Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s (TriMet) MAX Train 120 surpassed 2 million miles of service this month—the equivalent of traveling the world’s entire rail network, twice—the agency reported.
TriMet’s MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) light rail connects Portland City Center with Beaverton, Clackamas, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, North/Northeast Portland, and Portland International Airport.
Train 120 is one of 26 original MAX trains that Bombardier—now Alstom, following the 2021 acquisition—delivered in 1985. The trains were tested and underwent maintenance until the Banfield light rail line—now known as the MAX Blue Line—opened on Sept. 5, 1986, running between Gresham and downtown Portland.
Designated Type 1s, the trains (actually two light rail vehicles, or LRVs, operating as a multiple-unit consist) have high floors (with three steps going up), which were common in the 1980s and early 1990s. To accommodate people in mobility devices, TriMet built “wayside lifts” onto its platforms—essentially a small elevator that a wheel chair could ride onto—that would be activated and rise up after a train stopped. TriMet in 1997 introduced the first low-floor LRV in North America, which was built by Siemens Mobility. (Siemens has since produced three more updated models for the agency.) All Type 1s were then paired with a low-floor model, and wayside lifts became a thing of the past.
Of the original Type 1s, 25 continue to carry riders, according to TriMet, and some are nearing the same milestone as Train 120.
“For us, it’s a pretty special milestone,” TriMet Rail Equipment Assistant Manager Alisha Tallon said. “It just goes to show you that we have managed to maintain and keep that car running for 2 million miles, which is more than what I think we ever expected when we first got it. I think every single mechanic that works here has worked on that car at one point.”
Within the next year, TriMet said it will begin retiring the Type 1s and replace them with Type 6s. Siemens is producing 30 new MAX trains at its Sacramento, Calif., facility: 26 to replace the Type 1s and an additional four as part of TriMet’s $215 million “A Better Red” MAX project, which is expanding MAX Red Line service 7.8 miles west.
“[I]t’s going to be exciting to get the Type 6s,” Tallon said.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in September 2021 awarded a $99.9 million construction grant to TriMet for the “Better Red” project, which will help link Beaverton, Portland International Airport and the Gateway Transit Center, and provide a one-seat ride from Hillsboro to the airport (see maps below). This will allow the Red Line to serve 10 additional stations that are currently served only by the Blue Line. They are Beaverton Central, Millikan Way, Beaverton Creek, Merlo/SW 158th, Elmonica/SW 170th Ave., Willow Creek/SW 185th TC, Quatama, Orenco, Hawthorn Farm, and Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport. An operator break facility will also be added at the Red Line’s new terminus in Hillsboro. The new Red Line service is slated to open in fall 2024.