MAX Reliability Improvements

We’re making improvements to our light rail system for a smoother, more reliable ride.

Making Transit Better logo We’re working to grow our network of buses and trains while making your ride smoother, safer and more reliable.

See how we’re making transit better

We’re continuing to invest in the MAX system in 2020, tackling more projects that will help us maintain safe and reliable service.

While MAX’s on-time performance — our measure of reliability — has improved, there’s more work to be done to keep trains moving.

Some of these repairs and upgrades are very complex and can’t be completed at night in the few hours that MAX isn’t running — which means there may be service disruptions that affect your MAX trips. (We really appreciate your patience!)


Completed projects

Steel Bridge

Steel Bridge

In August 2020, we replaced and upgraded track, switches and the signal system across the 108-year-old Steel Bridge, which help improve reliability and keep trains running on time while reducing disruptions and delays.

We replaced 8,680 feet of rail, lift joints, expansion rails and two switch sections (where trains move between two sets of track), including the most used switches on the light rail system.

We also improved the signal system across the bridge with modern technology and safety features.



From October 13 to 27, we made improvements to the MAX tracks and switches near Hatfield Government Center.


Providence Park

From May 6 through May 11, 2018, we replaced rails and outdated switch machines near Providence Park. We also redesigned the stormwater collectors and improved the drainage around the switches.



From April 30 to May 20, 2017, we improved sections of the MAX tracks on Morrison and Yamhill streets at SW 11th Avenue and at 1st Avenue. At SW 11th Avenue, which was originally the end of the first-ever MAX line, we upgraded switch machines, replaced special trackway, removed wooden ties and improved the track bed. We also repaired and replaced the bricks and pavement next to the rails, and replaced the curved rail that connects Morrison and Yamhill streets with SW 1st Avenue.


Rose Quarter

From August 21 to September 3, 2016, we redesigned the trackway just east of the Rose Quarter Transit Center to improve MAX reliability and make for a smoother ride. We also replaced the track bed, reconfigured the overhead wire system and upgraded the original signal system that serves the transit center.


1st Avenue

From May 8 through May 21, 2016, we made improvements on 1st Avenue between SW Morrison and NW Davis in Downtown Portland. Four new switches were installed, tracks were replaced, and drainages and overhead wire were improved.


Other ways we’re improving

Track improvements

Some segments of the MAX system have been in use for 30 years. In some areas, rail needs to be replaced or the material under the tracks needs to be upgraded. In the coming years, we will replace problematic switches and make other track adjustments to reduce the number of disruptions, delays and precautionary slow zones.

More support for frontline employees

Our ever-growing transit system means we have a lot of new operators, and it can take time to get comfortable with the rhythm and intricacies of operating a train on a complex system. We’re expanding our coaching and training of operators, including having dedicated trainers work one-on-one with operators to focus on on-time performance while safely providing service.

We’re also adding staff in our Operations Command Center to give added support and direction to operators, helping them keep trains moving at an optimal level.

Reducing mechanical issues

We’re reviewing and improving processes to better identify and predict mechanical issues before MAX trains go out in service. As a part of the normal vehicle break-in process, our maintenance team is working with Siemens, the manufacturer of our new MAX vehicles, to develop and install modifications to improve overall dependability.

As MAX trains run as many as 22 hours a day, issues will arise, but we want to lessen the time it takes to get vehicles rolling or out of the way after an incident. To improve on that, we’re making adjustments like routing major mechanical-related calls to technical standby staff and looking at ways to improve our response time when signals or other trackway systems malfunction.

Better coordination with partners and emergency responders

We’re working with partners, like the City of Portland, to find ways to shorten disruptions that block MAX, such as when trees fall in the right-of-way. We’re also reaching out to emergency responders to get trains moving quicker after an incident, and to clear emergency vehicles from the tracks in a timely manner.

We’re also analyzing where cars frequently trespass into the right-of-way and become stuck, to determine if additional signs or barriers might lessen these disruptive incidents.