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Reminder: TriMet MAX repairs will cut service, crowd trains for two weeks

Posted by on May 6th, 2016 at 8:35 am

Grounds for repair on First Avenue.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

As we reported last month, the next two weeks will be good times to bike or bus all the way to work rather than trying to get a bike on MAX.

That’s because MAX track and pavement repairs on First Avenue downtown that start on Sunday will scramble service on every line in the system, increasing wait times between trains by 25 to 35 percent and cutting system capacity 30 to 50 percent.

In short: good luck finding a free bike hook, or even squeezing your bike on the rush-hour trains at all.

The good news is that after the work wraps up by Saturday, May 21, MAX trains will move faster and First Avenue in Old Town will be far more pleasant to bike across, improving connections to the Steel Bridge and Waterfront Park.

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“This is our oldest section of the MAX,” TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said last month. “You reach a time in any light rail system that you need to do this work, and our time is now.”

The Red Line will not serve the west side of the metro area at all; instead, Blue Line trains will run every 10 minutes during rush hour, and every 15 minutes other hours, between downtown Hillsboro and Galleria on the west end of downtown Portland.

Red, Yellow and Orange trains will share the transit mall. The Green Line will run between Rose Quarter and Clackamas Town Center only. A fleet of temporary shuttle-bus lines will serve SW 2nd and 3rd Avenues, getting people closer to the closed MAX stops on 1st. Here’s an animation explaining the various changes:

You can also see a summary of the changes here and learn more about the repair project here.

Biking is always the most reliable and predictable way to get around town, but MAX is usually a close second. For the next two weeks, nothing will compete with the humble bicycle for getting around the city.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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  • m May 6, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Fantastic opportunity for fair weather bike commuters (like me) to get back out there.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 6, 2016 at 9:30 am

    If anyone from Clever Cycles is reading this, now might be a good time to offer discounts on folding bikes! 😉

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    • Al Dente May 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

      I would love to rent a pedicab for a little while and just shuttle between Goose Hollow and the Rose Quarter.

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  • Buzz May 6, 2016 at 10:39 am

    The same poor track conditions you illustrate in the photo also exist at the intersection of N Interstate and Multnomah, where the tracks are just as old, when are they going to fix the tracks here?

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    • reader May 6, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Probably not soon. It seems that TriMet is doing the current repair work now because it can no longer be avoided.

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    • Jeff May 6, 2016 at 11:06 am

      There are plans to do some (I think) similar work in the Rose Quarter in August of 2016. I don’t know if they’ll address all the same issues or not, but I believe it will be a similar type of repair.

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  • resopmok May 6, 2016 at 11:55 am

    For the benefit of others (since I very rarely use MAX myself), how helpful would it be for those who typically load their bike on to simply avoid the downtown portion? That is, by unloading before the train reaches downtown (e.g., at the rose quarter) or loading on the last stop out of downtown (e.g. at Goose Hollow). I’m not sure I understand entirely why this work would be affecting schedules for west side or orange line service.

    As a side note, I find it interesting that this particular section suffered significantly more degradation than sections of the same track just a few blocks north. I suspect the use of asphalt vs more durable materials contributes to the shorter lifespan. Will they simply replace the asphalt on this repair, or will they do it right?

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    • Gary B May 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      It affects west side because they’re not running the red line, so even with extra blue line trains there will be more crowding.

      It affects orange line only because they had to reduce frequency by 30%. Because all line are sharing the Mall (meaning blue and red were added, which usually aren’t on the mall), they had to reduce the total number of trains to fit them all.

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      • lop May 7, 2016 at 11:53 am

        Why can’t blue/red trains become orange once they get to 5th/6th and some orange line trains coming from the other end become blue/red instead of just yellow? Is capacity on the mall higher if they have a higher share of trains use the turn around by Lincoln and a lower share continuing south to Milwaukie? Is the orange line at grade junction such a bottleneck?

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      • osmill May 7, 2016 at 4:39 pm

        And the frequency with which they could run blue line trains will presumably be limited by the complexity of turning trains at Library/Galleria: I believe the only way they can do this will be to reverse a train after it discharges passengers at Library, run it in reverse direction west on Yamhill to the old layover/turnaround tracks between Morrison and Yamhill west of 11th, around the turnaround tracks, then reverse direction east on Morrison to the Galleria stop. Then load passengers and depart to the west. That exercise will be complex and will limit the headways they can run on the west side.

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. May 9, 2016 at 8:41 am

          I honestly wonder if it would be easier to just run the trains on Yamhill only, reverse at Library, then switch at the Providence Park crossover.

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  • John Lascurettes May 6, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    I’m most curious about the spot in the video (2:48) that says “riders will not be able to walk between the Library and Pioneer Courthouse Square stations”. What? That’s a huge swath of downtown business and retail space as well as public assembly space. How is that going to work?

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    • John Lascurettes May 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      Never mind. I read that wrong. It was a three part thing and missing an important dependent clause:

      “riders [that are] unable to walk between the Library and Pioneer Courthouse Stations …”

      “Can transfer to a shuttle at SW Yamhill and 9th …”

      “And exit the shuttle and SW Yamhill between 5th and 6th avenues.”

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  • Mike Sanders May 6, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    If you’re going to Cinco de Mayo this weekend, stop by the TriMet booth. Brochures explaining the project in both English and Spanish are being handed out to visitors there. Pick up an extra copy or two for friends and neighbors while you’re there. Also available at the Pioneer Square visitors center as well.

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