Category Archives: Rider News

The Plan for Morrison-Yamhill

Spring is finally here and we’ll be digging in once again to make major improvements to sections of the original MAX tracks in Downtown Portland.

Like the projects we completed last year at 1st Avenue and Rose Quarter, the Morrison-Yamhill MAX Improvements project will impact service on all lines. But once they’re completed, these track and switch improvements will help us keep trains rolling smoothly and reliably.

The work will take three weeks, from April 30 through May 20. That’s a bit longer than the previous projects that took just two weeks each. The construction will temporarily alter Portland Streetcar in addition to disrupting MAX.

The heart of the project happens on SW Morrison and Yamhill streets at 11th Avenue, which was the end of the original MAX line between Portland and Gresham. This area sees it all: hundreds of trains and streetcars a day, three lanes of auto traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.

SW 11th Avenue in the early 1980s.

Crews will replace four “turnouts” — two on Morrison Street and two on Yamhill Street. These are sections of track where rails spur off from the mainline to side tracks. Underneath the rails, crews will remove the old wooden ties that were standard at the time of original construction and replace them with concrete. New switches will go in with improved drainage to keep them clear of water and debris that can cause problems during heavy rain storms. On the Morrison side of 11th Avenue, the switches will get heaters to help keep snow and ice from building up, an especially good idea after last winter.

The original cable connecting the train signals to the track will also be replaced, and circuits that help monitor where trains are will be upgraded. These improvements will cut down on signal issues and keep trains moving.

Walking through these intersections today, you have to step carefully around broken and missing brick pavers and historic Portland Belgian block. We’ll replace those. The potholes caused by asphalt crumbling and pulling away from the rails will be repaired using a rubberized grout, which keeps the rail in place and prevents stray current as electricity from the overhead wire travels to the train and into the rail.

Down the street at 1st Avenue, crews will replace curved rail, which wears faster than straight rail. We’ll also be freshening up some signs at the closed platforms and working on our ticket machines.

The Morrison-Yamhill MAX Improvements project has been two years in the making. And since we know the three-week disruption to MAX service (and two-week disruption to Portland Streetcar) is going to be a big inconvenience, we’ve coordinated with other agencies to get all the disruptive work done at once. The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services will repair and upgrade sewers next to the tracks, Multnomah County will fix cracks under the Burnside Bridge and Portland Parks and Recreation will repair material under the Pioneer Square South MAX Station all at the same time our work is happening. We figured an intense three-week disruption is better than months of separate projects that block MAX.

We’re asking a lot from our riders during this project. We appreciate your patience and we can’t wait to debut smoother and more reliable MAX service next month.

Learn more about the Morrison-Yamhill MAX Improvements project
Sarah Touey

Sarah Touey

I’m the resident engineer for TriMet’s Maintenance of Way projects. I seek out adventure by traveling and exploring other transit systems across the country, spending time at the beach with family and friends, and continuously remodeling our house with my husband Jarrett.

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How You Can Say Thanks on Transit Driver Appreciation Day

Around here, we say “thank you” to our bus driver. It’s a thing.

Yes, Portlanders are often mocked for being agonizingly polite, but in this case it makes sense — we say thanks to the people who make our coffee and serve our food, so why wouldn’t we say it to the people who drive us around? Wouldn’t it be weirder to not say thanks?

So in recognition of Transit Driver Appreciation Day (normally March 18, but we’re celebrating a day early because that’s a Saturday), we want to show our operators how small gestures can really add up.

Here’s how it works: You can leave a thank-you note for your driver(s) at trimet.org/tdad. Maybe you have a regular driver you’re especially thankful for, or perhaps you want to call them all out.

Your note will join hundreds of others, which will be broadcast on screens throughout the operator report rooms — putting your message right in front of the people it means the most to.

Leave a thank-you note for your driver

Bus and rail drivers make a tough job look easy, day-in and day-out. Let’s show them how much they mean to us.

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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VIDEO: How Light Rail Could Keep the Southwest Corridor Moving

The communities in the Southwest Corridor are no longer sleepy suburbs, with the traffic to prove it. As these cities continue to grow, light rail could play a huge part in keeping everyone moving.

Learn more at swcorridorplan.org.

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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The Hop Fastpass Beta Test Has Begun

Today we launched the public beta test of Hop Fastpass and, for the first time, riders have begun paying with a fare card on buses and at rail stations.

It’s a small step in some ways — there are only 250 people in the first group of testers, and not all of Hop’s features have been implemented — but it marks a significant shift in the way our region uses transit. Hop is a thoroughly modern system designed to make paying fare easier and more convenient. Smart features like Auto-Load and the ability to earn passes mean riders simply tap and go, with no need to think about which type of fare to buy, and a robust retail network and cash compatibility make Hop accessible to everyone.

As our beta testers put Hop through its paces, we’ll see how these benefits work in real life. We’re looking forward to their feedback, which will help us prioritize the improvements we want to make before Hop officially launches this summer.

If you’re curious (or jealous) and want to try Hop sooner, sign up for emails at myhopcard.com. We’ll be adding beta testers every couple weeks and rolling out new features like single-use tickets, compatibility with mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Android Pay, and the official Hop app.

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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2016 Year in Review

It was a big and busy year for us.

That’s the simple explanation. Though we didn’t have a marquee event like last year’s Orange Line opening, we added a lot of service and made some significant improvements. We also dealt with weather (hot and cold), protests and planned disruptions that required some significant service adjustments and plenty of your patience. And in the end, 2016 left us with plenty to be happy about — let’s take a look at the numbers:

2 MAX Improvement Projects

Back in January, chief operating officer Doug Kelsey shared our plans for improving MAX on-time performance. Since then, we’ve completed two major projects along segments of the original, 30-year-old alignment. In May, we spent two weeks replacing track and switches along First Avenue in Downtown Portland. Four months later, we did similar work in the Rose Quarter.

3500 bus

77 New Buses Arrive

Our newest buses (the 3500 series) hit the streets in March. Once all 77 were delivered we were able to say that new-model buses comprise over half our active fleet.

Over the next few years we plan to add more than 175 new buses, starting in a few weeks when we begin rolling out the 3600 series. This process will bring the average age of our fleet to the industry standard of eight years and — more importantly — ensure your ride is more comfortable and reliable.

97 Becomes Our Newest Bus Line

The growing communities of Tualatin and Sherwood got their first direct transit connection in June. Line 97-Tualatin-Sherwood was our first new bus line in years, and though it’s just a commuter line now we plan to extend it to Bridgeport Village and downtown Tigard in the future.

And thanks to the increased employer payroll tax that took effect this year, this is just the beginning of more and better service. We’ve got plans for increasing, expanding and introducing bus service throughout the region over the next 10 years.

wordpress header

3 Operators Earn Top Honors

Justina Carrillo, a mini-run (part-time) bus operator; Jeffery Evans, a MAX operator; and Alex Ohly, a bus operator joined exclusive company this year when they were selected by their peers as TriMet’s Operators of the Year. The three combined represent nearly five decades of safe driving experience and multiple Superior Performance Awards, and we are truly grateful for their service.

2 Weeks of Protests in Downtown Portland

Running safe transit — an essential service to many — amidst demonstrations in the city center — a right protected by the Constitution, as long as it’s peaceful — isn’t easy to do. But with cooperation between different groups and the diligence of our operators and field staff, it became possible.

How We Roll bus

3 Hours in Pioneer Courthouse Square

We set up shop in Portland’s living room one afternoon this summer to debut our How We Roll bus, which features 16 rider portraits on its sides. (There’s a wrapped train, too!) While we were there we handed out goodies and took photos for the next time we wrap a bus or train.

12 Year Absence from the Sellwood Bridge Ends

For the first time in over a decade, TriMet service is using the Sellwood Bridge, as Line 99 began its new route this month. It was all possible because the old Sellwood Bridge, which had a weight limit that restricted heavy vehicles, was replaced earlier in the year.

1 Year of MAX Orange Line

Our newest light rail line, along with Tilikum Crossing, celebrated a year of service in September. The time seemed to fly but in retrospect, a lot happened — including 3.5 million rides on the Orange Line and 775,000 bike trips over the bridge.

30 Years of MAX

After a proposed eight-lane freeway was nixed in the mid-1970s, the pioneering decision was made to consider how transportation affects quality of life. This led to the creation of MAX, one of the first modern light-rail systems in the country. On Sept. 5, 1986 service debuted between Gresham and Portland.

Thirty years, four new lines and millions of trips later, we continue to move a growing region.

MAX in snow

2 Snow Storms…in Two Weeks

Plus one back in January. Orchestrating transit in snow and ice isn’t easy. It requires extraordinary vigilance and quick responses to constantly changing situations from our staff — especially operators and field staff working out in the freezing cold. It also takes a lot of preparedness and patience from our riders, and we appreciate the understanding we were shown amidst the inevitable frustration and exhaustion.

20 New Operators Hired Every Three Weeks

We’re hiring drivers at a serious pace because in order to give riders more service, we need more people. We sweetened the deal, too, and boosted starting pay for part-time operators from $11.21 to $14.25 per hour during training. Ever thought about driving with us?

Hop testing

225+ Employees Begin Testing Hop Fastpass

Our new fare card is almost here — you probably noticed the readers on your bus or at the MAX station. Earlier this year, a small group of employees from TriMet, C-TRAN and Portland Streetcar began testing the system, tapping Hop cards to board buses and trains and managing their accounts online.

The first public beta test begins soon, so be sure to sign up for email updates if you’re interested in participating.

OK — that’s enough for this year. Thanks for riding, and see you in 2017!

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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How Transit Works in Snow and Ice

The National Weather Service recently confirmed what heavy rains have hinted at: La Niña is here.

Get ready for this.
Get ready for this.

Below-average temperatures and above-average rainfall — and perhaps snow and ice — have been observed in the Pacific Northwest this fall, and both could continue through the winter, according to NWS predictions.

What do you think when you hear this? Are you the type to buy a season pass to Mt. Hood Meadows, assured that the snowpack will stretch well into spring? Perhaps blankets and board games (and Netflix!) is more your thing. For us, preparation for the inevitability of snow and ice events has already begun.

Related: Learn your snow route

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.

Bus in snow

In practice, this means being ultra-aware of conditions across the system. To make this easier, we set up an Emergency Operations Center that’s staffed 24/7 during winter weather events, and allows us to streamline and speed 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.)

We rely on and share information from the field and from regional partners like PBOT, ODOT and local media outlets. We track storms as they approach and coordinate with other agencies to plow and sand streets — we even have a few sanding trucks of our own to run on high elevation bus routes.

The Plan for Buses

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

Bus at curb in snow

Like other cars and trucks on the road, buses will often be chained if they’re running on snowy or icy streets. Just under half our buses have drop down “insta-chains,” which operators can deploy at the push of a button. (Otherwise, crews will chain the fleet at the garage or in the field, which takes just 10 or 15 minutes per bus, respectively.)

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 ice caps to keep ice at bay.

MAX in snow

The trains have pantograph heaters that are activated in snow and ice, and these also help prevent ice from accumulating. (The pantograph is the arm that connects the train to overhead power.) 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!

If ice does begin to accumulate on the overhead wire, we have six MAX vehicles equipped with heated ice cutters on a second pantograph that can shave approximately 1/32 inch of ice off the wire with each pass.

Related: Tips for riding in winter weather

What You Need to Know

We’ve already mentioned that your bus will likely be late and perhaps on a different route (learn yours!) 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 — much more useful for planning your trip.

But don’t assume that snow means your bus is on snow route. We often need to alter service in the face of unpredictable weather, so instead check with us for updates on your lines: You’ll find service alerts and snow route updates at trimet.org/alerts, on Twitter and through our email list.

people in snow

Aside from checking your bus or train’s status 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. We (and our regional partners) do our best to de-ice roads, bridges, garages, platforms and parking lots, but you’ll likely find some slippery spots along the way. And if your bus stop is on a hill, head to the top or bottom to board — the bus can’t safely stop on a slope.

Finally, don’t approach the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver opens the door. There’s always a chance it could slide toward the curb once the brakes have locked the wheels.

If we’re faced with severe weather, we might need to reduce service to certain bus lines running on plowed streets. The idea is that by reassigning buses where they are most useful and less likely to get stuck, we can serve more riders.

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 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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