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Yes!! Thanks for the good news.


Funny how GM is in tanking and the streetcars are rising up. Ironic or payback?


GM is one of the largest rail manufacturers in the world and has been for 80 plus years.

They would be glad to produce more rail products if the rest of the country would embrace rail as Portland has.


woo hoo! good news.


this is great news... I would really love to see oregon ironworks' streetcar manufacturing take off and develop into a 21st century manufacturing powerhouse


I think it would be great to have a streetcar running up and down Powell. Narrow the automobile lanes or remove one, and have streetcar instead. Of course, that might be more difficult since it's an ODOT managed road. Division doesn't make as much sense to me, as it's pretty small (really only two through lanes all the time, unless they removed on-street parking, which I wouldn't be too sad about) though I agree that it would be great to have one on Hawthorne. Do you know if the city of Portland has an idea how far this federal funding will get them? Will it be just the initial loop around the lloyd district, or will it go further than that?


Hawthorne does not make any sense at all. It already has very narrow travel lanes and it quite congested as it is without a slow moving, trodding streetcar.


I like the idea of a bucolic street car rolling through our neighborhoods picking up kids in knickers and men in suits, but have you ever attempted to use the trolley for transportation? It is the slowest most inefficient means of getting through Portland. I worked in an office on the trolley line for several years when it was first built through the Pearl. I regularly walked along the line in an attempt to catch it and found that I could walk significantly faster than had I waited, and arrive much earlier without breaking a sweat.

I love MAX, it has the ability to travel at moderate speeds and is true mass transit. The trolley in practice appears to be more folley than urban benefit.

I want more jobs in our city and for us to continue to lead the nation in creative adaptation of our environment, but I for one am not a fan of the trolley as a model for that.

Crystal V

In a recent urban design meeting about the streetcar I heard that Hawthorne is just too narrow (by a couple of feet in each lane) to have a streetcar.

Also there are some bicycle and streetcar open houses (one in every quadrant) coming up in the next couple of weeks.




When going a number of blocks just downtown MAL, walking will always be a better option than any form of transportation...bus, car, train...saying that the streetcar is too slow because you can walk faster than it downtown isn't a good argument against it.

When I was commuting from the far end of the Northwest District to PSU, the streetcar made sense to take and there would of been no way for me to out walk it from that distance.

So, short distances, you should walk, long distances, public transportation will be faster than walking.

Also Brian, I know you would love to see the highway buried along the eastside, but realistically I think that would be a huge mistake...sure it is an eyesore, but the amount of money that it would cost to bury I-5 because of sight, I would rather see that same amount of money invested in streetcars and light rail throughout the region.

Laurence Qamar

Street cars, light rail, and even heavier passenger rail are proven catalysts for concentrating walkable, compact urban development, that sustains it's valuable infrastructure for generations to come. Someone above expressed concern with the slow movement of street cars. They are not meant to be long distance, high speed vehicles, but an extension of the pedestrian realm. Street car is a superior alternative to buses, which sadly replaced the historic streetcars of America at the hands of the Big Three car companies in the '50's.

But I have one very serious plea to those who will design new streetcar lines in Portland in coming years: Please retain as much on-street parking as possible. On roads like Powell and 82nd ave. (ODOT roads) we need to reestablish on-street parking in order to transform the whole character of those highways into boulevards. On-street parking is vital to main street retail success, wether it's for cars, bikes or horse and buggy. On street parking also protects the pedestrian on the sidewalk from cars in the driving lanes. Note that streets withOUT on-street parking always end up being commercial strips with parking lots up front. Street cars and bike lanes should not replace on-street parking, especially in commercial zones. Places like the bus mall downtown, are not great people places, mainly due to the lack of on-street parking (which supports retail, buffers pedestrians from traffic. etc.)


my favorite streetcar expansion route is rose quarter to vancouver/williams couplet and east along killingsworth to PCC.

lots of development potential along vancouver/williams. it would be really great to tie PCC into the city more tightly. it would also serve emmanuel.

the entire route is actually just re-establishing old streetcar lines, so the exisiting structures (or what remains of them) will be compatible.

vancouver/williams has plenty of room to add tracks, and killingsworth is already slow as a devil due to bus boardings. a faster boarding streetcar might speed things up actually.


Great news. That streetcar will do a fine job of serving the new AAA baseball stadium that will be built at the Memorial Coliseum site.

Brian Libby

Very funny there, Greg. I can't wait to see what you do with juggling balls.

Jim Heuer

As noted in the comments this post, there is a gap between the idealized vision for what the Portland streetcar should be as it is currently evolving and what streetcars offered in historic times. The current incarnation suffers by comparison, and only as its service and performance begin to approximate that of systems in the 1920's and 1930's will it become a fully credible part of the Portland mass transit scene.

The biggest gap in performance is relative to speed. The current streetcar is scheduled for 47 minutes to cover its approximately 3.9 mile route from NW 23rd Avenue to SW Lowell and Bond. As many of its would-be riders have noted, this is slow; it works out to a speed of about 5mph, just a bit faster than walking. In historic times, the average speed of street-running trolleys was between 12 and 20mph, the higher numbers achieved outside of the city core and prior to the advent of extensive automobile traffic. Peak speeds of 30-40 mph in street running were common. On private right of way, the cars frequently reached speeds in excess of 60mph.

Average speed is a function of acceleration rates, deceleration rates, and maximum speed. The Portland streetcar does not operate anywhere near as fast as historic streetcars did, nor is the acceleration especially brisk by comparison. By contrast the so-called PCC streetcar design, introduced in 1930 - of which 5000 were produced for U.S. streetcar systems, could outpace the acceleration of the typical automobile of the day, and as a boy riding them in Los Angeles in the 1950's as a standee, I remember having to hang on tightly when they powered away from a trolley stop.

The second big difference between the pre-war streetcar operations and that of today's Portland Streetcar is frequency. In Portland in the 1890's, before streetcars reached their peak of service, the service to outlying areas was already every 15 minutes from 6am to midnight. Service on downtown streets (as served today by the Portland Streetcar) was typically much more frequent as lines converged and multiple car lines operated on the same downtown streets. Taking an example from another city, in the 1920's Chicago's streetcars were scheduled at 90 second (!) headway from early in the morning to late in the evening on the fairly typical Broadway route through a residential neighborhood 4 miles from downtown. And this in a city that had a parallel elevated rapid transit line running at 10 minute intervals.

In trying to revive the streetcar as a viable alternative to auto transport, we face a daunting "chicken and egg" problem. While it is true that the public almost always prefer streetcars to buses (and did even when the transit authorities were dismantling their trolley systems), ridership won't continue to grow without increases in frequency and speed. This can only be achieved by a willingness by authorities to operate at higher speeds, mechanical designs permitting greater acceleration, and a reduction in interference by automobile traffic -- none of which come cheaply. Do we spend the money in hopes that "they will come" or leave our streets to be dominated by the private passenger automobile?


Jim you are forgetting another modern day additive, streetcars are not just about transportation and how fast or frequent it is, but it is also about investment.

The "daunting chicken and egg problem" is less daunting when you look at the fact that the city is making a permanent investment by laying tracks for a streetcar line. Much of what now is the Pearl has to in some way pay respect to the streetcar that ran through it when it was an underdeveloped area within the 405 loop...it is also what made the South Waterfront more desirable as an urban street grid development because the streetcar is seen as the connection to downtown for that area...without it, there is a possibility that this area would of either never happened or would of been nothing more that a suburban style multi unit condo complex.

Also comparing streetcars of today to the streetcars of the past is like comparing a car from the 20s to a car produced today...it makes no sense to even try.

I will agree with you about the streetcar needing to pick up speed and be more frequent...its current rate is on the slow side.

Jim Heuer

Dennis, streetcars have always been about land values and development. There's absolutely nothing new about that. When there were few automobiles, extending streetcar service to a neighborhood guaranteed its success as a real estate investment. In those days streetcar companies and real estate developers were joined at the hip in most cities.

As to the "evidence" that, in today's world of auto-focused transport, the streetcar made the Pearl District, there isn't any. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for streetcar development in Portland, but I'm not for phony transportation analysis. There is also little indication that the trolley actually made a difference for South Waterfront -- if anything the over-hyped Tram was a catalyst there.

As to the inappropriateness of comparing current streetcars with those from the 20's and 30's, your logic escapes me. The PCC cars I was referring to were highly engineered and are the standard against which modern light-rail vehicles are measured. The fact that they performed better than the current crop of Portland streetcars is hardly a reason to ignore the comparison. Further, given our modern impatience and ready availability of auto transport, accepting less service than what private trolley car companies felt necessary to provide without the pressure of auto competition seems to be to be a prescription for failure.


This news is like looking at an advertisement or a publicity photo. You can see the attraction and you can see why people get enthusiastic over it and you can see the appeal, but at it's core it's depressing and deluded and dishonest and all of the plain jane aspects of humane city life – healthy public schools, maintained parks, etc. — just grow weeds from neglect. The streetcar is a decorative ornament and a monument to the empty rhetoric of vain developers. Seriously.


Jim, I was pointing out the land value because it wasnt mentioned in your last post and often times that gets looked over.

Though, with this new post, I am more confused on your stance on streetcars in general. I take it you think they are a good idea, yet cannot see any evidence of the good it has been for the Pearl District? I would have to refer to where the streetcar makes its turn onto Northrup to head up towards the Northwest District as being the best example. That portion of the Pearl District is the furthest from everything, but now it boosts a very dense portion of the city (granted, it is a very ugly portion, but that is a different topic). Much of that part of the Pearl District would be a hard sell without the streetcar, which I will also admit that it has been an area that has had a slow progression as well.

As for my comparison, it was less about the machine and more about the system...the trains back then ran in the middle of the road rather than to the curb. They also ran at a much cheaper cost and were often smaller cars. Plus in reference to eras, I have seen photos of streetcar clogged streets, which will never be the case again, thus would be like comparing two separate things...I hope that clears it up a bit better at what I was trying to make a point about.

So thomas, your suggestion would be stick with the buses and stay the course? Buses are not seen as a permanent investment.


" Do we spend the money in hopes that "they will come" or leave our streets to be dominated by the private passenger automobile?" Jim Heuer

I'd say that's a mouthful. The facts that Jim Heuer's 'May 03, 2009 at 04:34 PM' above comment states are some that people should be introduced to more frequently, or reminded of if they've forgotten, because it's hard to imagine service allowing such travel convenience could have existed in such an early era. It's seems like we should have that in this era too.

The streetcar's abilities seem to be limited by the dominance of the automobile. It's not the streetcar's fault that its slow. I imagine today's streetcars are safer to ride than their predecessors, but given the racket their wheels make on the tracks, they certainly don't sound like they've made any great technological advance.


I don't feel that people sufficiently appreciate how inversely traffic affects livability. While I couldn't be happier about the streetcar funds and trust Portland city planners, I don't understand how a streetcar will interact with MLK and Grand. This is not a nice place to walk. Four lanes of relatively high speed traffic go in either direction. It is not a place to meander and enjoy a coffee on the street, rather, it is thoroughfare. Even if zoning is changed and the area gentrifies (as it should), it will never feel like a livable, pedestrian-friendly district unless the traffic pattern is drastically changed. Which is why I ask: How will the streetcar fit in here? Why is this the next logical step?

Also, to address some of the points above, I do think that the streetcar is slow, but I also think that it is very useful. The main reason it is slow through the Pearl is that it stops too often. I think there is at least one stop too many between Couch and Lovejoy. That is the area where you can outwalk it. People don’t like to walk, and won’t use it if it’s not convenient, but it also limits the function when it stops too often. I hope they learn that for the expansion. That said, if you don’t have to wait, it is always quicker than walking, is great respite from the rain and cold, and you never have to search for parking. It’s also helpful for moving large objects.

Additionally, someone mentioned I-5 being an eyesore. I think that is the least of it’s faults. What really destroys the pedestrian experience is the noise, wind, and dirt that comes with high-speed traffic. Even running along the eastside esplanade, the sound and power of the cars is really overwhelming. You can barely have a conversation, let alone relax while looking a the view. This is also why we have methadone clinics next to the 405 instead of interwoven development with the rest of Downtown, Goose Hollow, and the Pearl. High-speed cars kill ambiance. On that note, I’ve always wondered how much it would cost to put a sound and wind dampening glass cover over the 405 and I-5 as opposed to burying them. I know it would get filthy, but I always kind of imagine something beautiful like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Cheaper and somewhat attainable is good too.

If you want to increase street activity, economic development, and the Portland reputation, we need to thin some of the excess car lanes, add more of the Cycle Tracks proposed, and run streetcars along desirable routes that have a realistic chance of becoming pedestrian-friendly. The first of these should be up Hawthorne, along 39th, and back through Belmont.

Jim Heuer

Valentij, you are right that there are many stops on the current streetcar route, but the fact is that stops on streetcar routes have always been relatively close together. That is the reason that electric propulsion remained popular with transit companies in the face of ever more pressure from GM and operational cost factors to move to diesel powered buses.

One of the characteristics of electric propulsion is that maximum torque is produced when starting from a dead stop -- unlike internal combustion engines that achieve maximum torque about the middle of their working RPM range. Further, from the 1920s on, electric streetcars typically have been equipped with regenerative (electric) braking (like the Toyota Prius) in addition to mechanical braking systems. Consequently, electric streetcars are potentially capable of much faster starts and stops than diesel buses -- making it possible to maintain higher average speeds on routes with many, frequent stops. It is this starting and stopping performance that has dictated electric propulsion for virtually all of the world's rapid transit services.

Unfortunately, the Portland streetcar in its current incarnation typically doesn't exploit this inherent advantage -- I suspect for reasons of passenger comfort or simply management conservatism. Starts and stops are relatively leisurely, and maximum speeds are rarely reached between stops, even if traffic conditions permit. Perhaps this is because the streetcar runs at the side of the street, and there is a perceived hazard to pedestrians or parked autos and their drivers. Either way, we aren't getting the kind of service and performance that the mode is capable of achieving.


After reading in the DJC today about Seattle moving forward with buring the Alaskan Way Viaduct to reclaim waterfront for urban uses, I agree. Bury I-5. Although, at $3.1 billion for 1.75 miles, that's a pretty hefty pricetag. I also wonder, how do you go from the height of the Marquam bridge to underground without creating a deathtrap, or conversely having the grade so shallow that it would run the entire length of the waterfront just to ease down? I sure somebody can figure it out. Either way, we need to move I-5 inland or bury it. The eastside waterfront should be for people, not cars.

Car Transporter

That's truly some great news... I hope more cities follow this progressive path.

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