Portland MAX

From nycsubway.org


MAX train (Siemens SD600A no. 209) inbound at SW 5th/Jefferson Street (City Hall). Photo by Peter Ehrlich, September 2009.


Portland's MAX, short for Metropolitan Area Express, covers 44 miles across the Portland Metro area. MAX uses a combination of right-of-ways including freeway shoulders and medians, paved tracks on city streets, and private right of way. Some sections of track use old trolley lines. TriMet, the Portland metro area's Transit Authority, owns and operates the MAX Light Rail system. Almost all of TriMet's bus lines tie into MAX stations, feeding the growing rail system.

The MAX Blue Line is the first light rail line in Portland, and is the main east-west spine of the MAX system. Beginning in 1986 with the Portland-Gresham segment (Cleveland Avenue to 11th Avenue), this was extended from downtown Portland to Hillsboro in 1998. These two segments now make up the Blue Line, but are referred to as Eastside MAX (Galleria/Library stations east to Gresham) and Westside MAX (Galleria/Library west to Hillsboro). This main spine of MAX is used by all the other lines to enter downtown Portland. The Red Line uses the segment between Beaverton Transit Center and Gateway Transit Center. The Yellow Line uses a small section over the Steel Bridge to Rose Quarter. And the newest part of MAX, the Green line, piggybacks from Steel Bridge to Gateway.


Portland MAX Route Map

Portland MAX Track Map

Portland MAX Future Map

The Lines

For purposes of the histories of each line and station-by-station descriptions, the MAX system is separated into these sections:


Portland MAX Blue Line (East-West)


Portland MAX Yellow Line (Interstate)


Portland MAX Red Line (Airport)


Portland MAX Green Line (Clackamas)


Numbers Type Manufacturer Year Built Status Notes
100-126 Type 1 Bombardier 1986
201-252 Type 2 Siemens SD600A 1998
301-327 Type 3 Siemens SD600A 2004
401-422 Type 4 Siemens SD70 2009

The MAX system now includes over 100 articulated light rail vehicles. The first trains received were high-floor Bombardier cars, ordered for the original starter line. These cars presently are not allowed to run as singles or doubles on the system, as these would not comply with ADA. A low floor car must be coupled to any Bombardier car in order to guarantee wheelchair access. The design of these cars are similar to

The next cars ordered were 52 Siemens low-floor cars, eliminating the need for the notorious wheelchair lifts which slowed down travel across the system. Using an ingenious "Bridge Plate" ramp, these trains sit level with the platform surface, with the deployable ramp spanning the gap. These ramps only deploy if the operator in the cab is requested to do so, or a passenger pushes a button. Previously, those in wheelchairs had to use lifts at every station, which required MAX operators to leave the cab and operate the lift.

The 200 series inaugurated North America's first low-floor light rail vehicles, and prompting a massive platform rebuilding and retrofitting the older Bombardier cars with recorded announcements. All trains now have recorded messages announcing the station name, which side the train's doors are opening upon, line color, destination, direction of travel, and safety information. This information is also repeated in Spanish.

The 300 series were ordered for the Interstate MAX line, and are identical to the 200 series Siemens cars. Other than some improved electronics and a new TriMet paint scheme, only the numbers are different. As of this writing, TriMet has received 17 Type-3 MAX, which are all in revenue service. Ten more cars awaiting receiving will soon round out the 300 series.

Unlike most modern light rail systems, MAX trains use roll signs instead of digital readouts. Signs for the various lines have the line color in the background, with either white or black lettering stating the destination. Black roll signs with white lettering usually indicate trains out of service.

All three types of trains are able to run on every section of the system, however consists are limited to a maximum of 2 cars. This is limited because Portland's smaller, 200 foot blocks would not allow a train to use a station without blocking auto traffic on cross streets.


TriMet's three zone fare system is applied to MAX service. The fare you pay is based upon how many zones you plan upon traveling through. MAX tickets and bus transfers are mutually accepted, providing seamless transfers.

The fare system is enforced by the Proof-of-Payment (POP) method, so everyone's on the honor system. However, fares are enforced by random sweeps by local law enforcement and TriMet Fare Inspectors. Violations can carry a fine and/or exclusion from the TriMet system and property.


Official Site - TriMet. Tri-County Metropolitan Transit District of Oregon Schedules, real-time arrivals, and more!

NW Virtual Transit Center. Unofficial transit site covering Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

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By Adam J. Benjamin.

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