Gorge Ride tests legs and MAX train capacity

Posted by on June 18th, 2009 at 11:43 am

[This ride was part of Pedalpalooza. See more of our Pedalpalooza coverage here.]

Dedicated Gorge riders were rewarded with this spectacular scenery.
(Photos by Dan Liu)


According to ride organizer Shawn Granton, yesterday’s Midweek Gorge Ride was expected to draw about 15 or 20 riders. Three years ago, the first version of this ride attracted just nine riders.

Yesterday, there were 46 of us.

“…from committed cyclists to occasional commuters to the underemployed and curious who took the opportunity dust-off that old garage bike to go see the Columbia River Gorge from a new perspective.”

Not just dedicated racers or bike-tourers either, but the whole gamut; from committed cyclists to occasional commuters to the underemployed and curious who took the opportunity dust-off that old garage bike to go see the Columbia River Gorge from a new perspective. There was even one intrepid soul huffing and puffing his way up to Vista House on a rusty Huffy, complete with squeaky chain and a wildly wobbling wheel — an impressive feat on a 40-mile round trip ride.

46 bikes managed to
fit on one MAX train…for a
few stops at least.

The ride got off to a bumpy start. In order to make the ride an experience of Oregon’s natural beauty — and less a commute through East County — the original plan was to take the MAX light rail out from Hollywood Transit Center to Ruby Junction/197th ave. Our initial attempt to purchase 46 tickets from the two broken ticket machines was surpassed in comedy minutes later when we attempted to fit 46 bikes and bicyclists onto one Blue Line train. Note: what might work for Zoobombers doesn’t fly with larger bikes.

This was, in retrospect, perhaps not the best idea, but one worth trying in order accommodate the varying riding abilities of the group. The train operator gave us the boot at E 102nd & Burnside — a generous 60 block boost, but still leaving us 95 blocks short of our ride start point.

The riding outside the city was serene.

We worked hard to be courteous, clearing the doorways at each stop for people to board and de-train. However, as we were all getting off at 102nd, we heard the driver say over the intercom something like: “This is why bicyclists have a bad reputation.”

At this point we started to fume a bit. The request to detrain was reasonable, the attitude and animosity were not. Most of us decided to pedal up to Ruby Junction to ride off some frustration, hoping to give the fourteen other, less-experienced riders an additional, mixed-mode transit boost. However, we were only to discover that the next MAX operator would not let more than eight onto their mostly-empty train! The riders we had left behind decided to ride up Burnside to join us, rather than be embarrassed again.

Story continues below

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Artist Carye Bye did a series of
bike portraits along the way.

A few of us called TriMet immediately to complain, and to gain some clarity on why people were being booted from a mostly-empty train*. While our attempt to fit all 46 of us wasn’t the best idea, 15 bikes on a mostly-empty train seems perfectly reasonable. Public transit can be and has been a great boon to cycling, allowing bicyclists to really spread their wings across the whole Metro region. None of us on the ride wanted to think of TriMet as being a potential barrier to mixed-mode transportation, but we were faced with one instance of that fact yesterday.

[UPDATE: Here’s what TriMet Bike Programs Planner Colin Maher says:

“TriMet policy is that bikes go where there is a bike or wheelchair symbol but you can’t block the aisle with a bike. There is no set limit, but 46 bikes clearly does not fit within this policy. I understand the challenges and logistics of pulling off a multi-modal group ride, but at the same time TriMet has to balance the need of all passengers and we have to keep the aisles clear for people to get on and off the train.”

]

Made it!

The ride up from Fairview to Vista House isn’t easy, but after our urban transit adventure (and many pints of amazing strawberries from the Troutdale fruit stand), the ride seemed easy and all the more pleasant. Shawn gave us a brief history of the Historic Columbia Highway, and we proceeded to make the climb up to the Women’s Forum and Vista House. Between four flats (!) and our TriMet trials, it took us five hours to ride 25 miles.

But was it worth it? You betcha! It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ride. Check out my photos; Carye Bye also took some great shots and wrote up a report here.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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carye bye
Guest
carye bye

Nice reportin’ Dan. Thanks for hanging out with team slow in the back!

The illustrations I drew will be at Reading Frenzy as part of my june art show that I’m adding to all month. Expect more bike illustrations. Still need to get over to the zoobomb sculpture to make an illustration!

John
Guest
John

Good report. It is a nice ride.

I think its funny (in a bad way) that TriMet gives cyclists a hard time yet they have (had?) a brochure highlighting rides that encouraged cyclists to use Max.

In the same vein, as a westsider, I’ve yet to use the new WES train as I can’t take the chance that all the bike spaces on WES will be full and have to wait a 1/2 hour for the next train.

Randy
Guest
Randy

It was a great ride. A small group of us left from Vista house and went on to Multnomah Falls. It was my first time to go to the Gorge or the Falls! It was definitely worth it. I had fun riding with all of you and hope that we can do some larger( in both size and distance) rides again in the future.

Randy

beth h
Guest

I think that complaining about not being able to have 46 bikes aboard a MAX train is stretching the sense of bicyclists’ entitlement just a bit too far, too fast.

Step back, take a breath and remember that dinosaurs take a long time to die. We’ll get to biketopia — or something like it — eventually. Meanwhile, let’s all keep our sense of humor about the enterprise, and keep on riding.

Snowflake Seven
Guest

I strongly agree with Beth h (#4) about packing a MAX train with bikes.

I understand when all the bike slots are full and a commuter squeezes in with his bike instead of waiting for the next train that may or may not have an empty slot.

But 46 bikes? On a planned ride? Sounds more like the person planning the event should have arranged for passenger vans with a U-haul trailer to pile for the bikes.

I love my bike and I love Max. But that doesn’t mean I expect TriMet to attach a bikes-only car to each train as bike-tastic as that would be.

carye bye
Guest
carye bye

In both my report and dan’s report we both admit that 46 bikes was a bit too much and did not say this is our complaint, but the driver’s attitude towards cyclists was definitely not ok. The second train was empty with plenty of room not to block aisles and there was no reason our group should have been denied. This isn’t about biketopia or bicyclist entitlement, it’s about getting people on bikes, and I know trimet wants bicyclists to use MAX and buses. I also got a note from Trimet sharing that both driver’s did not know their policy and that more bicyclists than hooks are allowed, as long as aisles are not blocked, but yes, 46 bikes was pushing it, we do not deny that, but nonetheless, for those of us on the train, I think we were courtesy, moved when we needed to, and no bicyclist was going to refuse anyone the right to get on and off the MAX. Back to bike fun!

carye bye
Guest
carye bye

ps. people commenting need to read the report a little closer. This event had 9 people last time it happened. Fifteen to 20 were expected. It is just one of those things. It was midweek, non rush hour. Everything was okay until…

Esther
Guest
Esther

I’m looking forward to the time when Trimet has better built-in bike capacity. I went to a great Brown Bag a few months ago where we learned about different options they are looking at. I do think that it makes sense to not have 46 riders together, looking at the photos, for safety reasons-imagine if there was a fire, shooting or some other emergency. I can imagine that though the riders feel comfortable with their ability to move quickly, other riders or the driver might feel nervous. However, the commentary was totally uncalled for, and it also seems that the drivers who were stating numbers like 2-4 bicyclists were also incorrect.

I think for big group rides like this, meeting at the end point MAX station is a good idea. I believe Cycle Wild trips usually do this. That way, bike arrivals are staggered between the people who bike the whole way, and then people who come early, on time, and late. 🙂

patrickz
Guest
patrickz

Another note of agreement with beth h; smart remarks aside, those people have rules. If I had been on the ride, I’d send TriMet a letter of appreciation, never mind the driver’s comment on our reputation.
And congratulations to all of you. Great photos and a very encouraging report.

Cruizer
Guest
Cruizer

Esther’s (#7) great idea to meet at the MAX station endpoint would certainly spread out the bikes on the MAX trains. While the grumpy driver failed to see the bonhomie and harmless intentions among the riders, I’m sure many of the bystanders did. Sounds like a great ride and a fun group that I’d like to join next year.

feralcow
Guest
feralcow

Can someone post a Google map (or similar) of the route? Thanks.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

1 more person agreeing with Beth H. Had the planners split the trip up into three groups, they probably could have gotten everybody on without pissing off the operators. Having all 46 cyclists pile on to the train at once just seems ridiculous.

Carl
Guest
Carl

I wish Bikeportland commenters led more Pedalpalooza rides. Then they’d all go perfectly!

Jeff Ong
Guest
Jeff Ong

That’s a fun ride. There is something very uplifting about having your turnaround point at a huge, beautiful vista — makes you really feel like you *went* somewhere!

ripl
Guest
ripl

I’m from out of town, and also would love a map!
Thanks

TofuTodd
Guest
TofuTodd

I agree the driver’s comment was out of line, but so was putting 46 bikes on a train. Beth said it well. Live and learn.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Do they make people get off of MAX when they are blocking the aisle without a bike? I thought the expectation as a MAX rider was that you DO have to work your way off the train around other people.

I remember taking my bike on MAX one morning commute and there were 14 bikes in the one car. There were no problems because we would position our bikes between stops to be in front of the doors that did not open at the next stop. The people at the ends of the car could get off through their respective end door and the passengers in the middle could got off through either of the two middle doors. Why can’t TriMet have a common sense policy like that? It’s not like the bike rider is just going to leave there bike in the aisle and go sit down somewhere else.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Our initial attempt to purchase 46 tickets from the two broken ticket machines was surpassed in comedy minutes later when we attempted to fit 46 bikes and bicyclists onto one Blue Line train.” Dan Liu

46 tickets sounds like at least almost $100.00 in fares….more than $180.00 for all day passes. A really smart executive at Tri-Met might read this story…that sentence in particular and see revenue potential in offering transit service for people setting out for bike trips in the gorge.

Tri-Met seems to always be talking about its need to increase ridership. Bike trippers into the gorge is most likely a growing market that Tri-Met could be benefiting from.

Giant Hogweed
Guest
Giant Hogweed

Maybe next time the organizer could limit the number of people on the trip who take the MAX part way, by requiring pre-registration. Another group could ride together to Ruby Junction.

adventure!
Guest

Dan- thanks for the report! And I’d like to thank everyone who came along for the ride.

And yes, I was the organizer of the ride, so let me clear up a couple things: I did not know, or had any way to expect 46 people on the ride. The last one happened in 2006 (and it was the second time it happened, not the first), was led by someone else (Kiran), and had about a dozen people. That’s what I was expecting for this time, especially since I’m leading it ON A WEEKDAY. The 46 people that showed up was a pleasant surprise!

I wanted to use the MAX to cut down some miles through some not that thrilling biking territory so those who are less confident riders could get to the Gorge easier. The last time we did the ride, it worked fine. This time, a disaster.

In retrospect, yes, I would have done things different–use a MAX station as a starting point or forego light rail altogether. And yes, I realize that 46 was “pushing it”. But live and learn.

We’ve seen such an increase in participation with this year’s PedalPalooza that it’s really hard to guess how many people are going to show up at any given event. At times this creates a logistical nightmare. And most of these rides are of the “just show up” variety, so there’s no appropriate way to gauge. (Some may suggest pre-registration as a way to solve this headache, but it can crate other headaches as well.)

But if the increased numbers prove anything, it proves this: more people are riding, and more of those riders want to partake of the well of “Bike Fun”. Now we need a bigger well.

Steve Bozz
Guest

We did this ride a couple months ago, there’s a nice map here:

http://www.rubbertotheroad.com/?p=558

Sounds like a fun time was had!

BURR
Guest
BURR

enough about the MAX already, what I want to know is whether those four flats were from tacks in the road or not?

Adam C
Guest
Adam C

Dan, it is possible to post your route for this ride?

Jason
Guest
Jason

For those of you wanting a map, here you go. Please note, though, that this isn’t the exact path that we took. I used bycycle.org to show the bike path between the Ruby Junction MAX stop and Halsey, but the site has you leave the Historic Columbia River Highway after crossing the Sandy river. We stayed on the HCRH all of the way. Also, we stopped for lunch at the Portland Women’s Forum State Park, which is roughly one mile West (and uphill! What a fun decent!) of Crown Point.

http://tripplanner.bycycle.org/regions/portlandor/routes/find?s=Max%20Path%20Trl%20%26%20SE%20197th%20Ave%2C%20Gresham%2C%20OR%2097030%3B75984-portlandor&e=E%20Columbia%20River%20Hwy%20%26%20E%20Columbia%20River%20Hwy%2C%20Multnomah%2C%20OR%2097019%3B83185-portlandor&pref=default

Lisa G.
Guest
Lisa G.

Burr, they went down Burnside through Gresham, what do you think? Tacks, glass, metal shards, I’ve seen everything in that bike lane including silverware, shattered cell phones, etc. It’s hard to avoid with that large a group.

Brad Reber
Guest
Brad Reber

Here’s the route from Ruby Junction to Vista House.
http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/312861

bikesalot
Guest
bikesalot

Before we leave the MAX topic, I thought I would mention our experience several years ago. My wife and I took our long, faired and body socked recumbents on MAX one Sunday evening several years ago – from Pioneer Square to the Sunset TC. She had developed a brake problem and wanted to have only uphill riding remaining to get home.

Trimet issued us warning citations for obstructing the car, though ridership was light and we were the only bikes (although very large ones) on the train.

Neither of us has used Trimet for any purpose since then. When we ride to Multnomah Falls or beyond, we ride from home on the west side.

Alan Cordle
Guest

And this is why Max operators are locked inside a box, where they have little to no public contact.

joeb
Guest
joeb

“We’ve seen such an increase in participation with this year’s PedalPalooza that it’s really hard to guess how many people are going to show up at any given event” adventure #20.

Hmm I guess I better expect to meet up with about 200 bird watchers on the Audobon ride tomorrow.

Kt
Guest
Kt

I think the Operator’s comment over the loudspeaker was extremely out of line. It’s one thing to mutter it to oneself in the privacy of the train’s cab… and a whole ‘nother thing to broadcast one’s biases like that.

Adventure! (#20) by the report, you did a great job figuring out how to get 46 riders of varying levels to the correct location. Sounds like everyone had a good time. While pre-registration would help to figure out how many riders there would be, like you said, it also creates more issues– that might not be worth it.

Definitely agree with the posters who are suggesting a meet-point that does not require a mass of people to ride the train as the beginning of the ride.

Great pics!!

Matt Picio
Guest

Giant Hogweed (#19) – Maybe he or she could, but it would defeat the purpose and spirit of Pedalpalooza. The whole point is that anyone can set up a ride, and that people can just show up and ride. Some rides do have limits, when the destination has a limit, but for a ride which focuses on scenery or food, there typically is no limit to the number of cyclists who can show up.

I think the previously stated recommendation to start the ride at the end of the MAX line in Gresham is probably the best course of action for future rides – that gives people the opportunity to either ride out, bus out, or MAX out, and spreads the group across multiple transit modes.

All that said, I think Tri-Met is losing a fare opportunity by being rigid as to the number of bikes. 46 is obviously too many, but 20 spread across one whole train is not ridiculous when the train is empty. Tri-Met has been trying to figure out how to increase ridership outside of “rush” hour, and as someone else pointed out, 46 riders is over $100 in fares.

Adventure! (#20) – awesome job with the ride, many people don’t understand the logistics of trying to plan a ride when one has no idea what the number of attendees will be.

chelsea
Guest
chelsea

sounds like an adventure! sorry i missed it.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“I think the Operator’s comment over the loudspeaker was extremely out of line.” Kt

“The train operator gave us the boot at E 102nd & Burnside — a generous 60 block boost, but still leaving us 95 blocks short of our ride start point.” dan liu

In the first place, why is the operator letting 46 people and their bikes get on at the Hollywood Transit Center, if the operator isn’t going to let them ride to their destination? At whatever time of day these people boarded the train, were there that many people between E 102nd & Burnside to Ruby junction, waiting to get on the train, that the Operator felt compelled to ask all of the people with bikes to leave the train?

TriMet should be encouraging, not discouraging people from riding the train. The whole point of using the train for a ride like this seems to be for the purpose of avoiding having to use separate motor vehicles to transport people and bikes, and to avoid having to bike through parts of Portland that aren’t so great for biking.

The Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway is an obvious destination for many people in Portland, residents and visitors alike. The Max would seem to be an obvious connector between downtown and Ruby Junction, a reasonable jump-off point for riding into the Gorge.

Someone at TriMet must recognize this. If a ride group gave TriMet advance notice of their trip needs, it seems as though someone at TriMet would know enough about the ridership for that section line at a particular time of day to be able to advise them when they could bring more than 8 bikes on the train at one time. For the regular fare, would a ‘special excursion’ train be possible?

axe
Guest
axe

i’d like to extend my appreciation to adventure! for setting this up. itwas my first time riding out to the gorge because it always seemed like such a daunting ride. who knew it would be so easy?

BURR
Guest
BURR

@ Lisa #25. sure, but what I was specifically getting at is that this part of the old gorge highway has a history of vandals targetting cyclists by deliberately spreading tacks on the road.

Brian Johnson
Guest
Brian Johnson

wsbob in #18 brought up a very good point: The opportunity for additional revenue — or more to the point, new revenue streams — should have management types at Tri-Met salivating.

They need to stop finding ways to say “no” and instead find ways to say “yes!”.

Perhaps departing in multiple, smaller, groups (with each group having their own ride leader) would ease the “burden” on the train?

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Yeah, I’m looking forward to a day when Trimet operators greet the public with friendly encouragement, not temper-tantrums. It makes the whole system look bad. Hopefully these comments get back to the engineer from that train– or Trimet public relations.

If the sole joy you experience from driving a train is telling people “no” (in a rude and unprofessional manner, no less), you need to find another job.

Meg
Guest
Meg

#37 “Yeah, I’m looking forward to a day when Trimet operators greet the public with friendly encouragement, not temper-tantrums. It makes the whole system look bad.” — Yes, this is very unfortunate. There are a lot of really great MAX and bus operators out there, but there are a few bad apples that make them look bad. I’m thinking of Ms. Anger Management on the MAX yellow line, who is liable to come on the loudspeaker screeching at high volume over the smallest perceived slight. Held the door a second too long, whatever. One time I was sitting near the front and she opened the door to say “QUIT KICKING THE DOOR” and shut it again really quickly … the best part? No one was kicking her stupid door. I’ve considered reporting her more than once.

al m
Guest

Why is TRIMET even mentioned in this article?

You attempt to board with 46 bikes and you wonder why there was a problem?

Another ridiculous attempt to malign TRIMET for an event that had nothing to do with them!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…for an event that had nothing to do with them!” al m

‘rantingsofatrimetbusdriver’…(this person’s blog site name). Didn’t that event actually have something to do with TriMet?

Seriously, as at least one other person and myself have offered in earlier comments on this thread, by virtue of its presence along the logical route that participants of this event took to get to the Scenic Columbia River Gorge Highway, Trimet did have something to do with this event. The publicly owned transportation agency’s MAX line made this event a more practical and comfortable one for participants…except of course for the questionable judgment of the operator in deciding to eject paying customers with remarks that reportedly seemed to be less than professional in nature.

It saved them from having to negotiate many blocks of streets that aren’t so hospitable to bike travel. By providing a travel option for 46 people and their bikes, it helped reduce general traffic congestion on those streets that the presence of 46 people on bikes would have added to.

Troutdale is the gateway to the Scenic Columbia River Gorge Highway. Ruby Junction is only 4 miles from Troutdale. Again, someone at TriMet must be able to recognize that MAX is a logical connection for people wishing to tour the Columbia Gorge by bike. Trimet, rather than having a policy that has their equipment operators discouraging such event participants from using MAX, should probably seriously think about encouraging use of their train for such events, because it may very well be a money-making opportunity as well as a great public relations tool.

For those that can ride, bikes are a great way to experience the Gorge. Trimet could do its part in sustaining the health of the gorge by making access to this world renowned natural marvel that much easier for the many people who’ve been told of the gorge and that intend to visit it.

By helping to shuttle bike tourers to the gateway to the Columbia Gorge, Trimet could be helping to reduce the number of motor vehicles on city streets and in the gorge.

More people traveling into the gorge by bike could be a great boost for businesses in the gorge. Cascade Locks wants more business badly. Rather than casinos, and businesses engaged in bottling water that results in the proliferation landfill destined plastic bottles, I’d much rather see that town build businesses…restaurants, hotels, hostels, gear outfitters, spas and so forth… providing for the needs of bike tourists Trimet helped bring into the gorge.

buzz
Guest
buzz

I guess the thing I cannot understand is how the MAX operator could have missed 46 bicyclist with bikes in tow when he pulled up to the stop. I would think he would see that and tell the cyclist “sorry, but I cannot allow everyone on the train at the same time. Your group will have to split it up in 3-4 trips.” And, simply explain the policy of not blocking aisles, etc. Had the operator done this, I don’t think there would be much mention of Trimet in the article.

Instead he has to make smart ass comments after he allowed everyone to ride for 60 blocks.

cheryl
Guest
cheryl

I thought this was a great ride experience in so many ways. Thanks to the organizers for showing people,like myself. how to bike to the Gorge. I think the dialogue about ways to improve the operation of multiple modes of transportation is a positive thing. Oh, and can I just say, the ride back was soooooo much fun.