Category Archives: Transit Geekery

The Plan For Rose Quarter

From Sunday, August 21, to Saturday, September 3, we’re making improvements near the Rose Quarter to improve MAX reliability and make for a smoother ride.

Much like the work we completed along 1st Avenue in May, we’ll be replacing switches and improving the tracks just east of the Rose Quarter MAX Station. Switches in this area are 30 years old, so crews will replace the wooden ties (which were standard back in 1985) underneath the switches with a concrete track structure and much more durable and robust materials.

We’ll also realign the section of track that runs westbound into the Rose Quarter MAX Station. We’ll begin by removing the rails and that run into the old Trolley Barn. Then, we’ll smooth out the curve into the north platform, which will create a smoother ride into the station. This new design will help eliminate some long-term maintenance challenges and reduce wear and tear on the tracks. As part of the realignment, crews will adjust the overhead wire and relocate two existing poles.

We’ll also be updating the antiquated MAX signal system in the Rose Quarter area. Signal technology has improved dramatically since these were installed back in 1986. This will be the first time in MAX’s history that we’re upgrading the original signals — it’s kind of like rewiring part of your house. We’re most excited for this upgrade because it will decrease the chances of a signal malfunction, which causes train delays.

All of these much-needed renovations are to improve MAX reliability and keep trains running on time, but this work will disrupt regular MAX service for two weeks as we’ll have to shut down service along Holladay Street between the Rose Quarter and the Lloyd Center/NE 11th Ave MAX Station.

We know this two-week disruption will be a hassle, but it’s all for a good cause — to create a better and smoother ride for you.

Learn more about this MAX disruption and how your trips will be affected

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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Minimizing Heat Delays on MAX

Last year, we shared a bit about why our trains slow down when it heats up — basically, temperatures above 90 degrees bring the possibility of rails expanding and kinking, or overhead wires sagging.

We know how it feels to slow down in extreme heat.
We know how it feels to slow down in extreme heat.

Before we go any further, we should answer a common question: Why didn’t we build track that can withstand higher temperatures? Surely, places like Phoenix don’t have this problem — right?

It’s true. Hotter places like Phoenix, which experience many 90+ degree days, don’t have this problem. But they do have trouble at the other end of the spectrum, when it’s cold out. This is because transit agencies build systems to work within the temperature range of their region, with the rails and overhead wire resting (neither expanded nor contracted) at the average temperature. For reference, the average temperature here is about 55 degrees, compared to 75 degrees in Phoenix.

Nobody wants a slower trip in extreme heat. You’ve got places to be, and we’re trying to stick to a schedule. That’s why we’re looking into ways to speed trains up when it’s hot out — we’ve already come across a simple solution that seems to work: track anchors. These were initially installed along the new Orange Line track for other reasons, but later we noticed that the rail here didn’t seem to affected by high temperatures.

So last spring, crews installed similar anchors to the rail ties of a segment of Red Line track that we knew to be especially prone to sun kinks. These have kept the rail in place, even on warm days (when rail temperatures can approach 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the air temperature). This simple step, which didn’t even require disrupting service, saved approximately 25 to 30 minutes of time throughout each service day, adding back over 150 hours of increased on-time performance over the course of a year.

There’s also the issue of overhead wire sagging in the heat and potentially damaging the pantograph (the arm that connects MAX to the wire) if it drops far enough. So we’re looking into ways to give the counterweights — which keep the wire taut — more room to move.

This summer has been curiously mild, but we’ll use the hot days ahead to gather more data on how these potential solutions hold up in real life. Eventually, when we’re confident that they’re worth the investment, we’ll implement these upgrades on a wider scale. And we’ll be able to keep moving, right through the heat.

Related:

Why Our Trains Slow Down When It Heats Up

Monitoring MAX On-Time Performance

MAX System Reliability 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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The Plan for First Avenue

We’ve made a big fuss about how the upcoming First Avenue improvements could make for a difficult commute over the next couple weeks, and you’re probably wondering what on earth could possibly create such chaos.

When we say improving, we’re talking about demolishing, replacing, flushing, installing, repairing and upgrading — below, you’ll find insight into what exactly we’ll be doing over the next couple weeks.

Early in the morning on Sunday, May 8, crews will begin saw-cutting around the portions of track that are being removed on First Avenue. Work has already started at Elmonica, our rail maintenance facility in Beaverton, to prepare the rails that will replace these sections.

Rails are being prepared for installation along First Avenue.
Rails are being prepared for installation along First Avenue.

Once the cutting is done, we’ll begin demolition of the trackway under the Morrison Bridge. This involves removal of rails, switch machines, wooden ties and salvageable cobblestone from around the switches. (Why that last one? The City of Portland has required us to replace the cobblestone when we’re done.) A few days in, the same demo work happens at NW 1st & Couch. Once the prep work is done at both locations, we’ll install new materials like track, switch machines, conduit, rebar and a new isolation membrane that guards against stray currents.

We'll be replacing track and switches like this — which are part of the original, 30-year-old MAX alignment — along First Avenue.
We’ll be replacing track and switches like this — part of the original, 30-year-old MAX alignment — along First Avenue.

Once everything is in place, we’ll align the rails to assure they are the right distance apart and check their vertical and horizontal placement. Then the concrete will be poured, first under the Morrison Bridge and later at Couch.

During the second week, we’ll begin the third major project near Skidmore Fountain. The curved section of rail here wears quicker than straight track and will be replaced. This part of the project should take about five days.

The curved section of track near the Skidmore Fountain will be replaced.
The curved section of track near the Skidmore Fountain will be replaced.

Final cleanup of the trackway should be complete by Saturday, May 21, but surfacing on First Avenue — including putting those cobblestones back in — could continue through May 27.

While all this track work is going on, some of our other crews will have a good opportunity to make some other improvements along First Avenue — a sort of silver lining to an otherwise very disruptive project. Maintenance crews will be able to flush and improved drainage under the Morrison Bridge (we don’t need to tell you why this is important), track drains will be cleaned, hardware on the overhead wire will be replaced and the feeder breaker at the Morrison Bridge substation will be retrofitted.

While track work is being done, other crews will have a chance to make repairs.
While track work is being done, other crews will have a chance to make repairs.

We’ll also be repairing and improving the surface alongside the rails that will benefit all street users. (Cyclists who make the bumpy crossing at Couch will be especially happy.) These projects may be supplementary to the track work but they’re critical to the bigger picture along First Avenue: We’re going all-in on these improvements, because that’s the smartest way to give our riders more reliable service into the future.

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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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.

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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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Say hello to Hop Fastpass

It’s great to have options — especially when it comes to transportation.

That’s why we designed Hop Fastpass™, the new electronic fare system arriving in 2017, with flexibility in mind. Hop Fastpass will work with a fare card, smartphone (using our app or services like Apple Pay, Android Pay and likely Samsung Pay) or your credit/debit card. Plus it can get you aboard TriMet, C-TRAN and Portland Streetcar. How’s that for choices?

Say hello to HopHop will make paying your fare easier, faster and more convenient!myhopcard.comHere’s how it’ll work:

Posted by TriMet on Thursday, September 24, 2015

 

How it will work
  1. Get Hop Fastpass. We’re expanding our retail network by leaps and bounds, so you’ll be able to find Hop cards at 500 neighborhood markets, grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies — just look in the gift card rack.
  2. Load value. You can add funds to your Hop Fastpass card anytime via myhopcard.com, using the smartphone app, at transit ticket offices or a participating retailer. Or just give us a call!
  3. Register your card (recommended). Sign up online or over the phone to get all the benefits of Hop Fastpass and to make sure your balance is protected in case you lose your card. You can even have funds auto-load when your balance is running low.
  4. Tap and go! Just touch your card to the Hop Fastpass reader on board the bus/Streetcar or at the MAX/WES platform, and you’re on your way!
We think you’ll love it

If you’ve ever used e-fare systems on transit in other cities, like ORCA in Washington or the Clipper Card in the Bay Area, you probably know about the benefits of going contactless. Once you’ve registered your Hop Fastpass card you’ll be able to manage your account and set up features like automatic reloading — a worry-free option that means your card won’t run out of fare.

Hop Fastpass can also save you money (especially if you’re a frequent rider). You’ll be able to pay your way toward a monthly pass, one ride at a time — if you commute more than 20 days that month (or fewer if you’re paying Youth or Honored Citizen fares), you’ll ride free until the next month, but you’ll never pay for rides you don’t use.

TriMet Tickets app users know about the luxury of going cash-free, which will continue with Hop Fastpass. (No more searching for exact change or crumpled paper tickets!) We’ll still accept cash on buses, MAX platform ticket machines and the Portland Streetcar — remember, it’s all about options.

hop1

It’s for everyone

Regular riders might get the most out of Hop Fastpass, but there’s something in it for everyone. Features like lost-card protection mean your balance is safe even if your card goes missing, and automatic reloading will even benefit infrequent riders when they don’t have to worry about a low balance. Riders without bank accounts can use Hop, too, and manage their fare card using cash at the 500 stores in our retail network.

Used to getting a pass through work or school? Hop Fastpass cards will be available for employers and institutions, too.

By now you’ve probably started to think about how you’ll use Hop Fastpass, and you’ve probably got some questions. Head over to myhopcard.com to learn more about how it will work and sign up for email updates (especially if you’re interested in being a beta tester).

Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker

As Director of Revenue Operations, I lead our agency’s efforts to modernize our fare collection systems. My goal is to provide excellent and efficient service while maintaining reliable, easy-to-use equipment.

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Sign of the times: Older MAX destination signs going digital

The iconic MAX destination signs on our “old” trains—those made between 1983 and 2003—are going digital.

We’re phasing out the older signs as we replace the communications systems on 105 train cars. Yes, this includes the old-school roll signs that have to be hand-cranked by our MAX operators (a time-consuming task).

Since last year, we’ve been installing LED destination signs on the front, side, interior and back of these trains so you can more clearly see—even on those dark, dreary December days—where your train’s headed. We’re also upgrading the speaker systems so you can hear us better and be able to listen to any special recorded announcements.

Doug Jones is a TriMet engineer working on the project. He says with the opening of the new MAX Orange Line, it didn’t make sense to buy new destination roll signs that included “Orange Line.” Plus, there was simply no room left on the old hand-cranked roll signs.

“It’s good timing to work on this project as we expand our MAX network,” Jones says. “It’s a more flexible system and improves service to our passengers.”

A destination roll sign prior to replacement.
A destination roll sign prior to replacement.
A new interior LED sign.
A new interior LED sign.

It takes six people about four days to strip out the old communications systems on a train and install the new equipment. More than one-third of the trains are done, but not without some challenges.

“Working on the oldest trains is more difficult than expected because we’re using the existing conduits that pipe underneath,” Jones says. “It takes a lot of effort to pull through the new cables because the space is tight.”

You’ll still see the older signs around for a bit longer. But don’t hold your breath—all MAX signs will be digital sometime in 2016.

Andrew Longeteig

Andrew Longeteig

I’m TriMet’s Communications Coordinator. I share what’s happening at the agency with the media and general public. When I’m not working, I’ll either be watching the Blazers or at a rock concert.

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Moving forward with cleaner, more energy-efficient buses

Our buses continue to become more fuel and emissions efficient.

Although our older buses consistently meet federal emissions standards, our newer buses—which make up about one-third of our fleet of 655— emit far fewer particulates into the air.

Why?

A big reason is our newer buses have a diesel particulate filter that removes soot from the exhaust. We’ve also retrofitted 196 of the older buses with these special filters, which remove at least 98 percent of the black powdery stuff.

Diesel particular filters removes most of the soot from the exhaust from our buses.
Diesel particulate filters remove most of the soot from our buses’ exhaust.

Our newer buses also emit less smog-inducing nitrogen oxide (NOx), a pollutant caused by fuel burned at high temperatures. The technology converts NOx into oxygen, nitrogen and water before it exits the tailpipe.

Smart sensors

Another technology that reduces fuel consumption by about five percent is called Sensotop. Made in Germany, it’s a shifting algorithm that uses sensors to change the gear-shifting calibration based on weight and terrain.

For example, a full bus going uphill requires more power—which Sensotop helps provide—while a bus with fewer people going downhill or on level roads requires less. These sensors are on all the buses we’ve purchased in the past three years, and we’ve also retrofitted 40 older buses.

Cool cooling system

In the transit world, we’re also pioneers of a NASCAR-inspired electronic cooling system that reduces engine drag, maximizes horsepower and improves fuel economy by up to 10 percent. Developed for military heavy equipment, it’s on about half our bus fleet. EPA actually gave us a Clean Air Excellence Award for helping bring the technology to the transit market (Woohoo!).

Improving MPG

Cars in the United States average about 25 miles per gallon. Our buses made in the early 1990s averaged about 4 miles per gallon. Our newer fleet typically gets between 4.5 to 5 miles per gallon with the added challenge of having air-conditioning systems, more electronic accessories and stricter emissions standards.

Getting an extra half-mile per gallon may not seem stellar, but for the scale of our vehicles, it’s a 12 to 25 percent improvement. And if you have 40 passengers on board who would have otherwise driven a car, it’s like getting 180 to 200 miles per gallon!

What’s next?

We’re buying 77 more buses by mid-2016 that will be low-floor, low-emission and air-conditioned. This purchase will help us get our fleet closer to an average age of eight years, the industry standard.

Riders often ask about getting more hybrid, electric, biogas or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. We’re considering all of these quickly-evolving technologies. In fact, four of the latest generation HybriDrive® Series buses should hit the streets sometime in October. As we test these new technologies, we look for cost-effectiveness of a bus’ entire lifecycle before making wholesale changes to the fleet.

Learn more about our new buses

Andrew Longeteig

Andrew Longeteig

I’m TriMet’s Communications Coordinator. I share what’s happening at the agency with the media and general public. When I’m not working, I’ll either be watching the Blazers or at a rock concert.

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