MAX Blue Line
The MAX Blue Line (also known simply as the Blue Line) is a light rail line of the MAX Light Rail system in Portland, Oregon, United States. Owned and operated by TriMet, it connects the cities of Hillsboro, Beaverton, Portland, and Gresham via 51 stations on nearly 33 miles (53 km) of track—the longest in the system. The line carried an average of 55,360 riders per day on weekdays in May 2018, making it the busiest among the five MAX lines. The Blue Line runs for 22½ hours per day from Monday to Thursday, with headways of up to five minutes during rush hour. Service is slightly longer on Fridays and reduced on Saturdays and Sundays.
Originally dubbed the Banfield light rail project, the line's eastern half—between downtown Portland and Gresham—opened in 1986 as the first line of the MAX system. Its western half to Hillsboro, then known as the Westside MAX, opened in 1998. The line's current color designation was introduced in 2001. From Beaverton Transit Center to Rose Quarter Transit Center, the Blue Line shares its stops with the Red Line, and from Rose Quarter to Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center, with both the Red and the Green lines.
Background and early freeway proposals
In the early 20th century, privately-funded interurban railways gave Portland one of the largest urban rail systems in the American West, including lines that once extended from Forest Grove and Hillsboro east to Gresham and Troutdale. In 1912, as the city's population surpassed a quarter million, transit ridership rose to 70 million passengers annually. By the 1920s, streetcars had started to decline, in line with the rise of the automobile, and suburban and freeway development. As the last interurban service between Oregon City and Portland's eastside ceased operation in 1958, a 1955 Oregon State Highway Department report laid out the freeway development plan for the Portland metropolitan area, proposing the construction of the Mount Hood Freeway and Interstate 505 (Industrial Freeway).
The Mount Hood Freeway was a planned eight-lane section of Interstate 82 that would have traversed along Division Street and Powell Boulevard in Southeast Portland, connecting Interstate 5 from the Marquam Bridge to east Multnomah County. With over 1,700 homes occupying its intended path, strong local opposition to the proposal surfaced in 1969. In 1972, a citizen-led coalition called Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP) was formed to advocate replacing the project with alternative transportation improvements, including building a light rail line to serve the eastside. That same year, Neil Goldschmidt was elected mayor of Portland with freeway opposition at the center of his campaign platform.
As citizens continued to protest the Mount Hood Freeway project, two other factors eventually led to its cancellation. In 1973, an environmental impact study declared that the freeway would reach obsolescence by the time it was completed and would only add more traffic to downtown Portland than the surface streets could handle. Then, in February 1974, district judge James M. Burns formally rejected the plan, ruling that the corridor-selection process failed to follow the correct procedures. Amidst mounting anti-freeway sentiment and the project now delayed, in July 1974, the Portland City Council voted 4 to 1 to scrap the plan, with county and state authorities following shortly after.
Meanwhile, residents in Northwest Portland fought in opposition to Interstate 505. In 1971, organizers from the Northwest District Association sued to halt the construction of the new freeway following a suspect environmental impact study. After several years of drawn-out litigation that kept the project on hiatus, the city council also withdrew the proposal in 1974.
Banfield light rail project
Around the time the Mount Hood Freeway and I-505 plans collapsed, the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 allowed state governments for the first time to transfer federal funds from canceled highway projects to other transportation options, including mass transit. In May 1973, Governor Tom McCall assembled a task force to determine potential alternative uses for the Mount Hood funds, and in April 1974, released a preliminary draft listing light rail and buses as modes under consideration. In the meantime, Goldschmidt worked on persuading the Columbia Region Association of Governments (CRAG) board to channel the transfer funds towards improving access to downtown Portland.
With the freeway plans dead, $500 million of federal assistance became available and were used on other transportation projects throughout the region, including the Banfield transit corridor. Originally conceived to be a busway, support for light rail on the corridor grew following the release of an environmental impact study in 1977. In 1978, the cities of Portland and Gresham, Multnomah County, CRAG, Oregon Department of Transportation, and TriMet adopted a resolution supporting a combined Banfield light rail and highway expansion plan, and in September 1980, the Banfield light rail project received federal approval for construction.
In January 1979, Metro replaced CRAG as the regional land use and transportation planning agency. That same year, Metro adopted an urban growth boundary per requirements of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Act of 1973. In May 1979, TriMet introduced transit-oriented development to Portland with the publication of its first land use and transportation planning coordination handbook, implementing the concept for the first time on the Banfield line.
Conceptual designs were completed in November 1981. The line spanned 15.1 miles (24.3 km) and had 27 stations. On March 26, 1982, the groundbreaking ceremony took place at Ruby Junction Yard with U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, Governor Vic Atiyeh, and officials from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) in attendance. Construction commenced in April 1983 along the Gresham alignment. The Ruby Junction maintenance facility was completed in 1983 with the first rail car arriving in 1984. In order to minimize costs, light rail and freeway work were done simultaneously. System testing followed the reopening of the Steel Bridge in spring 1986.
On September 5, 1986, the $214 million (equivalent to $955 million in 2016 dollars) Banfield light rail—now MAX, for Metropolitan Area Express—began revenue service. Its new name, selected through a public contest, was won by TriMet designer Jeff Frane who attributed inspiration from his son, Alex.
Planning for restored services between downtown Portland and Hillsboro—formerly served by the Oregon Electric Railway—began as early as 1979 with a proposed route initially terminating at 185th Avenue and Walker Road. In 1983, Metro and local jurisdictions selected light rail as the preferred mode alternative and UMTA released funds to begin preliminary engineering work later that year. The project, however, was suspended by TriMet to make way for the Banfield light rail's construction and further planning did not commence until 1988.
By the time the project was restarted, significant changes in the westside corridor warranted a re-evaluation of the previously adopted plan. In particular, between 1980 and 1984, 3,000 acres of vacant Washington County land had been converted into mixed-use urban areas, spurring new development in Hillsboro that stood well above the regional average. In 1985, newly-appointed Hillsboro Mayor Shirley Huffman began lobbying for the line's extension to downtown Hillsboro. As part of her efforts, Huffman traveled frequently to Washington, D.C. to persuade Congress and infamously made a "stern" phone call to the head of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in 1990. As a result, a supplemental study was prepared in 1991 and the 1994 revised plan extended the line 6.2 miles (10 km) further west, bringing the new total distance of the extension to 18 miles (29 km).
Funding for the Westside MAX proved difficult under the Reagan Administration, which sought to reduce federal expenditures by delaying existing light rail projects and declining federal approval for future planning. As members of their respective appropriations committees, U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield and U.S. Representative Les AuCoin secured preliminary engineering and environmental review grants in 1989 by denying funding for the head of the FTA's office. In 1990, voters approved a $125 million ballot measure to fund the line's construction, the region's first successful vote approving public transit. Under new leadership, the FTA completed the funding package in 1992 by granting $516 million to build the line up to 185th Avenue. It provided an additional $113 million in 1994 following the approval of the Hillsboro extension.
In 1993, excavation began on the three-mile (4.8 km), 21-foot (6.4 m) diameter West Hills tunnels. Frontier-Traylor, a joint-venture of Frontier-Kemper Constructors and Traylor Brothers and the project's general contractor, opted to use conventional drilling and blasting techniques to excavate the west end. On the east segment, a 278-foot (84.7 m) tunnel boring machine was used to drill for two miles. Unanticipated, highly-fragmented rock initially made it difficult for the machine to push its way through, delaying the project for nine months. The tunnel was completed in 1997. At present, Washington Park station is the only underground station occupying the tunnel, holding the record for the deepest transit station in North America at 260 feet (79.2 m) below the ground.
In August 1997, the Westside MAX opened its first section up to Goose Hollow, in conjunction with the entry of North America's first low-floor cars into service. The final spike was driven on the Main Street Bridge in October 1997, and grand opening celebrations for the $963.5 million (equivalent to $1.36 billion in 2016 dollars) project took place on September 12, 1998. Ceremonies were held at Gresham City Hall, Civic Stadium, Beaverton Creek, and Hillsboro Government Center stations with speeches delivered by local and regional dignitaries, former Governor and U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, Governor John Kitzhaber, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater, and Vice President Al Gore. The line immediately drew strong ridership, beating 2005 projections less than two years after it opened.
The Blue Line's western terminus is Hatfield Government Center station, located on the corner of West Main Street and SW Adams Avenue in the city of Hillsboro. The line heads east along the median of SW Washington Street for 14 blocks and continues east on the right-of-way of the defunct Oregon Electric Railway, traveling mostly at-grade except at grade-separated crossings—notably, the Main Street Bridge and Cornelius Pass Road—until it reaches Beaverton Transit Center. It then turns north towards Sunset Transit Center and again proceeds east, running along the north side of Sunset Highway before entering the Robertson Tunnel for Washington Park station.
After the tunnel, the line passes below the Vista Bridge, continues along SW Jefferson Street, and turns north onto the median of SW 18th Avenue. Near Providence Park, the tracks diverge onto SW Yamhill Street (eastbound) and SW Morrison Street (westbound).
The tracks reconnect on SW 1st Avenue and head north, crossing the Willamette River via the Steel Bridge into the Rose Quarter and Lloyd District. The line leaves the Lloyd District near Exit 1 of Interstate 84 and travels east along the north side of the Banfield Expressway. It then crosses over the intersection of Interstate 84 and Interstate 205 towards Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center.
From Gateway Transit Center, the line heads south and then east, entering the median of East Burnside Street, along which it continues until Ruby Junction/East 197th Avenue station. It leaves the street there, heading southeast on former railroad right-of-way until reaching its eastern terminus, Cleveland Avenue station, located just east of the corner of NE Cleveland Avenue and NE 8th Street in Gresham.
|Station||Opened||Connections||Park and ride||Secure bike parking|
|Hatfield Government Center||1998||—||250 spaces||Yes|
|Hillsboro Central/Southeast 3rd Avenue Transit Center||1998||46, 47, 48, 57||—||Yes|
|Tuality Hospital/Southeast 8th Avenue||1998||—||85 spaces||Yes|
|Washington/Southeast 12th Avenue||1998||—||—||Yes|
|Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport||1998||46||396 spaces||Yes|
|Willow Creek/Southwest 185th Avenue Transit Center||1998|| 52, 59, 88
|Elmonica/Southwest 170th Avenue||1998||—||435 spaces||Yes|
|Merlo Road/Southwest 158th Avenue||1998||67||—||Yes|
|Beaverton Creek||1998||—||417 spaces||Yes|
|Millikan Way||1998||62||400 spaces||Yes|
|Beaverton Transit Center||1998||
20, 42, 52, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61, 76, 78, 88
|Sunset Transit Center||1998||
20, 48, 50, 59, 62
|Goose Hollow/Southwest Jefferson Street||1998||
6, 58, 68
|Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon Street||1997||—||No|
15, 18, 51, 63
|Library/Southwest 9th Avenue (eastbound)||1986||—||No|
|Galleria/Southwest 10th Avenue (westbound)||1986||—||No|
|Pioneer Square South (eastbound)||1986||
1, 8, 9, 12, 17, 19, 94
Portland Transit Mall
|Pioneer Square North (westbound)||1986||—||No|
|Mall/Southwest 4th Avenue (eastbound)||1990||—||No|
|Mall/Southwest 5th Avenue (westbound)||1990||—||No|
|Yamhill District (eastbound)||1986||—||No|
|Morrison/Southwest 3rd Avenue (westbound)||1986||—||No|
|Oak Street/Southwest 1st Avenue||1986||—||No|
|Rose Quarter Transit Center||1986||
4, 8, 35, 44, 77, 85
|Northeast 7th Avenue||1986||—||No|
|Lloyd Center/Northeast 11th Avenue||1986||
|Hollywood/Northeast 42nd Avenue Transit Center||1986||
66, 75, 77
|Northeast 60th Avenue||1986||
|Northeast 82nd Avenue||1986||
|Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center||1986||
15, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 87
|East 102nd Avenue||1986||15, 20||—||No|
|East 122nd Avenue||1986||73||612 spaces||Yes|
|East 148th Avenue||1986||—||—||No|
|East 162nd Avenue||1986||74||—||No|
|East 172nd Avenue||1986||—||—||No|
|East 181st Avenue||1986||25, 87||247 spaces||No|
|Rockwood/East 188th Avenue||1986||20, 25, 87||—||No|
|Ruby Junction/East 197th Avenue||1986||—||—||No|
|Gresham City Hall||1986||4, 21, 87||417 spaces||Yes|
|Gresham Central Transit Center||1986|| 4, 9, 20, 21, 80, 81, 82, 84, 87
|Cleveland Avenue||1986||—||392 spaces||Yes|
From Monday to Thursday, the Blue Line runs for 22½ hours per day, beginning service going westbound from Elmonica/Southwest 170th Avenue station and making its last stop going eastbound from Rose Quarter Transit Center to Ruby Junction/East 197th Avenue station. Additional late trips are provided on Fridays, with the last train arriving at Elmonica/Southwest 170th Avenue station from Hatfield Government Center station. On weekends, the line runs on a reduced schedule. Trains run most frequently during weekday rush hour, operating on headways of up to five minutes.
TriMet designates the Blue Line as a Frequent Service route along with the rest of the light rail system, ensuring that services run 15 minutes or better, daily.
|Average weekday ridership, 2017|
The Blue Line is the busiest of the five light rail lines, carrying 18.9 million total passengers in 2015 and averaging 55,360 riders on weekdays in May 2018. However, ridership on the entire MAX system has fallen to just over 77 million passengers since peaking at around 80 million in 2012. In the first three months of 2017, the Blue Line recorded an average 55,233 rides per weekday, a drop of 2.9 percent from the same period in 2016. TriMet attributes the drop to lower-income riders being forced out of the inner city by rising housing prices.
Accessibility and safety
Stations on the original Banfield line were initially built with wayside lifts to accommodate riders with disabilities on the high-floor, first generation vehicles. The lifts were installed on each station platform instead of on the trains to prevent malfunctions from potentially delaying services. Increased use of the lifts ultimately became the cause for delays. Additionally, many users felt stigmatized by the lifts' "box" design and time-consuming operation.
Following the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990, TriMet began pursuing sweeping changes to enhance accessibility throughout its system marked by the submission of a paratransit plan to the FTA in January 1992. Before the commencement of the westside expansion project, the MAX became the first light rail system in North America to obtain low-floor vehicles, following a TriMet study of European systems. Designed by Siemens, the low-floor cars entered service in August 1997.
In 2011, TriMet began upgrading sections of the Blue Line to improve pedestrian safety and compliance with updated ADA standards. In 2013, pipe barriers were installed at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center platform crossings in order to force pedestrians to slow down and face oncoming trains before crossing the tracks. In 2014, TriMet realigned sidewalks and crosswalks at four at-grade crossings in Gresham. Other improvements made throughout the line include pedestrian warning signal installations and tactile paving upgrades.
- Blackberry Deco, Calabazas, Leafwhelmed, and Puddles (Manda Beckett, 2003)
- Civic Drive Iris (Pete Beeman, 2010)
- Gathering and Dispersal (Christine Bourdette, 1998)
- Icarus at Kittyhawk (Lee Kelly, 2005)
- Rockwood Sunrise (Dan Corson, 2011)
- Sweet Home and the Garden of Life (Linda Haworth, 1998)
- Time Window (Christopher Rauschenberg)
- The World's Greatest (1998)
Artwork formerly installed on the Blue Line but removed:
- "May 2018 Monthly Performance Report" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 7-8.
- Selinger 2015, p. 8.
- Selinger 2015, p. 9.
- Selinger 2015, p. 10.
- Shoemaker, Mervin (June 29, 1955). "Plan Given for Traffic of Future - Highway Engineer Submits Report to Commission". The Oregonian.
- United States. Federal Highway Administation (1978). Powell Blvd, Phase II, Mt.Hood Hwy 26, Multnomah County: Environmental Impact Statement (Report). 1. Federal Highway Administration. p. 1. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
- Sultana, Selima; Weber, Joe, eds. (2016). Minicars, Maglevs, and Mopeds: Modern Modes of Transportation Around the World: Modern Modes of Transportation around the World. ABC-CLIO. p. 314. ISBN 1440834954.
- Young, Bob (March 8, 2005). "Highway to Hell". Willamette Week. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
- Carlson, Dan; Wormser, Lisa; Ulberg, Cy (1995). At Road's End: Transportation And Land Use Choices For Communities. Island Press. p. 64. ISBN 1559633387.
- Mesh, Aaron (November 4, 2014). "Feb. 4, 1974: Portland kills the Mount Hood Freeway..." Retrieved July 26, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 20.
- Burke, Lucas N. N.; Jeffries, Judson L. (2016). The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City. University of Washington Press. p. 193. ISBN 9780295806303.
- United States. Federal Highway Administration (1975). West Portland Park-and-ride, Pacific Hwy, I-5, Multnomah County: Environmental Impact Statement (Report). Federal Highway Administration. p. 11. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 29.
- Selinger 2015, p. 30.
- "Banfield Light Rail: Eastside MAX Blue Line Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. August 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- American Public Transit Association (1979). Public Transport. 37. American Public Transit Association. p. viii.
- Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (November 1, 1981). Banfield Light Rail Project: Conceptual Design Information for the City of Portland (Report). 9. TriMet Collection. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- Abbott, Carl; Abbott, Margery Post (1991). Historical Development of the Metropolitan Service District. Portland Regional Planning History (Report). 9. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 56.
- Thompson, Richard (Summer 1982). "Portland Light Rail" (PDF). The Trolley Park News. Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 33.
- National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board (1989). Light Rail Transit: New System Successes at Affordable Prices : Papers Presented at the National Conference on Light Rail Transit, May 8-11, 1988, San Jose, California, Issue 221 (Report). The Board. p. 317. ISBN 9780309047135.
- "TriMet: Celebrating 25 Years of MAX Blue Line to Gresham". TriMet. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
- Keeler, Robert W. (August 1993). Oregon Electric Railway Westside Corridor (Burlington Northern Railroad Westside Corridor (PDF) (Report). Historic American Engineering Record, National Parks Service. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
- United States. Federal Transit Administration (1994). Hillsboro Extension of the Westside Corridor Project, Washington County: Environmental Impact Statement (Report). Federal Transit Administration. p. P1-P5. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
- "Westside MAX: Blue Line Extension Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. August 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Hamilton, Don (February 23, 2000). "Shirley Huffman, fiery lobbyist, earns praise; Hard work and a sharp phone call put light-rail trains into downtown Hillsboro". The Oregonian. p. E2.
- Nelson, Kurt R. (1999). Policing Mass Transit: A Comprehensive Approach to Designing a Safe, Secure, and Desirable Transit Policing and Management System. Charles C Thomas Publisher. p. 140. ISBN 9780398082505.
- Selinger 2015, p. 69.
- Selinger 2015, p. 69-70.
- Swisher, Larry (December 12, 1989). "Oregon gets its pork, but Washington fattens up". The Register-Guard. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
- Selinger 2015, p. 70.
- American Concrete Institute (1999). Concrete International. Design & Construction. 21. The Institute. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 74.
- Selinger 2015, p. 76.
- Oliver, Gordon; Hamiton, Don (September 9, 1998). "Go west young MAX". The Oregonian.
- "Celebrating the Grand Opening of Tri-Met's Westside MAX Light Rail!". TriMet. September 11, 1998. Archived from the original on November 18, 1999. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- Stewart, Bill (September 13, 2000). "Westside MAX celebrates two years on track: The light-rail line surpasses expectations, averaging more riders daily than were projected for 2005". The Oregonian. p. C3.
- Portland City Center and Transit Mall map (PDF) (Map). TriMet. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
- TriMet System map (PDF) (Map). TriMet. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- Rail System Map with transfers (PDF) (Map). TriMet. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- Portland City Center and Transit Mall (PDF) (Map). TriMet. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- "Park & Ride Locations". TriMet. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- "Bike Parking". TriMet. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- "MAX Blue Line Westbound to Portland City Center and Hillsboro [schedule]". TriMet. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
- "MAX Blue Line Eastbound to Portland City Center and Gresham [schedule]". TriMet. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
- "Frequent Service" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
- "Monthly reports". TriMet. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- "Banfield Light Rail Eastside MAX Blue Line" (PDF). TriMet. July 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- Keizur, Christopher (June 12, 2017). "Safe travels?". Portland Tribune. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- Zielinski, Alex (May 18, 2018). "You Know Portland's Transportation Woes Have Reached a Breaking Point When..." The Portland Mercury. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 54.
- Selinger 2015, p. 53.
- Nunez, Jenifer (November 14, 2013). "TriMet begins pedestrian safety upgrades along MAX Blue Line". RT&S. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
- Murphy, Angela (November 13, 2013). "Renew the Blue moving forward along Eastside MAX Blue Line". TriMet News. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- Selinger 2015, p. 67.
- "Public Art on MAX Blue Line — Eastside". TriMet. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
- "Public Art on MAX Blue Line — Westside". TriMet. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
- Selinger, Philip (2015). "Making History: 45 Years of Transit in the Portland Region" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved July 26, 2018.