MAX Light Rail

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MAX Light Rail
TriMet MAX logo.svg
Ad-free MAX train of two Type 2 cars on Steel Bridge in 2015.jpg
A westbound Type 2 Blue Line train seen crossing the Steel Bridge in Portland
LocalePortland, Oregon, U.S.
Transit typeLight rail
Number of lines5
Number of stations97
Daily ridership121,100 (as of 2018)[1]
Annual ridership38,906,694 (as of 2018)[1]
WebsiteMAX Light Rail
Began operationSeptember 5, 1986
Number of vehicles145[2]
System lengthApproximately 60 mi (97 km)[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC, overhead catenary[3]

MAX Light Rail (for Metropolitan Area Express) is a light rail system in Portland, Oregon, United States, that is owned and operated by TriMet. Consisting of five lines over a 59.7-mile (96.1 km) network, it serves 97 stations, connecting the North, Northeast, and Southeast sections of Portland; the suburban communities of Beaverton, Clackamas, Gresham, Hillsboro, and Milwaukie; and Portland International Airport to Portland City Center. With an average daily ridership of 121,100 and nearly 39 million annual riders in 2018, MAX is the fourth-busiest light rail system in the United States after comparable light rail services in Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco. Lines run on all days of the week with frequent headways of 15 minutes to as short as five minutes during rush hour.

Among the first second-generation American light rail systems to be built, MAX was conceived as a result of freeway revolts that took place in Portland in the early 1970s. Construction of the Blue Line's inaugural eastside segment, then known as the Banfield light rail project, began in 1982 and completed for the line to commence service on September 5, 1986. The system has since expanded through subsequent extension projects that have built upon the original line, with the Orange Line, opened in 2015, as its latest extension. Future expansion plans include extending Red Line service further west to Hillsboro in 2023 and, if funding is approved by voters in 2020, a proposed light rail extension through Southwest Portland and Tigard to Tualatin, referred to as the Southwest Corridor light rail project, is slated to open in 2027.

MAX is one of three urban rail transit services operating in the Portland metropolitan area, with the other two being the Portland Streetcar and WES Commuter Rail. It provides direct connections to other modes of public transportation, including local and intercity buses at most stations and Amtrak via Union Station.



An Oregon Electric train seen in Beaverton

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 to Troutdale and Vancouver, Washington to Eugene.[4][5] Portland's first trolleys, initially drawn by horse and mule, were introduced in 1872, brought over from San Francisco by Ben Holladay. In 1890, the first electric streetcar service opened in Albina, operated by the Willamette Bridge Railway Company, and the first cable car began running along 5th Avenue in Portland; these lines marked the start of an era of major streetcar line expansion.[6] The East Side Railway Company built the city's first long-distance interurban line in 1892, operating a 16-mile (25.7 km) route between Portland and Oregon City.[7] The Portland Railway, Light and Power Company took over all local streetcars by 1906,[8] and interurban operations by 1908.[9]:93 In 1912, as Portland's population exceeded 250,000, transit ridership rose to 70 million passengers annually.[10] By the 1920s, streetcars had started to decline in line with the rise of the automobile and suburban and freeway development.[11] The region's last two interurban lines, which went to Oregon City and Bellrose (Southeast 136th Avenue), ceased operation in 1958.[9]:61, 93[12]

Early beginnings[edit]

An original Bombardier light rail car seen entering the 11th Avenue turnaround loop in 1987

At the height of local freeway revolts in the 1970s, TriMet began a study for mass transit using funds intended for the canceled Mount Hood Freeway and Interstate 505,[13] which were made available by the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1973.[14] A task force assembled by Governor Tom McCall helped determine several options, including light rail and a busway.[15] The busway alternative had originally been favored by the Highway Division,[16] but support for light rail grew following its inclusion in an environmental impact statement in 1977.[17] The proposal became known as the Banfield light rail project, named for the Banfield Freeway, a segment of Interstate 84, that part of the alignment followed. The TriMet board approved the project in September 1978.[18] Construction of the 15.3-mile (24.6 km), 27-station route started in March 1982,[19] and the line opened between 11th Avenue in downtown Portland and Gresham on September 5, 1986.[20] Of the project's total cost of $214 million (equivalent to $994 million in 2018 dollars), 83 percent was funded by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA).[21] Less than two months before opening, TriMet adopted the name Metropolitan Area Express, or MAX, for the new system following an employee contest.[22]

As the planning of a second light rail line to the west side gained momentum in the mid-1980s, the original MAX line came to be referred to as the Eastside MAX, so as to distinguish it from the Westside MAX project to Beaverton and Hillsboro.[23] Early proposals called for the westside extension to terminate near 185th Avenue, just west of the border between the two cities.[24] Following a dispute between TriMet and UMTA over a financing plan, the project was suspended for several years.[25] When planning resumed in 1988, changes in the Westside necessitated an environmental impact re-evaluation, which led to a supplemental study that was completed in May 1991.[24] Staunch lobbying by Hillsboro and state officials led by Mayor Shirley Huffman prompted another supplemental study that pushed the line further west to downtown Hillsboro in 1993.[26] Construction of the 18-mile (29 km) line began in August 1993, with the excavation of the Robertson Tunnel.[27] The extension opened in two stages due to delays in construction: from downtown to Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon Street station in 1997, and then to Hatfield Government Center station, its present western terminus, the following year.[28] The resulting 33-mile (53 km) line began operating as a single, through route on September 12, 1998.[29] It became the Blue Line in 2001, after TriMet adopted color designations for its separate light rail routes.[30]

South–North proposal[edit]

MAX Light Rail
Hatfield Government Ctr  
Hillsboro Central
SE 3rd TC
Tuality Hospital/SE 8th
Washington/SE 12th
Fair Complex
Hillsboro Airport
Hillsboro Airport Parking
  SE Park
Hawthorn Farm
SE Tacoma
Johnson Creek
SE Bybee
Willow Creek/SW 185th TC
SE 17th & Holgate
Elmonica/SW 170th
SE 17th & Rhine
Merlo Rd/SW 158th
Clinton/SE 12th
Beaverton Creek
 A   B 
Millikan Way
Portland Streetcar
Beaverton Central
Beaverton TC  
WES Commuter Rail
South Waterfront
SW Moody
 A   B 
Sunset TC
 A   B   NS 
Washington Park
Lincoln St/SW 3rd
Goose Hollow/SW Jefferson
Kings Hill/SW Salmon
   PSU South
Portland Streetcar
PSU Urban Ctr
SW 6th & Montgomery
Providence Park
Stadium - The Noun Project.svg
 A   NS 
Portland Streetcar
PSU Urban Ctr
SW 5th & Mill
 B   NS 
 B   NS 
City Hall/SW 5th & Jefferson
SW 6th & Madison
 A   NS 
Portland Streetcar
Library & Galleria
Expo Center  
Pioneer Square
Delta Park/Vanport
Pioneer Courthouse
Kenton/N Denver
Pioneer Place
N Lombard TC
Mall/SW 4th & 5th
Rosa Parks
Yamhill District
Morrison/SW 3rd
SW 5th & Oak
SW 6th & Pine
N Killingsworth St
Oak/SW 1st
NW 5th & Couch
NW 6th & Davis
Skidmore Fountain
N Prescott
Old Town/Chinatown
Union Station  
Overlook Park
Steel Bridge
Interstate/Rose Quarter
Stadium - The Noun Project.svg
Rose Quarter TC
Stadium - The Noun Project.svg
Convention Center
Portland Streetcar
NE 7th
Portland Streetcar
Lloyd Center/NE 11th
Portland Int'l Airport  
Portland International Airport
Hollywood/NE 42nd TC
Mt Hood
NE 60th
NE 82nd
I-205 (southbound)
Parkrose/Sumner TC
Gateway/NE 99th TC
I-84 / I-205 (northbound)
SE Main
E 102nd
I-84 / I-205
E 122nd
SE Division
E 148th
SE Powell
E 162nd
SE Holgate
E 172nd
Lents Town Center
SE Foster
E 181st
SE Flavel
Rockwood/E 188th
SE Fuller
Ruby Junction/E 197th
Town Ctr TC
Civic Dr
Gresham City Hall
Gresham Central TC
Cleveland Ave  

MAX Light Rail tracks
Portland Streetcar tracks

Metro began studying a north–south line in 1979, initially deeming light rail unfeasible.[31] Portland voters approved funding for a light rail study between Portland and Oregon City in November 1990,[32] which Metro completed in 1993.[33] Early proposals projected a route to run from Hazel Dell, Washington south to Clackamas Town Center and Oregon City via Milwaukie.[34][35] Tri-Met formally named the proposal South–North line to acknowledge Clackamas County's support of the region's past light rail projects.[36] In November 1994, Tri-Met introduced a $475-million ballot measure to fund the line's share in Oregon that received 63-percent support from voters.[36] Clark County voters subsequently rejected Washington's portion in February 1995,[37] prompting Tri-Met to downsize the plan and abandon the Clark County and North Portland segments up to the Rose Quarter.[38] In July 1995, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a $750-million transportation package that included $375 million for the scaled-back light rail line,[39] The Oregon Supreme Court invalidated the funding package in January 1996 due to its inclusion unrelated measures,[32] which violated the state's Constitution.[40] The legislature met again to approve another $375 million package in February,[32] but opponents forced a statewide vote that defeated it in November.[41]

Following the proposal's defeat, surveys conducted with local leaders in December 1996 revealed that the region remained in support of light rail.[42] A new proposal followed, placing the line between Lombard Street in North Portland and Clackamas Town Center.[43] In early 1997, Metro and Tri-Met proposed building the line without contributions from either Clark County or the state; funding would be sourced from Clackamas County and Portland instead. The proposal drew opposition from Milwaukie residents and forced a campaign that recalled the Milwakie mayor and city council in December 1997. In August 1998, Tri-Met placed another ballot measure to reaffirm voter support for the originally-approved $475-million funds.[36] The measure failed by 52 percent in November 1998, effectively canceling plans to build the proposed line.[44]

Airport and Interstate lines[edit]

A Red Line train at Portland International Airport

Amid rapid growth and worsening congestion at Portland International Airport, engineering firm Bechtel submitted an unsolicited proposal in 1997 to design and build an airport light rail extension in exchange for development rights to an area of undeveloped commercially zoned property east of the airport called the Portland International Center, later renamed Cascade Station. A public–private partnership between the company, the Port of Portland, and local governments was negotiated and the Airport MAX project began construction in 1999. With no federal assistance requested and public right-of-way already secured, the four-station, 5.5-mile (8.9 km) extension, between Gateway Transit Center and Portland International Airport station, opened for Red Line service in under two years, on September 10, 2001.[45] Celebrations slated for that weekend were canceled in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, which took place the following day. The Red Line originally ran between the airport and the Library and Galleria stations, turning around at the 11th Avenue loop tracks. On September 1, 2003, it was extended west to Beaverton Transit Center in an effort to relieve overcrowding on the Blue Line and to create no-transfer airport connection for the west side.

In 1999, North Portland residents expressed their desire for what remained of the South–North plan, prompting officials to move forward with the Interstate MAX project that broke ground in 2000 and completed in May 2004;[36] it was designated the Yellow Line and initially ran from Expo Center in North Portland to 11th Avenue in downtown Portland, following the Blue and Red line downtown alignment starting from the east end of the Steel Bridge.

South Corridor extensions[edit]

In 2001, Metro conducted two studies that revisited light rail in Clackamas County: one from Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center via Interstate 205, and the other from downtown Portland to Milwaukie via the Hawthorne Bridge.[46] Both proposals were approved in 2003.[47][48] The I-205/Portland Mall light rail project began in January 2007 with the reconstruction of the Portland Transit Mall.



Schematic map of MAX Light Rail along with WES Commuter Rail and the Portland Streetcar

The MAX system consists of five lines, each designated by a color. The use of colors to distinguish the separately-operated routes was first adopted in 2000 and brought into use in 2001, with the opening of the Red Line.[30][49] All five lines traverse downtown Portland; the Blue and Red lines from west to east via Morrison and Yamhill streets and the Green, Orange, and Yellow lines from north to south via the Portland Transit Mall on 5th and 6th avenues. The Yellow Line, which began service in 2004, originally followed the same route into downtown Portland as the Red and Blue lines along First Avenue and Morrison and Yamhill streets; it was shifted to a new alignment along the Portland Transit Mall in 2009, introducing light rail service to the corridor.[50][51] All lines except the Orange Line cross the Steel Bridge and pass through the Rose Quarter, although conversely, the Orange Line is the only MAX service that travels across Tilikum Crossing. Moreover, the Green Line is the only line that shares parts of its route with all of the other lines.[52]

Service Commenced Last extension Stations Termini
Blue Line[53] September 5, 1986 1998 51 Hatfield Government Center
Cleveland Avenue
Green Line[54] September 12, 2009 30 PSU South
Clackamas Town Center TC
Orange Line[55] September 12, 2015 17 Union Station
(City Center)
Southeast Park Avenue
Red Line[56] September 10, 2001 2003 (along already
existing tracks)
29 Beaverton TC
(Beaverton TC)
Portland International Airport
Yellow Line[57] May 1, 2004 2009 17 Expo Center
(Expo Center)
PSU South
(City Center)


The MAX rail network is 59.7 miles (96.1 km) long. It was built in a series of six separate projects, and each line runs over one or more of the previously opened segments.

Project Opened Current line(s) End points New
Length Construction
(mi) (km)
Eastside (Banfield)[58] September 5, 1986 Blue, Green, Red 31 (27
15.1 24.3[59][60][61] 1982–1986
Westside[62] September 12, 1998 Blue, Red
  • Hatfield Government Center
  • Library and Galleria
20 17.7 28.5[63] 1993–1998
Airport[64] September 10, 2001 Red 4 5.5 8.9[65] 1999–2001
Interstate[66] May 1, 2004 Yellow 10 5.8 9.3[66][65] 2001–2004
Portland Transit Mall[67] August 30, 2009 Green, Orange, Yellow
  • Steel Bridge
  • PSU South
14 1.8 2.9[68][50] 2007–2009
I-205[67] September 12, 2009 Green
  • Gateway TC
  • Clackamas Town Center TC
8 6.5 10.5[69][68]
Portland–Milwaukie[70] September 12, 2015 Orange
  • PSU South
  • Southeast Park Avenue
10 7.3 11.7[70][65] 2011–2015
Total 97 59.7 96  


A two-car train at the Clackamas Town Center Transit Center platform

97 stations are served by MAX. Of these, 51 stations are served by the Blue Line, 30 by the Green Line, 29 by the Red Line, 17 by the Orange Line, and 17 by the Yellow Line. Moreover, 32 stations are served by two lines and eight stations are served by three lines.[52] Eleven stations operate as transit centers, which provide connections to bus services.[71] Beaverton Transit Center is the only station that is served by a third mode, TriMet's WES Commuter Rail, which travels south to Wilsonville.[72] Riders may also connect to Amtrak near Union Station and to the Portland Streetcar at several points in downtown Portland and the Central Eastside where lines intersect. The system's central stations, where all trains connect, encompass Pioneer Courthouse and Pioneer Courthouse Square; these are Pioneer Courthouse and Pioneer Place stations served by the Green, Orange, and Yellow lines and Pioneer Square stations served by the Blue and Red lines.[52]

A majority of MAX stations are at-grade. Exceptions include Sunset Transit Center, Southeast Bybee Boulevard station, and several stations along the Banfield and I-205 freeways. Washington Park station is the system's only underground station as well as North America's deepest transit station at 260 feet (79.2 m) below the ground. Platforms are about 200 feet (61 m) long as a result of Portland's short city blocks, restricting trains to two car consists.[73][74]

Arrival information displays are in place at many stations. They show arrival countdowns for trains and information about any service disruptions. Initially installed on Green Line and Portland Transit Mall stations, a $180,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration in 2013 enabled TriMet to add the displays to many additional stations.[75]

TriMet commissioned Zimmer Gunsul Frasca to design the system's 27 original stations, which earned the firm a Progressive Architecture Award in 1984.[76] MAX stations vary in size, but are generally simple and austere. As is typical of light rail systems, there are no faregates or specially segregated areas. Stations outside of downtown have platforms and entrance halls, while most stations in downtown are little more than streetcar-style stops. Official concessionaires sometimes open coffee shops at stations.

Accessibility and safety[edit]

A high-floor Bombardier light rail car and a wayside lift seen at Oak Street station in 1987

Stations on the original MAX line were built with wayside lifts to accommodate riders with disabilities on the high-floor, first generation vehicles. The lifts were installed on each station platform, rather than on the trains, to prevent malfunctions from potentially delaying services.[77] Increased use of the lifts ultimately became the cause of delays.[78] Additionally, many users felt stigmatized by the lifts' "box" design and time-consuming operation.[79] Following the passing into law of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1990, TriMet began considering changes to enhance accessibility with the submission of a paratransit plan to the FTA in January 1992.[80] Before the commencement of the Westside MAX project, the MAX became the first light rail system in North America to obtain low-floor vehicles after a TriMet study of European systems.[78] The first low-floor cars, which were designed by Siemens, entered service in August 1997.[79]

In 2011, TriMet began upgrading sections of the Blue Line to improve pedestrian safety and compliance with updated ADA standards.[81] In 2013, pipe barriers were installed at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center platform crossings 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.[82]

Future plans[edit]

TriMet works with local jurisdictions and other agencies to identify and recommend priority transit projects, which are then included in Metro's Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The 2018 RTP, the latest iteration, lists three separate funding scenarios, which divides the region's proposals into three priority levels. The highest priority projects, referred to as 2027 Constrained, are proposals that the region expects to have funding for by 2027. The 2040 Constrained lists projects that fit within the region's planned budget through 2040, while the 2040 Strategic are projects that may be built if additional funding becomes available.[83]:5

Planned projects[edit]

The 2018 RTP currently lists two light rail extension projects that it expects will be funded by 2027; they are the Red Line improvements and Southwest Corridor projects.[83]:17

Project Status Description New
Length[65] Planned
(mi) (km)
Red Line improvements[84] Preliminary design Extend Red Line service on the west side from the line's existing terminus at Beaverton Transit Center to Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport station in Hillsboro using existing tracks; it will serve 10 existing stations. On the east side, TriMet would add a second track to all single-track segments, and reconfigure the Red Line approach to Gateway Transit Center Station and add a second platform.[85] 2023 $200 million
Southwest Corridor[86] Preliminary design From PSU to Tualatin via Tigard along dedicated lanes on Barbur Boulevard.[87] In May 2016, light rail was chosen as the preferred mode alternative over bus rapid transit.[88] Proposals to serve Marquam Hill/OHSU, Hillsdale, and PCC Sylvania with tunnels were dropped from the plan because they would be costly, have severe construction impacts, and attract few new transit riders.[89][90] Connecting OHSU to a surface transit line though elevators or escalators is being studied.[91] 13 12 19 2027 $2.6–2.8 billion[92]

Other projects[edit]

TriMet has indicated that additional extensions and improvements have been studied or discussed with Metro and cities in the region.[83]:17[69] These proposals include the following, with light rail being considered along with other alternatives:

Rolling stock[edit]

A MAX train composed of one low-floor car and one high-floor car on the Portland Transit Mall in 2015

TriMet operates five models of light rail vehicles, of which two were successive upgrades of the same model. They are designated by the agency as Type 1 through Type 5 and total 145 cars. The models vary in length, from 89 feet (27.1 m) to 95 feet (29.0 m), though all of them are used interchangeably by every line on the network.[94] The first type, Type 1, total 26 vehicles and were manufactured by a joint venture between La Brugeoise et Nivelles and Bombardier beginning in 1983 for the Banfield light rail project.[95] Similar in design to Bombardier vehicles used in Brussels and Rio de Janeiro,[95] the first of the high-floor vehicles arrived in Portland in 1984.[96] Wayside lifts were installed on stations of the original MAX line in order to accommodate riders using mobility devices.

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Tri-Met officials conducted an accessibility study in 1992 and determined that low-floor cars were the most cost-effective way to provide universal access to the system.[94] Amid preparations for the Westside MAX project, the MAX became the first light rail system in North America to acquire low-floor train sets following the procurement of 35 model SD660 cars, dubbed Type 2, from Siemens in 1993.[97][98] The Type 2 trains, equipped with built-in wheelchair ramps,[99] entered service during the partial opening of the Westside MAX in 1997.[100] In 1999,[101] Tri-Met ordered 17 additional Type 2 cars for the Airport MAX project.[94] The system's 27 Type 3 vehicles, which were ordered as part of the Interstate MAX project and first brought into use in 2003, are the same model as the Type 2 vehicles, with the primary differences being various technical upgrades and a new paint scheme.[94][102]

Twenty-two Siemens S70 low-floor cars, designated Type 4, were purchased in conjunction with the I-205 MAX and Portland Transit Mall projects and were first used in 2009. They feature a more streamlined design, have more seating, and are lighter in weight and therefore more energy-efficient. The Type 4 cars were also the first to use LED-type destination signs.[103] The second series of Siemens S70 cars, TriMet's Type 5 vehicles, were procured for the Portland–Milwaukie light rail project. TriMet placed the order for the Type 5 cars with Siemens in 2012 and delivery commenced in 2014.[104] These vehicles include some improvements over the Type 4 cars, including a less-cramped interior seating layout,[105] and improvements to the air-conditioning system and wheelchair ramps.[106]

The majority of MAX service is provided by two-car consists. Type 2 and 3 vehicles are capable of running singularly, or coupled to another Type 1, 2, or 3 vehicle. Trainsets composed of one low-floor and one high-floor car allowed the removal of wayside lifts from Eastside MAX stations. Type 4 and 5 trains can only be coupled with one another.[94]

The interior of a Type 2 car, facing towards the middle section
The interior of a Type 5 car
Image Designation Car numbers Manufacturer Model No. First used No. of Seats/
Overall Capacity
MAX train on Yamhill St with Pioneer Place (1991) - Portland, Oregon Type 1 101–126 Bombardier none 1986 76/166 26
MAX train of two Type 2 cars on the Steel Bridge Type 2 201–252 Siemens SD660 1997 64/166 52
MAX train crossing Steel Bridge in 2009 - street view of SD660 LRVs Type 3 301–327 Siemens SD660 2003 64/166 27
MAX Light Rail Car (Multnomah County, Oregon scenic images) (mulDA0008a) Type 4 401–422 Siemens S70 2009 68/172[107] 22
Type 5 LRVs laying over on the Blue Line in Hillsboro, May 2015 Type 5 521–538 Siemens S70 2015 72/186[106] 18

Maintenance facilities[edit]

The main building at the Ruby Junction maintenance facility

TriMet has two vehicle-maintenance complexes for the MAX system: the Ruby Junction facility, in Gresham, and the Elmonica facility, in Beaverton,[108] which is smaller.[109] The now-23-acre (9.3 ha)[109] Ruby Junction facility is located near the Ruby Junction/E. 197th station of the Blue Line, while the Elmonica facility is adjacent to the Elmonica/SW 170th station, also on the Blue Line.

Ruby Junction began with one building, built as part of the original MAX project in the early 1980s, and has expanded subsequently—to three multistory buildings totalling 143,000 square feet (13,300 m2) on 17 acres (6.9 ha) by 2010[108] and to four buildings totalling 149,000 square feet (13,800 m2) on 23 acres (9.3 ha) by 2016.[109] It has 13 maintenance bays, and its yard tracks have the capacity to store 87 light rail cars.[109] In 2016, around 200 employees were working at Ruby Junction, and almost 200 MAX operators were operating trains based there.[109]

The Elmonica facility was built as part of the Westside MAX Project in the mid-1990s and was completed in 1996.[110] Its building has 78,000 square feet (7,200 m2) of space.[110]

In addition to vehicle maintenance, crews who maintain the MAX system's tracks and signals are also based at Ruby Junction.[109] In 2015, some of TriMet's MAX maintenance-of-way personnel moved into the former Portland Vintage Trolley carbarn next to the Rose Quarter TC station, after Vintage Trolley service was discontinued, under a plan first described in 2013.[111]


TriMet's 2015-opened Tilikum Crossing is the only place where MAX shares tracks with the Portland Streetcar system.
Average Daily Ridership, Jan 2002 thru Nov 2016

In parts of the MAX system, particularly in central Portland and Hillsboro, MAX trains run on surface streets. Except on the Portland Transit Mall, trains run in reserved lanes closed to other motorized vehicles. On the Transit Mall, trains operate on the same lanes as TriMet buses (although MAX trains have traffic priority). Elsewhere, MAX runs within its own exclusive right-of-way, in street medians, alongside freeways, and on former freight railroad lines.

Where the tracks run in a street median, such as the majority of the Yellow Line and the section of the Blue Line along Burnside Street between Gateway Transit Center and Ruby Junction, intersections are generally controlled by traffic signals which give trains preemption. Where the tracks occupy a completely separate right-of-way, the tracks are protected by automated grade crossing gates. A three-mile (4.8 km) section consists of two tunnels below Washington Park. While this section has only one station, it is 260 feet (79 m) below ground level, making it the deepest transit station in North America[78] and one of the deepest in the world.

Because of Portland's relatively small 200-foot (61 m) downtown blocks, trains operate with only one or two cars (technically, the single-car "trains" are in fact not trains). The MAX cars are about 90 feet (27.4 m) long, so a stopped train consisting of more than two cars would block intersections. All service is typically operated with two-car trains, except for certain trips during late-night hours. During the first few years of Red Line and Yellow Line service, those lines normally used single cars on a portion of their service, but as ridership has grown and additional light rail cars have been acquired, those lines now normally use all two-car trains. The 2009-introduced MAX Mall Shuttle, which provided supplementary service along the Portland Transit Mall on weekday afternoons only, normally always used a single car;[50] it was discontinued in June 2011.[112]

The trains operate on direct current and utilize two voltages, 750 V DC nominal on sections west of NE 9th Avenue & Holladay Street and 825V DC nominal on the remainder. The two systems are electrically isolated.[113]

Trains run every 15 minutes from early in the morning until late at night, even on weekends. The Blue Line runs every 10 minutes during rush hour. Headways between trains are shorter in the central section of the system, where lines overlap. Actual schedules vary by location and time of day. At many stations, a live readerboard shows the destination and time-to-arrival of the next several trains, using data gathered by a vehicle tracking system.


A TriMet ticket vending machine with Hop Fastpass branding
A Hop Fastpass card and ticket reader at a MAX station

As is standard practice on North American light rail systems,[114] MAX uses a proof-of-payment fare collection system, and MAX stations do not have ticket barriers.[115] Ticket vending machines at stations accept cash[116] (at least one machine at each station) as well as credit and debit cards, but non-cash payment methods not involving use of a ticket vending machine are also offered. On all of its services, including MAX, TriMet employs an automated fare collection system through a stored-value, contactless smart card called Hop Fastpass.[117] A physical Hop card can be purchased from retail stores.[118] A virtual card is available to Android users.[119] Alternatively, chip-embedded, single-use tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines located at station platforms.[120] Smartphones with a debit or credit card loaded into Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or Apple Pay can be used as well.[121] Portland Streetcar ticket vending machines also issue 2½-hour tickets and 1-day passes that are valid on MAX.[122]

Prior to each boarding, riders must tap their fare medium to a card reader found at every station.[118] Fares are flat rate and are capped based on usage.[123] Riders may transfer to other TriMet services, C-Tran, and the Portland Streetcar using Hop Fastpass.[124]

Rider 2½-hour ticket Day Pass Month Pass
Adult $2.50 $5 $100
Youth, Honored Citizen $1.25 $2.50 $28

Discontinued services[edit]

Portland Vintage Trolley[edit]

In addition to regular MAX service, the Portland Vintage Trolley operated on the MAX system from 1991 until 2014, on most weekends, serving the same stops. This service, which operated for the last time in July 2014,[125][126] used 1991-built replicas of 1904 Portland streetcars. Until 2009, the Vintage Trolley service followed a section of the original MAX line, between the Galleria/Library stations and Lloyd Center, but in September 2009 the service moved to the newly opened MAX alignment along the transit mall, running from Union Station to Portland State University,[50][127] and remained on that route in subsequent seasons. In 2011, the service was reduced to only seven or eight Sundays per year,[128] and in July 2014 it was discontinued entirely, with the sale of the two remaining faux-vintage cars to a group planning a streetcar line in St. Louis.[125][126]

Fareless Square[edit]

From the MAX system's opening until 2012, riding was free in Fareless Square (known as the Free Rail Zone from 2010 to 2012), which included all of downtown and, starting in 2001, part of the Lloyd District. The 37-year-old fare-free zone was discontinued on September 1, 2012, as part of systemwide cost-cutting measures.[129] As part of the same budget cuts, TriMet discontinued its zonal fares, moving to a flat fare system. Zones had been in place since 1986, with higher fares for longer rides, and three fare zones (five until 1988).[129]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "TriMet Service and Ridership Statistics" (PDF). TriMet. October 5, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "TriMet At-A-Glance". TriMet. January 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "Power, Signals and Traffic Interface" (PDF). TriMet. July 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
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Work cited[edit]

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