When it comes to sustainable mass transit systems, bigger really is better. TriMet, the Portland area’s regional transit authority, is currently expanding its popular MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) light rail train system. The existing 44-mile light rail network is already hugely popular with visitors: MAX’s Red Line connects Portland International Airport to downtown (a 38-minute ride on luggage- friendly low-floor trains); the Blue and Red lines link upper Washington Park (home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, the World Forestry Discovery Museum and Hoyt Arboretum) to the central city (10-minute ride); and the Yellow Line transports trade show attendees from the downtown Portland hotel core to the Portland Expo Center (34-minute ride).
The new line – dubbed the Green Line – will open in September 2009 and connect Portland’s historic Union Station (Amtrak) to the campus of Portland State University (PSU) before continuing to its terminus at the Clackamas Town Center shopping mall. This north-south route will travel through the central city, making it a breeze for arriving Amtrak passengers to access the downtown hotels. Portland’s visitor information center, which is located at Pioneer Courthouse Square, will be one of the stops (approximately a five-minute ride) on the line.
Construction of the future Green Line includes not just the laying of track along downtown Portland’s Fifth and Sixth avenues. It also encompasses significant street improvements: installation of public art, refurbished roadways and sidewalks, bike lanes, additional lighting and new shelters. And prior to the opening of the Green Line, in fall 2008, TriMet will introduce its fourth generation of MAX trains: Siemens S70/Avanto light rail vehicles. The new trains feature a sleek look, a smoother ride and more seating than their predecessors.