How to take your bike on the new TriMet FX buses

A 60 foot! Coming to Division soon. (Photo: TriMet)

Believe it or not, we are now less than a month from the debut of TriMet’s long-awaited new Frequent Express (FX) bus service along Southeast Division Avenue. TriMet says the new $175 million line — which is promised to run 20% faster than today from downtown Portland to Gresham — is scheduled to open on September 18.

While it’s not quite the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system we were hoping for, it’ll still be a lot faster and cooler than TriMet’s other lines. The new service promises 12-minute headway, boarding at all doors, signal priority and portions of bus-only lanes throughout the day. In addition to faster journeys, TriMet will introduce a new type of bus. The articulated (aka flexible) “FX” buses are 20 feet longer than a standard TriMet bus and can accommodate 60% more people.

It’s all very exciting and we will have much more to report in the coming days and weeks. We have already told several stories about how the cycle path interacts with the new bus platforms. We also did a little research and heard tons of stories about how Division’s new bike lanes and other infrastructure changes that were installed along with the bus service are working (or not). We will go into this in a separate post.

At the moment I would like to share how to bring bikes on board.

With the FX, you no longer have to lift your bike and place it on the front racks. Carrying a bike on board will feel more like a MAX light rail as you board from the back and wheel your bike onto the bus. As you can see in the graphics of a handy TriMet video I just spotted yesterday, each bus will have two bike racks.

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From the video it looks like you just roll your front wheel into the rack and that’s it. There is a small designated bike room where you can park your bike. You can record your fare on a reader near the bike racks. However if you want to pay cash or need something from the bus company you have to leave your bike and go to the front.

That’s the part that concerns me. Bike theft from buses and MAX cars has always been a problem. I don’t think many people will feel safe leaving their bike unattended for too long. Especially in a rack that looks like someone could just pull the handlebars and run away with your bike out the back doors.

If the bike rack is full, you have to wait for the next bus. Fortunately, there are 12-minute advances on the FX line. This isn’t nearly as good as a real BRT system (2-5 minutes), but relatively fast.

I’m curious to see how the new racks perform in real life. And as luck would have it, I’ll be riding the new line next Monday as part of a TriMet media preview event. If you have any specific questions or issues you would like me to address while I’m out there, please let me know and I’ll make a note to get back to you on Monday.

For now, get a basic introduction to the hands-on TriMet video below:

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