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Despite objections, TriMet installs swing-gates at 11th Avenue rail crossing

Posted by on December 23rd, 2015 at 1:49 pm

New swing gate at the Orange Line crossing
of 11th Avenue.
(Photo: TriMet)

Portland’s regional transit agency has installed swing-out gates that biking advocates say will force people on bikes and trikes to stop or dismount in order to cross its new MAX tracks at SE 11th Avenue.

However, it installed only two out of eight swing gates it had earlier proposed for the area.

As part of a collaboration with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, TriMet crews installed the new gates on Tuesday. The idea is that if people biking are forced to stop and open a gate, they won’t roll onto the tracks without first checking to see if a train is coming.

This is a scaled-back version of the plan TriMet circulated earlier this year, which would have put swing gates on both sides of the MAX tracks at both 11th Avenue and 8th Avenue.

Here’s where the new gates were installed, just south of the point where SE 11th Avenue (which is at the top of this image, running north-south) bends to become Milwaukie Avenue:

milwaukie crossings

(Image: Google Maps)

Facing critical questions from the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee in July, TriMet staffer Jennifer Koozer said the agency couldn’t install automated gates for people biking or walking (as it does for people driving) because gates with motors on them get vandalized and abused.

The gates weren’t originally part of TriMet’s plan, but were added after the agency stationed staffers at the rail crossings for weeks to see how people used them. TriMet concluded that some sort of obstacle was necessary.

The new rail crossings are part of TriMet’s $1.5 billion Orange Line, which returned millions of dollars to the federal government because the project came in under budget.

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The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee later made its opposition to swing gates here formal in July. The Pedestrian Advisory Committee did too, because of the difficulty of getting through the gates while using a wheelchair or other mobility device.

After that response, TriMet changed its plans at the 8th Avenue crossing and built fenced switchbacks instead. It also added a triangular concrete island placed on south side of light rail tracks west of 12th. TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said in an email Wednesday that those are “to help orient riders to look both ways before crossing. Fencing on those two islands will be completed over the next few weeks.”

And it removed plans to have a second set of gates immediately north of the MAX tracks.

“The fencing is effectively channelizing appropriately already,” Fetsch said. “That wasn’t the case on the south side.”

Back in November, after TriMet announced the revised plan that was installed this week, we asked Jessica Engelman of BikeLoudPDX and the adjacent Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Association for her take.

This is a frustrating response from TriMet, considering the overwhelmingly negative response they received from their first, nearly identical, proposal. In addition to the bicycle and pedestrian groups that spoke out against these proposed “safety” measures, the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood association board was quite clear in their disapproval of both switchbacks and swing-gates. …

This whole situation is just another instance of “bikes vs public transit,” when we should be active transportation allies. Hopefully once bike share takes off, TriMet will realize that bicycles only enhance the reach and reliability of public transportation. I wish TriMet were operating bike share, as it would force them to take a more holistic perspective in their projects.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Scott H
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Scott H

This is actually a huge relief. The vast majority of people use 12th (the very bottom right corner of the photo) to cross the tracks and will avoid the swing gates.

That said, there are still plenty of pedestrians that use the crossing at 11th, and I’m surprised this isn’t a glaring ADA violation.

dan
Guest
dan

I never bike through there, but do occasionally drive through, and it is a confusing and inefficient intersection. The swing gates make it such a pain to move through the area by bike that I would probably just take the lane, with a close eye on crossing the tracks at a steep enough angle. Funny how motorized gates for cars allegedly don’t get vandalized, isn’t it?

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

I can think of several choice words for TriMet and their decision on this, but Jonathan wouldn’t leave them up…

🙁

9watts
Subscriber

Nice way to listen to your constituents, make them feel heard, Trimet.

Josh Chernoff
Guest
Josh Chernoff

for all the money spent on signs for paying people to stand guard + ad money to make people think about safety ect… you think they could have just build a bridge.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

As part of a collaboration with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, TriMet crews installed the new gates on Tuesday.

Michael, can you say more about that collaboration in light of this decision?

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

I could be wrong (it’s been while since I’ve been a frequent MAX rider) but why is that throughout the entire MAX network there are no gates for MUP crossings anywhere but the new Orange line? I can’t think of any all the way from Hillsboro to Gresham, Clackamas Town Center to the Airport, or any on the the line up Interstate.

If it’s such an issue why isn’t there gates everywhere else?

mark
Guest
mark

This sort of seems an afterthought. Why not simply make the swing arm long enough/add one for the ped side. Well, now I write that and realize someone will get whacked with it. Ugggh…people.

soren
Guest
soren

If you feel comfortable doing so, just use the vehicle lane. Trimet employees get upset when I do this…

Endo
Guest
Endo

TriMet’s goal is to get people off of their bikes and into a bus. Take a look at the projects they’ve built, all of them have substandard bike infrastructure. Do you think that’s an accident?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

We all should applaud that TRIMET is working to improve pedestrian safety at their station areas/ active rail crossings plus they reflected on the community’s concerns and postponed their preferred option until further study of the rail line once open. (These are all good things – assuming there was stakeholder review of their field research findings, like at the PBAC, etc.)

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Though there are concerns with TRIMET’s prescribed treatment of choice: the manual pedestrian swing gate (I assume it will be the design detail TRIMET STD-22, 11/12/02*).

Has this feature been recently evaluated and approved by an appropriate technical committee/ stakeholder committee in regards to not creating barriers for:
– ADA: does this device, per the 2002 detail STD-22, meet current USDoJ/ FTA ADA design requirements?
– Utility Bike Access: will these “pull” swing gates allow safe and comfortable access by cyclists pulling child (2 passenger) trailers or freight bikes or other trailers?

Note: I searched on-line (TRIMET in general and Orange Line meeting agendas) and this was the most recent standard design detail by TRIMET for a “Pedestrian Crossing Swing Gate Installation” (STD-22). See website link to TRB report. There may be other more recent documents buried deeper (without descriptions) on-line that I missed.

[The TRB report also includes a TRIMET standard detail for an Automatic Auto/Ped Gate (STD-28) approved 8/06/01.]

FINALLY, additionally if both items have been address successfully, then how does this location fit into the TRIMET planning documents for proscribed treatments?

Does this location trigger TRIMET’s solution based on their TABLE 1 Pedestrian Crossing Application Chart (TRB Report, page 286)?

If speeds are 15 mph or less [my assumption] then should not “basic treatment & channeling” be the de facto treatment…this even allows for “Extreme pedestrian surges, high pedestrian non-attention or hurried behavior” conditions included in this TRIMET design matrix?

J_R
Guest
J_R

I do not encourage vandalism, but based on Trimet’s rationale, one might conclude that if motors on gates protecting motor vehicle gates were vandalized, Trimet would have no choice but to replace them with manually-operated, swing gates. I wonder what effect that might have on auto use on Milwaukie and other streets.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Trimet knows that the same type of lift arm gate that is used for the auto crossings would function here, and is not subject to the same vandalism. However, they say that the train speeds and/or sightlines do not “warrant” (?) the use of such superior technology. And yes, they have swing gates on the Blue line in Washington County, as well as ones on the Orange Line in Milwaukie. These are the first ones in Portland.

The ADA issue is certainly a concern. As I recall, Trimet claims that there are exceptions for railroads in the ADA and that these gates fall under that exception (I may not be getting the details right)

In signs posted on their trains and buses, Trimet says:
“Trimet operates its programs without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age or disability in accordance with applicable laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights act of 1964 and ORS Chapter 659A.”

I’ll leave it to lawyers to research that, but as I promised, I will be working on a video showing a person using a powered wheelchair and perhaps those with other abilities, attempting to use this gate. We may have some weather-related delays in this attempt!

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

“gates with motors on them get vandalized and abused” Well, the gauntlet is thrown. I wonder how long these will last….

Adam
Subscriber

I just tried using the gates. The design actually forces you to stand on the tracks with your bike while you push open the gate. Very dangerous.

Charley
Guest
Charley

We’re never going to get to 25% if our government is literally putting up obstacles in our path.

rick
Guest
rick

Platinum

peejay
Guest
peejay

i think we should clean house at TriMet like we are demanding for ODOT. For all the reasons we believe ODOT is failing us, the TriMet board is also failing us. They don’t even use their own product!

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Let me get this straight. TriMet watched the way cyclists were crossing and decided they were acting unsafely so they put these barriers in the way that require cyclists to dismount and deal with them. Can we get similar treatment for motorists? On roads where they are habitually observed speeding, rolling stop signs, passing dangerously or what not, can we put up some barriers that require them to dismount (get out of their cars) and manually swing them out of the way?

I’ll feel fine about these gates when I see motorists getting the same treatment. Until then, it’s obviously just more bike hate.

Carrie
Subscriber

I feel like I cannot properly express my level of ire about these gates. In the past week, while running, I have had two separate car drivers look me in the eye as they pulled into/across the crosswalk that I was using to get across the street (not to mention the truck driver that somehow didn’t see me, though he saw me waiting at the intersection – he just didn’t LOOK). And yet, for our ‘safety’ we now have barriers that force is to stop ON THE TRACKS (happened to me at the switchbacks on 8th). Where is the safety I truly need as a pedestrian and cyclist? Where is the yeilding/stopping/speeding enforcement. Why are you putting barriers in MY way, when I don’t think my transportation choices are putting other infrastructure users at the same level of risk as car drivers are?

Let’s put in some crossing arms to protect the crosswalk at SE 17th and Holgate — I’ve seen so many near misses there — way more than I ever saw at the MAX crossings.

Andy
Guest
Andy

The next time there is an election for the TriMet board we need to find and get behind a candidate who has a positive attitude about active transportation. TriMet is not a private business; it is a public agency supported in part by tax dollars we pay whether we use its system or not.

RushHourAlleycat
Guest

Yet another reason to follow the signs that say bus only.

redtech116
Guest
redtech116

they should have dug a trench and made all the rail line sub-suface in the area, then cap it all …

davemess
Guest
davemess

I am shocked there wasn’t more (any) pushback on that answer. That answer is just so odd, and sounds like a blatant excuse.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

As I wrote in an earlier comment: http://bikeportland.org/2015/12/23/171072-171072#comment-6606312

…it may be that people jump on automated pedestrian gates to ride them, harming the motors and gears. Manual gates’ design, rotating on simple steel to steel would be far more immune to abuse. If someone really wanted to know, and asked for the numbers upon which Trimet based their decision, the transit agency would probably pull them up.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I just returned from a ride that involved the Tillicum Crossing and a trip thru the swing gates. What a pain in the @$$. I’m not doing that again!

Proof enough for me to conclude that Trimet hates bikes.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Oh. And once again the signals were inhibiting reasonable and safe bike traffic. When a Max train was proceeding through the area and caused the motor vehicle gates to be down preventing traffic from crossing on Milwaukie and 12th, the bike signals remained red even for those of us riding parallel with the tracks from Tillicum Way to Gideon Street. There was no conflicting traffic. Way to go, Trimet!

Jack
Guest
Jack

Do not stop on tracks…unless someone puts infrastructure in place that forces you to stop on tracks. Then, do stop on tracks. But hurry to get off tracks to avoid getting hit by trains. But don’t rush so much as to be careless.

I still think TriMet should be required to put up warning signs all along the orange line (and elsewhere): WARNING: Hazardous Infrastructure!

was carless
Guest
was carless

Why in god’s name is the map upside down? Last time I checked, SE Clinton is an E-W street, not running NE-SW. So confusing, have no idea where this is.

Mark
Guest
Mark

soren
Trimet staff at the switchback shouted something unintelligible at me when I took the vehicle lane.Recommended 0

Wtf?

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

Walked through this complete mess yesterday. These gates do NOT make it safer, they really don’t. On top of that, with the millions extra they had left over from this project one would think they’d have actually fixed all of this stuff. The bike/light rail infrastructure looks like amateur hour the more I try to use it. It looked at first glance like it would be tidied up – mid-way through construction – and would work very well…

…but now that it is in place the infrastructure is actually something to avoid because it is so poorly designed and built. The light rail works ok, but everything around it is a complete cluster-f@%k!

I will be avoiding all of this mess when traveling on any north side of the infrastructure. The only reasons or way to use it efficiently is to completely avoid crossing the tracks and just ignore most of the signals and lights (they’re all such a mess too, overlapping and confusing at the bridge).

I honestly don’t even know where to begin on a solution at this point since there are so many mistakes, outright bad designs, and strange and confusing layouts/designs along the route. I hope Trimet (not that I’m holding my breath) and PBOT can iron the problems out in the coming months, but wow… just wow.

Jason
Guest
Jason

“TriMet staffer Jennifer Koozer said the agency couldn’t install automated gates for people biking or walking (as it does for people driving) because gates with motors on them get vandalized and abused”…

Well, that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.