MAX is supposed to mean "Metropolitan Area Express," but everyone just calls it MAX. It is the light rail system serving the greater Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. TriMet owns and operates the system.

The first leg of the system was the eastside line, built in 1986. This line extends from downtown Portland, over the Steel Bridge, through the Rose Quarter and Lloyd District along Interstate 84 (the Banfield) and out to Gresham via Burnside Avenue.

The second part to open was the westside line in 1998. This line meets the eastside line in downtown, and heads west past Civic Stadium, through Goose Hollow, and into a 3-mile-long tunnel through the west hills. the Washington Park station is the only underground station in the system, and the deepest transit station in North America. The tunnel dumps the line out along U.S. 26 (The Sunset Highway). The line turns and goes along Oregon 217 for a while and heads into downtown Beaverton. The line then goes out an old rail right-of-way out to Hillsboro.

The next part is the airport line, which is currently under construction. It will branch off the eastside line at Gateway and head north along Interstate 205 toward the airport, where it will go along Airport Way to a station right at the PDX terminal. This line is slated to open in the fall of 2001.

There is yet another line has recently started construction: the north, or Interstate line. This line will branch off the eastside line at the Rose Quarter and head north along North Interstate Avenue, terminating at the Expo Center. This line is planned to open in 2004. Vancouver, Washington is just across the river from here and I think that the line may be extended there someday.

MAX Updates:

April 5 2001:

Line colors: With the opening of Airport MAX, TriMet is assigning colors to each of the lines. I'm pretty sure these will be the colors, but I've heard differing reports. The blue line is the only one I know for sure. In fact, kiosks at some stations even say "blue line" on the maps now.

  • The existing eastside and westside lines will become the blue line, with endpoints in Hillsboro and Gresham.
  • The airport line will be the red line, with endpoints at PDX and downtown Portland. The red line will share the existing blue line track between Gateway and Portland.
  • The interstate line will be the green line (I think!) with endpoints at the Expo Center and downtown Portland. The green line will share the existing blue line track between the Rose Quarter and Portland.
Between the Rose Quarter and the 11th Avenue turnaround downtown, all three lines will operate.

Portland Streetcar: The streetcar will begin operating in the summer of 2001. From Galleria/10 Av (westbound trains) or Library/9 Av (eastbound trains), pick up the streetcar at Yamhill & 10 Av for northbound service (NW Portland, Pearl District, Powell's) or Taylor & 11 Av for southbound service (PSU, cultural district). Fareless Square south of Irving street, so if you're headed to "trendy-third," pay the 1 zone fare.

Future MAX extentions: Vancouver is starting to talk about light rail again, what with two new lines basically ending just on this side of the Columbia River. I expect to eventually see a line from Expo Center north, over a new or reconstructed Interstate Bridge into downtown Vancouver. The possibility exists to extend MAX over the Interstate 205 bridge (the Glenn L. Jackson Bridge) with a spur from the airport line. Someday there may be connections within Vancouver, as well.

Don't count out Clackamas County. The poor stepchild of tri-county light rail will be getting it eventually. Look for a line to head south through SE Portland, through Milwaukie, and on to Oregon City and/or Clackamas Town Center. They might get it before Vancouver, what with the complexities involved in a multi-state project.

In the farther future (wishful thinking): SE Portland service (possibly streetcar instead), Barbur Boulevard service to Tigard, Service along Oregon 217 between Beaverton and Tigard. (Currently under study as part of a commuter rail corridor.) Service along the old trolley line from Portland south to Lake Oswego, possibly as far as West Linn. Service along Interstate 205 bewteen Gateway and Clackamas Town Center.

May 30 2001:

The interstate line will be the yellow line, not the green line. Sorry!

There has been talk of a Clackamas County line built in the median of Interstate 205 from Gateway south to the Clackamas Town Center and/or Oregon City area. Light-rail proponents in the Milwaukee area don't particularly like this idea.

October 11 2001:

MAX Red Line sucessfully opened to PDX on September 10, 2001. Interstate MAX is currently under construction, expected completion and opening of MAX Yellow Line is in 2004. MAX Blue Line is operating much the same as before, with reduced evening hours. MAX to the south (MAX Green Line) is still being studied.

Remember that Airport MAX != MAX Red Line. Airport MAX is the set of tracks between Gateway TC and PDX. MAX Red Line trains are trains operating between Downtown Portland and PDX, over both the original MAX trackage (aka Eastside MAX) and Airport MAX trackage.

April 13 2002:

Time for the semi-annual update! MAX is still plugging along with Blue and Red lines in full operation. Interstate MAX is continuing construction, apparently ahead of schedule. The September 2004 opening date for the MAX Yellow Line has not yet been pushed back, however. Studies for the south are continuing, with corridors through Milwaukie and along Interstate 205 from Gateway TC under consideration for light rail and other transportation options.

May 3 2003:

Construction on Interstate MAX is continuing ahead of schedule and budget. Work on the Interstate Avenue roadway & sidewalks is basically finished. Much of the trackwork is complete up to Kenton. My impression is most of the heavy construction left is on the northern end, north of Kenton. Station shelters and overhead catenary lines are working their way up the street. The first train was towed onto portions of the new track recently. Opening day is still scheduled for September 2004, with the possibility of an early opening in the spring. Whenever it opens, the plan is to run the new MAX Yellow Line from downtown Portland on existing track to the Rose Quarter, where it will use the Interstate MAX track to the Expo Center.

TriMet recently decided to extend the MAX Red Line's western terminal from downtown Portland to the Beaverton TC. This change will occur in September 2003.

It looks like Clackamas County will get 2 MAX extensions. The first one to be contructed will be a line down Interstate 205 from the Gateway TC to Clackamas Town Center. Along with this phase they also plan to build a new downtown Portland line on the existing Transit Mall on 5 and 6 Avenues. Who knows where all the buses are supposed to go during construction & operation. Seemingly also up in the air is the fate of the existing tracks and stations between the Steel Bridge and the transit mall.

After that, the next extension would be to the south again, this time from downtown south across a new bridge between the Marquam Bridge and Ross Island Bridge, then south through SE Portland and into Milwaukie.