Portland’s regional transit agency is trying to educate people about navigating the new expanse of pavement near the corner of SE 8th and Division.
With the new Orange Line due to begin service on Saturday, Sept. 12, transit police have been stationed in the area issuing formal warnings to people who break traffic laws such as crossing the tracks after a train has passed but before the warning signals have stopped ringing.
Here’s the statement TriMet put out about this effort last week:
Orange Line trains will run from around 5 a.m. until around midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. Trains will run about every 15 minutes or better between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Again, trains will not be picking up riders during simulated revenue service Aug. 30 through Sept. 11.
With new train operations, the public should be alert of approaching trains. We’re stepping up our safety efforts to educate motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians about being safe around trains. On Monday, Aug. 31, the Transit Police Division and the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division will begin a multi-week safety campaign at the SE 8th, 11th and 12th rail crossings south of Division Street. We’ve seen risky behavior at these light rail and heavy rail crossings. People violating traffic and pedestrian control devices will be issued warnings or citations.
Additionally, as fencing and gates are being removed along the Orange Line, we want to remind the public that for their safety and the safety of our riders and operators the Orange Line tracks are for transit-use only. The transit-only trackways include the Harbor Viaduct (east of SW Naito Parkway), Tilikum Way (east of SE Water Ave) and Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People. Trespassing in the track area is hazardous and illegal.
Here’s a report from one man who said he got an official warning for crossing despite the ringing bells:
BikePortland reader Bald One also left this comment beneath yesterday’s story about Mayor Hales’s bike commute:
PS. Anyone else see the police motorcycle police officer staked out on the new Orange Line MUP (@ SE 8th and Division Pl) yesterday evening – perhaps it was officer Byrd? Surprised me (not at all) to see uniformed traffic enforcement in place for cyclists here, while autos are left alone.
This is part of a big (and presumably federally subsidized) effort by TriMet to get people thinking clearly about the safety issues related to this new train line. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of caution, at least to the extent that it was also shared by the engineers while they were designing the spaces people are now rolling through.
And one hopes that, since there’s likely to be a steady flow of people crossing TriMet’s tracks on bike and foot but only one train every 15 minutes, the agency is weighing the need for caution during that occasional train appearance against the need for people to cross its tracks safely and efficiently the rest of the time. That’s something it struggled with this summer when biking and walking advocates objected to the agency’s plans for swing gates that would physically obstruct these track crossings. Hopefully the agency will continue listening on these issues.
The other big issue here is the larger question of design for the new bikeways east of the new bridge. Stay tuned for coverage of their highlights and lowlights.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.