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TriMet police stake out new train-track crossings east of Tilikum Crossing

Posted by on September 1st, 2015 at 3:33 pm

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:

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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.

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Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Sounds like a good place to avoid for the next month or so…

sabes
Guest
sabes

Or you could just obey the law.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Why not both? I’m all for complying with the law but would just as soon not risk an ambush gotcha.

RushHourAlleycat
Guest

Totally unclear how one night even do that in this area.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Instead of riding the Esplanade from the Steel Bridge to the Opera I now ride the CEID street grid. 6th from Davis to Yamhill, 9th from Yamhill to Hawthorne, 10th from Hawthorne to Division. No need to cross any tracks, no cops or TriMet employees to hassle you.

Jason Markantes
Guest
Jason Markantes

I wonder, are they mainly targeting people who unsafely cross the tracks? Or also people crossing against a red bike signal? When a train is passing and the gates are down, I’ve usually gone ahead and crossed the road, even against the light. It would seem to make a lot more sense to have those green (and the ped signal white) when the gates are down. Even the safety people they’ve had around the crossings for the past month or two have mentioned that. That just seems like a low hanging fruit in efficiency without affecting safety.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Exactly! IMO, there doesn’t even need to be a bike ped signal there, it should just be the equivalent of a HAWK signal for vehicles on the road, for when a train is present.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

“are they mainly targeting people who unsafely cross the tracks?”

no, just like jaywalking, they’re enforcing a law… they’re not enforcing safety…

I know how to cross the street and railroad tracks safely despite what a little colored symbol tells me…

was carless
Guest
was carless

Well… typically I see cyclists running the lights at 11th/12th at the train crossing when cars have a red light, despite having a red light themselves. There have been Trimet employees out there ‘educating’ people for a few months now, so really they are just taking advantage of the light cycles and crossing alarms and gates.

Adron Hall
Guest

The safety people have even told me “oh you can go ahead, the lights are wonky when the train goes by.”

:-/

Seriously, it seems like Trimet needs to go to “learn how to actually design proper infrastructure…” this complexity is NOT something new, it might be in America but this stuff is old hat in Europe, maybe it’s time to start getting some cross-training for Trimet!! 🙂

Ben
Guest
Ben

It would be nice if Trimet would explain how they planned for bicycle users to get across SE 11th and 12th. Heading east in the evening, the peloton always breaks into three groups, with some crossing the tracks on the sidewalk on the west side of SE 12th, some crossing on the sidewalk on the east side, and some turning onto the northbound bike lane on 12th from the street. I’ve assumed the latter is the safest maneuver, but I’d appreciate an official explanation.

ahpook
Guest

^^^THIS^^^

It’s incredibly confusing. If you’re in the green bike box and go when the bike signal turns green, the left turn arrow to go NB on 12th is red for 30-45 seconds even though there’s no oncoming traffic. If you go across the ped/sidewalk way, you can make the left without a control but then have to wait for a ped crossing across 12th. Everybody just splits up as you describe and it’s chaos.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

Thirded. I’ve just quit going through that way at all because I can’t see how to reasonably navigate it. If I thought I could get through predictably, safely, and without a stop at every single crossing, it would be part of a good route for me.

Howard Draper
Guest
Howard Draper

YES SO MUCH THIS ^^^

I find that eastern direction the most confusing of all. All the choices feel awkward/wrong, and with Clinton being such a crucial connection, that part of the Vortex™ could really use improvement in behavioral cues. I often just continue straight east onto Gideon and ride through the (sometimes sketchy) 17th street underpass, because it’s less stressful than battling rush hour car traffic at the Vortex & Clinton.

Charley Gee
Guest

Are they issuing warnings for people going around railroad arms in the street or proceeding across tracks on sidewalks when the bells are still sounding?

Jack
Guest
Jack

I’m fine with TriMet providing extra words of caution, but issuing citations to cyclists who might be (but probably aren’t) endangering themselves is pretty frustrating when people driving motor vehicles (often big trucks) routinely run the red light at the east end of this crossing, and often at high speed.

Justin Carinci
Guest
Justin Carinci

Clinton to the river is such a mess of inconvenient lights, stops and the occasional freight train that I just gave up. Perhaps it will get ironed out after the bridge has been open awhile, but I’ll continue to make the big detour to the Hawthorne bridge for now.

ethan
Guest
ethan

This is a much better use of police resources than going after people who speed on neighborhood streets!

(huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge sarcasm, in case that wasn’t obvious)

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

<enbiggen>
<sarcasm>
ridiculous statement
</sarcasm>
</enbiggen>
sad comment reiterating that sarcastic statement is not the preferred version of reality.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I’ve ridden the confusing bike routes adjacent to the Orange Line a few times. The space for bicyclists transitions between the road, what appears to be a MUP and sidewalk in a confusing manner.

Maybe it was only during test mode and there have been corrections, but I think there were also places where bicyclists have ‘red’ signal and pedestrians have a ‘don’t walk’ while the train is passing and the cyclists and pedestrians are traveling parallel to the train and are seeking to cross the street. It’s definitely not intuitive.

I hope this enforcement effort is being made to educate users. By the way, I wonder if the PPB has put out warning signs saying “RR Crossing Enforcement Ahead.” After all, they put them out to warn motorists that they are conducting “Pedestrian Crossing Enforcement.” Fair’s fair.

Andy
Guest
Andy

Several months ago, before the markings were in place, I rode my bike there to check it out. Silly me, I assumed bicyclists were allowed on Tilikum Way. When I got to where the buses turn, a uniformed Trimet Security Officer with a badge that said Supervisor came running and screaming at me, threatening me with a $300 ticket. When I asked him how I was to know I shouldn’t be there, he became completely unhinged, yelling, screaming, threatening. I honestly feel he is in need of counseling. I told him I would leave and not come back as he ordered and asked for his card or name. He refused to give it to me. When I got to the corner, a flagman who had witnessed the incident offered to call the police and be a witness. I declined. Boy do I wish I had had a GoPro recording of this encounter to post on Youtube.

The sad thing is that TriMet had hired crossing guards that were posted at key locations helping people to understand the route pattern. Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter one until after the incident. When I related my experience, she said that everyone was confused and it was hard to tell what the bicycle route is. That’s why she was there It’s better now that all of the route markings and signs are in place and, of course, once you ride there a couple of times you know the route.

I am willing to comply but I think I deserve a reasonable chance to learn what the route is before being screamed at and threatened by law enforcement.

I think that from my experience and your articles, it’s clear that TriMet has adopted an antagonistic, threatening, heavy-handed approach to bicyclists. The gates, this enforcement program and my experience all point to that conclusion. To TriMet, it’s interests are primary and all other users interests are secondary.

I am not sure what the solution is. Perhaps PBOT could ride herd on TriMet to ensure that the rights of other street users are respected by TriMet.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Did they really install those stupid gates??? I didn’t see any the last time I went through there about a week ago.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello, Kitty

No, I believe the gates are no longer on the menu.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

“it’s clear that TriMet has adopted an antagonistic, threatening, heavy-handed approach to bicyclists.”

Of course they are at war with cyclists. There are two modes of transportation: the car and everything else. TriMet sees any other aspect of “everything else” as threatening its slice of the pie, and with it their budget (grants are based on ridership, after all).

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Thanks for the explanation! Will be interesting to see when they mix in some buses and stir the area with one more mode.

I guess I’ll be riding with the mayor on the hawthorne bridge crit for another month waiting for this area to chill out. too bad those traffic police can’t head over to the local school and enforce auto traffic at school zones around children. Or ticket commercial truck drivers for running red lights and aggressive driving. I sure am glad they think it is more important to watch out for my safety around trains.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

just like jaywalking, they’re enforcing a law… they’re not enforcing safety…

I know how to cross the street and railroad tracks safely despite what a little colored symbol tells me…

I’ll continue to cross when the train has passed, not when some light decides to turn off… and I’ll be fighting it in court…

ticketing cyclists is negligence when motor vehicles are out there actively endangering others…

jeff
Guest
jeff

yeah, you already said that.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Crossing RR tracks after the arms are up while the lights are still flashing is an extremely common violation. Cross traffic needs to be reminded that trains travel in both directions on parallel tracks.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

So why are the arms raised if a train is coming the other way?

maccoinnich
Guest

I hate to moan about such a huge investment in cycling infrastructure, but it really is confusing how many different types of infrastructure there are in one corridor. Starting at Carurthers coming off the Esplanade it’s a street with advisory bike lanes; it then changes into a street with sharrows; then a multiuse path shared with pedestrians parallel to Tilikum way; then it becomes a street with sharrows at Gideon; then back to a multiuse path over Powell; then it’s bike lanes along 17th; then back to being a multiuse path parallel to McLoughlin to Harold. This isn’t an abstract complaint – it is totally un-intuitive that you are supposed to leave the multiuse path and rejoin mixed traffic if you are heading to the bridge over Powell.

All of these design approaches have their place, but in a corridor built from scratch all at the same time you’d think they would have picked one and stuck with it.

Randy
Guest
Randy

On bike, since the light rail was installed, I now avoid that area completely. It’s now unsafe for cyclists. It would be interesting to know if cyclists were involved in the design of the area?

Allen
Guest
Allen

I rode through that section this morning and my experience was this. I waited an unusually long time for the light at the end of Clinton to turn green while observing two cyclists roll through that red light. One turned right and one turned left. I waited in the green box for the light but it was obviously taking longer than usual and I was even loosing patience. The light turned green, I peddled left into the whole train crossing area. It usually takes a moment to cross the tracks and then turn right on the bike path only to roll up to the next bicycle stop light. It turned red as I pulled up. (It usually does) Where I observed another cyclist roll through that red light. The nice little light in the shape of a bike turned green and I rode through that. To then be immediately confronted with cones and signs that the bike path was closed; detour. The way on the right was blocked artificially. Which was unusual. The road just to the left was open. So I rolled just to the left and found myself on the one way road riding the wrong way. I usually ride on the sidewalk bike path, but the trimet folk had the normal onramp blocked off for some reason. At this point I was thinking about the complete lack of warning and maybe the path up ahead was also closed off for some construction or something else. I decided to stop and get myself and my bike back up on the sidewalk. Only moments later to notice a rider behind me was in the same situation. He had decided to stay on the road. Then a trimet traffic “officer” decided it was time to turn on his flashy lights and drive up the road. The bicyclist got to the right as far as possible as the trimet representative yelled something out his truck window at the bicyclist. I casually asked the other cyclist what the trimet rep said to him but didn’t quite hear and decided to ride on. Also wondering where the emergency was that warranted turning on his flashy lights. So I rode up to the next bike stop light, which was red. And that is where I saw both a trimet cycle cop and a Portland police bicycle officer. Sort of standing facing the oncoming traffic and talking about something with one of the yellow vest wearing employees that we’ve all seen down there. It didn’t look like the police officer was paying much attention to the cyclists at that moment. All I saw was their backs, uniforms, and bikes. I was thinking, wow, it is so rare to see a Portland police officer on a bike and how cool it would be to see them riding my bike route some time. So, as I was stopped watching the cute little bicycle shaped red light thinking all of these things, the light turned green and I proceeded through. After about 2 seconds and just as I was riding in the first 1/3 of the crossing, the light went red again. Which was again very unusual. Oh, and there were a couple of the new trains off in the distance as well. After that it was back to normal bike commute events for that area. I agree with an earlier comment that it might be better to avoid this area. For a few reasons, I am reading here that the Portland police are out to “teach” us all a lesson about safety given the engineering masterpiece that our wonderful trimet has given us. They have set up artificial barriers in what seems like a random fashion with no good warning for cyclists. And finally, the lights seem more poorly timed than usual. I do hope they sort all of this out. I’m sure that is what they might be trying to do. I will say that the rent-a-cops that trimet has are acting like idiots and they need to watch out before a cyclist gets hurt. That suv nonsense I saw this morning was reckless. They put up a barrier to divert cyclists then drive a truck out in front of us. Smooth.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Reposting Allen’s post with paragraph breaks and location notes.

Allen was riding east to west, starting at Clinton and 12th, ending at

******

I rode through that section this morning and my experience was this:

1) Intersection: Clinton at 12th:
I waited an unusually long time for the light at the end of Clinton to turn green while observing two cyclists roll through that red light. One turned right and one turned left. I waited in the green box for the light but it was obviously taking longer than usual and I was even loosing patience.

2) Intersection: SE 12th southbound, at RR tracks:
The light turned green, I peddled left into the whole train crossing area. It usually takes a moment to cross the tracks and then turn right on the bike path only

3) Intersection: Eastbound “Clinton/Gideon” crossing SE 11th
to roll up to the next bicycle stop light. It turned red as I pulled up. (It usually does) Where I observed another cyclist roll through that red light. The nice little light in the shape of a bike turned green and I rode through that.

4) Segment: Eastbound on Clinton/Tilikum Way from 11th to 9th (roadway is a westbound bus lane and a two-way multiuse path)
To then be immediately confronted with cones and signs that the bike path was closed; detour. The way on the right was blocked artificially. Which was unusual. The road just to the left was open.

So I rolled just to the left and found myself on the one way road riding the wrong way. I usually ride on the sidewalk bike path, but the trimet folk had the normal onramp blocked off for some reason. At this point I was thinking about the complete lack of warning and maybe the path up ahead was also closed off for some construction or something else. I decided to stop and get myself and my bike back up on the sidewalk.

Only moments later to notice a rider behind me was in the same situation. He had decided to stay on the road. Then a trimet traffic “officer” decided it was time to turn on his flashy lights and drive up the road. The bicyclist got to the right as far as possible as the trimet representative yelled something out his truck window at the bicyclist. I casually asked the other cyclist what the trimet rep said to him but didn’t quite hear and decided to ride on. Also wondering where the emergency was that warranted turning on his flashy lights.

5) Intersection: SE 8th and Division Place/Tilikum Way:
So I rode up to the next bike stop light, which was red. And that is where I saw both a trimet cycle cop and a Portland police bicycle officer. Sort of standing facing the oncoming traffic and talking about something with one of the yellow vest wearing employees that we’ve all seen down there. It didn’t look like the police officer was paying much attention to the cyclists at that moment. All I saw was their backs, uniforms, and bikes. I was thinking, wow, it is so rare to see a Portland police officer on a bike and how cool it would be to see them riding my bike route some time.

So, as I was stopped watching the cute little bicycle shaped red light thinking all of these things, the light turned green and I proceeded through. After about 2 seconds and just as I was riding in the first 1/3 of the crossing, the light went red again. Which was again very unusual. Oh, and there were a couple of the new trains off in the distance as well.

After that it was back to normal bike commute events for that area.

6) Summary
I agree with an earlier comment that it might be better to avoid this area. For a few reasons, I am reading here that the Portland police are out to “teach” us all a lesson about safety given the engineering masterpiece that our wonderful trimet has given us. They have set up artificial barriers in what seems like a random fashion with no good warning for cyclists. And finally, the lights seem more poorly timed than usual.

I do hope they sort all of this out. I’m sure that is what they might be trying to do. I will say that the rent-a-cops that trimet has are acting like idiots and they need to watch out before a cyclist gets hurt. That suv nonsense I saw this morning was reckless. They put up a barrier to divert cyclists then drive a truck out in front of us. Smooth.

Eli
Guest
Eli

“only one train every 15 minutes”

In each direction… so one train every 7.5 minutes.

Joseph E
Guest

Right! And that’s not counting freight trains and Amtrak trains. Those are less frequent, but can be more dangerous since the speed and length are quite different than the Trimet trains. This has been a problem along the Blue Line in Los Angeles, where infrequent freight trains parallel frequent Metro trains.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

And then my experience this morning where the officers on bikes were fully BLOCKING THE BIKE LANE crossing 11th (via Gideon) when we [bikes] has the green. Another fellow and myself had to go off the curb to get around them as they were standing around talking and IN THE WAY.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Every bike stop light involved in this bridge on both sides of the river is always red for no reason, usually in quick succession. So, obviously everybody just ignores them and now Trimet writes tickets for zero-risk crossing against a red? What the what? In a how-many-million-dollars project, can we please get someone from the design and implementation staff a bike already?

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

FWIW, they also had some transit police stationed on the west side of the bridge this evening. I didn’t see any “signal compliance enforcement ahead” signs but I also didn’t see anyone getting a ticket, even in speeding cars.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

All the bike lights have detection loops; they should switch to green as soon as a person on a bike is detected.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

“Should” is a funny word.

In software development, I always make sure my teams understand how to translate that word. The most direct translation is “won’t.” As in:
That input should be greater than zero
That string should always have one of these values
They should switch to green as soon as a person on a bike is detected

You’re right, of course, they should.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Okay then:

As a user of the Orange Line MUP, I need to be able to get through the path in a safe and efficient manner. When the bike detection loops detect me, the bike signal immediately shall change to green.

I work in software development too and bad requirements also annoy me. 😉

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

Well played. 🙂

Really, though, what I’m usually trying to convey — germane to this conversation — is that “should” is a value judgment. It would be great if things always behaved as they should, but they don’t. By substituting “won’t,” you have to answer the question “what will I do when it doesn’t behave as it should?”

In this case the answer appears, for lots of us, to be either 1) I will avoid the area entirely (my own choice), or 2) I will selectively obey the laws in a way that keeps me safe but allows for a reasonably timely passage through the area.

The design was bad and the designer should feel bad.

kittens
Guest
kittens

Just rode down there to check out the mess myself, and my what a mess it is. The designers should be ashamed. The project was nearly a blank check to redesign that area and they failed so hard. Its almost like they decided early on that the more convoluted the design the more it would look like they cared. Like how many solutions can you engineer for one problem: getting bikes and peds though the area.

clyde
Guest
clyde

I took this route down to Westmoreland for softball about five times this summer, and each time I messed up in a unique way (especially at night), having to turn back, sidewalk ride, or take a neighborhood street until I intersected it again. It truly is the worst designed facility I’ve ever encountered. Now that the trains and buses will be running on it, I’ll likely avoid it at all costs and just go the long way on the Springwater.

seRider
Guest
seRider

Yes, yes, yes. It’s totally **word deleted by moderators** for cars too, with signals just before AND just after the RR + Max tracks on 11th and 12th that are so badly timed that while riding through, everyday I see cars who get a green to cross the tracks then get a red that traps them on the tracks before they have time to clear. Unbelievable! For bikes, waiting to get a green bike light on 11th for long periods of time WHILE the parallel train crossing gates are closed takes the cake. Is it to protect us from hijacked runaway trucks who will bust through 2 closed RR gates, dodge the trains, and nail us in the bike crossing?

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

The Tri-Met bike path designer, B.F. Skinner, must be rubbing his palms together as he sorts data on cyclist’s behavior. This maze of confusion elicits all manner of responses, but what is missing is the reward for taking part in the experiment. A bit of Gorgonzola would be nice.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Let alone the months of training everyone to ignore every signal around.

indy
Guest
indy

Painfully obvious deficient design.

peter haas
Guest
peter haas

It’s confusing trying to ride that stretch with all the signals and tracks. I’m not a fan of the design at all. But with my soft heart wonder if the designers had to deal with a lot of unsurmountable issues because of the freight train right of ways. Regardless, it’s very disappointing. I’ll probably just continue to ride through Ladds and take the Hawthorne bridge instead of the new bridge.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

The elevator and ped/cycle bridge over the UPRR at Lafayette St connecting SE 21st to this new MUP is now open for business.

Moleskin
Guest
Moleskin

Great, thanks for the news! Been waiting for that one..

Moleskin
Guest
Moleskin

It’s great to have the new trail and the majority of it is good and very welcome, however things could be improved cheaply by optimizing the phasing of the lights as the waits are very long (for motorists too – everyone seems to spend a long time staring at empty intersections waiting for their turn, and not being able to travel parallel to the railway line whilst a train is passing is a waste). If additional money is available, the circuitous routing of the bike path could also be improved (and quite possibly the roads too – driving through there is also quite confusing though I’ve only been through once or twice).

Does anyone know to whom a constructive feedback letter could be addressed?

Gary
Guest
Gary

Sunday Parkways is coming in a few weeks, and these areas are going to get heavy use and attention by PBOT. I sincerely hope they are paying attention. It’s a complete disaster, for Peds/Bikes and for Cars as you said, and something has to be done.

Carter Kennedy
Guest
Carter Kennedy

It seems to me that a pedestrian or two have been killed in the first months of operation of every MAX route. I assume that is why they are doing this stuff.

While we are on the subject, why do the gates stay down and the lights on and the bells ringing after a train has passed? If another one is coming on the other track it will keep the signals on and the gates down, but if one is not coming there is no reason not to raise the gates immediately.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I figured it was to keep box trucks from taking out the raising gates.

Coach Dan
Guest
Coach Dan

The bi-directional stop signs at the zoobomb mural need to get rotated the other way. (bmd is your friend)

Ted Buehler
Guest

Railroad – street intersections have always been of special concern for safety.

Trains always have the right of way, and it takes them a lot longer to stop than it does rubber tired vehicles.

There’s federal regulations on how soon before a train arrives at an intersection the gates need to be down, as I recall it’s 30 seconds. And a similar regulation for how long after the train passes until the gates go back up. Maybe 5 seconds?

Railroad crossings are especially dangerous for a whole variety of reasons that warrant the extra intersection protection of lights, gates, long signal times, and, strict enforcement:

* Trains can’t stop very quickly

* Train operators have zero lateral visibility when they’re running alongside another train

* If a person in a car, on a bike, or on foot gets hit by a train, the results are going to be worse than getting hit by a rubber tired vehicle — in part because:

* Trains (especially light rail vehicles) don’t have “bumpers” to, ideally, make the point of impact below the body of a walker, bicyclist, or car. When a train hits something, it smashes it, or, in the case of a TriMet light rail vehicle, sucks it underneath the train and runs over it with the wheels. You don’t want to get hit by a MAX train. Better to get hit by a freight or Amtrak train, which at least have rudimentary “cow catchers” as opposed to TriMet’s “open mouth” design to the front of the train.

* Two or more RR tracks are more dangerous than one. Many people will falsely assume that just because there’s a train on one track, they can stand in the middle of an adjacent track. Lots of people die doing this. I don’t know why its so prevalent, but I see it all over the country, most recently on the Loud and Lit ride last June.

& I was delayed on an Amtrak train a couple years ago because two 14 yr old girls were waiting for a freight train to cross in Woodland, WA, standing between the rails of the adjacent track, and were killed by an Amtrak train (not the on I was on).

* Mixing “light rail” (MAX trains) and “heavy rail” (Amtrak passenger and Union Pacific freight trains) at the same crossing is especially dangerous. At the 8th, 11th and 12th Ave crossings, light rail vehicles will come through every 7 minutes, at a fairly slow speed with good visibility. But 8 times a day an Amtrak train will come through. Half of those will be from the south, coming at about 60 mph.

The light rail trains foster complacency by other road users. When the crossing lights go on and chintzy speakers start broadcasting the “ding ding ding” warning bell imitation, folks yawn and think “just another MAX train.” And if you assume that as soon as the MAX train has passed you can cross the four sets of tracks, at some point you’ll meet up with a 60 mph Amtrak train in a very unpleasant manner.

* 8th, 11th and 12th are now “quiet zones” so neither Amtrak nor freight trains don’t blow their whistles. This makes the mixing of light rail and heavy rail even more dangerous. Heavy rail have really loud, clear-toned whistles that carry very well and alert users that a really big train is coming through. Light rail tends to have chitzy whistles that sound like a cheap PA system. So the mixing of different types of trains is even more dangerous here than it would otherwise be.

* Freight trains need to pick up and drop off cars in the Brooklyn Rail Yard. To do so, they often will pull a half mile of cars out of the yard, stop, back up onto another track in the yard to get another half mile string of cars, get everything hooked up, then leave town. This takes 20 minutes or a half hour, and can block the crossings, especially 12th and 11th Aves. It’s how freight trains work, they need to take them apart and put them together somewhere, and they’ve been doing it at Brooklyn Yard for 100 years.

This adds to the danger because people on foot or on bike may climb through or under the train to save themselves some time at the expense of safety. Folks don’t seem to know that sometimes trains stop or start very suddenly — with a jolt big enough to knock you or your bike off the train and under the wheels of the next car. Sure, most times trains start slowly, but not always. That’s why it’s illegal to do this.

Without strict enforcement of the crossing it’s only a matter of time before one of these folks loses their leg or their life when the train starts moving without warning.

Or, one of these folks successfully crosses through the freight train, but gets creamed by a 60 mph northbound Amtrak train that will be passing the freight train about 2′ away. With zero sound until it’s 3 seconds away.

* All of these are reasons why the 11th, 12th and 8th Ave crossings are extremely dangerous places to be violating the flashing red lights of the crossing control devices.

I have a lot of sympathy for a lot of people, on bikes, on foot, in cars, on trains. I think a lot of rules in this world are overblown. But I fully support 100% enforcement of crossing control devices here.

* Folks, pay attention, take your time. If you go through here on your commute, get a new bike map and learn the alternate routes — the Lafeyette Bridge. The Powell underpass. The MLK overpass. The Hawthorn/Madison viaducts. Then leave home with enough time to make a detour if a freight train is blocking the crossing. And wait the extra minute it takes to wait for MAX or Amtrak trains, instead of trying to beat them to the crossing.

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
Guest

http://oli.org/
For further readin, check out the Operation Lifesaver website. It’s kind of a generic name, but it’s the national railroad safety organization. Maintained by railroad employees & retirees.

Plenty of information for anyone to consider before complaining that TriMet is strictly enforcing compliance at crossings.

Like this:
http://oli.org/video/view/driver-safety-tips-crossings-with-lights-and-gates

This:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/download.oli.org/Public+State+Materials/18196+Operation+Lifesaver.pdf

Or, this.
http://oli.org/video/view/new-jersey-transit-pedestrian-psa-youre-dead

Ted Buehler

Gary
Guest
Gary

Some fair points. I think that’s all the more reason they need to get these areas fixed. As it is, it fosters complacency and disregard for the signals and other control devices. I’ve spent way too much time at seemingly nonsensical lights as it is and have run several already. I was careful, but people will get frustrated and will act abruptly.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

All the more reasons there should be grade separation between the train tracks and the roadways in this location.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Buzz said, “get these areas fixed”. The Ford Building area was just built, albeit a poorly designed link the nearby and new bike bridge. A fix could show priority for bikes, i.e., no stops for bikes.

How: Get a refund from the design team and send cyclists under or over the new max rails.

Josh Chernoff
Guest
Josh Chernoff
Charley Gee
Guest

Ha! I was the guy in the blue tshirt who chastised the crazy driver in the white pickup with you that was driving dangerously on Clinton.

Charley
Guest
Charley

My personal problem with this area is that red light at 12th and Clinton. All auto traffic must turn right as Clinton T’s into 12th, and the autos just queue up and go right on red in a long line: sensible. Since, on the other hand, most bike traffic is turing left there, we’re stuck waiting for a long light, to cross the street to the MUP, while, meanwhile, cars are busy driving right through: insensible.

Want to know why people aren’t following the signals there? Look at how often those signals really add safety into someone’s commute. Usually they just create a barrier to travel. 11th and 12th don’t have that much traffic, and the lights are long. Staring at empty intersections while everyone sits around fairly begs people to just scoot on across. It takes about 2 seconds and then you’re through and off to the next pointless red light.

Seems to me that the intersection worked perfectly well when it was simply a stop sign. I think there should normally be a flashing red at that intersection. If there’s a need for a pedestrian to cross N or S bound on the East side of 12th, then that flashing red can cycle over to steady red. I can’t figure out why more intersections like this don’t just have Yield signage or lights.

Charley
Guest
Charley

Also, I should point out that work arounds exist: a right on red along with the car traffic (Northbound on 12th), then a quick left onto the sidewalk (West side of 12th) and then turn around and head south on the West side sidewalk of 12th to the MUP crossing of the railroad tracks.

Alternatively, one can take a left from the bike box into the pedestrian crossing on the East side of 12th, head Southbound to the area of the railroad crossing, then enter the roadway heading North, then merge over two lanes to the MUP entrance on the West side of 12th.

Is this janky? Yes. Is it possibly unsafe? Maybe. Is it faster than waiting for the light to finally change (while observing all the auto traffic proceed through the intersection unbothered)? Yes. Is it legal, strictly speaking? Yes, which is why I’ve done it a bunch on my way to work.

What gets me about this is that it seems like the way this intersection works is to allow car traffic through while making cyclists wait as long as possible. What did I do to deserve this? And on a bike boulevard no less!

Charley
Guest
Charley

Also, I should point out that work arounds exist: a right on red along with the car traffic (Northbound on 12th), then a quick left onto the sidewalk (West side of 12th) and then turn around and head south on the West side sidewalk of 12th to the MUP crossing of the railroad tracks.

Alternatively, one can take a left from the bike box into the pedestrian crossing on the East side of 12th, head Southbound to the area of the railroad crossing, then enter the roadway heading North, then merge over two lanes to the MUP entrance on the West side of 12th.

Is this janky? Yes. Is it possibly unsafe? Maybe. Is it faster than waiting for the light to finally change (while observing all the auto traffic proceed through the intersection unbothered)? Yes. Is it legal, strictly speaking? Yes, which is why I’ve done it a bunch on my way to work.

What gets me about this is that it seems like the way this intersection works is to allow car traffic through while making cyclists wait as long as possible. What did I do to deserve this? And on a bike boulevard no less!

Ted Buehler
Guest

BTW, I’m in full agreement that the whole Clinton to the River deal is a mess.

I’ve sent in about 15 safety and clarity improvement requests on that stretch of route to SAFE@portlandoregon.gov

I suggest everyone else do the same. Keep complaining, one way or another.

Ted Buehler

Randy
Guest
Randy

We need positives… Policing poor design is called a double negative.