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I think the Venetian Vaporretto is a better analogy. They go along the Grand Canal and back and forth across it. There could be park and sails in Oregon City and Vancouver, say, with rush hour expresses to downtown. They are low to go under bridges, and enclosed for wet and cold weather.


I am inclined to think that a single point to point system like the star ferry in Hong Kong, running from Kowloon to Victoria island could work. It could connect Trimet nodes (like the south waterfront light rail/streetcar/tram with the rose quarter light rail nexus), this would bypass the ridiculously slow downtown train.

Potentially this could be expanded to something along the lines of the bangkok bus ferry model. It starts upriver and crisscrosses the river at several main stops, then turns around and heads back up the chao phraya.

Ours could start at cathedral park, stop at a new development at the centennial mill pier, hit a stop below the max line nexus, maybe a weekend run to the new Saturday market site, continue down to OMSI, maybe over to Riverplace, a stop at South waterfront, one at Sellwood, continue up the river to stops as far as Oregon city. I would think we could run a good commuter bus ferry with just a few boats (maybe 6 to 10). The important thing would be to incorporate the docks with mass transit stations.

Although liability laws here might make this a nonstarter, it could save hundreds of millions of dollars over the cost of an equivalent rail line, after all we are only buying the cars, not the concrete/steel/engineering,etc.


The Hong Kong Star ferries is a lovely romantic idea, but I suspect a more brutal reality might be something like the Thames riverboat service which runs from Putney to Woolwich- a far longer route that takes you past major landmarks and stops near useful transport nodes. Neither seems like a viable option on the muddy Willamette.


Vancouver SeaBus.


I can't see river transit working on the Willamette. The river is criss-crossed by bridges heavily served by mass transit. This isn't like a harbor or bay or Puget Sound where you can save time by cutting across a large body of water. Instead, you need to get to wherever you catch the boat, wait, ride the boat to your destination, and then transfer.

That said, I can see some merit to express passenger ferries from an Oregon City Park & Ride to downtown Portland, if enough people make that commute on a daily basis.

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