Clueless at 11th and Morrison


Captured on my cell phone this morning. It took 4 or 5 blasts of the LRT horn before the driver woke up.

26 responses to “Clueless at 11th and Morrison”

  1. Seattle has it right, put it underground! This is the reason for grade separation. Totally worth the extra cost.

  2. It’s taking – and has taken – forever for Seattle to get just one line in which is pretty sad for a lefty city of it’s size. And worth the extra cost? From what I understand, burying something of that size takes magnitudes more cash then installing at street level.

    Seems it could be better solved by writing hefty tickets for people that violate the right of way and by making a driver’s test that actually promotes responsible driving. The only real qualification for hopping in a car nowadays is a pulse.

    It’s not like there aren’t signs indicating that those lanes are reserved. Some are written signs and some are just as obvious, such as the fact that there are NO OTHER CARS there.

  3. “Seems it could be better solved…by making a driver’s test that actually promotes responsible driving. The only real qualification for hopping in a car nowadays is a pulse.”

    Totally. The other thing we should do is control people’s access to cars. If someone don’t have a license, they shouldn’t be able to buy/rent/borrow a car, and if someone sells/rents/loans them a car anyways, then both people should be held responsible for any crimes that may be committed. (For instance, if you let Paris Hilton borrow your car, you would have to serve time in jail too.) Likewise, when people have their licenses suspended, the police should either take their car(s) away from them, or at the very least put a boot on the car(s) to make sure that they were not driven.

  4. I can’t help but believe that the fact that you need about 3 years of classes to get a driver’s license in the Netherlands has something to do with their low accident rate…

  5. And I think it is perfectly possible for someone unfamiliar with Portland to confuse MAX tracks with streetcar tracks and not realize the ROW is dedicated. And still be a safe driver. People make mistakes and this one doesn’t look like it threatened anything but embarrassment for the driver. Lighten up.

  6. There’s a lot of things about downtown Portland that are confusing to drivers who don’t get down here much. I frequently saw people driving down the transit in the bus only lanes, making turns against traffic on the grid of (mostly) one-way streets, and sometimes just plain getting lost when the grid gets broken up. Driving on MAX tracks is kind of clueless, but dedicated transit lanes just isn’t something people encounter in (probably) 99% of America.

    A lot of Seattle’s planned light rail line is being built at grade. The downtown segment is going into an existing bus tunnel. The delay in getting light rail built didn’t have anything to do with the underground alignment, but had a lot to do with dysfunctional regional politics.

  7. MAX tracks are just one of the many confusing aspects of driving in downtown Portland; I’ve seen more than my share of wrong-way drivers, people who try to turn into the wrong direction, near-misses of bikes or pedestrians, lane changes, etc. There’s a lot going on in downtown and you have to be alert.

    The delay in getting light rail built didn’t have anything to do with the underground alignment

    Actually part of the problem was the tunnel.

    When the tunnel was first built, it was “designed” to be used by LRT. So although the tunnel was a bus tunnel with overhead wire (which the trolleybusses used) and rails, it turned out that the rails weren’t insulated and the tunnel height wasn’t sufficient. The result was that the “LRT-ready tunnel” had to be rebuilt, starting with digging out the pavement, removing the rails, digging the floor deeper, rebuilding the trackway, and then rebuilding the overhead wire.

  8. I wonder if they could put some dividers between the lane and the MAX tracks, like they did at the Saturday Market. Maybe some decorative poles with a few chains here and there, to clearly delineate that it is not a vehicle lane.

    Because the big bumpy things don’t work.

    And grade separated misses one of the points MAX was designed for. It was designed to be a *part* of the cityscape.

    People in the train can see the streets and shops and buildings and people. People on the streets can see the trains and the people riding them.

    One of the goals is to keep people on the streets, so it does not turn in to a ghost town where people are merely trying to get from A to B as fast as possible.

  9. Poles with chains would work and not look so bad either.

    It seems that many people enter though at the end of the block. Perhaps a sign on a spring-loaded hinge that the max could push out of the way as it goes over? I’m only partly kidding.

  10. It’s pictures like this that make me so confident that SW 5th and 6th Aves. will work they way they were planned when they reopen in ‘9.

  11. I’m think I remember reading or hearing that when MAX was originally built the experts were saying that Jersey barriers should be used to separate the trains and the traffic. Also, even TriMet admits that incidents will occur on the new mall.

    As for drivers’ licensing, part of the problem is that this country has been built so that a private vehicle is about the only effective way to get around.

  12. Geez people, this is a pretty rare occurrence. Some poor clueless schlub from the suburbs got confused – it’s not like this happens everyday. I think these calls for chains and stanchions, or Jersey barriers are a bit over the top. By separating the tracks in such a manner, you eliminate the opportunity for emergency vehicles to pass cars when they’re responding to a call.

    The only “solution” that is needed here is for people to hang up their cell phones, put down the Starbucks or the Big Mac, start watching for cyclists, pedestrians and 55 ton light rail trains, and just friggin’ pay attention to their driving!

  13. As for drivers’ licensing, part of the problem is that this country has been built so that a private vehicle is about the only effective way to get around.

    Solution A: Move everything downtown to the suburbs, so that people won’t need to travel as far to get places. (This would render most of Portland’s land-use and transit plans utterly pointless.)

    Solution B: Accept that downtown has been revitalized over the last 20 years, that more people want to go and be downtown, and that Portland’s current transportation system is not keeping up with this growth. The idea that mass transit will accomodate 100% of this growth has not worked, and there is more vehicle traffic in downtown as well. So a solution MUST deal with that fact and make driving downtown friendlier and safer.

    This could take the form of more parking garages along the outer edges of downtown, and efficient pathways (Streetcar, maybe?) into the central area of downtown. (There’s a LARGE expanse of land right off of Harbor Drive with a Streetcar stop. And a perfect location for such – who wants to live next to an electric substation and a freeway?) What about encouraging people to use the Rose Quarter parking lots during non-event times? Why not something at the east portal to the Sunset Highway?

    The “solution” of people hanging up their cell phones…is utterly simplistic at best. Yes, people DO need to pay attention when they are driving/riding/walking downtown. However the human mind can only process so much information at once, and when you’re unfamiliar with the area (and if you’re someone from the rest of Oregon/Southwest Washington, you’re likely unfamiliar with the concept of mass transit, and therefore MAX/Streetcar/bus is not an option) – people make mistakes.

  14. That driver probably just made an honest mistake. It doesn’t look like he/she/it even had a chance to correct his/her/it’s mistake because there was a cab to the right.

  15. Shoot, I was driving on the highways when I was 14!

    Don’t let the gob’mt take away our god-given rights to drive! How else can you pick up chicks?

  16. I am trying to think of how this would happen – I highly suspect the driver is attempting to take a left and there might not be clear signage indicating a left is possible (or not…) at that intersection.

  17. Some kind of pavement markings to indicate “transit only” (or a similar scheme) will be necessary when the new mall opens.

    The original MAX alignment in addition to bump strips uses cobblestone paving to help differentiate the MAX tracks.

    The Portland Streetcar tracks, which are meant to be shared with cars, are paved with concrete.

    On the new mall, however, buses and trains need to share the right-of-way, so the new mall MAX tracks are smoothly paved, just like the streetcar. This may cause confusion, at least initially, for motorists who have become accustomed to driving legally on the streetcar tracks.

    Near PSU, there will be at least one block where streetcar and MAX tracks are present on the same street. It will be especially important to use clear visual cues to prevent confusion about where cars should drive.

    The Portland Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee has already issued a semi-related recommendation regarding the tracks near PSU, which highlights the potential for confusion in that area.

    In mall operations, trains will receive an advance signal before cars receive a green light, so in most situations a train will be travelling slightly ahead of cars. The primary risk will come from stopped cars deciding to suddenly pass stopped traffic on the right, crossing into the transit lanes.

    – Bob R.

  18. It doesn’t look like he/she/it even had a chance to correct his/her/it’s mistake because there was a cab to the right.

    From the photo, it looks like the driver is signalling to make a left (which would explain the odd presence of the driver in the left lane), so the cab is not in the way.

    In fairness to the driver, there is signage at that intersection (and numerous similar intersections) stating “No Turn on Red”, and even if the train had a proceed signal, the main auto traffic light might still have been red.

    However, I would think that with a big train blaring its horn, most drivers would elect to complete the turn and get out of the way regardless of the “no turn on red” sign.

    – Bob R.

  19. My comment was more about the fact then when in doubt, too many car drivers just drive and park wherever they feel like. I agree that it’s a bit confusing in downtown but it’s not that bad if you’re actually paying attention and clearly this person wasn’t. Driving in the MAX lane may be a rare occurrence but the behavior is not.

    And I think the comments about chains meant only along the side of the lane, not at the entrance. That would definitely clue people in and let emergency vehicles pass – that was an interesting point because there is nowhere else where emergency vehicles get such easy passage. Bonus?

    An interesting picture I found while browsing:

  20. Good point. Admittedly, I would not stay in a lane where I saw rail tracks. That alone should be indication enough that it’s where the trains should be and a car should NOT.

  21. Until the MAX is in a subway, there are ALWAYS going to be train/auto, train/bicycle, train/pedestrian conflicts. And some of those will be fatal. There’s just too much going on in the streets, too many distractions to safely operate a “regional” rail system. Just one more reason to grade separate MAX downtown.

  22. Why are there diamonds painted in the MAX lanes? I think that would indicate to most out-of-towners that it is a shared carpool lane.

  23. Why are there diamonds painted in the MAX lanes? I think that would indicate to most out-of-towners that it is a shared carpool lane.

    I think that may be a common misconception, especially for people coming from areas where carpool lanes are common but other types of restricted lanes are rare.

    A diamond marking actually means that use of the lane is restricted and only the users designated by signage (bikes, buses, trains, carpools, etc.) may use the lane. The proper driver behavior for diamond lanes should be to avoid driving in them until signage is encountered which indicates that it is allowable to use the lane.


    – Bob R.

  24. Thing to remember is that both here and on the new Mall everything is (will be) happening in “slow motion”…speeds are in the 12 mph or less range, so there is some delay, some red faces, some horns, but usually no bent metal or blood.
    The Mall CAC is open to all, so anyone with design ideas to discourage this behavior should show up and speak up during the public comment period.

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