A streetcar connects to the Overhead Catenary System (OCS) via pantograph.

The planned extension of the streetcar system's NS Line to Montgomery Park in Northwest Portland will look a little different from past projects. Why? There won't be any overhead wires!

The overhead catenary system (OCS) has been used on every inch of the Portland Streetcar system to date, connecting each streetcar vehicle by pantograph (that metal piece sticking up from the top of the streetcar) to provide power. The overhead wires offer a consistent source of electricity, allowing us to carry riders with 100% renewable energy.

Battery technology on streetcar systems has come a long way in the last decade. Battery-powered streetcars are in use in many other cities such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Charlotte, North Carolina, where vehicles go off-wire for sections of their trips. This technology also provides additional resiliency in the event of a power outage--if a section of our system loses power, the vehicle and its riders won't be stranded.

Battery-powered streetcars charge while connected to the OCS and store that energy for use when running off-wire, meaning there isn't a need for additional charging time during which the streetcar would be out of service.

Why Off-Wire?

The complex infrastructure in this part of Northwest Portland makes catenary wires costly--and where this project meets the right-of-way of Highway 30, likely impossible. Building the project off-wire will make construction less expensive and less complicated without sacrificing later maintenance and operations needs. The versatility provided by off-wire vehicles can maintain consistent operations across the system in the event of a power outage, ice storm or other issues created by tricky spots on our alignment such as the Broadway Bridge.

Where will new vehicles come from?

Portland Streetcar's original fleet of vehicles are nearly 25 years old and are in need of replacement. Later in 2024 the City of Portland will begin procuring up to 15 new streetcars that will have off-wire capability, meaning that by the time this extension opens the vast majority of Portland's streetcar fleet will be able to serve this area. Because this is an extension of the NS Line and not a new route of its own, we don't need additional vehicles for the project.

Will I have to transfer?

No. Streetcars will simply lower their pantograph at a defined spot before entering the off-wire section, providing a seamless transition for riders.

Will this cost more money?

The use of off-wire technology provides substantial cost savings for this project. Eliminating the need for excavation, construction of poles, power substations and vaults, hanging wires and testing will save nearly $20 million dollars in construction costs according to preliminary engineering estimates. Because we're buying new streetcars anyway, there isn't an additional cost to the project for making any changes to our fleet or how we operate.

The short version?

Utilizing off-wire battery technology will save money building this project while also making our entire system more versatile and resilient. Investing in replacing our aging original fleet means cleaner, safer and more efficient vehicles and a better experience for our riders.

A new video details the project elements and opportunities created by the Portland Streetcar extension to Montgomery Park.


Featuring remarks by City of Portland Transportation Commissioner Mingus Mapps as well as riders, business owners and streetcar staff, the video provides a comprehensive overview of the elements of the streetcar extension project and the community opportunity it creates in Northwest Portland.

The Montgomery Park Redevelopment and Transit Project is a planned extension of the Portland Streetcar NS Line along NW 23rd and NW Roosevelt/Wilson with a terminus at Montgomery Park, including the potential for 3,000+ new housing units in a new district north of NW Vaughn Street.

Development planned in coordination with the transit project will create more than 3,000 new housing units, including more than 300 affordable units. A new park, pedestrian access to Forest Park and reconstruction of NW 23rd Avenue are also included in the project.

The first of three new streetcars entered the "burn in" phase of testing this week, signaling the start of the final process to ready the vehicle for regular service. Three new streetcars were ordered in 2018 from Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania and began arriving in Portland last fall.

Engineers, mechanics and safety personnel have been inspecting and testing the vehicles since their arrival to ensure safe and reliable operation. The last phase of the approval process to have the vehicles enter regular service is called "burn in," in which the vehicles operate on the system without passengers for a period of a couple weeks to ensure they are ready to be used in daily operations.

Once that process is completed and the all three vehicles enter service, it will allow for greater frequency and reliability for streetcar riders.

The first Art on Board art exhibition of the year has been installed on Portland Streetcar, featuring work by local artist Salomée Souag. "Interdependence" is featured on the side of a streetcar for the next several months, continuing Portland Streetcar's mission to provide a rolling canvas that brightens our community will supporting local artists.

Souag's work and more information can be found on her website and Instagram.

A statement from the artist:

My name is Salomée Souag. I’m a self-taught artist from Switzerland, now living and working in Portland, OR. I weave my queer and multicultural identities within my work, as well as my Peruvian and Algerian ancestors. My art grapples with place, identity, change, social systems, colonialism, and injustice. I initiate projects promoting inclusivity, access, and career opportunities through commissioned murals and collaborative spaces. An extension of my work that is actively bringing people together, re-distributing resources, telling untold stories, providing access and visibility.

The 2024 Portland Winter Light Festival kicks off February 2, and we're once again celebrating with free streetcar rides after 5:00 p.m. each day of the event.

With several installations accessible by streetcar--and many more around town--the WLF will illuminate the city from February 2-10. Streetcar rides will be free every evening to help Portlanders access and enjoy this magical event.

The Winter Light Festival brings illuminated art installations to the community during the darker months of winter, inviting Portlanders to experience the power that light can bring and see familiar places in different ways.

Portland Streetcar is proud to continue participating in this annual event by offering free rides for attendees to visit multiple sites and take in all they can at the 2024 Winter Light Festival.