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TriMet’s Lafayette Bridge elevator in Brooklyn neighborhood closed for repairs

Posted by on February 20th, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Lafayette Street Bridge-6.jpg

The bridge is a vital biking and walking link in southeast Portland’s Brooklyn neighborhood.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The elevator of the carfree Rhine-Lafayette Bridge in southeast Portland is out of order and TriMet says they aren’t sure when it will be back online.

The bridge is a key link over a railyard in the Brooklyn neighborhood that opened in the fall of 2015. We profiled the bridge on its one-year anniversary last November.

This is unfortunate news. A similar facility that services the South Waterfront — the Gibbs Street Bridge (maintained by City of Portland) — has been notoriously unreliable. We hoped the Lafayette Bridge would have a better record. Both bridges lack ramps and require people with bicycles or mobility devices to carry their vehicles up several flights of stairs when the elevator is closed.


We got our first reader tip that the Lafayette Bridge was closed on February 10th. In response to our questions, TriMet said the closure was necessary because too much moisture has gotten into the elevator shaft and the brakes can’t get a secure grip when wet (a problem bicycle riders know all too well).

TriMet Chief Public Information Officer Mary Fetsch said the agency is looking for a short-term and long-term fix to the problem. They do not have an estimated time for the repairs to be completed. Stay tuned. If you typically ride this bridge, please keep us posted on its status.

In the meantime, if you don’t want to hassle with the stairs, a commenter has shared the following detour map (which I added to just a bit):

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

73 Comments
  • J_R February 20, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    I found it out of service twice last week – Monday and Thursday. I mistakenly thought that it was a routine service event that would last an hour or two. I’m glad I didn’t try to use it this morning.

    The sign ought to say “out of service indefinitely” instead of letting people try to use it repeatedly. Better yet. Fix it now.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • rick February 20, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    More of these bridges are needed. They removed the one in the SE industrial area just north of Powell.

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  • David Burns February 20, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    This is a great, low-stress part of my commute. While it’s been closed, I’ve been heading north to Clinton in the mornings or south to Holgate in the evenings. (Who likes to backtrack?) The Holegate sidewalk is full of gravel, and rather unpleasant. (Clinton is better, and I’ve won the crossing-gate lottery each time in the last week.)

    I tweeted to Trimet about not having it on their alerts page, and I thought it was there briefly this afternoon, but I don’t see it now. (I think it was under the ‘orange line’ section).

    Long term… I think I remember seeing a Gideon bridge in the planning stage. Maybe it’d be really good if that had ramps.

    Thanks for getting this scoop. I guess I’ll just do Clinton both ways for a while.

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    • Justin Carinci February 21, 2017 at 9:25 am

      This is a part of my commute I’ve accepted, although the time I spend waiting for the elevator (and then the other elevator) gives me too much time to think. And I think about how this is an indicator of a failed bike network that is supposed to serve much of the southern part of the city. Not because the elevator is slow; because only two people and bikes can use it at a time. We’ve decided that we will never accommodate more than two people on a bike route that should serve thousands. However much we improve the other bike facilities feeding into that bottleneck, two is our sweet spot, or perhaps four or six (depending on when people stop tolerating the wait).
      We can’t even pretend we’re going to get more people out of cars and onto bikes because we literally can’t handle it.

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      • Matt S. February 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        The elevator should be reserved for pedestrians/commuters whom are not capable of negotiating the stairs. Physically abled bicycle commuters should be able to pick up their bike and hike the stairs with relative ease.

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        • Justin Carinci February 22, 2017 at 9:24 am

          That’s great for the tiny percentage of people on bikes who are tall, strong, fit and undeterred by carrying a bike up and down an insanely huge staircase. But having to face this significant obstacle will keep people from getting on bikes, especially the “interested but concerned” type.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu February 20, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Brakes don’t get a secure grip when wet, I assume.

    I’m not familiar with that bridge. Was a ramp in lieu of an elevator not possible?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 21, 2017 at 8:35 am

      Hi John,

      The reason this bridge — just like the bridge over RR tracks on Willamette Bluff to Swan Island and the Gibbs Bridge to South Waterfront — doesn’t have a ramp is because of cost. Easy and efficient bicycle access is not a high enough priority to these agencies to warrant the added expense of building a bikeable ramp. Stairs are much cheaper and easier to build — and when it comes to non-motor vehicle infrastructure it’s always about being as cheap and easy as possible. unfortunate but true.

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      • MaxD February 21, 2017 at 9:28 am

        I find that to be a specious argument for this bridge, in particular. The added charge for a ramp at Waud Bluff SHOULD have been acceptable to meet the spirit of ADA guidelines (I know that the trail to Willamette exceeds 5%, but there are plenty of people excluded from this route who use motorized wheelchair or are physically able to tackle the slopes, not to mention people using strollers, bike trailers, cargo bikes, etc.) For this bridge, a ramp would be FAR less expansive than an elevator, even before factoring in lifecycle/maintenance costs. People love to cite cost, space, or design as reasons to limit access with elevators, but it is always a lack of creative problem solving and a refusal to prioritize access for everyone. The City must strive to provide universal access and they are failing. Gibbs is a great example: if they skipped the elevator and the stairs and instead build a grand spiral ramp it would have been glorious, reliable and cost-effective.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2017 at 9:29 am

        It’s probably easier to leverage the requirement for handicap access with bike access though the elevator than separate infra for both.

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        • John Lascurettes February 21, 2017 at 11:14 am

          But would not bike access also provide the infrastructure that would satisfy ADA requirements? That is, do you even need the elevator if you build the ramp? There’s no elevator on the east side of the Steel Bridge esplanade, and I’m sure that’s ADA compliant.

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          • John Lascurettes February 21, 2017 at 11:14 am

            Plus, when elevators break down and need frequent maintenance visits, it’s it’s total cost of operation actually cheaper? I doubt it.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty February 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

              I’ve heard the elevator is cheaper to build, but more expensive to maintain. Thus the option looks more attractive if you’re trying to make some capital budget pencil out, even if you’re screwing yourself in the long run.

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              • John Lascurettes February 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm

                Precisely my point. Short-term vision leads to long-term expenses.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm

                Silos! We just build it; maintenance is down the hall.

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              • Bald One February 21, 2017 at 4:14 pm

                Tri-Met has never had trouble with long-term budgets, before.

                On the other hand, the contractor that built that whole bridge and stairs (and bike gutters) is based right there at the bridge (Braun), so perhaps they had some influence to build this elevator option and not the ramps (access to their yard, or their view, or something)? I expect they were not able to influence the design, but it is interesting they were the builder of the bridge located adjacent to their own property.

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          • MaxD February 21, 2017 at 11:31 am

            EXACTLY! You do not need an elevator or stairs. A single, well-designed ramp works for everyone

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          • Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2017 at 2:11 pm

            I don’t know…is there a maximum length/angle for ADA ramps? I suspect that if a ramp were over 20 feet long, there would be complaints about it not working for a specific portion of disabled folks. An elevator solves that (when it works).

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. February 21, 2017 at 2:31 pm

              I believe ADA-compliant ramps cannot exceed a 5% grade. This also includes bridges like the Tilikum.

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              • MaxD February 21, 2017 at 4:52 pm

                They can be steeper with handrails and landings every 30 linear feet

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      • Spiffy February 22, 2017 at 7:48 am

        interesting…

        I would have thought the cost (initial and upkeep) of an elevator would have been more expensive than ramps…

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  • SaferStreetsPlease February 20, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    It would be great if the article provided a contact at Trimet so those of us impacted can voice our concerns and outline the need for a quicker response.

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  • Terry D-M February 20, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    In this case due to ADA requirements there was no room for ramps. Without Row acquisition it will be tricky at the Gideon Street overpass as well when funding is allocated. The Reedway overpass to the south there is PLENTY of room, so when funding is found we really need to advocate for ramps. That overpass is a regional priority.

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    • Steve Scarich February 21, 2017 at 9:17 am

      That’s not what Jonathan says; which is it? I know, over in Bend, the City has literally been spending millions on ADA-compliant street-corner ramps, 99% of which are in hilly, or otherwise unused (by the disabled) parts of town. Same thing when I was in Eugene, corner ramps on 15% grade sidestreets, where no disabled person would ever tread. Government regulation gone amuck. I am all for accessibility, btw, but not if it goes unused.

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      • Todd Boulanger February 21, 2017 at 11:13 am

        Yes at the face of it…ADA ramps on routes much steeper than the 8% slopes…would seem to be foolish outcome of a government regulation…but these routes may be more accessible to powered “wheelchairs” as this tech improves (> range, speed etc.). [With these improved mobility devices the greater barrier now emerging may be the cross slope on these routes vs the running slope.]

        Additionally these ramps for “the disabled” do help out most if not all pedestrians…especially those with wheeled dollies/prams etc…assuming they adhere to good universal design.

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        • MaxD February 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

          ADA guidelines direct us to accommodate all people as much as the terrain will allow. Ramps allow people win motorized mobility device to access sidewalks. There are also plenty of active hikers and athletes who use wheelchairs and can easily handle grades steeper than 8%. Ramps are also useful for parents pushing strollers, delevery people using dollies, people on bikes, etc.

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    • MaxD February 21, 2017 at 9:31 am

      Terry,
      I would like to see some studies to back up the claim that there is not enough room for a ramp. I realize that a ramp takes up much more space than a stair, but if the stair and the elevator are removed, there is some room to add a landing and a swithback and I believe it can run down the sidewalks ways without impeding any egress points. A good designer with a clear priority to provide Universal Access would have found a way.

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      • Matt S. February 21, 2017 at 5:10 pm

        What if an ADA ramp does cost more than an elevator? I think of the switchback ADA ramp at Failing and Mississippi—the one that crosses over I5. This crossing obviously took some considerable engineering with a massive amount of concrete.

        The elevator in question probably isn’t an one-off elevator, but only unique in the steel framing. Sure, considerable engineering, but if I’m not mistaken, steel is cheaper than concrete. The elevator itself and peripheries probably come off an assembly line.

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    • Moleskin February 21, 2017 at 10:12 am

      I would be ALL OVER an overpass at Reedway, didn’t realize this was in the works.

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  • 9watts February 21, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Car Head.

    If this were a car-facility, it would be fixed in 24 hours.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2017 at 9:30 am

      Based on a per usage basis, that makes sense.

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      • 9watts February 21, 2017 at 6:07 pm

        I’m not following. We haven’t even specified a car facility and you’re already certain that it gets higher usage than this elevator. I think your parameters are showing.

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  • Rabbit Instincts February 21, 2017 at 8:28 am

    I have not made this a regular part of my routine, I don’t consider it safe when it is operating. I am supposed to proceed blindly, up to a closed hallway with stairs blocking my retreat at each end, into the arms of unknown persons with unknown intentions?

    I don’t stop when someone calls out to me in a bad neighbourhood. I don’t linger in choke points.

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    • Adam February 21, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      I don’t take it after about 11pm, but any other time of day is fine.

      On the plus side, that elevator and bridge installation has more CCTV cameras than any other bridge I have ever seen in Portland!! There must be six CCTV cameras at least on the bridge. I never see vagrants etc hanging out there, possibly for that reason.

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      • Rabbit Instincts February 21, 2017 at 2:34 pm

        I didn’t know about the cameras. It just seems like the kind of place where people get cornered on The Walking Dead.

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  • not that Mark February 21, 2017 at 8:39 am

    I asked Trimet to at least tweet the status and they didn’t seem to care.

    The link below is the work around route. There’s an MUP on the south side of Powell that goes under 17th Ave. It’s better than crossing Powell or carrying my bike up/down the stairs.

    http://imgur.com/a/LTDoL

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    • SE Rider February 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

      How is that better than crossing Powell? Just take 21st to Clinton.

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  • bikeninja February 21, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Didn’t Trimet get any kind of warranty when they purchased these elevators? You don’t exactly get one of these from some mom and pop local operation. Elevators are all made by big international companies that should be able to fix the stuff they sell and install.

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    • Stephen J. Weber February 22, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      The warranty on an EcoDisk is typically one year, but I’d expect TriMet to have KONE Care, which can extend that longer. The problem with the drive system on the elevator is that it is completely magnetic with no gears (generally more eco-friendly, but not terribly weather-proof). When the bridge was first put in the service, the door would even open before it fully stopped at the landing. That was changed late 2016 to open only after it fully stopped.

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      • Alex Reedin February 24, 2017 at 3:08 pm

        UGH. Eco-pennywise, eco-poundfoolish. Building a bridge to enable non-motorized transportation and then…cutting corners on whether it will work at all for a good number of non-motorized users a good portion of the time for “eco” sake (I’m assuming energy efficiency?)

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  • Bald One February 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I think this elevator has been out of service since at least the 6th of Feb. It is used by many people, and I frequently share it with 2 other cycling individuals (we can get 4+bikes in if we really squeeze). This elevator is used by parents hauling children by bike, and kids on bikes, also, and is a key part of the safe routes to school for 2 local elementary schools (Grout, Winterhaven/Brooklyn), since the only other options are on Holgate (very unpleasant) or on Clinton (very long detour). I spoke to a distressed Mom about having to get her 2 year old out of the bike seat and somehow up/down the 40-ish steps on either end along with pushing her bike up the totally dysfunctional (poorly designed) bike gutter on these stairs.

    The work around route you showed is serviceable, although it has it’s problems: 1) right hook cars coming off Powell onto 20th across this sidewalk entry/exit point can be very unsafe as some cars look to exit Powell South on 20th at a high rate of speed – watch for this carefully; 2) very steep grade on the east end sidewalk going under the tracks here and a bit of a surprise angle on the transition from inclined to flat sidewalk; 3) the challenge of crossing 17th two times to get back onto the Orange line MUP – a circle back around and either riding on the sidewalk 2 blocks on the west side of 17th (or in the bike lane up stream as a salmon) and making sure that fast moving buses are going to stop in the marked cross-walks here – they are not used to seeing folks cross here at the lesser-used crossing (no flashing lights) at the 17th Ave off-ramp from Powell. Not to mention the occasional homeless campers under the tracks on the Powell sidewalk – but these haven’t been much of an issue, recently, as they have mostly taken up residence on the much wider, nicely sloped and newly-built parallel underpass on the North side Powell sidewalk.

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    • Stephen J. Weber February 22, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      It was in service very briefly between the 6th and the 9th. KONE (elevator manufacturer) was out to work on both elevators. This closure has been since the 9th. I was the one to actually call in the one on the east end (sorry) of the bridge for overleveling significantly and creating a massive tripping hazard.

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  • Todd Boulanger February 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Thanks for sharing the detour map…just goes to show you how great the impact on the local pedestrian (& ADA) circulation that the highway [and likely the railroad before it] have created in this district.

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  • Todd Boulanger February 21, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Any PSU students out there studying ADA access? (The repair frequency and periods of non operations of TRIMETs elevators may be an interesting topic to research.)

    This is not just a TRIMET problem…but a problem nationwide for may urban transit companies, like BART etc.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. February 21, 2017 at 11:26 am

      I speculate that most of the time when an elevator is “out of service”, it is not because the elevator is broken, but because someone has used it as a bathroom. If this turns out to be the case, perhaps TriMet should consider installing public restrooms at MAX stations.

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      • BIll Clinton Street Greenway February 21, 2017 at 11:29 am

        I would say that we should provide more public restrooms in general, but homeless citizens are not upholding their end of the bargain on ones that are already existent.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2017 at 2:14 pm

        Or we could just tell those people that activity is wrong and hope it stops.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm

          You don’t think that, on some level, people know it’s wrong to crap in an elevator?

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      • Spiffy February 22, 2017 at 7:58 am

        I’ve been on plenty of TriMet elevator bathrooms so I don’t think they close them for that reason…

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty February 21, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Taking 21st to Clinton is probably a better alternate route. It’s more direct, and avoids some of the underpass sketchiness.

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    • Bald One February 21, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Unless you are trying to get to Brooklyn.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy February 21, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        No Sleep till Brooklyn!

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  • MaxD February 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    ADA guidelines direct us to accommodate all people as much as the terrain will allow. Ramps allow people win motorized mobility device to access sidewalks. There are also plenty of active hikers and athletes who use wheelchairs and can easily handle grades steeper than 8%. Ramps are also useful for parents pushing strollers, delivery people using dollies, people on bikes, etc.

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  • Joe February 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve had some crazy run in with drivers that flipped u turn on the east side entrance. :/
    I agree with 21st being solid route.

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  • Adam February 21, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I bike this daily, and it has been closed for WELL OVER three weeks now.

    This is the perfect example of why ANY crossing that relies on an elevator needs to also have a wheelchair ramp.

    It’s not the end of the world for me. I’ll just HAUL my 30lb bike up and down six flights of stairs.

    But what about moms and dads with strollers and multiple kids?

    What about people in wheelchairs or mobility scooters?

    What about cargo bikes?

    Trimet needs to step up their game big time.

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  • Carrie February 21, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    The suggested detour assumes the rider is heading East-West (or vice versa). This bridge being out is a significant impediment for those of us who use it to head North-South — makes my quick 15 minute ride from Sellwood to inner Clinton area twice as long and even longer if I’m headed further north.

    Also I have been very uncomfortable riding under the 17th Ave overpass by myself and/or with my kids. It’s been home at various times to chop shops, drug users, and just has an unsafe feeling (which I don’t ignore).

    This whole thing is ridiculous. They tore down the old bridge because, well it was sketchy, but because it wasn’t ADA compliant. Then they build this new one, can’t afford(?) to build one at Harold or Reedway, and yet can’t maintain it and so now anyone who can’t do stairs, or can’t carry their bike up/down stairs (and it’s kind of scary to come down the stairs in the dark rain shouldering your bike) are screwed — there’s no where nearby to get from point a to point b.

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  • Spiffy February 22, 2017 at 8:04 am

    “TriMet said the closure was necessary because too much moisture has gotten into the elevator shaft and the brakes can’t get a secure grip when wet (a problem bicycle riders know all too well).”

    maybe they could upgrade it to disc brakes…

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    • MaxD February 22, 2017 at 9:10 am

      Maybe this is why the elevator was “cheaper” than a ramp- super cheap!

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  • Stephen J. Weber February 22, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    On a technicality, there is a ramp. Under the handrail on both sides of both stairwells is a bike trough (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_stairway). It’s steep, but you can push a bike up it. I’d recommend good brakes if you plan on taking a bike down it though.

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    • James February 22, 2017 at 11:41 pm

      Aside from the fact the wheel tray isn’t offset properly to avoid interferance with the the hand rail…I commute with riser bars though, drop bars might find it suitable. Either way the wheel trays were poorly executed.

      Hopefully the elevator returns. Made my commute a lot mellower not crossing Powell and direct access to Tillicum Crossing.

      Wonder if the Tillicum crossing daily counts have changed during this period, would be interesting to see how much that connection correlates to bike traffic on the bridge.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. February 23, 2017 at 9:14 am

        All of the wheel trays built in Portland are terrible – none of my bikes fit in them because they are all too close to the railing. They should be down the middle of the stairs instead.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty February 23, 2017 at 9:24 am

        You need to lean your bike, but I agree they’re a pain.

        I believe the gutters are not in the center to avoid people tripping over them.

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  • Robin February 24, 2017 at 8:55 am

    The SE Bybee Blvd MAX Station elevator is out also. Going up with the bicycle is not as bad as coming down……three sets of staircases; too steep for wheel trays. Good thing I’m physically able to carry my bicycle.

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  • MaxD February 24, 2017 at 11:49 am

    When building a bridge for non-motorized users, the ramp should be driving the design. It must made to work with a ramp. Then, add an elevator and/or stairs as budget and space allows. From an accessibility standpoint, t is simply wrong to consider a ramp an option. An elevator is not a viable option as has been shown numerous times in Portland.

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  • Andrew Kreps February 24, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    I’m not sure it’s just the brakes. Since it’s been built, every time there’s a heavy rain, either the call button stays partially illuminated, or the call button doesn’t work at all on the eastern-most elevator. I imagine the electrics weren’t properly protected from the elements.

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  • Andrew Kreps February 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Adam
    What about cargo bikes?

    It doesn’t work at all with cargo bikes. Additionally, when the raw stainless steel gets wet, you can’t use your front brake to slow yourself down when attempting to descend. So, they don’t really work well at all. A little bit of friction added to the surface would be a great help.

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  • Lance Wright March 5, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Still out of commission on Mar. 5. It would seem that the project engineers improperly wrote the specs….rain and moisture are a given here. Any elevator here that is not enclosed in a building will have to tolerate it. Hopefully, Tri-Met will step up and implement a solution and not decide that the costs to fix it are prohibitive and leave us with nothing. I’ve seen some projects, like the ADA ramp/lift at the Burnside Bridge along the Eastbank Esplanade, fail almost immediately never to be replaced or fixed.

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  • Andrew Kreps March 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Still out of commission, it’s been a month and a day now.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 8, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      thanks for the update Andrew (and others). Please continue to let me know if it’s still out. And if you email them and get a response, please forward it to me.

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      • Stephen J. Weber March 14, 2017 at 4:30 pm

        KONE was finally out to look at it this morning. I don’t know if it’s fixed or what the ETA is though.

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  • Ben S. March 20, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Still out as of Sunday March 19. Ugh. I had just discovered it and started using it (I live in SE near Division and my dad lives in Westmoreland). I agree a ramp would be working still, could accommodate all users, and has a much higher possible throughput. WTF. The old bridge was a nightmare also FWIW.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 20, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      I wonder if someone could make an ADA complaint about this bridge… it’s an important connection, and with no elevator, it sure as heck isn’t accessible.

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  • Hazel March 22, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Just encountered a news crew filming a segment about this today. Word from Tri-Met is that the elevator is still closed indefinitely. This is absurd.

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