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Justin M

This would make a good civics lesson. When implement a controversial program/development make sure you are 100% right. The obscenely high cost overruns have just added fuel to the Anti-Tram crowd. I guess I still support the tram, but I'm certainly not passionate about it. And I do not think highly of the City Council/PDC or the leaders at OHSU. It feels like a sham.

(totally off-topic and highly controversial, but this could also apply to the Iraq War. If you're going to engage in a controversial project, you better be right.)

Eric Berg

"NIMBY whining"? "Anti-tram minority"? Brian, you're coming across as an out-of-touch, blind apologist for the project and how it's been mishandled and for whom has been mishandling it.

On the merits of the Tram, and only the Tram: There were good reasons to support it and good reasons to oppose it before it was approved by the City. There are good reasons for the City to continue it or pull the plug on it now that so much information has come to light. Please make your case. But please don't try to label supporters as the "silent majority" and blame opponents and the Oregonian for the Tram controversy.

The growing oppostion to the Tram can only be blamed on the dishonest and disingenuous behavior and tactics of Tram supporters who have so much to gain if the projest continues. If everything would have been done on the up and up, we wouldn't find ourselves in the mess we're in and the City needing to evaluate whether the Tram is worth continuing.

I'm with Justin. I don't oppose the Tram, but I don't think it's neccessary. I'd just as well see us finish the project since we're in it so far. But the whole thing stinks.



I do confess that my use of words or expressions like "NIMBY whining" is a little too flippant and unhelpful to the dialogue. And if my post indicated that I am questioning the validity of the investigation and public process now going on, then I misrepresented myself.

The bottom line for me is that I believe in investing $50 million or whatever it takes in an aerial tram system designed by Angelil/Gram in keeping with the design competition that was held. Whatever debate happens afterward I feel should happen for the purposes of learning how better to manage the next design competition for an important public project. And in these and other posts I hope to argue for the validity of and value in design competitions, despite the problems associated with the tram and fire station one.


If we can get past mocking the people who have to live under this thing, there has yet been any good justification for the tram.

We have some vague references to the aesthetic of the thing, but I don't see the gondola from Ross Island to Mr Pamplin's facility adding anything to the skyline. I think most people see it as an ugly looming appedage connceting two spots on the map.

Obviously it helps doctors get to their car, but I've yet to see a parallel use of a gondola in the world. With all of these well-trained architects, there has to be something better than spending $200M+ on over 20 years to move people around. I am just disappointed in the lack of creativity (no, being different doesnt equate with artifice.)


brian, with some editing (and the inclusion of the last two sentences in your comment), i think this would be an excellent opinion piece to offer up to the oregonian. i would avoid using divisive --especially in this instance-- terms like "nimby", though.


In all seriousness. I don't see why they can't just take some proven technology (I know there are some trams out there that are highly efficient) and IMPLEMENT the silly thing already.

All this infighting because of the simple fact of market conditions and then bringing up old issues over and over again is not helping the situation at all.

I like to make sure there is open debate about things, but at this point either the city needs to find the money to come thru on their end of the deal, or break it off so that the things can be redesigned with proven technology and implemented at a lower cost.

...and just out of curiosity... do you or someone know where I can read the arguments of the people that live in the neighborhoods there?

I'm just curious because it really doesn't seem they have the legal "right" or any legitimate "technical" argument in their favor for not building the tram.

Joshua Chang

From the feeling I get of the general populous (which for me stems from talking with my associates around the city from a variety of backgrounds), that people by and large are not too into this debate of the Tram. Many can care less. As a result, those who are directly affected have seemingly been the only ones to voice their opinions, which naturally are extremely polarized in their viewpoints.

My question has been why? The Tram is advertised to be such a "huge" achievement in transportation in the city, or even the nation, so why is support and interest seemingly so low? In my viewpoint, which you can choose to agree with or not, is that the design merits nothing to what it is "supposed" to be. The project is designed, but the pieces do not work together. The "glass bubble" tram itself stands radically different from the more tendril-like wood upper support, which then stands strikingly different from the lower access point. I understand the pitch; I watched and read the winning entry's speech of verticality and horizontality and disappearing into the sky and the whole song and dance, but in the end the design seems to simply fit the requirements of the project, and nothing more. It does not provide any kind of a cohesive vision of what the Tram is supposed to be for Portland. Because of this people aren't inspired to join in the debate. I invite readers to go back and look at the entries once again. Take a look at ShoP Architects design entry, as well as UN Studio's entry. They are bold and elegant. There would, of course, have been people who would have approved of these designs and those who wouldn’t, but these would have involved more people into the debate than what we are currently seeing happening because the Tram would then be saying “This is what I am, what do you think?”. The important thing is that they portray a strong image that presents the Tram clearly as ONE thing.

I am still an advocate of the Tram and believe it will be an important landmark to our city. But even in myself, I find myself far less compassionate to the debate happening. Looking at the images, there is virtually nothing there that makes me seriously want to fight for this other than the fact that I believe it should happen. In the end, this is the same question Portlanders are asking, “Why are we paying so much for something that is not inspiring, something mundane, that I am not going to be proud to call my own in my city?”


I agree with Adron. There are many gondola/trams in the world. Any tram would solve the problem, and just the idea of a tram is pretty cool (for lack of a better word). It could have been built by now and currently in use. I am not against Portland's aspirations of good design. The portland Streetcar is a beautiful design and those trains did not receive the very long public process that stems from the design competition. They were essentially bought off the shelf.

Randy Rapaport

It would be interesting to re-view the 2nd place design of the contest for the tram. The New York City based architecture firm SHoP had a beautiful concept.

Perhaps if a more inspired design had been chosen, the project would hold more energy and maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.

Intention effects outcome. This applies to both politics AND design.


Good work BL!

True, I thought that the competition went for the 2nd best proposal in terms of design but the Tram's example will inform all adventurous architecture projects in the city for the next 10 years. If it were to be stopped (and that just isnt going to happen) I think it would have a chilling effect on the city in terms of progressive design.

Still, it's a good design (isnt made of wood, that was scrapped long ago).

The project is suffering from the unreasonable $15,000,000 initial estimate and no major transit project like this could be accomplished for that sum. I would have guessed 45-60 million and I'm glad that a certain realism has entered the fiscal oversight. Portlander's need to understand this isn't a very expensive project... it is now about what one would reasonably expect.

Also, Portland can't expect to move forward if it always takes the cut rate solution and the tram's collateral symbolic significance in addition to the billions going into in the south waterfront should get us out of the Portland design malaise Randy Gragg used to harp about.

Lastly, its about walking the walk. Portland is a city with a lot of design firms, and we need to acknowledge that publicly with architecture and the tram is an interesting and differentiating project.

mike conroy

I still think that the tram should be completed since the development in the south waterfront and expansion of the hospital are hinging on its construction. It would definately be a symbol for the city whether or not controversial cost oversights are solved publicly or privately. $15 is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions spent on expanding and repairing roads, building parking stuctures and solving congestion. The city council approved it. It should try to find a creative way to solve this issue rather than kill it. Of course this is an election year so politicians might be looking for the quick fix rather than the long range view. But Portland is a city with vision. I remember all the opposition there was to light rail and now places like Seattle look at us enviously and wonder how we did it. There is even a change of heart in people I knew in Vancouver who were initially opposed to it but due to rising gas prices and congestion wish they had decided differently. My hope is that everyone can get together and work out the pros and cons and come to a consensus and look at this project as an investment in our city rather than a mistake.


I'll follow up on an earlier observation, that the tepid public support for the tram suggests that it isn't the visionary project it has been touted as. My own disengagement from the debate stemmed first -before the ridiculousness of the initial budget was exposed- from the decision to route the tram over Gibbs St.

To my eyes, the tram could have been part of a real positive transformation of both the south waterfront and the lair hill neighborhood- and would have been truly connected to the city- if the right route had been chosen.

The tram should go at a slight angle off the grid and pass over the Ross Is. bridge entry ramps, to a terminus adjacent to the bridge. At that station, it would connect to the streetcar and south waterfront below, and to an eventual LRT-south alignment on a new bridge alongside the Ross island, which would be for rail and peds.

Construction of the tram would coincide with the a new neighborhood center being created where the tangle of ramps now is in middle of Lair Hill.

Unfortunately, this route did not end at the developers' parcel of land in the south waterfront; and unfortunately, no attempt seems to have been made to work with the state DOT, to get the bridge ramps/Front Ave reconstruction included.

To me, the tram is poor planning, somewhat offset by the ambitions of the design.

Now does the city wade deeper in, or cut losses?

Kai Jones

I'm opposed to the tram, and I live off of SE Hawthorne, so it's not a NIMBY opposition.

Try reading Jack Bog's Blog (example at http://bojack.org/mt-arc/002874.html) for reasons why people oppose the tram, other than NIMBY.

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