“Orange Line” Name for Portland-Milwaukie MAX: A Triumph of Marketing Over Rider Benefit

Pop Quiz: What makes more sense?

This?:
Orange Line.PNG
Or this?:
Yellow Line.PNG

In the recent barrage of emails and press releases from TriMet regarding construction activities for Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail, I have noticed a shift in marketing for the line. The project, officially still called the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, has long been unofficially known as the Orange Line, but that always seemed like a placeholder in lieu of an actual study of what would be best for the line. However, in the last month or two the Orange Line designation has been actually used by the agency and appears to be official. At a recent tour I attended of construction activities, the tour guide confirmed that the current plan is to run the Orange Line as a stand-alone line, terminating and turning around at Union Station (see the first map above). This is a disturbing development for reasons I will outline below.

Giving the new light rail line a new color is a serious mistake clearly driven by marketing concerns rather than any consideration of operational efficiency or rider benefit. It appears that TriMet (and perhaps the city of Milwaukie) want the line to have a new color because it increases the visibility of the project compared to simply extending an existing line. The problem is that this seemingly innocuous naming scheme will have negative implications for the high-capacity transit network the public relies on.

The most beneficial and efficient way to operate the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line would be to treat it as an extension of the Yellow Line (see the second map above). Southbound Yellow trains would run from Expo Center to downtown, continue past Portland State University, and head down to Milwaukie. Northbound trains would run all the way from Milwaukie to Expo Center. There are three main benefits to this form of operation. First, it allows riders to go straight through downtown without having to transfer. Second, it reduces the need for layover space in downtown where it is most scarce.

A good transit network will, whenever possible, allow transit riders to ride through downtown if they live on one side of downtown and work (or have other destinations) on the other side. We have precedence for this through-downtown model in the form of the Red and Blue Lines. Sure, the majority of riders get and on and off downtown, but there are also plenty of people who ride from one side to the other without having to transfer. TriMet also does this with most of the bus lines through downtown, and many people take advantage of this feature. In any case, extending the Yellow Line would create a very strong north-south transit spine to complement the east-west Blue/Red transit spine, whereas an isolated Orange Line would not. We need a network that expands riders’ freedom to go to more places, and that means making them as long as is practical and not forcing downtown transfers for no reason.

One reason that most bus lines go through downtown besides rider benefit is the fact that layover space is very limited downtown. Some lines do a “live-loop” downtown and don’t have a layover at all, and some other lines layover at Union Station, but there is simply not much space for buses to sit around. For light rail trains, there are a couple turnaround/layover spots: one for the Blue/Red Lines on SW 11th Ave between Yamhill and Morrison (rarely used nowadays), and one at the south end of PSU where the Yellow and Green Lines currently terminate. Other than that, there are a few pullout tracks around Union Station, but these are not as good because they require drivers to switch from one end of the train to the other rather than just turning around.

So one problem with running the Orange Line only as far as Union Station before turning around is that it is not a good place for a layover. TriMet could have trains use the pullout tracks, but it will be more time-consuming and awkward than using a full turnaround space like the ones mentioned above. The other option would be to always live-loop and only do layovers at the other end of the line in Oak Grove. That could work in general, but it leaves less operational flexibility for dealing with inevitable service disruptions or getting trains back on schedule.

Another issue, perhaps minor but still something to think about, is that we have a limited color palette to choose from for transit lines. Why waste Orange frivolously when we don’t have to? What if we decide to give Bus Rapid Transit lines colors as well, following the lead of Los Angeles, where they wisely decided to treat light rail and BRT as one integrated network? There really aren’t that many colors that are acceptable for transit lines, unless we are excited about the prospect of a Fuchsia Line or Periwinkle Line in our future.

The only possible advantage I can see from running the Orange Line separately is that it would effectively boost frequency on the downtown transit mall by 50%, assuming 15-minute headways on Yellow, Green, and Orange Lines. This would have been a bigger benefit back in the days of the Free Rail Zone, when light rail served double-duty as a downtown circulator. It also isn’t much of a boost, going from average 7.5 minute headways to 5 minute headways.

Overall, the benefits of running the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line as an extension of the Yellow Line seem so obvious that I can only conclude that some combination of marketing and politics has managed to dominate any rational discussion of what is best for the public. I hope this article can jump-start that discussion, because it is not too late to change course and do the right thing. Let’s extend the Yellow Line, and save the color Orange for a future line when we really need it.

Zef Wagner is pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at Portland State University, specializing in transportation planning.

69 Comments

69 Responses to “Orange Line” Name for Portland-Milwaukie MAX: A Triumph of Marketing Over Rider Benefit

  1. Bob R.
    January 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm Link

    Perhaps TriMet is influenced by the current operation of the Yellow and Green Lines … they are in fact the same trains, switching colors as they turn around at the south end of downtown … the actual operated route goes from CTC to downtown to the Expo Center and back again with a color change in-between.

    See:
    http://maxfaqs.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/lemon-lime/

    It could be that, given TriMet’s ambitions to extend the Yellow Line to Clark County (unlikely in the near term, but that’s another topic), they want to preserve this “Lemon-Lime” operation for the time being, and operate Milwaukie as something else.

    However, from a passenger convenience perspective and a simple mapmaking perspective, a Milwaukie-to-Expo continuous yellow line as you’ve drawn it makes more sense.

  2. dan w
    January 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm Link

    The only reason for making MLR a stand-alone line that makes even a smidgen of sense is perhaps Tri-Met is saving the Yellow designation for a potential future Tigard line (though they can do this just as easily with the Green Line). Otherwise, for all the reasons given above, this is an epic fail. I agree a key reason for the Blue/Red Line’s success is that it’s a “spine line” that serves but doesn’t originate/terminate downtown, and it’s unconscionable to think there may not be a north-south equivalent anytime soon.

    Of course, if Tri-Met and Milwaukie are so dead-set on the Orange designation, I wonder what would happen if the current Yellow Line “went Orange”.

  3. Aaron Hall
    January 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm Link

    I don’t think the Vancouver extension is as far off as most people think. Once that line opens, demand for capacity and frequency on the Yellow will likely double, if not triple. It could easily become a Yellow/Orange trunk with Yellow terminating Downtown (until SW is built) and Orange continuing to Milwaukie (and eventually OC). Maybe they want Orange for Oregon City?

  4. Lenny Anderson
    January 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm Link

    I was a member of the CAC for Interstate MAX as that project was planned and built. As I recall the Interstate line was originally designated the “Red Line,” until some of us noted that it runs near, if not through, communities that were once “redlined” by the mortgage industry. The colors were quickly switched with Red going to the airport and Yellow up Interstate.
    I agree that the MLR should be Yellow or at least operated as though it were. It may be that a distinct color for destinations makes way finding easier. i.e Yellow to Vancouver, Orange to Milwaukie, Green to Clackamas, Red to Airport. The Blue line would be the exception.

  5. EngineerScotty
    January 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm Link

    We asked TriMet GM Neil McFarlane about this two years ago, in an interview with him; the content is below (DH = Dave Hogan, the interviewer, NM = Neil McFarlane).

    DH: Milwaukie MAX is often referred to as the Orange Line, though many have the opinion that it would be better suited as an extension of the Yellow or Green Lines. Has the color been determined yet and if so what color will it be?

    NM: First of all, it will operate as an extension of the Yellow Line, so they are not separate train lines, they are actually through-service lines. Some of the Yellow Lines may turn around or some of the Milwaukie lines may turn around, so bottom line is it really is a through route of the Yellow Line in terms of the way it will operate.

    In terms of the color, no, we haven’t really decided. As we get closer to the opening, we do a whole series of outreach and service planning characteristics, and right now it just sort of helps us, I think, in terms of the description of talking about it as the Orange as opposed to Yellow which is a line in service, and so we get a little, you know, hopefully we clarify our terminology on that, but a lot more conversation to come on that.

  6. zefwagner
    January 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm Link

    Thanks, Scotty. I do remember that interview. However, the woman from TriMet who led the tour of construction specifically said that the Orange Line will terminate at Union Station and will not be through-lined with the Yellow Line. Other sources at TriMet have said the same thing. Like I said in the post, we need to make sure TriMet actually does the public outreach and public conversation Neil spoke of, rather than letting marketing concerns dictate the result. I haven’t noticed many people talking about this, so I wanted to get the conversation started.

  7. EngineerScotty
    January 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm Link

    The lack of any layover tracks near Union Station (the short spurs near the MAX station aren’t likely suitable as a regular layover point, as you note) makes me suspect otherwise.

    TriMet does run quite a few color-switching trains, most commonly the red-blue trains that start at the airport, turn blue at Gateway, and continue all the way to Hillsboro. (I’m not talking about the green/yellow interline, which isn’t useful for riders).

    That said, the arrangement Neil describes, in which through-routed trains change color downtown, is unusual.

  8. Aaron Hall
    January 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm Link

    Operating it as a through line should be pretty obvious. So, I’m wondering if they need to market this as a separate line for funding purposes. For example, is there a difference in FTA funding levels for stand alone projects versus extensions to existing lines? Or maybe they were able to use the PSU-Union Station stretch of the “Orange” line to secure additional funds?

  9. Alexander Craghead
    January 20, 2013 at 12:46 am Link

    The marketing name has zero bearing on FTA funds. They couldn’t care less.

    It will be easier not to have a layover downtown at all. Layover at the terminus at Park Avenue. However, let us not forget there *are* layover tracks at Union Station, two of them.

    Odds are high Yellow and Green will continue to interoperate because the pattern is established and there is zero reason to change it. You don’t mess with what works.

    The Orange will be a new service. Until it “breaks in” it is easier to keep it operationally isolated and tweak service levels and, more importantly, train length. Remember the early yellow line when TriMet had difficulty finding these balances, and went back and forth between single and double car trains?

    If Green and Yellow continue to interoperate — which is frankly the only logical choice now, as, to quote a basic of scientific experimentation, you don’t change more than one variable at once — then PMLR *has* to become its own route — just as the Yellow had before, just as the Red had before. And it would make no sense for a Yellow train to come downtown, become a green train, and then have a new train stay a yellow downtown. Which means PMLR has to have its own color too.

    In the end, PMLR is a new service. Giving it a distinct service identity is hardly confusing.

    Mountain out of a molehill.

  10. dwainedibbly
    January 20, 2013 at 8:30 am Link

    Thanks for the post, Zef. I’ve been having exactly the same thoughts. If TriMet wants to “sell” light rail to Clackamas county, they need to make it easy for people to go to the Rose Quarter, Expo Center, etc, etc.

    Mrs Dibbly will be happy as long as something is eventually named “Purple”. It appears that TriMet is putting the same amount of thought into their decision on “Orange”.

  11. Jim Lee
    January 20, 2013 at 10:05 am Link

    “Green” line could become “Lime,” “Yellow” line could become “Lemon,” Red” line could become “Blood Orange,” but the only citrus analogy I can think of for “Blue” line would be “Mold,” which would not be popular.

    “Mandarin,” “Tangerine,” “Clementine,” are available, as is “Pomelo,” and my personal favorite, “Bergamot.”

  12. zefwagner
    January 20, 2013 at 10:33 am Link

    Alexander, I’m having trouble understanding your argument. The fact that Green and Yellow trains switch off really has no bearing on anything I’m talking about. There is no reason that Green and Yellow trains in my scenario couldn’t be completely separate services, with only Green trains laying over at PSU. My main argument is that marketing should not trump rider benefit and ease of use, but that also applies to operations. Just because your scenario might make it easier to operate the system doesn’t mean it is the right choice for riders.

    There is also little argument for doing this based on setting service levels. First of all, TriMet has already set the service levels at exactly the same level as the Yellow Line (15 minute base headways). That seems appropriate, because both segments have similarly low densities for the time being. It also doesn’t make sense because it makes a big difference for ridership whether the service goes through downtown or not! Running it as a single Yellow Line is guaranteed to result in higher ridership than running them as separate lines…the transfer penalty is a fact of transit that you can’t wish away.

    This whole one-car vs two-car operation issue is just malarkey. It saves a miniscule amount of money, since labor is most of the cost of operations. It’s a hassle for riders and is not worth the tiny amount saved.

  13. KHH
    January 20, 2013 at 10:35 am Link

    Even if there are reasons for “preserving” yellow, there’s no inherent reason why the Milwaukie line can’t be an extension of the Green line. WMATA’s Red Line makes a full loop and comes back to within a couple miles of itself. So, too, with Tokyo’s Marunouchi Line.

  14. John Powell
    January 20, 2013 at 10:36 am Link

    I can see a new revenue source for TriMet: “This is a San Pellegrino Aranciata line train to Milwaukie…”

  15. zefwagner
    January 20, 2013 at 10:36 am Link

    Alexander, I’m also curious if you think the Blue/Red service from downtown to Beaverton and Hillsboro should be a separate service as well. It seems like the logical conclusion from your argument, since Westside MAX was also “new service” when it started.

  16. Nick theoldurbanist
    January 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm Link

    “…the transfer penalty is a fact of transit that you can’t wish away.

    >>>> But advocates for the feeder bus to light rail paradigm try to pretend it does not exist, or minimize the transfer penalty.

  17. Bob R.
    January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm Link

    But advocates for the feeder bus to light rail paradigm try to pretend it does not exist, or minimize the transfer penalty.

    Who are those advocates and just how are they pretending? Which current TriMet routes operate only as “feeders” without also providing regular local service for which a light rail transfer is unneeded?

  18. al m
    January 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm Link

    WTF?
    You gotta be kidding!
    What universe do these people live in?
    Agree completely with the author.

  19. al m
    January 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm Link

    Why are y’all talking about future expansions?

    Trimet is broke, does anybody have any awareness of that but myself.

    There is not going to be any more capital projects for god knows how long.

    They have expanded themselves into insolvency, STOP THE MADNESS NOW!

    They are having trouble operating what they have on line now. (Don’t believe me, spend an afternoon with THIS in the background.)

    I just can’t believe what I read here sometimes.

  20. Lenny Anderson
    January 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm Link

    For the next LRT project all that’s needed is a compelling project (MAX to OHSU and beyond) and a public vote for a bond for local match, the rest comes from the federals who are not as broke as the right wingers like to think. read Krugman.

  21. Portland Laugher
    January 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm Link

    I’m on the inside. I was told by a manager who is involved in PMLR development that influential parties don’t want PMLR to be connected literally and figuratively to NOPO or “The Couve”. Don’t know if it’s true or not but it wouldn’t surprise me.

  22. Alexander Craghead
    January 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm Link

    No, Zef, it is not the logical conclusion. Let me check my desire to regress to snark and explain it again.

    1.) I will start with the one place we will agree. If the PMLR and the present Yellow Line interoperate, then yes they should carry the same color.

    However, I do not believe they *are* going to interoperate. That is the perspective from which I come.

    1.) All new lines have teething problems. There is no guarantee that the PMLR will run with the same frequency as other lines.

    (Again, to revisit history, on the Yellow Line, it took years to build ridership. Even today it remains the weakest ridership line on the system. It is presently operating with excess capacity for most of the day because of its interoperation with the Green Line, which is carrying 33% more passengers than the Yellow Line as of November of last year.)

    It is likely that TriMet will want to have the freedom, therefore, to operate PMLR without making any service impacts to the operation of other lines. This will allow TriMet to make operational tweaks over time, and changes made to it will affect only it.

    Zef, you state that such tweaks only “saves a miniscule[sic] amount of money.” Respectfully that is a naive statement. TriMet’s present financial situation is such that they are willing to do things like sell ads on the transit tracker phone line to raise a whopping $300k per year. We live in an era where those minuscule amounts of money matter.

    2.) Calling this a “disturbing development” and a “serious mistake” is way out of proportion. This is *at most* a missed opportunity, it is *not* a net negative from present conditions. A separate Orange Line will still be an improvement over present conditions.

    Presently anyone riding a Yellow Line train to downtown alights from their train in downtown. If PMLR opens as a standalone operation with its own color, then riders on a Yellow Line train to downtown will…. still alight from their train downtown. Status quo ante.

    Let’s not confuse matters. Not interlining and interoperating Yellow and PMLR may or may not be a missed opportunity, but it is *not a reduction in mobility* and will *not* force Yellow Line riders into any new behavior pattern to achieve present mobility aims.

    4.) If the PMLR will not be interoperating with any other line, it *must* bear its own line color. In short — and this was one of the points I was trying to explain previously — you can’t have the Expo segment and the PMLR both carrying Yellow if the trains don’t actually interoperate through downtown.

    5.) Assuming the interlining *was* possible, there is nothing sacrosanct or mandatory about interlining two services merely because they are both North-South.

    For those of us who spend a lot of time with maps and graphics, it seems cool, clean, and logical to simply go, “ah, there’s a line north of town, there’s a line south of town, let’s make them one line!”

    The reality is different. As you acknowledge, most riders on PMLR will be going to downtown. Some may transfer to the Yellow Line. Most will not.

    Therefore making the case that a *new* service *must* be interlined for the benefit of a minority of riders who have cross town connections and do not now have a single seat cross town ride is a very weak one. Would it be better than not? Sure. But as with my comments on the scale of this entire argument, this is *not* a detraction from the present conditions and it will *still* be a net gain to the system. It will not have “negative implications” for the system.

    6.) This is confusing map aesthetics with rider behavior.

    Zef, you state that “extending the Yellow Line would create a very strong north-south transit spine to complement the east-west Blue/Red transit spine, whereas an isolated Orange Line would not.”

    I’m sorry, again, that’s an aesthetic concern. No rider goes to a map and goes “oh, look, that yellow line compliments the other through route that is blue.”

    The only practical consideration is does the vehicle that person is riding go through? If it *does*, then I’m with you that the logical preference is to code, name, or color it the same. But if the vehicle itself does not actually go through, then it makes little sense to demand that it bear the same code, name, or color as any other line.

    ***

    I want to close with a caution.

    There’s nothing wrong with asking the question of whether or not any transportation entity should take one action versus another — as in this case of whether or not TriMet ought to interoperate and interline the Yellow Line and PMLR.

    But that’s what they should be: questions.

    Not assertions of “a disturbing development” and “a serious mistake.” Followed by the assertion that it is “clearly driven by marketing concerns rather than any consideration of operational efficiency or rider benefit,” when, in fact there are a number of potential operating efficiencies in play.

    And worse yet, these accusations were made without even once considering talking to TriMet to discuss the matter and seek a response *before* suggesting they have bad intent.

  23. Erik H.
    January 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm Link

    What is efficient today, may not be efficient tomorrow.

    How much money did TriMet spend on renumbering bus routes, when it was decided to switch an interlining route around: For example:

    The 5 Interstate used to interline with the 5 Capitol Highway. Then the 5C became the 44C, interlined with the 44 Mocks Crest. Which meant TriMet spent a lot of money to replace signs for the Capitol Highway segment, even though the routes themselves did not change.

    The 1 Vermont and 1 Greeley were an interlined route; until TriMet decided to deinterline the 1 and couple Greeley with 35 Macadam. Again, TriMet spent a lot of money replacing signs that did absolutely nothing for the end user.

    And another example, the 9 Powell and 9 Broadway. In an ironic twist of TriMet thinking the 9 needed to be improved by eliminating the interline and using one common service on the entire Powell segment (while using the exact 180 degree argument to claim the 12 needed to be split up), TriMet spent more thousands to replace the 9 Broadway signs to renumber it 17 interlined with Holgate.

    Seattle does it right: An interlined route is simply notated on the timetable, as in this example:

    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/bus/schedules/s007_0_.html

    Adjacent to the “To Downtown Seattle” times is a new column “To Route” and indicates if the bus interlines to a new route, or returns to base, or turns around.

    Thus – when future operational needs dictate a change, it’s a simple timetable notation – NOT wasting thousands of dollars to employ a sign crew that does absolutely nothing for the end user but is yet another frivlous expense that results in more bus service cutbacks.

  24. Ron Swaren
    January 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm Link

    ” read Krugman.”

    Please show where our local transportation policies have actually resulted in costs going down? Portland just enacted about a 20 percent increase in parking fines to go along with our pay until 7 pm and Sunday afts., too, parking meters.

  25. EngineerScotty
    January 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm Link

    Ron,

    “Read Krugman” refers, I believe, to theories advocated by Paul Krugman and other liberal economists and commentators, that much of the current debt crisis is overblown, and being used as a pretext to cut spending on things like infrastructure and social services, while preserving extensive spending on things like the military, as well as tax reductions whose primary beneficiary are the wealthy.

    One potential fly in that ointment is that in the modern global economy, excessive taxation may result in (additional) capital flight abroad. Indeed, some on the right make that argument explicitly; suggesting that a race to the bottom is the only way for a region to maintain its economic vitality. Of course, China and other developing nations became developing nations by spending things on infrastructure and education; you can’t become (or stay) a modern economy without an educated populace, reliable transportation and utilities, and reasonable law, politics, and jurisprudence.

    But still–who would have thunk that Galt’s Gulch would be found in the People’s Republic?

  26. dwainedibbly
    January 21, 2013 at 6:41 am Link

    Andrew: you state that the Yellow line is operating with excess capacity. If you want to increase use, let people ride yellow all the way to Milwaukie (or from there all the way to Expo Center) and you will grow ridership.

    (disclaimer: I live downtown within a few blocks of all of the Max lines, so I have nothing personal to gain from the outcome of this.)

  27. zefwagner
    January 21, 2013 at 8:00 am Link

    Alexander, most people nowadays both live and work outside of downtown. Creating a radial system that forces transfers downtown is not just an aesthetic concern–it is a real problem that causes great inconvenience to the very high number of transit riders whose destination is not downtown. Moreover, there is the “silent majority” who do not even ride transit because they see that they would be forced to switch downtown when they could just drive past downtown instead. Note that many of the highest ridership bus lines are the crosstowns that skip past downtown. Now, it does make sense to have high-capacity transit go through downtown, since the capacity is needed to handle high peak volume of commuters. But we should not miss the opportunity to make an improvement to the system. Why is it not a “serious mistake” to miss an opportunity when there is no clear benefit to the current plan? You have yet to make any case that it is more efficient in any way compared to interlining.

    I also want to add that creating a north-south trunk line is also not “aesthetic.” It is a real design feature that is beneficial to riders. New riders can easily understand and navigate a simple grid-based system compared to a tangle of lines that stop and start in an arbitrary way. The design of a transit line also has practical implications. I’m sure the Green Line would get higher ridership if it did not have a horseshoe shape. After all, travel times are pretty much always faster taking a bus from downtown east to I-205 compared to taking the train. What you see as simple lines on a map are actually the essence of what makes transit work or not.

  28. zefwagner
    January 21, 2013 at 8:04 am Link

    Erik, it actually costs very little to change the number on the signs at bus stops. It’s just a sticker that they put on the existing sign. I used to be a fan of the Seattle system, but after living in Portland for awhile I’ve realized how nice it is to know that I can, for example, hop on the 12 on Sandy and know I can ride all the way through downtown and down Barbur. It is a real benefit to users and lots of people use it that way. That’s why I think it is so essential to run MAX trains the same way.

  29. Ron Swaren
    January 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm Link

    “”Read Krugman” refers, I believe, to theories advocated by Paul Krugman and other liberal economists and commentators, that much of the current debt crisis is overblown, and being used as a pretext to cut spending on things like infrastructure and social services, while preserving extensive spending on things like the military, as well as tax reductions whose primary beneficiary are the wealthy.”

    I do know the price of gold has practically doubled in the last four years, and a lot of currencies of other countries have risen sharply against the US dollar. That makes it harder for US investors to buy overseas. One economic question that has been dramatically overblown has been the “fiscal cliff.” But I would agree that our government appropriations have been used for a lot of stupid things and that there are a lot of harmful special interests.

  30. Erik H.
    January 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm Link

    Erik, it actually costs very little to change the number on the signs at bus stops. It’s just a sticker that they put on the existing sign. I used to be a fan of the Seattle system, but after living in Portland for awhile I’ve realized how nice it is to know that I can, for example, hop on the 12 on Sandy and know I can ride all the way through downtown and down Barbur.

    First of all, TriMet does change a lot of signs, not just the stickers.

    Secondly, there was once a time a Sherwood or south Tigard resident – including yours truly – had a one seat ride to the Airport. Why is it that your transit ride is more important interlining through downtown Portland than mine – in which now it is impossible for me to use TriMet to catch a 7:00 AM flight (not to mention it requires not one, but TWO transfers, including an up to 30 minute transfer at Tigard TC, which used to be a one or two minute stop?) Are you suggesting that folks in Tigard, King City, Tualatin and Sherwood don’t have a need to continue through Tigard TC, through downtown, and to the airport like they did before?

    If it’s such a cheap process, let’s see actual costs. I saw sign crews spend SEVERAL days up and down Barbur in their customized sign truck replacing signs when the 12 south of Tigard was eliminated. Plus other crews who had to stick up the temporary Rider Alert signs. Those people aren’t paid $12/hour, they aren’t temp workers…

  31. Chris I
    January 22, 2013 at 6:57 am Link

    As a 12 rider that now has to ride the 12 and 21 to get to work, I can relate to your angst somewhat. However, I have noticed that my chances of encountering an absurdly late 12 coming out of downtown has seemed to decrease. The transfer is annoying, but I can understand the logic behind the move.

    If you put it to a vote, I don’t think anyone would get rid of MAX to the airport. Visitors and residents alike much prefer to haul their luggage onto MAX than onto a bus.

  32. zefwagner
    January 22, 2013 at 10:20 am Link

    Erik, that’s a whole other issue. I disagree with TriMet’s decision to cut the 12 short at both ends, and I know a lot of TriMet staff feel the same way. It was meant to improve reliability, but it comes at a huge cost to long-distance travelers. That is really my whole point, that routes should be as long and direct as possible.

    For the airport, though, we made the decision to go with a single light rail line and now that that is the case it wouldn’t make sense to run a bus up that way. I do wish the Red Line had been built up 82nd rather than I-205, so it would be more direct. Too late now…

  33. Andrew
    January 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm Link

    I also share Chris’ sentiment about the 12/21 combo. It has lengthened the commute considerably because of a lack of timed connections at Parkrose. Even with the 21 running at its currently low-frequency, it’s often late. What used to be a simple, 30 minutes, one-seat ride to work is now a two-seat ride that can take as long as 90 minutes. Interlining (and long lines in general) may be harder sometimes to run, but they are far more useful than several shorter lines requiring multiple connections. They are especially vital for people who don’t have cars, who are often the only people that would otherwise put up with the long commute and the increasing hassle it has become because of so many cuts to bus service.

  34. EngineerScotty
    January 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm Link

    Back when the changes to the 12 were announced, my preference would have been for the line to be separated downtown: i.e. a Barbur line out to Sherwood, and a Sandy line to Gresham, with both lines serving the length of the transit mall.

    If nothing else, transferring downtown is a bit nicer than transferring at Tigard and Parkrose.

    Perhaps a (future) compromise, even though it complicates things:

    * Reduce frequency 12;
    * Extend the 94 into downtown via Barbur (optionally keeping the current peak express service as 94X)
    * Extend the 21 into downtown via Sandy.

    Between Tigard and Parkrose, Barbur and Sandy would still have frequent service, albeit by two different numbered lines; everyone has a one-seat ride to downtown, and the lengthy (and operationally-difficult) Parkrose-Sherwoood and Tigard-Gresham runs are kept out of the schedule.

    The current setup turns 94 and 21 essentially into feeders.

  35. al m
    January 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm Link

    If nothing else, transferring downtown is a bit nicer than transferring at Tigard and Parkrose.

    ~~~>The 12 coulda all worked find if they had coordinated the schedules so everyone wasn’t always missing the connecting buses!

    But of course they didn’t take the time to figure that little complication out did they.

    Then again they really didn’t need to change the 12 at all if they made the schedules reasonable with adequate recovery time.

    But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, they needed to try to figure some way to get more labor out of its drivers like some factory in China

  36. Erik H.
    January 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm Link

    I don’t think anyone would get rid of MAX to the airport

    I never said that; why couldn’t the 12 return to the airport (or for that matter, re-route the 72 to serve the airport as well?) along with MAX?

    Not everyone carries baggage to the airport (i.e. employees!) ; and frankly people carrying baggage on MAX is a safety hazard (blocking aisles).

    If we are going to talk about the value of the single-seat yellow line without having to worry about changing seats or routes, the exact same discussion needs to be carried out with regards to bus service – and why TriMet has enacted a policy of forcing bus riders to transfer to either other buses, or to MAX (which itself has some very negative issues affecting ridership and financial reporting for the bus system). If the single-seat ride is key, why is it only afforded to some chosen riders and not everyone? Should that not be a “upgraded service” that requires an additional fare, to compensate for the inconvenience other riders suffer (such as the up to 30 minute transfer for 94-12 or 21-12 riders)?

  37. EngineerScotty
    January 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm Link

    How best for a bus to serve the airport is an interesting question. The 72 is a very strong line, which suggests messing with it is a bad idea–having it divert into the airport and back out again would inconvenience a lot of people who aren’t going there.

    One possibility would be to break up the 72–have one bus run up 82nd from CTC to PDX; another bus running from Swan Island/NoPo to Parkrose, and possibly continuing on to Troutdale/Gresham (the existing 21?). If both were frequent service, a transfer at 82nd and Killingsworth might not be to bad, assuming a decent transfer point were designed. OTOH, see prior comment about breaking up the 72.

    Airports can be tricky to serve. They are great anchors, but frequently are lousy mid-line destinations, simply owing to the geometry of many airport terminals (including PDX) which can only be approached from one direction, and thus would require extensive backtracking to serve in the middle of a line.

  38. zefwagner
    January 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm Link

    I’ve often had the same thought about the 72–it could easily be broken into separate north-south and east-west lines and could probably end up with even higher ridership combined. It would be a hard change to make, though, because as you point out it is really hard to change a line that is successful, even if there is an even better alternative.

  39. Jeff F
    January 23, 2013 at 2:03 pm Link

    I’m curious to know how splitting the 72 would provide any benefit to the customer. Why would that increase ridership on an already heavily-used route?

    zegwagner, why is that a better alternative?

  40. Daniel L
    January 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm Link

    It seems pretty easy to separate the 72.
    Have one section run from Clackamas to Parkrose TC either by turning onto Sandy or Killingsworth.
    The other Swan Island to Parkrose TC or Gresham, taking over Line 21.
    IMO this is better then running some 72′s to Cully Blvd, Parkrose makes a better spot for transfers and offers a park and ride for riders.

  41. EngineerScotty
    January 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm Link

    One potential snag: Right now the 72 connects to all MAX lines–Yellow along Interstate, Red/Green/Blue at 82nd Avenue. Were the E/W half to become an E/W line–again possibly combined with the 21; it would lose its connection with the Blue and Green lines (excluding any possible connection with the Blue out in Gresham).

  42. Allan
    January 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm Link

    It seems like there isn’t a return that would come close to justifying splitting the 72. Perhaps there is another N/S line that might run to the airport like the 75. However, I think that having the lines run to the same places over time is something that builds up ridership over the long term and it would be wise to consider that.

    Additionally – very few people go to the airport every day, but people make most of their other trips every day so trying to serve the airport with multiple routes is probably the sort of thing that is not nearly as desirable by the riding public as the transportation wonks on this blog

  43. EngineerScotty
    January 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm Link

    Additionally – very few people go to the airport every day, but people make most of their other trips every day so trying to serve the airport with multiple routes is probably the sort of thing that is not nearly as desirable by the riding public as the transportation wonks on this blog

    Many people, as noted above, work at the airport; at many airports, employees are a bigger transit constituency than travelers.

  44. Aaron Hall
    January 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm Link

    Not only that, but there are thousands of people working at the Cascades retail center and the adjacent hotels and business park. It’s a huge job center with no nearby housing which requires everybody to commute.

  45. Alexander Craghead
    January 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm Link

    Zef wrote:
    Alexander, most people nowadays both live and work outside of downtown. Creating a radial system that forces transfers downtown is not just an aesthetic concern–it is a real problem that causes great inconvenience to the very high number of transit riders whose destination is not downtown.

    Downtown is the single highest drawing point on the system. You yourself said that.

    As it is impossible for all lines to reach all points, the majority of trips will require a transfer at some point. Placing that transfer in downtown, where there is the largest destination demand and the largest selection of transfers, is the most logical choice.

    This is a basic of transportation in all modes. Even airlines cannot offer direct service between all airports, thus the need for hub and spoke airline operation. And where are those hubs? Typically places that have a lot of draw as it is.

    This *is* an aesthetic concern. You are jumping to the conclusion that more riders want to ride through downtown than to it based upon your generalization that most in the metro do not live are work in downtown. That is irrelevant. The only rider base needing quantifying is where those who live and work *along that given corridor* need to go. Most are either going to go downtown — the single largest draw on any line on which downtown is reached — or are going to transfer at some point.

    Zef:
    Moreover, there is the “silent majority” who do not even ride transit because they see that they would be forced to switch downtown when they could just drive past downtown instead.

    So now you are going to rely on an unquantifiable and unscientific appeal to a “silent majority” who you are going to claim, with no evidence at all, do not ride transit *specifically* because of a so-called forced transfer downtown?

    This argument holds no water whatsoever.

    Zef:
    What you see as simple lines on a map are actually the essence of what makes transit work or not.

    No, what makes transit work is frequency and a system that, via transfers maximizes geographic coverage.

    If the PMLR ended at some random spot of no importance when it could have continued as an interline, then your argument that it should have continued might have more merit. But it doesn’t. It will end downtown, where there are dozens upon dozens of options for transfers, and more transportation demand than any other location anywhere in the metro area.

    Zef:
    You have yet to make any case that it is more efficient in any way compared to interlining.

    You could not be more wrong.

    The only case I have to make is that the new service will be an improvement over existing conditions. That case has been made.

    The case *you* must make is that by not interlining, the new service is a net deficit over the existing conditions, and thus a so-called “disaster.” You have failed to make this case over and over.

    And your argument that it is a disaster because it does not provide a through service is histrionic.

  46. Lenny Anderson
    January 24, 2013 at 9:13 am Link

    Frequency and reliability is the key; TriMet needs to restore the 15 minute minimum to all FS bus lines asap. It would be nice if the union made a deal that any savings cue to benefit cuts would go to this critical need. Ops would look good to their riders. If the system had 10 minute service on MAX and FS bus lines we would not even be talking about the transfer “problem.”

  47. al m
    January 24, 2013 at 11:02 am Link

    It would be nice if the union made a deal that any savings cue to benefit cuts would go to this critical need

    Earth to Lenny, come in Lenny, this is earth calling.

    Lenny if you read me please CLICK HERE!

  48. EngineerScotty
    January 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm Link

    Al,

    There is the little matter of nearly $1B in unfunded pension debt. It isn’t an immediate crisis–TriMet is paying its obligations as they become current–but sooner or later it might be, especially if accounting rules change and TriMet (and other public agencies) become required to actually fund these things.

    That said, a lot more transparency out of Center Street would be a useful thing; without it, complaints that TriMet is trying to hide the ball (for whatever reason) will not go away.

  49. zefwagner
    January 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm Link

    I think your idea of how a hub-and-spoke model actually works is totally wrong. Imagine Denver is the hub for an airline. A plane is flying from Seattle to Denver. Now, do you think the plane returns to Seattle after getting to Denver? No, it does not! It continues on to a destination on the east coast, like Washington, DC. That way it functions as a separate flight, but some people get to ride it all the way through. That is the most efficient way to operate a hub and spoke operation. It’s like a series of lines that cross at a central point, not a series of lines that all stop at a central point. Terminating lines downtown is like the latter example, and it is a poor way to operate a system.

    As far as my use of the word “disaster” goes, I can’t argue with semantics. I think it is indeed a disaster to pass up an opportunity for better service when there is no reason not to; you think whatever TriMet does is fine as long as it is an improvement over existing conditions. I think that is a recipe for mediocrity.

  50. al m
    January 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm Link

    There is the little matter of nearly $1B in unfunded pension debt.

    ~~~>It’s $800 million and how come nobody ever whines about the $3.5 billion unfunded liability for the cops and firemen of Portland.

    And how come Trimet is still hiring like a drunken sailor?

    And how come Trimet doesn’t stop expanding?

    And how come Trimet doesn’t even think about taking on more and more bond debt.

    So, don’t get me started.

  51. EngineerScotty
    January 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm Link

    It’s $800 million and how come nobody ever whines about the $3.5 billion unfunded liability for the cops and firemen of Portland.

    Oh, that gets whined about plenty; Bojack has it on his sidebar. But ’tis off topic here on PT.

    And how come Trimet is still hiring like a drunken sailor?

    You’ll note that most of TriMet’s new hires are non-union. While that may indicate questionable priority; these folks all are stuck with 401(k)s (like those of us schlubs in the private sector); and aren’t getting the nice fancy defined-benefit pensions that y’all are getting.

    And how come Trimet doesn’t stop expanding?

    After PMLR gets done, I don’t see any further expansions for a while. Actually, its footprint is shrinking, as Boring leaves the district.

    And how come Trimet doesn’t even think about taking on more and more bond debt.

    When it comes to bonding operating revenues (as part of PMLR funding), I agree this is a poor choice. OTOH, you’ll notice that the westside construction bonds recently expired (i.e. were paid off), and TriMet’s attempt a while back to replace with a new (tax-based) bond to buy busses and stuff, was rejected by voters. Revenue bonds, of course, are backed by specific tax levies, and generally aren’t much of a risk to lenders.

    So, don’t get me started.

  52. al m
    January 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm Link

    Just get rid of the whole thing and start over then.

  53. al m
    January 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm Link

    As long as the executives lose as much as the people that do the work I am ok with that.

    Nobody walks away with anything!

    (People like Fred Hansen and Neil Mcfarlane have already pocketed millions of tax payer dollars via their bloated salaries, not much we can do about that. I bet there are no union employees leaving as millionaires)

  54. Allan
    January 24, 2013 at 4:49 pm Link

    Is boring leaving the Tri-Met area a good thing or a bad thing revenue wise?

    If it improves the financial situation- are there any other areas that might be convinced to leave?

  55. EngineerScotty
    January 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm Link

    Probably a minimal impact. The 84 ran infrequently; and I doubt payrolls in the area amounted to very much.

  56. al m
    January 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm Link

    84 had one trip in the morning and one trip in the evening.

    (the lift bus was the important item out there)

  57. Cameron J
    January 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm Link

    Yeah, as far as Boring goes, LIFT is the biggest loss there. It was actually fairly popular as there was a service within the district that many LIFT riders used that was lost with the 84. I’d also daresay that if they’re looking to expand in Damascus as their TIP repeatedly suggests, the Boring situation (being the neighboring town) doesn’t exactly bring enthusiasm.

    As far as MAX goes, would it be beneficial to run the Green Line to Beaverton and the Red to PSU? It could provide a definitive downtown terminus to the Airport line and create a SE/SW corridor between Clackamas and Beaverton in less than an hour with no transfers. It would come at the price of Westside service from the Airport- would that be a fair trade?

  58. EngineerScotty
    January 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm Link

    Cameron,

    Damascus was once within the TriMet district, and withdrew–long before you were born. :)

    (I suppose I should call you a “whippersnapper”… as a Gen-Xer, I find it disconcerting to turn on the the local oldies stations and hear ’80s music…)

  59. Dave H
    January 24, 2013 at 11:07 pm Link

    What about just announcing the trains like buses that have variable routes? Some Green lines and some Yellow lines could be planned to route to Milwaukie, and some could turn around depending on what the schedule needs. Even if every Yellow doesn’t go to Milwaukie it would be helpful if people could plan that every 30 or 40 minutes a through train would come.

  60. Cameron J
    January 24, 2013 at 11:08 pm Link

    I knew that, lol. I couldn’t call myself a self respecting TriMet nerd if I didn’t. XD TriMet just mentions over and over in the TIP and otherwise how they want to extend a line to Damascus, HCT to Damascus. They’re not setting a good example with Boring.

  61. EngineerScotty
    January 25, 2013 at 12:08 am Link

    Well, the HCT plan done by Metro a few years back includes a corridor through Damascus, but it’s safely within the “when Hell freezes over” tier of projects. (Metro used a more polite terminology, of course).

    Likewise, I would take the TIP with a grain of salt; it (like most such planning documents) contains a lot of pie-in-the-sky. It also mentions frequent service on the 35, and has done so for years.

    A lot of that, I suspect, was driven from the assumption (a decade ago) that Damascus would urbanize. A major UGB expansion occurred there, and the Clackamas County Commission was all set to upzone.

    Local residents, preferring the rural character of Damascus, incorporated–thus taking control of zoning within the newly-formed city away from the County Commission–and told Metro to go pound sand. (Unfortunately for residents there, Damascus city government has since then turned into a three-ring circus; rivalling the Clackamas water district for utter ridiculousness).

    Metro got the message, which is why the next round of UGB expansions are all out in Beaverton and Hillsboro, where leaders and citizens actually want to see some additional growth.

    (Maybe, in a few years, planning documents for TriMet might include better bus service down in South Beaverton–as noted in a prior post, there’s lots of transit-oriented development around Progress Ridge, but virtually no transit. Other than the occasional peak-hour 92, the nearest bus is the 62 which swings by Murrayhill on its way to Washington Square).

  62. Jason McHuff
    January 25, 2013 at 11:58 am Link

    84 had one trip in the morning and one trip in the evening.

    It was always more than that.

    But I believe the Boring withdrawal was financially positive in that TriMet got to jettison the cost of providing transit in the area while taking advantage of state law that allows the payroll tax rate in the remaining area to be raised to offset the revenue loss.

  63. zefwagner
    January 26, 2013 at 11:09 am Link

    As Jason notes, areas withdrawing from TriMet has basically zero impact on payroll tax revenue. When Boring left, the payroll tax went up by a small amount everywhere else to compensate. Since that is the case, it would probably be beneficial for the TriMet district to continue to shrink until the borders match up better with the urbanized area that is easier to serve. It’s a little silly that we still run a bus out to Estacada.

  64. Cameron J
    January 26, 2013 at 11:48 am Link

    Silly unless you live in Estacada and rely on that bus. Even if there is less midday activity, from my experience the 30 is usually pretty active. Especially in rush hour; it’s a very busy rush hour line.

  65. Aaron Hall
    January 27, 2013 at 3:37 am Link

    If you’re living in Estacada, you shouldn’t be relying on mass transit. If exurban areas like that want transit service, they should provide their own local shuttle service to the nearest Trimet transit center. That way they can determine their own level of service without resorting to TriMet bashing.

  66. EngineerScotty
    January 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm Link

    It’s interesting to look at the map of TriMet’s service district, and note the little panhandle (that’s one way to describe it) that extends along OR224 and the Clackamas River to Estacada.

    Whether sending a 40′ bus from Clackamas TC out to Estacada every hour (regardless of whether it interlines with the 31, as some do, or ends in Clackamas) is the best way to provide Estacada (and Carver and Barton and Eagle Creek) residents with transit service or not, is an interesting question. If one were to abandon the possibility of interlining, a smaller vehicle could undoubtedly handle the service.

    Estacada residents also are served by a SAM (Sandy Area Metro) route between Sandy and Estacada along OR211; there doesn’t appear, however, to be any direct service between Estacada and Molalla (SCDT runs routes to Canby and Oregon City, but not to Woodburn, Silverton, or Estacada).

    The city of Estacada (the urbanized parts of it, at least) is small enough that local transit probably isn’t necessary, at least not for able-bodied invidiuals–you can pretty much walk from anywhere to anywhere.

  67. halverbk
    January 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm Link

    Wow, can you hijack a hijacked thread? I guess so.

    Being a Beaver fan, I love the color orange so having a MAX line named that color was a good thing. However, I am disappointed that PMLR will not be called the Yellow Line. I agree that this probably has more to do with the supporters from Clackamas County (don’t go counting them) wanting a “new” line rather than an extension of the Yellow Line. The Yellow Line’s challenge is its relatively short length in its current form. Once light rail eventually extends to Vancouver, it will have much higher ridership. In the meantime, why not connect the Yellow Line to PMLR? Fewer transfers? In other words, having to change trains generates higher ridership numbers (Erik will jump on this one). Having the Yellow Line be the S-N spine (oldtimers will get that one) could save a transfer for North Portlanders heading to South Waterfront and OHSU via the tram or to points beyond. Yes, they can take the 8 up the hill. The Green Lines can loop with or without the Yellow. I think it was a decision they will change someday down the line.

  68. Anandakos
    January 29, 2013 at 2:49 pm Link

    I didn’t see anyone who mentioned the PMLR stop in the new riverside district by the Tram. With interlining that would be a single-seat ride from either the Green or Yellow line, whichever would be chosen.

    Folks did of course mention the Rose Quarter as an opportunity for Orange line single seat rides.

  69. Anandakos
    January 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm Link

    Halverbk,

    Apologies, you had already pointed out the connection to the South Waterfront.

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