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I guess my feedback is when does price exceed utility? I mean if they would have been upfront about the thing costing $50M (or whatever), then I think we could have a discussion about alternatives or if it even was necessary or worth it.

Somehow a gondola really does not seem the most efficient way to transport people up the hill especially during inclement (windy) weather.

In addition, it kind of hangs over the residential neighborhood. Maybe something like a funicular with stops at Barbur and along the way?

Snoodly Foo

Matt Brown sounds like a shyster.

Bob R.

I doubt one could build a funicular system or even an electric trolleybus system from South Waterfront over macadam, I-5, and Barbur (with all the requisite bridge and overpass infrastructure and materials required) all the way to OHSU for anywhere below $100M or more, and it would be slower.

I'm not _too_ worried about the performance of the tram in bad weather. These things are used all over the world specifically for going up steep grades in rough environments.

Does anyone know the design specification for max winds allowed during normal operations?

- Bob R.


Does anyone really go to work in Oregon if there is a storm with 50 mph winds anyways?

Last time we had a storm like that, semis were pushed off of the I-205 bridge (?) into the Columbia River.


ok-"if they would have been upfront about the thing costing $50M" i think brian got it. the problem was they DIDN'T know it was going to cost this much! Blame the project managers, the optimists, the procrastinators, but ultimately the price in the end will be judged by time only. If you pulled the plug now, you would be making the same mistake seattle made with their pathetic attempt at the monorail, which now costs the public the same amount, but they get NOTHING. As well, don't lose sight of the unprecedented escalating steel prices. IT IS TRUE the tram is the best way. Barcelona has a funicular, and it is slow. The Portland site a funicular would take longer than a bus. The funicular would have a very difficult and slow climb up the hill once it somehow tunneled under I-5, Macadam and found a straight line up to Pill Hill. All of that is somehow less expensive, or even "better"?? i look forward to the day when i can ride the tram up and down from the hill and take in the most amazing and stunning view of our region. what a treat! ultimately the tram is something that outlasts us and puts portland justifiably in the forefront on urban design. Foresight - ahead of the game with infrastructure. MAX, streetcar, Bus Mall, Tram. In the end the entire neighborhood will gain value, while keeping a very important business in the core city. It is a message that Portland needs to keep delivering to propogate a livable city.


well said

there has been no aerial tram built like this before, almost all are at ski-resorts with nothing around, the OHSU tram goes over a residential neighborhood, over a freeway, over several major boulevards and up to a terminal elevated 9 stories above the road and which because it is connected to a hospital can not have any vibrations.

traffic up to ohsu is terrible especially during rush hour with its winding narrow streets. roads between ohsu and south waterfront are indirect and cut off by the hillside and I-5

for ohsu to expand into the south waterfront they required a fast and easy-to-use link and the tram was the answer.

i can understand the concern about the rising price of the tram and i too am concerned but the cost is tiny compared to the $2 billion south waterfront neighborhood cost, plus most of the cost of the tram is being paid by OHSU which most articles fail to mention.

Bob R.

I emailed the tram project coordinator and asked him for the operating parameters of the final tram design. Here are the stats from his reply:

The Tram is designed to be operational up to 50mph wind speeds.

Completion date: Fall 2006

Cars: Two 79-passenger cars, both ADA-compatible and able to roll on/off bikes

Capacity: 980 people/hour in each direction

Speed & ride time: 22 miles/hour; 3 minutes

Frequency: Departs every 5 minutes during peak hours less during off peak

Operating hours: Still being finalized but anticipated at 6am-10pm weekdays with some reduce hours on weekends.


The tram project has been such an easy target of derision for the usual talk-radio, libertarian blog, and demagogue-columnist crowd--the sorts of people, it seems to me, who characterize just about any expenditure of public funds as an act of government robbery perpetrated against the citizenry. It's refreshing to hear from people who see the tram as an extraordinarily creative and promising solution to a difficult transportation problem, and who see it as a key component in a potentially great urban achievement. With the South Waterfront, Portland is creating an entirely new, economically vital part of downtown. And we're creating it along the river, out of a polluted wasteland!

Okay, y'all know all that. And I suppose that the people who oppose the tram probably tend to ridicule the whole South Waterfront project as well. I just worry that this "pull the plug on the tram" talk is gaining in volume, and I can't help but want to do a little cheerleading for the pro-tram side.


The tram project is simply throwing good money after bad. The hospitals should never have been built on the hill in the first place. Landslides and earthquakes will eventually make them unusable. The whole of the new South Waterfront developments were made financially attractive by the tram. What a scam.


There are really two issues here. First, whether the tram is a good expenditure of public funds whether it is 15 million or 50 million. I would guess it probably is and that the City would have moved forward even if they knew the tram would cost as much. The real issue is a lack of credibility that the City is getting with these competition projects and not being able to nail down the initial estimates. This also is the case with the Fire Station - different circumstances, but you could say very similar. The City needs to do a better job of understanding contingencies, soft costs, and escalation as they create these in-house estimates. These estimate problems will only undermine future competitions in that the public will always be wary of the exact costs.

Bob R.

My main concern about rising tram costs is whether the expenditure will diminish funds needed for other transportation projects as well.

I attended a CAC meeting on the Transit Mall Light Rail project last week and budget cuts are already being seriously considered which affect design and usability.

Potentially on the chopping block:

1. Shelters at several stations.
2. Traffic Signal Mast Arms. Instead, signals would hang from wires strung between buildings.
3. Brick (or any kind of textured) crosswalks. This is also a disabled-community issue, not just a cost one.
4. Single (instead of dual) ticket vending machines (TVMs) at certain stations.
5. CCTV security cameras.

The difference between the minimum specification and getting everything on the list with the highest design standard is about $8 million ($128mil vs. $120mil).

We have a world-class design in the transit mall. This refurbishment project may in fact rob us of that.

Also on the chopping block: The fountains will all have to be relocated, but one of the fountains will be destroyed. Why? Because it wasn't "artist designed" but was in fact merely designed by an architect. As it was merely "engineered" it does not fall under the codes requiring preservation of art.

And it looks like momentum is still in favor of destroying the Halprin-designed bus shelters and replacing them with shed-roof open-sided glass structures.

- Bob R.


lindsey, how do you arrive at your conclusions about the buildings on the hill? The kind of earthquake that would make OHSU's campus on the hill unusable would make a number of buildings in the city unusable--whether they are downtown, across, the river, etc. I can't speak to landslides, but my hunch is you probably have no actual information to base those comments on either. The cost of the tram--being too much money--however is a legitimate point for discussion. Personally, I am okay with the city's obligations financially on the tram. After Columbia Sportswear left the city a few years back, I do not think this is an outlandish amount of money to spend to retain OHSU's expansion efforts--we (the citizens) are on the hook for less than 10% of the ballooning $50 million. And this kind of financial help is very very small compared to the kind of corporate tax breaks large received throughout our state: Intel is a good example.


Give me a break, OHSU's current site was established in 1917 - I doubt anyone realized in 90 years they woulud need to do a major expansion like they are doing. Or, if they did, they figured people 90 years from then would be smart enough to figure it out.

What they could do is blow up the entire current compound and relocate to... let's say... Bend. Buy 23,497 acres and move all the doctors over there.

Sounds like a great idea - and I bet the land would be cheaper. Probably wouldn't need a Tram, either. No pesky South Waterfront Portland urban planners to fsck things up and mess up the beautiful industrial wasteland along the river... I really like the idea of PCB's, lead, and leaked diesel fuel seeping into the Willamette River.

Guess I'm the only one who has any vision!


From Phil Stanford in the Tribune:

Haven’t heard back yet from Oregon Health & Science University’s lively PR department, but Art Pearce, assistant manager of the aerial tram project, says not to worry about catching strange diseases from patients traveling back and forth from the hospital on the hill. … "If they’re especially contagious," he says, "they’ll probably be transported by ambulance." … Or, as one county health official puts it, taking the tram shouldn’t pose any greater health threat than visiting a hospital and riding the elevator a few times. Whew, I feel better already.

Bob R.

Oregonian Tram Editorial

Chris McMullen

What a great editorial. It's good to know the Oregonian and many posters here actively support corporate welfare and public manipulation.

For years private enterprise proposed development in SoWa of which no abatements nor public money was needed. Instead, Vera, Eric and company decided to grease the palms of Homer Williams et al under the guise of smart growth and density.

Does it not bother any of you that most of SoWa will not contribute one dime in taxes outside their URD for up to 20 years? How can you all marvel at towers and trams while police, maintenance and schools go underfunded?

I hope the Oregonian editorial board remembers all of Portland's uneducated kids while they take a joyride on the tram.


Can someone please explain why cost overruns, even triple cost overruns, is such a big story here. Honestly, how can any construction project that has to be approved long, long before ground is broken ever come in at or near budget. Not just Boston's project, but our own sewer project proves this. In my view, it's also more likely to happen in public than private projects (but still regularly happens in private projects) because the delays created by the approval process.


Blah-blah-blah. The tram is great for Portland. Vision + economy, no doubt. Enough whining about the "schools" ("the children!!!!") - Pa-Lease - the schools here are a joke in terms of their fiscal management. It has NOTHING to do with this [project or expansion of the city WITHIN the urban growth boundary. Jeez, doesn't anyone want to see progress? Has anyone ever heard of cost over-runs - hear of THE BIG DIG perhaps? This is nothing compared to that - and will provide no t only a sky-based, non-traffic travel solution, and more revenue for the city in time, it provides an element of sightseers paradise. It will no doubt appear on every physical brochure, etc that goes out of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, the Visitors and Convention Bureau, Port of Portland, Trimet, etc. Some of the leadership from these organizations need to consider speaking up about how this will grow our city psychologically and socially - not to mention artfully architecture-wise. It will make our city "look" like a destination of note - it will help give Portland a LANDMARK. Is there something wrong with that? Gas prices went up, people still drove their stupid SUVs. Hrrrmmpphh!

This whole project is innovative, great design and will give us the silhoutte that NY, Seattle and San Fran have. YOU ARE NOT PAYING FOR THIS!Breathe a lil'....

Justin M

The problem is the escalating costs.

If you're going to support a $50 million tram, then vote to support a $50 million tram not a $15 million tram.

This has been a controversial project from the beginning, and the increased costs just lend ammunition to the critics.

The Portland City Council has got to get a better handle on these types of projects or...well, I guess maybe they'll get voted out of office.


What I can't figure out as a humble citizen reading the morning paper under my bowl of cereal while helping my son get dressed is...

Should I care if some big public works project costs more than they said it would?

What I want to know is, who is really paying for this?

The city? The state? The state through OHSU? That sounds like my tax dollars.

Or does OHSU have other revenue sources?

Are there federal matches, so that my local tax dollars were only paying a small percent of 15 million and now a small percent of 50 million?

What percent are the developers of South Waterfront kicking in, if anything?

Why isn't there a big pie chart accompanying ever article in the Oregonian about this subject, since "who pays" is the fundamental question here?

Yes it sounds like someone scammed someone in selling a 50 million tram for 15 million, but exactly who was going to pay for this at 15 million (what proportions) and who is going to pay (what proportions, if different from original) for the 50 million over run?

Why aren't there pie charts accompanying every article about this show exactly who is paying for what?

The other issue, as previously stated is utility... it's economicly absurd to state that if a project is a good idea at 15 million, then it's a good idea at 50 million. Or that only makes sense if the money is funny money... money that isn't your money and doesn't affect any other priorities you care about.

I agree with those who dig it for the gee whiz factor. I love Disney land rides too! I like flying through the sky, and I'm sure one day I'll ride the darn thing with pleasure if it gets built. It'll make for some great pictures for Portland Ground

On the other hand if I find that money that could have been spent on our public schools is not going to be available because of the tram I'm going to be one pissed off Portland parent.

I think there is some public benefit to a signature project, and I'm open to some public spending for such candy, but since this is primarily a system for transporting upper middle class residents to their upper middle class jobs, I sure hope that the developers, those residents and OHSU are paying the lion's share. Are they? If so, groovy!

But what part of this thing is coming out of my kids' education and the educations of kids in Powerhurst-Gilbert and Lents?

I don't know, and so far nothing I've read has helped me sort that out.

john prentice


You'll be told that only 3.5 mil in public monies pay for the tram.

the scam that some refer to is not, as Rich asserts, a reflexive,libertarian, anti government rant. Jack Bog who he is referring to in fact is a dyed in the wool Democrat who has supported a number of government inititiaves.

the problem here is that it looks an awfully lot like an insiders deal was created between well-heeled developers, a rich medical institution, and the PDC to subsidize the development of an area that was ready for development anyway.

money for your schools? go count the tax dollars that have been deferred for years. that's where you're really paying the price.


The $50M cost cited by many above has changed. The article in today's Oregonian (2/2/06) cites a figure of $55M. But their chart left off the fact that the tram was once presented as an $8M project. At the current rate, costs are rising 40% per year, so at completion the $8M tram will probably cost $80M or more.

And if this project follows the success of the "Big Dig" (tunnel) project in Boston, besides the cost overruns, there will be significant design & construction flaws discovered after completion, and multi $M lawsuits to follow.

I present this information to those who think "only $50M" is an acceptable cost for this public/private project.


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