Tens of thousands of people took advantage of free rides as the new MAX Green Line light rail service opened between Clackamas Town Center and downtown Portland.

PORTLAND — Tens of thousands of people took advantage of free rides as the new MAX Green Line light rail service opened between Clackamas Town Center and downtown Portland.

The line is fifth light-rail project to open in the Portland area. It includes 8.3 miles of new track along Interstate 205 to connect the Town Center mall southeast of Portland with existing routes to downtown and the Portland State University campus.

TriMet officials estimated at least 25,000 rides were taken during the opening day ceremonies Saturday, with perhaps another 15,000 before the route closed at 11 p.m. Saturday. The line began charging fares and running its regular weekend schedule on Sunday.

The Green Line cost $575.7 million, with the federal government paying 60 percent.

Jacque Morris hopped on the new train near her home in Clackamas on Saturday to see if might offer an alternative to get to her job in Beaverton, west of the city.

"For those of us that have long commutes, this gives us a lot of options," said Morris, who typically rides the MAX only during winter storms. Her employer buys her a monthly pass, and she told The Oregonian newspaper that she will try the train, even if it means transferring downtown.

Live music, food booths and family friendly entertainment were offered at stops along the route.

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, was among the officials who spoke at Portland State.

The new line is "going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Rogoff said. "It's going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it will make an already livable city even more enjoyable."

TriMet bought 22 new light rail vehicles to serve the new line and the four others that crisscross Portland. The cars have a sleeker look, and TriMet says they offer more seating, improved safety features, better energy efficiency and a smoother ride.

TriMet's light rail lines stretch from Gresham east of the city to Hillsboro in the west. The agency is developing a route to extend the Green Line 7.3 miles from the downtown Portland State campus to Milwaukie, south of the city.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com