Car assignments

Welcome, people coming over from Dave Knows Portland! It’s pretty flattering to be listed in the Transit Blogroll of 2010 considering I had been reading Dave Knows Portland for a while before I entered the blog world. So back when I saw this train several months ago, I took a picture of it in a “hey, I know that blog!” kind of moment. It’s kind of nice to have an on-topic reason to post it.

 Car 306

And then to actually give this post some substance, a tie-in to a reader question and similar questions I saw a lot of when the Type 4s went into service last year but have subsided now that pretty much everyone has ridden on them:

I want to ride a Type 4 – is there a specific time and place that one is guaranteed to pass through?  What about finding a particular car (like the Dave Knows Portland car)? Do operators pick what cars they take out in the morning?

If an operator has a run that involves taking a train out of the yard, they’ll be given storage information that’s assigned from Control – it says which track and what space(s) their car(s) is(are) in. An operator doesn’t just walk out to the yard, find a set of cars they like and take those out. Control would not approve of that – they keep track of how the cars are stored in the yard. If an operator has a run that involves storing a train in the yard, they get their storage instructions from Control when they leave the mainline and enter the yard.

So if you’re looking for a Type 4 or a particular train car, where it’s going to be will depend on how the train had been stored in the yard previously and how the Controller made the car assignments. For example, just because you saw train 42 as a Type 4 one day doesn’t mean that it will be a Type 4 the following day. Furthermore, some trains that start the day in one yard end in the other, so a train that might have been on the Yellow/Green Line one day (ends in the Ruby Junction yard) could be assigned to a Blue Line the next day that ends in the Elmonica yard and becomes a Red Line the day after that. And of course, there’s always the possibility that a train has a mechanical failure or biohazard and gets taken out of service to the yard that’s closer. Also if things go really bad on the alignment or if there are severe weather conditions, all bets are off as to where any particular train is going to be at any time (while waiting for that broken Type 4 to clear that tied up rush hour for several hours in June, some Yellow/Greens were turned back near Lloyd Center and got sent out to Hatfield at the end of the Blue Line in Hillsboro even though those runs never go to the west side and those trains weren’t technically on a Blue Line run, but it’s what needed to be done)

So basically, you can’t really predict where any particular train or cars are going to be. Sometimes they’ll be used on the same run more than one day in a row, but it all depends on how they were stored and how the Controller makes the assignments to send them out. Even then, there are so many other factors that can interfere with train movement that there’s no way to tell for sure that a run is guaranteed to have a particular train car on it.


4 responses to “Car assignments

  1. Random. Got it.

    • Not completely random – Type 1s aren’t commonly put on the Yellow/Green line, though that doesn’t always work out. But a train that has two low-floors coupled together, that’s more likely to be random and not sent on any particular line.

  2. Is there any reason why I seem to board certain cars more often than others? After noticing that I hardly ever boarded a Type 4 train, I did a survey of the cars I boarded everyday for about 5 months, and I was on car 110 eight times, car 115 seven times, etc etc, while I never boarded a number of other cars, like 108 & 109. I also boarded streetcar 008 about twice as much as some of the other ones, while I only boarded streetcar 005 twice (I assume it’s kept as a spare).

    • For me it’s 304 – I’ve been convinced that car follows me around. I’ve never been a Controller so I don’t know exactly how they make their assignments & storage decisions, I’ve just followed directions where and how to store trains.

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