How to take your bike on the new TriMet FX buses

A 60-footer! Coming to Division soon. (Photo: TriMet)

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:

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maxD
maxD
1 month ago

These buses look great, and I hope the route works as planned. The bike rack looks pretty rough on fenders- check that out when you ride it JM!

Jd
Jd
1 month ago
Reply to  maxD

It doesn’t look like it would interfere with fenders at all given that the front wheel nests in the rack. The top of the rack doesn’t appear to go high enough on the wheel to touch the top of a standard front fender. Is there something I’m missing here?

Doug Klotz
Doug Klotz
1 month ago
Reply to  Jd

In the TRimet video, you can see that large roller at the top of the rack squish down the front end of the front fender. So it’s rolling over the fender. It looks like that roller has to roll beyond the centerline of the wheel to get a grip on the wheel. So, squashed fender.

CR
CR
30 days ago
Reply to  Doug Klotz

Yea, @31seconds, it clearly clamps down on that little clip-on fender and rocks its rear end up as it smushes the front of it against the tire.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

As a bicyclist riding in traffic, I’m constantly worried about getting hit from behind. However, when I talk with the police, ER personnel, and crash experts, they all say such crashes are extremely unlikely and rare – you are far more likely to get hit on the side or even in the front, and even more likely still, you are going to be the person hitting the car rather than the car driver hitting you.

Given your concern about bike theft on the bus and MAX, does anyone have any empirical data on such thefts? Bikes on the bus versus bikes on MAX versus bikes on the rack in front of the bus?

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

As a bicyclist riding in traffic, I’m constantly worried about getting hit from behind. However, when I talk with the police, ER personnel, and crash experts, they all say such crashes are extremely unlikely and rare

That’s weird because a cursory search turns up multiple results for it being 40% of the time.

For example, the most common collision type in our Every Bicyclist Counts data is a rear end collision. Approximately 40% of fatalities in our data with reported collision types were rear end collisions. This is higher than what was found in the 2010 FARS release that included PBCAT-based crash types (27% of fatal crashes with reported collision types), although the crash type “motorist overtaking bicyclist” was the most common colli- sion type in that data as well.

cuke
cuke
1 month ago
Reply to  idlebytes

‘40% of fatalities with reported collision types’ is not the same as 40% of all collisions. It’s possible that non-fatal collisions far outnumber fatal collisions, and that most non-fatal collisions involve cyclists getting hit from the front and side. I don’t have the numbers, though.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago
Reply to  cuke

David wasn’t talking about fatal collisions neither were the people he said that told him they were rare.

Another stat I found was drivers rear end other drivers at about the same rate 30-40% of the time which makes sense if you’re not paying attention or following too close you’re going to hit whatever is in front of you regardless if it’s a bike, car, or pedestrian.

I suspect there is some confirmation bias going on here similar to hospital staff and bike helmets. They see all the crashes but not the 10s of thousands of miles ridden between those accidents. I myself have had maybe three crashes where a helmet may have helped me in over 20 years. My worst injury is breaking my collarbone I hit my head then too but it was not nearly as serious or inconvenient as my bone. A helmet wouldn’t have done me much good then.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  idlebytes

For the record, all my serious bike injuries and crashes have been from hitting stationary objects head-on, such as walls, guard rails, and so on.

My point is that what we worry about isn’t always particularly rational – sometimes it sounds rational, but without the data to prove it.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago
Reply to  cuke

I miss read your reply. Conjecturing that’s you die more often while getting rear ended doesn’t make it so and I think the additional data of drivers hitting other drivers at the same rates backs up the idea that non fatal collision rates are likely the same. Nevertheless I didn’t think anyone wants to die getting hit from behind so it’s still pretty relevant.

cuke
cuke
1 month ago
Reply to  idlebytes

I personally drive more carefully when I’m following a cyclist vs following another car, because I assume the car won’t fall over if there’s a pothole or object in the road, won’t get too tired going uphill and lose momentum/balance, won’t get their pants stuck in their chain and have to stop. Sometimes cyclists are in bike lanes, where if they stop and I don’t, they won’t get hit because they aren’t in my line of travel. When I’m following another car, I’m typically driving a lot faster than I am when I’m behind a bike, which makes it harder for me to stop quickly and avoid rear-ending the car in front. So rear-ending seems like a more-likely kind of collision to have behind a car and seems rather unlikely if I’m following a cyclist (but I am one of those rare Portland drivers who doesn’t want to injure a cyclist).

My point is, you don’t have stats about all bike collisions — you have stats about related but different situations — so I’m not convinced that your assumptions are definitely better than David’s. I think we are both conjecturing, so let’s both stop?

Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Front of the bus thefts would be extremely rare. The driver is right there, looking at the thief in action. But of course, this is an internet public forum, so somebody is going to come along and disagree. Please do.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

If the driver suspects someone is taking a bike that isn’t theirs, what are they going to do? They’re not going to move the bus, and are unlikely to get off and physically confront the suspected thief. Hopefully, they’d open the doors and alert the passengers (so the owner can physically confront the thief), but the reality is that the thief may have time to get away before everyone figures out what’s happening.

Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Umm, like the driver could call the police? You’ll be surprised to know that thieves don’t like eye witnesses.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

You’re thinking like it’s 2017 and the police care about bike theft and come when you call and thieves cared about being seen or caught on camera. Now they know they won’t be caught, and they’re probably so high they don’t care. Besides, they’ll have the bike and be on their way before the operator can dial the second digit of 911.

Five minutes on NextDoor will show you numerous package thieves who don’t even bother cover their face when they know they’re being videoed.

Amit Zinman (Contributor)
1 month ago

I don’t disagree, I just think that people in Portland should realistically have a bike lock with them. It looks like you could lock your front wheel to the bus and that would probably be good enough for the time it takes you to pay and come back.

PdxPhoenix
PdxPhoenix
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I’m curious too.. I always sit up front on the bus when I put my bike on. & tend to stand w it when on the MAX…

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Not empirical – just anecdotal:

I’ve seen a bike stolen on the MAX once in all the times I’ve ridden it. (often since the Blue line started).

the rider was sitting on the bench in front of it, so his back was turned. He looked to be dozing and a guy with a pack came up, took it off and rolled out the door. The rider realized just before the doors closed and went to confront him.

I’ve seen a bike stolen from the front of a bus just once (out here in Clackamas on the 30).

The thief got into it with the driver (he wouldn’t let him on), hopped out, grabbed the bike and rode off.

Even though it’s rare I lock my upright to the door handle if I’m not going to stand next to it (I tend to doze when I sit on a train for any amount of time). I bungie my trike to the seat in front as a matter of course to make sure it doesn’t sway anyway, and it’s a lot harder to walk off with 🙂

I rarely ride the bus with my bike, but I just accept the risk there.

Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
1 month ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

That’s funny. I had a friend in L.A. whose bike was stolen because he fell asleep with it on the Metro underground. The moral: you snooze, you lose – your bike.

Christopher of Portland
Christopher of Portland
1 month ago

I was wondering how this would work and am glad to know more now. Will this be the spot that Guy Who Stands In Front Of The Back Door For No Good Reason migrates to?

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 month ago

I found the notion of people waiting for the next bus a little humorous. Last week I was riding the MAX with my upright (standing next to it) from Moda to Beaverton.

By the time we left Goose Hollow not only was the other rack filled, but there were no less than 4 other bikes (2 e-bikes) crowded on the back half of the back car. 2 right behind where I was standing blocking the doors at the back and the steps to the upper part, and 2 by the handicap priority seats blocking the aisle and doorways.

This is becoming more and more common IME.

Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
1 month ago

I found this article useful.

Matt D.
Matt D.
1 month ago

12 minutes is still too long of a headway for decent service. When TriMet sought FTA funding for this project, they promised 6-minute headways almost akin to BRT service. Now, even before FX service begins, they have already failed to deliver, blaming the driver shortage. They say it would be temporary, however, TriMet has promised a lot of things it has conveniently “forgotten” about. They don’t even call this line “BRT” anymore because they know they failed to deliver on that too.

Other things they’ve stopped writing press releases for out of no where: their plan to test faregates at Orange Line stations and the reopening the Kings Hill MAX station after an advertised “one-year trial”.

I have major doubt TriMet will bring FX service up to levels it initially promised when things get better for them. I fear their failure to do so will kill the future FX implementation in other corridors, and will create the same perception people currently have with the MAX and WES.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt D.

BRT and LRT lines should all be 10min headways or better, all day, or we shouldn’t build them. If I feel like I have to look at my phone to get the next arrival time before stepping out of my house, it is not a frequent service line.

Patrick
Patrick
1 month ago

That rack looks like it would bend a metal fender.

CR
CR
30 days ago
Reply to  Patrick

Yea zero of my full-coverage fender/basket adorned bicycles look like they’d be able to use those racks. But who needs fenders in Portland?

ivan
ivan
1 month ago

each bus will have two bike racks

Millions of dollars spent on a brand-new vehicles, designed to hold nearly 200% of the number of passengers, and we get the same 2-bike capacity as the old buses?

What a failure.

Thanks for producing some spiffy videos TriMet, but next time spend the money on actually facilitating mode-sharing.

Bikes were first able to be taken on TriMet buses in 1992, and the 2-bike front-bus racks date to at least 1999 as seen in the timeline (that may have been true in 1992 too but I wasn’t here, and I can’t tell from the pictures). But the fact that we can only put the same number of bikes on a TriMet bus 23 years later is appalling.

ivan
ivan
1 month ago
Reply to  ivan

Confirmed that the 1992 buses had space for 2 bikes. So that’s three decades and counting with the same capacity.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  ivan

This stood out to me too. This two-bike space may as well not exist because they can’t be counted on to actually get you somewhere. Who is going to commute to work that way knowing there is a decent chance the spot will be full and they’ll have to wait, making them late. Two spots means it isn’t reliable, so this is more for gamblers and occasional riders, not for realistic use. You can’t even say two is better than nothing, really. In a sense, yeah, but not for people who want to use it regularly.

Dan Packard
Dan Packard
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Across the river, in Vancouver, the C-Tran rapid transit bus line, known as the Vine, accommodates 3 bikes on board. Video here: https://youtu.be/3PQaJN5T3bI

I wonder why TriMet did not take this into account?

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Packard

Incompetent staff whose ego doesn’t allow them to learn from others?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  ivan

Bikes and people need to made smaller, so we can fit more in.

By the way, where do the ADA mobility devices get parked?

ELI
ELI
1 month ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I believe trimet has a video about the new options for those too. There still in the same front spot. I saw it on either trimet or pbot’s Instagram account

Amit Zinman (Contributor)
1 month ago

I would love to know if cargo bikes and other large bikes would fit in this new system.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
1 month ago

I would like someone to ask TriMet and PBOT why, if they’re serious about making transit more accessible and convenient to use, they aren’t installing transit signal priority system-wide. Why take the bus if it’s just going to get stuck in traffic?

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

Oh sad…so TRIMET is only building a B[r]T ?!…that seems to be the common flavour in the NW now…spiffy buses and new stops but not much else? I hope there will be more rapid in that transit.

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

PS. The new FX bike racks look similar to what CTRAN has had on its The Vine / 4th Plain line for 6 years (?)…but CTRANs planners fit 3 bikes in side vs TRIMETs 2.

Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

CTRAN The Vine Bike Rack Video
https://youtu.be/3PQaJN5T3bI

J_Wink
J_Wink
1 month ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I noticed in that video that the rear two racks are elevated off the floor. I wonder if Trimet opted to go with two to eliminate the need to lift the bike onto the rack. Also, that middle rack looks like it would be difficult to access if bikes on the inner or outer rack had panniers.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Only *TWO* bikes per bus?! When bikes have priority on buses, then we’ll be closer to a truly multi-modal system.

janowa
janowa
1 month ago

These are the Vancouver Vine racks, but as Todd and Dan stated, we have 3/bus. C-Tran studied other cities and found this configuration. They ran several options by our bike/ped group at the city (now gone), and we thought it looked like the easiest one to use. I’ve used it a lot. Can be a bit crowded with 3 bikes, but easier for me than lifting my bike to a hook above. I like it.

Marne Duke
Marne Duke
29 days ago

I got to do a test ride with my bike. Don’t get me wrong – I have complained for years that the racks on buses and MAX are inaccessible to many folks. But – my bike didn’t fit with my front rack, so I tried to secure the rear wheel, which also didn’t fit with my pannier rack. I ended up having the roller over my pannier rack, and it kinda worked, but only because I also have a center kickstand. They fit with the wheel secure arm on the old buses, but the huge roller thing is a design feature that makes them not compatible with front or rear racks – or at least mine.

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