MAX Light Rail
MAX Light Rail (for Metropolitan Area Express) is a light rail system in Portland, Oregon, United States, that is owned and operated by TriMet. Consisting of five lines over a 60.2-mile (96.9 km) network, it serves 97 stations, connecting the North, Northeast, and Southeast sections of Portland; the suburban communities of Beaverton, Clackamas, Gresham, Hillsboro, and Milwaukie; and Portland International Airport to Portland City Center. With an average daily ridership of 121,100 and just under 39 million annual riders in 2018, MAX is the fourth-busiest light rail system in the United States after comparable light rail services in Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco. Lines run on all days of the week with frequent headways of 15 minutes to as short as five minutes during rush hour.
|Locale||Portland, Oregon, U.S.|
|Transit type||Light rail|
|Number of lines||5|
|Number of stations||97|
|Daily ridership||121,100 (as of 2018[update])|
|Annual ridership||38,906,694 (as of 2018[update])|
|Website||MAX Light Rail|
|Began operation||September 5, 1986|
|Number of vehicles||145|
|System length||60.2 mi (96.9 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) |
|Electrification||750 V DC, overhead catenary|
Among the first second-generation American light rail systems to be built, MAX was conceived as a result of freeway revolts that took place in Portland in the early 1970s. Construction of the Blue Line's inaugural eastside segment, then known as the Banfield light rail project, began in 1982 and completed for the line to commence service on September 5, 1986. The system has since expanded through subsequent extension projects that have built upon the original line, with the Orange Line, opened in 2015, as its latest extension. Future expansion plans include extending Red Line service further west to Hillsboro in 2023 using existing rail infrastructure and, if funding is approved by voters in 2020, a proposed Green Line extension to Southwest Portland, Tigard, and Tualatin is slated for completion in 2027.
MAX is one of three urban rail transit services operating in the Portland metropolitan area, with the other two being the Portland Streetcar and WES Commuter Rail. It provides direct connections to other modes of public transportation, including local and intercity buses at most stations and Amtrak via Union Station.
In the early 20th century, privately-funded interurban railways gave Portland one of the largest urban rail systems in the American West, including lines that once extended from Forest Grove through Hillsboro and Gresham to Troutdale. Portland's first trolleys, initially drawn by horse and mule, were introduced in 1872, brought over from San Francisco by Ben Holladay. In 1890, the first electric streetcar service opened in Albina, operated by the Willamette Bridge Railway Company, and the first cable car began running along 5th Avenue in Portland; these lines marked the start of an era of major streetcar line expansion. The East Side Railway Company built the city's first long-distance interurban line in 1892, operating a 16-mile (25.7 km) route between Portland and Oregon City. In 1908, the Oregon Electric Railway introduced a branch service to Forest Grove from its main line depot in Garden Home, while the Mount Hood Railway and Power Company operated the Mount Hood Line between Montavilla, Gresham, and Bull Run. In 1912, as Portland's population exceeded 250,000, transit ridership rose to 70 million passengers annually. By the 1920s, streetcars started to decline in line with the rise of the automobile and suburban and freeway development. The region's last two interurban lines, which went to Oregon City and Bellrose (Southeast 136th Avenue), ceased operation in 1958.
In the mid-1970s, Tri-Met began a study for light rail using funds intended for the canceled Mount Hood Freeway and Interstate 505, which were made available by the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1973. The proposal became known as the Banfield light rail project, named for the Banfield Freeway—a segment of Interstate 84—that part of the alignment followed. The Tri-Met board approved the project in September 1978. Construction of the 15.1-mile (24.3 km), 27-station route started in March 1982, and the system opened between 11th Avenue in downtown Portland and Gresham on September 5, 1986. Of the project's total cost of $214 million (equivalent to $994 million in 2018 dollars), 83 percent was funded by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now known as the Federal Transit Administration). Less than two months before opening, Tri-Met adopted the name Metropolitan Area Express, or MAX, for the new system following an employee contest.
As the planning of a second light rail line to the west side gained momentum in the late 1980s, the original MAX line came to be referred to as Eastside MAX, so as to distinguish it from the Westside MAX project. Early proposals called for the westside extension to terminate at 185th Avenue, just west of the border between Hillsboro and Beaverton. Staunch lobbying by Hillsboro and state officials led by Mayor Shirley Huffman pushed the line further west to downtown Hillsboro in 1993. Construction of the 18-mile (29 km) line began in August 1993. The extension opened in two stages: from downtown to Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon Street station in 1997, and then to Hatfield Government Center station, its present western terminus, the following year. The resulting 33-mile (53 km) line began operating as a single, through route on September 12, 1998. It became known as the Blue Line in 2001, after Tri-Met adopted color designations for its separate light rail routes.
Metro began studying a north–south line in 1979, initially deeming light rail unfeasible. Portland voters approved funding for a light rail study between Portland and Oregon City in November 1990, which Metro completed in 1993. Early proposals projected a route to run from Hazel Dell, Washington south to Clackamas Town Center and Oregon City via Milwaukie. Tri-Met formally named the proposal South–North line to acknowledge Clackamas County's support of the region's past light rail projects. In November 1994, Tri-Met introduced a $475-million ballot measure to fund the line's share in Oregon that received 63-percent support from voters. Clark County voters subsequently rejected Washington's portion in February 1995, prompting Tri-Met to downsize the plan and abandon the Clark County and North Portland segments up to the Rose Quarter. In July 1995, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a $750-million transportation package that included $375 million for the scaled-back light rail line, The Oregon Supreme Court invalidated the funding package in January 1996 due to its inclusion unrelated measures, which violated the state's Constitution. The legislature met again to approve another $375 million package in February, but opponents forced a statewide vote that defeated it in November.
Following the proposal's defeat, surveys conducted with local leaders in December 1996 revealed that the region remained in support of light rail. A new proposal followed, placing the line between Lombard Street in North Portland and Clackamas Town Center. In early 1997, Metro and Tri-Met proposed building the line without contributions from either Clark County or the state; funding would be sourced from Clackamas County and Portland instead. The proposal drew opposition from Milwaukie residents and forced a campaign that recalled the Milwakie mayor and city council in December 1997. In August 1998, Tri-Met placed another ballot measure to reaffirm voter support for the originally-approved $475-million funds. The measure failed by 52 percent in November 1998, effectively canceling plans to build the proposed line.
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In 1997, Bechtel submitted an unsolicited proposal to design and build the planned extension to Portland International Airport in exchange for development rights to the Portland International Center—later renamed Cascade Station. A public–private partnership was negotiated and the Airport MAX project began construction in 1999. With no federal assistance requested and public right-of-way already secured, the 5.5-mile (8.9 km) extension opened for Red Line service in September 2001. In 2003, the Red Line was extended to Beaverton Transit Center amid strong ridership in the westside corridor. In 1999, North Portland residents expressed their desire for what remained of the South–North plan, prompting officials to move forward with the Interstate MAX project that broke ground in 2000 and completed in May 2004; it was designated the Yellow Line and initially ran from Expo Center in North Portland to 11th Avenue in downtown Portland, following the Blue and Red line downtown alignment starting from the east end of the Steel Bridge.
In 2001, Metro conducted two studies that revisited light rail in Clackamas County: one from Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center via Interstate 205, and the other from downtown Portland to Milwaukie via the Hawthorne Bridge. Both proposals were approved in 2003. The I-205/Portland Mall light rail project began in January 2007 with the reconstruction of the Portland Transit Mall.
The MAX system consists of five lines, each designated by a color. The use of colors to distinguish the separately-operated routes was first adopted in 2000 and brought into use in 2001. All five lines traverse downtown Portland; the Blue and Red lines from west to east via Southwest Yamhill and Southwest Morrison streets and the Green, Orange, and Yellow lines from north to south via the Portland Transit Mall on Southwest 5th and Southwest 6th avenues. All lines except the Orange Line cross the Steel Bridge and pass through the Rose Quarter, although conversely, the Orange Line is the only MAX service that travels across Tilikum Crossing. Moreover, the Green Line is the only line that shares parts of its route with all of the other lines.
|Blue Line||September 5, 1986||1998||51||Hatfield Government Center
|Green Line||September 12, 2009||—||30||PSU South
|Clackamas Town Center TC|
|Orange Line||September 12, 2015||—||17||Union Station
|Southeast Park Avenue|
|Red Line||September 10, 2001||2003||29||Beaverton TC
|Portland International Airport|
|Yellow Line||May 1, 2004||2009||17||Expo Center
The MAX rail network is 60.2 miles (96.9 km) long. It was built in a series of six separate projects, and each line runs over one or more of the previously opened segments. The Yellow Line, which opened in 2004 following the completion of the Interstate MAX project, originally followed the same route into downtown Portland as the Red and Blue lines along First Avenue, Morrison Street, and Yamhill Street; it was shifted to a new alignment along the Portland Transit Mall in 2009, introducing light rail service to the corridor.
|Eastside (Banfield)||September 5, 1986||Blue, Green, Red||
|15.3||24.6||March 1982–September 1986||$214 million|
|Westside||September 12, 1998||Blue, Red||
||20||18.0||29.0||July 1993–September 1998||$963 million|
|Airport||September 10, 2001||Red||
||4||5.5||8.9||May 1999–September 2001||$125 million|
|Interstate||May 1, 2004||Yellow||10||5.8||9.3||November 2000–May 2004||$350 million|
|Portland Transit Mall||August 30, 2009||Green, Orange, Yellow||
||14 (7 per direction)||1.8||2.9||February 2007–September 2009||$575.7 million|
|I-205||September 12, 2009||Green||
|Portland–Milwaukie||September 12, 2015||Orange||
||10||7.3||11.7||June 2011–September 2015||$1.49 billion|
97 stations are served by the MAX. Of these, 51 stations are served by the Blue Line, 29 by the Red Line, 28 by the Green Line, 17 by the Orange Line, and 17 by the Yellow Line. Moreover, 32 stations are served by two lines and eight stations are served by three lines. Eleven stations operate as transit centers, providing connections to local and regional bus services. Additionally, WES Commuter Rail connects to Beaverton Transit Center as its northern terminus. Riders may connect to Amtrak at Union Station via Union Station/Northwest 6th & Hoyt Street and Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan Street and to the Portland Streetcar at points in downtown Portland and the Central Eastside where lines intersect. The system's central stations, where all trains connect, encompass Pioneer Courthouse and Pioneer Courthouse Square; these are Pioneer Courthouse/Southwest 6th and Pioneer Place/Southwest 5th served by the Green, Orange, and Yellow lines and Pioneer Square South and Pioneer Square North served by the Blue and Red lines, respectively.
A majority of MAX stations are at-grade. Exceptions include Washington Park, the system's only underground station as well as North America's deepest transit station at 260 feet (79.2 m) below the ground, Sunset Transit Center, SE Bybee Boulevard, and several stations along the I-205 and Banfield freeways. Platforms are about 200 feet (61 m) long.
TriMet commissioned Zimmer Gunsul Frasca to design the system's 27 original stations, which earned the firm a Progressive Architecture Award in 1984. MAX stations vary in size, but are generally simple and austere. As is typical of light rail systems, there are no faregates or specially segregated areas. Stations outside of downtown have platforms and entrance halls, while most stations in downtown are little more than streetcar-style stops. Official concessionaires sometimes open coffee shops at stations.
Accessibility and safetyEdit
Stations on the original MAX line were built with wayside lifts to accommodate riders with disabilities on the high-floor, first generation vehicles. The lifts were installed on each station platform, rather than on the trains, to prevent malfunctions from potentially delaying services. Increased use of the lifts ultimately became the cause of delays. Additionally, many users felt stigmatized by the lifts' "box" design and time-consuming operation. Following the passing into law of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990, TriMet began considering changes to enhance accessibility with the submission of a paratransit plan to the FTA in January 1992. Before the commencement of the Westside MAX project, the MAX became the first light rail system in North America to obtain low-floor vehicles after a TriMet study of European systems. The first low-floor cars, which were designed by Siemens, entered service in August 1997.
In 2011, TriMet began upgrading sections of the Blue Line to improve pedestrian safety and compliance with updated ADA standards. In 2013, pipe barriers were installed at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center platform crossings to force pedestrians to slow down and face oncoming trains before crossing the tracks. In 2014, TriMet realigned sidewalks and crosswalks at four at-grade crossings in Gresham. Other improvements made throughout the line include pedestrian warning signal installations and tactile paving upgrades.
Red Line Extension to Washington County Fair Complex (Beaverton TC – Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport):
- Projected opening: 2021
- Route: From the Red Line terminus at Beaverton Transit Center to the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro via existing Blue Line track serving 10 existing stations. On the east side, TriMet would reconfigure the Red Line approach and add a second platform to Gateway Transit Center Station.
Downtown Portland – Tualatin (Lincoln Street/SW 3rd – Bridgeport Village):
- Projected opening: 2027
- Route: From PSU to Tualatin via Tigard along dedicated lanes on Barbur Boulevard. In May 2016, light rail was chosen as the mode over bus rapid transit, with the project expected to cost $2.5 billion. Proposals to serve Marquam Hill/OHSU, Hillsdale, and PCC Sylvania with tunnels were dropped from the plan because they would be costly, have severe construction impacts, and attract few new transit riders. Connecting OHSU to a surface transit line though elevators or escalators is being studied. As of June 2018[update], the Southwest Corridor project is expected to cost $2.64 to $2.86 billion to construct.
Yellow Line Extension to Vancouver, WA (Expo Center – Marshall Center/Clark College):
- Former projected opening: 2019; length: 2.9 miles (4.7 km); stations: 5
- Route: From Expo Center to Clark College in Vancouver. This Yellow Line extension would have served Hayden Island and Vancouver, and initial planning for it took place in conjunction with the Columbia River Crossing project. Tracks in Vancouver would have been laid out as a northbound and southbound couplet on Broadway and Washington, respectively. This couplet would have merged onto 17th before terminating at Clark College. In February 2010, it was projected that construction could begin in 2014 for the Washington segment, 2015 for the Oregon segment. In March 2014, the extension was canceled along with the Columbia River Crossing after the State of Washington pulled out of the project and the Oregon Legislature voted against the state continuing to fund it solely.
The Yellow line MAX extension into Vancouver remains part of Metro's 2040 Plan. Per their 2018 RTP (ID-10902),  it shows $4.1 Billion for the entire project. There is $850 million for mass transit, $3.1 billion for a replacement Interstate Bridge, and $80 million for a second bridge, connecting Hayden Island to north Portland's Expo Center. The SW WA Regional Transportation Council (RTC) has a Yellow line extension into Vancouver in their 2035 plan.
TriMet has indicated that additional extensions have been studied or discussed with Metro and cities in the region. These proposed extensions include the following, with light rail being considered along with other alternatives:
In parts of the MAX system, particularly in central Portland and Hillsboro, MAX trains run on surface streets. Except on the Portland Transit Mall, trains run in reserved lanes closed to other motorized vehicles. On the Transit Mall, trains operate on the same lanes as TriMet buses (although MAX trains have traffic priority). Elsewhere, MAX runs within its own exclusive right-of-way, in street medians, alongside freeways, and on former freight railroad lines.
Where the tracks run in a street median, such as the majority of the Yellow Line and the section of the Blue Line along Burnside Street between Gateway Transit Center and Ruby Junction, intersections are generally controlled by traffic signals which give trains preemption. Where the tracks occupy a completely separate right-of-way, the tracks are protected by automated grade crossing gates. A three-mile (4.8 km) section consists of two tunnels below Washington Park. While this section has only one station, it is 260 feet (79 m) below ground level, making it the deepest transit station in North America and one of the deepest in the world.
Because of Portland's relatively small 200-foot (61 m) downtown blocks, trains operate with only one or two cars (technically, the single-car "trains" are in fact not trains). The MAX cars are about 90 feet (27.4 m) long, so a stopped train consisting of more than two cars would block intersections. All service is typically operated with two-car trains, except for certain trips during late-night hours. During the first few years of Red Line and Yellow Line service, those lines normally used single cars on a portion of their service, but as ridership has grown and additional light rail cars have been acquired, those lines now normally use all two-car trains. The 2009-introduced MAX Mall Shuttle, which provided supplementary service along the Portland Transit Mall on weekday afternoons only, normally always used a single car; it was discontinued in June 2011.
The trains operate on direct current and utilize two voltages, 750 V DC nominal on sections west of NE 9th Avenue & Holladay Street and 825V DC nominal on the remainder. The two systems are electrically isolated.
Trains run every 15 minutes from early in the morning until late at night, even on weekends. The Blue Line runs every 10 minutes during rush hour. Headways between trains are shorter in the central section of the system, where lines overlap. Actual schedules vary by location and time of day. At many stations, a live readerboard shows the destination and time-to-arrival of the next several trains, using data gathered by a vehicle tracking system.
Arrival information screens are in place at all stations on the Green Line and Transit Mall, with reader boards on the Yellow Line and some Red Line stations. These show arrival countdowns for trains and information about any service disruptions. After a $180,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration, TriMet began adding digital displays to Blue and Red Line stations in 2013, initially on the west side, and then on the east side. All MAX stations are expected to be fitted with screens by 2016.
TriMet operates five models of light rail vehicles, of which two were successive upgrades of the same model. They are designated by the agency as Type 1 through Type 5 and total 145 cars. The models vary in length, from 89 feet (27.1 m) to 95 feet (29.0 m), though all of them are used interchangeably by every line on the network. The first type, Type 1, total 26 vehicles and were manufactured by a joint venture between La Brugeoise et Nivelles and Bombardier beginning in 1983 for the Banfield light rail project. Similar in design to Bombardier vehicles used in Brussels and Rio de Janeiro, the first of the high-floor vehicles arrived in Portland in 1984. Wayside lifts were installed on stations of the original MAX line in order to accommodate riders using mobility devices.
With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Tri-Met officials conducted an accessibility study in 1992 and determined that low-floor cars were the most cost-effective way to provide universal access to the system. Amid preparations for the Westside MAX project, the MAX became the first light rail system in North America to acquire low-floor train sets following the procurement of 35 model SD660 cars, dubbed Type 2, from Siemens in 1993. The Type 2 trains, equipped with built-in wheelchair ramps, entered service during the partial opening of the Westside MAX in 1997. In 1999, Tri-Met ordered 17 additional Type 2 cars for the Airport MAX project. The system's 27 Type 3 vehicles, which were ordered as part of the Interstate MAX project and first brought into use in 2003, are the same model as the Type 2 vehicles, with the primary differences being various technical upgrades and a new paint scheme.
Twenty-two Siemens S70 low-floor cars, designated Type 4, were purchased in conjunction with the I-205 MAX and Portland Transit Mall projects and were first used in 2009. They feature a more streamlined design, have more seating, and are lighter in weight and therefore more energy-efficient. The Type 4 cars were also the first to use LED-type destination signs. The second series of Siemens S70 cars, TriMet's Type 5 vehicles, were procured for the Portland–Milwaukie light rail project. TriMet placed the order for the Type 5 cars with Siemens in 2012 and delivery commenced in 2014. These vehicles include some improvements over the Type 4 cars, including a less-cramped interior seating layout, and improvements to the air-conditioning system and wheelchair ramps.
The majority of MAX service is provided by two-car consists. Type 2 and 3 vehicles are capable of running singularly, or coupled to another Type 1, 2, or 3 vehicle. Trainsets composed of one low-floor and one high-floor car allowed the removal of wayside lifts from Eastside MAX stations. Type 4 and 5 trains can only be coupled with one another.
As is standard practice on North American light rail systems, MAX uses a proof-of-payment fare collection system, and MAX stations do not have ticket barriers. Ticket vending machines at stations accept cash (at least one machine at each station) as well as credit and debit cards, but non-cash payment methods not involving use of a ticket vending machine are also offered. On all of its services, including MAX, TriMet employs an automated fare collection system through a stored-value, contactless smart card called Hop Fastpass. A physical Hop card can be purchased from retail stores. A virtual card is available to Android users. Alternatively, chip-embedded, single-use tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines located at station platforms. Smartphones with a debit or credit card loaded into Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or Apple Pay can be used as well. Portland Streetcar ticket vending machines also issue 2½-hour tickets and 1-day passes that are valid on MAX.
Prior to each boarding, riders must tap their fare medium to a card reader found at every station. Fares are flat rate and are capped based on usage. Riders may transfer to other TriMet services, C-Tran, and the Portland Streetcar using Hop Fastpass.
|Rider||2½-hour ticket||Day Pass||Month Pass|
|Youth, Honored Citizen||$1.25||$2.50||$28|
Portland Vintage TrolleyEdit
In addition to regular MAX service, the Portland Vintage Trolley operated on the MAX system from 1991 until 2014, on most weekends, serving the same stops. This service, which operated for the last time in July 2014, used 1991-built replicas of 1904 Portland streetcars. Until 2009, the Vintage Trolley service followed a section of the original MAX line, between the Galleria/Library stations and Lloyd Center, but in September 2009 the service moved to the newly opened MAX alignment along the transit mall, running from Union Station to Portland State University, and remained on that route in subsequent seasons. In 2011, the service was reduced to only seven or eight Sundays per year, and in July 2014 it was discontinued entirely, with the sale of the two remaining faux-vintage cars to a group planning a streetcar line in St. Louis.
From the MAX system's opening until 2012, riding was free in Fareless Square (known as the Free Rail Zone from 2010 to 2012), which included all of downtown and, starting in 2001, part of the Lloyd District. The 37-year-old fare-free zone was discontinued on September 1, 2012, as part of systemwide cost-cutting measures. As part of the same budget cuts, TriMet discontinued its zonal fares, moving to a flat fare system. Zones had been in place since 1986, with higher fares for longer rides, and three fare zones (five until 1988).
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