Expansion of MAX night buses and closure of Skidmore Fountain MAX Station to reduce maintenance disruptions and move trains more efficiently in Downtown Portland
TriMet is moving forward on two efforts that will improve MAX service. One will speed up MAX Blue and Red Line trips through Downtown Portland. The other will allow more overnight maintenance work in an effort to reduce planned and unplanned disruptions to all MAX lines. Both will make our light rail system more reliable and improve the overall experience for our customers.
Expanded network of MAX night buses proposed
TriMet plans to establish a network of night buses in place of late-night MAX trains, expanding on our Line 291-Orange Night Bus that has been in service since the MAX Orange Line opened in 2015. Adding night buses across all MAX lines and moving late-night/early-morning MAX trips to those buses would allow for more overnight maintenance projects on the MAX system and reduce unplanned service disruptions as well as multi-day disruptions for MAX improvement projects.
TriMet has the second-shortest overnight maintenance window of any U.S. transit agency that runs light rail service. There are only 47 minutes in which no MAX trains are running anywhere on our 60-mile light rail alignment, drastically restricting what work can be completed overnight. On average, transit agencies have a two-and-a-half-hour gap, with some agencies exceeding four hours. Long service hours also lead to excessive wear and tear on rails, track equipment, overhead wires and trains. That, in turn, means more maintenance must be done to keep a light rail system and vehicles in a state of good repair as required by the Federal Transit Administration and necessary to provide reliable transit service for our riders.
MAX ridership in the overnight hours is much lower than during the day. In a two-month period in late summer/early fall of 2023, on average just over 1,200 trips were taken across all MAX lines between midnight and the start of service shortly before 4 a.m. That compares to more than 70,400 trips taken between 4 a.m. and midnight. By providing late-night trips on MAX night buses instead of trains, TriMet will be able to get more standard maintenance, repairs and improvements done on the MAX system, without impacting the vast majority of riders.
The development of individual MAX night bus service hours, routing and schedules is still underway. TriMet will share more details as the plan evolves.
Streamlining MAX stations in Downtown Portland leads to time savings
TriMet is renewing plans to close the Skidmore Fountain MAX Station to improve MAX trips through Downtown Portland. The Skidmore Fountain Station was one of four that had been proposed for closure previously to make trips faster and more efficient. TriMet conducted extensive outreach over ten months, in 2018 and 2019, before closing the other three stations — Kings Hill/SW Salmon, Mall/SW 4th Ave and Mall/SW 5th Ave MAX stations — in March 2020. TriMet decided to re-evaluate closing the Skidmore Fountain Station in the future if it didn’t meet two conditions: 1) ridership did not increase at the station and 2) development in the area did not occur. With those conditions not being met, TriMet is proposing to close the station in fall 2025.
The Skidmore Fountain Station is very close to two other stations — the Old Town/Chinatown Station, about two blocks, or 500 feet to the north, and the Oak/SW 1st Ave Station about four blocks to the south. Keep in mind that a two-car MAX train is 200 feet long. With the three stations within a third of a mile, MAX Blue and Red Line start and stop several times, leading to slow trips along 1st Avenue, between the Steel Bridge and the SW Morrison Street/Yamhill Street couplet.
Since TriMet closed the Kings Hill/SW Salmon, Mall/SW 4th Ave and Mall/SW 5th Ave MAX stations, MAX Blue and Red Line trips through Downtown Portland are a minute and a half faster each way. That adds up to about 46 hours and 38 minutes of travel time savings a week for thousands of riders. Closing the Skidmore Fountain Station is expected to reduce MAX trips by another 45 seconds in each direction.
The TriMet Board is expected to consider the Skidmore Fountain Station closure and hold a public hearing in April, with a vote in May.
Share your feedback
TriMet is hosting a series of open houses, Jan. 25-Feb. 1, to share the service improvements from our Forward Together plan, developed with the community, which we hope to roll out in the coming year and a half. Share your thoughts on those bus service improvements as well as the plans for the Skidmore Fountain Station closure and expansion of MAX night buses. Events will be held virtually and in-person, with multi-lingual representatives. People can also share their feedback online through Feb. 11, or learn more about the open houses at trimet.org/plan.