Since I had some success with my post about the Santiago Metro, I decided I should also write about the mass transit/lightrail system I grew up with: The MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) in Portland. I can describe this in some detail, because I was there for most of it. And although I know we aren't supposed to get too controversial on here, there are a lot of social and political issues that shape transit in Portland. The idea for the MAX started in the 1970s, when the federal and state government was planning on building a west-east freeway through the residential neighborhoods of SE Portland. At a time when most of the country still wanted to build more freeways and highways, the people of Portland protested, and suggested instead that the money be spent on a light rail line. So starting in the early 1980s, they started building a line from downtown Portland to the eastern suburb of Gresham. It opened in September of 1986. It was an overhead, electrified line that used its own right-of-way in certain areas, but had to stop at interesections in other areas. A few years later, a westward extension was planned and built. Since this involved digging a three mile long tunnel under the west hills, this took a little bit longer to open, but by 1998, the MAX ran from the western suburb of Hillsboro, to the eastern suburb of Gresham, a distance of 32 miles. On September 10th, 2001, an extension to the Portland Airport was opened (Yes, that is the absolute worst date an airport mass transit line could be opened) In 2004, the Yellow Line to North Portland was opened, in 2009, the Green Line to far SE Portland was opened, and in 2015, the Orange Line to the southern suburb of Milwaukie was opened. Currently, no new lines are in construction, although there are long term plans for more lines. Portland also has a trolley system around downtown, and a commuter rail between the Western suburb of Beaverton and the southern suburb of Wilsonville. Since its beginning, the Light Rail system has always been 100% interticketed with TriMet buses. They use the exact same fares and passes. The MAX is based on an inspection system: it is quite possible to board the MAX without a ticket or pass...but of course, you never know when a fare inspector is going to be on. Although people might debate the technicalities of this, one thing that is interesting to me is that while it uses the same trains along its routes, in places it is more of a "street car" type system, while in others it is almost a "commuter rail" system. The North Portland route, which goes through residential neighborhoods, doesn't have its own right-of-way, and has stations every quarter mile. The route to Hillsboro, on the other hand, has its own right-of-way, goes through empty fields in places, and some of the stations are more than a mile apart. So the system, which was originally designed for a certain section of Portland, has adapted itself as its gone to different parts of the city. Another part of this is that because the trains are attractive and modern, and the stations are often fancy, commuting by mass transit is considered to be a normal thing in Portland. This is sometimes exaggerated: compared to a lot of world cities, transit usage is still pretty low, but it is high for a city of Portland's size. But in general, people in Portland don't think it is odd to not have a car, and to not use it. The MAX is the United State's fourth largest Light Rail system, in terms of both But the attitude changes pretty quickly not far from Portland proper. There have many objections to expansion of the light rail system over the years, with many objections of "boondoggle!" as well as talks about "safety". Most communities have been happy once they do get service, but there has been some suspicion towards the idea of mass transit, some of which is warranted, some of which is driven by prejudice. In fact, one such story deserves its own post. In the meantime, feel free to ask me any questions about the MAX, both technical or otherwise!