The OTHER Streetcar Milestone This Weekend

Lest this get lost in the hoopla surrounding the opening of the Streetcar Loop, please note that the Oregon Iron Works/United Streetcar prototype vehicle is now certified for revenue service and in operation on the streets of Portland!

For those who have forgotten the history of this vehicle, it was procured with a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to jump start manufacturing in this country, and then a further grant was obtained to replace the Skoda propulsion system with a made-in-USA Rockwell system.

Enjoy riding it! Portland now has an 11-car fleet, which will expand rapidly as more United Streetcar vehicles arrive this fall.

15 responses to “The OTHER Streetcar Milestone This Weekend”

  1. Yes, the new car sports “Made In USA” on both sides, and a big congrats to Chris Smith for all his work to make the Streetcar Loop a reality.
    It was a beautiful sunny morning to celebrate this milestone in the transformation of Lloyd and the Central Eastside into even more thriving parts of the city. Private investment is already flowing into these areas with more to come.

  2. I had an opportunity to ride it on its second trip leaving OMSI after the ceremony which I attended. It rides nice there was only a minor problem with the wheelchair ramp that had to be deployed manually.

    While it would be nice to see light rail trains too it is much harder to break into that market because of the number of cars involved. Eight cars here, five cars there are a lot easier than say the Salt Lake order for 77 S70 cars. Baby steps first.

  3. It’s been interesting reading the coverage from afar. All those of us out of towners get is the local media and places like Portland Transport.

    Hope that the delays in getting the new vehicles is worth it once they all roll out! I know that it can be difficult developing new technology. When someone says its as simple as taking the original engineering plans and recreating it, well that never goes as simply as it may sound. That can be a difficult story to sell to the public.

    With all of that said, good job and keep up the good work. Even though some are critical, there are plenty of us out here that are insanely jealous.

  4. Rode the CL line again today. The Next Bus info seems to be having trouble getting both NS and CL information at the combined stops. Had a rider jump up when we turned toward the Broadway Bridge, saying “don’t you go to Good Sam?!” Luckily there is that last stop and just a short walk to the 10th & Northrup stop on the NS line.
    Streetcar really zips along down MLK and back up Grand; doubt many of us could walk that fast. Helped a visitor figure out the ticket machine at OMSI while the car waited to return…got it figured out. They had this useless map the hotels give out that even a native who knows his way around could not figure out. Hotels should sell transit tickets, have good maps and have staff training on how the system works.

  5. Yeah, those streetcars can really haul once they’re free from the constraints of downtown speed limits (they slow WAY down for the joints on the Broadway Bridge, however). The one I rode Saturday had a door that refused to open at a few stops, but at least it wasn’t one of the locally manufactured vehicles :)

  6. Am I the only one here who doesn’t think “Buy America” is good policy? We should buy whatever is the best technology at the least cost, regardless of where it is from. We could have had all our streetcars by now if it wasn’t for this misguided policy.

  7. Someone noted Saturday that the imported cars were months late as well. There is something to be said for expanding the reach of the region’s already extensive transportation manufacturing sector. Streetcars now join Western Star heavy duty trucks, ocean going barges (three firms manufacture these), a variety of rail car types and Boeing aircraft as something made locally for export to the rest of the country and beyond. Traded sector manufacturing is a significant part of our economy. Assembling and expanding supply chains, attracting and retaining an engineering and manufacturing workforce, and developing markets all take time. Building streetcars locally was a good public investment.

  8. On MLK (or was it on Grand?) someone yelled out, “Punch it, Chewie!” Isn’t the speed limit 30? I have to wonder if they’re obeying it.

  9. zef, you may want to have this conversation with the people building streetcars. Oregon isn’t exactly swimming in good, well-paid manufacturing jobs.

    There are very good economic reasons to spend money locally.

  10. Streetcars now join Western Star heavy duty trucks, ocean going barges (three firms manufacture these), a variety of rail car types and Boeing aircraft as something made locally for export to the rest of the country and beyond.

    It’s a shame our community did not have the foresight to encourage Daimler to relocate Orion Bus (or for that matter, order from Orion rather than see Daimler shut down that division), or encourage a company like New Flyer or Gillig to set up shop in Oregon and take advantage of the numerous vacant RV and manufactured home factories, or the Freightliner plant that’s operating at well below capacity.

    Streetcars are a niche product with about a half-dozen streetcar routes as the market. Ask Gillig or New Flyer for a bus and they’re going to tell you to wait in a two year long line. The opportunity to employ several hundred out-of-work Oregonians in existing factories across the state, whether it be Pendleton or Coburg or Silverton or Sheridan or McMinnville or Swan Island would have been a far better investment than 50 jobs in Clackamas that after how many years, has produced exactly one finished product, and whose market potential has an extremely low ceiling.

    Boeing’s pride and joy might be the Dreamliner, but for every Dreamliner on the 2012 order book there’s 30 boring, bland, utilitarian 737s that fly out of Renton and over Lake Washington. The exact same could be said of the Streetcar – for every one Streetcar that’s been loaded onto a flatbed truck out of Clackamas, there’s been several hundred buses that drove out of Hayward, California. Or St. Cloud, Minnesota. Or Oriskany, New York.

    Just a quick glance at New Flyer’s 2011 Annual Report:

    At January 1, 2012, there were approximately 13,300 EUs in New Flyer’s new potential pipeline or bid universe for heavy-duty transit buses

    Total order activity for the year ended Fiscal 2011 was 1,867 EUs (and further commentary says this is actually “low”.)

    Management estimates that the industry as a
    whole initiated new order solicitations for approximately 5,700 EUs during 2011

    The firm portion of the total backlog at the end of 2011 Q4 was 1,476 EUs…The value of the order backlog at the end of 2011 Q4 was $3.0 billion

    If I’m an investor – where am I going to invest? A company who counts its total outlook in two digit numbers? Or a company who counts its quarterly outlook in three to four digit numbers? We could have had thousands of jobs and some prominent branding recognition; instead we’re settling for a product that comparatively few will see, much less use.

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