« Measure 49 Needs Our Help! | Main | Shoebox Lofts Developer, Architect Frustrated By Review Process »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I hear crow tastes like chicken!

The project shows just how important being serious about design and outcome make grousing about $$$ and wanting to stall all change is just short sighted.

The tram is an innovative sollution for a somewhat unique situation, though I suspect some other cities will follow suit because of our leadership.

Now all we need is a restaurant destination up there.


Serious question, when did Portland become a tourist town?

I say this because tourism is up 7% from last year, and because tourism is the number one industry in Portland.

I don't remember Portland being a tourist spot 10 years ago, but things have changed. And I'm wondering why that is and when it changed.


I was originally in agreement about the need to bring the tram into the Tri-Met system and let pass and ticket holders ride.

But I've started to see it a new way after several trips up the hill. When I have a meeting or a doctor's appointnment on the hill, I get a free tram ticket from OHSU. Standard practice. When I have traveled up for fun, it is not "transportation," it's entertainment. Generally speaking, all trips associated with OHSU should be free for the rider, and the others are entertainment, no? As such, I'm fine with a "fun ride" fare of $4 because it helps tourists (local and non-local) pay the price of a great transportation link.

But it's a link, to one destination, not really a part of the network.


Too bad the portland streetcar wasn't designed to be as snazzy looking as the aerial tram (or as quiet or quick).

Hopefully the one lesson learned from this experience is to NOT publish cost estimates until a design has been agreed upon.


Thank God we used to have visionary political leaders in Portland with the backbone to stand up to myopic, uninformed, armchair crtics that would have driven Portland's economy into the ground years ago if they had thier way. Too bad, however, those leaders have moved on, leaving a serious leadership void at City Hall. While the current council has spent most of thier time trying to 'undo' the visionary work of their predecessors, who is minding the ship going forward? Nobody, unfortunately. I hope people think about that when they vote next month.


Actually, if you read one of the earlier posts, Katz hasn't moved on, she's looking to get back into the thick of things.

And if we elect Sam...


BTW Brian-

Arup is based in London
AGPS' website link was inserted as a mailto:

fyi ;)

Brian Libby


Well, yeah. I should have been more clear on that. Both Arup and AGPS have offices in Los Angeles but both also have their original headquarters in Europe: Arup in London and AGPS in Zurich.


" I know it's free for OHSU employees"

Not quite free. OHSU covers 80% of the operating gap not covered by fares.


O.K., the tram is so good? Build another one to the hill. Have this one fly from....oh, I don't know...maybe around PSU. Think of the commute/parking hassles avoided by doing this. Make it work and a lot more doubters would be eating crow.

Now that it's built, I can't say I'm exactly thrilled with the tram, but it has it's redeeming qualities. There is beauty in its design. Not thoroughly, but enough to establish grace and generate inspiration. It's still kind of a bummer for Lair Hill neighborhood.

As for cost of fare, why not be inventive? Reduce the fare from the regular $4 to $2 for a month from time to time, then have it revert back. December seems like a good month to try this out. Christmas lights...hmmm. Could be interesting to see how people respond.


Despite our (sometimes bitter) disagreements about design, aesthetics, politics,urban planning etc, we all have to agree that there is something about Portland that makes it not only a comfortable but fabulous place to live. For what is a city, if not its interesting, sometimes eccentric and sometimes crazy people. As an outsider, I salute you Portlanders!(let's move on to the next round of bickering now!)


BTW, Heckle and Jeckle (pictured above), are magpies, not crows. Ever seen a crow with black & white plumage and a yellow bill and feet?

And, yes I know, there are occasional partial albino crows with a white feather or two, but not like those two.

Brian Libby

Now here's an astute observation. Alantex, you're of course correct that Heckle & Jeckle are magpies, not crows. I wondered just when somebody was going to bring this up. The problem was, there weren't any famous crows I could think of to use in the image...the late Brandon Lee not withstanding.


Speaking as a tram complainer, I can't fault the one million avoided surface vehicle trips. Kudos. But as an eastsider who pays for all this Disneyland development with reduced police, fire, parks, etc, services, while these developers get a free ride and premium service levels, I'm not through complaining.


several other ways to get to the hill were looked at and dismissed as too expensive when compared to a $10 million tram. Would they have looked good compared to a $60 million tram?

How much for a tunnel? A bridge? etc.

Brian Libby

There's no getting around the fact that the tram was 'sold' as an idea based on false information. And we can never go back to retroactively change that. However, I'd imagine a tunnel or bridge would be even more expensive than a tram. Besides, those modes are made to traverse land horizontally. This distance is diagonally up and down.


Portlanders need to get over the idea that $57 million for the tram is a lot of money. It's not. As public transportation projects go, it's pocket change. The new MAX line now being built downtown will cost 10 times as much. A new I-5 bridge is likely to cost a hundred times as much. (For that matter, the renovation of the old Meier & Frank store downtown is twice as expensive.)

I love the tram and what it does for Portland's image as an innovative place. Its public relations value alone is worth at least $57 million. Matter of fact, I'd like to see Portland add another tram: How about from OHSU, across downtown with stops at the KOIN Tower and Big Pink, and on to Union Station or the Pearl. Now THERE you'd have a world-class tourist attraction!

Jim Heuer

Let's imagine a little parable. Let's say I really want a diamond ring. I'm not very handsome, so maybe a diamond ring will make me more attractive. It will cost $15000, which I don't have, but I can borrow the money from a bank that doesn't have very good judgment about who they lend to.

Now I go out and buy the diamond ring. People are amazed. They think it is really beautiful. Beautiful people notice me. But then they also notice I can't afford the nice clothes to go with the fancy new ring.

But amazingly, none of that has made any difference in my ability to pay the bank that $15,000. I have to do without nice dinners. The beautiful people who admire the ring don't want to have to pay for my dinners. They don't call me, even though they like my ring.

The fact is I have to pay for something that I really couldn't afford, and it has made it harder to pay for other things I really do need... bummer...

The fact is folks, transportation planning considers options all the time. Many of them quite cool (wouldn't it be nice to have a subway that whisked the light-rail trains through downtown at 50mph?) But we have to do responsible cost benefit analysis of for each option. The options that don't make economic sense should not be undertaken, no matter how cool they seem to be.

If the $50mm price tag of the tram had been understood (and it should have been) at the outset, the other options available would have easily won out. There were lots of options considered by the planners, but against the puny $15mm cost estimate, they didn't look attractive ... even though the cost benefit of the tram wouldn't be realized for at least 15 years -- even at that grossly underestimated cost. No, those other options would not have resulted in the NY Times writing a nice article, but they would also have freed up money that the city needs for things like street paving (remember those dirt streets out in East County... sorry, but the NY Times isn't writing about them...)

I'm not impressed by giddy enthusiasm for things we can't afford. This tram is one of them, as is the Eastside Esplanade, another city "amenity" which I do enjoy, but was not worth the cost, given our other transportation priorities.


Another misconception tram opponents constantly try to foist upon us is the argument that Portland wasted $57 million on this unnecessarily luxurious tram for the privileged rich folks in the South Waterfront and at OHSU, and so we "normal" Portlanders now have to put up with worse police/parks/fire service as a result -- you know, as if it were a cause-and-effect thing, which it is not. For the record, of the tram's $57 million in construction costs, $40 million was paid by OHSU. The city of Portland's share was $8.5 million, a mere 15 percent of the total.

I don't know if the good citizens on the east side of the Willamette actually are receiving inferior services from the city (I do know that on the west side, where I live, the parks are in the best shape of any urban parks I've ever seen an any American city). But if the east side is being neglected, that's not a problem an additional $8.5 million would solve. As I said earlier, for a city this size that's pocket change.


It WOULD be nice to have a subway system, rather than the half ass public transport we have now.

I like the Eastside Esplanade, it makes for a bike and jogging loop around the Willamette that GREATLY enhances the quality of life in the city (a matter of perception that ineffable quality of life thing..)

Agree with Carlo, cities need something to show for civic ambition, a cool public space, an engineering feat (bridges, tall towers, tunnels). Cities are more than fixed potholes and essential services, they are arbiters of taste and centers of excellence. So you managed to provide paving to your eastern neighborhoods, big freaking deal, everyone does that, show me something I can remember.


I got to say, there's something to what Jim Heuer says about the city bungling projected cost estimates of the tram being a factor in burying further consideration of tram alternatives. One of those alternatives might have better or even cheaper, (though probably not) but now, who knows? Right? Fouling that up makes the city look pretty bush-league. It has to do better on that count in future.

On the issue of amenities like the EastSide Esplanade, I can't agree with Heuer. The EastSide Esplanade responded to a desperately needed amenity that should have been a funding priority decades ago. Oh, what an eyesore the eastside riverbank was until the debut of the Esplanade! Every resident, every visitor coming down to enjoy the river and having to see the former mess over there. Just disgusting. Now it's a marvelous, accessible resource for just about anybody that can get out of the house.

Attention to paving of streets and the creation and construction of amenities are basic to the health and vitality of a city. A certain amount of each should be done simultaneously.

mclofduny swrnzk

nahm wdtcohepm mrvnlbwoi tpla djebamn gjrsu adlboeh


Have you people been brain damaged?

OHSU is in deep fiscal doo-doo and there is no 'prudent' reserve to draw upon.

Gee, it seems that $57 million was a shipload of money that could have been used to keep the health care provided up to snuff. Instead, that money is used to haul people up and down a hill that is readily dealt with by surface traffic at much, much lower costs.

There is no crow to eat for us...That should be saved for the administrators at OHSU. They inflicted the wound on themselves and now they are busy making sure that somebody else pays for that, too.

Brian Libby

Godfry, I respect your anti-tram position, but things aren't as simple as you suggest.

The financial "doo-doo" you describe is happening a good couple years after the tram decision. So it's not fair to treat this as an either-or proposition.

But even if OHSU did have that kind of hindsight, the tram is still an overwhelmingly positive and necessary investment. OHSU may be fiscally hurting now, but in time they will be looking to expand again. But the institution was just too isolated up there on Marquam Hill. Yes, there was a connecting road already, but a tiny, winding road. Now OHSU has an easy transit connection with the riverfront property that will comprise its future expansion.

Sometimes you've got to spend money to make money. Sure, OHSU could use that $57 million-or whatever it was the tram cost (and some of those funds came from other sources such as developers and the City). But even if OHSU had all that money and no tram, the institution would be in less positive long term condition than it is now having the tram.

The reason I originally wrote this post, arguing that the discussion on the validity of the tram was over, was that no matter what economic cycles hit our society, expanding the university and Portland itself into this close-in South Waterfront is the path toward future growth and prosperity. I don't regret anything I wrote. If you could see the long-term outlook for the tram and OHSU in a crystal ball, I'm confident you would in fact, as I originally suggested, be eating crow.

Can I help you with that bib?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsors


Portland Architecture on Facebook


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics

Awards & Honors