Happy Birthday to the Little Train that Could

It’s been five years since a parade led the first convoy of Streetcars from PSU out onto the rails with passenger service.

On Friday, Commissioner Sam Adams will lead a party that will celebrate:

– 5 years of successful Streetcar operation
– Streetcar’s 10,000,000th passenger
– Regional adoption of the Locally Preferred Alternative for bringing Streetcar to the east side of the Willamette
– The opening later this Fall of the extension to SW Gibbs St.

Come join us on Friday, July 21st at 10:30 at the East Bank Saloon (one of the potential termini for the initial construction segment to the Eastside), 727 SE Grand Avenue.

8 responses to “Happy Birthday to the Little Train that Could”

  1. I’m assuming successful operation has little to do with real business like success, but merely means they haven’t wrecked a streetcar, destroyed any tracks, or actually hurt anyone??

    I’m curious about the specific definition.

    One awesome thought…

    If the streetcar as is has carried 10 million trips/people trips…

    then an east side expansion & an entire system running with slightly shorter frequency times (ala 8-10 minutes) should carry at least 18 million every 5 years.

    Also that means that at a buck a passenger, they could have covered operations.

    At a buck fifty they could have even covered a 40 year bond to build the east side expansion.

    Reducing subsidy by over 70%!!!

    hmmm. Just some rational thoughts there. I don’t see a buck as that big of a deal. :)

  2. I think 10 million trips is pretty successful!

    But we can also claim no serious injuries (worst was a drunk who walked into the side of a moving train – he was taken to hospital and released, then never heard from again).

    $2.4B of private investment in new construction along the alignment is also pretty successful.

    8,000 weekday riders (against the original promise of 3,400) is pretty successful!

  3. Yeah. That is pretty successful.

    It’s also very kewl that the Portland Streetcar (in normal Portland Rail Project fashion) was able to substantially beat ridership estimates.

    The 2.4 Billion I still think is of questionable bragging rights. But none the less very very awesome and fortunate.

    Cheers to the Streetcar, amid all the problems I have with it.

  4. Yes, it is impressive.
    OK, I’ll be honest since I’ve questioned the Eastside Streetcar usefulness on another topic, but, comments aside, the Streetcar is still cool. I don’t use it much since I live in SE Portland, but it’s always been packed when I do use it.

    Just think what the revenue would’ve been if there were on-platform ticket machines and Fareless Square was abolished.

    However, I’ll hold my real public transit anniversary celebrations until September:

    – 20th Anniversary of MAX opening (with everything that happened in 1986, this is probably the only public 20th anniversary worth celebrating).

    – C-TRAN’s 25th Anniversary! I don’t remember the exact date they started (probably have it somewhere in the stuff I have from last years’ successful “Save C-TRAN” campaign), but they’re celebrating this September.

  5. So do we know how much money the street car itself actually brought in? Does Tri-met estimate this kind of thing?

  6. Greg, since the Streetcar is mostly in fareless square, it doesn’t bring in much direct revenue (about $100K in fares, another $100K in sponsorships each year). But it has helped catalyze about $2.4B (yes, B as in Billion) in private development along the alignment.

  7. But it has helped catalyze about $2.4B (yes, B as in Billion) in private development along the alignment.

    I hear that number all the time, Chris. Has anyone calculated how much of that $2.4 billion in private development receives tax abatements and reduced SDC charges because of proximity to the streetcar? That is, how much public subsidy was given for that $2.4 billion in private development?

  8. Frank, I am not aware of any specific tax abatements specific to proximity to the Streetcar. I believe any TOD-related abatements would apply equally to the whole central city district. Nonetheless, development within one block of the Streetcar is averaging 90% of FAR, while the average number for the central city is 50-60%. Streetcar is clearly attracting denser development that other areas with similar tax treatments.

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