A streetcar at one of the stops
serving Portland State University
NS - North-South
CL - Central Loop
|Daily ridership||approx. 13,100 (average fall 2012 through summer 2013)|
|Ridership||4.1 million (annual; FY 2013)|
|Opening||July 20, 2001|
|Owner||City of Portland|
|Operator(s)||Portland Streetcar, Inc.
TriMet (Maintenance & Operators)
|Depot(s)||Under I-405 viaduct between NW 15th and 16th Avenues, NW Portland|
|Rolling stock||Škoda 10T
|Line length||7.2 mi (11.6 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Minimum radius||18 m (59 ft)|
|Electrification||Overhead, 750 V DC|
The Portland Streetcar is a streetcar system in Portland, Oregon, that opened in 2001 and serves areas surrounding downtown Portland. The 3.9-mile (6.3 km) NS Line runs from Northwest Portland to the South Waterfront via Downtown and the Pearl District. The Central Loop (CL) Line, which opened in September 2012, runs from Downtown to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry via the Pearl District, the Broadway Bridge across Willamette River, the Lloyd District, and the Central Eastside Industrial District and added 3.3 miles (5.3 km) of route. The two-route system serves some 13,000 daily riders.
As with the heavier-duty MAX Light Rail network which serves the broader Portland metropolitan area, Portland Streetcars are operated and maintained by TriMet. But unlike MAX, the streetcar system is owned by the city of Portland and managed by Portland Streetcar Incorporated, a non-profit public benefit corporation whose board of directors report to the city's Bureau of Transportation.
Like some of Portland's original streetcar lines, redevelopment has been a major goal of the project. The Portland Streetcar was the first new streetcar system in the United States since World War II to use modern vehicles.
- 1 Routes
- 2 Service
- 3 Vehicles
- 4 History
- 5 Funding
- 6 Eastside line
- 7 Proposed expansions
- 8 Comparison with light rail
- 9 Replication by other transit systems
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Since September 2012, the Portland Streetcar system has two lines, which share a section along 10th and 11th Avenues in downtown, through the West End.
- North/South Line: N.W. 23rd Avenue (Good Samaritan Hospital) – Pearl District – West End – Portland State University (PSU) – RiverPlace – South Waterfront
- Central Loop Line: PSU – West End – Pearl District – Broadway Bridge – Lloyd District – Oregon Convention Center – Central Eastside Industrial District – Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
The two-line streetcar system measures 7.2 miles (11.6 km), measured in one direction only – not round-trip lengths – and counting only once the section served by both routes. The end-to-end length of the original route, now designated the "NS Line", is 3.9 miles (6.3 km) since 2007, and the 2012-opened "CL Line" added 3.3 miles (5.3 km). The total one-way length of the CL Line is 4.4 miles, for it shares a 1.1-mile section of route along 10th and 11th Avenues in downtown with the NS Line.
Of the NS Line's 7.8-mile (12.6 km) round-trip length, 5.3 miles (8.5 km) are one-way operation along streets which are mostly also one-way and with the streetcars following parallel streets in opposite directions. The remaining 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of round-trip route length are sections where the NS streetcar route uses a single street (or private right-of-way) for both directions of travel. The CL Line, similarly, follows separate streets in opposite directions over most of its length. The only exceptions are a length of about 1,000 feet (300 m) near the OMSI terminus (mostly on a streetcar-only viaduct over the Union Pacific Railroad main line) and the route sections nearest to, and across, the Broadway Bridge. With the opening of the second line, the system now has 76 stops.
Streetcars are scheduled to arrive at 12-minute intervals at most times (14-minute intervals before 10:30 a.m.), with a lower frequency in the evening and on Sundays. Every stop is fitted with an electronic reader board giving real-time arrival information to waiting passengers, using the NextBus vehicle tracking system.
As on TriMet's MAX line, the streetcar's fare system is a proof-of-payment (or "honor") system, with occasional random inspections of passengers' fares, which minimizes wait times at stops by allowing boarding to take place simultaneously through all vehicle doorways. Streetcar operators do not collect or monitor fares. Although the line is not part of the TriMet system, the city adopted TriMet's fares for the streetcar, for simplicity and convenience of transferring passengers.
The portion of the streetcar route within Downtown and the Pearl District of the streetcar route used to lie within TriMet's Fareless Square, later known as the Free Rail Zone. Rides within that area were free at all times. TriMet ended the Free Rail Zone on September 1, 2012.
Passengers not already in possession of a valid fare when boarding are required to purchase tickets from ticket vending machines on board each streetcar. Each vehicle also carries a ticket validator machine, for stamping "unvalidated" TriMet tickets purchased in advance. TriMet and Portland Streetcar have agreed to honor one another's fares, which means that TriMet passes, tickets and bus transfer receipts are accepted on the streetcar, and tickets purchased or validated on a streetcar are valid for travel on TriMet services (bus, MAX or WES). To facilitate this, the ticket machines on board the streetcars and at streetcar stops sell TriMet tickets – covering both the streetcar fare and any TriMet rides the purchaser makes within the ticket's period of validity (2 hours or all day) – as well as streetcar-only tickets. For the same reason, prior to September 2012, the streetcar ticket machines offered all-zone (three-zone) and two-zone tickets, despite the fact that the streetcar system was located entirely within TriMet's Zone 1. TriMet tickets and transfers were valid all-day on the streetcar prior to that change, which also coincided with TriMet's elimination of the Free Rail Zone (Fareless Square). Since September 1, 2012, TriMet and Portland Streetcar tickets have an identical period of validity, of two hours (except for all-ticket tickets).
The streetcars are a Czech design, and the first ten – which is all cars purchased before 2009 – were built in the Czech Republic and shipped to the USA complete. Streetcars added to the fleet after the first ten were built in the U.S. by United Streetcar, to basically the same design. All have a low-floor center section between the trucks, and at one door on each side they are equipped with a MAX-like bridge plate—a short ramp that extends from the vehicle doorway—to allow wheelchair access. Compared to MAX cars they are shorter and narrower, a result of having to run in mixed traffic on neighborhood streets, alongside parked automobiles. The cars are lighter than those used by MAX, allowing cheaper, less-intense track construction. Furthermore, couplers on the streetcars are hidden behind bumper skirts and only used to move disabled units back to the yard. This safety feature protects any hapless motorists who may collide with the end of a streetcar.
From spring 2007 until fall 2012, the serviceable fleet included ten streetcars. An 11th car was delivered in 2009 but did not enter service until September 2012 (see next section). The 11 cars were supplied in four batches between 2001 and 2009, built by any of three different manufacturers. However, they have nearly identical dimensions and are similar in all respects, since the design used for all eleven cars was developed by the same two Czech companies, Škoda and Inekon.
Cars 001 through 005 have been in operation since 2001, while cars 006 and 007 were added in 2002. These seven were built by a now-defunct joint venture between Škoda and Inekon, and are Škoda's 10T model, originally also called Astra 10T. Inekon performed most of the design work, while Škoda carried out the construction, in Plzeň.
Three additional cars, numbered 008–010, were ordered for the expansion of service to South Waterfront. By that time, the partnership between Inekon and Škoda had dissolved in an "ugly divorce", so these cars were constructed in Ostrava, Czech Republic, by a partnership of Inekon and the Ostrava city transit agency, Dopravní Podnik Ostrava. This partnership was originally named DPO-Inekon, but soon adopted the (English) name "Inekon Trams". Portland cars 008–010 are model 12-Trio (a particular version of Inekon's Trio series of streetcar designs) and have a high degree of spare parts compatibility with the existing fleet. They arrived in Portland in January 2007, and after a period of street testing, entered service in late May 2007.
Under a 2005 federal transportation bill, $4 million was allocated for construction of a U.S.-manufactured streetcar vehicle. Congressman Peter DeFazio indicated that the contract would go to Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas, Oregon, and that Portland would be permitted to keep the prototype vehicle permanently.
This special federal grant was intended to foster the creation of a domestic manufacturing industry for modern streetcars, which was non-existent at the time. This lack had forced streetcar systems to turn to overseas builders as the only source of the type of railcar needed. The first Portland Streetcar project had not used any federal funds. However, for any future streetcar projects desiring to obtain federal matching funds, among which were the planned future expansion in Portland, the vehicles would need to comply with the minimum 60% U.S. content provisions of the "Buy America" Act ( ).
In February 2006, Škoda Transportation established an "exclusive technology transfer agreement" with Oregon Iron Works (OIW) to build streetcars meeting "Buy America" rules, and the two companies jointly prepared a detailed OIW submission when the city of Portland (owner of the Portland Streetcar system) issued a request for proposals in mid-2006 to build one new streetcar for the Portland Streetcar. In January 2007, OIW won a contract from Portland to build the prototype streetcar, to the Škoda design, and reported that it had established a new subsidiary, United Streetcar LLC, to perform the work.
The United Streetcar prototype, number 015 in the Portland Streetcar fleet, was delivered on May 15, 2009, but did not enter service until 2012. The car is model 10T, the same as Škoda-built cars 001-007, but features a slightly modified end design. Although the differences are relatively minor, car 015 is considered to be model variant 10T3, whereas cars 001-005 were 10T0 and cars 006-007 were 10T2. Car 015, which carries a red, white and blue paint scheme and large "Made in USA" lettering along the sides, was presented to the public in a July 1, 2009 ceremony, at which Secretary Ray LaHood was the featured speaker.
Car 015's entry into service was delayed by more than three years, not finally occurring until September 2012. The main reason for the delay was a 2010 decision to replace its propulsion-control system – the electronic equipment which controls and coordinates the operation of the car's motors and other key operating components – with equipment made by Rockwell Automation, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although the car was complete and operable in mid-2009, it had yet to undertake the extensive "acceptance testing" needed to certify that it was safe for passenger service and would run reliably. Car 015's propulsion control system was made by Škoda, whereas all 10 earlier Portland streetcars—even the seven cars built by Škoda—had control systems supplied by Elin EBG, an Austrian company (and only installed by Škoda). Acceptance testing began in late summer 2009, but revealed (unspecified) problems, and Škoda and Portland Streetcar were unable to reach agreement on resolving them. This issue, together with a desire by PS, United Streetcar and others to increase further the U.S. content of streetcars built by United Streetcar, led to discussions between Rockwell Automation and the various interested parties in Portland on the possibility and feasibility of Rockwell designing a control system for the United Streetcar design. In April 2010, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved a $2.4-million grant, to be matched by $600,000 in local money, to fund the replacement of car 015's control equipment with new equipment to be designed by Rockwell Automation. Under FTA rules, the grant was made to TriMet (the region's primary transit agency), but TriMet only acted as intermediary in this instance, and it passed the funds along to the Portland Streetcar system's owner, the city of Portland, who administered the contract with Rockwell and the now-amended contract with Oregon Iron Works/United Streetcar. The change was expected to increase the overall U.S. content of the car from around 70% to around 90%, and this helped win the support of federal officials to approve the $2.4 million in "research funds" needed to allow project to proceed. Prototype streetcar 015 was transported back to the OIW factory, in Portland's southeast suburbs, in May 2010, and it returned on April 30, 2012, now fitted with the experimental Rockwell propulsion system. It began acceptance testing on the Portland Streetcar tracks in June and was certified for service on September 21, 2012. It entered passenger service the following day, September 22, 2012, the opening day of the new eastside line (CL Line).
Meanwhile, the city has also purchased an additional five streetcars for the eastside expansion. A contract for these was let to United Streetcar in August 2009 and was originally for six cars. However, in light of Portland's dissatisfaction with the Škoda propulsion control system, the city decided in 2010 to modify the OIW/United Streetcar contract for these cars, to substitute equipment from Elin for the originally planned Škoda equipment. Fabrication of the streetcars had yet to begin at the time of that decision, but the change was substantial enough that delivery was delayed as a result, and the first cars are now not projected to be delivered until December 2012. These five cars were not fitted with the Rockwell equipment, because the Rockwell system was still being designed at the time that production was beginning on the additional cars. If the city had waited for it to be completed, installed and thoroughly tested in car 015 before installing it in the additional cars, doing so would delay the completion of those cars too much, city officials indicated. These first "production-series" cars are United Streetcar model "100", instead of 10T3. In 2011, production problems raised the cost of manufacturing of these cars, and as a result, the city agreed to reduce the number of cars on order from six to five. These cars have been assigned numbers 021–025 in the Portland Streetcar fleet. The first car (021) was delivered in January 2013 and entered service on June 11, 2013.
Vintage Trolley service
Until late 2005 the fleet also contained two Portland Vintage Trolleys, replicas of 1904 J. G. Brill Company streetcars owned by TriMet. These two cars (of four such cars owned by TriMet) were transferred to the city of Portland in 2001 for use on the Portland Streetcar line on weekends. They were used on both Saturdays and Sundays, with just one car in service on each day. However, they were not wheelchair-accessible on the streetcar line, and they lacked the satellite-detection equipment necessary for them to be detected by the real-time arrival system (NextBus) informing passengers waiting at stops. When the line was extended to RiverPlace, the Vintage Trolley service continued to terminate at PSU, because of concerns that the steep incline on the new section could damage the cars' motors. These and other issues led to suspension of the Vintage Trolley service in late November 2005. It never resumed, and eventually the two vintage-style cars were returned to TriMet. (One other Vintage Trolley continues to provide service on a portion of the MAX system seven to eight Sundays per year.)
Compatibility with MAX
Each Portland streetcar is 66 feet (20.12 m) long, whereas Portland's MAX cars are 88 to 95 feet (26.82–28.96 m) long, and streetcars are operated as single cars at all times, never coupled into trains. The shorter cars keeps station construction expense lower than would be the case for a light-rail station, but the smaller cars do not provide equal carrying capacity as that of a light-rail train; a single articulated Portland streetcar is only about one-third the length of a two-car MAX train.
Streetcar tracks in Portland are the same gauge as MAX tracks, but of a lighter and shallower construction (the rail bed is only 1 foot or 30.5 centimeters deep), and the two systems share the same overhead line voltage, 750 Vdc. Because of this, it is technically possible for a Portland 10T or 12-Trio streetcar to run on MAX tracks, and indeed originally this was planned to take place if a streetcar needed a particular type of maintenance work that was beyond the capabilities of Portland Streetcar's own "carbarn". A single curve of track at 10th and Morrison connects the two systems. TriMet's light-rail maintenance shops feature additional equipment, as TriMet's railcar fleet is many times larger, so streetcars were operated along the MAX tracks to the light-rail workshops at Ruby Junction (near the Ruby Jct./E 197th MAX station) for maintenance work on their trucks, a few times. However, because the streetcar has a limited top speed of about 40 mph (64 km/h)  (compared with 55 mph or 89 km/h for MAX trains) and because of differences in the signalling systems, streetcar movements to the Ruby Junction facility had to take place very late at night, a time when TriMet schedules maintenance on the MAX line. Portland Streetcar managers therefore decided, early on, simply to remove streetcar components needing repair at a TriMet facility and transport them there by road, avoiding the need to schedule time on the MAX line to move a streetcar. Ultimately, as part of the eastside expansion, the necessary equipment is planned to be purchased and installed at the streetcar maintenance shop, eliminating the need to send any streetcar components to Ruby Junction or to Elmonica (another MAX maintenance facility) for repair.
While streetcars can operate on the MAX light rail tracks, a MAX car would be too heavy to operate on the streetcar's tracks, too wide for portions of its right-of-way, and unable to pass through the tighter curves on the Portland Streetcar system.
City of Portland planners began considering a streetcar system in 1990, in response to recommendations in a Central City Plan the council had adopted in 1988. The proposed network was originally referred to as the Central City Trolley and was envisioned as using faux-vintage streetcars like those of the Portland Vintage Trolley service. However, the name was later changed to Central City Streetcar, out of concern by project supporters that the word "trolley" would carry the connotation that the service was only a tourist attraction rather than a form of transportation, and in 1993 the city decided the line would use modern, low-floor cars instead of vintage ones. In 1995, the city estimated the cost to build a line from Northwest Portland to PSU as $30 million.
Portland Streetcar started with a 4.8 miles (7.7 km) counterclockwise loop of single track that commenced operations on July 20, 2001, running from the Portland State University (PSU) campus, north through the Pearl District, west to NW 23rd Avenue and then back to PSU on adjacent streets. Most of the $57 million used to build it came from local sources, and only $5 million came from the federal government.
On March 11, 2005, a 0.6-mile (1 km) extension was placed into service at the line's southern end, from PSU to RiverPlace. This was the first phase of a plan to serve Portland's South Waterfront redevelopment area, including a new outpost of Oregon Health & Science University. This section includes a short length of two-way single-track operation, about 100 yards (91 m), along Montgomery Street and 4th Avenue. Streetcar-only signals ensure that only one direction is in use at one time. The extension cost $18.1 million, including the purchase of two additional streetcars, with the intent to allow streetcars to run every 10 minutes. In 2005 the Portland Streetcar project was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence gold medal.
Another extension of 0.42 mi (0.68 km) south to the lower terminus of the Portland Aerial Tram at SW Gibbs Street, in the South Waterfront District, opened on October 20, 2006. For the next five years, that section of track differed from the rest of the line in that the streetcar track ran entirely in its own right-of-way (formerly used by the Willamette Shore Trolley). It was also bi-directional single track. This configuration was always planned to be temporary, awaiting an expected rebuilding of Moody Avenue, and in November 2011 the streetcar line began using new double track on a realigned section of Moody. This change left the short section of bi-directional single track around 4th and Montgomery as the only such running on the current PS system. At the streetcar's Gibbs Street stop, a new pedestrian bridge opened in summer 2012, linking the stop to the Lair Hill neighborhood that was otherwise cut off by Interstate 5.
On August 17, 2007, the route was extended south of Gibbs Street, to SW Lowell and Bond, serving more of the South Waterfront district. This 0.46-mile (0.74 km) extension is a 10-block loop, from SW Moody and Gibbs proceeding south on Moody Avenue, east on Lowell Street and north on Bond Avenue to OHSU Commons at Gibbs, which stop is also directly adjacent to the entrance to the aerial tram.
By 2008, Portland estimated the streetcar prompted the construction of more than 10,000 new housing units and 5,400,000 square feet (500,000 m2) of institutional, office, and retail and construction within two blocks.
During 2010, Portland Streetcar had a weekday average of 11,900 riders. In August 2012, it was reported by one source as "about 10,000", but ridership varies by season – for example, being higher when Portland State University is in session – and the daily-ridership figure averaged over a 12-month period through summer 2012, the last 12-month period before the second line opened, was 11,200.
On September 1, 2012, TriMet discontinued the Free Rail Zone (better known by its pre-2010 name, Fareless Square), which had previously allowed free service on the streetcar within Downtown and the Pearl District. A new streetcar-only fare of $1.00 was introduced at that time.
On September 22, 2012, the Eastside Line, renamed the Central Loop Line (or CL Line, for short), opened for service.
Funding for the streetcar operation comes primarily from TriMet, fares, city parking revenue, and a "Local Improvement District" (special property tax assessed on properties near the line). Another source of funding for the streetcar is sponsorships of vehicles and stops, which in most cases have a minimum duration of one year, in contrast to the shorter-term advertising found on TriMet buses and MAX. Sponsoring organizations can have their name placed on the side of the vehicle, stop shelter or in the stop announcement, as well as a small advertisement placed inside the vehicle or shelter. Brochures and ticket sales can also be sponsored.
For the eastside line, the federal government contributed $75 million in 2009, with $20 million coming from Oregon Lottery-backed bonds; the rest of the cost was paid by the city, through the Portland Development Commission and a local improvement district tax on property owners near the line.
Utility relocation work in connection with a 3.3-mile (5.3 km) expansion of the streetcar system to the city's inner eastside began in mid-August 2009. The work of laying the streetcar tracks began in early 2010, with service scheduled to start on September 22, 2012, a delay from what was originally an April 2012 date. The project involved work on the Broadway Bridge that required the bridge's weight to remain constant throughout construction and for work on its lift span to be suspended with 72 hours notice whenever a ship needed to get through.
In June 2003, the Office of Transportation adopted the Eastside Streetcar Alignment Study, a study for an extension of the streetcar to the Lloyd and Central Eastside Industrial Districts. In part, the desire for an eastside streetcar arose from the July 2001 report, Lloyd District Development Strategy. Proponents see it as a component of a potential transportation hub in the Lloyd District, bringing together the streetcar, MAX and bus service. Additionally, the new streetcar line will provide a transit connection between the Lloyd and Central Eastside districts that supporters believe is more attractive and permanent than the bus service (TriMet line 6) currently provided and is more likely to spur development in those areas. Existing businesses along the route have also voiced strong support for the project, believing it will bring new customers who otherwise would be more likely to shop in nearby downtown.
The plans were approved by the Metro (regional government) council in July 2006 and by the Portland city council in September 2007, the council committing to allocating $27 million of city funds. The estimated total cost of the project is $147 million, just over half of which is to be paid for with federal funds. On April 30, 2009, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the approval of $75 million in federal funding for the Eastside streetcar project, the full amount that had been requested by Portland. This allocation, secured in large part through the efforts of Oregon Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, was both the largest and the final component of the financing plan, and consequently the announcement meant the project could proceed to construction as soon as the city council had approved construction contracts. Twenty million dollars in state funds, $15.5 million from a Local Improvement District and a combination of various other local or regional sources complete the funding plan. Construction began in August 2009.
The routing of the Eastside line was finalized in about 2007 and measures about 3.3 miles (5.3 km) in each direction (slightly longer southbound). It leaves the original line at 10th and Lovejoy, runs east across the Willamette River via the Broadway Bridge to the Lloyd District, turns south, passing the Oregon Convention Center, and follows the Grand Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard couplet to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), the initial terminus. Within the Lloyd District, the southbound routing follows 7th Avenue (from Weidler Street to Oregon Street), so as to come closer to the Lloyd Center and the many office towers in the district, but south of the convention center the route runs south along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and north along Grand Avenue almost all the way to OMSI. The line's OMSI terminus is located just one block away from the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center.
At that location, the new line will connect with a future MAX line linking downtown with Milwaukie which is under construction and scheduled to open in September 2015. That project includes the construction of Tilikum Crossing, a new bridge over the Willamette River. When the bridge opens in fall 2015, or as soon afterwards as funding allows, the city plans to extend the streetcar from OMSI across the river to the South Waterfront district, connecting with the existing streetcar line there, and thereby creating a large loop in the overall streetcar network. For this reason, the Eastside expansion has often been referred to as the "Eastside Loop" or the "Portland Streetcar Loop" – and in spring 2012 it was even officially named the "Central Loop Line" – but completion of the loop would come not less than three years after the opening of the Eastside line and is not currently funded. The planned Milwaukie MAX line is a project of TriMet, whereas the streetcar is a City of Portland effort, but TriMet and Metro have already agreed to permit streetcars to share the new bridge with MAX trains, as well as to allow buses, bicycles and pedestrians—but not private motor traffic.
The budget for the Eastside Streetcar project, which was $148.3 million as of August 2012, includes the cost of purchasing additional vehicles, and in August 2009 the city placed an order with United Streetcar (see Vehicles section, above) for six cars of the same general type as those currently operated, but the quantity was later reduced to five.
The new line opened on September 22, 2012, as the Central Loop Line, or CL Line. The scheduled headways are 18 minutes on weekdays, 17 minutes on Saturdays and 20 minutes on Sundays. Its opening was concurrent with a slight service reduction on the outer sections of the existing line, now called the North-South Line (or NS Line), to 14-minute intervals on weekdays (from the previous 12–13 minutes), but has increased the average frequency to about every 7 minutes on 10th and 11th Avenues, where the two lines overlap.
Expansion of the streetcar system along other corridors is proposed, for the longer term. After a series of public meetings soliciting input on a draft, the city council adopted a "Streetcar System Concept Plan" in September 2009. The long-range plan identified potential corridors for future streetcar lines based on studies on ridership, land use, transportation patterns and development opportunities.
A proposal to add a 6-mile (10 km) southern extension of the streetcar to Lake Oswego was considered beginning in 2004, but was shelved in 2012 due to lack of support among Lake Oswego city officials.
In 1988, a consortium of several local governments purchased from Southern Pacific Railroad the 6.2-mile (10.0 km) Jefferson Branch freight rail line, which SP had ceased using in 1983, with the intention of preserving the right-of-way for future passenger rail transit use. Since 1990, the rail corridor has been kept in use by the Willamette Shore Trolley heritage streetcar service, a mostly seasonal, excursion-type operation, but local transportation officials remained interested in putting the corridor to use for mass transit in the longer term, and formal discussion increased as the opening of Portland Streetcar's first line neared, in 2001. A 2004 study by TriMet showed that extending the Portland Streetcar system over this right-of-way could be cost-effective and would be a better choice in this corridor than building a more costly MAX (light rail) line. In December 2007, the Metro council approved undertaking environmental-impact studies for the proposed improvements and comparing the introduction of streetcar transit service with the alternative of "enhanced bus service". The work was delayed by a lack of funding, but got under way in spring 2009 after the interested local jurisdictions reached agreement on financing the study, and an Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
As proposed, the line would have followed the Willamette Shore Trolley (WST) right-of-way, extending from the current SW Lowell St. terminus down SW Moody Avenue and proceeding along the WST right-of-way to Lake Oswego, with a terminus near a shopping center at N State St. and North Shore Blvd. The WST alignment was thought to relieve traffic congestion on Oregon Route 43, which parallels it and on some sections has steep hillsides where it would be cost-prohibitive to widen the highway. The route would have had 10 or 11 stations along the alignment and would be mostly double-track with two or three single-track segments where the alignment is too narrow to widen. Stops would be at Hamilton Ct., Boundary St., Pendleton St., Carolina St., Nevada St., Sellwood Bridge, Riverwood Rd., Briarwood Rd., 'B' Ave., and the terminus. Up to 400 park-and-ride spaces would have been included near the terminus.
In January 2012, facing local opposition from some residents living adjacent to the right-of-way, and after losing support among Lake Oswego city officials due to cost and concerns about lifestyle changes caused by the Streetcar, the project was officially suspended.
Comparison with light rail
In contrast with light rail transit systems, vehicles on modern streetcar systems such as the Portland Streetcar are rarely separated from other traffic and are not given traffic-signal priority over other vehicles, except in a few situations to allow the rail cars—which cannot turn as sharply as other most motor vehicles—to make some turns. In Portland, using this "mixed traffic" operation has reduced the cost of constructing each segment and—by not closing traffic lanes permanently to other traffic, as is typically done with light rail—also minimized disruption to traffic flow, and allowed curbside parking to be retained, but also means slower operating speeds compared to light rail. Additional factors making the Portland Streetcar line less expensive to build per mile than light rail are that use of city streets largely eliminated the need to acquire private property for portions of the right-of-way, as has been necessary for the region's light rail (MAX) lines, and that the vehicles' smaller size and therefore lighter weight has enabled the use of a "shallower track slab". The latter means that construction of the trackway necessitated excavating to a depth of only 12.2 inches (310 mm) instead of the conventional (for light rail) depth of around 18.3 inches (460 mm), significantly reducing the extent to which previously existing underground utilities had to be relocated to accommodate the trackway.
Replication by other transit systems
Organizations from other places have come to tour the system, hoping to replicate it in their hometowns. In 2005, Toronto Transit Commission officials visited Portland to evaluate the Škoda streetcars for possible use on Toronto's streetcar system, as the smaller size is suitable for the city's extensive street-running mixed-traffic operations. The official website for Tucson's Sun Link streetcar system (under construction with operation scheduled to in July 2014) includes a document written by the city of Portland on "Portland Streetcar Development Oriented Transit"
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Portland Streetcar.|
- Portland Streetcar official website
- Portland Bureau of Transportation
- Streetcar at PortlandTransport.com
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