Single car trains

Question/Complaint: What’s with all the single-car trains?

Single-car Green Line approaching Hollywood

Let me answer your question with a question:

 Would you prefer no train at all?

That’s basically what it comes down to when your train shows up and there’s only one car instead of two. At least something showed up.

There are a lot of reasons why a single car might be running in place of a two-car consist.

  • If one car of a train isn’t working properly but the other one is fine, sometimes it’s easiest to cut the bad one and have the good one keep going to maintain service.
  • Somewhat related, if there is a biohazard (vomit, blood, etc) in one car and no cleaner available to take care of it, the bio car would likely be cut and the other car would continue in service.
  • It could be that a single car is all that was available in the yard at the start of the run.
  • Sometimes single cars are the fastest way to get trains running after a major delay. For example, if trains are unable to get out of the east side Ruby yard, one workaround to keep things moving would be to send out a two-car train from the west side Elmonica yard with two operators on board. They get downtown, uncouple the cars, and each operator takes one of the single cars in a different direction (e.g. one goes back west, one goes to Expo or Clackamas.) This is much faster than having both of those operators take out 2 two-car consists to the east side, which would require the second operator to wait for the first operator to clear each ABS block in front of them before they could proceed. Keeping the single cars coupled together until they get to the east side gets two “trains” through much more quickly and allows them to fill in service on more than one line in the same amount of time.
  • Sometimes if a train had to be taken out of service, the single-car Mall Shuttle would stop circling the transit mall and fill in for the missing train (easiest to do with Yellow-Green trains since it was already on the mall). Since the Mall Shuttle never showed up on the schedule or transit tracker anyway, I don’t know if anyone ever really noticed when it went missing, though people would notice (and complain about) the single car Yellow/Green Line train.

To summarize, when there’s only a single car running, it’s because it was either that or nothing and generally speaking not by design. In the earlier days of the Red and Yellow lines, single-car trains on those runs were more common but most runs these days are scheduled to have two-car consists. The exception to this was the Portland Mall Shuttle.

And speaking of everyone’s favorite single car train…

Portland Mall Shuttle

If you’ve been meaning to ride it but haven’t yet, you’ve got about two more weeks to do it before this run is cancelled. Yeah I know the service it provides on the mall is completely redundant to the Yellow and Green trains so there are no stops on this run that you can’t access on one of those, but maybe you’re a TriMet completionist or something and want to ride every route. In which case, more power to you and get on this one if you haven’t already.

4 responses to “Single car trains

  1. One of the things I would love for you to write about is how the Transit Tracker and the automatic stop announcements work on MAX.. To my understanding, the buses are GPS but not MAX.

  2. Just out of you know the exact date the shuttle is supposed to end? Will it be in service on Memorial Day?

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