TriMet defends response to trapped MAX train

Spokesperson said it was unsafe for operator to move from car-to-car

Riders spent hours trapped on a MAX train during an ice storm on December 9, 2016. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Riders criticized TriMet for what they described as a lack of communication from the operator when a MAX train stopped on the tracks for hours during an ice storm last week.

But less than a week since the incident, TriMet officials tell KOIN 6 News all procedures were carried out as they should have been, despite the hours-long delay.

Riders spent hours trapped on a MAX train during an ice storm on December 9, 2016. (KOIN)
Riders spent hours trapped on a MAX train during an ice storm on December 9, 2016. (KOIN)

“Our operations crews followed procedure, which is to immediately contact 911 in such a situation so first responders can evacuate the train,” TriMet’s Roberta Altstadt said via email. “First responders arrived but were unable to go in and evacuate the train due to the active power line.”

Passengers who were on the MAX train complained that they sat on the tracks for hours without any kind of communication from the operator.

Altstadt explained a downed power line in the area sent surges through the electrical line, which cut all overhead power. When that happens, operators are trained to drop the pantograph that provides a current to the train from the overhead line.

But with the pantograph dropped, the operator’s PA system was down. Alstadt said it simply wasn’t safe for the operator to go from car-to-car to inform riders that first responders had to turn the power off before they could be evacuated.

“The operator would only be able to come out of the cab and address riders in the first car,” Alstadt explained. “With live power lines down outside, it would have been unsafe for the operator to try to get out of the first car and get to the second car.”

Alstadt said TriMet tried communicating with those onboard through its Twitter feed and other social media platforms, in case riders were checking them.

“Our operator and our crews followed proper procedure given this unprecedented event,” she wrote. “We always review major incidents and will do so with this one.”