Puget Sound Transportation Projects
Portland, OR, Metropolitan Area eXpress (MAX)
Portland's MAX light rail system has existed since the early 1980's. Initially built to run from Gresham to downtown Portland, it was extended all the way to Hillsboro in 1995. A extension to the airport opened in 2001 and a Northbound extension to the Expo Center, just across the river from Vancouver, opened in 2004. The Green Line, expanding MAX down I-205 to Clackamas opened in 2009. Future plans include a possible extension into Vancouver, Washington and an extension to Milwaukee, Oregon.
MAX uses cars made by Bombardier and Siemens. Except in Downtown Portland, it runs in it's own right of way, taken from alongside freeways or using old trolley lines. The Red line to the airport and the Green Line down I-205 use transitways built when I-205 was constructed in the late 70's, using right of way reserved for the Mount Hood Expressway.
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I have ridden MAX many times, mainly from the Gateway Transit Center into downtown. I have also been to Washington Park and all the way out past Beaverton. The system is normally pretty efficient, although not as efficient as a fully grade-separated automated system such as Vancouver's. A few problems have resulted from the at-grade tracks, the same kinds of problems and limitations with any at-grade system. MAX also allows cross-connections with the bus lines and the Portland Streetcar, making it an efficient way to get around the city and the region.
The greatest benefit of the system is you can park for free outside the city and then ride the train in. Portland, like most cities, is hard to get into and out of, and is expensive to park in. A friend of mine who lived in Vancouver used to take I-205 into Portland, park at Gateway for free, and then ride the train into town for her job. When I have visited relatives in Vancouver we have done the same.
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