Monthly Archives: February 2013

Open Letter to Our TriMet Passengers and Community

Editor’s note: I’m not the author of this, but I really don’t think anyone minds it being reposted here. I took the liberty of linking some relevant material from older MAXFAQs posts, Al M’s blog, the Oregonian, and other sources to support the claims made.

Over the past several years, TriMet’s top management has repeatedly used budget woes as their excuse for raising fares and reducing transit service to this community. Then, they point the finger at the union workforce, blaming the costs of health benefits for workers and retirees. We believe that claim to be false; but, it is difficult to counter an agency spending over $500,000 each year on PR to spread its version of the truth. Now, it’s time you heard the truth from TriMet’s workers.

We are the people who keep the system running. We watch how this bureaucratic agency works from the inside, we know where its skeletons are buried, and we are saddened by how dysfunctional it has become. Here are the serious consequences of that dysfunction.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS SAFETY AT RISK. It’s not just fatigued drivers, it’s also buying new buses with enormous blind spots while forcing train operators to frequently drive without any side vision at all. It’s a bus dispatch system programmed to cut off calls after two minutes, even when it’s a driver reporting an angry man with a gun. It’s buses and rail cars so filthy that they’re making operators and passengers sick. And those are just a few of the many serious safety issues we deal with daily.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS SERVICE QUALITY AT RISK. It’s not just the reduced runs, it’s also forcing us to issue fare evasion citations when we know the fare machines are down. It’s making schedules so tight it’s impossible to guarantee our passengers will make their connections. It’s reducing the number of bus shelters in neighborhoods where we serve the highest number of elderly and disabled passengers.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS PUBLIC FUNDS AT RISK. It’s not just spending millions on new furniture, it’s also signing what the Portland Business Journal calls “the biggest office lease of the year.” It’s spending nearly $2 million dollars giving new buses a “nose job” so they’ll look like trains. It’s having 161 managers being paid a base wage of over $75,000 a year, 55 of whom get over $100,000. This is to supervise a schedule-driven transit system service that can essentially run itself.

TRIMET’S DYSFUNCTION PUTS WORKERS’ HEALTH AT RISK. People think our jobs are easy, but the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Labor indicate transit operators become disabled earlier, die younger and get assaulted more than people working in other professions. Studies have called it the most stressful job, resulting in absenteeism, chronic illnesses and high medical costs well into retirement. We have a small pension plan (not PERS), and only a small minority of workers who have retired early with full health coverage.

We are public servants. We are not perfect. Some of us are far from perfect. But we are two thousand people whose work lives are dedicated to providing you with the best service we can. Meanwhile, TriMet’s PR department is using your tax money to mislead us all, issue after issue. What we ask is that you consider our viewpoint in the months ahead and evaluate the facts for yourselves.

The People Who Keep Public Transit Rolling

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From the archives: Westside construction

A while back I started taking PMLR/Orange Line progress pics (posted here and here with SW Lincoln, then I never got around to posting any others but here’s a recent one, quite a change from the tree-lined street it had been):

end of lincolnLooking east from the end of Lincoln

However, I also have a bunch of donated/archived pics of westside rail construction that I don’t think have been published elsewhere, at least not all of them, and I thought readers here might find them interesting:

Portland before westside rail

MAX originally ran from Gresham to downtown, ending at 11th Avenue, which is the terminus just west of the Galleria and Library platforms.

PA15931151603Starred path showing where rail would extend beyond 11th Ave

PA15931151604 PA15931151606Area around Kings Hill and Jeld Wen Field (then called Civic Stadium)

Out West

Image1002Willow Creek/185th, the original proposed end of the west side line

Willow Creek can function as the end of a line (and many Red Line trains will terminate there to go back into the yard), but then-mayor of Hillsboro Shirley Huffman was a very vocal advocate of extending the line further, which is why the Blue Line runs all the way out to Hillsboro.

Elmonica Rail Operations Facility December 1995Elmonica Yard, 1995. The area around it has gotten more built up since then.

Main_St_bridgeConstruction of the Main Street Bridge (and how it looks now)

Opening Ceremony - Al GoreAl Gore speaking at the opening ceremony

Tunneling the West Hills


The most significant undertaking of the westside expansion was the tunnel. If you take the train to Washington Park (the only stop in the tunnel) and ride the elevator up, you’ll find yourself on the Les AuCoin Plaza. You’ll see a sort of cross-section of the bore with tunnel trivia engraved in one segment. For those of you not following me on Twitter, that’s where the 54,962 cups of coffee consumed by tunnel workers fact came from. For the record, they also wore out 1481 pairs of rubber boots.

bore regard

Tunnel Drill in Action

This is what the 278-foot tunnel boring machine (affectionately nicknamed “Bore Regard”) looked like. Over the course of the project, the machine wore out 341 cutter discs, each weighing  400lbs, and it averaged through about 80 feet of rock per day, with one day setting a record for progressing through 181 feet of rock. The boring machine was used from the eastern side heading west for about 2 miles in. From the western side heading east for about a mile in, explosives were used. The two sides of the first bore (the one used primarily now for westbound trains) met around 16 months after construction began. The tunnel now used for eastbound trains was faster to complete, taking only about 4 months. At $184 million to build, the tunnels actually came in over budget (for the curious, the entire cost of the 18-mile westside expansion was $963.5 million).

tunnel_cxnOne bore has been concrete-lined, the other is still in progress (126,100 cubic tons of concrete used altogether to line both bores)

goose_hollow_constructionConstruction near Goose Hollow

west portalWest portal as it looks nowadays

tunnelcabOperator view going through the tunnel
(old pic, that cab radio is practically an antique)

Westside construction fun fact, especially for those of you who, like Dr. Jeff, would rather pretend that the tunnel part of your MAX commute doesn’t exist:  TriMet had to move 14 bodies in the cemetery above the tunnel during the tunnel construction project. Tell me I’m not the only person who thinks of this