Category Archives: Portland transit mall

Our new Free Rail Zone

It will be very interesting to see how difficult it will be for bus drivers to inform passengers of the new rule downtown: as of January 3, 2009, there will be no more free bus rides downtown unless you are an Honored Citizen with a special two year “downtown only” bus pass.   

Free Rail Zone

In January, Fareless Square becomes the “Free Rail Zone”
Free Rail Zone icon
As of January 3, 2010, Fareless Square will become a free zone for rail only. That means you can still ride MAX and Portland Streetcar for free in downtown Portland and the Lloyd District, but not buses. To help communicate this important change, we’re changing the name of the zone to “Free Rail Zone.”

The Free Rail Zone will have the same boundaries as Fareless Square: Most of downtown Portland (within the boundaries of the Willamette River, NW Irving Street, and I-405) and MAX stations from the Rose Quarter to the Lloyd District.

This winter, we’ll be adding new Free Rail Zone emblems on customer information displays at rail stations within the zone boundary.

To help our Honored Citizen riders who live in downtown Portland, TriMet is offering a new downtown-only bus pass.

Map of the Fareless Square/Free Rail Zone

Service changes at TriMet starting November 29th

Click here for a link to TriMet’s web site for a list of changes to service on November 29th – these changes affect only bus routes as far as I can tell.

It looks like the changes are minor, although a few minutes could make a big difference if you are not aware of the change. Here is a list from TriMet’s web site of the routes with changes: (I think you can click on the links for the individual routes.)

Service changes effective November 29

To help cover a $3.5 million budget shortfall, with the least impact to service, TriMet will implement small reductions in bus frequency on the following lines:

To improve on-time performance the schedule has been adjusted on the following line:


My wanderings yesterday from Lloyd Center to SW 4th and Clay…

<— This first scene near the corner of NE Holladay and NE Grand made me laugh. I walked slowly past this area, confident that I obeyed the signs… I think these signs are meant for the streets??? But, I could be wrong…. After all, I am a light rail operator who *only* pays attention to rail signs…

I had an errand to run yesterday in the Lloyd Center district; I parked my car in the area of SW 4th and Clay, hopped on the MAX and soon found myself on the other side of the river. On my way back to my car, I took these pictures, pretending I was an out of town tourist – except I was spotted by some of my colleagues – I tried to blend in with the crowds (what crowds???) in my civilian clothes, but I was still discovered… Of course, my waving at everybody I knew did not help…

I tried taking pictures without anybody mistaking me for a spy of some sort; I tried hiding behind trees – to get shade for my lens…

Type 4 coming toward me; it is servicing the platform at Oregon Convention Center.

Type 4, just after it passed me at NE Holladay and NE MLK – I was walking westbound, it was going eastbound.


Above: view from Oregon Convention Center platform westbound. I hope some day to get a picture standing behind an operator showing how little we can see of the platform at Rose Quarter. One night after a Blazer game, I took off down the hill, only to be told to pull the train back to OCC because there was a train loading Blazer fans still at the platform; somebody *forgot* to let me know… Grrr…

I was not happy about having to pull my train back up the hill…

Closer to Rose Quarter TC is is easier to see if there is a train sitting here at the westbound platform; this is where we crawl across the intersection at 5 mph…

Signal 16 C – and the greenish fence over behind that bus, blocking our view of the Interstate Rose Quarter platform for the Yellow Line. If the red on signal 16 C does not drop after I call my signal, I am (we are all) left to sit wondering which Yellow Line got to their signal first: the northbound (from downtown) or the southbound (to downtown).

When the sewer (BIG PIPE) construction is over, I will celebrate… It really doesn’t take much to please me…

Here I stopped to take a picture of our wonderful Rose Garden arena, home to the world famous (infamous???) Portland Trail Blazers…
I am not a Blazers fan… please forgive me…

Yep, I really love the construction here in the middle of the Rose Quarters. It really adds to the ambiance of the place…

A Yellow line on it’s way to downtown from IRQ (Interstate Rose Quarter TC)

Are they really as tough as they look??? I wonder every time I see this huge sign hung on a grain silo across from IRQ

Above: train tracks below the Steel Bridge and around the silo…

Below: many times when I have passed this sight in my train – or earlier in my bus – I have wanted to take a picture of the dust cloud stirred up by loading tons of grains into the hulls of these large ships. A worker dressed in all white had his face covered by a face mask; that was probably a very good idea. This cloud cannot be healthy for anybody to get too close to…

Above: Oregon Convention Center in the background, a westbound MAX on the east side of the Steel Bridge. I like the glass towers of the convention center; they are a graceful addition to the east side of the Willamette River in downtown Portland.

I also like these condominiums on the west side of the river, between the Union Station and the river bank. I am not sure I would want to live there, but if somebody ever wanted to give me one of these, I may accept :-)

Another view of the ship being loaded with grain. I am always amazed at the size of ships we can get into our seemingly small harbor.

Boating on the Willamette River…

Union Station and our light rail entrance to the new Portland Transit Mall

Above and below:
This building, on the north east corner of NW Glisan and NW 4th Avenue, used to be an eye sore. Now it has been restored, and it is truly beautiful; I am not sure if these are condominiums or office spaces, but either way, whoever gets to use them, should be happy with the outside of this old structure.

Below are some pictures of the new transit mall; work is still being done at some of the bus stops.

Above: this red signal is for buses only. A bus cannot leave this stop (it is like this on all the bus stops on the new mall) until it gets a green signal. This is a must, since buses and MAX will interact and weave in and out in a zigzag pattern at the mall between Burnside and PSU.

OK, so I like the new “shelters” – BUT – did they think about how much dirt and how many dead leaves are going to collect on top – for us all to see from the underside???


Above and below:
The intersection of SW 6th and SW Main is the only place on the new mall where buses are allowed to make a right turn from Main onto the mall on a red signal.

Like many light rail operators, I question the wisdom of allowing this. There are train tracks here, with trains coming DOWN A HILL – why are we going to allow a 40 foot bus to turn on a red here? What if there is a train in the way of the bus? What if, what if, what if…

Only time will tell…

Above and below:
While still driving buses, I would sit down here and wait for my bus to come; this is the back courtyard of the Standard Plaza. I like the flowers, the water fountain and the illusion of escaping the hustle and bustle of downtown here…

That was it – my walk from Lloyd Center to 4th and Clay on a nice warm day…

Fareless Square – more info from TriMet

The following article was found on TriMet’s web site; the proposal to reduce fareless to trains and the streetcar only, makes sense to me. So read on…

Please give TriMet the feedback they want. They DO listen to feedback, and consider what they hear and read from our riders.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

June 24, 2009

Fareless Square Change Proposed

Feedback wanted on proposal to limit the fare-free zone to MAX and Streetcar

When MAX Green Line opens on the Portland Transit Mall in September, riders will be able to use MAX and Portland Streetcar for nearly all trips within Fareless Square. Changing the fare-free zone to rail-only would simplify the system for riders and improve efficiency of bus service, while maintaining frequent, free service within Portland City Center.

Fareless Square background

When TriMet created Fareless Square 34 years ago, it was designed to help address air quality issues, reduce car trips downtown and increase transit use.

We still want to preserve the environment and increase transit ridership. But in those 34 years, our transit system has vastly improved. We now have a comprehensive light rail system and the Portland Streetcar, which provide high-quality transit service within the fare-free zone.

MAX will bring more service downtown

When we open MAX Green Line this September on 5th and 6th avenues between Union Station and Portland State University, both Green and Yellow line trains will run north-south through downtown. As a result, we will have virtually the same service within Fareless Square on rail as we did with the former Bus Mall.

A recent study showed that about 95% of the trips currently taken within Fareless Square can easily be taken on the future Green Line on the Mall, on the existing Blue/Red MAX line on Morrison and Yamhill, and on the Streetcar.

How would riders be affected?

For our riders, having free rides only on trains make it less confusing: Often, people don’t know if a bus travels the length of the Mall or if it turns off and heads across the river, or up to the West End.

More than 50% of riders in Fareless Square already have a monthly or yearly pass, so a change to the free zone is not an issue for them. We expect most riders who currently take buses within Fareless Square will use MAX and Streetcar instead. Others may choose to bike or walk more.

Stakeholders within Fareless Square were interviewed and all agreed that a rail-only Fareless Square would continue to promote mobility within downtown and the Lloyd District.

More efficient bus operations

Many bus riders in Fareless Square get on at a stop, ride a few blocks and then get off. This can slow travel time for the bus and can back up buses moving through the Mall.

Ending free rides on buses would also improve efficiency for bus operators, who may not always remember which riders paid or didn’t pay, as the bus approaches the Fareless Square boundary.

We want your feedback

If approved by the Board of Directors, the change to rail-only would take effect on January 3, 2010. Do you have an opinion about this proposal? We invite your comments through 5 p.m. Friday, July 17, 2009.

Comment line: 503-962-5806
Fax: 503-962-6469
Mail: TriMet-MK2, 4012 SE 17th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
TTY: 503-238-5811 (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays)
In person: Join us for an Open House and Public Hearing on July 13

New Mall training

Above: the view from the new alignment by Union Station; a freight train on the left, and a Max train crossing the Steel Bridge in the background.

The new mall training class today was both interesting and informative. I still have mixed feelings about operating a train on the new mall, although it was much better than I thought it would be. In fact, I loved it. The Type 4′s are great to operate; they are technically amazing trains, and they are as fun to operate as they are beautiful to look at.

Below: I like this picture, taken through the door window of our front car. The Type 4′s are long and graceful; here I admired the back of the train seemingly float through a curve, an awesome sight.

Note the cars stopped, waiting for us to get through our turn before they continue down Glisan.

Below: while we waited for our signal at the bottom of the Steel Bridge ramp, I noticed the Broadway Bridge going up.
Below: another shot of the Type 4′s in a curve.


Below: our Type 4 at the Jackson Street turnaround.

Some have asked me when the Type 4′s will be put into revenue service; I do not know. They are still going through testing and burn-in. When the day comes that they are out on the alignment, though, we will all celebrate. We need them, and we want them to pick up people, not just pass them on every platform. It’s great to admire them, but even better to ride on them.

One of the trainers told us today that the Type 4′s are amazing light rail vehicles; they are technically very advanced. When I sit down in the cab to operate this train, I have more power, and more advanced technology to help me than I have ever had before. These are not only beautiful looking trains, but extremely advanced trains that will serve our community well.

The Type 4′s will not only run on our new Green Line and new mall, but on all our other lines, as well.

About my run on the new mall:

By the time I operated the train, it was rush hour, but even before that, we had problems with people and cars. Safety on this new mall, with the trains and buses weaving in and out of the stops, creates a unique challenge for both bus drivers and rail operators.

It did not take long to experience our first “challenge”. A lady on a cell phone in a pretty blue car attempted to make a left turn in front of our moving train. My colleague who expertly handled this situation with loud horn, slowing down and finally stopping with great working brakes, was not surprised at the woman’s stupidity. It was a close call; the female driver probably does not realize that my colleague may have saved her life.

When it was my turn to operate, we came to an area with a fence on our right side, very close to the tracks. As we approached, a man and a woman started walking along the fence, ignoring the train and my repeated horns. The man got the message and ran across the street to safety. The woman, around 40, nicely dressed, decided she should try to stand next to the fence, and let the train pass within five inches of her. Crazy.

Both the trainer and I motioned for her to move when I stopped the train about thirty feet from her. Instead of getting out of our way, she started walking up along the fence again. I crept closer to her, still keeping the train about 25 to 30 feet from her, blasting her with the horn. Finally, she realized she was in the wrong spot, and she walked across the street.

Both she and the man could have gone back onto the sidewalk when they first saw and heard the train, but instead thought they could outrun it… Go figure…

The new mall is not that different from some other parts of the alignment. The bus drivers will have the biggest adjustments to make in regard to this new set-up. They will have to leave their service stops on a special traffic signal put in just for them; we do it all the time as rail operators with our trains, but bus drivers have never had a special traffic signal to help them exit a service stop. It will be a challenge and I feel for them. Rail operators will have an easier time on the trains, because the new mall is more “train-ish” than “bus-ish”, meaning that it functions more like a train alignment in the way the signaling system is set up.

The new Pioneer Square platforms are cool; we need to pull up far enough to get out of the way of the trains of Yamhill and Morrison crossing in front of and behind us. Fun! :-)

By Portland State University we will interact with the Portland Streetcar on both 5th and 6th Avenues. It is a matter of first come, first serve. Thus, if I hit the button to call up my train signal before the Portland Streetcar operator calls up his or her signal, I win. The streetcar looses. I will be SO sad… he he

Of course, if the Portland Streetcar gets to it’s signal before I get to mine, I loose, and it could cost me three minutes… Ugh…

You win some, you loose some…

A few blocks south of this fun area, we have the opportunity to interact with the Portland Fire Department on 5th Avenue. Same as above: if the fire department gets to the fire signal before I get to my train signal, I loose. Of course, if I get my train signal, and they push their fire signal after I have my signal, I can go a block or two, and then I must stop. And wait. That’s OK. I really would not want to be in the way of an emergency vehicle.

There are some turns on the new mall that are very tight for a train, but we will do OK at 5 mph or 8 mph – those are our two slowest speeds, other than just coming to a full stop. Since *stop* does not get us far, 5 or 8 through some of these curves will do great.

More later – I will see if I can get down on the mall one day when the weather is better. This new mall and the Type 4′s are hopefully going to be good news for our transit system – I can hardly wait until they are both up and running.


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.

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!

‘Look alive!’ Train runs, new traffic rules coming to Transit Mall

I really hope the motorists downtown will obey the new traffic rules downtown. Daily, I have cars run reds right in front of me when I sit at Yamhill and 6th Avenue, waiting for my eastbound signal. Needless to say, this must stop! The following is an article from the Oregonian about the new rules downtown.

‘Look alive!’ Train runs, new traffic rules coming to Transit Mall

Posted by Joseph Rose, The Oregonian February 27, 2009 11:20AM

Categories: Cycling, Hot topic
One of TriMet’s new Type 4 trains will take the first practice run on the Portland Mall on Saturday.

It’s go time on the Portland Mall.

Between 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, one of TriMet’s sleek new “Type 4″ MAX trains will embark on the first practice run on the Green Line, rolling along the tracks at about walking speed. Meanwhile, the days of oblivion for bicyclists and drivers on the transit mall end on Monday, as police and TriMet start enforcing the new rules on Fifth and Sixth avenues.

On Wednesday, as I rode my bike down Fifth Avenue, I saw cars still driving on the tracks and turning right, cutting off the train and bus lanes, at most of the intersections. Come Monday, that won’t be OK.

“Look alive!” urges the pamphlet for TriMet’s upcoming “Transit Mall Safety Awareness Week.”

“It’s been all about education,” said DeeAnn Sandberg, a TriMet community affairs representative. “We’ve sent letters to everyone – delivery drivers, FedEx, bike delivery companies, taxis, armored car drivers – letting them know the wires hot and that they need to start obeying the traffic laws on Monday.”

By now, she said, downtown motorists, pedestrians and cyclists “have had their chance” to learn the new rules of getting around.

In a nutshell, stay in the left lane, don’t drive on the MAX tracks, and don’t turn right – or you could get creamed by a bus or train on a practice run.

Sandberg said the agency has also sent out hundreds of e-mails to downtown businesses and handed out posters for display in parking garages. There were also this week’s breakfasts on the bridges, where cyclists got free coffee, donuts and schooling on riding the mall.

Bicyclists will have to turn into pedestrians to cross the mall. No more right turns.

Many bike riders, however, said they might just avoid the streets all together, at least in the beginning.

As an added precaution, orange cones will block vehicles from merging into the forbidden lanes and the city’s traffic cops will be watching for violators.

Go here for a primer on the transit mall’s new traffic and parking rules.

Here are the key dates leading up to the Portland Mall’s official opening:

Key 2009 transit operation dates
• January 12-May 23: Bus operator training

• March 2-8: Mall Safety Awareness Week

May 3: Light rail operator training begins

• May 24: Bus service starts on the Mall

• August 30: MAX Yellow Line service moves to the Mall

• September 12: MAX Green Line service begins

– Joseph Rose;