go up—science and safety.

Like in other cities, the MAX light rail system is designed for the average temperature ranges of our local climate. When temperatures are at the extremes of that range, the materials in the system have a hard time adapting.

Steel and copper expand in the heat

In the case of extreme heat, the rails (made of steel) and the overhead power wires (made of copper) expand.

A one-mile stretch of rail in the MAX system may expand up to a few inches. This rail has to go somewhere, and when it gets too hot it can actually bend or lay over on its side! Our operators and controllers call this a “sun kink.”

Additionally, the overhead power wires may also expand. Because copper expands more than steel, and because we can’t allow the overhead wires to sag, we have a system of pulleys with counterweights that tug on the wires to keep them tight. (But sometimes, it gets so hot that the counterweights touch the ground and the wire starts to sag anyway!)

hotwx

At 90+ degrees, operators slow down for your safety

Our operators have to watch for both sagging power wires and “sun kinked” rails when it’s really hot out. To be safe, they slow down to make sure nothing goes wrong. As it gets hotter, they have to slow down even more.

When temperatures hit the 90s, trains traveling in speed zones above 35 mph will need to run 10 mph slower. This will affect segments of all MAX lines and may cause minor service delays.

At 95 degrees, WES Commuter Rail trains must also run slower—no more than 30 mph—to ensure safety. This can cause up to 30-minute delays.

If temperatures climb above 100 degrees, MAX trains cannot go faster than 35 mph. Delays of up to 15 minutes should be expected.

It’s hot out there—so prepare for the heat and stay hydrated!

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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You asked: How will the MAX Orange Line work in Downtown Portland?

The new MAX Orange Line will run 7.3 miles from Oak Grove into Downtown Portland, passing through towns and fields before reaching Tilikum Crossing, the newest span over the Willamette.

 

We’re often asked what happens after Orange Line trains go over Tilikum Crossing and enter Downtown Portland: Do they turn around at PSU? Do they become Yellow or Green line trains? Will I have to transfer to get to the Transit Mall?

The Orange Line will share Green/Yellow line tracks once it reaches the PSU South/SW 6th & College Station in Downtown Portland. What’s more, the Orange and Yellow lines will share vehicles — this is called interlining. Throughout most of the day, Orange Line trains heading north will continue as Yellow Line trains along their normal route.

This means a one-seat ride from Milwaukie and Oak Grove into Downtown Portland and beyond, all the way up to Expo Center.

Similarly, most Yellow Line trains headed south will continue as Orange Line trains down to the end of the line at the SE Park Ave Station. Interlining is more efficient than turning Orange and Yellow trains around Downtown; it requires fewer trains and eliminates transfers for north-south riders.

Most MAX Orange Line trains will continue as Yellow Line trains in Downtown Portland. Most southbound Yellow Line trains will continue as Orange Line trains before reaching Union Station.
So why isn’t this a Yellow Line extension?

Separating the two lines gives us flexibility, allowing us to increase frequency on one line without affecting the other. (For example, projections of high ridership on the Orange Line mean that some of its trains will turn around at Union Station during rush hour to meet that demand.)

Looking down the road, any addition of light rail or high-capacity transit in the future — like the options Metro is studying for the Southwest Corridor — would have an effect on ridership patterns on the system.  It’s possible that the difference between service frequency on the Orange and Yellow lines might become even more pronounced. As it is, we expect relatively few riders to travel between Milwaukie and North Portland; most are likely to head Downtown or transfer to east-west service.

Additionally, we think the Orange Line deserves its own recognition as a pioneering endeavor. Besides showcasing the first bridge of its kind in the U.S., the Orange Line features a host of sustainable elements like eco-roofs, eco-tracks and bioswales to capture stormwater runoff. And it serves a distinct corridor stretching from the region’s urban core to growing communities, setting it apart as our region’s newest light rail line.

Get more MAX Orange Line details at catchtheorange.com »
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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Ask TriMet: Are pets allowed on board?

With all the buzz about dogs on transit in the news today, here’s a quick refresher on our pet policy.

Jailbreak
Pets are allowed on board buses and trains, but only in an enclosed carrier. Service animals are allowed on a leash.

First off, pets are allowed on board buses and trains, but only in an enclosed carrier.

Service animals (those trained to help people with mental or physical disabilities) are allowed on a leash, but Fido must remain under the owner’s control and behave appropriately.

How do we know for sure that it’s really a service animal? We don’t. The operator 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.

The operator will intervene, however, if the animal is behaving aggressively or makes a mess on board.

It’s no secret that some people abuse this policy, but unfortunately there’s not much we can do about it.

All that said, 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.

If you have a concern about an animal on board, please tell the operator or contact Customer Service.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

Ask TriMet: How can TriMet afford new buses if there’s a budget shortfall?

“Ask TriMet” answers some of the questions we get frequently from riders. Have a question? Send it to ask@trimet.org and we may feature it in a future post.

3000-series bus on streetWhen we announced that we were purchasing 55 new buses last year, many riders asked us how we could afford them when we’d just raised fares and cut service due to a budget shortfall. Here’s the answer:

Bus replacement is as much a cost of service as the driver and mechanic. We delayed purchasing new buses as we weathered the last two recessions. We now have one of the oldest fleets in the country, and we simply can’t delay buying replacement vehicles any more. Not only are the aging buses uncomfortable for riders and operators, they have become too unreliable and expensive for us to maintain.

The Federal Transit Administration requires a minimum life of 12 years or 500,000 miles out of the type of bus TriMet uses. Thanks to our creative and innovative maintenance staff, we are able to keep our buses on the road a lot longer. Our maintenance staff are able to calculate the life of many of our bus parts and swap them out just before they fail most of the time, which helps prevent in-service break downs. We also go beyond upkeep by making improvements to our active buses in the fleet.

But like any vehicle that is heavily used, our buses are only useful for so long. The buses we are replacing are well beyond their useful life of 15-16 years. (As several of you have pointed out, some are over 20 years old!) As such, they have higher maintenance costs and can only be used to a limited extent in service. We will continue replacing the oldest buses in our fleet over the next few years.

We received $20 million in grant funding from the FTA to pay for replacement buses. The 55 new buses we purchased in 2012 are now in service, and we’ve already purchased 70 more that will go into service this year. We will replace about 60 more each year from 2014 to 2016, and about 40 more each year after that.

By 2017, we will have replaced all of the remaining high-floor buses (those with steps at the door) in the fleet and the average age of a bus in our fleet will be about 8 years. This is an essential investment which will improve the reliability, efficiency and safety of our buses, while reducing our costs over the long term.

Learn more about TriMet’s new buses

Have a question? Send it to ask@trimet.org and we may feature it in a future post.

Nancy D'Inzillo

I'm TriMet's web coordinator. I assist in developing and maintaining TriMet's web and social media content (in addition to general writing and copyediting assignments). In my spare time, I enjoy freelance editing, learning new recipes, and reading books of all genres.

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Ask TriMet: What’s with the “Palestinian Loss of Land” ad on some of the buses and trains?

Drew Blevins is TriMet’s Director of Marketing and Customer Information.

Ask TriMet logoSome of you have expressed concern about the “Palestinian Loss of Land” advertisements that are posted on some of our buses and trains. We value and respect this feedback, so we wanted to share with you why we were legally required to post this ad.

In the past, we only accepted commercial ads—those that promote goods or services. Under this policy the “Palestinian Loss of Land” would not have been accepted. However, in 2008, the Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled that our policy violated free speech rights under the Oregon and United States constitutions.

We have requested the Oregon Supreme Court review this decision. But until the court decides the issue, our ad policy has been suspended so that we are in compliance with the law.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Advertising on TriMet property generates more than $5 million per year in revenue that—particularly in this difficult economic environment—helps support keeping buses and trains in service.

That said, TriMet does not endorse any particular viewpoint or product of an advertiser, and all ads are clearly marked “Paid Advertisement.” The “Palestinian Loss of Land” ad is a paid advertisement.

Again, thank you for your interest in this issue, and I hope this helps clear up any confusion about the ads appearing on TriMet vehicles.

UPDATE: Pro-Israel ads also appearing on TriMet vehicles, more on TriMet’s advertising policy

Drew Blevins

Drew Blevins

I am TriMet's Director of Marketing and Customer Information. I manage the agency's customer information services through an integrated approach to retaining and increasing customers by positioning our transit system as simple to understand, easy to use, reliable, innovative and friendly. Our team is responsible for outreach and promotion, customer research, creative services, websites and interactive media, and on-street service information.

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Ask TriMet: “Does TriMet enforce the smoking ban?”

“Ask TriMet” answers some of the questions we get frequently from riders. Have a question? Send it to ask@trimet.org and we may feature it in a future post.

Ask TriMet logoRiders ask us variations of this question from time to time, usually after they see—or smell—someone smoking in or near a TriMet stop. The short answer is, “Yes.” Enforcement actions can take the form of a verbal or written warning, a $250 fine, or even an exclusion from the system.

What is the ban?

If you’re not familiar with the smoking ban, here’s the rule according to TriMet Code 28.1 A(2): “No person shall smoke an electronic cigarette, tobacco or any other substance, or shall carry any lighted or smoldering substance, in any form aboard a District Vehicle, in any elevator or underground area of a District Station, or within any space or area where posted signage prohibits smoking.” The ban took effect in 2005.

Where are No Smoking signs posted?

Currently, all of our MAX and WES stations and about 80 percent of bus stops with shelters have No Smoking signs.  By the end of the year, all bus stops with shelters will have them.

At stops without shelters, the smoking ban does not apply. These stops are technically considered public property, so we can’t prohibit smoking there.

No smoking symbolSo where exactly are smokers allowed to smoke?

One of our lead supervisors, Jim Waddington, explains the boundary where the ban applies as “inside the drip-line of a bus or MAX shelter, or anywhere on a TriMet-only MAX platform.” TriMet-only MAX platforms are those that don’t share space with public sidewalks (at Hollywood Transit Center, for example).

So that means that at all bus shelters and at MAX stations along public sidewalks, such as in Downtown Portland, smoking is allowed as long as it’s outside the drip-line of the shelter. If someone is standing just one step outside of the shelter and smoking, they’re not breaking the rule.

How we enforce the ban

Of course, we can’t patrol all of our stops and stations for smokers 24/7. But in a month on average, fare inspectors, supervisors, and local police will take actions against over 80 smokers. Enforcing the smoking ban often leads to opportunities to stop other prohibited behavior, such as riding without a valid fare. Police have even caught a few criminals with outstanding warrants by running a background check after first catching them smoking.

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. Our enforcement staff can then visit the stop and, if they catch the smoker breaking the rule, they can take the appropriate action.

Have a question? Send it to ask@trimet.org and we may feature it in a future post.

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