Quick railfan ride on WES

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Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby Vincent » Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:17 pm

On Monday, I was in downtown Portland with a couple of hours to kill before catching a train back to Seattle. I wondered if I had enough time to do a little railfanning on WES, using public transportation only, before my train left for Seattle. The answer was YES and my trip from downtown Portland to Tigard to Beaverton and back to downtown Portland was really quick and easy, although I was very lucky with my connections.

Here's my itinerary:
1. Bought an All Day/All Zone pass ($4.75) at one of the TVMs along the MAX route.
2. I caught a #12 Barbur bus at 3rd and Yamhill at 255pm and rode it to the Tigard Transit Center. (Bring a book, the bus takes about 40 minutes to get to Tigard and there isn't much scenery along the route.)
3. My bus arrived at the Tigard Transit Center just as WES was arriving, so I hot-footed about 100 feet to the train platform and boarded the Beaverton bound train.
4. At the Beaverton Transit Center I caught a Blue or Red MAX train back to downtown Portland, about a 20 minute ride. I de-boarded MAX at Pioneer Square at about 420pm, less than 90 minutes after I departed.

If anyone wants to replicate my journey, I would recommend going first to the Beaverton TC and returning from the Tigard TC. The Beaverton TC is located near a commercial area, so if you just miss the WES, you can get a cup of coffee, walk around or do some quick shopping while you wait for the next train. If I had just missed the WES at the Tigard TC, I would have spent 30 minutes twiddling my thumbs at a desolate transit center.

I was only on WES for about 10 minutes, so I shouldn't try to give an in-depth report on the WES/CRC products, but I'll offer a couple of general impressions from the trip. I was impressed with the appearance of the trains and the ridership. The trains look nice, the seats are very comfortable and the train looked to be about half full, which is good for a service that has been running for about one month. However, based only on my 10 minute ride, I have to say I wasn't impressed with the performance of the trains. When accelerating from a station stop, the CRC train seems underpowered with lots of noise, rattling and shaking going on. It felt like I was seated in an old jetliner making a long take-off roll down a bumpy runway. At track speed, the ride was smooth, but once the train begins to decelerate, the shaking and rattling starts again and the brakes really start to squeal. Later that evening, as I was rolling back to Seattle on a smooth riding Talgo trainset, I concluded that Amtrak made the right decision when they didn't place an order for CRC railcars.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby AgentSkelly » Sat Apr 04, 2009 12:53 am

Vincent wrote:I was only on WES for about 10 minutes, so I shouldn't try to give an in-depth report on the WES/CRC products, but I'll offer a couple of general impressions from the trip. I was impressed with the appearance of the trains and the ridership. The trains look nice, the seats are very comfortable and the train looked to be about half full, which is good for a service that has been running for about one month. However, based only on my 10 minute ride, I have to say I wasn't impressed with the performance of the trains. When accelerating from a station stop, the CRC train seems underpowered with lots of noise, rattling and shaking going on. It felt like I was seated in an old jetliner making a long take-off roll down a bumpy runway. At track speed, the ride was smooth, but once the train begins to decelerate, the shaking and rattling starts again and the brakes really start to squeal. Later that evening, as I was rolling back to Seattle on a smooth riding Talgo trainset, I concluded that Amtrak made the right decision when they didn't place an order for CRC railcars.


I was impressed with the performance, but I do agree with you on the sounds and the motion; it sounds like the engine just struggles in 2nd gear, but once the transmission shifted up, BAM! smooth sailing. Its a different feeling than even other hyrdo-diesel trains such as an RDC.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby wigwagfan » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:02 am

Vincent wrote:2. I caught a #12 Barbur bus at 3rd and Yamhill at 255pm and rode it to the Tigard Transit Center. (Bring a book, the bus takes about 40 minutes to get to Tigard and there isn't much scenery along the route.)


Holy smokes, you rode the #12? That's my line...how'd you like it?

Vincent wrote:If anyone wants to replicate my journey, I would recommend going first to the Beaverton TC and returning from the Tigard TC. The Beaverton TC is located near a commercial area, so if you just miss the WES, you can get a cup of coffee, walk around or do some quick shopping while you wait for the next train. If I had just missed the WES at the Tigard TC, I would have spent 30 minutes twiddling my thumbs at a desolate transit center.


I would actually recommend something a little different. You left downtown Portland about an hour before the 94 Sherwood Express starts running, it runs the same route as the 12 - except it doesn't stop at Tigard TC, but it does stop on Highway 99W at Greenburg. It's about a 10 minute walk (if that) to Tigard TC. I agree, though, there really isn't anything in downtown Tigard.

I've always hated the Beaverton TC in that it is hidden behind a shopping center, and the field north of the transit center has yet to be developed after all these years. So much for "transit-oriented development". (Don't get me started on The Round at Beaverton Central.)

Vincent wrote:I shouldn't try to give an in-depth report on the WES/CRC products, but I'll offer a couple of general impressions from the trip. I was impressed with the appearance of the trains and the ridership. The trains look nice, the seats are very comfortable and the train looked to be about half full, which is good for a service that has been running for about one month. However, based only on my 10 minute ride, I have to say I wasn't impressed with the performance of the trains. When accelerating from a station stop, the CRC train seems underpowered with lots of noise, rattling and shaking going on. It felt like I was seated in an old jetliner making a long take-off roll down a bumpy runway. At track speed, the ride was smooth, but once the train begins to decelerate, the shaking and rattling starts again and the brakes really start to squeal. Later that evening, as I was rolling back to Seattle on a smooth riding Talgo trainset, I concluded that Amtrak made the right decision when they didn't place an order for CRC railcars.


I've ridden WES about three times, including one ride about a week ago (my wife was sick and I was trying to get my son out of the house so that he wouldn't get sick...) A few transit enthusiasts have also done some in-depth WES reporting and ridership is OK. Probably better than expected ("nobody will ride WES - it doesn't go anywhere!") but certainly not bursting at the seams. Ridership from Tualatin to Wilsonville seems to be the lowest, there is a lot of Beaverton TC-Tigard TC ridership (mostly bus/MAX riders who no longer have to deal with the notoriously overcrowded 76/78 bus). The parking lots at Hall/Nimbus and Tigard TC never are full; I was surprised at how many people got on/off the train at Tualatin but certainly more than a few folks work in Beaverton. (In comparison, the Tualatin Park & Ride which serves the 96 bus is notoriously full.)

The train itself is OK...I've never noticed a problem with acceleration or with the "shaking" that Vincent noted, but I will say that there have been quite a few slow orders pop up along the line. The train meets at Tigard TC are no longer as precise as they used to be but are still pretty close. The interiors of the trains are quite nice (much nicer than anything else in TriMet's fleet). And the majority of the P&W crews are quite friendly which is a huge plus. (One of the Engineers is one of the original Willamette & Pacific engineers and I once had the opportunity of an official cab-ride with him in a GP39-2. He seemed to like the DMUs but said the RDCs (which he operated on the Lewis & Clark Trains) had their character that the DMU doesn't possess.

If there is any negative comment I have on the trains itself, it's that they are noisy...as noisy as a bus, and when accelerating they are noisier than TriMet's newest buses and certainly noisier than a hybrid bus. But that isn't surprising, the DMU is essentially two buses (mechanically).
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby Vincent » Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:20 am

from wigwagfan:
Holy smokes, you rode the #12? That's my line...how'd you like it?

Like I said...bring a book. The 12 Barbur seems equivalent to King County Metro's 174 route: a long milk-run on a busy local highway, mostly malls and apartment complexes. I remember hearing the driver anounce one stop as "Taco Time & Wendy's".

Does TriMet operate any articulated coaches? Route 12 would be a sure candidate for hybrid articulated coaches, more seating capacity with the ability to quickly accelerate back into traffic and up to speed.
I would actually recommend something a little different. You left downtown Portland about an hour before the 94 Sherwood Express starts running, it runs the same route as the 12 - except it doesn't stop at Tigard TC, but it does stop on Highway 99W at Greenburg. It's about a 10 minute walk (if that) to Tigard TC. I agree, though, there really isn't anything in downtown Tigard.


I noticed the 94 route, it starts running at 307pm, but because I was a tourist with time constraints and I'm not familiar with Tigard, I went with the sure thing. The 12 is routed to within 100 feet of the WES platform. The 94 might be quicker to Tigard, but it requires some local navigation to get to WES. Last Monday, I wasn't feeling a Lewis & Clark mood.

As for WES operations, I noticed that the train appears to cause quite a disruption at a major traffic junction just before arriving at the Beaverton TC. I wonder if the Beavertonians are going to start grousing about traffic delays caused by the slow-moving train as it passes into the station.

I agree that WES is very comfortable and, except for the noise, a good way to commute on the west side. I just hope the CRC DMUs remain reliable and a way is found to add more trainsets if service is extended or expanded.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby The Metropolitan » Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:23 pm

This post is so funny to me - I rode WES for the very first time on Monday as well (first time in Portland for 21 years!), catching the 4:33pm from Beaverton that arrived at 4:23pm. We rode out to Wilsonville, took a few photos of SMART and Cherriots buses leaving the layover there, and then headed back on the 5:20something train from Wilsonville back to Tigard to the #12 - we were looking to try to get the #96 from around Tualatin, but the timing was too tight to figure out the location of the inbound bus stop.

Overall, I will say that I was surprisingly impressed with WES, considering it's suburb to suburb nature, and small fleet ordered from a troubled manufacturer. Ridership was most of a seated load in both directions, heaviest north of Tualatin, and this is less than 2 months from its start-up. I did some casual overhearing of riders comments, and those I heard were very favorable compared to the 76/78 buses. The main gripe/wish seems to be for expanded hours and/or weekend service.

Backup motive power seems to be a pair of 1990 Gillig buses from the 1400 series that are parked at Wilsonville.

All told, I didn't have high expectations, but will admit they were greatly exceeded by my experience on board!
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby wigwagfan » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:33 am

Vincent wrote:The 12 Barbur seems equivalent to King County Metro's 174 route: a long milk-run on a busy local highway, mostly malls and apartment complexes. I remember hearing the driver anounce one stop as "Taco Time & Wendy's".


Yup, I know exactly what you're talking about. That stop is about one stop north of Barbur Blvd. TC, and about a mile away from my home. There's nothing else there except a few homes on the hilltop and a couple of office buildings (reached only by a scary run across Barbur Boulevard; PDOT has seen little interest in actually doing something about pedestrian safety on this road.)

I've been on the 174 several times...I can see the similarities.

Vincent wrote:Does TriMet operate any articulated coaches? Route 12 would be a sure candidate for hybrid articulated coaches, more seating capacity with the ability to quickly accelerate back into traffic and up to speed.


No. One of my biggest complaints about TriMet. The 700s (Crown-Ikarus 286es, built in 1981) were retired in 1998 when Westside MAX was opened, and were not directly replaced. TriMet immediately had to increase service frequencies which was the predecessor of the "Frequent Service" network.

TriMet had a pretty bad experience with the Hungarian built buses but they did last 17 years. TriMet's current philosophy is that if there's more ridership demand than a 40 foot bus, MAX will do just fine. Just one problem - MAX doesn't go to Tigard and isn't expected to for at least 15 to 20 years.

TriMet also doesn't like hybrid buses, claiming that there is no benefit to them. (I know that King County Metro found little benefit with 40' hybrid buses, but is happy with the 60' articulated hybrids.)

Vincent wrote:I noticed the 94 route, it starts running at 307pm, but because I was a tourist with time constraints and I'm not familiar with Tigard, I went with the sure thing. The 12 is routed to within 100 feet of the WES platform. The 94 might be quicker to Tigard, but it requires some local navigation to get to WES. Last Monday, I wasn't feeling a Lewis & Clark mood.


It isn't that big of a deal, but your concerns are certainly appropriate. Basically Pacific Highway (99W) is on a raised berm over downtown Tigard that was built in the 1950s to bypass the downtown area, Main Street is "old" 99W. But certainly not knowing the area...the 12 is a lot closer to WES.

Vincent wrote:As for WES operations, I noticed that the train appears to cause quite a disruption at a major traffic junction just before arriving at the Beaverton TC. I wonder if the Beavertonians are going to start grousing about traffic delays caused by the slow-moving train as it passes into the station.


What is truly ironic about Beaverton is that the railroad has come full-circle since 1984.

In 1984, the City spent millions of dollars to remove the old junction between the Oregon Electric and Southern Pacific located where Farmington, Beaverton-Hillsdale and Lombard currently converge (along with the P&W through the middle of the intersection and now the WES spur to Beaverton TC). This resulted in a brand new link between Farmington Road and Beaverton-Hillsdale Road; previously Beaverton-Hillsdale swung northwest and connected directly with Canyon Road, and Farmington Road was known as Highway 208. (Farmington Road took the Highway 10 designation but internally within ODOT was still considered a separate highway, today it is no longer a state highway but retains its Highway 10 designation as a county road.) This also resulted in the overpass built at St. Marys and the new junction and spur track north to reconnect with the OE. The shared trackage between St. Marys and Greton (north of Tigard) received CTC signalling, which was finally removed in the late 1990s after the Portland & Western controlled both the former SP and BNSF operations (the CTC panel was always under SP control, even when the SP leased the to P&W).

In 1995 the rest of the OE between Beaverton and Hillsboro was abandoned to make way for MAX. The St. Marys interchange was nothing more than a lead for General Motors (which closed a few years ago) but was useful for making up trains due to P&W not having any type of a yard anywhere in Washington County. (This wouldn't be rectified until about a year ago when P&W built a yard in Tigard, and now St. Marys is nothing more than storage tracks and a small fenced yard for MOW folks.

Fast forward to 2009...the junction at the infamous intersection in Beaverton is reinstalled; albeit not identically, but in the identical location. My soon-to-be brother-in-law works for the Social Security office two blocks away and says he constantly sees cars backed up to no end down Lombard. (On top of Beaverton being a general traffic nightmare to begin with.) (And the CTC was reinstalled!)

IMO...I truly believe that freight operations in Washington County are on borrowed time. The Port of Tillamook Bay RR is shut down. There is only log traffic moving over the FRA-Excepted Cornelius Pass route and there's really little to interchange that direction. West of Hillsboro are very few shippers, Stimson Lumber (in Seghers, near Gaston) is the largest. Forest Grove civic leaders would rather get rid of the cherry processors on the remnants of the OE Forest Grove Branch and convert the line to a MAX line. From Hillsboro to Beaverton is nothing. There are a few small shippers in Hillsboro, the most notable being the Morse Brothers/Knife River unit rock train between Hillsboro and Hopmere (near Salem). Banks Lumber is on-again-off-again, there's a shipper or two in North Plains and nothing northeast of there until you get to Linnton on the Astoria line (where most of the traffic is short-hauled to the BNSF at Willbridge.)

While there are some that want to see commuter rail extended west to Hillsboro, there are two pesky issues - the design and location of the Beaverton TC terminus, and that it would compete with MAX and the 57 bus. With Forest Grove desiring to use the OE line which allows for "interchange" with MAX and also offers a much more convenient route serving downtown Forest Grove and Pacific University over the SP line which skirts the southern boundary of Forest Grove (and both lines are equally convenient to downtown Cornelius), the remaining Tillamook/Seghers Districts are really counting their days.

Unfortunately the bulk of Washington County's imports and exports don't translate to rail shipments. Most of Intel's wares go out by air freight or container. Nike doesn't make anything in Washington County. And Tektronix doesn't have significant volumes - what it ships goes out by container.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby wigwagfan » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:39 am

The Metropolitan wrote:we were looking to try to get the #96 from around Tualatin, but the timing was too tight to figure out the location of the inbound bus stop.


Another beef about TriMet. TriMet really dropped the ball with Tualatin. TriMet ended up re-routing the 76 as a last-minute move in order to have a bus line serve the WES station, but the result was the 76 losing a stop at Fred Meyer (which is a big deal).

The 96 retained its route on Martinazzi Avenue which is a fair walk from WES, and you have to walk around the man-made lake at the Tualatin Commons. (I still remember the days when Nyberg Road actually was a through street - it was the main street from Boones Ferry to I-5 until the late 1980s.)

I lived in Tualatin for a couple of years and used to walk from the 96 stop (having worked in downtown Portland), around the lake, across where the WES station is now, through the shopping center and to my apartment complex behind it. It's a nice walk in good weather. It's a miserable walk for half of the year.

The Metropolitan wrote:I did some casual overhearing of riders comments, and those I heard were very favorable compared to the 76/78 buses. The main gripe/wish seems to be for expanded hours and/or weekend service.


I absolutely hate the 76/78 line. With a passion.

Granted, where I live now is within one block of the 78 line, and I still have never ridden the 78 line since moving to my current home. (Granted it is at 30-60 minute headways and the 12 is supposed to be "Frequent Service"...) I also have little reason to use transit in that direction...
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby AgentSkelly » Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:36 am

My understanding is that TriMet had issues with the Ikarus buses de-articulating towards the end of their service. Wouldn't surprise since I've heard of it happening in a few other transit systems. I wasn't a fan of them anyways so they can replace then with anything for all I care :)

I've been told by many people that the City of Tualatin is rather uncooperative to TriMet when they tried to add bus service. I've never gotten a confirmation on that but thats what I have heard from 3 separate people who work with the city.

As for Communter Service on P&W west of Beaverton TC, I don't think it would conflict with Westside MAX service as even though they are roughly an mile south apart, its a whole different service market there.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby wigwagfan » Mon Apr 06, 2009 4:14 pm

AgentSkelly wrote:My understanding is that TriMet had issues with the Ikarus buses de-articulating towards the end of their service. Wouldn't surprise since I've heard of it happening in a few other transit systems. I wasn't a fan of them anyways so they can replace then with anything for all I care :)


Yes, the Ikaruses were junk...I've never heard of the "de-articulation" problem but they certainly had all sorts of problems. The last time I rode one, the rear two doors wouldn't work, the farebox was broken...

AgentSkelly wrote:I've been told by many people that the City of Tualatin is rather uncooperative to TriMet when they tried to add bus service. I've never gotten a confirmation on that but thats what I have heard from 3 separate people who work with the city.


I was a resident in Tualatin when the initial planning for "Tualatin Tomorrow" began. After reading the report it seems that Tualatin wants more/better transit; the problem between Tualatin and TriMet is the old "chicken or egg" argument. Tualatin believes TriMet is the transit provider and should provide; TriMet believes that bus service ought to be planned by the cities. I believe in the visioning process it was actually suggested that TriMet follow the lead of Wilsonville and break off from TriMet to form its own transit district (or create a district that could incorporate SMART).

IMO, a smart idea.

AgentSkelly wrote:As for Communter Service on P&W west of Beaverton TC, I don't think it would conflict with Westside MAX service as even though they are roughly an mile south apart, its a whole different service market there.


Yes, but commuter rail would only serve a handful of stations between Beaverton and Hillsboro...probably only one, at Aloha. Maybe a second stop at the Intel campus. But installing park-and-ride lots (which is central to the "success" of WES) is difficult to do in this corridor, especially in Aloha where there is a street on either side of the railroad track; and building a station at Intel and not Aloha would limit transfer opportunities (i.e. to the 52 bus) as well as introduce the wealthy-vs.-poor argument.

It is a different market, but it would come at a huge cost (both capital and operating) to TriMet that MAX generally serves, for maybe a 10 minute cost savings (and loss of MAX riders) and without the ability to reduce bus ridership on the 57 (since few 57 passengers would be accomodated on the commuter rail).
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby lbshelby » Mon Apr 06, 2009 7:53 pm

Yes, but commuter rail would only serve a handful of stations between Beaverton and Hillsboro...probably only one, at Aloha. Maybe a second stop at the Intel campus. But installing park-and-ride lots (which is central to the "success" of WES) is difficult to do in this corridor, especially in Aloha where there is a street on either side of the railroad track; and building a station at Intel and not Aloha would limit transfer opportunities (i.e. to the 52 bus) as well as introduce the wealthy-vs.-poor argument.


What makes the idea of a WES extension attractive is twofold:

1.) WES from Beaverton to Forest Grove via Hillsboro is faster end-to-end than MAX from Beaverton to Forest Grove;
2.) WES from Beaverton to Forest Grove is cheaper than building a MAX extension from Hillsboro to Forest Grove.

Whether this comes to pass has a lot to do with two factors. The first is whether the corridor makes the cut in the current Metro HCT study. The second is if there is political will in Washington County to support the project.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby lbshelby » Mon Apr 06, 2009 7:55 pm

Oh, and a moderatorial side note. I do find bus service interesting now and then, but this is "Railroad.net" not "Busfoam.net", so lets redirect the conversation back towards rail before someone starts posting about the old bus fare zones or the bad A/C on the fishbowls we used to have.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby railohio » Mon Apr 06, 2009 7:59 pm

So you don't think Otto will make a bus forum for us? Fine, fine, fine, I guess I'll have to talk about rail transit. *sigh*

My WES experience is equally positive. One evening the first week of service I grabbed my Macbook and made a few round trips to "test out" the Internet access. Hey, it's closer than going to the library!
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby AgentSkelly » Mon Apr 06, 2009 10:47 pm

The idea I have in my head of WES operating Beaverton-Hillsboro-Forest Grove would be starting at Beaverton TC (somehow) and making stops at 160th & Hwy 8 (former Park & Ride), Intel Park & Ride (Its a Tri-Met lot already), then of of course stopping at Mark Hatfield Transit Center then make a stop in Cornelius and end in Forest Grove.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby The Metropolitan » Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:18 pm

Drat! I was just coming on here to praise the solid shape of Tri-Met's Flxible Metros and how great it was to see them in force in middays in Beaverton... oh well...

Any WES extension is probably now going to be hindered by the equipment complications, made even more complicated by the bridge near Beaverton. While I was largely impressed by WES due to my restrained expectations, I still worry how things will fare if and when units go down for needed servicing.
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Re: Quick railfan ride on WES

Postby wigwagfan » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:45 pm

AgentSkelly wrote:The idea I have in my head of WES operating Beaverton-Hillsboro-Forest Grove would be starting at Beaverton TC (somehow) and making stops at 160th & Hwy 8 (former Park & Ride), Intel Park & Ride (Its a Tri-Met lot already), then of of course stopping at Mark Hatfield Transit Center then make a stop in Cornelius and end in Forest Grove.


Are you sure about Intel? TriMet's website doesn't list any park-and-ride lot anywhere around there. I agree that a stop would make sense at Intel; on the other hand you are missing a huge transfer opportunity at 185th Avenue.

160th Avenue is more a matter of convenience for TriMet having the old park-and-ride lot there (built thanks to the elimination of the OE line through downtown Beaverton), but that's about it. And for someone riding to downtown Portland, they are going to go just a little further north to Beaverton Creek so that is simply duplication of service.

But the bigger issues is getting in/out of Beaverton, and doing a whoop-di-do through Hillsboro - do you force trains to pull into Hatfield Government Center, pull forward (north) and then back onto the OE? Do you build a new track through the front lawn of the justice center (and create a short walk for transfers between commuter rail and MAX)? TriMet wants to push light rail to Forest Grove and they are only two shippers away from being able to do that (although they will have to completely destroy the terminus station and build a new station, likely next to the justice center).

Beaverton...you have no room for additional tracks, you'll have to build a wye through prime downtown Beaverton real estate, you're talking about more crossing blockages cross Canyon Road.

Now...I have a solution to the mess, but it involves abandoning Beaverton TC, relocating MAX to Broadway, building a WES station where the original OE and SP stations used to be...it's only money we're talking about, like about $100 million or so.
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