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  #161  
Old Posted May 8, 2024, 10:06 PM
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From KGW: https://www.kgw.com/article/news/loc...9-1324d76a9d6e

Quote:
Sick of slow MAX trains? A downtown Portland tunnel could speed things up, eventually
Downtown Portland is a light rail bottleneck, and Metro says a tunnel would help fix it — but it's not a high priority right now.
Author: Anthony Macuk (KGW)
Published: 6:00 PM PDT May 6, 2024
Updated: 5:50 PM PDT May 7, 2024

PORTLAND, Oregon — Regular riders of Portland's MAX light rail system are all too familiar with the problem: the trains zip in quickly toward the city center along Interstate 84 and the Robertson Tunnel, but they slow to a crawl as soon as they hit downtown, often making it so the final couple miles of a trip take almost as long as the whole rest of the journey.

Portlanders who have visited New York, London or even Seattle may have noticed that those cities don't have the same problem, thanks to a key piece of infrastructure that Portland lacks: downtown train tunnels. The observation raises an obvious question: can Portland still catch up?

The answer is yes — it isn't going to happen anytime soon, but the idea of a downtown Portland MAX tunnel has been around for a long time, and TriMet and Metro have both taken some early steps to study what it might look like.

Speed and the Steel Bridge
Running on dense city streets and surrounded by mixed traffic, MAX trains are limited to just 15 miles per hour when they cross downtown Portland — and factoring in station stops and waiting for cross traffic, the average speed is even slower.

TriMet knows its a problem, and in recent years the agency has tried to speed things up by closing a few downtown stations that were spaced too close together and upgrading the tracks on the Steel Bridge so trains can cross a little faster.

Those improvements help, but the gains are marginal; it currently still takes an average of 22 minutes for a train to travel between the Goose Hollow and Lloyd Center stations and west and east ends of downtown. The next station on the chopping block is Skidmore Fountain, but TriMet estimates that taking it out will only save about 40 seconds.

Truly speeding things up would require a whole new route that takes the trains off the streets altogether, which is where the tunnel concept comes in. TriMet and Metro have both looked into the idea, first with a TriMet study in 2017 and then with a Metro study two years later.

Train speed was definitely a factor in the studies, but the biggest driver was actually a separate problem: the Steel Bridge, where all of the MAX lines converge to cross the river on a single set of tracks.

...

...

Metro's tunnel plan

The Metro study concluded that a tunnel would be the best option to solve the Steel Bridge bottleneck, in part because it avoids the problems with the above-ground crossing options, and in part because it would solve the downtown speed problem at the same time. It's also the only option that would allow for the possibility of running longer trains, because the underground station platforms wouldn't be limited by the length of Portland's city blocks.

The tunnel as envisioned in the study would be exclusively for the Blue Line, turning it into a sort of express route for riders passing through downtown. The other lines would remain on their current surface routes to keep serving existing stations, but they would still benefit from the removal of the Blue Line from the Steel Bridge.

...

...

And even if momentum for a tunnel starts building again, the project's price tag is likely to be a major obstacle. The 2017 TriMet study put the estimated cost of a tunnel at up to about $2 billion, and just two years later, the Metro study estimated the cost at up to $4.5 billion — and both estimates came long before the recent period of post-pandemic inflation.

Ridership is another factor that could decrease the urgency. MAX ridership peaked around 2013 and then plateaued for several years, and came crashing down due to pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. It's been growing again for the past two years, but still hasn't caught up to pre-pandemic levels. In the long run, Metro planners see the pandemic as a blip rather than a permanent change in the ridership trajectory, but it does suggest that Portland is still a long way out from the kind of capacity crunch that might boost the case for a tunnel.
....(continues)
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  #162  
Old Posted May 9, 2024, 1:44 PM
PhillyPDX PhillyPDX is offline
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Originally Posted by MarkDaMan View Post
Sure, it's a nice pipe dream.

Hadn't looked in a while. Ridership has really stagnated over the last 1-1.5 years.

https://trimet.org/about/performance.htm
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  #163  
Old Posted May 9, 2024, 8:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyPDX View Post
Sure, it's a nice pipe dream.

Hadn't looked in a while. Ridership has really stagnated over the last 1-1.5 years.

https://trimet.org/about/performance.htm
Seems like the best time to make this kind of investment with the MAX. Combine this with building up mixed income residential around each stop could create that buzz needed to improve ridership numbers.
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  #164  
Old Posted May 9, 2024, 10:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyPDX View Post
Sure, it's a nice pipe dream.

Hadn't looked in a while. Ridership has really stagnated over the last 1-1.5 years.

https://trimet.org/about/performance.htm
It's worse than what that page shows if you look back over a longer period:

https://trimet.org/about/pdf/trimetridership.pdf

Boarding Rides:
2004: 92,029,848
2009: 102,555,192
2012: 103,300,944
2015: 101,754,048
2019: 96,650,044
2020: 78,504,513
2021: 40,125,642
2022: 49,947,338
2023: 58,052,388

The interesting thing about the 2020 number is that the pandemic struck so early in the year, yet the overall boarding ridership number remained surprisingly high. Lockdowns began on March 11th. I would have expected 2020's number to be lower.

The numbers are clawing their way back up, but I don't think mass transit ridership in Portland is a matter of convenience any more. I think it's a safety issue. Prior to around 2012, I never thought twice about riding the MAX. By 2013, I'd become more cautious, but still, I didn't hesitate. These days, I don't feel as safe, so I don't ride Trimet unless I have to.

I look at Trimet's ridership numbers, and to me, it looks like they reflect the overall state of the city.
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  #165  
Old Posted May 9, 2024, 10:20 PM
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MarkDaMan MarkDaMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
It's worse than what that page shows if you look back over a longer period:

https://trimet.org/about/pdf/trimetridership.pdf

Boarding Rides:
2004: 92,029,848
2009: 102,555,192
2012: 103,300,944
2015: 101,754,048
2019: 96,650,044
2020: 78,504,513
2021: 40,125,642
2022: 49,947,338
2023: 58,052,388

The interesting thing about the 2020 number is that the pandemic struck so early in the year, yet the overall boarding ridership number remained surprisingly high. Lockdowns began on March 11th. I would have expected 2020's number to be lower.

The numbers are clawing their way back up, but I don't think mass transit ridership in Portland is a matter of convenience any more. I think it's a safety issue. Prior to around 2012, I never thought twice about riding the MAX. By 2013, I'd become more cautious, but still, I didn't hesitate. These days, I don't feel as safe, so I don't ride Trimet unless I have to.

I look at Trimet's ridership numbers, and to me, it looks like they reflect the overall state of the city.
Is the 2020 number because TriMet starts their year in July and goes until June? That would give ~9 months and then lockdown.
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  #166  
Old Posted May 9, 2024, 10:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
It's worse than what that page shows if you look back over a longer period:

https://trimet.org/about/pdf/trimetridership.pdf

Boarding Rides:
2004: 92,029,848
2009: 102,555,192
2012: 103,300,944
2015: 101,754,048
2019: 96,650,044
2020: 78,504,513
2021: 40,125,642
2022: 49,947,338
2023: 58,052,388

The interesting thing about the 2020 number is that the pandemic struck so early in the year, yet the overall boarding ridership number remained surprisingly high. Lockdowns began on March 11th. I would have expected 2020's number to be lower.

The numbers are clawing their way back up, but I don't think mass transit ridership in Portland is a matter of convenience any more. I think it's a safety issue. Prior to around 2012, I never thought twice about riding the MAX. By 2013, I'd become more cautious, but still, I didn't hesitate. These days, I don't feel as safe, so I don't ride Trimet unless I have to.

I look at Trimet's ridership numbers, and to me, it looks like they reflect the overall state of the city.
True, the perceived safety needs to be a major short term focus to help improve confidence with ridership. Plus it wouldn't hurt to bring back something like fareless square, but not specifically that.

Also it would help is news sources didn't run stories saying someone was attacked on the MAX in Portland, only to find out that it happened in downtown Hillboro and not on the MAX.
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  #167  
Old Posted May 10, 2024, 2:51 PM
PhillyPDX PhillyPDX is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
It's worse than what that page shows if you look back over a longer period:

https://trimet.org/about/pdf/trimetridership.pdf

Boarding Rides:
2004: 92,029,848
2009: 102,555,192
2012: 103,300,944
2015: 101,754,048
2019: 96,650,044
2020: 78,504,513
2021: 40,125,642
2022: 49,947,338
2023: 58,052,388

The interesting thing about the 2020 number is that the pandemic struck so early in the year, yet the overall boarding ridership number remained surprisingly high. Lockdowns began on March 11th. I would have expected 2020's number to be lower.

The numbers are clawing their way back up, but I don't think mass transit ridership in Portland is a matter of convenience any more. I think it's a safety issue. Prior to around 2012, I never thought twice about riding the MAX. By 2013, I'd become more cautious, but still, I didn't hesitate. These days, I don't feel as safe, so I don't ride Trimet unless I have to.

I look at Trimet's ridership numbers, and to me, it looks like they reflect the overall state of the city.
That. And like most US metro systems they are built to get commuters downtown. With WFH still omnipresent, especially for downtown-industry workers, there is now a built in structural challenge.

Between the significant time burden (30 mins longer each way than driving), and safety/general grossness of trains now, I find myself taking Uber more often than not. The extra OT $$ I can make way more than makes up for the price, given the huge time burden of mass transit. I calculate needing to earn only like $20/hour to make up for the cost of 30 minutes time savings, but it helps I’m close in and Uber cost me like $10-15 each way.
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  #168  
Old Posted May 10, 2024, 6:32 PM
RED_PDXer RED_PDXer is offline
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Originally Posted by MarkDaMan View Post
Is the 2020 number because TriMet starts their year in July and goes until June? That would give ~9 months and then lockdown.
That's correct. The source of those number is provided by fiscal year.
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  #169  
Old Posted May 10, 2024, 6:45 PM
twofiftyfive twofiftyfive is offline
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Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post
…I don't think mass transit ridership in Portland is a matter of convenience any more. I think it's a safety issue.
This is exactly right, and it’s going to be hard to fix. I don’t see the relevant agencies committing the financial resources and having the intestinal fortitude (i.e., enforcing things like fare evasion) to make the necessary changes. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this election will provide some clarity.
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  #170  
Old Posted May 13, 2024, 9:00 PM
Bigtimecharlie Bigtimecharlie is offline
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I don’t disagree about the safety concerns. As for reviving fareless square, I think we already have. Traveling through downtown I see the trains attracting many homeless who haven’t paid a fare. I can’t remember the last time someone actually checked.

I’ve wanted a transit tunnel through town since they built the original line. Riding through town is agonizingly slow. Not only because of the slow running speed and official stops, but also for all the red lights the trains hit. It’s excruciating. I get large investments are tough when ridership is down, but perhaps if the speed of the trains improved - along with security - demand would rise?
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  #171  
Old Posted May 18, 2024, 1:50 AM
aquaticko aquaticko is offline
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I'm still aghast that the MAX trains don't at least get signal priority through downtown. It's just stupid to make a vehicle that can carry hundreds of people wait so a handful of almost-certainly singly-occupied cars can go. My long-term view is either the MAX tunnel will happen, at some point in even a medium-term future, or Metro Portland as a whole will have sunk so low that transit ridership never recovers enough to justify it; that'd be suggestive of a metropolitan economy on an irreversible decline.

The reason the safety complaints rankle a little bit is that they're difficult to really square off. I'm not even going to say the perception is currently unjustified, because I can't find stats to confirm or deny it, but perceptions are often not reflective of reality. They can do everything in their power to make the MAX/buses actually safer--they are now and have always been less lethal than driving or being driven, in any case--but if they don't "feel" safer--and that can be an ever-rising bar--then it's good money after bad.

I've had this discussion here elsewhere on the forums, but I think PDXers need to be a bit more honest with themselves in distinguishing between actually harmful behaviors and behaviors that just make them uncomfortable. I'm not saying it's not a gray area, but a little bit of introspection on the issue would be a good thing. No doubt, the recent push to criminalize drug use on transit is a good thing for public perception, but if people don't know of that change, or don't "feel" it's being enforced, they still won't take transit.

There's still seems to be very little comment--almost anywhere--on the fact that transit use plateaued not with the pandemic, not with measure 110, but in 2012. The only reason I can find for that is a drop in service frequencies, and insofar as that might've led to a downward spiral reducing ridership, leading to having fewer "eyes on the bus/train" to communally police behaviors, etc., etc., that deserves more attention.
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  #172  
Old Posted May 18, 2024, 1:46 PM
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Originally Posted by aquaticko View Post
I'm still aghast that the MAX trains don't at least get signal priority through downtown. It's just stupid to make a vehicle that can carry hundreds of people wait so a handful of almost-certainly singly-occupied cars can go.
They basically do get signal priority. The MAX is not supposed to stop between stations and it rarely does. If they do stop, it's one of two things - people holding the door open too long (or cars blocking an intersection), causing the MAX to miss its green window, or operator error. Operators are supposed to call for the signals to pass from each station. If they don't make their window, they can get stuck at each light or some of the lights along the way. If you see two people in the operator area with one standing that usually means someone's going through new operator training and they often make errors while training. Not the kind that would endanger the public, because the system is designed to be failsafe, but the kind that cause delays for that train.
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  #173  
Old Posted May 18, 2024, 2:53 PM
PhillyPDX PhillyPDX is offline
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Originally Posted by RED_PDXer View Post
They basically do get signal priority. The MAX is not supposed to stop between stations and it rarely does. If they do stop, it's one of two things - people holding the door open too long (or cars blocking an intersection), causing the MAX to miss its green window, or operator error. Operators are supposed to call for the signals to pass from each station. If they don't make their window, they can get stuck at each light or some of the lights along the way. If you see two people in the operator area with one standing that usually means someone's going through new operator training and they often make errors while training. Not the kind that would endanger the public, because the system is designed to be failsafe, but the kind that cause delays for that train.
And they did try and speed it up by closing a few very low usage stops that are close to other stops, but then a few people complained and so they gave that idea up. So a train stops during rush hour, for maybe a total of a handful of people to get on/off, and this all adds up to a long trek through downtown.
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  #174  
Old Posted May 19, 2024, 1:02 PM
RED_PDXer RED_PDXer is offline
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Originally Posted by PhillyPDX View Post
And they did try and speed it up by closing a few very low usage stops that are close to other stops, but then a few people complained and so they gave that idea up. So a train stops during rush hour, for maybe a total of a handful of people to get on/off, and this all adds up to a long trek through downtown.
Actually two stations have been closed. The Kings Hill station and the Yamhill/3rd-Morrison/4th station pair are gone, so the train doesn't stop anymore. I have heard the Skidmore Fountain station will be closed soon also.
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  #175  
Old Posted May 19, 2024, 1:42 PM
PhillyPDX PhillyPDX is offline
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Actually two stations have been closed. The Kings Hill station and the Yamhill/3rd-Morrison/4th station pair are gone, so the train doesn't stop anymore. I have heard the Skidmore Fountain station will be closed soon also.
I thought that Skidmore was denied? Did they end up doing that after all?
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  #176  
Old Posted May 19, 2024, 11:49 PM
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I thought that Skidmore was denied? Did they end up doing that after all?
Skidmore was delayed, they wanted to study it longer to see if it warranted closing that stop. I don't know if they finally agreed to close it altogether or just during the week and then have it operational on the weekends for Saturday Market.
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  #177  
Old Posted May 20, 2024, 2:16 AM
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Skidmore was delayed, they wanted to study it longer to see if it warranted closing that stop. I don't know if they finally agreed to close it altogether or just during the week and then have it operational on the weekends for Saturday Market.
Closing August 2025 : https://trimet.org/maxdowntown/
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