Generating Some MAX Savings

During our discussion with TriMet GM Neil McFarlane, posted last week, one of the ideas discussed was whether operational savings could be generated by closing some MAX stops. We were challenged to generate some ideas here.

So here it goes. What MAX stops would you close in the interests of improving travel time and reducing operating costs? Please discuss what constituencies would be impacted and what the service alternatives to meet their needs are.

57 responses to “Generating Some MAX Savings”

  1. Downtown:

    3rd and the Yamhill District
    Most of this traffic can be absorbed at Pioneer Place or Oak

    Old Town/Chinatown. redirect to Skidmore.

    Maaaaybe Galleria, though its nearby connections to Streetcar make it attractive to keep.

    Kings Hill/SW Salmon. Traffic can easily be split between Jeld Wen and Goose Hollow.

    East Side
    Convention Center. It’s so close to Rose Quarter it doesn’t really need to be there.

    I can’t speak to eastside elminations further east than this. I’ve ridden the segment many many times but not enough to judge if any can be eliminated. Also it seems that the best eliminations would be closer to the central city where they affect more trains.

  2. The only problem with downtown stop elimination is that I doubt it would significantly improve travel times; MAX trains are still constrained by the speed of downtown lights and other traffic. The only way to speed up MAX traffic through downtown would be to grade separate through traffic, most likely in a tunnel, leaving the current MAX tracks to expanded streetcar service.

    One idea that might improve speed without drastically curtailing access would be rush hour-only stops. I’m sure there are a few stations that aren’t used much beyond normal commuting hours.

  3. From a purely spatial point of view I agree about Convention Center. But practically I don’t know how you get conventioneers down to Rose Quarter. You have no site lines from any of the building doors. You’d need an extremely good wayfinding system.

  4. Let’s assume that Jarrett Walker is correct in saying that people will walk 400m (0.25 mi/1,300 ft) for transit. Rail service may create a draw for people to walk further, but the reality in Portland is that it may be higher or lower in downtown Portland with regards to MAX because of the unique purpose it serves in relation to the environment it was built in (for example, it’s not underground like other rail systems in a downtown core). I think 400m is very generous for light rail station spacing, and clearly TriMet agrees – the North/South alignment on 5th and 6th avenues stops approximately every four blocks/300m. If people will walk this distance on the green and yellow lines, they will certainly walk the same distance on the red and blue lines. I don’t hate rail, the MAX, or TriMet. I’ve just wasted countless hours on MAX stopping every-other block in downtown Portland.

    Currently, the rear of a westbound MAX car stopped at Pioneer Square is about 90m away from the front of a car stopped at Mall/SW 5th Ave (about a 1 minute walk). On the other hand, a northbound MAX car at Pioneer Square is about 300m from the one at 6th and Pine. I have a hard time believing there is any justification for such close stations, especially when it isn’t even the norm in downtown anymore. Some local retailers may enjoy these close station stops sometimes, but there are huge cost savings for stop consolidation including the time saved in minutes for all the daily commuters on all MAX trains during all hours of the week, labor costs for additional trains due to slow speeds, wear-and-tear on equipment, station maintenance, etc.

    I don’t mind the close proximity of Civic Drive to Gresham City Hall. It is near the end of the Blue Line. When MAX was built, downtown was also on the end of the very same line. Today, our system runs in four directions from downtown, not just one, and desperately needs to be updated. Cross-town trips on MAX are especially impractical. Driving from Hollywood TC to Sunset TC takes 18 minutes; the train takes 44 minutes (41%). Driving from Lloyd Center to Goose Hollow/SW Jefferson takes 9 minutes; on MAX it takes 36 (25%). Public transportation is, of course, going to be slower… but the same trip, walking from Lloyd Center to MLK Blvd (over 4 blocks) and catching bus #6 takes only 22 minutes to reach Goose Hollow! You can save 14 minutes by walking further and taking what isn’t called “rapid transit.” “Dramatic increases” in MAX speed aren’t needed… but it should be made more efficient.

    At the top of the list, of course, is Kings Hill/SW Salmon station. This station is almost painful to stop at whenever I ride MAX. TriMet has begun closing this during sporting events at JELD-WEN Field, but it should be closed forever.

    Consolidate Mall/SW 5th and Pioneer Square North. Consolidate Mall/SW 4th and Pioneer Square South. If Pioneer Place is very upset with this, TriMet could just eliminate both Pioneer Square stations as an alternative. Of course, that’d make Yamhill District and SW 3rd redundant and begging for elimination. If Yamhill and SW 3rd aren’t eliminated, there isn’t much reason for Oak/SW 1st. I really don’t care what stations get eliminated; I think TriMet should pick low hanging fruit to create efficiency.

    Old Town/Chinatown could easily be rolled in with Skidmore Fountain, or make Skidmore Fountain a market-hours-only stop.

    On the east side, rolling Convention Center in to Rose Quarter creates a nice station. NE 7th Avenue has low ridership outside of rush hour, so TriMet could get creative and make this a rush hour only station. There is even less around NE 7th station on a Sunday night than there is on the long stop-less stretch between JELD-WEN and Galleria. Again, which stations get closed isn’t as important to me as stations getting closed in general.

    However, I really don’t understand why it takes 1-2 million dollars to close a station, does anyone have any expertise on this that could do some kind of cost breakdown?

    Finally, I’d really like to thank Neil McFarlane for inviting Portland Transport input on this, and I hope it is taken seriously. This is the first time I’ve ever heard TriMet acknowledge that this is even something to talk about.

    All numbers and times were measured using Google Transit/Maps.

  5. Keep the Galleria stop. Target opening later this year will increase traffic there and you’ll have people carrying bags of purchases. Eliminate one of the other Pioneer Square stops for sure.

    How expensive is it to move a stop? If you closed 2 of the other 3 stops downtown, how hard would it be to more the 4th one to a more central location?

  6. John,

    Yes, the trains are constrained to the downtown signal sequence, but the existing sequence does not allow enough time for a full stop. Every time a train stops downtown, it misses at least one full signal cycle. I have experienced a train missing multiple signal cycles on several occasions. I would guess that a stop closure downtown would save 1-2 minutes.

  7. With the public market hopefully coming to the Morrison Bridgehead, ideally I would like to see Oak, 3rd Ave, Yamhill, and both Mall stations all closed, and a new station built under the ramps to the Morrison bridge. Until then, I would still close the 3rd Ave and Yamhill stations, and temporarily close both Pioneer Square stations. Obviously, this will not happen.

    Also close Old Town/Chinatown and Kings Hill on the west side, and Convention Center and 7th Ave on the east side.

    As far as I’m concerned, this doesn’t significantly affect any constituencies at all. It only increases walking distances by a few blocks at most, and downtown is eminently walkable.

  8. The blue and red stops on the mall are very important – particularly at night when buses get farther and farther apart. Connections can be too tight for TriMet’s trip planner even though riders regularly make them. This is one place we can’t make them worse.

  9. John Russell is correct. The only way to significantly increase light rail speed through downtown is to grade separate it. The current stop spacing is satisfactory for a local streetcar circulator, which in fact, is what MAX functions as is in the central city. MAX’s downtown operation makes it suck as a regional rapid transit system.

    Someday public officials will have to bite the bullet and start planning for a subway from Lloyd Center to Goose Hollow.

    I suspect it would cost about the same as the Milwaukie LRT but would stimulate exponential ridership growth on the Blue, Red and Green Lines. (Yes, the Green Line should be added to east-west service and the Mall should be converted to streetcars).

    A subway would have to be deep to go under the Big Pipe but it would only have to have three stations. One at the Lloyd District, One at the Rose Quarter, a major transfer point, and one at Pioneer Square.

  10. I agree that there should be stops eliminated in downtown from the Red/Blue lines. I have literally gotten off the Westbound Max at 5th, walked up to catch a Northbound bus (17) on 6th, saw it drive by, and continued walking and got back on the same Max train at Pioneer square… the stop spacing is way too close at that point. Compare that to the Yellow/Green lines, which south of Burnside are at least 5 blocks apart.

    The Mall and Pioneer square stops should be consolidated to be between 5th and 6th, making it serve the mall better (creating a situation where riders would not have to even cross a street to transfer from N/S to E/W max and vice versa). Unfortunately, I don’t think this will happen, as I feel like the MAX stopping at Pioneer Square is an institution (growing up as a suburban kid, when I thought of Pioneer square, I thought of MAX, and when I thought of MAX, I thought of Pioneer Square), and so in that case, the mall stops should be just removed. The mall stops are not actually any closer to the mall than the Pioneer Square stops.

    I think it’s good to have a stop close to the bridge, and so I’d keep the Old Town stop, and I think the suggestion above to make Skidmore a market-hours only stop (maybe just a weekend only stop)is reasonable. The elimination of the Kings Hill stop is a no brainer.

    In any case, the red and blue lines have too many stops through downtown on the west side, and eliminating some of these would save at least a couple minutes each, which would be a significant savings.

  11. One at the Lloyd District, One at the Rose Quarter, a major transfer point, and one at Pioneer Square.

    What about one at Union Station (which would also serve the Pearl)?

  12. Jason, deep underground stations are very expensive. The 18 daily arrivals and departures at Union Station probably cannot justify the cost, especially when Union Station can be accessed from the Rose Quarter or Pioneer Square LRT Stations via streetcar.

    In the future, when Cascades service is greatly improved and commuter service is added, a new train station will be needed on the East Side.

  13. Jim,

    Why would a subway station need to go beneath the Big Pipe? The Big Pipe is very deep (~150′ if I recall).

    Seems like a shallower line would be vastly preferable. Perhaps with a tunnel resting on the bottom of the Willamette, instead of beneath it?

  14. Seems like a shallower line would be vastly preferable. Perhaps with a tunnel resting on the bottom of the Willamette, instead of beneath it?

    That might be asking for trouble, particularly if some deep-draft boat’s keel comes and severs open the tunnel. (Multi-million-ton boats would have trouble doing just that…)

  15. My guess is that boring deep below the river would be less expensive and environmentally damaging than laying tubes in dredged ditched, anchored down and then connected at each end to mined or cut and cover tunnels.

  16. I think we are asking the wrong question, stop closure is too permanent and political. TriMet should conduct a feasibility study to implement skip-stop service. This would save MUCH more time along the route than a few station consolidations, operating more like the “subway options mentioned, but MUCH cheaper. This would require improved access to real-time stop arrivals so travelers can plan their trips (i.e. when train A vs. train B arrives). May not be able to skip downtown or highly tourist locations but definitely all the suburban stops which is where time savings could be large due to higher speeds.

    The Kings Hill/Salmon stop is a good candidate for closure and doesn’t appear to have the same political ties, 158th has limited boardings but a major transit connection.

    Look forward to others thoughts/reactions. Glad to hear TriMet open to our ideas…

  17. but practically I don’t know how you get conventioneers down to Rose Quarter. You have no site lines from any of the building doors. You’d need an extremely good wayfinding system.

    So put in a good wayfinding system. Extend the sheltered walkway at NE 1st and Holladay another fifty feet or so. Add lots of signs inside the building directing people to MAX through the northwest entrance, and add MAX directional signs under the walkway. It really isn’t that hard to find.

    My station closures: move 7th Avenue across the street to better space out the stations and connect to the Streetcar.

    Close Convention Center.

    Consolidate Old Town/Chinatown and Skidmore Fountain with a new station between Couch and Davis.

    Keep Old Town.

    Close 3rd Avenue/Yamhill and 4th/5th Avenue stations. Create a new station between 3rd and 4th.

    Move the Library Galleria stations across the street for better Streetcar connections.

    Close Kings Hill. That one’s really a no-brainer.

    That eliminates four stops between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow and moves three more for better spacing. Very few people suffer any adverse transit effects: at worst, they need to walk an extra block to catch MAX.

    This trims maybe four to five minutes from travel time, depending on the timing of traffic signals. Does four to five minutes from each Red and Blue line trip have any significant impact on operating expenses?

  18. Just as a follow up, TriMet is really focused on cutting costs, but they should look at the other side of the equation which is increasing demand & incoming revenue, which directly ties to enhanced travel time to be competitive with the auto.

    As gas prices go up, potential to capture choice riders with RAPID transit, whether more commuter bus service or faster max service should be a consideration.

  19. As already mentioned, skip-stop service would be a good way to start this process, especially during rush hour. A few well-timed limited-stop trains through downtown could make a cross-town commute a bit more palatable. I presume that signal timing/priority would make or break it, though; if the train is stopped at a light, it might as well be stopped at a station.

    In Boston a few years back, they closed some street-level T stops on the (Green) B Line train which were at least as close together as some of the downtown MAX stops. Aside from a bit of initial grumbling from those closest to those stops, overall the change was welcomed. (They could still stand to remove a few more. The B Line was/is notoriously slow.)

  20. One way to implement skip-stop service would be for a few stops to be Red only stops, and a few others to be Blue only stops. That’s easy to explain to riders–if you want the other color, walk a short distance to the stop over there.

    (Obviously, this discussion focuses on the Red/Blue multiplex downtown).

    If someone thought closing the Merlo stop was a good idea, it would be easy enough to route the 67 over to the Beaverton Creek or 170th/Elmonica stops. Pretty much everything reachable on foot from Merlo is easily reached from these other two stops–though it would be nice to improve the pedestrian environment–there is a trail through the Tualatin Hills nature park, but given that it’s shrouded in trees it might be viewed as unsafe.

  21. I remember when everyone was freaking out about buses and trains sharing the Mall. Of course, it all happens at 12 mph, so the sky has not fallen.
    I wonder what would happen if signals downtown here set at 15 mph instead of 12 mph, that is a 25% increase for MAX trains right there. Would we see more peds getting hit, bus/train mishaps? I never thought I would suggest such a thing, but my feeling when I ride MAX on the Mall or the CrossMall is that they could go a bit faster and have more signal preemption at no risk to drivers, bikers or peds.
    re Kings Hill Station…I was NWDA Trans. Chair when it was added; don’t under estimate the power of the MAC…its their station.
    Last, I wonder what % of riders go all the way thru downtown? For folks getting from the westside MAX to the 85 at RQTC, that slog thru downtown is a deal killer. But Jim is right between Lloyd and Goose Hollow MAX is essentially a streetcar, which has its charms, but is slow.

  22. My votes would be to close Convention, Pioneer Place, Galleria, and King’s Hill. People at the convention center should be to walk the very short distance to Rose Quarter. Pioneer Square is in the center of everything downtown and is also a very short walk to Pioneer place, the new target, and the streetcar. King’s Hill is pointless.

    The subway idea would have been great if it had been planned that way originally, but now it would be a huge project for not much payoff. And this idea of it only having one downtown station is crazy! Imagine if Seattle’s subway had only one station instead of four–it would be way less useful and would get low ridership even though it would be faster. Metro did a study of this as part of their High Capacity Transit plan and predicted it would not get much ridership.

    I would think better speed gains could come from faster boarding (i.e. stop, open doors, and close doors in a set amount of time rather than just waiting and waiting as everyone takes their sweet time) and from getting better signal timing and signal priority. It feels ridiculous to be on a train waiting for the signal to change–it just shouldn’t happen. Finally, if an engineer can figure out a way for trains to go over the Steel Bridge at a faster speed, TriMet should pay handsomely and get it done. That bridge should be an opportunity for MAX to speed across, and instead it moves at a crawl. Maybe that would help the capacity issues on the bridge as well.

  23. Well, TriMet says they’re focused on safety, so IMHO this means closing Skidmore Fountain outside of the days/times Saturday Market is operating.

    TriMet is really focused on cutting costs, but they should look at the other side of the equation which is increasing demand & incoming revenue…

    Is there any way that TriMet can charge a license fee to petition gathers? Seriously, real people with real places to go ride public transportation to receive a service, being annoyed constantly by people gathering signatures on transit vehicles, transit centers, bus stops, etc., diminishes the quality of the service they’re receiving. Additionally, petition gathers aren’t riding to receive public transportation service.

    (This post composed/posted while riding a 60′ bus with free wifi.)

  24. I often bike from NE to goose hollow to avoid the slow service downtown, I wonder if service was faster if perhaps folks wouldn’t bring bikes on the MAX as often. It seems like there is a critical mass of bikes during rush hour which is only becoming more of a problem as time goes on with no solution in sight other than switching to driving

  25. Part of the reason the City is pursuing bike share is to get some of the bikes off of the Max. Why bring your bike downtown if there are plenty for rent, cheaply?

    Changing the light timing from 12mph to 15mph would have an adverse effect on cyclists, especially out of shape ones riding heavy, slow bike share bikes.

  26. I don’t think anyone has mentioned this, but one way to deal with the low demand locations is to have an on demand request to board or deboard the train. It is tricky, but perhaps the readerboards on the platforms plus the announcement on the trains could be used at those locations to assist. The train drivers could use their judgement too in case riders are obviously at the station. That would be very inexpensive and still flexible. Kings Hill will be much quieter when school is out, for example. While I would like to close the Convention Center stop, that is a crazy intersection between there and the Rose Quarter.


  27. It’s interesting to look at some of the economics of station closing. According to Neil McFarlane in our recent interview, it costs $1.5-$2M to decommission a station–removing platform equipment, changing the signaling and control systems, and so forth. It may be possible to take a station out of service without doing the hard work of decommissioning, but trains would still be required to slow down when passing through, so the time/cost savings would be less.

    The station dwell time for a typical light-rail stop is 20-30 seconds, depending on things like traffic volume, use of ramps, adjacent signal timings, etc. In addition, a station requires that the train slow down and then accelerate back up to speed. Some of these factors apply to different areas (time lost due to deceleration/acceleration is greater in high-speed ABS territory; signal timing losses are greater downtown).

    Just for argument’s sake, we’ll assume that closing a station shaves a minute off the total (one-way) trip time. The cost per hour to operate MAX is about $188. There are about 100 Blue Line trains per weekday, fewer on weekends; we’ll say about 600 Blue Line trains per week. Given that trains make round trips, closing and decommissioning one station would thus save about 1,200 minutes of train time per week. That’s 20 hours, or $3760 per week, or nearly $200k per year.

    TriMet could also exchange the 20 hours/per week on MAX for about 40 hours/week of bus service.

    In practice, if one station was closed on the Blue Line, TriMet could maintain current headways (or very close to them) but eliminate one train per day. (Not quite, but that’s how cost savings would be realized in practice).

    In reality, cost savings would be probably less due to scheduling quirks of various sorts. Additional savings would be available if the station(s) closed also served Red or Green line trains.

    These calculations are all back-of-the-envelope and should be taken with a grain of salt.

  28. So, using your calculations and Neil’s stated costs, what would we have?

    I think you would achieve savings by closing several at once. This would require a one-time change to signaling, maps, schedules, etc. It could even be done during a fall service change, for example. If this is done, I’m sure you could hit the low limit of his estimate. Say we close 4 stations: Goose Hollow, 3rd/Yamhill, Skidmore Fountain, and Convention center. That would be $6 million in up front capital, and $800,000 per year in operating savings. Since operating costs should rise with inflation, we can just do a simple break-even calculation: 7.5 years. After that, it would be permanent savings every year.

  29. I wouldn’t close Goose Hollow, though–first station after the tunnel, and LOTS of busses transfer to MAX there.

    The potential savings might be a bit higher, as noted above, as all four of those stations serve Red trains and Convention Center serves Green trains as well.

    (Or not).

  30. I respectively disagree with a previous post that, having only one downtown subway station is crazy.

    One would assume by the time a subway is in operation, streetcars would be operating on frequent headways and they would connect the station to all of the existing downtown MAX stops.

    A well designed transit system will get you to your destination quickly and efficiently. The single seat ride is a concept born out of an auto culture and does not apply to good transit planning.

  31. re Kings Hill Station… don’t under estimate the power of the MAC…its their station.

    I’m a regular Blue/Red Line rider and, respectfully, based on my observations of the number of people boarding/deboarding, it doesn’t seem like much of anyone’s station. It appears to be used by a few Lincoln HS students, but that’s about it.

    If MAX stops are on the chopping block, Kings Hill and Yamhill District should be among the first on the list (I vote for keeping Galleria since it serves the library and the future Target). That said, given the expense of eliminating stations as outlined above, skip-stop service might be the more economical way to go while still reaping the benefits of increased efficiency. Also, the station infrastructure will still be available if the surface tracks were to convert to streetcar if MAX were ever to tunnel under downtown. Speaking of which…

    The only way to significantly increase light rail speed through downtown is to grade separate it. The current stop spacing is satisfactory for a local streetcar circulator, which in fact, is what MAX functions as is in the central city. MAX’s downtown operation makes it suck as a regional rapid transit system.

    Someday public officials will have to bite the bullet and start planning for a subway from Lloyd Center to Goose Hollow.

    I suspect it would cost about the same as the Milwaukie LRT but would stimulate exponential ridership growth on the Blue, Red and Green Lines. (Yes, the Green Line should be added to east-west service and the Mall should be converted to streetcars).

    Agree that if MAX were to be a truly rapid regional system, a subway (I realize our region’s susceptibility to earthquakes is a major concern) through its most notorious choke point might be the best long-term solution for, among other things, serving crosstown riders. And by “crosstown” I mean not only east-west, but also north-south with MLR and also potentially Barbur LRT on the horizon; therefore if feasible all MAX lines should ultimately be grade-separated through downtown.

    Underground stations might include:
    * One stop serving Convention Center and Rose Quarter
    * One stop serving Old Town and Union Station
    * Area roughly around Burnside/Oak
    * Pioneer Square
    * PSU

    If I’m ever ambitious enough I’ll sit down with a paint program and devise a rough diagram.

  32. Another thing to consider:

    Many folks found Portland Transport because of this issue. If we do motivate TriMet to solve the extra stations downtown issue, will our readership signficantly decrease or will it be harder to get new commenters? This is an easy way to motivate folks to join the conversation

  33. Speaking for myself, maximizing the number of page views is not the raison d’etre of the site. The display ads on the side help pay the bills, for hosting services and for development of transit appliances, but I’m not the least bit concerned that successful activism might make Portland Transport obsolete in the future. :)

  34. I guess to that point, perhaps successful activism will encourage more to get involved in the discussion

  35. This discussion has been very interesting. I just confirms my view that the whole MAX is a very flawed system that should have never been built in the first place, due to Portland’s relatively low density.

  36. @Nick- Isn’t it systems like this that encourage density? I have a hard time believing that the MAX Blue Line is a failure given the ridership numbers. Just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that its a failure.

  37. Nick could not be more wrong. He is the only person I ever heard long for the old 5 bus on Interstate where ridership has tripled on MAX.
    Compare Portland transit ridership to that of any comparably sized city in the USA, and the numbers just do not lie. Consider that one E/W MAX line with two branches and 1/2 of a N/S line carries over a third of all daily riders in the system. Build out the system and that will rise to over half at lower cost for a better ride. Density follows high capacity transit, just as sprawl follows freeways. It just takes time.

  38. Threads like this tend to remind me that people will sometimes suggest closing every stop possible, as long as they don’t use it, mind you, to speed up THEIR commute.

    That must be it. Why else would people possibly suggest closing Galleria/Library station? There’s already a 7 block gap between it and JELD-WEN and you just want to make that distance longer? Plus there are transfers to and from streetcar on 10th/11th. If anything it should be moved one block west to make transfers more straighforward (centering the MAX platforms between the two streetcar tracks).

    Ideally, this would happen further east as well, consolidating Pioneer Square and Pioneer Place stations to the block between 5th and 6th to allow better transfers to the Transit Mall. But this won’t happen likely because of the courthouse on that very block (the sidewalks wouldn’t be wide enough to add platforms there).

    Other suggestions:
    -Kings Hill closed

    -Skidmore Fountain weekend-only (good idea whoever suggested this)
    -Convention Center closed
    -NE 7th moved one block west

  39. Subways are off the table for the purpose of this inquiry. TriMet is looking for feedback on improving what is there, not tearing it out and building something else. I could get into some huge and interesting arguments about the merits of such things, but, that’s not what they’re asking for feedback on.

    Also, if I read this right, adding new platforms is also off the table. This is a cost saving/austerity measure, so we’re looking at savings via closure.

    Goose Hollow, JeldWen, and Galleria have to stay really. Each serves and important function, and Reza is right, the distance between JeldWen (can I just call it Civic Stadium again?) and Galleria is already massive.

    King’s Hill is almost universally agreed to go. Whoever said earlier it was “painful” to stop there is so right, especially given you can actually *see* the next stop from on board.

    Something has to serve downtown proper and connect with the green and yellow lines. If any set must be closed, Pioneer Place should go, as Pioneer Square is recognizably the center of town to those who are lost. Wayfinding is much easier to say “go to the big open plaza” than to say “go to that square building with the roundy glass thing at the corner next to the old courthouse. No, the other side of the courthouse. No, the OTHER other side of the courthouse….”

    Yes, in an ideal world, the Red/Blue platforms would be either side of the courthouse. But again, we’re being asked for cuts, not construction.

    Yamhill/3rd stops will not be missed by most.

    Oak Stop should stay, serving most of old town. It’s kitty-corner to the new market (if it is ever built) which is good enough for that. It’s next to a huge federal office building.

    Skidmore could become a seasonal only stop but that won’t save much time. Then there’s Old Town/Chinatown. Yes, having a stop immediately past the bridge would be good, but Old Town just doesn’t serve as many options. Skidmore can also serve connections to buses on the Burnside, as well as the market, as well as UO and Mercycorps and the growing node there. ODOT people and the Gas Company people can walk the two blocks to there.

    Agree that Convention Center to Rose Garden isn’t obvious now, Chris, but also agree with someone else here that putting in decent wayfinding signage is preferable. I’ve always found that stop horrendously objectionable in the same way as King’s Hill/SW Salmon. Your train’s rear end is barely out of Rose Quarter when the nose is entering Convention Center! So put in good signage and wipe out the station.

    I was reluctant to kill NE 7th because of the many offices around it, but if pressed, closing it in favor of 11th/Lloyd would work.

    Grand total eliminated:
    Kings Hill/SW Salmon
    3rd/Yamhill District pair
    Old Town/Chinatown
    Convention Center
    NE 7th Avenue

    Five stations, about 2.5 minutes, and if Scotty’s math holds up, something like 3-5 blue line trains and an unknown number of red line trains eliminated.

    I was reluctant to recommend westside stations west of Beaverton. There may be options — does anyone use Hawthorne Farm? Do we need so many stations in Hillsboro’s core? But some of the stations are paired with park-and-ride lots that are already very well used, as well as connections to Washington County’s already limited bus service. There *might* be opportunities there, but they aren’t such that I feel confident recommending them.

    Now, a note about skipping stations, limiteds, expresses, and the like. The problem is that MAX is double track (DT) and *not* two-main track (2MT). In short, all trains headed in a given direction are on one shared track with no way to meet or pass each other. As a result the entire system velocity is restricted to the speed of your slowest train and the length of your signal blocks.

    If a local train serving all stops downtown moves west on Morrison, and a limited train is behind it, the limited will be “riding the heels” of the local train, stopping every time it reaches the end of its signal block on the heels of the local.

    At rush hour, it is not uncommon to see a train at every station from Galleria to Yamhill. If half of those are express or limited trains, they will be siting there waiting for the local to load and clear the way.

    To have effective limited service mixed with locals, more capacity is required. You need what in railroad terms are called passing sidings. There are a few instances where such things exist. For example, at JeldWenn, the westbound main has a second track to the south of the station track. Here, a limited or express would have the possibility of passing the local while the local sits at the station.

    There are some possible solutions, BUT, again, we’re being asked to make reductions to infrastructure, so they aren’t germane here. (Anyone who does want to look more into this, check out the Metro RTP and read deep in the downtown alternatives segment.)

  40. On a related note, does anyone know why trains wait so long as stations between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow, on the red-blue alignment and the Mall especially? I’ve often been on trains where the doors are open for needlessly long times, long after everyone has boarded. They will finally close, the light will be green, and the train will sit there for a minute. Why don’t the doors just close and the train take off already? Also, why do the doors often close, then open, close, then open so many times? I have never seen a system with such door trouble as MAX.

  41. Andrew,

    Some stops are time points–if a train arrives early, it will wait to catch up to its schedule.

    Downtown, trains frequently have to wait for traffic signals. Also note that if you are downtown, the green traffic lights (for cars) do not apply to MAX; MAX trains have separate signals. In downtown, and other types of “pre-empt territory”, a horizontal amber bar means stop, a white vertical bar means go.

    Outside of downtown (in what’s called ABS territory); a train may need to wait for the block it wants to enter to come clear; particularly during rush hour when train frequencies are higher.

    (Everything–OK, most everything–that you ever wanted to know about MAX signalling can be found here, including the definitions for “pre-empt” and “ABS”…).

  42. The only westside stations that I would consider axing would be Beaverton Central and Merlo.

    Beaverton Central is extremely close to Beaverton TC. It’s unlikely to be closed, simply because civic leaders in Beaverton desperately want The Round to be more successful. (Also, Beaverton city hall may be moving to The Round instead of its present location on Griffith Park; a development which would give Beaverton Central a bigger constituency). Also, the pedestrian environment in that part of Beaverton leaves much to be desired–even though the two stations are less than 400m apart, walking between the two is a bit inconvenient, both because the need to cross Hall and Watson, and the issue of crossing Beaverton Creek.

    Road might be a better candidate for closure. One bus line serves it (67), but it’s only 600m from Elmonica–with the upcoming truncation of the 67, it would be easy to route it to Elmonica instead (have it turn west on Baseline from 158th, providing more direct service to the apartment complexes thereon). Elmonica would need some restriping of its parking lot to accomodate bus traffic, nothing too hard. (Or else, a bus stop along 170th where it crosses the tracks.) But Elmonica has quite a bit of housing within walking distance, including some medium density housing stock, and lots of future TOD potential should housing starts pick up. Merlo is surrounded by–TriMet’s garage, a sausage factory, a nature park, Beaverton School District headquarters, a Costco, and an electrical substation.

    (Plus, one my selfish desires–a subject of another thread perhaps, is to eventually extend the 67 down 170th to South Beaverton and Washington Square, combining it with the 92.)

  43. “Only three stops”. That’s too few.

    There’s no real reason to undertake the expense of an underground station at Lloyd Center. The train seems to have absolute signal priority crossing 13th westbound from the ROW along I-84 and requests are set up immediately eastbound. So the tunnel portal could be west of 11th; with a reasonable grade, the tunnel would be completely covered by 9th. A station between 6th and MLK would serve both the existing cluster around the 7th Avenue Max, the Convention Center and the streetcar interchange.

    There would still have to be a station at Rose Quarter of course but from there the line should bend northwestward around the Rose Garden, dive down under Interstate and turn west then southwest under the river just south of the second grain terminal. This is right across from the 9th Avenue crossing of the railroad tracks.

    The tunnel would curve south under 9th to a station a block south of Lovejoy to serve the Pearl district and perhaps a redeveloped Post Office grounds. It would diagonal over to under the Park Strip and another station between Couch and Ankeny at Park to serve the south end of the Pearl and the US Bank building.

    From there it would shift over to under Broadway down to Pioneer Square where it would have a fairly deep diagonal station under the square and the building with Saks to Fourth then south to a station around Jefferson for the governmental center.

    It would continue down 4th to under the undeveloped parcel across from the Keller Fountain and then swing under Mill to a station at 8th for PSU and the Southwest redevelopment area. Then on west under Mill I-405 and through the ridge between 26 and Jefferson. The west portal would be just east of the south footings for the Vista Avenue bridge where it could join the existing track just east of the Robertson portal.

    Such a route would require seven stations which is three fewer than the current blue/red main line, but of course speeds would be higher between stations and it would touch every activity center in the CBD.

  44. “Nick could not be more wrong. He is the only person I ever heard long for the old 5 bus on Interstate where ridership has tripled on MAX.”

    >>>> What I actually longed for on Interstate Ave. is a BRT-lite operation that is proposed for Powell, ideally with articulated buses with 3 and 2 seating and signal pre-emption, and local/limited service. Interstate was well situated for something like this – much better than the LRT we now have.

    As for ridership, I have seen a lot of Yellow Line trains with light loads; I don’t trust Trimet’s ridership stats.

  45. Before people commit to taking out the NE7th stop in the Lloyd district, they should know that construction is about to kick off on three *large* mixed use buildings right at that stop, getting rid of the surface parking lots. Warnings have been issued to all the companies in the surrounding buildings about noise and impacts and whatnot…

    I don’t have the details (someone else here probably does) but the word is that one will be over 20 stories (rumors say over 30), and the other two will be in the 10 to 15 story range. They are supposed to have residential, office, and commercial space.

    That will make the NE7th stop a little bit more busy, along with transfers to the new streetcar line there as well.

    Also, the Galleria stop downtown should stay not only because the distance to Civic Stadium (yeah, I did go there Jeld-Win/PGE) but also because of the new Target store and other developments going in there will be attractive transit destinations.

  46. Specifically in regard to Skidmore and Old Town/Chinatown: I talked with someone who actually understands everything about switches and operation, etc. According to him, closing the Skidmore platform would be extremely simple and inexpensive, utilizing the existing switches and only requiring TriMet to remove the amenities on the platform. There would be no issues with traffic light preemption in either direction. Keeping the station open only on certain days would require entirely replacing the current switches and would add significantly to operations.

    It is not possible to eliminate the eastbound stop at Old Town/Chinatown because the trains must stop there before entering the rail circuit between that stop and Rose Quarter. This interlock includes the bridge as well as Yellow and Green eastbound trains.

  47. Andrew: I have never seen a system with such door trouble as MAX.

    It sounds like you’ve not had the pleasure of riding Metro Rail in DC. There are a lot of doors (and people) on their trains and the doors are particularly sensitive to too-close bodies. On a jam-packed rush hour trip, the train can be paralyzed at a station.

    The behavior you describe has less to do with timepoints than it does with track circuits and blocks. The train sits because it quite literally cannot go.

  48. According to Neil McFarlane in our recent interview, it costs $1.5-$2M to decommission a station–removing platform equipment, changing the signaling and control systems, and so forth.

    Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of MAX is that so much of its infrastructure is incredibly inflexible.

    However, TriMet has had no problems scraping up money to remove bus shelters, bus schedules and so on. And TriMet maintains that rail is simply more popular than bus – all things equal.

    So, there’s your cost savings. The average TriMet bus stop is a small sign mounted to a utility pole.

    The average MAX stop has trees, landscaping, multiple lighted signs with full schedules, shelters (that need repainted and powerwashed), garbage cans, TVMs, and so on.

    If, as TriMet maintains, MAX is simply more popular than bus – all things equal – an easy way to reduce the cost of MAX stations is to look no further than to a nearby bus stop. There’s no reason a MAX station need be more than a concrete slab, with a simple 12 inch by 18 inch steel sign that identifies said concrete slab as a place where trains stop.

    No trees. No garbage cans. No lighting. No benches. No shelter. No schedule boards. Just a no-maintenance concrete pad, and a single sign. (OK, one sign for each direction, so those island platforms will have two signs.)

    If you want to argue it can’t be done…San Francisco has these style of stops on the L and N lines. Heck, some of the stops don’t even have platforms – just wait on the sidewalk, and when the train shows up you walk into the street and board the train.

    It would be an excellent way to prove that rail is more popular than bus. (Of course, TriMet would also need to disable the air conditioning on 1/3rd of the MAX fleet…that’ll save a few bucks on the electric bill in the summer.)

  49. The average TriMet bus stop is a small sign mounted to a utility pole.

    Are you sure about that, given the new poles and signs?

    Heck, some of the stops don’t even have platforms – just wait on the sidewalk, and when the train shows up you walk into the street and board the train.

    How many of those are grandfathered vs. being built new in the past 20-30 years like MAX and streetcar have been? Do you really think accessibility, safety and other regulations would allow that to be built new today?

    And how many MAX stops are there along an average line compared to bus stops? Would you (and all other riders) prefer that the vast majority of bus stops be eliminated to provide funding to enhance the remaining ones?

  50. Stupid stations: King’s Hill/Salmon, Oak/3rd, Skidmore, Convention Ctr
    Never going to happen.
    All have powerful constituencies

  51. (Everything–OK, most everything–that you ever wanted to know about MAX signalling can be found here, including the definitions for “pre-empt” and “ABS”…).

    I’ve read a bit about these systems. I don’t like ’em. Is there anything that could ever be done to allow for more freedom of movement and less stopping for “no good reason”? I think a big reason buses can feel faster than the MAX is the operators are trusted to do whatever the heck they want, yet they and have more ways they can crash into things compared to a MAX vehicle in almost all regards except their better stopping distance.

    Can you “increase the resolution” of the ABS system? Are there more modern systems for doing this kind of thing used anywhere? These aren’t big heavy railcars, they’re light rail vehicles that can stop fairly quickly all things considered and it seems like a technical failure to me that they can’t get closer to each-other while still preserving safety.

    Self driving cars are coming and they can operate on regular old roads without any special magnetic beacons embedded in the roadway like prototypes from decades ago did. Certainly on rails it’s a much easier nut to crack (especially with a live operator onboard), there’s got to be some things we’ve learned since MAX was designed in the 70s that would let use more efficiently use what we already have. We could probably make them even safer.

  52. A major issue with fixed-guideway systems, that doesn’t apply to busses; is the need to move switches. Perhaps the proper setting of switches is a problem no more complicated than operation of traffic lights–many of which are demand-responsive.

    That said, the stopping distance for a LRT traveling at speed is about 200m–the length of two football fields. This is far better than a freight train, of course, but still considerably worse than a bus; at this distance the stopping distance may often exceed the sight distance.

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