Thursday, January 28, 2010

Portland's WES marks first year in service

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TriMet WES Commuter Rail line marks its first year in service on February 2. Oregon's first commuter rail line connects the Portland suburban cities of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville with weekday rush hour service.

During the first year on-time performance was 97 percent; daily ridership averaged 1,170 trips; weekly trips averaged 5,850; bike securement on WES trains was expanded from two bikes to six bikes, on top of the 78 secure bike parking spaces added at the five stations; final cost of the project was $161.2 million.

TriMet received its $3 million Letter of Credit from Key Bank that was used to secure the performance of Colorado Railcar's contract to manufacture the WES vehicles. After reconciling the total costs of the project after completion, the final cost was reduced by $5 million to $161.2 million.

WES riders were surveyed over the summer to get feedback on the new service:

• Riders said the best feature was the fast travel time, followed by the comfortable ride and friendly staff. The trip along the 14.7-mile route between Beaverton and Wilsonville takes 27 minutes.

• 90 percent of the trips on WES were made by frequent and regular users of the system.

• 42 percent of WES trips were made by people who previously drove a car to their destination.

TriMet is refurbishing two vintage rail cars to be used as spares, with work expected to be completed this summer. This will provide seamless service when a WES diesel multiple unit (DMU) requires additional maintenance.

Work is under way to create a quiet zone in Tualatin between Tonquin Road and SW 95th Avenue that would mean that no WES or freight train horns would sound when a train is present, unless the train engineer sees a safety concern.

Three intersections will be upgraded from two-quadrant gates to four-quadrant gates that will stop all vehicular traffic movement when a train is present. This quiet zone treatment covers about 2.4 miles of the alignment and will be added at Tonquin Road, Avery Street and Teton.

A concrete median barrier will be installed at SW 95th Avenue to prevent vehicles from driving around a crossing gate. This treatment also means that WES and freight trains will not have to sound horns at this crossing.

Wayside horns will be installed at four crossings north of SW 95th Avenue. These horns are stationary and located at a crossing to provide audible warnings to motorists and pedestrians. This reduces the noise impact as it eliminates the requirement of a horn to sound about a quarter mile from a crossing. This treatment will cover about one mile between 95th Avenue and Tualatin Road.

Construction on the quiet zone and installation of the wayside horns is set to begin in July and be completed by the end of the year. The cost is $3 million, with funding provided by federal stimulus funds from TriMet and Metro, Tualatin MSTIP funds and Washington County.

TriMet is launching a marketing campaign to promote WES. Ridership is not growing as quickly as projected due to the region's double-digit unemployment rate and the loss of 55,000 jobs. TriMet is targeting employees who work near WES stations with connections to bus and MAX.

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