Friday, May 29, 2009
Stephen R. Banta, Executive Director Operations
Overall, the transition from 3rd and 4th avenues back to the Mall has gone smoothly. This is due to the hard work of TriMet employees who put an incredible amount of effort into preparing for the move, and who remained focused throughout the implementation of this massive service change. The hours of training and coordination between agencies was worth it, and along with our general manager, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to you all.
It has been a pleasure to see the excellent teamwork of our employees out on the street. All week, trainers, supervisors and station managers have been at the garages and up and down the Mall helping operators to navigate the new environment. Operators have told me that they appreciate driving on streets designed for transit operations. By and large, our customers appreciate being back on the Mall as well.
Many of the feelings of uncertainty that operators experienced on their first trips through the Mall have gone away. Soon, traveling along the Mall will become second nature. Remember that trains will return to the Mall for rail operator training next week. Because train presence will be intermittent for some time, it is critical that everyone pays close attention to the environment. Remember to be patient, and keep the safety of yourselves and your customers always at the front of your mind.
Analyzing TriMet cuts
TriMet's budget woes has prompted its board of directors to approve Ordinance 306, the much discussed service cuts slated for September 2009.
How much will these service cuts save? Unless I missed it, no one has asked or TriMet planning officials have not provided estimates on how these cuts will help fill the budget gap.
While Ordinance 306 refers to a "line-by-line/trip-by-trip technical analysis" of each of the service cuts, Kelly Runnion, TriMet's executive and board administrator, was recently unable to provide me a copy of the analysis. It appears that the board of directors have voted to approve substantial transit cuts without understanding what they voted on.
Last Friday, I joined City and University leaders at a bus parade and street fair to celebrate the return of buses to the Portland Mall.
By all accounts, our months and years of preparation are paying off in a smooth return to the Mall. Customer service staff reports that more than half of our customers knew about the change ahead of time. We have received only two-dozen negative comments from customers - a fraction of what we received when we relocated to 3rd and 4th. Almost all of the concerns have to do with where the buses are running - not how they are running. Customers are seeing benefits of the new revitalized look and feel of the Mall that will further be enhanced in the next phase of this project, as we finish work on shelters and introduce MAX stations on 5th and 6th avenues.
Every day, operators -newer and higher seniority alike- are becoming more and more accustomed to using the knowledge they learned in their training class. What I have observed is bus operators navigating the new operating environment with care and skill; customer service staff and Ride Guides assisting customers who have questions about where to find their buses; managers and supervisors offering operators support onboard and on the street; and TPD officers and other employees from our partner organizations emphasizing that transit has returned to the Mall and it's time for all users to follow the new rules.
I cannot think of a group of employees who do not deserve a hearty "thank you" for bringing the vision of a revitalized Transit Mall to reality. Of course there have been challenges. Some have been quickly fixed, like the signal timing at SW 5th and Ankeny that threatened to stack buses up at 5th and Burnside. We noticed the problem on Sunday, and worked with the City of Portland to have it fixed by Tuesday morning.
Others involve more of a learning curve, such as motorists and bicyclists making illegal and unsafe right turns. On issues like these, we continue to work with our partners to educate and enforce. What we're seeing is that most people who travel downtown frequently are following the new rules. But there will always be newcomers to the Mall, which is why we continue to refine signage and other elements of this unique operating environment.
Sunday, May 24, was a landmark day for TriMet. The return of buses to the Portland Mall is a big step forward for our total transit system. Now, we are in the final planning stages of changes on the Mall, bringing the Yellow line onto the Mall at the end of August followed by the Green line in September.
Again, I want to thank each and every one of you for your role in making the return to the revitalized Mall a smooth transition and furthering our goal of making this region the most livable in the country.
Tips & reminders for Bus Operators
Know your designated stops
Because of the different places routes enter and exit the Mall, the ABCD/
WXYZ system exists only between Madison and Oak. There’s no substitute
for reviewing a complete list of your line’s designated stops downtown.
Clear, easy-to-use lists appear in a number of places, including:
· The large, green pocket card that began circulating today;
· Printed schedules;
· Binders in the report area.
Note that detailed stop lists do not appear on route descriptions or paddles.
Service lane yields to the travel lane
-When you’re in the service lane, yield to buses and trains on your left.
-When you’re in the transit way, remember that buses on your right will yield to you. Trying to let them in just slows traffic and creates uncertainty.
Boarding: 1st and 2nd positions
Deboarding: Any position
Keep the double white line on your left
When the MAX track curves, keep driving straight. Don’t follow the curve.
See your station agent for info
Station agents have pocket cards for you and service alert brochures for your customers, along with schedules and line-by-line downtown stop lists.
Operating condition updates
-The City of Portland has adjusted the timing of the light on 5th at Ankeny
to reduce the chance of buses backing up at Burnside.
-Operators have raised concerns about the visibility of South Mall stop signage. Modest improvements may occur in the coming months while we experiment with reflective material for the route numbers and finish installing shelter lighting all along the Mall.