Sunday, September 20, 2009


I'm sort of a detail oriented person- if any of you could believe that! In any
case, when it comes down to the details- I'm not terribly impressed with Trimet
on a number.... a large number of things regarding my first experiences with the

Both Kris and I have ridden twice now. On this, both of our second trip, the
train heading into town arrived at the Lents Town Center station about 10
minutes late! As a former light rail operator in Salt Lake City- I know that
delays happen- but they didn't happen very often, especially in off peak times.
My first ride went OK, but Kris experienced a huge delay on her first trip as
well. So of our 4 collective trips, 3 of them were late- not a good record so

When we tried to pay for tickets going into town tonight- the machine wouldn't
take out money. Fortunately it took credit cards as well. Trimet, for
whatever reason, is known for having problems with TVMs (ticket vending
machines). TVM's are usually designed with a visual indicator that it is
having a problem and train operators can see a flashing yellow light when they
pull into a station that a TVM needs something- like more tickets, a bill jam
that needs to be cleared or it might be out of change to dispense. Maybe its
print cartridge is empty or something. In Salt Lake, when a TVM was called in
by an operator, an MOW (Maintenance of Way employee) would immediately respond
and fix it! That doesn't seem to happen here at all. Inadequate MOW
employees to keep up? Not enough spare parts on hand? Who knows. I just
know we didn't have problems keeping the TVMs working in Salt Lake- they were ON

The amount on time it takes the Greenline to get downtown really isn't the fault
of Trimet. The Greenline was pretty much laid out when I-205 was constructed.
The route isn't the best. For someone who boards at Clackamas Town Center and
is heading downtown- to have to spend so much time heading north (to Gateway)
before actually making in any closer to town really- really adds up to a long,
old trip! That's why, depending on where I'm actually going downtown, in the
future I'll probably be a little more inclined to just take the 14. The 14
also runs every 15 minutes- all the time- whereas the MAX goes to 30 minute
headways at off-peak times.

One important thing for riders to know is "what zone am I in?" I bought my
house just on the west side of I-205 thinking, "hey- at least I'm in zone 2!"
1-205, in general, is the border between Trimet zones 2 and 3. The Max is on
the zone 2 side where I board in Lents- and where I would board the 14 and pay a
2 zone fare to get into town- do I pay a two zone fare, or a three zone fare to
ride the MAX into town? It doesn't matter that much to me, but I'd like to
know! Is the MAX in zone 2- or is it in zone 3? Is it in zone 2 when it is
on the west side of the freeway and in zone 3 when it is on the east side?
What I think is the case is this- the greenline is considered to be in zone 3
until it crosses the freeway the last time after it leaves Gateway headed into
town. The Gateway transit center IS in zone 3. The MAX is in zone 3 there-
and all of the buses that service the Gateway transit center are in zone 3. At
the Lents Town Center station- the MAX is in zone 3 and all the buses that serve
the Lents Town Center station are in zone 2? OK. As much as Trimet is
looking at really big budget deficits- I think that the zone boundaries should
be adjusted to make the greenline in Zone 2 after it crosses the Clackamas
County line- even if it means making Gateway Zone 2.

The system map for the lightrail system has been artfully simplified in such a
way that I thought that they'd actually dramatically *reduced* the size of Zones
1 and 2! It shows both of these zones as circles rather than being more
squarish as they actually are! Zone 1 is actually something of a square inside
a larger square that is zone 2. The illustration of the rail service map shows
both of the *circles* with a boundary just south of the South Waterfront
district- which would make you think that as soon as you stepped out side of
Zone 1 south of this district, you'd be in zone 3! This isn't the case at all!
I wonder why they don't simply show the Zones as they would be if the bus system
was shown on the map as well! Anything to confuse people, I suppose!

I know what I'm saying is confusing- but look at this:

By this map, pretty much all of Lents is clearly in Zone 3- when the half of it
that is west of the freeway and the MAX is actually in Zone 2!! Once again- any
bus leaving any of the stations in Lents is IN ZONE 2!! This is way too

Another confusing thing I noted on the way back- the station announcements. In
Salt Lake City, lightrail operators had to press a button in the cab to make the
"automated" announcements. When to do this was an art! When the doors closed
on my train, and I'd just gotten propulsion- I'd hit the button and just as the
last car cleared the platform, it would announce, "Next stop [and what the next
station would be]" Approaching the next station- just when I started to slow
as I approached the platform I would hit the button again and If I got it just
right if would announce arrival at that station just as the operating cab passed
the beginning of the platform!

Here, I think the announcements are fully automated- and the operator doesn't
have to do anything! It's probably controlled by GPS!! That should make it
perfect!! It would if it were planned well! The problem? One thing is
this: there is a visual element to it- there is a display that actually says the
name of the station! But WHICH station?!! At one point along the trip, we
were stopped at a station and it said "NE 82nd Ave." I mentioned to Kris where
we were at, "We're at 82nd Ave, blah, blah, blah!" We started moving and after
a while- as we pulled into the next station- I saw a sign on the platform that
said.... "NE 82nd Ave!" What?!! I thought we were just here? I then looked
up and the display said "Gateway"..... ? OH!! I finally figured out- when
you're on the WAY to a station it says the name of the station- but even before
the train STOPS it changes to the FOLLOWING STATION!! Maybe this is so that
people getting on see where the next stop is going to be? People getting on a
train know where they're at, right? They should know what train they're
getting on because it's usually pretty clearly laid out on the platform (in most
cases- Gateway is a problem, but Trimet wouldn't listen to me when I told them!)
When passengers get on, they're looking for a seat- not reading the visual
display (in my opinion). Basically, the sign should say what station the train
is at. It would almost be best if it went blank for a while between station
and as the train approached the next station it gave the name of THAT station!
As it is, it is VERY confusing to passengers actually ON the train! What
station are we at? You always thing that you're one station farther than you
really are!

Another option for the visual sign would be to have a "next stop" lit up at
times. When you leave one station it the "next stop" lights up and it says the
name of the next station. As you pull into that station, the "next stop" goes
out and it simply says the name of the station that you're at!

Oh well. This system was designed by someone in Trimet's office who either
never rides- or rides the system very rarely- just a guess!

I don't thing that I'll completely avoid the MAX, but I do think that after my
first couple of trips, I'll be content with riding the bus most of the time. I
think that lots of people *will* ride the MAX and it will be an important part
of our neighborhood. It will bring lots of good things, and some bad things
that we should be ready to deal with when they crop up. I think that Trimet
has done a decent job on the line in a lot of ways- and they have made a few
sloppy mistakes as well. C'est la vie! Should I tell them?!! They didn't
really listen to me much as an employee- maybe I can try as a customer!!

What have your experiences been so far?

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