Archive | OHSU Tram

Tram: 1,000,000

The Portland Aerial Tram has exceeded ridership expectations and has already provided it’s one millionth trip between OHSU and South Waterfront.

From the Portland Tribune:

Colleda O’Neil was just headed downhill for her doctor’s appointment at the OHSU Center for Health and Healing.

Instead, the OHSU employee was selected as the one-millionth rider of the Portland Aerial Tram.

“I’m shocked,” she told a group of reporters and TV cameras, who were waiting for her at the lower tram station.

OHSU Transportation Operations Manager Mike Brooks handed over a briefcase full of prizes, including a tram logo t-shirt, DVD’s, and a coffee table book about OHSU.

As for how they calcualated the 1,000,000 figure, OHSU says it counts a one-way ride on the tram as one trip, meaning if a passenger rides up to OHSU and back down to the South Waterfront it counts as two trips.

Tram on a Hot Summer Day

Over at, a new post is up about the high level of ridership on the Portland Aerial Tram.

Last December, in another conversation over there, a number of critics made dire predictions about the future of the Tram, not only in terms of ridership but also about hot weather.

With those criticisms in mind, I rode the tram yesterday, making a point to note temperatures (on a record-setting 100+ degree day) and make a few observations.

(More about the experience and my conclusions after the flip)

In the December, 2006 Tram discussion, some critics were making predictions of people expiring from heat in tram cars while “packed like sardines”. At least one critic had predicted the city would be forced to spend further millions retrofitting an air conditioning system into the tram.

Observation 1: Ingenuity Prevails

Each tram car already has 8 on-board fans plus passive vents near the floor at the front and rear.

To augment this, tram operators have employed a low-tech solution: Large fans, the kind you can find easily at Costco, sit at the lower landing and blow air through the tram cars every time they open their doors, bringing the temperature quickly to ambient levels. I estimate the cost of this system to be well under $300.00, that’s “hundreds” not “millions”.

Observation 2: Shade is on your side

The lower landing, at 3PM when I rode, was shaded by the nearby OHSU Center for Health and Healing. This resulted in lower ambient temperatures, and in combination with the lower temperatures usually encountered near the river, this helped considerably.

Observation 3: Wind helps, too.

At the upper landing, temperatures felt considerably cooler, and there was a brisk breeze going. Every time I’ve ridden the tram there has been at least a mild breeze at the upper landing.

Observation 4: The actual temperatures

KGW’s official temperature for Portland when I rode, recorded at 2:53pm, was 101 degrees. In each tram cabin, a small digital thermometer had been installed near the ceiling, to record the hottest temperature in the cabin.

The tram operator said that typically the cabins run about 3 degrees hotter than the ambient air by the end of the 3 minute trip. I took a round trip, using both cabins. The final recorded temperature in both (and this is at the ceiling), was 97.7 degrees.

Observation 5: Other People

Riders were not packed in “like sardines”. In fact, as I predicted elsewhere, tram ridership is well distributed and frequent departures mean there is no overcrowding, even with the high level of ridership. (The Tram can move 1,900 people per hour total at full load, which if sustained at peak could carry the entire daily ridership in well under 3 hours.)

On the trip up, several riders were conversing with the operator about temperatures. None expressed the desire to have air conditioning installed, although two were discussing the idea of having windows in the cabins that could open. Somebody made a joke about replacing the glass with chicken wire. Nobody expressed that the temperatures were too hot compared to the outside, and nobody expired of heat exhaustion.


Riding the tram is no different than waiting for the bus on a hot, low-wind day. The lack of air conditioning is an inconvenience on the few days of the year that get this hot, but not life-threatening. If you are able to be out and about in the ambient heat, you won’t have a problem on the tram.

Note: This was originally formatted as a shorter comment to be posted at, but people (including me) have had difficulty posting over there lately… some receive error messages, some receive dropped connections, etc., so I’ve chosen to amplify my remarks over here.

Get Your Streetcar Passes Now

Sam Adams has decided that transit passes will indeed be honored on the Tram so that regular commuters don’t get soaked with the $4 single-ticket price. As reader Frank Dufay notes, I’m sitting pretty because Sam has included Streetcar Annual Passes on the list of honored fare instruments:

So now, Chris, your $100.00 a year Streetcar pass ALSO gets you on the Tram. Sweet.

Too bad, for me, ONE round trip ticket weighs in at $1.70 (bus & stretcar); $4.00 (tram); $1.70 (bus and streetcar)…or $7.40 for ONE visit up Pill Hill.

Discrimination raised to a whole new level.

And while MY employer pays the Tri-Met payroll tax OHSU’s docs don’t, for further public subsidy.

How crazy are we going to let this get?

For the record, I think the docs group organizing as a non-profit to avoid property tax and transit taxes is indeed a horrible evasion, and I’m open to having the payroll tax exclusion list reconsidered.

But I don’t know why that justifies soaking commuters.

Frank, if you’re going to OHSU as a patient, your ride is free anyway. So were you planning on sightseeing?

Tram Vehicles: Jean and Walt

From PDOT:

Two months ago Commissioner Adams established a tram naming committee with an intention of personalizing Portland’s new skyline icon with names. The committee has completed its work and has decided to name the tram cars “Jean” and “Walt” respectively. Tram car “Jean” honors Jean Richardson, Oregon’s first female engineering graduate, from Oregon State University (OSU). Tram car “Walt” honors Walt Reynolds, the first African American to graduate from the University of Oregon Medical School, now known as Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU).

Despite enduring gender discrimination during her time at school and in establishing her career, Jean Richardson persevered. She graduated from OSU in 1949 and found gainful employment by first offering her services pro bono until her employer deemed her work professionally competent and worthy of a paycheck.

Walt Reynolds is a community leader in ways beyond being first African American in Oregon to earn a medical degree from OHSU in 1949. The Oregonian reported on July 10, 1997: “It’s after 6 p.m. and Reynolds is still seeing patients, as he has for more than four decades of solo practice. It’s one of the ways he gives back to his community. In addition to his work, which the 77-year-old Reynolds has continued well past regular retirement age, he has served as president of the Urban League, a mentor to other minority health professionals and a volunteer on numerous projects. Today, he dreams of establishing a clinic with other black family doctors to build a community tradition.”

Complementing the tram car names, the committee also selected two station names derived from the Tualatin language: Chameffu, meaning “On the mountain,” for the Upper Station and Chamanchal, meaning “On the river” for the Lower Station. Commissioner Adams and the local Native American community are pleased that that the City is naming a significant project using a local tribal language.