Winter weather

Winter Weather Tips

If you’re riding during snowy or icy weather, here’s what you need to know.

Where to get service information

Conditions can change quickly. Before you leave, get the latest updates on snow routes, delays and cancellations:

A note about real-time arrival information

Our online Trip Planner and TransitTracker real-time arrivals assume that regular service is in effect. During snow and ice, be sure to look for Service Alerts on your trip itinerary and check for alerts again before you leave.

In snowy or icy conditions, buses and trains get so far off their normal schedule or route that TransitTracker™ (our real-time arrival information system) can’t predict arrivals accurately. Instead of an arrival countdown, we’ll tell how far away the next vehicle is using “miles away,” which will give you a better sense of when it will arrive. We’ll also send out a Service Alert with details about service on that line. Learn more about how TransitTracker works

Bus riders: Learn your snow route

When the snow starts falling

Buses will follow their normal routes as long as the streets are safe for travel. We work with city, county and state road crews to help make sure bus routes get plowed first. We’ll chain buses as necessary, especially those that travel at higher elevations.

Significant snow/ice conditions

As snow or ice accumulates, some lines may be canceled due to road conditions. Others will go on snow routes be detoured to avoid parts of the route that are not safe to drive on.

Check your bus line’s snow route

Severe weather service plan

If the weather gets really bad, and stays bad, we’ll limit service to a select group of bus lines operating on plowed streets, so that we can serve the most riders.

 

Boarding buses in snow and ice

  • If your bus stop is in the middle of a hill, walk to the bottom or top of the hill where the operator can safely stop.
  • Stand back from the curb until the bus comes to a complete stop. Buses can slide sideways in slippery conditions.
  • When roads are snowy or icy, buses will not pull all the way over to the curb to avoid getting stuck. Be careful when walking between the bus and the curb. Accommodations will be made to assist riders with mobility devices.

MAX riders: Plan for possible transfers

If you’re riding MAX during wintry weather, plan extra time. Your train may be delayed and you may have to make extra transfers.

MAX typically runs well in snow, though it’s not uncommon for trains to be delayed because autos are stuck blocking the tracks. Ice and freezing rain can cause problems if it begins to build up on the overhead wires.

To keep the overhead wires clear of ice buildup and keep trains running close to scheduled times, we may need to shorten some lines and add more trains in some sections. If this happens, you may need to board a different line than normal and/or make additional transfers. In some situations, you may need to use a shuttle bus between stations.

Here are some adjustments we may need to make:

  • MAX Green Line may shorten and run only between Clackamas Town Center and Gateway Transit Center. Use other MAX or bus lines between Gateway and Downtown Portland.
  • MAX Orange and Yellow lines may need to split, with the Yellow Line only running between Expo Center and Interstate/Rose Quarter and the Orange Line only running between Union Station and SE Park Ave. Use other MAX or bus lines, or shuttle buses, to cross the river.
  • MAX Red Line may shorten and only run between Portland International Airport and Gateway Transit Center. Use other MAX lines between Gateway, Downtown Portland and Beaverton.

At times, MAX will run overnight in order to prevent ice from building up on the overhead wires. In most cases, these trains will be in service and you will be able to board.

Bundle up and expect delays

Road conditions affect all traffic, so buses may experience significant delays. Chained buses can’t travel more than 25 mph. They won’t be on schedule, but we aim to keep them moving and doing it safely.

MAX Light Rail, WES Commuter Rail and Portland Streetcar will operate normally unless there is a problem with the tracks, switches or the overhead wires. To be safe, always dress warmly, plan extra time and make sure you’re visible when it’s dark out.

Shuttle buses may serve MAX, WES and Streetcar stations

If we expect MAX, WES or Streetcar service to be interrupted for a significant period of time, we’ll make every effort to send out shuttle buses to carry riders between stations. That means you’ll go to the station like you normally would, but you’ll board a shuttle bus instead of a train.

The bus will pull up near the station, with a sign that says “Shuttle.” Unless otherwise indicated, the bus will stop at all the stations along the route. If unsafe conditions prevent the shuttle bus from serving a particular station, the bus will stop nearby instead. In extreme conditions, we may not be able to send out shuttle buses; if this happens, we will let you know as soon as possible.

Want to know more?

When snow and ice hit, our crews go into overdrive to keep things moving. We go in depth on the blog: How transit works in snow and ice.