Category Archives: Rider News

10 reasons why 2014 was a good year for TriMet riders

Riders, it’s been a heck of a year.

We had our fair share of challenges—from freezing rain in February to a rare MAX derailment to an early “Snowvember” storm. Plus, MAX reliability really took a hit this year, which is why we’re scheduling some much-needed upgrades to tracks, signals and switches to get us, well, back on track.

Despite the rough patches, 2014 actually brought a bus load of good news for riders. (And no, we’re not talking about the now twice-a-year Streetcar Mobile Music Fest or even the much-anticipated return of Poetry in Motion.) Here are 10 highlights:

old_new11. 90 (more) new buses joined the fleet.

This year, we sent 90 of our oldest buses to the scrapper and replaced them with new, state-of-the-art buses made in the USA by Gillig. They’ve got a ton of new features, but you’re most likely to notice the easy-to-clean vinyl seats, low floors for easy boarding, brighter exterior signs and smoother ride. And, in time for next summer’s heat wave, all of our 650 buses will have air conditioning. (Finally!) By 2017, the average age of our fleet will be eight years—the industry standard. And if you’ve ever wondered what happens to a bus after it’s “retired,” you really should watch this oddly satisfying video of a bus getting scrapped at the recycler.

busblade-frequent2. Frequent Service is back.

Remember when “Frequent Service” meant every 15 minutes or better throughout the day, every day? Unfortunately, after the economy tanked in 2008, we had to cut back the frequency on buses and MAX due to budget shortfalls. Now, we’re gradually adding back service: In March, we increased weekday mid-day service to every 15 minutes on Frequent Service bus lines. In August, we bumped up weekday evening service on both buses and MAX. And in November, we added buses on various lines to improve connections and relieve crowding—especially at rush hour. More to come… Stay tuned!

3. There’s a new bridge in town.

It’s hard to miss the striking silhouette of the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, rising up over the Willamette just south of Downtown Portland. When the new MAX Orange Line opens next September, the bridge will carry trains, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians to and from destinations in the South Waterfront district, Southeast Portland and Milwaukie. Fun fact: At more than 1,700 feet across, it will be the longest car-free bridge in the U.S. This fall, we tested its aesthetic lighting system—a fantastic public art installation created by artists Anna Valentina Murch and Doug Hollis that changes colors based on the river’s speed, height and water temperature. Want more bridge? There’s not much to see now that civil construction is complete, but you can still geek out on our live video feed from our BridgeCams.

tvm4. Ticket machines work better now. A lot better.

For a while there, it was pretty bad. You know, that sinking feeling when you discover that the ticket machine is out of order… again. We felt your pain and made some big changes to the way we service, track and manage the machines we all love to hate. Last year, we replaced our oldest machines, updated software and overhauled our maintenance procedures. Today, our ticket machines are up and running around 98% of the time. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever see an out-of-service machine—It’s going to happen from time to time. But it’s safe to say the days of “those $#%& ticket machines” are in the past.

5. We have a fair and sustainable labor contract.

If there’s one thing we’re thankful for this year (besides our riders, of course!), it’s a sustainable labor contract. Why is this good news for riders? Our new agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union 757—the union representing the majority of TriMet employees—puts us on a sustainable financial path while providing a fair and competitive benefits package for our team. It’s a huge step forward for TriMet, for our employees and for riders, because it means we can come together and focus on our common goal of making our existing service better and expanding our system to meet the growing demand for transit.

youth-pass-ticket6. Youth fares went down.

In September, we lowered the Youth fare (the reduced fare for ages 7-17 and students in grades 9-12 or pursuing a GED). The Youth 2-Hour Ticket price dropped from $1.65 to $1.25, and the Youth 1-Month Pass fell from $30 to $28. We’re hoping this will make transit more accessible and affordable for our younger riders, and make it easier for families to get their kids to school, jobs and other activities.

7. Tickets will soon be valid for 2 1/2 hours.

Ever wished you had a little more time on your ticket? As of March 2015, we’re extending the transfer time on 2-Hour Tickets to 2 1/2 hours. OK, so “2 1/2-Hour Ticket” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that’s beside the point: You’ll have 30 more minutes to complete a trip or make transfers between buses and trains. A community advocacy group first brought up the idea of extending the transfer time a few years ago. We knew riders also wanted more frequent service, so we felt it wasn’t something our budget could accommodate, until now. But like many of you, we know that a little extra time can go a long way!

8. Crime went down 20% systemwide.

In April, we got word that reported crime on TriMet had dropped 25% on average in the previous year. On buses, there was one reported crime in every 255,000 trips. On MAX, one in every 91,378 trips. (Most of these incidents involve property crimes such as theft.) We believe this is due in part to community policing efforts and a neighborhood approach to crime prevention, along with increased Transit Police presence and more than 4,400 security cameras systemwide. It’s also worth mentioning that crime on TriMet pretty much mirrors the surrounding communities: A few high-profile incidents might make the evening news, but riding transit is as safe as walking down a busy sidewalk or going to the mall.

metro-brt-art9. BRT is coming to Powell and Division.

Another standout in the “good news” category: This summer, the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project selected bus rapid transit (or BRT for short) as the best way to improve transit on Powell Boulevard and Division Street. Those are two of the Portland area’s busiest and most congested streets, and thousands of people depend on the 4-Division and 9-Powell buses to get to work each day. BRT will make commuting between Gresham and Downtown Portland faster, easier and safer, with upgraded stations, limited stops and possibly even dedicated lanes. New service could begin around 2020. Learn more about BRT on Powell and Division

10710312_10154858702060473_4404152704493123144_o10. Get ready to “tap on.”

It’s official: You’ll be able to use a fare card, smartphone or credit/debit card to pay your fare in the not-so-distant future. This year, we broke “digital ground” on an electronic fare system that will make it easier and more convenient to get around on TriMet. It’s easy: Just tap your card or phone on the reader as you board the bus or train. You’ll be able to load value onto your account by phone, on the web or at grocery/convenience stores. Plus, there will be daily and monthly pricing caps, which means free rides and savings if you ride frequently. Best of all, there’s no need to carry cash, find exact change or keep track of paper tickets. (Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to pay with cash if you want.) We expect to begin testing the new cards with riders in 2016. Sign up here to get the latest e-fare updates by email

 

It goes without saying the last few years have been a bumpy ride for Portland-area transit riders… Thankfully, with the improving economy—and now a sustainable labor contract—we’re in a position to start growing service again.

In 2015, we’re going to continue focusing on bringing you safe, reliable and convenient transit service. (And more of it!) On behalf of the more than 2,600 employees in our TriMet family, here’s to a safe and happy 2015 to you and yours. See you on board!

Dave Whipple

I'm TriMet’s senior marketing communications coordinator in charge of interactive media. I manage online initiatives and help build useful and usable online tools for riders. I also moonlight as a musician in my spare time.

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5 holiday safety tips for TriMet riders

While Transit Police officers ramp up their missions during the holiday season to help keep you safe, there are also steps you can take to protect yourself and your belongings when you’re out and about on TriMet:

  1. Pay attention to your belongings. This is especially important when a bus or train is getting ready to leave a stop or station. Thieves may try to snatch items just as the doors are about to close.
  1. Keep your purse, backpack, bag and shopping bags close. Don’t set them down on another seat or a bench. (And hey, that’s just good TriMetiquette, anyway!)
  1. Keep your phone and other devices hidden. When listening to music, put your phone in a pocket or a bag that’s under your control.
  1. When it’s dark out, stand near others in well-lit areas. Move toward the bus stop pole as the bus is approaching or toward the train as it arrives at the station.
  1. Parking at a Park & Ride? Store your belongings out of sight. Put your stuff in the trunk or use a cargo cover in the back of your car. Thieves are on the lookout for quick “smash-and-grab” opportunities.

Here’s to a fun and safe holiday season for you and yours!

How Tilikum Crossing lights up the night

You’ve probably been bombarded with status updates and photo galleries of the new lighting system on the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People. We just finished our second lighting trial where the artist fine-tuned the color and motion program and its relation to the Willamette River’s activity.

Sadly, the lights will not be turned on permanently until September 2015, when the new MAX Orange Line opens. So until then, here are some interesting tidbits of information about the lights to hold you over.

  • The lighting system was created by San Francisco artist Douglas Hollis and his wife, the late Anna Valentina Murch, for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project’s Public Art Program.
  • There are 178 LED lights aesthetically placed on 40 bridge cables, the four transmission towers above and below the deck, and on the Sonic Dish artwork along the Eastside Esplanade and future Willamette Greenway at the ends of the bridge.
  • The lights change colors based on the Willamette River’s speed, height and water temperature.
  • This data is collected by a U.S. Geological Survey river monitor near the Morrison Bridge.
  • Specialized software designed by programmer Morgan Barnard takes that data and translates it into movements of color and light across the bridge.
  • The water temperature determines the base color.
  • The river’s speed controls the pace the colors change and move across the bridge.
  • The river’s height is displayed by a second color that moves vertically up and down the towers and the cables.

Learn more about the MAX Orange Line, opening in September 2015!

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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TriMet Tickets app users: Be sure to recall tickets before switching phones

blog phoneAre you using the TriMet Tickets app? Plan to purchase a new phone this holiday season? Make sure to recall your tickets from your old phone to your online account first, so you don’t accidentally lose any tickets.

Your tickets are stored on your phone (which makes it possible to use them without an Internet connection), so you’ll need to transfer your tickets from your phone onto your online account before shutting off the network connection to your old phone. Here’s how to recall your tickets:

  1. When your old device is still connected to the network, login to your TriMet Tickets online account.
  2. Go to the “My Account” tab, then to “My Tickets” and click the “Recall Tickets” button.
  3. On your old device, go to the “My Tickets” tab and refresh. You should see your tickets moved.
  4. When you get your new phone, open up your TriMet Tickets app and sign in.
  5. Go to the “My Tickets” tab and refresh to download your tickets.

Note: We recently added the ability to recall or move active multi-day tickets—such as 7-Day, 14-Day and 30-Day tickets—from your phone to your account and back again. (In the past, only unused tickets could be moved.) Active tickets can be transferred to your account and back to the phone one time.

If you experience any problems during your upgrade, please contact the TriMet Tickets Help Desk at mobiletickethelp@trimet.org. We’re here to help!

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

We’re testing an all-electric bus

Electric Test Bus
Photo courtesy of John Vincent/Portland Tribune

If an especially quiet silver-and-black bus rolls up to your stop, rest assured… it’s a real TriMet bus! Well, at least for a while it is. Starting June 23, an all-electric test bus will join the fleet for about two weeks as we try out the latest in environmentally friendly bus technology.

BYD electric bus facts:

  • Battery lasts up to 24 hours
  • Charges in 2-4 hours
  • No transmission or internal-combustion engine
  • Battery is disposable and pollution-free
  • Zero emissions

The zero-emissions, American-made bus will run on various TriMet routes between June 23 and July 3, providing extra trips between scheduled service on weekdays. (It doesn’t have a fare box, so rides will be free!)

On loan from the manufacturer, BYD Motors, Inc., this bus can go 24 hours on a single charge, and the battery is disposable and pollution-free. Initial testing also suggests a big cost savings on fuel and maintenance compared to diesel, compressed natural gas and hybrid-electric buses—even other electric buses.

As the Portland area moves toward more renewable sources of energy, we’re exploring other fuel-efficient options for our bus fleet.

We’ve applied for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase nine all-electric vehicles and charging stations. This test is an opportunity for us to “kick the tires.”BYD logo

Have you ridden the BYD electric bus? We’d love to hear your feedback! Email us at comments@trimet.org or call 503-238-RIDE (7433) option 5.

Here’s a great video from our friends over at portlandtransport.com:

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.

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9 new apps in the TriMet App Center

Transit apps on phonesHave you visited our App Center lately? We just added nine new apps for riders, all created by independent programmers using our open data. Thanks to these developers, TriMet riders have a variety of helpful trip tools available to help make their transit trips easier.

Check out the latest apps, all of which are free of charge:

  • Nimbler: Searches for nearest stops, provides arrival information, displays a map and vehicles on map. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • RideScout: Plans and compares transportation options. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Acehopper: Provides schedules and real-time information. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Walk Score: Provides transit scores and locates walkable apartments near public transit. For web browsers
  • TripGo: Plans transit trips. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, web browsers
  • PortlandBus: Searches for stops, provides arrival information, displays a map, plans transit trips, shows real-time traffic cameras. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Search Playground: Open-search tool for quickly finding arrival times and route info and planning trips from the browser search tool. For web browsers
  • Smart Ride: Searches for nearest stops, provides arrival information, displays a map, plans transit trips. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • efoBus: Searches for stops, provides arrival information, displays a map, plans transit trips. For iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

We invite you to take these new apps out for a spin. And be sure to let the developers know how they work for you. They’d really appreciate your feedback!

See the complete list of transit apps available in the TriMet App Center

Note: These aren’t “official” TriMet products, so we don’t endorse, warrant or support any of the applications listed here. We tested them initially to make sure they work, but they are provided as-is. 

Bibiana McHugh

I have worked in TriMet’s Information Technology Department since 1997 and currently lead a team of innovative web developers and analysts as the IT Manager of Geographic Information Systems and Location-Based Services. I lead several open data and open source software initiatives including opentripplanner.org, maps.trimet.org, rtp.trimet.org, developer.trimet.org, trimet.org/apps. After initiating collaboration with Google for the first release of Google Transit, I helped pioneer the now worldwide standard General Transit Feed Spec (GTFS). I received my degree in Geography from the University of Kansas.

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