Monthly Archives: January 2011

Safety redux

Picture of the scene on 6th & Davis, found on Twitter

As you’re probably aware, last night a 76 year old woman fell between two train cars at 6th and Davis as the train was coming in to the platform. She was responsive at the scene and was transported to OHSU, but later died from her injuries. Although some preliminary reports indicated that she had been pushed, it seems that what actually happened is that her cane went over the edge of the platform, got caught between the two cars, and she fell with it.

I wasn’t there last night so I didn’t see firsthand what happened, but it sounds like it was possible that she was standing/walking too close to the edge of the platform as the train came in. Of course no one deserves to die for making a mistake like that, but I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of people who are lucky they don’t end up in the news for the same reason she did.

Classic example

Or these people, in particular the one on the left

And just in case you’re thinking that those above pictures aren’t so bad because there’s no train in the picture so it’s not *that* unsafe, here are some pictures taken from a train:

Small child near the edge of the platform

More people standing on the tactile strip as a train approaches

The tactile strip on the edge of the platforms is there for a reason – painted white so that you can see it, and with a bumpy surface so you can feel it when you walk on it. SO STAND WELL BEHIND IT. Give me one good reason why you need to be standing on it, especially when a train is coming in. You’ll be able to board once the train stops, and if for whatever reason that train is too full to take on more passengers, isn’t it better to wait for the one behind it than risk falling under it?

Again, I don’t know what the situation was with this woman, and my condolences to her family (and the operator as well, I don’t know how he is doing). But this seemed like a good opportunity to post a safety reminder since the only reason why she made the news for this and the people in the above pictures didn’t is basically that they were luckier than her. Please be careful out there.

San Francisco, 1906

A friend of mine sent me this video recently because she thought I’d like it – she was right. Normally I don’t post things here that aren’t TriMet or MAX related, but I’m making an exception in this case because I think this is fascinating.

In April of 1906 (often incorrectly attributed to 1905), just days before the great earthquake, the Miles brothers shot video out of the front of a San Francisco cable car traveling down Market Street. The footage of this survived because they’d shipped the film to New York – everything else in their studio was destroyed in the earthquake.

(music is not mine, video is public domain)

I think this is amazing, not just from a historical perspective (especially considering that days after this footage was shot, the city would be devastated by the earthquake) but in a way by how much things haven’t changed. Lots of cars turning left in front of the streetcar;  a cyclist cuts in front of the streetcar, stays there for a bit, then ducks back out; people walking *everywhere*… Forget about 1906 San Francisco, I could’ve written that sentence about what I saw on the Portland Mall just this past week! I guess it’s true, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It also makes me wonder if any of the videos I’ve recorded would ever be of any historical interest 100 years from now. Or Al M‘s, since he has me easily beat as far as sheer volume of recorded transit-related footage goes.

Service horses

Not gonna lie – about a month ago when I heard that TriMet would be changing its service animal policy to state that only dogs could be classified as service animals, I wondered about service horses. After all, they’re allowed in the Apple store, so why not a MAX train?

Despite the fact that I don’t think anyone in the Portland area even has a service horse – and if they do, I’ve never spotted them on a bus or train – the news is making it sound like if TriMet allows service horses on board, your afternoon rush hour MAX will be overrun with tiny ponies (which, incidentally, would be awesome.)

A horse as a service animal is rare, but it’s not news – here’s an article from 2003 about a service horse on an airplane. What’s also not news is that under what had been TriMet’s service animal policy, people already could bring miniature horses onboard TriMet buses and trains. All an operator could ask is “Is that a service animal?” (not even getting into the other question permitted by the ADA, which is “What service is the animal trained to provide?”) If the person with the animal says “yes”, there’s not really anything the operator can do unless the animal is out of control. This policy has led to problems, like when a man got on a bus and claimed his Rottweiler mix was a service dog (it wasn’t), and it killed a service dog that was already on the bus. And it also meant people were bringing on their “service ferrets” or “service chickens”, so I imagine if someone had a pet miniature horse and tried to bring it on a bus saying it was a service horse, they could’ve done it.

Picture found online – photographer Jordan Richardson

Personally if I were operating a train and saw someone with a harnessed miniature horse waiting to board at a platform, I’d assume they had some sort of disability and just put out the bridgeplates for them – ditto for a person with a guide dog, a person with a white cane, a person with a wheelchair, etc. I actually think I’d more readily assume that a miniature horse is a service animal than some of the dogs I’ve seen people passing off as service dogs. I don’t know, I guess I don’t see why the idea of a service horse is such a big deal.

Civic Drive

Civic Drive Iris

Last month was the opening of the Civic Drive platform. Located in Gresham between Gresham City Hall and Ruby Jct/E 197th, this is now the 85th platform in the system, though construction had originally begun about 15 years ago. For years, Civic Drive was closed off and treated like a bypassed platform by operators  with a speed limit of 20mph past the platform.

Not to be confused with the no-longer-named-that Civic Stadium

Old signal 138, Gresham City Hall westbound

When Civic Drive was still a closed platform, this signal at Gresham City Hall facing west was used by trains to either continue on the westbound main (getting a yellow or green aspect) or to select for the Ruby yard (a yellow over green aspect). Signal 134, the intermediate signal in the cut westbound between Civic Drive and Ruby Junction, would display a corresponding yellow or red over yellow aspect depending on what route the train selected.

Current signal 138

But now there’s a new platform in between City Hall and Ruby, and you can’t be clear to proceed for 2 ABS blocks when there is a platform in the next block. As previously mentioned, the ABS signals prior to a platform will not display a green aspect. So now signal 138 will display just a single red or  yellow aspect.

Continuing west..

Civic Drive, westbound

A few points of interest here – you can see the call loop for our train (between the arms of the windshield wiper), and a sign to call signal 134, which is located way out in the cut. It’s red in the above picture, which might be easier to see in the larger version. Also visible from here are the ATS magnets as this part of the alignment is speed tripped for eastbound trains.

Signal 136A

136A is a new signal that was added for eastbound trains at Civic Drive. It can display two possible aspects since Gresham City Hall is the next ABS block.

How futuristic

Both sides of Civic Drive feature blue lighting built in along the ends and edge of the platforms.

And continuing further west, this is a closer view of signal 134, which is the same as it has been. It’s yellow for us since this train is headed to Hillsboro, not diverging into the Ruby yard.

Restricted Speed

And for today, a definition.

Restricted speed for a MAX train is:

20 miles per hour or the posted speed (whichever is less)

but always at a speed that would allow the operator to stop within half their sight distance.

Thick fog at night limiting visibility

So for example, downtown where the speed limit is 15 mph, restricted speed would never be faster than 15, but in areas where the normal speed limit is faster, restricted speed will be a maximum of 20 mph. Conditions like thick fog that reduce how far the operator can see ahead will likewise reduce the maximum speed permitted under restricted speed.

Situations in which restricted speed would be used include -but are not limited to- any time a train is running reverse traffic (e.g. east in the westbound tracks) or after bypassing a red ABS signal, or as directed to by Control.

EDIT – I’m updating this post with clarifications after being contacted via email which made me realize I’d worded some of this unclearly. Under normal operating conditions, something like a foggy night could get a warning from Control that you should operate at a speed that you feel comfortable and safe going at, which does not mean restricted speed – if the speed limit through a foggy area is 55 but you feel safe at 40 or 50, that’s fine. It is only when Control has stated that you should operate at restricted speed that the 1/2 sight distance restriction comes into play.