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Driving Me Crazy: How NOT to drive a MAX train

Operating a MAX train can be a stressful gig. Teaching a TV person to do it can be even more stressful.

PORTLAND, Oregon — "Do not ... I need to hear you say that ... Do NOT ('do not')... touch ('touch') the red button ('the red button ... well there's a lot of red buttons over here')." 

Training supervisor Anthony Herring has a great sense of humor.  And he has a lot of patience putting up with my ridiculous questions while learning how to operate a MAX train. 

 You can watch that full 25-min mostly unedited clip here. 

I got to sit in the operator’s chair. My first impression, it’s a bit overwhelming guiding this 55-ton steel box down the rails, at even the slowest speed. 

I got the very short SHORT course.

The real pros put in some serious preparation. Three months of training, quizzes daily, comprehensive tests weekly -just a part of the process.

The average MAX operator spends two to three years behind the wheel of a TriMet bus before entering light rail training.

They train on each one of the 5 MAX lines on sixty miles of light rail though Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties. They practice for everything, but some things an operator just has to see in person to appreciate how much focus is required for the job.

Exhibit A, this video. Distracted drivers, pedestrians looking down at their cell phones, and increasing frequent e-scooters trying to beat a train through a crossing, MAX operators are constantly watching out for… the “other guy”.

A rail operator must be self-assured, and sometimes even a little firm with the customers.

When they close the door, know this, it's not personal, they've got a schedule to keep, something MAX operator Brittany Hall wished more people knew.

"It's because we’re on one track, we’re not like a bus or a car, we can’t go around, so if we’re late, we’re making everyone behind us late," she said.

And while operators train on every line, they have their favorites.  Both Brittany and Anthony said the Red Line, maybe because it's a little shorter, or maybe because they both really enjoy talking with people headed to or coming from the airport.

"You know I get to go see people at the airport, I get to guess," he said. "I love getting on the train and going like, hey ya’ll going to Hawaii? And they’d be like ... 'I wish.' I love just talking to people."

So they're like some of the first ambassadors to Portland for out of town guests.

"I am, actually, said Athony, "if you wanna put it that way. So they see me and I’m like hey, welcome to Portland.” 

Anthony has worked for Trimet for 11 years, and he's spent at least 8 on the MAX.

 “When my son found out I was operating a train, I was like superman to him. It’s an amazing feeling, to operate the train, to get people safely from one end to the other, it’s a pretty good feeling”  

I do the Driving Me Crazy feature as a generally lighthearted -- but not always -- look at things that drive people nuts on area roadways. Most of these topics are your suggestions through email: cmcginness@kgw.com , or photos and videos you’ve posted on my social media.  So please keep them coming: Facebook Twitter Instagram

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