Archive | Streetcar

The Case for Distance-based Fares

A piece on Streetsblog makes the policy argument for distance-based transit fares.

They actually use Portland’s Fareless Square as part of their argument, apparently unaware of recent history.

I generally support this line of argument, at least from a pure policy policy point of view. TriMet has argued that one of the pragmatic reasons for a flat fare is easier electronic ticketing. That’s certainly a fair point, but I’m still not sure that it’s the right answer in the long run.

And of course I’d argue that the $1 Streetcar fare is in fact a form of distance-based fare policy, given the relatively short distance trips available on the Streetcar.

Finally Getting Diverted


It looks like PBOT took advantage of today’s nice weather to start installing the diverter at NW 10th and Marshall.

This is a small bit of mitigation for the Streetcar Loop that is finally being fulfilled. As part of the project we moved the bicycle facility from the now-track-filled-cycling-wasteland of Lovejoy to Marshall St.

But Marshall attracted far too much auto traffic to work well for bikes. This is one of several measures to try to win back the street for people on bikes. A concrete diverter should shortly replace the sign, and the buffer area will become parking, while the bike lane will remain curbside.

I must say it gave me some pleasure to watch drivers approach with their turn signals on, look quizzically at the sign, turn off their signals and proceed north to Northrup. Let the re-education continue!

Vintage Brakes

Following the discussion here over the weekend about employing the Vintage Trolleys on the Loop line, I spoke to Portland Streetcar Executive Director Rick Gustafson.

ADA concerns are not the only obstacle. Both the OMSI flyover on the east side and Harrison Street on the west side feature 7% grades. The braking systems on the trolleys would not be able to handle that steep a grade without upgrades – to the tune of $100K per car.

Streetcar Gets Musical on Friday!

The second annual Streetcar Mobile Musicfest happens tomorrow. It’s a great opportunity to check out the new ‘CL’ Loop line.

The musical groups will be on the vehicles between the Leftbank building and OMSI. Here’s the schedule:

5:50 – 6:50 Sassparilla
6:05 – 7:05 MC Rose
6:20 – 7:20 The Ocean Floor
6:40 – 7:40 New Pioneers
7:00 – 8:00 Edna Vasquez
7:20 – 8:20 What Hearts
7:40 – 8:40 Béisbol
7:50 – 8:50 Au Dunes
8:10 – 9:10 Vikesh Kapoor
8:30 – 9:30 Cloudy October
8:50 – 9:50 Josh & Mer
9:10 – 10:10 Charts
9:30 – 10:30 Classical Revolution PDX

And there’s an after party at Union/Pine (525 SE Pine):

9:00 Jeffrey Jerusalem
10:00 Sun Angle
11:00 Dana Buoy

More details at or follow the action on Twitter: @streetcarmusic, #SMMF

See you Friday!

What Happens Now When a Streetcar Goes Out of Service?

As I’ve mentioned here before, because the cars from United Streetcar/Oregon Iron Works are a bit behind schedule (the first car is on the test track at OIW now! but it will still be there a while) to support the new east side line, we have to run every car in our 11 car fleet every weekday (we can give one car a rest on weekends).

This is very tough on our maintenance staff, who are responding heroically (they did this same drill during one of the South Waterfront extensions, when the cars from the Czech Republic were late).

But things happen, so we have to have contingency plans.

The normal operating pattern is 6 cars on the ‘NS’ line on the west side and 5 cars on the ‘CL’ Loop line.

If we have a car down, the fallback plan is to reduce the Loop line to four vehicles and short-line it. This means that instead of going south to Market St., cars on the Loop would turn around at Lovejoy and go back over the bridge.

This actually results in BETTER headways (15 minutes instead of 18) but means passengers from the east side have to transfer to get downtown (and vice versa).

When this contingency plan gets activated, the reader boards in the shelters will have a message indicating that it’s in effect.

The choice to pull a car from the Loop line rather than the NS line is motivated by customer service: we have 11,000 riders every day on the NS line – and 3-5,000 on the CL line – so we want to keep service on the NS line as stable as possible.

Of course, our strong desire is not to have to use it!