Tag Archives: safety

Itinera interruptus

Question: Why are we stopped here?

I see this question a lot, with “here” referring to many various points along the alignment. Very rarely do people get on the MAX train just to sightsee where it happens to go (though I have seen tourists do this). Instead, generally people on board have places they need to be and buses they need to catch, and as a result they get anxious when a train is stopped longer than a normal platform dwell time.

The most common cause is typically waiting for other trains to clear, and frequent “hot spots” where the wait is most likely due to rail traffic include:

Steel Bridge

All roads (well, MAX lines) lead to the Steel Bridge, and as a result you can find yourself waiting to cross it since all trains go through here. And of course, if there is a bridge lift, maritime traffic takes priority over rail so you’ll also be waiting if that happens, to say nothing of the delays from trains stacking up during the lift.

train on the spanRed Line train crossing the Steel Bridge

Under normal operating conditions, a delay might happen on the span itself. A westbound Red or Blue Line train like the one pictured above will be held at signal 14 if a Green or Yellow Line train is crossing the bridge heading toward Rose Quarter. The reason for this is that the tracks cross each other:

Steel Bridge west side

This angle looking down on the western side of the bridge works well to illustrate this since the sun is reflecting off the rails making them easier to see. The two tracks coming straight down in the middle of the bottom of the picture are for Yellow and Green Line trains. The ones going off to the bottom right corner are for Red and Blue Line trains. You can see that a westbound Blue or Red train (coming in from the left track at the top of the picture) needs to cross the path of an eastbound Yellow or Green to continue into the Old Town/Chinatown platform. An eastbound Red/Blue does not have this conflict with a westbound Yellow/Green, so you won’t see those trains waiting, but westbound Reds and Blues will wait on the span until the incoming Yellow or Green is clear.

New signal 10Signal 10 at Old Town/Chinatown – the switches are set but the cars crossing in front of the train still have a green light (pre-empt signal refresher)

Similarly, if a conflicting move is in progress or switches aren’t yet set properly, trains waiting to cross the bridge eastbound will be held. This is why you may find yourself waiting at Old Town/Chinatown on a Red or Blue train – your operator is waiting for a permissive aspect on signal 10, but won’t get one if a Yellow or Green is starting to go eastbound over the bridge (and those trains can be held at signal M26) if a Red or Blue is already crossing.

On the other side of the bridge is Rose Quarter, which is complicated enough to get its own post. In short, Reds, Blues, and Greens can generally move through here without conflict (e.g. you can have a westbound Blue leaving RQ at the same time an eastbound Green comes in without any problems) but since the Yellow Line turns north here and crosses the other tracks, Yellow Line trains can only move through the Rose Quarter interlocking at the same time as other Yellow Line trains.

yellow line parallelTwo Yellow Line trains making a parallel move

So if you are sitting westbound at Rose Quarter for longer than expected and there’s no bridge lift in progress, most likely your operator is waiting for a Yellow Line to get out of the way. And on the flip side, if you’re on a Yellow Line sitting at IRQ waiting to cross the river into downtown, there’s probably a Red, Green, or Blue going through that has to clear before you can move. Trains heading off the span into Rose Quarter may be held at signal 16G if a conflicting move is in progress.

Gateway

EB from GatewayEastbound from Gateway

The fishhook (not used to catch prostitutes) is the biggest time sink at Gateway. It’s a curving stretch of single track with a 10mph speed limit used to connect Red Lines with the alignment going north on I-205 toward the airport. In the above picture, the track diverging to the right off the eastbound main is the start of the fishhook. Since Red Line trains use this to come in and out of Gateway, in this part of the alignment where the picture was taken, westbound Reds will actually be traveling in the eastbound mainline for a short distance. So if you’re on an eastbound train at Gateway not going anywhere, take a look to your right over toward the fishhook. The odds are good that an inbound Red Line got through their signals before your train’s operator selected at Gateway, and it’s making its way up the fishhook into Gateway. Your train can’t move until they’re clear.

green and red trainsRed Line coming off the fishhook as a Green Line waits in the auxiliary track

incoming greenGreen Line train heading into Gateway from Clackamas

There can also be delays for Green Lines coming in to Gateway, but since that alignment has double track, it does not present the same problems as the single track fishhook does (sometimes a brief wait at the SE Main St platform or at the intermediate signal if a Blue Line is going through here).

Downtown/Goose Hollow with Conga Lines

supervising conga line

The above picture is something of an extreme example from an evening when a switch by Beaverton TC broke and trains were backed up all through downtown. But it’s not uncommon for trains to end up forming a conga line during rush hour. In this picture, the platforms are near each other and it’s not a problem (from a safety perspective) for the trains to be that close. However, once they get to Goose Hollow, they move into ABS territory which involves much greater spacing between trains and trains traveling at higher speeds. A westbound train at Goose Hollow can’t proceed until its leader passes a signal in the tunnel prior to the Washington Park platform. You’ll hear the train waiting to proceed call this in on the radio as being “on a red at Goose” – because you can’t see into the Goose Hollow platform until you’re almost into it, trains waiting at Goose Hollow will let Control and their followers know that they’re occupying the platform, in which case the train behind can wait at Kings Hill instead of at the intersection right before the platform.

ABS Territory – Intermediate signals

If you’ve ever been on a train in ABS territory (in particular east of Hillsboro but west of Goose Hollow and east of Lloyd Center to PDX, Gateway, or Clackamas) and the train slows to a crawl between platforms, sometimes coming to a full stop before resuming normal speed, that means your operator was approaching a red ABS signal:

Red ABS diagram

This is a safety measure in high-speed travel areas. There are intermediate signals between many of the platforms, and if your leader is still between the signal in front of you and the next signal, your train will have a red light that will trip you if you try to go past it. This prevents trains from getting too close at high speeds. Passengers won’t always notice this one, because it’s generally preferable to drop your speed and creep up to the signal hoping it turns yellow before you get there instead of immediately coming to a stop when you see a red (it’s best to avoid stopping a train away from a platform when possible). But if you get all the way up to the signal and it’s still red, your operator will stop the train until the signal turns yellow. This informs the operator that the train in front of them is now far enough ahead that it is safe to proceed.

Waiting for Relief

Aside from areas where trains are stopped while waiting for other trains to clear, I’ve also seen people ask why trains have to switch operators while still in service. Although there are some tripper trains that will just go yard to yard or make one round trip and then go back to the yard, most trains are in service all day. So each line has relief points built in where one operator’s shift ends and another’s begins. For the Red Line, this is Beaverton TC and as a result you won’t notice any delay because the relief will happen while the train is on layover. For the Blue Line, reliefs are generally at either Elmonica or Ruby Junction, though there are a couple of runs that are relieved at Beaverton TC and Gateway. For the Yellow and Green Lines, all reliefs are at Gateway.

I’ve mentioned this before, but a relief operator will call into Control with their train number and the word “relief”. After Control acknowledges the call, the relief operator responds with their badge number and lets the controller know if he or she is signed in and has train orders. The controller will let the operator know if there’s anything important going on they should know about (sporting event, service disruption, etc).

Generally speaking this process does not take long so these aren’t long delays, but more importantly, there is time built into the schedule for reliefs:

Relief time

This is an excerpt from a paddle, or rail schedule. The plus sign after the time means 30 seconds. So to read this, the train arrives into Gateway heading toward PSU at 1:28:30pm But that train is not scheduled to depart until 1:30:30pm, giving the relief operator two minutes to call Control.

This is one of those little things I wish TriMet would publicize – I know passengers get frustrated because from their perspective, they’re sitting at a station for 2 minutes not doing anything, and now they think they’re late. However, they’re actually not late at all, the schedule is designed for the relief and the train will be leaving when it is supposed to.

Other Delays

These were the main reasons why a train will be stopped for longer than normal platform dwell service. Of course, countless things could come up in a day that will cause delays and result in trains holding – police activity, medical emergencies, a train or alignment malfunction, a car in the right of way (since that seems to happen about once a week). In those instances, your operator will likely be doing what they can to keep you posted as information about the delay and when things will be moving again becomes available. However, if you’ve been sitting for 3 or 4 minutes without any explanation, it’s ok to use the emergency intercom and ask what’s going on – operators are trained to keep passengers informed (even a “Ladies and gentlemen we’ve been asked to hold here, I will let you know when we will be moving again” when Control doesn’t give an explanation for the hold is better than not saying anything at all to passengers).

How you can help prevent delays

smokeyYes, you.

Given the delays that can happen around the Steel Bridge, Rose Quarter, and Gateway if trains aren’t on schedule, it’s important for passengers to do their part and not contribute to any delays. Much like how a green light will eventually turn yellow and then red when you’re driving, a train won’t have a permissive signal indefinitely. If you’re downtown, on Interstate, or on Burnside, you can see the signal start to time out when it does this:

Flashing white vertical

A train can’t enter the intersection when a pre-empt is displaying this aspect because it won’t clear the intersection before cross traffic gets a green light. ABS and ABS-pre-empt combination signals will go back to red when they time out.

Although you might think it’s polite to hold the door open for someone running for the train or trying to buy a ticket, what you are actually doing is making the operator miss their signal because it timed out and now they have to wait again. This can mean your train will be late getting to one of those traffic-heavy areas, and what you thought would just be a short delay to help a late-runner has turned into a 5 minute or more delay. On the transit mall, causing a train to miss a signal not only delays your train but buses as well.

And yes, it bears repeating, this is also why an operator is not likely to reopen the doors if the train is stopped with the doors closed even if you come running up to it. Once an operator calls the signal, it’s time to be ready to move as soon as the signal is permissive. This helps the train stay on schedule and minimizes the likelihood of interrupting everyone’s trip by needing to stop and wait further down the alignment.

Rock and rail

And now here’s an example of using the scanner for subjects other than fictional prostitute stings. By now you’ve probably heard about the incident a few weeks ago at about 5am when an eastbound train hit a large rock in the right of way near the Murray overpass between Beaverton Creek and Millikan Way.

I was asked on Twitter if this was something that the sweep train (the first trains through the alignment in the morning that run at a slower speed to check for debris, damage, etc) should have seen. However, the sweep train goes through there at about 3:30am, and four more trains follow it before the one that hit the rock, so it’s very unlikely that the rocks ended up there overnight and were somehow missed by five trains.

eastboundblueLooking east from the Murray overpass where this happened

Given the size of the rock (I think it took both the supervisor and the operator to get it out of the way) and my complete lack of detective abilities, I’m not sure if it was thrown from the overpass or whoever did it trespassed down in the ROW and left it there. Regardless, TriMet is looking for anyone who might have information and is offering a $1000 reward for information.

Coordination when things go wrong

When something goes wrong on a train, it can be very frustrating for passengers to not know what’s going on, why are we stopped, how long are any delays going to be, and so on. Generally speaking, operators are going to try to keep you as updated as possible because the last thing anyone wants to deal with on a stopped or broken down train is passengers redknobbing the doors and potentially getting hurt trying to leave! Unfortunately, sometimes the available information is limited and your operator doesn’t have any better idea than you do when things will be moving again.

Wait, let me say that one again: Unfortunately, sometimes the available information is limited and your operator doesn’t have any better idea than you do when things will be moving again.

Annnd, once more for luck: Unfortunately, sometimes the available information is limited and your operator doesn’t have any better idea than you do when things will be moving again.

Additionally, your operator isn’t just keeping all of the passengers informed, but he or she also has to communicate with Control, sometimes almost constant communication depending on the situation which means less time to convey information to the passengers. Consequently, it can seem like you’re sitting there wasting time while nothing is being done to fix the problem. This isn’t the case, it’s just that you’re most likely not going to be able to hear all of the coordination that’s done over the air to address the issue.

Because the rock incident happened very early in the morning, there wasn’t a lot of other traffic on the air and so the scanner got just about all of the related calls. I like this because it shows how the operator, supervisor, and controller worked together to get service going again with as little interruption as possible (also, no one was injured in this incident so I don’t think there is anything sensitive in any of the calls). Due to the relative simplicity of this event as compared to, say, the power issues from last week, the radio calls for this are pretty easy to follow along. If you’re interested in listening to how this played out but aren’t familiar with TriMet’s open air radio, you might find this radio refresher helpful – remember that when on the air, controllers don’t use an identifier, operators use the train number, and supervisors have four-digit call signs beginning with 95. In this incident, the train is 21, the supervisor is 9514 (both male voices), and the controller is the female voice.

Here are the highlights: The beginning of the incident is a little choppy (some problems with the radio where 21 couldn’t hear the controller), but the controller was able to understand that 21 hit an object in the ROW, so she called westside supervisor 9514, who is monitoring everything from Washington Park to Hatfield. 21 was able to get through with a description of what happened, and then relayed to the controller what problem indications he had in his cab (among them are friction brake faults - this will be important in a moment). Since this train was in service, the most ideal thing to do is to try to get it into Millikan Way where passengers can be safely offloaded if the train has to be taken out of service, and 9514 would meet up with 21 there to assist.

21′s follower, Train 22, is held at Willow Creek. This keeps the eastbound alignment from Millikan to Willow Creek clear, which would allow 21 to run reverse traffic (west in the eastbound alignment) if necessary back to the Elmonica yard. Meanwhile, 9514 meets up with 21 and sees a friction brake hangup in the A-truck of his lead car. For a quick refresher of what that means:

T3 & 1 brakes

These red lights on the outside of the train are located above each of the three wheel trucks (A and B at either end and C in the middle) in the Type 1s, 2s, and 3s. It’s a little different in the Type 4s, but I’m skipping that for now since this incident didn’t involve a 4. When illuminated, these tell you that the friction brake in that wheel truck is applied. You want this when the train is stopped, as in the above picture. You do NOT want this when you expect the train to be moving! So 9514 was able to see that the exterior brake indicator in the leading truck of the lead car was lit as the operator was trying to move the train into the platform, and he knew that this meant that friction brake was “hanging up”, or staying applied. The way to troubleshoot this is to pump off the hydraulic fluid from that brake and manually release it.

mru3MRU, Type 3

Each train car has an MRU, or “Manual Release Unit” where a friction brake can be pumped off. This is a fairly basic procedure that every operator learns how to do in training, but the standard procedure is for the controller to pull up a checklist to follow for consistency. After the train made it into the platform and passengers exited, 9514 was able to inspect the car for damage, including the leaking hydraulic fluid pictured above which explained the brake problem. If the only problem a train has is a hanging friction brake, it can continue in service with one brake pumped off, but you can’t do more than 30mph so it’s not really ideal. Any more than one brake pumped off and the whole train has to be taken out of service. In this situation, because the train had hit an unknown object and 9514 was still assessing damage, the train most likely wouldn’t remain in service even with the brake pumped off, but they needed to figure the best approach to getting it out of the way. The controller suggested that the best solution might be a dead car tow – that is, pump off all three of the friction brakes in the car and have it be pulled back into the yard by the other car.

9514 decided to begin pumping off the friction brake in the A-truck of the car – they’d have to do that anyway for a dead car tow, but it was possible that pumping off that one brake might be enough to get the train rolling. At this point in the radio calls, there is a lot of back and forth between the controller and 9514 as she read through the checklist and he carried out the procedures. After the brake was pumped off, 9514 confirmed that it was holding (i.e., it’s staying released), and the controller asked 21 to take a point of power from the eastbound cab. Although the train would be going back west to Elmonica, this is just a fast way to verify that the brake is no longer applied in that truck. She then told Train 1, the incoming westbound train at Beaverton Transit Center to hold there (remember that 22 has been holding back at Willow Creek, so this is leaving both the eastbound and westbound alignment clear from Willow Creek to BTC). 9514 said he’d ride back with 21 to see if he can find what had been hit.

runningreverseNot the train involved in this incident, but it’s a train running reverse – this one going east in the westbound at Willow Creek

Now 21 was running reverse back to Elmonica west in the eastbound alignment. If you want more info on what running reverse traffic means, I did a post on it a while ago, and other posts with related things you’ll hear if you’ve been playing the transmissions so far (such as needing to key-by a dwarf signal and running at restricted speed). 21 made a brief stop under the overpass to see what had been hit and try to clear it so that other trains could safely get through, and that’s when they found the rocks pictured above. They got them out of the way so that the westbound trains (Train 1 still holding at BTC) could get moving again. 21 then arrived at the yard limit and took the train into the yard so that normal train movement in both directions could resume. The whole thing took about half an hour from start to finish, though given the spacing between trains, it wasn’t a major impact to service.

But consider train 22 who was behind the incident train. They would’ve been around Fair Complex when this happened, and then holding at Willow Creek for about 15 minutes while all of this played out. If someone on 22 asked the operator when things would get moving again, there’s no easy answer to that – if you played through all the calls, you now have as much information as that operator did. There’s no secret operator-to-operator information service that gets additional information and a timeline out (though that would be cool). At best, the operator can explain the situation at a very un-detailed level because once you start getting into brake pump-offs and technical things, people’s eyes are going to glaze over. But if that procedure had failed or if there was serious damage to the train, or if 21 and 9514 couldn’t get the rocks out of the ROW, this would’ve taken longer, but there’s no way to know how things are going to go while the incident train’s operator, the supervisor, and the controller are working on it. So once again, unfortunately it’s very likely that your train’s operator isn’t going to have any better idea than you do of how long something will take to fix and get rolling again.

Overall I think this incident was a good example of what’s going on “behind the scenes” when something breaks down. Getting things moving as quickly as possible again is on the mind of everyone involved; no one’s doing this to get a kick out of passengers missing their (often infrequently) connecting buses (and on a self-interest side, no operator enjoys running late and losing part or all of a break due to delays!) There’s a lot of coordination between operators, supervisors, and controllers in every kind of service disruption, but unfortunately most of it is going to happen where passengers don’t see or hear it.

Sometimes a cat is just a cat

Or, a cautionary tale about not believing everything you read on the internet. Or that MAX isn’t as scary as you might have been led to believe.

A few nights ago, there was a report of a cat on the fishhook. For folks not familiar with where the fishhook is, it’s this section of single track near Gateway used by the Red Line to head toward the airport:

gatewayLooking at Gateway from above, colors and arrows indicating which tracks are used in each direction by trains on different lines

Animals get in the ROW sometimes, and when it happens, Control will put out an informational call to trains in that area to use extra caution. In short, this was all pretty much a non-event. You can listen to the call for this incident here, it should be easy to understand once you know what section of the alignment he’s referring to.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, @TelemachusRome who’s been satirizing TriMet (my personal favorites among recent tweets include the off-leash dog park on MAX and coin-operated seat belts for bus drivers) took this as an opportunity for another joke:

sting operation

Pretty obvious to everyone that this was a joke, especially if you played the audio for the call. Except… except… a talk radio host/blogger who has never been fond of TriMet takes this at face value and runs this story in several places online:

cats and hookers

Look, I know it’s trendy in some circles to call MAX the “crime train” or act like the only people riding it are involved in some kind of criminal activity and you should expect to be assaulted if you ride, but come on. I’ve played this call a few times intentionally trying to parse it as some sort of hooker sting and I still can’t see how someone can seriously confuse a cat with prostitutes. They must go to a more interesting PetSmart than I do.

After this “story” ran, the talk radio host apparently contacted TriMet who replied that no, there’s no prostitution ring on the system and this is audio about an actual cat, not a security bust of said non-existent prostitution ring.

Just in case you were worried about who you are riding a train with.

Oh, and for future reference, when an operator calls in  a “Bambi alert“? That really does mean that someone saw a deer in or near the tracks, not a stripper. The more you know…

Corrosion? No, TriMet, I think you just spelled “corruption” wrong

We all remember that MAX train that went down the Banfield with a door open, right? Which is not how the train is supposed to work – if your doors are open and you try to take power to move the train forward, the doors will close. The interlock should prevent the train from moving if any doors remain open.

opendoorbanfieldDoor open, train still moving

For some reason, this door stayed open between the Hollywood and Lloyd Center platforms, but no cause had been identified until last Friday afternoon, when TriMet issued a press release that the cause of the door’s malfunction had been determined:

bridgeplate corrosion

That would be great except for one thing – that door doesn’t have a bridgeplate. The incident happened in a Type 2, and like all other low-floor cars in the fleet, bridgeplates are located at doors 3, 4, 5, and 6 near the middle of the train on both sides. The doors closest to the ends of the train (1, 2, 7, and 8) do not have bridgeplates. They aren’t missing or corroded, they are just not there by design. It’s impossible that there was excessive corrosion on a bridgeplate mechanism in that door because there is no mechanism there to corrode in the first place.

Type 2 with bridgeplates outType 2 with bridgeplates out. Notice the middle doors have them but the doors near the ends of the car do not

What does our executive director of safety have to say about this?

saporta is corroded

Yeah, the corrosion on that switch was apparently so severe that the switch and bridgeplate are just GONE. Let me give you an analogy for how mind-blowingly confusing TriMet’s official statement is:

bikeTriMet would tell you that this cat’s bicycle is showing the same advanced corrosion as the bridgeplate switch

Now while the major media sources I’ve seen so far are just parroting back that the issue was due to corrosion on that door’s bridgeplate switch, many people are realizing this doesn’t add up. You don’t need to be an expert in the trains to notice that the doors near the upper deck seating of the train don’t have bridgeplates. One of my astute blog readers picked right up on it, other bloggers and Twitter users caught it too. That explanation seems to just be made up.

door cutoutDID NO ONE THINK TO CHECK THE BRIDGEPLATE?? Actually that’s going to be my new excuse for everything. Signal went dark? Probably a corroded bridgeplate switch. TVM not working? Most likely due to bridgeplate corrosion. Fight on the train? Yeah, that pesky bridgeplate corrosion again. 

But hey! Let’s not miss an opportunity to blame the union! In other words, let’s look at this part at the end of the press release that has NOTHING to do with the door issue:

union blaming

Do you like how those goalposts have been moved? TriMet used to call the union benefits  “some of the most generous in the transit industry” – now that’s been bumped up to THE most generous benefits in the entire COUNTRY. Hoo-wee!

Once again, TriMet non-union benefits aren’t too shabby either. Will we mention those as a cost-cutting measure? Course not.

non union rates

Must be hard being an executive at TriMet, not getting a raise on some of the most generous salaries in the transit industry after three years? I’d say “no disrespect to office workers” here, but you know what? If you’re offended by my belief that people who work all hours of the day all days of the year in all weather conditions in hot/noisy/dirty/hostile environments should get health care that compensates for that, and that the people making 6-figure salaries working in climate controlled environments with weekends, evenings, and holidays off paying less than $100/month to insure their entire family don’t exactly have room to complain that the union health benefits (for which union employees pay higher premiums per month than the non-union employees) are “too generous”, you and I just aren’t going to see eye-to-eye.

And hey, ATU would be happy to negotiate when TriMet agrees to full transparency by letting the sessions be open to the public. Because funny enough, there’s been a lot of instances such as this explanation of a bridgeplate problem in a door that has no bridgeplate, last-minute fixes of long-standing alignment problems right before an inspection, and  stealth raises to executives while crying poverty and blaming the union that have us all kind of thinking that TriMet can’t exactly be trusted to be transparent.

Anyway, back to the door issue. I’m really stumped here. If whoever looked at the door was not able to replicate the problem, the correct response would be to just say so, and maybe dedicate more resources to monitoring the condition of the doors. I find it next to impossible to believe that a mechanic said the problem was because of a bridgeplate-related issue in that door (and even if a mechanic DID say that, that no one else involved in the process said “Hey guys? This door doesn’t have a bridgeplate.”)

Who knows what actually caused it? Maybe whoever grabbed the door bumped it in such a way that the interlock registered it as closed. Maybe some connection in there was loose anyway and the person trying to get in just broke it all the way. Even if the cause were a problem with a bridgeplate in another door of that car that might have affected the interlock system for the whole car (I don’t even know if that’s possible), then the press release should have stated THAT. Because if what the press release said is the complete and final answer, and TriMet is going to say it was a bridgeplate problem in that specific door, then we still don’t know what actually did it and we’re not going to be able to prevent it from happening again as long as the explanation is to technobabble an answer that has no basis in the mechanical reality of that door.

I can’t tell if this is intentional deception and assuming the public is too dumb to question why the explanation involves a component that isn’t part of that door, or just plain old-fashioned incompetence. Either way, it’s incredibly disappointing of TriMet, and it’s also disappointing that they take a safety issue as an opportunity to throw slurs at the union.

(and if someone wants to provide pictures of the corroded bridgeplate switch in the mechanisms of that particular door, please do so! All the other rail personnel that I batted this one around with don’t see how TriMet’s official explanation makes any sense given what we know about the construction and operation of the trains, so if you want to use this opportunity to give us all a learning experience, we’re open to it.)

Au contraire..

And the results are in….

The previously mentioned ODOT inspection (full report courtesy of the Oregonian) was released late last week, and ODOT found no concerns for public safety. Some say now that this undermines the union’s credibility; on the contrary I think it strengthens it.

I didn’t personally take any of the damage photos that the union had circulated, but y’all may have noticed I take a lot of pictures for the blog. Before ATU even circulated those track damage photos and any kind of ODOT inspection was on the radar, I had independently taken photos of some of the trouble areas.

Lloyd Ctr 1 Lloyd Ctr 2

These are both just west of the Lloyd Center platform, where switches 17A,  17B, and 17C allow trains to diverge into the Doubletree Siding. I took both of these pictures on January 26, 2013. The damage here necessitated a slow order (that’s what the yellow cone is for), and the damage to the rail and surrounding pavement is pretty obvious.

How long was that track in this state of disrepair? Well here’s the same spot, July 30, 2012. At that time, I’d taken these partially to show the damage, and partially just as an example of wayside flags in case I ever needed it for the blog. You can also see how the pavement around the rail in the above picture from January is visibly worse than it had been in July, indicating that little to no repair work was done on this during that time period.

Now these switches in particular weren’t shown in the ODOT report, but nearby switches  (15A and 15B) west of Lloyd closer to 9th Ave were pictured in the ODOT report from March 5, 2013:

inspection1inspection2

There had been a flurry of activity of repair work on the rails once the inspection was announced. ODOT was even able to tell that the welding in the 15 A switch had been done recently.

While the 17A switch that I took photos of in July 2012 and January 2013 wasn’t pictured in the ODOT report, here’s how it looked as of March 10, 2013:

March 10 17A

You can see that the holes in the pavement around the rails have been filled in, again clearly showing that this problem had been there for months and only was addressed when the inspection was announced.

The only other pic I got recently was this at 11th Avenue on February 12, 2013.

11thAve WB

I took this facing north and looking down on the westbound track at 11th & Morrison.

And what the inspectors saw:

inspection3

This picture is taken facing west – my photo of the same area was taken on the left side of the first switch you see (you can see where the brick/cement/cobblestone pavement meet). Similar to the switch on Holladay, the holes in the area surrounding this switch have been repaved as well.

So I’m really struggling to see how this is supposed to undermine the union’s credibility. Apparently TriMet thought these issues were enough of a concern to patch these areas up before the inspectors came. I mean, the above pictures show the Holladay track damage going back as far as last July and still an issue at the end of January (and yes it was like that later than the end of January, but in fairness that’s the most recent I’d been there to take a photo) – if this was just “routine maintenance” and not last minute patching, wouldn’t it have been addressed sometime in the last 8 months and not immediately prior to the inspection?

Doesn’t the fact that these areas were in disrepair for months, and that TriMet saw fit to make last minute repairs right before the inspection just serve to strengthen the union’s concern that the alignment was not properly maintained?