Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rail grinding

Got multiple emails from people saying “Hey, have you seen this yet?” I knew this has been going on but no, I hadn’t seen these particular videos yet. The videos, taken by cjd1701, show rail grinding being done on Interstate. A specialized machine called a rail grinder goes over sections of the alignment after revenue service hours and evens out irregularities in the rails caused by normal wear and tear. For MAX passengers, this translates to a smoother ride.

Grinder by day (picture from BikePortland‘s Twitter)

Videos taken by .

Fare inspection on Post Secret

Hat tip to @ambrown for finding this. On Post Secret, which is an ongoing art project where people from all over the country anonymously write their secrets and confessions on postcards (as a way to get it off their chest and relate to other people), one of the ones from this week’s update was about our very own MAX fare inspection:

and on the back:

This isn’t the first time TriMet has been posted there – a few weeks ago one of the postcards was the famous light rail coyote. But the timing of this particular one is interesting, given how fare inspection has been ramped up lately, especially at Jeld Wen Field for Timbers games. I have mixed feelings about that.

On one hand, I think the ticket vending machine situation is disgraceful.

That’s helpful.

I know the official line is that 93-95% of the TVMs are functional at any given time, but I find that hard to believe.  I hear supervisors call in TVM defects and I know passengers frequently report them as well… in cold or rainy weather a lot of the bill slots and validators stop working… if a machine is demanding exact fare but isn’t accepting coins or only gives you the option to buy 10 2-hr tickets, I don’t consider that “functional”… etc etc etc. It doesn’t help that given enough time a lot of the broken machines will reboot themselves, clearing any issues until the next time something goes wrong with it, but that doesn’t do you any good unless you feel like standing around at the platform waiting to see if it will reset. And handwritten instructions from a fare tech on a machine for over a month is not exactly giving a professional image to the public. I think that TriMet’s efforts to ensure fare compliance are seriously undermined by how difficult it can be to buy fare in the first place.

On the other hand, some people apparently seem to feel paying fare is beneath them. If you’re caught without a fare, you’ll be in TriMet’s system for a year. Now I would’ve originally assumed that if someone got a citation or warning for not paying, for the next year they’d be vigilant about always having paid their fare in case they get checked again. But in reality, that’s not how it works out. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have multiple previous citations or exclusions for no proof of payment as recently as within the last month or two when they get caught without proof of payment again. I feel bad for someone who is truly unable to find a working ticket machine and they get checked. I don’t really have sympathy for people who repeatedly can’t be bothered to even make an attempt in the first place.

The Timbers games are an interesting situation for fare inspection. It’s not set up to be a surprise that your fare will be checked if you take MAX to the games. TriMet’s Timbers page states that Jeld Wen Field is outside the Free Rail Zone so you need to have paid fare. The announcements at Galleria state that this is the last stop in the Free Rail Zone, and proof of payment and validated fare are required outside the Free Rail Zone. The schedule kiosks along Holladay and through downtown have signs indicating that fare is required to Jeld Wen Field. I think even some news stations have mentioned Timbers games in the context of TriMet’s fare inspection.

Yet despite this, a lot of people are getting cited for not paying at Jeld Wen Field. I have no idea what would help – while there are a lot of areas in which I think TriMet is sorely lacking in outreach to the public, this particular fare boundary and that you can/will be checked at Timbers games isn’t one of them. But people still aren’t getting the message.

Any thoughts of what could be done better? Not that I’m personally in a position to do much about it, but I think this is a discussion TriMet should be having.

More complicated than you think

The folks over at Portland Transport recently had their annual Q&A session with TriMet GM Neil McFarlane. A question that came up, as it has before, was about improving MAX speed and efficiency by closing some stops. This led to a follow-up post at Portland Transport (and is making me revisit the series I’d done on the same topic but never finished) and while working on a post for that, I dug out this map of the area around SW 10/11th and Yamhill/Morrison where the Portland Streetcar crosses the eastbound & westbound Red and Blue MAX alignment.

I’m posting it here because it’s a good illustration that shows how there’s a lot more involved in closing/moving a stop than just laying down tactile strip and moving the fare machines. It’s the work involved in changing the track circuits, moving the train-to-wayside-communication (TWC) call loops, reconfiguring signals, etc that would be a barrier as far as expense (and complexity!) is concerned.

Quick explanation since this map introduces something I haven’t mentioned before:

Many readers here will already be familiar with how the operator of a MAX train will press the “Call” button on the console when the transponder under their cab is over a call loop to call their signals and throw power switches in order to proceed. However, by design, that transponder will call some signals without action on the part of the operator. So for example as shown in the map below, signal W6, which is an ABS/pre-empt combination signal for eastbound trains, is not called by the operator doing anything, but is instead called by the train just before SW 13th when the transponder under the lead cab passes over that TWC loop.

This map is outdated – trains do not regularly go through 11th Ave anymore, and each of those tracks have their own signal now instead of all using signal W4, but I still wanted to post it here because it nicely shows the complexity of what otherwise appears to be a fairly simple layout.

Can’t remember if it had been a test question or a Rail Rodeo question that went something like “There is a Yellow Line train in 11th Ave, an eastbound Blue Line at 14th, and a southbound streetcar at Washington. If the Blue Line crosses 13th before the Yellow Line gets their call on, when will the streetcar get their signal?” which reminded me too much of those math problems from high school, where if Mary is on the 9pm train heading due north at 55mph, what time will she pass John’s train which is heading south at 60mph?

Fake MAX train for April Fools Day

Happy April Fools Day! Doing something like last year’s WES post would be too much work (besides, I don’t really have anything new to add), so instead, here’s a fake train. I’ve mentioned how a MAX train was featured in the movie The Hunted, except it’s actually an articulated bus made to look like a Type 1. Reader Mr. K had been able to take some fantastic photos of that mock-up train and sent them here to be posted. I’ve been meaning to get these up for a while, keeping with the theme of a perspective that most people don’t get to see.

These photos are posted here with Mr. K’s explicit permission.
Please do not claim for your own use.

As with nearly all the pics on my blog, all of these can be clicked for larger versions.

Rooftop shots, including fake Hawthorne Bridge

Under the bridge shots & close-ups

Compare that with a real Type 1 – the mock-up looks pretty good!

As an added April Fools Day bonus: Restroom oddities of the Green Line!

This is in the Clackamas break room. I mean, break oom.

So naturally, someone did the obvious to the janitor room sign:

Then over in the Jackson turnaround:

I’m not really sure how that’s an accessible bathroom despite the sign, given that there are 5 steps up to the platform and then another step into the doorway…

Bonus #2 – Exclusive at Portland Transport, a first look at the new Type 5 LRVs!  Exciting!