Category Archives: Rider News

How to navigate MAX during the 1st Avenue Improvements

Think of our upcoming work on First Avenue, and the accompanying service disruption, like a root canal procedure. It’s going to be messy and cause plenty of headaches. You’ll wish it were over sooner. And, in the end, you’ll be glad it happened.

And like with an invasive dental procedure, you’re going to have to be a little altered (your commute, anyways) to get through it.

We'll be replacing sections of track and switches along First Avenue in Downtown Portland.
It’s time to replace sections of track and switches like this along First Avenue in Downtown Portland.

Here are a few things we’re recommending for MAX riders during the two-week project:

Change your trip. If you can avoid peak hours or work from home, do it. Or take the bus (our buses will run on their regular routes during the project), the streetcar or try Lyft/carpooling. And if you choose to drive yourself for those two weeks, well, we get it.

Better yet, why not…

Bike there instead. May is National Bike Month and, even more excitingly, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s inaugural Bike More Challenge. Formerly the Bike Commute Challenge, which took place every September, the event is now more encompassing and accessible to every rider. Plus, it preempts the warm, sunny months that are perfect for cycling.

If you can bike all the way, more power to you. If you want to combine your trip with transit, lock up at the station (we have really nice Bike & Rides and secure bike parking all over the system) — don’t bring your bike on board. Trains are going to be packed, and it’s not worth the hassle of trying to wheel through the crowd. That’s a lot of nasty glares.

Plan extra time. In the end, we’re talking about significantly more crowded and less frequent trains, and the possibility you’ll have to transfer to a shuttle or walk a few more blocks to get to your destination. Everything’s going to take a little longer, so allowing at least 30–45 extra minutes for your trip is a good idea.

Now you’re ready to check the temporary schedules and plan your trip. (Don’t worry — our trip planner and TransitTracker will take these into account.) It’s going to be a little painful, but keep in mind what’s on the other side: more reliable service. The track and switches we’re replacing are old — MAX turns 30 this year — and malfunctions have become more frequent in the past few years. It’s time to dig in.

View animated maps and schedules for the 1st Avenue MAX Improvements

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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Heads Up! Pause Your Play When Crossing Tracks and Streets

You see it wherever you go, whether you’re on MAX, a bus, or walking down the street: heads down, staring at a smartphone.

Or maybe you don’t see it because you’re also texting, checking email, scrolling through Facebook or liking pictures on Instagram. Last November, we released this close-call video, in which pedestrians wearing earbuds crossed right in front of a train, seemingly unaware. Now we’re releasing new videos we hope will get people’s attention to “pay attention” when crossing streets and tracks, and when biking as well.

Hold that thought

Hold That Thought

Before you take a look at those videos, stop and consider this: Have you ever bumped into something or someone because you were distracted by your phone? A study by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of all adult cell phone users have bumped into something or someone — or have been on the receiving end of a bump — due to distracted walking. Those in the 18-to-24 age range run into this problem even more, with 51 percent admitting to doing the bumping and 71 percent saying they’ve been the “bumpee.” It might look funny on YouTube when it involves a fountain — not so much when it involves a train or bus.

We’ve launched a new safety campaign encouraging people to Pause your play and Hold that thought when crossing train tracks or streets. (You may have noticed the signs on buses, trains and bus stops.) Whether listening to music, talking with a friend, texting or scanning your phone, take just a moment to pause the distraction and be aware of your surroundings before you go.

Stay Alert. Stay Alive.

Every day, bus and rail operators contend with distracted pedestrians and cyclists crossing against signals and showing a lack of awareness around their vehicles. While they do their part to operate our buses and trains safely, we need you to do your part too.

  • Stop, look up from devices and look both ways
  • Obey signals
  • Remove headphones or an earbud, or stop the conversation while crossing
  • Don’t run across, even if it means waiting for the next walk signal or catching the next bus or train
  • Make sure umbrellas, hoods and other apparel don’t block your view

Our cameras captured the following videos. These aren’t meant to shame anyone, but to show how dangerous a lack of awareness is. We want everyone to stay alert and stay alive.

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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Hop Fastpass Will Change the Way You Pay Fare — If You Want It To

When it makes its debut next year, Hop Fastpass™ will change the way many of us ride transit. It will be a convenient option for lots of riders, allowing them to pay their way toward a daily or monthly pass, protect their balance even if they lose their card, and automatically reload funds so they’re never stuck without fare. But rest assured, you can always pay with cash, too.

We’re introducing Hop Fastpass as another option for TriMet, C-TRAN and Portland Streetcar riders — one that many have been dreaming of for years. (Electronic fare systems have been hugely successful in leading transit cities around the world.)

We’ve designed Hop Fastpass to be inclusive and accessible, but you don’t have to use it. You’ll still be able to pay with cash or purchase fares at ticket vending machines or on board buses, just like today. We want to make this clear, especially after seeing some inaccurate information floating around lately.

We do have programs to benefit low-income riders

The benefits of affordable transit are undeniable, and we’re on board. We lowered the cost of Youth fares to $1.25 back in 2014, which helps make transit more affordable for students and low-income families.  We also have $1.5 million dedicated to two programs that provide free or reduced-cost fares to non-profits and community-based organizations that serve low-income individuals and families. These groups are then able to offer fares as part of a suite of services for their clients.

For the many low-income families and individuals who ride frequently, Hop Fastpass offers a great advantage over paper tickets: the pay-as-you-go pass. This allows riders to pay towards a 1-Month Pass in increments as small as $5 – once they’ve paid the equivalent of a monthly pass, the rest of the rides are free that month. This eliminates the upfront cost of a pass while making its significant discount more accessible.

We’re (really) expanding our retail network

Right now, riders can purchase fare from about 130 retailers throughout the service area; with Hop Fastpass, there will be about 500 fare outlets. In the future, Hop Fastpass fare can also be loaded online, using a smartphone app, by phone and at our ticket offices.

And remember: You can always pay fare in cash on buses and at MAX stations.

Each rider needs their own card, but one person can manage multiple accounts

Lots of riders travel in groups, like families or classes, which is why Hop Fastpass will allow one rider to manage multiple accounts. Each rider age 7 and older will need their own card to use Hop Fastpass (just like each needs separate fare today).

Plus, there’s a big benefit to using individual cards: It will allow us to offer pay-as-you-go passes. Pay for two 2½-Hour Tickets in a day and ride free until the end of service; pay the equivalent of a monthly pass in one month and ride free until the next month. This extends the value of passes to more riders, without the upfront cost.

To kick things off, we’ll be giving out about 200,000 free cards, many of which will be available to low-income riders. Otherwise there will be a one-time $3 charge for a new Hop Fastpass card, which is designed to last for up to 10 years. The low card fee (which, when taking advantage of balance protection available with a Hop Fastpass card, is less than the cost of losing a single 1-Day Pass) will help us maintain a wide-reaching and convenient retail network.

crop53 (1 of 1)

You’ll know when you’re running low

The theme of Hop Fastpass is convenience, and that means not having to worry about your account balance. The easiest thing to do is set it and forget it — register your account and activate automatic reloading, so you’re never stuck without fare. But even if you don’t do this, you can always check your balance online, using the app or by phone. And if your balance is running low, you’ll get an alert when you tap on board. And if you don’t have money on your Hop Fastpass card, you can always pay with cash on the bus or at the train station.

Your personal information remains private

Hop Fastpass users’ credit or debit card information will be assigned secure, randomly generated alphanumeric tokens. Cybersource, owned by Visa, will handle all the payment processing for Hop Fastpass and will marry the digital tokens with the corresponding credit or debit card numbers.

Your personal information is safe, too — in fact, we’ll allow you to register your Hop Fastpass account using a four-digit security PIN that you create. We’ll tally the taps on your card to make sure you’re charged the correct fare and to cap your fares once you’ve paid the equivalent of a daily or monthly pass.

We want to know what you think

We know our riders want an electronic fare system, and we want Hop Fastpass to work for as many people as possible. We’ve welcomed public input every step of the way, and we’ll continue to share our progress and listen to riders before, during and after the system makes its debut.

Send us a note or sign up for email updates about Hop Fastpass (especially if you’re interested in the chance to become a beta tester) or to learn about upcoming public meetings and hearings.

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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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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Here’s How We Plan to Improve MAX Reliability

In the two months since I joined TriMet as the new chief operating officer, I’ve developed an initial focus: delivering more reliable service, and doing it safely.

We know that MAX on-time performance (OTP), our measure of reliability, isn’t what it should be. Right now about one in every five trips is delayed. I know how frustrating this can be, and the impact it can have on a busy schedule. There are places you need to be — work, school, your child’s daycare, the doctor’s office — and it’s our responsibility to help get you there on time.

People took about 38 million trips on MAX last year.

The bottom line is that we need to do better, and earn your trust.

Our teams are working hard to chart a new course. We’re planning to address many areas that affect our system’s OTP, with a goal of raising it over time to an average of 90 percent. (For reference, we averaged 75 percent OTP for MAX in November.)

Achieving this will require some long-term efforts and investments, but I think we can do a lot in the months ahead.

What causes delays?

MAX is a very complex system that operates about 22½ hours a day, with a fleet of 145 vehicles. We’ve looked closely at what causes delays and found that one-third of it revolves around issues like cars blocking the tracks or passengers in need of medical attention — events beyond our immediate control. Even a fallen tree can cause a significant disruption, as we saw in December when it took four hours to clear a tree from the tracks in Downtown Portland. (Even though I was on a bus, we were gridlocked in the traffic backup and I felt the frustration.)

MAX vehicles at Ruby Junction. MAX is a complex system, running 22½ hours a day.
MAX vehicles at Ruby Junction. MAX is a complex system operating 22½ hours a day.

The remaining two-thirds of delays fall within our control, involving trains, signals, switches or numerous other operating issues.

How we’ll improve

To start, we’re focusing on four key areas:

Physical improvements

Parts of the MAX system are 30 years old, and some of its elements need to be upgraded or replaced.

This year, we’re dedicating more than $11 million initially to replace track and switches at the Rose Quarter and along First Avenue in Downtown Portland. (This will also likely require future investments.) Another focus will be on the Steel Bridge, the 104-year-old span that carries four MAX lines over the Willamette. That, along with the adjoining Rose Quarter area, is the site of frequent switch and signal problems. We’re designing an upgrade to the tracks, signals and switches on the bridge, and construction is scheduled to begin in 2017. Given the complexity of the system on the bridge, we’ve hired outside expertise to help us improve reliability and maximize capacity.

Four MAX lines cross the 104-year-old Steel Bridge.
Four MAX lines cross the 104-year-old Steel Bridge.

That’s the good news. However, as you might have guessed, work at the Rose Quarter and along First Avenue is going to require a disruption to MAX service while parts are upgraded or replaced. We’re working on a plan to help keep your ride as smooth as possible during that time, and we’ll share more as we get closer.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue overhauling and upgrading MAX vehicles, making them more reliable for many years and millions of miles to come.

More support for frontline employees

Our ever-growing bus and MAX system means we have a lot of new operators. They’re all capable and professional but, like at any new job, it can take time to get comfortable with the rhythm and intricacies of driving a train on a busy and recently expanded system. That’s why we’re planning to expand our support, coaching and training for operators, helping them become more assured and confident. This should make everyone’s ride smoother and more reliable.

Changing the way we operate

We can also change the way we operate to improve OTP and give you a more reliable ride. We’re working on that now, and I’m excited to see what we come up with. Rest assured, we will never compromise safety.

Working with partners to limit delays

The incident with the fallen tree and the four-hour delay spurred us to meet with the City of Portland to look for ways to shorten delays. We’re also reaching out to our first-responder partners to get trains moving quicker after an incident.

That’s where we start. As this work goes on, I want to be open with you about how we’re doing, the progress we’ve made and what we’ve learned. As I mentioned, this is a complex system and improving it involves focus and resolve. We have a great team of talented and proud people who work very hard to serve you each and every day. We’ll be providing updates and putting together a web page where you can track our performance over time, and we expect to see the number of delays go down over time as our reliability improves.

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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The Year in Review: 2015

Our year has been characterized by success and surprise in equal measure. Everything from fireworks to record rainfall has left an impression upon us, and we’ve learned a little more with each passing event.

And the best part is that we’ve set up 2016 to be a great year.

Scroll down for a look at some of the highlights from the last 12 months, and what you can expect from us in the near future.

We opened the MAX Orange Line and Tilikum Crossing.

The year’s marquee event — not just for us, but for transportation in the Portland region — was the opening of the Orange Line. Our fifth light rail project looked nothing like the others before it, mostly because it included an extraordinary new bridge.

Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, is (say it with me!) the first bridge in the U.S. allowing transit, pedestrians and bikes, but no private vehicles. It’s also a work of art — slender, with clean lines and generous decks — but it was still an incredible surprise to see upwards of 40,000 people celebrating it on Aug. 9 at the People’s Preview.

Just over a month later, after what has to be some of the most genuinely fun fanfare to accompany a transit project (the fireworks mentioned above were just part of the one-of-a-kind series of celebrations), the Orange Line began service. And it became clear what was at the heart of all our anticipation: a forward-thinking solution to getting around the increasingly busy corridor between Portland and Milwaukie.

We added service.

The Orange Line was the biggest addition to our service this year, but it isn’t the only thing we added. We restored frequent service on MAX and 12 bus lines, meaning a train or bus every 15 minutes or better most of the day, every day.

We were thrilled to see the introduction of North Hillsboro Link, a free and flexible shuttle connecting riders to jobs, schools, community services and events. It complements Ride Connection’s other shuttles in Tualatin and Forest Grove.

There’s more on the way, too. Many of the other plans you’ve helped us shape in our Future of Transit project will be funded thanks to the additional revenue coming from the recent employer payroll tax increase. Employers pay for the majority of our operating revenue, and this increase of 1/10th of one percent (phased in over 10 years) will go toward more service, better frequency and new connections. And you won’t have to wait long to see more service — we’ve already planned the introduction of bus Line 97-Tualatin/Sherwood this summer.

We got new buses and trains.

Our plans for enhanced service also called for more vehicles, and this year we made some interesting additions to our bus and rail fleet. What we didn’t get: more of the same. In early spring we brought in the first of 22 30-foot buses, which are smaller and handle better on routes with tight turns.

Then came the fifth-generation (Type 5) MAX vehicles, which feature more and better seats (with more legroom), better ramps and a better air conditioning system than previous models. These improvements were partially the result of rider and operator feedback. (Interestingly, the seating layout and ramp design ended up resembling those of our second and third generation trains.)

Finally, we introduced the confusingly-named but fantastically clean-running all-electric hybrids — buses that can be completely electrically powered, which our older hybrids can’t do. They’re quiet, get good gas mileage (at least 6 miles per gallon, impressive for a bus) and they’ll save plenty in fuel costs over their lifetime.

We started developing Hop Fastpass.

We’re joining the ranks of transit districts with electronic fare systems, and if you’ve ever used contactless fares like ORCA or Clipper, you probably understand why this is a big deal.

hop_bg

Hop Fastpass, our regional e-fare system, makes its debut in 2017. You’ll be able to ride cash-free and paperless — no more searching for change or keeping track of tickets — and you’ll even be able to set up automatic balance reloading so you’re never stuck without fare.

And if you’re a frequent rider you can pay your way toward a monthly pass, one ride at a time. After using Hop Fastpass to pay for 20 day passes in one month, you’ll ride free until the next month. It’s a convenient way to get the value of a monthly pass without the upfront cost, and you’ll never pay for rides you don’t use.

We contended with weather.

MAX is designed to operate best within our region’s average temperature range — but as we all know, this year hasn’t been average. It was the hottest summer on record in the Northwest, and at its peak MAX had to slow down in case it came across anything amiss (sun-kinked rails, sagging power wires). Of course, slower trains cause delays, which are even less fun when it’s 100 degrees out.

(Speaking of the heat: As of last week, all our buses have been equipped with air conditioning — doesn’t mean much now, but we’ll be that much more comfortable next summer!)

Then came the rain. By Halloween, the combination of torrential downpours and clogged storm drains across the region made streets into rivers — including the MAX tracks below the Morrison Bridge. It was there that we made a fateful error and drove a train through standing water, which entered the cab (we were glad nobody was hurt) and damaged the vehicle’s undercarriage.

While our mechanics diligently inspected and repaired the water damage, we were stuck sending out single-car MAX trains. After the regrettable endeavor, we vowed to use our common sense next time.

We had some service issues.

Our troubles didn’t end with the weather. This year saw some persistent switch and signal issues cause recurring delays for MAX riders.  You deserve more reliable and efficient service than we often delivered, and we’re truly sorry about that.

fix

Whether it’s a known issue (like problem switches), ongoing work (like train rehab and maintenance) or something that just comes up, know that we’re doing everything we can to fix it. Designing better equipment (new switches are coming next year); improving and retrofitting our oldest trains (we’ve only got a couple more to go); working vigilantly to keep things running in the worst weather.

There will be some tough weeks next year while we dig in and do the remodeling, but we promise you a more reliable ride when it’s done.

We connected with you in new ways.

Through it all, we enjoyed connecting with you this year. We engaged more on Twitter and Facebook, which let us provide more useful information but more importantly made us better listeners.

We also found some extraordinary new ways to keep in touch:

Sharing an only-on-transit moment on Instagram. Sharing an Orange Line IPA at BridgePort. Handing out Tilikum Crossing scarves during a historic Timbers season. Parading lit-up bikes through the night in the rain. We did a lot this year, and you were right there with us.

We learned a ton.

The point of looking back at the events that shaped our year isn’t simply to reminisce. More importantly, processing these experiences and hearing what worked for you (and what didn’t) helps us think of ways we can do better in the future, starting now.  We’ll capitalize on our successes and learn from the mistakes, and keep the focus on improving  your ride — because we really believe that’s what’s most important.

We can’t wait to show you more in 2016. Thanks for riding.

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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Alternatives to the MAX Orange Line Park & Rides

Commuters parking in nearby neighborhoods was never a big issue following the opening of previous MAX lines. But since the Orange Line opened in September, we’ve seen its two Park & Rides fill up quickly on weekday mornings, leading some drivers to find spots along residential streets.

The Park & Ride at the SE Park Ave MAX Station has quickly proven popular.
The Park & Ride at the SE Park Ave MAX Station has quickly proven popular.

It’s not that we didn’t want to offer more parking. After all, more commuters using a Park & Ride means more riders — and that’s a good thing! But faced with reducing the scope of the Orange Line project after federal funding was reduced from 60 percent to half, we decided to limit the size of the Park & Rides (while laying foundation for future expansion) and try our best to secure the funding later. This was just one of many cuts we had to make; unfortunately, even after the new line came in under budget, the Federal Transportation Administration didn’t allow these deferred items to be added back to the project.

(There’s a chance the savings will be returned to us — along with our local partners — in 2019, when the last phase of the project concludes.)

So while we anticipated that the Park & Rides would be popular, we also hoped the excellent network of bike routes, trails and transit connecting to the Orange Line would mitigate problems with packed parking garages. If you’re an Orange Line Park & Ride user, consider the following as ways to potentially save time, money and sanity.

Bike there (or walk!)
There are Bike & Rides at the Tacoma and Park Ave stations with plenty of secure and enclosed parking. Plus, both facilities are connected to great off-street trails (the Springwater Corridor and the Trolley Trail, respectively) and bike-friendly roads. Many bike commuters ride year-round; if you’re thinking of getting started now, check out the Community Cycling Center’s tips for riding in the rain.

There are a total of 146 secure and enclosed bike parking spaces at Orange Line Bike & Rides.
There are a total of 146 secure and enclosed bike parking spaces at Orange Line Bike & Rides.

Connect
Many buses serve Orange Line stations, either directly or via a nearby stop. For example, there are eight lines that stop at SE 21st & Jackson in Milwaukie, less than a quarter-mile from the Milwaukie/Main St Station. Try planning a trip to see how you can connect to MAX.

An alternate Park & Ride
The Milwaukie Park & Ride connects to the Orange Line via Line 34 — a quick one-mile trip will get you to MAX and on your way. Walking’s an option, too, and a great way to get fresh air and exercise before starting your day. And don’t forget: During commute hours, Line 99 will take you all the way into Downtown Portland.

Carpool
Chances are a neighbor or coworker is headed the same way you are. Give carpooling a try and better your chances at getting a spot at the Park & Ride.

The Trolley Trail runs six miles between Gladstone and Milwaukie and connects to the SE Park Ave MAX Station.
The Trolley Trail runs six miles between Gladstone and Milwaukie and connects to the SE Park Ave MAX Station.

Be considerate if you park in the neighborhood
If you miss out on a spot at the Park & Ride and decide to park on a nearby residential street, keep it legal and be courteous. Please respect private property and don’t park in nearby lots. There are parking ordinances that apply (check out this helpful list from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office) and, just as importantly, neighbors’ feelings to consider. Neglecting these could earn you a costly citation or a nasty note.

The Orange Line has been successful because riders were willing to try something new. Changing our routines isn’t easy, but it often leads us to discover some great benefits, both for ourselves and our community. In that spirit, why not see if there’s a better option for your next commute?

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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