I’ve run out of things to write about MAX. This blog is now about the jewel in TriMet’s crown: WES.
WES is TriMet’s commuter rail system, running weekday rush hour between Beaverton and Wilsonville. The first WES cars – three powered diesel multiple units (DMUs) and one unpowered coach car – arrived in 2008, all from Colorado Railcar which TriMet bailed out for a total of about $22 million to get the cars before Colorado Railcar went out of business.
WES opened in February 2009 (5 months late), and TriMet had predicted daily ridership in the first year to be around 2400 passengers per day, but actual boarding was just under half of that. Since then ridership has been increasing, though not at the predicted rates and still well below other service provided by TriMet. This past February, WES averaged 1430 boardings per day. Operating costs per ride hover around $20 (an all-zone fare is required to ride WES, which a passenger pays $2.35 for, so it operates at a loss of roughly $17-$18 per rider)
The WES trains have two cabs, one main cab and one sort of auxiliary small cab that is functionally equivalent to the large cab but takes up less than half the width of the train. Here are assorted pictures of the cabs and controls of the WES trains. I’ve never operated one, so I don’t really have a lot of commentary about what everything does. Some of it is pretty similar to what you’d find in a MAX cab, some of it is not. All pictures can be clicked for a larger version.
WES operators are not technically TriMet employees – they work for Portland & Western railroad, so if any of them ever wanted to be a MAX operator, they’d have to start as a part time bus operator and work their way up, same as everyone else. Each WES train is staffed by two P&W employees, one operating and the other counting passengers, answering questions, and occasionally checking fares.
The northern end of WES terminates at the Beaverton Transit Center. The trains run on 14.7 miles of track servicing 5 stations (BTC, Hall/Nimbus, Tigard Transit Center, Tualatin, and Wilsonville), sharing the right of way with freight trains operated by Portland & Western Railroad. As a result, the signals for WES are different from what MAX trains use, such as this red over red over green that I don’t think has anything to do with a diverging route like it does for light rail.
Since the alignment is also an active freight line, two of the stations (Hall/Nimbus and Tigard TC) make use of gauntlet tracks which allow for sideways sway of wider freight cars. As MAX has its own right of way, this feature is not used on the light rail alignment.
But wait, there’s more!
In 2010, WES went ~*retro*~ with refurbished cars from the Alaska Railroad. Built circa 1953, these were purchased by TriMet to be used as filler trains when one of the original ones went out of service, because I guess everyone was growing weary of needing to bus bridge WES all the time.
Here’s what it’s like to be a passenger on these vintage rail cars:
Question: Isn’t WES amazing?
Answer: Yes. Yes it is.
What will you do with your WES time? Play the banjo, evidently.
Conclusion? WES is clearly far superior to MAX, so there’s nothing more to say about light rail.
And of course, no WES post would be complete without a video of the WES drummers playing the WES theme song!