Monthly Archives: June 2010

Old OldTown/Chinatown signal

I forgot I had this picture, otherwise I would’ve included it as a point of sort of historical interest in my ABS/Pre-empt Combination Signal post:

Old view eastbound at Oldtown/ChinatownCab view, eastbound at Old Town/Chinatown several years ago

This is an old picture, taken back before the Portland Transit Mall was integrated to have the the Yellow and Green Line trains running on 5th and 6th.  That pre-empt signal isn’t there anymore – the way this used to work was that an eastbound train at Old Town/Chinatown would call their pre-empt and then begin to proceed up the Steel Bridge on a proper signal.  Signal 10 (which I have no picture of) was located on the bridge prior to the span, displayed a red or a lunar, and was associated with an ATS magnet – so if, for example, the bridge was going to be lifted, signal 10 would be red and the magnet would be active.

But then the Portland Transit Mall happened, and that meant tracks approaching the bridge from a different angle where the Yellow and Green trains go across the river from Union Station and now the added possibility of a Yellow or Green train making a conflicting move to a train at Old Town/Chinatown heading east.  So now Signal 10 is a combination signal located where this pre-empt was, and Old Town/Chinatown has an ATS magnet. I forget specifically when this change happened – in 2008 I think.

New signal 10The new Signal 10 – here the train operator has called it, but doesn’t have pre-emption of the intersection yet.

So there’s a little bit of TriMet rail history for you.

Yes, about those TriMet “Open door” buttons…

You know, I have other drafts in the works, but I keep getting sidetracked by current events.

Old picture, but a good one.  Who knew those little buttons would cause so much strife?

It’s come to my attention that Joseph Rose, writer for the Oregonian, did a piece on the door buttons.*  I’ve read it and reread it a couple of times, and… I can’t make heads or tails of it.

Says Joseph:

“What’s the point if having ‘door open’ buttons on the outside of MAX trains? It seems like every time a child gets separated from an adult at a station, there’s a surveillance video of someone desperately trying to get the train’s doors to open by pushing those buttons. They never work.”

What we have here is a basic misunderstanding of coming and going.
Of course, TriMet hasn’t done a bang-up job of educating the public about when we can and can’t use those buttons. Basically, they’re designed to work when MAX is coming. Or, more precisely, when it has arrived.

That buttons [sic] are for the rare times when a light rail train pulls into a station and its sliding doors don’t deploy. Hit the button and they should hiss open like they’re on the Starship Enterprise.

Says I:

I can only assume, given that Rose quotes a conversation with TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch later in the article, that he got this information from her.  

Too bad it’s wrong.

Go ahead, give that a shot the next time you’re at a platform and an out-of-service train stops there. Push the button on the outside of the train and see if the doors hiss open like the Starship Enterprise.  Tell Picard and Data I said hi.

No, all you’ll get for your trouble there is the operator coming over the external PA to say “This train is not in service.”

As I’d said before, those buttons only work when the operator puts the doors on release. If they’re not on release, hit the button all you want and the door still won’t open.  If you don’t know what “on release” means, go look. Seriously, I got pictures there and everything!  I’m trying to help!

Released interior door buttons on a Type 4

But since in Portland people are accustomed to the train pulling in and the doors opening, the doors are rarely on release at platform unless the train gets held there for whatever reason. Your friendly neighborhood rail operator will be taking care of all door operations for you.  And if s/he doesn’t put the doors on release, the buttons aren’t going to do a thing. So I’m trying to figure out what times Rose is referring to when he says a train rolls into a platform and doesn’t open the doors.  If the train is out of service, the operator is going to keep the doors closed, so they won’t be on release.  If the operator forgets to hit the door open button (it can happen, though it’s rare), then I really doubt that they would’ve somehow thought to hit the release button.  Or maybe they opened the doors on the non-platform side of the train (oops) but that’s still not going to have an effect on the release door buttons on the platform side.  So… I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I’m assuming it’s information he got from Mary Fetsch, which was either given incorrectly or misinterpreted before it went to press.

The kicker, of course, is that Fetsch is an official representative of TriMet, so her information is supposed to be considered the accurate and approved TriMet response to questions when released by the press, so by that logic I guess what Rose wrote has to be correct.  I, on the other hand, cannot/do not represent TriMet or light rail operators/operations.  My blog is sort of like the lottery or psychic hotlines – at best it can be considered for entertainment purposes only since I can’t claim anything on here to be official TriMet information.  Doesn’t matter that neither Fetsch nor Rose has operated a MAX train, and likely neither one has spent time in the cab of one for anything more than a photo op.  If even that.

And I guess while we’re at it, let’s address the bolded part of Rose’s column. Here’s a “best practice” for you – if you are traveling on MAX with a small child, hold onto them as you get on and off the train, and mind them while you are on the train. It’s not even just about the risk of being separated from your child by closing train doors – it’s not safe for them to be running around near a train.  Period.  I promise you the operator really does not want to run your child over, but if a child is small enough to dart away from you when you don’t hold on to them, then they’re small enough to put themselves in danger around a train.  Please keep your kids safe around trains and other vehicles!

*Update 06-27-10: I see now that Rose updated his post earlier today to reflect that the doors need to be on release and the train needs to be in-service for those buttons to work.  Much better!  And for reference – Old J. Rose article and New J. Rose article

Type 4 woes, June 18th evening rush hour

HolidayThat should be “Holladay”..

Yeah.  So.  Just in time for evening rush hour yesterday, an eastbound  Type 4 Blue line train broke down at NE 60th, which took about 4 hours to resolve.  Oh, those pretty Type 4s.. and #yourcommuteisscrewed for those of you playing along on Twitter.

Dead Car PushHow many cars in that train?

I couldn’t get over there to get any video or photos, so I’m very pleased that Bob R was able to do so – and he got some great footage!

There are a lot of neat things there that passengers rarely see, like how trains are coupled (notice the safety stop at at about the 1:02 mark to check alignment of the coupler heads) or the fold-out coupler head under the cab of the Type 4s that fits with the coupler heads of the rest of the fleet, or brakes being pumped off, and what a dead car push looks and sounds like.  A dead car push is one of the most dangerous things done with a train, as the operator pushing the dead car (or in this case, train) can’t see what’s ahead, and essentially the dead car no longer has operational brakes as they’ve been pumped off – there are still the track brakes though, which the flagger in the front of the dead car who acts as eyes can use in the event of an emergency.

Again, many cheers for Jason McHuff snagging the ODOT traffic camera picture, and to Bob R at Portland Transport for going out there & getting this video.

ATU 757 Rally pics

From the ATU 757′s Rally for the Ride.  Because hey, even though it’s not directly about trains, I figure if you’re reading me, you have an interest in public transportation.

I support Mass Transit

Save Our Ride

I know a common question has been “Why is TriMet building a rail line to Milwaukie at the same time they’re slashing bus service left and right?”  Part of the problem is that transit agencies can’t take federal funds that have been earmarked for capital construction (such as building new lines) and apply those to maintain existing operations.  The ATU is rallying support behind two Congressional bills that would increase funding for public transit (H.R. 2746) and allow transit agencies to direct some of that capital project money into continuing existing service instead of building new, unsustainable service (S. 3412).  If you agree that TriMet and other agencies should focus some of this money on operations, please consider getting involved and showing your support for these bills.

This is the last week where I will have a lot of stuff going on in my personal life, so the posts about MAX questions & answers should resume soon when I have time to write!

Remember that snow storm?

On the topic of weather (and in honor – by which I mean denial – of the 80 F+ weather forecast for this weekend):

Christmas Eve 2008Christmas Eve, 2008 – going west through the cut between Gresham City Hall and Ruby Junction

Good times, good times.  Actually I kind of miss the snow, though walking down trudging through snow, slush, and ice to Ruby Junction from the train platform was not the most fun I’ve ever had.