Monthly Archives: April 2009

Five years of Interstate MAX

From TriMet’s web site:

April 28, 2009

Five years of Interstate MAX

20.5 million rides taken, more than 50 new businesses take root

The 5.8-mile Interstate MAX Yellow Line turns five years old this week. Since opening May 1, 2004, the line has seen 20.5 million rides taken and more than 50 new businesses sprout up around the alignment.

In its first year of service, weekday ridership on MAX had doubled that of the former bus line that served the same corridor. Last year, Interstate MAX weekday ridership was 13,600, a 16 percent increase since the line first opened in 2004.

The area has also seen significant growth since the MAX Yellow Line started operating on Interstate Avenue. New businesses and housing, coupled with the access provided by light rail, have opened up the corridor as an attractive area to live and work.

“There has been tremendous transformation along the Interstate MAX line since we built and opened five years ago,” said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen. “We have seen first hand transit’s role in enhancing neighborhoods and connecting communities. It’s exciting to watch this area grow and see riders using our expanding system to connect to work, school and other activities.”

About Interstate MAX

  • TriMet’s fourth MAX line, the Yellow Line, connects the Expo Center through North Portland to the Rose Quarter and through downtown Portland.
  • Construction on the 5.8-mile Yellow Line began in November 2000 and was completed four months ahead of schedule and millions under budget.
  • The Portland Development Commission developed the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area in 2000 to help fund the light rail line and small-scale improvement projects after the line was built. Nearly $8.8 million in loans and grants to businesses has been made available since 2000, attracting more than $27 million in private investment and creating or retaining an estimated 900 jobs as a result of the assistance.
  • More than $249 million in transit-oriented development has been built around the Interstate MAX line since before construction began to date.
  • TriMet helped build the Patton Place Apartments, a $12 million, five-story mixed-use housing development for lower-income families. The Patton Park Apartments opened in winter 2009 with every unit rented and a waiting list of 400 interested tenants.

Hiring locally

TriMet created a national model in its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, which committed that the MAX Yellow Line would be built by people from the community and give more opportunities to minority and women-owned firms and workers.

  • Local DBE firms secured 19 percent of the contract dollars for the project, valued at $35 million.
  • 35 percent of workforce hours were completed by minorities and women.
  • 25 percent of workforce hours were performed by apprentices, helping grow a robust pool of workers for future public works projects.
  • TriMet continues to use the model on current projects including the I-205/Portland Mall Light Rail Project set to open in September.

“TriMet’s efforts to involve local businesses and workers in construction of the Yellow Line was instrumental in creating a sense of connection among the people who live and work in the neighborhoods along Interstate,” said Sheila Holden, regional community manager for Pacific Power and co-chair of the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Advisory Committee. “Because TriMet engaged minorities, women and the community, we see today firms and workers that are stronger and better equipped to be involved opportunities in other areas around the region.”

Attracting business and development

Since opening, Interstate has attracted 51 new businesses to the corridor, 33 percent of which are owned by minorities or women. Some key businesses that have come to the Interstate area include New Seasons Market, Krakow Koffeehouse, the Overlook Condominiums, a Providence clinic, Pause Restaurant and renovations or expansions at Kaiser Permanente Interstate medical offices, Widmer Brewing and Fred Meyer.

“We figured the proximity to the MAX would be a real asset to our business, and that has definitely turned out to be true,” said Brian Rohter, CEO of New Seasons Market. “Every day, dozens of people get off the train and walk right into our store. Having the stop renamed in honor of a true American hero like Rosa Parks has been an added benefit.”

Making tracks toward the future

Beginning August 30, 2009, the Yellow Line will have a new route through downtown Portland. The train will cross the Steel Bridge and travel between Union Station and Portland State University on the new Portland Mall alignment. It will no longer travel east and west between the Rose Quarter the Galleria/SW 10th Ave MAX stations.

TriMet’s fifth MAX line—the future Green Line—will begin service in September 2009. The line will add 8.3-miles of light rail between Gateway Transit Center and Clackamas Town Center, and to 5th and 6th avenues in downtown Portland between Union Station and Portland State University.

Max accident

A train hit and killed a woman tonight at the Goose Hollow platform eastbound.

KGW just reported that the police are now saying that the woman may have stepped off the platform intentionally.

If this is true, why the heck put the Max operator through something like this? I cannot imagine what pain the family of this woman is going through tonight… Did she leave children behind? Could something have been done to help her?

It makes me angry that some people are intentionally so careless around Max, and using the Max to commit suicide, is an incredibly selfish act – we have seen it happen several times…

My heart goes out to the Max operator – I think I know who it is. NO Max operator deserves to live with this for the rest of his or her life. What a nightmare to go through…

May God bless both the family of the woman who killed herself, and the Max operator…

Line training – and the unrelated definition of B I T C H

The week before last I had the great pleasure of line training three new operators. It was an easy job with every one of them; they all knew their light rail stuff and had been trained well. They were all relaxed while operating the train; none of them were (too!) nervous or hesitant. Two of them had been at light rail before, and had decided to come back; good for them!

For those of you who do not know what line training is: during the last two weeks of their seven week training, student operators work with regular operators in regular service. By the time (certified) line trainers get the students, they have had many hours operating trains under the guidance of light rail training supervisors.

Light rail training is an intense seven week class, where you cram and study, and get tested daily about all aspects of light rail. It is an intense and difficult class to get through, and three to five hours of study every night at home is not unusual. While going through this class, you have no other life than light rail, light rail and more light rail. After you pass your last test, you feel like you have just gone through getting a two year degree in just seven short hectic weeks.

Unfortunately, I cannot line train any more. It is too hard on my back, causing a lot of pain in my lower back and my legs. I will miss line training, though, because I have had a lot of fun with every student I have had.

Now, if they could give me a Type 4 every time I line trained, I’d be happy to continue. The older trains simply do not have enough space inside the cab for me to be comfortable hour after hour. I prefer to have the operator trainees operate the train as much as possible, since that is the point of line training, thus I stand up or sit on the window sill a lot, neither of which is very good for my back.

My last student was D; I made him operate the train for eight hours straight. (No, I am not a nice line trainer!!!) (HA!) We did three round trips between Beaverton Transit Center and the Portland Airport. D has a great sense of humor and had me in stitches more than once.

I told him how I used to react to people calling me names when I was still driving bus for TriMet; he told me that being called a BITCH really is not that bad:


How I wish I had known that way back when… :-)

However, I did discover that by smiling and agreeing that I was indeed a bitch, I took the steam out of my name caller… :-)

I seldom get called such a lovely name these days, but at least now I know what it really means… :-)

Good luck to “my” students: “D”, “J” and “R”. You all did an amazing job! I am looking forward to seeing you all out on the alignment in a few months!

Unfortunately, they had to go back to driving a bus for a few months until they are coming over to rail for the opening of the Green Line….

Hang in there: there is life after bus!!! ;-)

Laryngitis – blessing or curse???

I guess that depends on who you ask.

I used to get laryngitis once a year. I’d drive my bus around without being able to talk to (yell at) people and it was very frustrating for me, a blessing to them.

Well, it looks like I am coming down with laryngitis again, for the first time since I got to rail. Ugh. Well, no, that’s not true. I had it while going through rail training; my instructors and class mates celebrated.

Caught a few weeks ago at PGE Park eastbound, by one of our light rail instructors;
this is
one of my happier moments at rail, without laryngitis.

Am I too noisy???

No, absolutely not. ;-)

What am I going to do if I can’t politely (of course – you think I am rude???) ask people “Pretty please, won’t you let the doors close?”, or more forcefully: “Hey, you! MOVE!” – the latter inside my cab (without the PA since that is NOT so polite) when somebody suddenly runs in front of my train and I just need to let it all out???

The BIG problem would be this: what if Control calls me?

Control: “Train 32″

Me: “sshss ss”

Control: “Train 32?”

Me: “SSHSS SSW”… (my throat hurts, darn it)

Control, more forcefully: “TRAIN 32!!!”

Me, sighing… Why can’t I just send them a text message???

Me, screaming hoarsely: “SRAN THRTO”… that took a lot of effort…

So, I pull over (as in pulling into a platform) and concentrate, managing to have a whispering conversation with these people…

Oh, don’t worry, I will make sure they hear me, one way or another.

Tonight is Sunday; I still have tomorrow off, so hopefully by Tuesday my voice will be back to normal.

Silence is golden…

- unless you are a light rail operator…

Max derailed – video

From YouTube:

Thanks, bobrpdx!

Max derailed!

Max derailed around 4 PM this afternoon; these are some pictures taken by my friend “J”, who happened to be in the area.

Thanks, “J”, for letting me use your pictures! :-)

Since there are so many pictures and since they are, for the most part, self explanatory, I will comment on only a few of these images.

A bus bridge brought passengers from the Rose Quarter Transit Center to PGE Park; train movement through downtown was restored around 9 PM.

The derailed train was going westbound crossing 11th Avenue on Morrison when the whole Type 1 derailed, according to “J”. 11th Avenue was completely blocked, which prevented movement of Portland Streetcar on both 10th and 11th Avenue.

The operator of this train is an experienced operator; I do not expect to hear that this was the operator’s fault. I am sure the operator did not have a very good evening after this happened, though…

Below: a Portland Streetcar was stuck because 11th Avenue was blocked by the derailed train.

Below: SHOWTIME!!!
…if I had been there, I would have joined in, too…

Below: At PGE park there was a mad dash toward the first Max that came to take people westbound… Our friend “J” decided to pass up this rush and wait for the next train…

Go watch this!

OK, so this is non-rail related.

Please go listen to this woman sing in “Britain’s Got Talent”. She is amazing… What a joy to listen to!


New Mall training

It was my day off today, but I still went to work.

You think I am dedicated to my work??? Nah, I just needed to attend a required “new mall” class. This was the first of three classes my fellow rail operators and I need to go through for the new mall and Green Line.

It wasn’t that bad, but I felt like a fish out of water with 10 bus drivers and only two other rail operators in the class. For the most part, the class was directed at bus drivers, but – hey, I got paid to sit there, so it was easy money!!!

And, I have to admit I learned a thing or two or even three… :-)

Two of the bus drivers were from C-Tran; C-Tran will continue their service to Portland, thus their operators also need to go through the “new mall” class.

In the middle of the class we had an outing to the new mall, and these are some of the pictures I took with my mobile phone camera.

Above: a bus operator volunteered to drive the bus, the training supervisor agreed, and the rest of us where happy to just be her passengers… Notice the streetcar that just turned in front of us from Market onto 5th Avenue.

Above: the new layover for the Green Line and the Yellow Line, by PSU, on the very southern part of the new transit mall. (I did not see any building that looked like it was for operators here, unless I did not look closely enough – I hope and assume there is indeed a building for us to use here if we have to “go” when we get here…)

Above: at 5th and Market we got off the bus and looked at the intersection by St. Mary’s Academy, where the Max tracks and the Portland Streetcar meet – the streetcar tracks coming from our right in the picture below:

Below: another view of this intersection where the parents of St. Mary’s Academy students have their own lane to pick up their kids, hopefully without jumping over the small “porkchop” divider in the middle of the picture… (which has been done, from what I was told…)

Below: after we passed Columbia Blvd on our way up 5th Avenue, we noticed the new bike lane on the left side of the new transit mall.

Below: passing the Portland Building on our left…

Below: this is the new Pioneer Square stop for Max on 5th Avenue on the new transit mall, not yet serviced by any trains, of course.

Below: two blocks ahead of us on 5th Avenue, a train crossed our path on Yamhill.

Below: at North Terminal by Union Station: this was one of several switches we saw. Union Station is to the left, the Greyhound bus station is behind me.

Below: we stopped for a few minutes right by the entrance to the Greyhound bus station.

Below: this is a crooked picture taken just before we turned onto 5th Avenue from NW Irving Street.

Below: I really like the old fashioned look of Union Station. Every time I pass this old building, I am struck by how elegant and graceful it looks. It looks like a real train station, and it pulls on my heart stings every time I see it. It reminds me of similar buildings from my childhood and youth in Norway. The landscaping in front is also attractive, making this a picturesque corner of downtown Portland.

Below: as we approached Union Station on 6th Avenue, I noticed clouds in the background that looked like tall mountains – - – and a truck belonging to workers in the foreground that got my imagination back to reality…

Above: Flanders, the only stop for buses on 5th Avenue between Everett and Burnside, if I am not wrong (I have been known to be wrong now and then, so don’t trust me on this…)

Below: somewhere on 6th Avenue after we crossed Burnside, with Union Station in the far background.

Below: on 6th Avenue and Washington, I believe…

Below: I believe this is 6th and Madison, where the planners kind of goofed: the planned shelter (the structure you see partly hiding the traffic signal on the right) is blocking that particular traffic signal, a signal that bus operators need to use to leave the service stop. If the bus driver has no clear view of the signal, he or she cannot safely leave the stop since a train could be coming, in which case the signal will be red. Thus the bus shelter needs to be moved, but they do not know where to yet.

I am sure that will be taken care of… :-)

That was my “busy” day today. In a month I will get hands on training on the new mall, hopefully in a Type 4, since I need more practice in those new trains. The Type 4 cabs are very different than our older cabs, thus I share my desire to practice on the new mall in a new Type 4 with many other rail operators. All rail operators and rail supervisors need to become certified on each new alignment, including the new transit mall.

Some rail operators are lucky enough to do the burn-in of the Type 4′s – I am not on the extra board (extra board operators are assigned different work every day, according to what is needed when other operators get sick or are off work), so I never get assigned to do burn-ins. Unfortunately.

This summer, I need to go to class to be certified on the Green Line alignment along I-205; I will then be ready to go out there alone on the new tracks… I think…

I suspect I will still prefer to do the Red Line , or even the Blue Line, so I will let everybody else above me in seniority select all the runs on the new Green Line… I will stay off the new transit mall, at least to start with.

Unless I change my mind. I’m a girl; I’m allowed to change my mind as often as I please.

So there!

Type 4 at Hatfield today

At Hatfield today! Love this train!

Awesome timelapse showing Steel Bridge

Used with permission from Al M, this is an awesome video taken by Jason McHuff – Jason, great work!