Category Archives: Service Updates

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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Making MAX better will take work, time and patience

The oldest section of the MAX Light Rail system has been providing service to TriMet riders for 30 years — and it’s showing its age. So we’re tackling important necessary updates and improvements that will create better — and more reliable — service.

Improving on-time performance

In the past few years, riders have seen MAX delays and disruptions climb. Some of those delays are because of mechanical issues with sections of track called switches, problems with the electronics that operate signals and other complications with elements of the MAX system. As part of our concentrated efforts to improve MAX on-time performance, we will be replacing and upgrading some trackway materials and elements. In addition to making the system more reliable, many of the improvements will allow us to remove precautionary orders where trains run slower in specific areas.

A system well traveled

Before we take a look forward, let’s take a look back. The first section of the MAX system opened on September 5, 1986. Since then:

  • 666.4 million trips have been taken on MAX
  • 73.9 million miles have been traveled by MAX
  • 367,000 miles, on average, are traveled each month by all MAX trains combined
  • 13,000 miles, on average, are traveled each weekday by all MAX trains combined

It is a system well traveled and now it’s time for targeted major replacements and upgrades.

max-improvement-slide (5 of 7)

Taking MAX into the future

The MAX system is made up of track, switches, overhead catenary (power wire) system, traction power substations, signals and communication systems. Upcoming replacements and upgrades will touch all of them. With MAX trains running about 22 ½ hours a day, it is not possible to do all the work necessary in 1½-hour segments. So our focus is to be strategic and lessen the affect on our riders as much as possible. But the projects will affect you and require your patience, understanding and involvement, possibly even altering how and when you ride. The improvements will lead to MAX disruptions — some service impacts may be a day, others a few weeks in duration.

Here’s a look at some of the major work being planned to make MAX better:

1st Ave MAX Improvements (May 8–21, 2016)

The 1st Ave MAX improvements combine three projects into one. Crews will replace switches — sections of track that allow trains to move from one set of tracks to another — on 1st Avenue near SW Morrison and near NW Couch. They’ll replace wooden ties and other elements under and next to those tracks with updated, longer-lasting materials. At the same time, crews will replace rail in the Skidmore Fountain area. Rails wear over time and this section along 1st Avenue is part of the original MAX alignment in use for three decades. The construction will make it necessary to adjust MAX service, including reducing the number of trains running on the system. We’ll be talking more in the coming weeks about how this will affect your MAX trips during the project.

Rose Quarter TC Improvements (Aug. 21–Sept. 3, 2016)

Later this year, work moves to another of the oldest sections of the MAX system — the Rose Quarter Transit Center area. We’ll be replacing switches as well as realigning the track just east of the transit center, which will require moving poles that hold up the overhead power wire and replacing the signal system, among other work. As with the 1st Ave MAX Improvements, MAX service will need to be adjusted during this project.

SW 11th Ave/Steel Bridge Improvements (2017)

Coming in 2017, we expect two more big projects. During one, crews will replace switches, install new rail and reconstruct the track bed at SW 11th Avenue in Downtown Portland, where the original MAX alignment ended. In a separate project, we expect to begin making improvements to switches, signals and the track across the Steel Bridge.

There are other projects in the works, such as:

  • A four-year replacement of overhead power contact wire from Cleveland Ave in Gresham to Lloyd Center.
  • Upgrade and repair platform areas at Gresham City Hall and Washington Park stations.
  • A multi-year effort to design and upgrade the oldest elevators on the MAX system.

We have an aging system and we have work to do to take MAX into the future. It won’t be easy and we’ll be asking for your patience and understanding during the projects, but the projects will improve the system and your ride.

What we’ve already accomplished

Our Maintenance of Way crews are always busy performing maintenance and improvement projects. Here’s a few recent projects completed:

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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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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A pioneering connection between Tualatin and Sherwood

Tualatin and Sherwood are five miles apart, but they’ve never had a direct transit connection.

This gives us extra cause to celebrate last week’s announcement of a new bus line between the two cities — our first new line in years. We plan to start service next June by running buses during weekday commute hours. The route hasn’t been set, so the new line doesn’t have a name or number yet.

Get email updates about the new Tualatin–Sherwood bus line »

Both cities’ mayors have emphasized the importance of the connections this bus line will provide. Residents need to get places: Tualatin’s WES Station, downtown and industrial areas; the shops at Sherwood’s Parkway Village. After months of work and conversations with both communities, we determined that a line with 5,200 hours of service could begin as soon as summer 2016.

(We understand if you’re eager to get on board sooner, but consider all that’s left to do: researching the route, building bus stops, creating schedules, assigning operators, coordinating connections…)

We’re grateful for every opportunity to provide more and better service, and to be able to bring communities together makes that feeling even better. Often, when it comes to planning for the future, it’s easy to think change is still years down the road — this is a nice reminder that great things are often just around the corner.

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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Ten bus lines that will change when the MAX Orange Line opens

A lot will change when the MAX Orange Line opens in September. Light rail reaching north Clackamas County means new ways of getting to work, family, friends and opportunity — even if you’re not taking a train.

Pedestrians and cyclists are eager to upgrade their commute and take Tilikum Crossing. Streetcar riders will finally be able to loop around the City Center. Even the raindrops will have new places to go, with all the bioswales, stormwater planters and rain gardens along the corridor.

Line 17-Holgate will shift its route to Tilikum Crossing on Sept. 13.
Line 17-Holgate will shift its route to Tilikum Crossing on Sept. 13.

But some of the biggest changes coming with the Orange Line are for bus riders. Some lines will be combined to reduce redundancy and take advantage of the light rail line. Some will get more frequent service, or additional service hours. A couple routes will shift to Tilikum Crossing.

The changes to bus service you’ll see on September 13:

Line 9-Powell and Line 17-Holgate will shift from the Ross Island Bridge to Tilikum Crossing. Line 9 will also see its Frequent Service restored to 15 minutes or better on Sundays. Both routes will connect to the MAX Orange Line at stations between Southeast and Downtown Portland.

Line 19-Woodstock will start service earlier on weekend mornings, with trips beginning around 8 a.m. Buses will connect to the Orange Line at the SE Bybee Blvd Station.

Line 28-Linwood and Line 34-River Rd will combine to become Line 34-Linwood/River Rd. This new route will run twice as frequently as the 28 and 34 do now, and it will connect with the Orange Line at the Milwaukie/Main St Station and at the SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek Station.

Line 31-King Rd and Line 33-McLoughlin will combine to become Line 33-McLoughlin/King Rd. This new route will head up to Milwaukie (as the 33 does now) then turn east on its way out to Clackamas Town Center. This line will increase frequency and hours of service along King Road, and Frequent Service will be restored on Sundays.

Line 32-Oatfield will connect with the Orange Line at the Milwaukie/Main St Station before reaching Jackson Street, where it will turn around and head back south.

Line 99-Macadam/McLoughlin will add new service to Oregon City in the mornings and to Downtown Portland in the evenings. There will be new stops and service on Tacoma Street, and the route will move to serve Macadam Avenue and cross the new Sellwood Bridge once it opens. It will connect with the Orange Line at SE Park Ave and SE Tacoma St/Johnson Creek stations.

Line 154-Willamette/Clackamas Heights will extend from Oregon City out to Clackamas Heights, which will see more service than Line 34 currently provides.

Four other lines (29, 70, 75 and 152) will connect with the Orange Line on the Eastside, though their routes won’t change.

See the complete list of bus changes associated with the MAX Orange Line »
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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More Frequent Service arrives in time for summer

How might more Frequent Service on MAX help you this summer?

If you work on the weekends, you’ve got an easy answer. And if you’re looking forward to some free time, think of the festivals, markets, parks, picnics, playdates and out-of-town visitors. (That’s just the start—we can get pretty creative on those long summer days!)

frequent-service

Next week, we’re adding 135 trips to MAX on the weekends—upping our yearly investment by $1.1 million.

mississippi (1 of 1)

Last year, after it had thinned in the wake of the Great Recession, we began restoring Frequent Service in steps, beginning with mid-day buses. Then came weekday evening service and, most recently, Saturday service on MAX.

Our service hours are finally back to pre-Recession levels (hooray!), but we’re not stopping there. Bolstering our system with more and better service remains a priority. This fall will see the historic opening of the MAX Orange Line (and an attendant increase in bus service), as well as more Sunday Frequent Service on bus lines.

Check out MAX schedule changes effective June 7 »

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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We’re rolling out service improvements again!

Spring service changes are just around the corner!—Starting March 1, we’re improving bus service on 18 lines with a focus on matching schedules to traffic conditions, relieving crowding and reducing wait and transfer times.

  • frequent-serviceImproved Frequent Service: All our Frequent Service bus lines will have 15-minute (or better) service most of the day on Saturday.
  • Better schedule reliability: We’re adjusting the schedules of nine lines to match service with daily traffic conditions.
  • Efficient transfers at Tigard TC: We moved around bus stops for lines 12, 45, 64 and 76/78 at the Tigard Transit Center to better coordinate bus arrivals and departures, meaning a smoother and safer ride for you!

We know you want more and better service. That’s why, over the next few years, we’re working to grow our network of buses and trains—while improving your overall experience on board.

Check the new schedules before heading out. (And don’t forget!—Transfer times increase to 2½ hours on March 1, too!)

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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