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Operations center eyes, ears of system

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN M. VINCENT - TriMets' Denis Van Dyke was instrumental in setting up the agencys new operations center in Southeast Portland. A new, state-of-the-art training room can be used to educate either rail controllers or bus dispatchers.From rail controller John Moats’ desk in TriMet’s new operations center, he can see the status of every aspect of the MAX light-rail system — and he can control most of them without leaving his chair.

Moats, a former light-rail train operator, now spends his days surrounded by seven computer monitors and a massive rail-status display that covers an entire wall of the facility.

As part of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, the agency has relocated its command and control facility from the Ruby Junction complex in Gresham to its renovated Center Street operations office in Southeast Portland. The move to the more central location gave the agency an opportunity to fine-tune the layout of the facility, update technology, and further consolidate related operations.

“Anything we can monitor in the field comes into the command center,” says TriMet’s Director of Operations Support Denis Van Dyke, “it’s a pretty powerful tool.”

Besides information about the location and status of each train, there’s information on the condition of every station — from elevators to fire and life safety equipment. Controllers can even see when there’s a schedule-disrupting lift on the critical Steel Bridge, which carries the Yellow, Red, Green and Blue line trains.

Information about train movement comes from trackside sensors, while dispatchers in the adjacent bus operations center receive GPS location information from TriMet’s bus fleet. Rail controllers can monitor incidents on close-circuit television cameras and implement plans to prevent or minimize service disruptions.

Between the rail operations center and a state-of-the-art training center is the agency’s Emergency Operations Center, where TriMet’s operational leadership can gather and communicate during service-disrupting events ranging from Rose Festival parades, ice storms and natural disasters.

Unlike the former Ruby Junction center, the new facility has windows — so they can see if the snow has started to fall.