Back in June, Portland Mercury reporter Matt Davis and I spent a Sunday checking out ticket machines along the MAX Yellow Line and portions of the original Blue Line. We took along my video camera to document the results.
On that day, we found a number of problems, minor to significant. A complete spreadsheet was produced itemizing the situation at each stop. One of the most interesting finds was that at stations where the two platforms are split by an intersection (most of the Yellow Line, and the Blue Line east of Gateway), a passenger can be highly inconvenienced by following the law: It takes six signalized crossings and a number of minutes to obtain a valid fare if one machine is broken — potentially leading to missed trains. This provides an incentive for unsafe running and jaywalking.
I’ve held off on doing a Portland Transport post until I could get a response from TriMet regarding the current state of the ticket machine situation (especially since this reporting was originally done last June). Anecdotally, the situation hasn’t improved at my local station, which now has only one machine in total.
If you haven’t seen the video, check it out, then read on for TriMet’s response:
Mary Fetsch responded to the video and my follow-up questions… here is a summary:
- Responsibility for ticket machines is being moved from the Finance division to Operations.
- The strategy for deploying technicians will change, with an increased emphasis on repairing broken machines.
- The number of qualified technicians able to work on ticket machines should double in the near term, with a long-term goal of tripling to 24 positions.
- Work will be prioritized to maintain at least one working machine per platform, instead of the prior goal which was one per station, prioritized for locations where street crossings are required between platforms.
- Fare equipment failures will signal alarms in the Operations Control center, similar to when there are problems with switches or substations.
- Discussions are underway for alternative means of ticket sales at platforms when machines are down.
The full TriMet response is available after the jump.
Ticket Vending Machines Update
January 27, 2009
- The Fare Equipment Maintenance department has transitioned from Finance into the Operations division. There will be changes in the way that the department is managed, including the allocation of resources and the prioritization of repair work.
- We will deploy fare technicians in a strategic fashion that takes into account the present condition of machines across the system, the time of day and the customer loads. We will better balance the priority of work, focusing on repairs to down machines before preventative maintenance and installation of new equipment.
- We have taken positive steps with our local union to increase the number of technicians who are able to work on fare equipment.
- Eight technicians who were previously qualified to work on fare equipment will go through refresher training and will join the crews currently working on fare equipment. This will result in an immediate increase in technically skilled employees from eight to 16 technicians. Refresher training for these eight individuals will begin by the end of this month. Increasing the number of technicians will significantly increase our ability to respond quickly to down machines and increase the overall reliability of the equipment.
- Our maintenance apprenticeship program is in the process of training new technicians, which will eventually bring the number of qualified technicians to 24 budgeted positions.
- The previous goal of one fully functioning ticket vending machine per station is inadequate. We are now focusing on making at least one fully functioning machine available at each platform. Work will be prioritized at stations where platforms are separated by street crossings.
- Failures of fare equipment will immediately register in the Operations Control Center as system alarms, just like other critical systems such as signals and substations. This will ensure more timely notification of problems and shorter response times for repairing equipment.
- We are in discussions about additional ways to provide ticket sales at platforms where fare equipment is not working.
Some relevant email Q&A occurred after the formal response:
Regarding the standard of one operating machine per platform…
We have typically had the goal of each platform, but our performance
wasn’t high enough, so for a short term, we focused on stations. With more
resources and focus, it will improve.
Q: Does the standard of two working machines per platform imply an effort to install additional machines at some stations where there is currently only one machine per platform, or will the strategy solely be based on better maintenance practices and additional staff?
[The standard is] not adding machines… making machines work better.