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PORTLAND TRANSIT CHALLENGE


TriMet MAX Type: Light Rail Service: 18-22 hours daily Size: 52 miles in service,


7.3 miles under construction


Routes: 4 Fleet: 126 cars: 26 Bombardier LRV, 78 Siemens S660, and 22 Siemens S70


Ridership: 41.2 million (FY 2011) First line: September 1986


LEFT: Hatfield Government Center, the western terminus of the MAX light rail sys- tem. At left is what TriMet calls a “Type 2” LRV, part of the second batch of light rail cars ordered for the 1998 opening of the extension to Hillsboro. A Siemens S660, a second batch of these cars with slight mod- ifications, known by the agency as “Type III,” were delivered prior to the 2003 open- ing of the Yellow Line. Hatfield is a three- track stub station, and today it has a rare occurance: an Airport-bound Red Line train on Track 3, which our challengers quickly take advantage of. DAN HANECKOW


RIGHT: Two MAX Green Line trains pass each other near the SE Division Street station. This line was built atop the right-of-way of a never completed busway, paralleling nearby Interstate 205. As a result, it repeatedly climbs and dives, from below-grade trenches to embankments and viaducts, which gives the Green Line its unique “roller coaster” profile. DAN HANECKOW


er Portland & Western, and uses P&W crews wearing TriMet uniforms. The route opened in early 2009, in the mid- dle of some of the darkest hours of the Great Recession, resulting in far lower initial ridership than hoped. Still, things are not all gloomy. Rid-


ership is growing rapidly, and the DMU’s seem to have lost almost all of their initial teething problems. The ride today is uneventful, and outside the window, the suburban landscape blurs past at 60 miles per hour.


8:26 a.m.


It’s dark, it sounds like a


jet about to take off, and it’s rocking back-and-forth wildly. This is MAX, TriMet’s light rail system, and we’re in the middle of the 3.1 mile twin-bore Robertson Tunnel, headed towards downtown Portland. Upon our arrival at Beaverton, we


had taken an outbound train to Hills- boro, the terminus of the Blue Line. At 32.7 miles, this is the longest of TriMet’s four color-coded MAX lines, and the western extension through the residential developments and high tech employment centers of the “Silicon For-


est” is also one of the fastest, with trains frequently operating at 55 mile s per hour. Now, though, we are aboard an eastbound Red Line train, headed through the tunnel towards downtown. After a brief stop at the underground Washington Park station, located mid- tunnel, our train rockets forward, and in minutes emerges into the daylight of downtown. Our goal, however, is not to tackle the MAX and streetcar lines of the central city. Instead, we want to stay on our current train, ride out to the eastern half of the system, and do a series out-and-back runs from Gateway Transit Center, where the Red, Blue, and Green Lines diverge from each oth-


er to separate end-points. With that complete, we would end our day tack- ling the downtown routes. Unfortunately, like many a cross-


town commuter, we are being stymied by the variety of ways MAX operates. Here MAX runs on surface streets, and although the right-of-way is exclusive, the short blocks, frequent intersec- tions, and pedestrian activity of the area slows us down. After the swift west side and the rocketing trip through the tunnel, it is excruciating.


11:01 a.m.


“Look, it’s a giant


punk rocker tie-dye Mohawk... thing!”


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