Call them what you will — articulated bus, bendy bus, accordion bus, or even wiggle wagon — but in Portland and Gresham, they officially go by the name TriMet FX.
TriMet’s new bus service, which launches Sunday, uses extra-long buses made up of two sections linked by an accordion-like joint. They stretch across 60 feet and can fit 60% more riders than traditional TriMet buses.
The TriMet FX service also features faster routes and all-door boarding, meaning passengers can board the bus in any of the three doors, instead of just the doors near the driver. Stations are only located in areas with high rider demand, so the line can move more efficiently.
Transportation officials and local politicians celebrated the launching of the first TriMet FX bus line Saturday at Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus. The brisk late-summer morning included a lineup of several speakers, ceremonial lion dancing by White Lotus dancers, and a musical performance by the Paper Bellows, which are, aptly, an accordion quartet.
The event ended with several attendees filing into two FX buses for an hourlong debut ride through Portland.
The first TriMet FX bus line, called FX2-Division, follows a 15-mile route through the Division Street corridor. It connects Downtown, Southeast and East Portland and Gresham. Buses arrive every 12 minutes. They run on renewable diesel called R99, meaning it’s made up of 99% renewable resources like natural fats, vegetable oils and greases. The other 1% is petroleum.
TriMet plans to transition into a zero-emission bus fleet by 2040, according to a press release.
The new line comes as TriMet struggles with a historic labor shortage. In August, TriMet officials said the agency was short 350 drivers and that it was prioritizing hiring drivers for its bus services. But its MAX Light Rail service is also strained by staffing issues; several times a day, the agency releases service alerts notifying passengers of late arrivals due to operator shortages.
The FX2-Division bus line is part of TriMet’s $175 million Division Transit Project, which also includes several safety improvements, like protected intersections and new sidewalks. Most of those funds came from federal grants. TriMet invested $24 million and the city of Portland invested $17 million.
In contracting out construction jobs for the project, TriMet prioritized companies certified by the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which is made up of businesses owned by people who are Black, Latino, Native American, or Asian. White women also qualify. More than three-quarters of the businesses that worked on the Division Transit Project were certified DBE businesses.