A police flashbang grenade went off near a TriMet MAX stop in downtown Portland on Saturday evening.
A police flashbang grenade went off near a TriMet MAX stop in downtown Portland on Saturday evening. blair Stenvick

Protests broke out across Portland this weekend, as part of a nationwide response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The large crowds of protestors and sizeable police response left swaths of downtown Portland inaccessible to transit trains and buses.

In the midst of unpredictable protest patterns and a heavy police response, TriMet riders have been left with little warning regarding when service will be delayed or suspended, and which areas are safe to travel through. All five MAX lines and many TriMet bus routes run through downtown Portland, meaning service has been impacted throughout the region.

“The past several days and nights, we have had to adjust service for the safety of our riders, operators, and equipment,” TriMet spokesperson Roberta Altstadt wrote in an email to the Mercury. “Altering train and bus service also is for the safety of the demonstrators and law enforcement who may find themselves in the streets we travel… Adjusting service has been done quickly, with little warning. That is for the safety of everyone, and following the guidance of police.”

On Friday night—the first night of peaceful protests that turned into looting, property damage, and a forceful police response as the night went on—TriMet vehicles traveling through the downtown core experienced severe delays. Though Mayor Ted Wheeler declared an 8 pm curfew on Saturday night, TriMet provided service for essential workers exempt from the curfew. But as the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) used pepper balls and flashbang stun grenades to disperse crowds downtown, TriMet suspended downtown service starting at 7:30 pm.

On Sunday afternoon and night, crowds of thousands marched on East Burnside and protested in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center downtown, despite an extension of Wheeler’s curfew. TriMet ceased its downtown service at 3:30 pm Sunday on PPB’s advice. The transit agency plans to stop downtown service again at 8 pm on Monday evening, as Wheeler’s curfew is extended another night and more protests are expected.

“TriMet asks riders to keep a close eye on news reports and any developing demonstrations that could impact service,” reads a Monday afternoon media release from TriMet. Riders can also check TriMet’s Twitter and website, and sign up for email alerts.

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In addition to disrupting service, the protests have taken their toll on TriMet buses, trains, and other infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, we’ve sustained quite a bit of vandalism to bus stops and MAX stations in Downtown Portland and the Lloyd neighborhood,” Altstadt wrote to the Mercury. “Along with graffiti, we’ve had shelters, benches, and information displays destroyed, that are meant to help our riders when using the transit system. Some trains and buses have been vandalized as well and we’ve had to remove them from service, causing further delays for riders.”

“While we understand emotions are high, we would ask that people don’t vandalize our vehicles, stops, and stations,” she added. “It impacts our efforts to provide transit service to those who rely on it.”