Welcome to Streetcar Switch Central





The Streetcar re-opened on Monday after a two-week shutdown to install new track in the Pearl District. A very complicated set of switches, crossovers and merges create the new “Northrup Loop”.

I’m celebrating because this represents the culmination of advocacy that I’ve been conducting since the Loop was first proposed shortly after the original alignment opened in 2001.

Back then I was representing NW Portland and wanted to make sure that future routes from NW 23rd to points on the east side would be possible.

Later in the process I was joined by Anne Niles, representing the Pearl District, who advocated for the Northrup Loop as a way to bring transit service further north in the district serving more existing and future residents.

As I joined the System Plan committee, it became even more apparent that flexibility would serve many potential future use scenarios.

So now the Northrup Loop, surrounding the two blocks between Lovejoy and Northrup, NW 10th and 11th, is a reality. The cost of this enhancement was an extra $1M on a $147M project. It was funded half and half by a local improvement district funded by local property owners (including for the first time single family condo owners) matched by Urban Renewal dollars.

For you sports fans, here’s a catalog of all the movements it will support.


Until this week, this was the only possible movement.


This is the ultimate configuration for the Loop that will circle both sides of the river.


Until we have the vehicles and operating budget to get at least south to Market St., this will be the temporary configuration.


This is the movement I started advocating for almost 10 years ago.


This is the bonus movement, which could be coupled with the turnaround at Market St. to allow a downtown shuttle serving the most heavily used part of the route.

20 responses to “Welcome to Streetcar Switch Central”

  1. Was the recessed corner of the building SE of 10th & Lovejoy built with the streetcar turn in mind? And I hope riders don’t mind the extra 4 blocks it takes to up to Northrup and back down. Also it would be nice if you would label the photos with their locations.

  2. (or, if there is no special streetcar speed limit, will it actually be able to keep up with traffic in practice? It’s a nice long stretch with no stops, I’d like to see it fly over and make up for lost time!)

  3. Was there ever any consideration of looping on Marshall instead of Northrup? It looks like the only additional trackwork would have been a 90-degree turn, and it would have saved two of the four out-of-direction blocks for the trip from the Broadway towards downtown.

  4. Was there ever any consideration of looping on Marshall instead of Northrup?

    Not really, the neighborhood wanted to pull the service as far north as possible (there will be a new stop on 11th just south of Northrup). Putting tracks on Marshall would also have cut off the last remaining opportunity for a bicycle boulevard anywhere close to Lovejoy, which was a critical priority.

  5. i really find the out of way travel irritating, time consuming and needlessly complex, and its unfortunate when the trackway literally cements in the out-of-way route for the next 50+ years. all it had to do was run one more block on lovejoy (to 11th) and it could have been a logical straight direct route… clear on a map and clear mentally. transfering is also complicated. if the main objective is a NE-NW crosstown route, then yes this northrup track design makes sense but obviously the full loop calls for the line to head south into downtown requiring this out of way travel. i guarantee when this line opens and again with the full loop, this will be a major complaint of riders.

    i’m still disappointed about the destruction of the historic cobblestones to turn marshall into a bike speedway (and resulting auto speedway since they also drive on the smooth concrete roadway at least twice as fast as before). god forbid a bike or car have to travel slowly for 2 blocks over some cobblestones on a back street. nevermind bikes in amsterdam and copenhagen have no problem on cobbles.

  6. Regarding out-of-direction travel: This was discussed a few times in the Streetcar CAC and in fact there was a vote on potential alignments (in recommendation form, which is all the power the CAC has).

    I was one of the people who voted against the “out-of-direction” alignment, but as I recall the vote was about 2:1 in favor.

    One thing to consider, however, is that the Urban Renewal Area which includes the Pearl District is putting a lot of money into the rebuild, and that area also has to put up with arguably the most disruptive part of the construction, and the Pearl District Neighborhood Association wanted the northbound “out-of-direction” extension of the tracks.

    Although I don’t have particularly strong feelings on the topic, I did mention that I felt it would be confusing to new riders and that it is not quite right to call something a “loop” when it crosses over itself like that.

    (Some would also argue that the hop over to 7th in the Lloyd District, rather than using MLK, is out-of-direction especially when the northbound alignment doesn’t depart Grand.)

    But these decisions were not made in a vacuum — they were discussed, alternatives were presented, neighborhoods were consulted, and recommendations were voted upon.

    I do think we need to have a constituent group that represents “transit riders” as a whole, which isn’t factionalized or distracted with non-transit agendas, or partial to one mode. (This is not a slam at OPAL or any other group, what I’m saying is that we have a BTA which is purely about bikes, a pedestrian coalition all about walking, an accessibility group about those with disabilities, but no purely transit-rider group.)

    As a group, I suspect “transit riders” may have seen things differently than the Perl District Neighborhood when it comes to this alignment, but I may be wrong about that.

    [Update: Typo corrected from “fictionalized” to “factionalized”. Although “fictionalized” groups aren’t that useful, either…]

  7. The path for bikes is 9th to Marshall (where you can make perpendicular crossings of the rails on 10th and 11th) which can get you to good North/South conditions on 12th, 14th, 18th and 19th. It is much safer than the old lane between the streetcar tracks and the parked cars on Lovejoy.

  8. Er, I thought that was the one I was looking at but now I notice there aren’t station plotted on that one at all.

  9. It looks like transfers between the NW23/S. Waterfront line and the Eastside line, except for w-bound at 10th & Marshall, will involve a walk for a block or two. Can you add stops to the configurations? How long do you think before Streetcar and run OMSI to PSU without a transfer?

  10. It looks like transfers between the NW23/S. Waterfront line and the Eastside line, except for w-bound at 10th & Marshall, will involve a walk for a block or two. … How long do you think before Streetcar and run OMSI to PSU without a transfer?

    As the project was submitted to the FTA, a trip from the eastside to downtown would involve getting off the streetcar at 11th and Marshall and walking 3 blocks to Johnson St.

    The discussion about what kind of service to open with is a very hot topic inside the organization right now and possible configurations will be taken out to the community shortly. There are scenarios in which the initial service from OMSI goes all the way to the Market St. turnaround. But that requires other sacrifices to make the budget work.

    Watch this space…

  11. Trips from CEside to Downtown via Streetcar seem unlikely to be many with plenty of quick bus options; trips from inner NW (north of Burnside) or even from NW 23rd to Rose Quarter/Lloyd seem more likely. What are the transfer scenarios for the latter. Are parking meters going in along the alignment in CES? or is that still up in the air. Meters fund some of operations on the westside. Maybe there needs to be an LID for operations along some or all of the alignment.

  12. Sorry that I’m basically using this as a “streetcar open thread”: Any numbers on how long they anticipate trips to take from the Pearl to OMSI? Market St. to OMSI?

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