Portland TriMet introduces new bus service, improvement for riders

Illustration of a green FX bus and a blonde girl standing in front of it.
Eleanor Braun-Sauvage / The Mossy Log

After 13 years of research, planning and construction, TriMet’s new Frequent Express or FX service has taken to the streets of Portland. On Sept.17, crowds gathered at three locations along the 15-mile-long Division Street corridor to celebrate Portland’s first rapid bus route. 

FX buses come with a host of new features that set them apart from TriMet’s other bus services. The FX is serviced by brand new 60 foot articulated buses which sport a bright green livery, making them instantly distinguishable from the other vehicles in TriMet’s fleet. 

The buses, built by Canadian manufacturer Nova Bus, are composed of two vehicle sections joined by an accordion-style connector, which allows the bus to handle similar turns to the 40 foot and 30 foot buses TriMet operates. 

The additional section at the bus’s rear contributes to an overall capacity increase of 60%. FX buses feature all-door boarding with Hop Fastpass readers mounted at each of the three entrances, facilitating faster boarding at stations which helps minimize downtime. 

Additionally, the buses feature two on-board bike racks, an improved restraint system for mobility device users and longitudinal seating to accommodate more standing passengers.

These infrastructure improvements contribute to a smoother, more convenient ride. In certain areas, FX buses run in dedicated bus lanes. In areas that do not have dedicated transit lanes, buses benefit from a system called Transit Signal Priority, which uses on-board sensors to relay the bus’s position and speed to a cloud-based server. 

This data is processed by an artificial intelligence program connected to 58 signalized intersections along the route. Lights are held green for approaching buses or changed to green faster than the regular light cycle to help keep buses moving along their route. Plans for upgraded transit service along the Division Street corridor have been in the works since 2009, with planners at Metro, the Portland area’s regional planning agency, considering a multitude of options, from Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to a new MAX line. In the end, planners settled on a BRT-style design utilizing a mix of infrastructure improvements and dedicated bus lanes to facilitate faster trips. 

Construction began in October 2019, with the project reaching majority completion in mid-2021. While awarding construction contracts, TriMet prioritized minority-owned businesses or those certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). Ultimately, 84% of the project’s construction was completed by DBEs.

In its original plan, TriMet promised frequencies of six minutes along the FX Division line; however, due to the ongoing historic operator shortage, buses have been temporarily reduced to 12 minute frequencies. With no end to the operator shortage in sight, it is hard to say when FX buses will reach their promised six minute 

headways or if they will stay 12 for years to come.

FX buses run from Union Station through downtown along the transit mall before passing over the Tilikum Crossing to service Division Street. Buses continue along Division until terminating at the Cleveland Avenue MAX Station in Gresham. 

Division Street is home to a plethora of fun shops and restaurants. This allows riders to take the FX bus to 12th & Division for a great breakfast at Pine State Biscuits or hop off at 34th Ave for pizza at Cibo. Nossa Familia, Blue Star Donuts and Salt & Straw are all within a few blocks of an FX stop. 

In addition to the many stores along Division, FX connects with every MAX line and more than 20 other TriMet bus routes, allowing riders to connect with many other parts of the TriMet network.

Whether you are riding to commute, riding to explore the neighborhoods around Division Street or riding as a transit enthusiast, FX buses bring an exciting new mode of transportation to Portland’s public transit network. 

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