Believe it or not we are now less than one month away from the debut of TriMet’s long-awaited new “Frequent Express” (FX) bus service along Southeast Division Avenue. TriMet says the new $175 million line — which they promise will go from downtown Portland to Gresham 20% faster than today — is set to open September 18th.
While it’s not quite the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system we hoped for, it’ll still be much faster and cooler than TriMet’s other lines. The new service promises 12 minute headways all day long, all-door boarding, signal priority and bits of bus-only lanes. In addition to faster trips, TriMet will unveil a new type of bus. The articulated (aka bendy) “FX” buses are 20 feet longer than a standard TriMet bus and can fit 60% more people.
It’s all very exciting and we’ll have much more to report in the days and weeks ahead. We’ve already shared several stories on how the bikeway interacts with the new bus station platforms. We’ve also done a bit of exploring and have heard loads of stories about how the new bike lanes and other infrastructure changes on Division installed in tandem with the bus service are working (or not). We’ll get to those in a separate post.
For now, I want to share how you’ll bring bikes on board.
There will be no more lifting your bike and putting it on the front racks with the FX. Taking a bike on-board will feel more like taking MAX light rail because you’ll board from the rear and roll your bike onto the bus. As you can see in the graphics from a handy TriMet video I just discovered yesterday, each bus will have two bike racks.
From the video, it looks like you’ll just roll your front wheel into the rack and that’s it. There’s a small designated bike space where you can stand with your bike. You can tap your fare at a reader near the bike racks. But if you want to pay cash or need anything from the bus operator, you’ll need to leave your bike and walk up to the front.
This is the part that concerns me. Bike theft from buses and MAX cars has always been a problem. I don’t think many folks will feel safe leaving their bike unattended for too long. Especially in a rack that looks like someone can just pull on the handlebars and walk away with your bike out the rear doors.
If the bike rack is full, you’ll need to wait for the next bus. Fortunately there are 12-minute headways on the FX line. That’s not nearly as good as we’d get with a true BRT system (2-5 minutes), but it’s pretty fast relatively-speaking.
I’m eager to see how the new racks work in real life. And it just so happens I’ll be riding the new line this coming Monday as part of a TriMet media preview event. If you have specific questions or issues you’d like me to address while I’m out there, please let me know and I’ll make a note to learn more about it on Monday.
For now, get a basic primer from the handy TriMet video below: