Ian J. Whitmore Talks About His Instagram Takeover

Ian J. Whitmore knows Portland. He’s worked here for years as a photographer, designer and teacher, so when the opportunity came up for him to take over the @ridetrimet and @biketownpdx Instagram accounts, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Ian’s week behind the wheel coincided with Design Week Portland, which gave him plenty of opportunity to take transit and bike share to and from presentations, parties and open houses all across the city.

As the week came to a close, we asked Ian some questions about the project.

We took note of the Portland Public Transit account on Instagram when you began posting at the beginning of the year. In your first post, you introduced the project as a way for you to learn more about Portland and described transit as one of the city’s most important and intriguing resources. Were you inspired by something specific, like the intense snowfall we were seeing at the time, or had you been developing the idea for a while?

I had started riding public transit more than usual in the fall as a way to avoid dealing with parking and to go out, be social and not have to worry about transportation. I remember going out with a friend on Halloween; we both took buses to meet up and then we bounced around town, and it reminded me of all the time I spent on transit when I lived in Chicago years ago. Honestly, I missed it. Riding public transportation is a unique experience and it’s a really interesting semi-social way of seeing and experiencing where you live.

Those trips in fall 2016 sparked the idea for the project and right around the holidays I decided to go for it. It was a good excuse to keep photographing in my downtime and also stay sharp while moving around Portland.

Photo: Ian J. Whitmore

Instagram seems like a natural fit for this project. As a professional photographer, what are the advantages of sharing on social media versus more traditional ways of displaying your work?

I think the biggest advantages are range of audience and the overall reach that digital media has. Sharing work in person is invaluable. I feel confident saying that when I meet with people in-person I am more likely to get them to hire me or to buy in on a project, but social media is the perfect introduction and doorway to that face-to-face meeting.

Sometimes I laugh at how I used to be so resistant to social media. Twitter never really excited me, but when Instagram came along I felt like a way for me to participate as an image maker.

Everyone has a story about something absurd they saw on transit. But it’s also where you’ll see some uniquely interesting, and even beautiful, moments and interactions. What catches your eye when you’re shooting for this project?

People. I have always been fascinated with architecture and urban landscape, but I think about all the portraits I haven’t made because I didn’t want to be rude or selfish and start pointing my camera at strangers. Even though I am a big advocate for photographer’s rights while photographing in public, buses and trains are a different space that require more consideration. I am still looking for ways to incorporate portraits into the project and I’d love find some volunteers that I can follow along their commute; I think this summer would be great for that.

Photo: Ian J. Whitmore

Your photos have a certain look: calm, observant, with sparing color and strong lines. How intentional is this? Is it inspired by any particular photographers?

I have always had an interest in efficiency when it comes to composition. Which doesn’t necessarily mean less complexity. But I consider whether the subject is calm or erratic, or if it has rhythm and movement. Strong lines certainly help with that, and I learned a lot from looking at both street photography and more conceptual work over the years. I have always been drawn to the classic mid-century street photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka and Diane Arbus, and I am continually inspired by contemporary photographers like Colleen Plumb, Amy Stein, Brian Ulrich, Terry Evans and Will Steacy.

You also took over the BIKETOWN account last week. We’re always trying to emphasize the ease of the bike share–transit connection — how did it feel to you as you rode around on buses and trains, and then picked up bikes?

This process was pretty remarkable and incredibly seamless. The intersections between all these forms of transportation are almost perfectly aligned so that you can pick up or drop off a BIKETOWN bike within a half a block or less of a train or bus stop. When I started my Portland Public Transit project I honestly hadn’t taken that into account, and at the time BIKETOWN was still pretty new, but it became clear very quickly how this bike share program is a natural extension for transportation in parts of Portland.

I can’t wait to see the program expand and see it expand further out from the city center. It sounds like that is already happening.

Photo: Ian J. Whitmore

Your involvement with Design Week Portland was a perfect overlay for the week of your Instagram takeover. Not only were we hosting a Transit on Tap presentation at The Redd, but one of the festival’s themes was the Green Loop, a proposed bike and pedestrian path that connects the city and includes Tilikum Crossing. You’ve lived in Portland for a while and seen it undergo some radical transformations — what are your thoughts on how getting around the city has changed?

First and foremost, I have been impressed by Portland’s public transportation since I moved here from Chicago. They have a great system with CTA and Metra, but the sheer number of people there creates unique problems that Portland doesn’t have yet.

That said, I think the completion of Tilikum Crossing and the streetcar loop has been the biggest change that I’ve seen and experienced. When that was completed I rode the streetcar more than I ever had. It seems like that project alone could be used as a case for the Green Loop.

That connectivity and dedication of transportation space has had a big impact the city center, from my perspective, and I’m hoping other Portlanders are seeing the Streetcar as a temporary option to help with the Morrison bridge closing.

You recently had a show for your new photo book, Forty-Seven Hundred Miles. It seems like transportation is a theme you’re drawn to. Do you see a connection running through your work?

Such a great question. I think movement and experience are at the heart of what I’m interested in as an artist and person. I have been on move since I was 16; when I started photographing punk bands in basements and then on tour documenting my own experiences. Later, that translated into thinking a lot about landscape and our experience as we move through it, asking a lot of questions about the mental, emotional and psychological effects of both our public and private spaces.

More recently, the cross-country motorcycle ride that produced the book ended up serving as a way to reset my mind and to reconnect with that sense of movement. I was able to remind myself how important it is for me to seek out dynamic experiences.

I realized quickly on that trip from Chicago to Los Angeles and back to Portland that even if you’re on the same motorcycle every day, that experience doesn’t leave a lot of room for stagnation or boredom — I am drawn to the attention and care that it requires to ride and I love how different the world looks from the saddle.

Photo: Ian J. Whitmore

Do you see Portland Public Transit as an ongoing project? Or did you imagine working on it over a finite period? What’s next?

I told myself I would work on this for a year and see where it goes. This Instagram takeover has been incredibly fun and I think at the very least after a year I’d like to look into publishing another book of select images with a little writing as well. Maybe it’s a long term project I do for years and it also becomes documentation of Portland as it continues to change.

As for what’s next… the future is strange and exciting, and I am focusing more on my photography work than I have in a very long time. I’m also working in other creative areas and taking on new projects.

See more of Ian’s work at ianwhitmore.com

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 We Wash MAX Trains At Night [VIDEO]

Every night, all 85 MAX trains are cleaned, washed and prepared to go into service by 4 a.m.

As supervisor Rick Taylor says, it takes a fine-tuned system and lots of training to get all this work done in such a short window of time. We’re thankful for the service workers who make it happen, night in and night out!

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 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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An Underground Show to Celebrate Piano Day

The slogan “Keep Portland Weird” has become a little overused at this point, but every once in a while something perfectly absurd happens and you think: Only in Portland.

Last Wednesday, that was the first Piano Day celebration ever held in the U.S., in which a unique cast of performers played a world-class piano in the Washington Park MAX Station, 260 feet below ground.

TriMet employee Gaylord Warren kicked things off with his jazz trio — they sounded so good — followed by Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale with Hunter Noack, who played a piece for four hands (!) with gusto. And then Sgt. Jim Quackenbush of the Portland Police Bureau somehow managed to follow that up by playing Beethoven and the theme from Star Wars (in uniform, of course) with seriously impressive poise and style.

The event was a fundraiser for Portland Piano International, a non-profit dedicated to enriching the community through piano performance and education. Piano Day is celebrated internationally on the 88th day of the year (there are 88 keys on the piano), and Portland is the first U.S. city to take part.

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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March on Instagram: Springing back to life

At last, spring is here…kind of. It still rains all the time and we only see the sun about twice a week. But the blossoms are out and the days are noticeably longer — looks like we’ll make it out after all!

Meanwhile, we’re seeing brighter and bolder shots in the Instagram feed, not to mention all the cherry blossoms this week!


A post shared by Gavin (@gavinrear) on

Follow @ridetrimet on Instagram »

cushy cotton cloud commute / Go By Bike! #Portland #pdx #pnw #pnwonderland #gobybike #bikepdx #bike #seenonmyride

A post shared by Love Jonson (@lovepjonson) on

A post shared by PORTLAND 📍 OREGON (@0clock) on

Oh, and National Puppy Day was also in March:

I love that this sweet girl is so easy going. At only 6 1/2 months she takes all of our outings in stride and effortlessly transitions from one to another, whether it’s school, 3 hours of church, the gym, a nice dinner out, or a bus ride. ———————————————————— Photo description: Pictured is 6.5 month old female yellow lab, Kona, wearing her green vest with the front sleeve that reads “Guide Dog Puppy” visible and black gentle leader. The gold hardware on her leather leash can be seen in the bottom left corner of the photo. She is sitting, looking slightly down to the left. Behind her is the gray metal of the back of a bus seat and in the bottom right corner in the blue two-toned fabric of the seat of a city bus seat. #sightmasters #guidedogsfortheblind #raiseapuppychangealife

A post shared by Avonlea Allred (@avonlea_allred) on

Here’s hoping April brings some serious sunlight. Be sure to tag @ridetrimet and #GoByTransit to share your ride!

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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A Rare Look Inside the Operations Command Center

Dispatcher Trisha Nako Harris says it best: The crew in the Operations Command Center takes multitasking to the 10th degree.

Drivers call dispatch whenever they need help. Dispatchers, in turn, use sophisticated tools (so many screens!) and excellent judgment to coordinate the support effort.


Impressive, right? Now imagine what the job is like during snow and ice! Suffice it to say we’re really grateful for our hardworking dispatchers.

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.

More Posts