Category Archives: Rider News

How Transit Works in Snow and Ice

We’ve enjoyed a mild fall, with less precipitation than normal and plenty of sunshine.

That means we can expect a mellow winter, right?

We’re certainly not counting on it.

Over the years, we’ve learned that winter storms can appear out of nowhere. Of course, we monitor forecasts and share information with partners like PBOT and the National Weather Service to help us prepare for snow and ice. But weather isn’t always straightforward — and no two storms are the same — so we’re always at the ready with a plan.

Making the Call

We value safety, so determining whether to alter service in a winter weather event is simple: If a situation is potentially unsafe for riders, operators or equipment, we take action.

In practice, this means being ultra-aware of conditions across the system. To make this easier, we set up an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that’s staffed around the clock during severe winter weather events. Representatives from every division of the agency convene to track conditions and respond accordingly. This nimble structure streamlines and speeds up the process of gathering information, making decisions and disseminating information. (Activating an EOC during an emergency is standard practice across all types of agencies.)

The Plan for Buses

Preparing buses for snow and ice often begins before service starts for the day. Specialized crews known as “Snowbirds” head out to assess bus routes, particularly those at high elevations, to see if they’re safe for normal bus operations. They might call for a sanding truck, put the line on its snow route or cancel a run entirely.

Like other cars and trucks on the road, buses will often be chained if they’re running on snowy or icy streets. It takes a little under two minutes to install chains on each tire, and up to ten hours to chain all our buses. Depending on the forecast, we may chain just part of our fleet — if the weather suddenly improves, we need to be able to remove the chains quickly.

And if it gets really cold, buses will idle overnight to keep their engines warm and to prevent air systems from freezing. (Essential components like brakes, doors, wipers and starters are all air-operated.)

For riders, it’s important to keep in mind that chained buses travel slower — no faster than 25 mph — so they won’t stay on schedule. And in winter conditions your bus won’t pull up to the curb, lest it slide or become stuck. If that happens, we have rescue teams on standby to get it moving again.

MAX Service

MAX typically does well in snow, and we take measures to prevent ice buildup. Throughout the system, switches on the track are equipped with covers (some have heaters, too) and portions of the overhead wire have caps to keep ice at bay.

Some of our Type 1 MAX cars (the model with the stairs) have a special pantograph (the arm that connects the train to the overhead wire) equipped with an ice cutter that can shave about a millimeter of ice off the overhead wire with each pass. It doesn’t sound like much, but every little bit helps.

Recently, we installed a heating system on the overhead wires in the Ruby Junction rail yard as part of a pilot project to prevent ice buildup. If it works, we’ll consider using the technology throughout the system.

If necessary, we’ll run some trains overnight to keep ice from building up on the overhead wire. And if you’re at the station when one of these trains pulls up — for whatever reason, at whatever time — we’ll let you board!

Facilities

We have a supply of ice melt on hand to keep walkways, platforms, stairs and transit centers walkable. (We use magnesium chloride, an environmentally friendly and biodegradable liquid.) If you find that your stop or station is dangerously slick, let us know. We’ll try to get someone there to help as quickly as possible.

This is common sense, but it’s worth repeating: If it’s snowing or icy, be very careful when you’re making your way to your stop or station. Even if a path looks clear, it can be slippery.

What You Need to Know

We often need to alter service in the face of unpredictable weather, so start by checking for updates on your lines: You’ll find service alerts and snow route updates at trimet.org/alerts and on Twitter, or you can subscribe to email updates for the lines you ride. And if you have questions or comments, we’re available 24/7 to help.

We’ve already mentioned that your bus will likely be running late and a little slow — and perhaps on a snow route — during snow and ice. If it gets too far off its normal schedule, we’ll turn off TransitTracker so estimated arrival times (which aren’t accurate when buses are traveling slower) become approximate distances.

When you’re ready to catch the bus, keep in mind that it it can’t safely stop on a slope — so if your stop is on a hill, head to the top or bottom to board. And wait on the sidewalk until the bus comes to a complete stop before trying to board. There’s always a chance it could slide toward the curb once the brakes have locked the wheels.

Aside from checking the status of your bus or train before starting your trip, make sure your phone is charged and that you have water and warm clothing — don’t forget gloves and a hat. Leave plenty of time to walk to your stop or station and be extra careful on slopes. Along with our regional partners, we do our best to de-ice roads, bridges, garages, platforms and parking lots, but you’ll likely find some slippery spots along the way.

As we mentioned at the top, our goal is to keep everyone safe. So even as things slow down, know that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to coordinate safe travel in difficult circumstances. Winter weather requires extra effort from all of us, and we appreciate your trust, patience and preparedness when the time comes.

Which reminds us: Have you learned your snow route?

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.

More Posts

The Cheapest / Easiest / Most Convenient Ways to Get to PDX

Unlike most cities, we don’t dread going to our airport. The legit food options, reasonable prices and pleasant atmosphere make a big difference, but it also helps that PDX is not a painful haul to get to.

Nearly the entire region is within an hour drive of the airport and many of us live within 30 minutes. Better yet, transit offers an easy one-seat ride from downtown Portland (and beyond) right to the main airport building. Compared to many cities, we have it good.

Still, you have a variety of options for getting to and from our airport. Here are the pros and cons of each and what you can expect to pay.

Best Bets

TRANSIT

The cheapest option by far is quite convenient for many

MAX Red Line offers a one-seat ride to the airport all the way to Beaverton. It’s only 40 minutes from Pioneer Square and all but two of our Frequent Service bus lines (lines where buses arrive every 15 minutes or better most of the day, every day) connect with MAX Red Line.

Trains depart outside of baggage claim every 15 minutes from just before 6 a.m. through about 10 p.m. The first train of the day leaves PDX at 4:56 a.m. and the last departs at 1:41 a.m. (headways may be longer before 6 a.m. and after 10 p.m.).

Departing early or late? When MAX Red Line isn’t running, the PDX Night Bus (Line 272) is; it departs and arrives at PDX every hour.

FYI: Leaving your car in a Park & Ride and taking MAX to the airport is not an option — you can only leave your car at a Park and Ride for up to 24 hours.

Transit will cost $2.50 each way, which is less than the airport surcharge that will be added on top of your Uber or Lyft fare.

UBER / LYFT

Convenient and usually less expensive than driving

There’s a reason why Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity for airport trips.

That’s not to say they’re cheap — every ride to or from Portland International Airport comes with a $3 surcharge on top of your normal fare. And depending on how far from PDX you live, your fare could be sizable.

Fighting through the rideshare scrum to find your ride as you depart the airport can be a stressful and frustrating experience. But compared to the other options, this is the most convenient and comfortable way to and from the airport.

DRIVING

Expensive but (mostly) convenient

If you have a car, driving to PDX can be a convenient but potentially pricey option.

You have four parking options at PDX, ranging from $12/day up to $35/day:

The Economy lot ($12/day) is the cheapest, but naturally it’s farthest from the concourses. It’s located between Cascade Station and Marine Drive. Shuttle buses run from the lot to the terminal every 7-9 minutes from 4 a.m. to midnight, and every 15 minutes from midnight to 4 a.m.

The Long-Term garage is covered and is located adjacent to the main airport building. It’s the eastern-most garage you’ll see at PDX, and is located immediately behind the air traffic control tower. It costs $24/day.

Short-Term parking is the first garage you see when you walk out of baggage claim (it’s also where the car rental companies operate out of). It’s $27/day.

Feeling fancy (or just don’t want to deal with parking lots)? Valet parking is $35/day. Drop off is on the outer lane of the departure level.

More info about parking options at PDX.

Solid Options

TAXIS

You can catch a taxi from the center island of the roadway outside of departures. Radio Cab will charge you $33.50 to any Downtown location with their coupon.

PRIVATE SHUTTLES

Blue Star (sadly not the makers of delicious donuts) has a regularly scheduled Downtown Express between PDX, Lloyd Center and downtown Portland. It runs every 30 minutes and costs $14 one way ($24 round trip). See schedules and stops.

PRIVATE PARKING LOTS

There are several private parking lots near the airport that offer shuttle services. They offer prices comparable to PDX’s Economy lot.

AirPark
Park N Fly
Thrifty

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

More Posts

DALeast’s New Orange Line Mural

If you’re heading east across the Rhine–Lafayette pedestrian bridge in industrial Southeast Portland, keep an eye out for a large bird.

Or, more accurately, a hawk-like space-travel bio-vehicle.

That’s what celebrated artist DALeast suggests is at the center of his latest work, a stunning mural on the side of our new maintenance building on SE 20th Avenue.

Against a midnight background, electric blue streaks of spray paint suggest an avian form. To the right, we see a magnificent burst of white light; to the left, perhaps a red dwarf star.

The mural feels at once peaceful and alive, simple and expansive. As for what it means, DALeast would much rather let you draw your own conclusion.

The spectacular piece is the final public art project associated with the nearby Orange Line, which runs right through the site of our previous facilities maintenance building.

The new 10,000-square-foot facility is currently being renovated to include new workspaces, a media-enabled training room and more. So it’s fitting that on the outside, the blank expanse of wall facing 20th Avenue got a makeover, too.

We’re thrilled with the new mural, and for the chance to breathe life into a formerly nondescript industrial site.

Want more public art news from us? Sign up for Riders Club!

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.

More Posts

What You Want In The Next Generation Of MAX Trains

In a few years, we’ll be sending our high-floor MAX trains — which have been rolling since MAX first opened in 1986 —  off into the sunset. We’ll miss our Type 1’s (you never forget your first love…), but we’re excited about their replacements, the Type 6’s. Evidently, so are you.

Earlier this year, we asked what features you wanted to see in our next generation of MAX cars. Your requests were diverse and interesting, and we noticed some common themes. While we can’t yet make any promises about what our new trains will include, your suggestions are being used to guide our planning.

Here are your most common requests:

More and better interior displays

We’re on board with you here — clear interior displays that tell you where you are and where you’re going are essential. For our Type 6 trains, we’re asking for an upgrade from our current LED displays to dynamic route maps and next-stop displays. Our hope is for high-definition displays that can show graphics.

Comfortable seating and easy-to-navigate layouts

Your feedback on the open layout of the Type 5 trains — which were introduced in 2015 with the Orange Line — has been very positive, so the Type 6 trains will likely be similar. Regardless, we’re going to explore seat cushioning and layout options, so we can give you the most comfortable ride possible.

A safe ride

This is as non-negotiable for us as it is for you. For our Type 6 trains, we’re looking to add a silent alarm you can use to notify operators of security issues, higher definition on-board cameras for the recording as well as live streaming of security footage, and higher quality rear monitors so operators to have a clear image of what’s happening around the train during boarding.

There were several other common requests that we’ll be looking into, including WiFi, charging stations and USB ports, more leg room, easier boarding and exiting with wider doors and faster ramps, and more and better bike storage. Again, we make no promises but we’re looking at which requests we can accommodate.

So when you can expect these new train cars? Soon, but not too soon. You cannot go to the train store and pick out new cars to drive home (we wish…). These cars will be custom designed and built. We’re going to be looking for a manufacturer for these cars starting this year. Then the actual car design will kick off next year and manufacturing will start in 2020. If everything goes well, we hope to have the first new cars rolling in Portland by late 2021 or 2022. Stay tuned.

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

More Posts

E-Scooters Have Arrived. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Let’s cut right to the chase: Electric scooters are fun.

They’re a lot of other things, too, depending on whom you ask. Controversial, convenient, frivolous, potentially dangerous — it felt like we’d heard it all before the first scooter hit the streets in Portland.

Now that they’re here (Bird was the first out of the gates, deploying over 100 scooters overnight), you can see for yourself.

If you haven’t ridden one before, we’d suggest finding a quiet street to get your bearings. They’re surprisingly zippy, and there’s a bit of balancing involved. Once you’re comfortable, you just kind of…go. It’s fun, and you might feel a little silly, but you’ll probably also be smiling.

Once you leave the quiet streets for busier bikeways, and then later when you start looking for a place to park your scooter, you’ll appreciate knowing these ground rules:

  • Ride in the street or in the bike lane, not on the sidewalk.
  • Helmets are required. These things are quick, and it will make sense once you start riding.
  • Park your scooter by the curb, away from the sidewalk. Don’t park right at your bus stop or on the MAX platform.
  • Scooters can’t go on buses or trains, including the bike racks. The idea is that scooters work best for connecting with transit.
  • If you have a question or complaint, contact the scooter company (their info will be on the scooter) or PBOT.
Don’t park here.

We hope this pilot program goes well — after all, we support all kinds of active transportation. It will almost certainly require cooperation and patience, but that’s not such a bad thing, is it?

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.

More Posts

Starting July 1: A Fairer Citation Process

A court record can affect your ability to get a job, rent a house or serve in the military. But until now, a TriMet fare evasion citation had to be resolved within the court system, in most cases leading to a court record. We didn’t think that was right – skipping fare is not a crime that should have life-long consequences – and we’ve done something about it.

Starting July 1, a new law gives us a 90-day window to resolve some citations directly with riders. If you are an adult and receive a citation only for fare evasion, you will now have the option to resolve the citation outside of the court system by paying a fine, performing community service or enrolling in a reduced fare program. If the citation was given in error, you can provide us with evidence and we’ll dismiss the citation.

Eligible citations will come in an envelope with instructions for settling your citation online or by phone.

If you don’t resolve your citation with TriMet within the 90-day window, your only option will be to resolve it in court, where the presumptive fine will be $175 and the maximum fine $250.

Here are your new options for resolving an eligible citation with TriMet:

Appeal your citation

If you can demonstrate you had the correct fare, you can request a written appeal online within 45 days of receiving your citation. If the citation is not dismissed, you’ll still have the option to resolve it with TriMet by paying a reduced fine, performing community service, or enrolling in a reduced fare program.

Pay a fine

You can pay your fine — and possibly a reduced fine — online, via check, or over the phone within 90 days from when your citation was issued:

1st offense: $75
2nd offense: $100
3rd offense: $150
4th offense and beyond: $175

Perform community service

Instead of paying a fine, you can perform community service at the Oregon Food Bank, Rebuilding Center, Free Geek or Oregon Humane Society within 90 days from when your citation was issued:

1st offense: 4 hours
2nd offense: 7 hours
3rd offense: 12 hours
4th offense and beyond: 15 hours

Enroll in a reduced fare program

If you qualify — either though income, age or disability — for our Honored Citizen fare and successfully sign up and load $10 on your personalized Honored Citizen Hop card within 90 days, your fine will be waived upon verification by TriMet.

Specific instructions will be provided with your citation. Not all citations are eligible for this program. 

Please note that penalties or this process could change over time and this page may not contain the most up-to-date information. Please read the instructions that come with your citation for the current penalties and process.   

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

More Posts

Hot Off the Press: The High Heat Cheat Sheet

Over the past few years, we’ve been working on ways to keep MAX moving in hot weather.

In 2016, we installed anchors along a segment of Red Line track to keep the rails — which expand in the heat — in place. And to combat the issue of sagging overhead wires, we recently made adjustments to the counterweights along parts of the Blue and Red lines to give them more room to move.

Now trains can operate with fewer speed restrictions as temperatures reach triple digits. To help you know what to expect in hot weather, we updated the High Heat Cheat Sheet:

Stay cool!

MAX is Back at Providence Park. Thank You for Your Patience!

And that’s a wrap! We’ve finished our Providence Park MAX track work and trains are running normally again.

We want to thank you for your patience during this work. We understand how inconvenient these disruptions can be. We’re commuters ourselves, after all.

New rails outside Providence Park.

This six-day disruption allowed us to replace the rails and outdated switches near Providence Park. The next time you ride MAX past the stadium, we hope you notice the smoother ride. (Or at least that you don’t notice any bumps.) This necessary work should improve MAX reliability, as well.

We’ll share a video overview of the project next week, but until then: Thank you!

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

More Posts

Commemorating May 26th, 2017

Nearly a year ago, our community was left reeling in the wake of the tragic attack on a MAX train near Hollywood Transit Center. What transpired on May 26, 2017, remains in our memories — as does the overwhelming community response of healing and love.

If you’ve traveled through the Hollywood Transit Center in recent weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed the station’s renewal. A mural has transformed the formerly gray walls into a vibrant tribute to the selfless individual acts aboard the train and our community’s response.

On the 1-year anniversary, there will be a gathering at the Hollywood Transit Center to dedicate the mural and commemorate those targeted and the incredible outpouring of love, support and unity that followed. We’ll be co-hosting this community event with the Hollywood Boosters and the Hollywood Neighborhood Association.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, May 26, 2018
3:30 p.m. – Gather at the Transit Center
4:00 p.m. – Dedication Program begins
4:30 p.m. – Open time for reflection and community healing

You can RSVP here.

Be aware: Because of the event, the bus stops at Hollywood Transit Center will temporarily be relocated nearby before and during the program. We expect the Transit Center to reopen to buses by about 5:30 p.m.. The MAX platforms will remain open and trains will serve the station.

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

I'm TriMet's Web & Social Media Coordinator. I'm here to share our story, and to keep you up-to-date on how TriMet can help you navigate Portland. When I'm not working, I love to read, spend time outdoors, and visit tiki bars.

More Posts

The Plan for Providence Park

We’re about to kick off another MAX improvement project, but this one will be a bit different than last year’s lengthy Morrison–Yamhill MAX work. While the end result will be similar — a smoother ride and system upgrades to help keep trains running on time — the Providence Park work will be shorter and will have less impact on MAX service.

This project will only disrupt MAX Blue and Red lines from Sunday, May 6, through Friday, May 11. Still, with fewer trains running on the west side and on the Blue Line, riders should plan ahead: leave extra time for your commute, avoid rush hour commuting (if you can) and use TriMet bus service or other transportation. We’ve shared all you need to know about getting through the closure, including where to catch shuttle buses, on our Providence Park MAX Improvements page.

The work will be done on SW 18th Avenue, right in front of the Providence Park stadium. This work is unrelated to the stadium expansion construction. Previous MAX improvement projects focused on removing the wooden ties used in MAX construction during the early 1980s and replacing them with longer-lasting materials. There are no wooden ties underneath the 18th Avenue tracks, but there is a need for improvement.

This section of track on SW 18th Ave will be replaced.

Ever notice how MAX sways side-to-side in the Providence Park area? That’s because when the rails were installed in the early 1990s, they were attached to concrete blocks under the roadway with spring-clips, insulated plates and bolts, with asphalt filled in between the rails. Over time this asphalt has broken down, and the result is that side-to-side movement. It’s not just a rider comfort issue – the swaying movement can cause mechanical issues with our trains.

For this project we’ll be removing the existing rails and replacing them with new rails fitted into pre-formed rubber jackets. Then concrete and a special type of grout, which are more durable than asphalt, will be filled in between the rails. This all will hold the rails in place better.

The old and degraded asphalt around the rail will be replaced with concrete and grout.

Crews will also replace outdated switch machines and improve the drainage underneath them. Right now debris gets clogged in the switches, which requires workers to clear out. We can prevent that from happening by redesigning the storm water collectors and increasing the size of the drainage pipes underneath leading leading to the storm/sewer system.

We know service disruptions can be frustrating, so we thank you for your patience while we make MAX better and more reliable!

Learn more about the service adjustments and how to navigate around the disruption.

Dave Sauter

Dave Sauter

I’m a Project Manager for TriMet’s Capital Projects & Construction Division, working on track improvements on the MAX system along with other projects. I regularly ride public transportation — the Line 96 bus and the MAX Blue and Orange lines — so I personally know the value of transit that’s reliable and enjoyable. I was born and raised in Portland. My wife and I and our five kids frequently visit my parents who still live in the house where I grew up.”

More Posts