Green Line Take 2 – Rolling

Friday the 20th, 2009, at 4:20pm (yes, 4:20) I boarded the Clackamas bound Green Line at Pioneer Square.  I’d knocked out a solid 43+ hour week and stepped out a little early for a ride about.

The LRV set was a Type-4 Style, and arrived with about 15% seated occupancy.  At Pioneer Square that increased to approximately 45% occupancy.  The Type-4 set rolled on and by our departure from Lloyd Center had well over 98% seated occupancy and about 8 people standing.  This would have made 100% seated if those few would have sat down, but alas, people tend to stand often even when seats are available.

At this time of day there is a wide slice of Portland’s population riding the transit.  From the American Indian Mother with her two children, behaving exceptionally well I might add, to the Grandmother with her grand daughter going for a ride about also.  There where other people in this melting pot of a train, all riding cordially and quietly.  The new Type-4 set riding very smooth as expected.  With this many people even the door gaps are dampened.

By 60th there were a few more people on the light rail, and 100% seated occupancy.  The real question is how many will this Green Line Train have once we pass Gateway Transit Center.  Being the Banfield Corridor that the Green shares with the Red and Blue Line is easy to fill up with people, it is interesting how many people continue to ride in these shared Interstate Corridors.

#72, What’s the Word?

This brings up the question, has anyone seen legitimate fluctuations in the #72 Route that could honestly be contributed to the opening of the Green Line?  So far, everything I had seen points to the Green Line being almost entirely new ridership, taking away only a little from the bus routes (maybe 60% or so new riders, that weren’t previously bus riders).  I’d be curious to know if TriMet has any surveys being prepared to determine the makeup of people on the Green Line in this regard, and if they’re doing the same for their most ridden Bus Line the #72.

Jammed @ I-205

When the Green rolled into Gateway Transit Center, we crossed over the parking lot referred to as I-205.  The 3 lanes of Interstate I-205 were jammed pack with cars, moving at maybe 5-15mph.  Well below the peak capacity of parking lot 30mph movement.  The PSU bound Green Line was just departing as we slid into our platform slot at the transit center.  That train was at 95% plus seated capacity with many people standing also.

At this point we departed the transit center with my question answered.  We had 94% seated occupancy with 7 people standing.  Not bad really, being this stands as some pretty serious ridership for the Green Line only portion of the light rail line.

Considering the Green Line is handling this capacity, the I-205 is a parking lot moving under capacity, and the Red Line is handling a respective capacity itself, it appears obvious that as a society we have a long ways to go in cleaning up the transport of people at rush hour.  There really ought to be a better effort to distribute working hours better, the whole 9-5 concept in modern times is very lacking.

The Questions

These observations leave me with a few key questions still about the Green Line and light rail in the Portland area.

  1. When will light rail ridership exceed bus ridership for the system?  My guess is it will possibly exceed bus ridership when employment begins to resume higher numbers and will absolutely exceed bus ridership when the Milwaukee MAX opens.
  2. How will the anti-light rail argument change as more of the lines surpass 20+ years and prove themselves cheaper over the long term than BRT or bus lines, thus providing more throughput at lower cost than comparative bus operations?  My guess is that the argument will continue unabated, something completely new will alter the argument entirely (like flying cars or something crazy), or the argument will change to be made on a different primary point – ala – a train is stuck on tracks or something.
  3. What alterations will take place to the surrounding bus service when the travel patterns are better understood with the addition of the Green Line?  My guess is that some of the lines will be altered ever so slightly to meet with the train better.

TOD Potential

Even though ridership is fairly solid on the Green Line, even surpassing my rather lowball estimates, there are few areas that seem available for real and easily accessible TOD (Transit Oriented Development).  The only areas that seem to have feasible land to build TOD on are the Foster, Flavel, and Clackamas Stops.  The Flavel and Foster stops have two major issues impeding some development, the fact that the Interstate consumes a vast and large parcel of land.  The Clackamas stop simply has the problem of pavement.  The entire stop is surrounded by monstrous paved areas; the Interstate to one side, the mall parking lot on the other, and more of the same nonsense to the south of the stop.  Making the area a massive, almost un-walkable, mediocre area.  Fuller Road seems to have potential, but it also have the pavement problem and has less anchoring it than the Clackamas stop.

I-205 Still Jammed & Arrival Home

After making the full route I stayed aboard as other crowded back onto the train for the downtown trip.  Again, the train filled up, approximately 75% seated capacity with about a half dozen people standing.  It always amazes me that there are always those so hard headed that they’re just going to stand no matter what.  As if standing on transit is some type of novel thing to do.  Either way, whatever the case, the trip back downtown wasn’t nearly as packed as the outbound trip.  Many of the people were teenagers heading downtown to go loiter at Lloyd Center or Pioneer Square Mall.  Matter of fact, as I had assumed months back, much of the Green Line passengers are teenagers, probably more so than any of the other MAX Lines.

The ride went smoothly, except for a few hiccups in the breaking, which made it seem we had hit someone.  Some loud teens got on at Lloyd Center and found the braking hilarious, assuming we’d hit something.  I thought it was funny that they fell into a stupor of stupidity and found entertainment in it.  They ended up getting off a mere 2 stops later to go smoke some pot.  I knew I had picked up some smell of the ganja.

I made it back downtown and walked the last 2 blocks home from the last stop.  A simple ride about, entertaining, enjoyable, and a nice slice of humanity to observe.  It is truly amazing what you can learn from a simple ride around on transit.


  1. Perhaps all seats will be utilized when transit companies stop specifying minuscule torture seats and actually build them for the 95th percentile male with his arms in a natural position.


  2. In my anecdotal riding (I don’t have a regular time/day I use 72), the 72 is as jammed as ever. While MAX Green Line is within distance to a lot of things, the 72 is right along a lot of things, including two PCC campuses, countless schools, social services, etc. When TriMet axed service on various routes in September, 72 wasn’t one of them, in fact 72 gained about 4 runs, IIRC. When the further service eliminations happen next Sunday, 72 isn’t on the list of routes with cuts.

    Another major difference between 72 and MAX Green Line: Someone can ride all the way from Swan Island to Crystal Springs Blvd. and pay only $2 cash (or even use a 1-Zone Ticket if they use tickets). MAX Green Line beyond 82nd Ave. is right on the edge of Zone 3. In these times, if someone can get by on a 2-zone pass (and I know of some people that just plain don’t go to doctors, appointments, etc., because they can’t afford bus fare) and save $11, that might represent an amount that allows them to eat.


  3. I ride 30/31 bus regularly. Since the Green Max line opened, the number of passengers has gone down. It used to be almost full to full with standees. Now I could sit almost anywhere. Morning run rarely than a dozen of passengers. Afternoon run has little more passengers. Green Max has impacted 30/31 bus rideship.


  4. James D – Actually in the US, they are built to the 95th percentile, problem is, they use the measurements of the more streamlined US body of 1910 or something. Most people, even in Europe (and England) these days are getting rather plump. Should that be perpetuated, I don’t think so. Do I think the seats ought to be a bit larger, I absolutely do. One of the reasons I much prefer train travel. The seats are almost always bigger than those torture seats on buses.


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