Wellcome to the second episode of TTTT or maybe I should call it 4XT but that sounds more like a sports car from the 70's. "The Triumph 4xT she will never know what hit her" Though that sounds like a dangerous tag line for a sports car... but hey it was the 70s. Enough about that, let's talk about what we do here at 4xT. Here, each week, we give you the inside baseball of bus and train operations for the Portland Metro area. Terms may change in your neighborhood if you live far away but the concept swill most likely be the same. 

This weeks episode: The Bus Brige

If you are like me when someone says bus bridge you may think of Ants, You know all linked together to form a bridge across a water barrier. 

When I first heard the term "Bus Bridge" this is what first went through my head, "Is it a bridge of busses like Ant's?" or "a bridge made for busses?" 

Much like Ice Fishing, (Kids in the hall observation) Ice fishing is not fishing for ice, but fishing through ice for fish. 

The same can be said for a bus bridge in a way.  A Bus Bridge is not a busses but a bridge of busses for rail. 

So lets pretend you have a train system, could be called a trolly system or maybe a street car, what ever you call it they have one thing in common and that is Tracks.


There is one little problem with rail based vehicles and that is they cannot go around when something goes wrong. 

So what the heck do you do when there is a break in the line, Say a car blocking the track, an accident, rail failure, switch failure what ever happens  to break the system you have a gap in service. So how do you... Wait for it! Are you ready? How do you BRIDGE the service? get it BRIDGE The service... you need a BUS BRIDGE. 

Simple Explanation: A Bus Bridge bridge is really a big bandaid for the train system.  

Busses arrive at one end, Pick up stranded customers drive them to the other end of service gap and drop them off to be picked up by other trains stuck on the other side.. They they do the same thing with customers on that side taking them back and no Ant's are needed. 

Sometimes a bus bridge is planned, like when they remodel an actual train bridge, rebuilding of track or switches, planned connecting of two tracks together. There are many reasons a bus bridge can be planned. 

Then there is the unforeseen this is really where you get a lot of bus bridges. In a way you could say busses are insurance for the rail system. 

So I know you have questions like "How often is there a bus bridge?

You don't want to know. Our rail system in Portland is prone to failure and problems but don't worry there are always the busses. The Max system also has several choke points that can bring almost the entire system to it's knees.  Cough! Rose Cough! Quarter Cough! Steel Cough! Bridge! Cough... Whew excuse me there. 

Next Question "Wait so you take busses out of serves and impact bus riders to help Trains?"

Not always but yes. We don't have extra busses just laying around and we seldom have extra drivers twiddling there thumbs. The impact can very from little to busses being pulled directly out of regular service to help the train... That's not right you say? Why are train riders more important than bus riders? Because rail is the shining expensive older brother who your parents like better. You are just a dirty bus rider now go back to community college and shut up. Oh sorry, I'm getting family issues mixed up. It's because of reasons! now don't bother your pretty little head about it. 

Next Question "How come every time there is a bus bridge things are so confusing" 

Here is one area the Ant's have us beat. When some kid put's an M-80 in an Ant hill and blows it half away or just kicks it over out of spite. The Ant's swing right into action fixing it up. There is no confusion, no Ant's throwing their hands up in disgust asking what the hell is to be done, they snap right into action. A bus bridge, even if it's the same bus bridge from a week ago is the opposite of those Ant's. No one knows what they heck is going on at a bus bridge. It's like everyone forgets what happened a week ago. 

Well I have a theory on this, on why every bus bridge  takes hours to sort out. So every night at midnight the great TRANSIT GOD comes down to each transit system on earth and with sweeping wave of his magical schedule book he wipes clean the minds of everyone involved in transit. Managers forget all previous bus bridges. Road supervisors can't remember solutions and trail and error done a week before. Driver can't get from point A to point B with a map. 

Hey! I didn't promise you a perfect answere but I defy you to find one the better explanation of what happens at a bus bridge. Everything at a bus bridge is confusing, managers don't know what is happening, Road Supervisors are not sure, Drivers are confused and  riders each want you to explain to them everything about what is happening, where are you taking them and how will they continue their travels, they want this explained  individually as they enter the bus, one. at. a. time.  Meanwhile fifty people stand in line behind them to board and demand the same personalized service.  

I wonder if this is why the so many people didn't get on the half empty life boats of the Titanic. Were people demanding personalized analysis of their itinerary and explanations of why and how the ship sinking would impact them before they boarded the life boat?

To Quote Charlton Heston form Planet of the Apes. 

"It's a mad house! A MAD HOUSE!" 

Really, it can be crazy time. 


Last Question: "What is it like driving on a bus bridge?"

Despite the confusion, the upset riders and the often shoddy maps,  a bus bridge is really your chance to shine as a bus driver. The driving is usually easy and if you can rush everyone on the bus and explain what is happening at once you can have them all happy and thanking you by the time you drop them off. I love bus bridge duty. It's Tri-met at it's ugliest and at it's best all at the same time. 

So now you know more, you know the why and the how and the holy cow! 

I will see you at the next bus bridge. 

Roll Easy Until Then. 

PS: No Ant's were harmed in the creation of this blog.