20-Year Streetcar Administrative Supervisor Carol Cooper:
Portland Streetcar is like a book of memories, each chapter with something new and exciting.
In 2001 while working in the yard as one of the many trailers of subcontractors, I was asked to apply for the office manager position in the Portland Streetcar office. I was intrigued, the idea of being part of the startup of a system that brought back streetcars to Portland was fascinating. Watching the Streetcars being assembled and finished was amazing and learning about the alignment a bit overwhelming.
At that time the building was mostly empty, the main office just vast open space. The thought of setting up and running the office was an exciting challenge and well worth it. As there weren’t many employees, we all worked as a team and shared in whatever work may have needed to be done. Numerous times we would find ourselves picking up trash from platforms, cleaning shelters, trains and the facility. One of my favorites--during heavy rains removing leaves from Marshall Street drains to keep water out of the shop. This was all while there were streetcars being delivered and tested, the Czech Technicians to learn new language from which made learning fare machine operations challenging, operators arriving daily, and many group and school tours to weave through.
The grand opening was exciting! I’ll never forget watching the streetcar come up Northrup Street surrounded by what looked like a carnival. The streetcars were so packed with people that the bridgeplates couldn’t be deployed. That day opened a new chapter: revenue service. It brought new things to learn, problems to solve, autos to tow and many customer calls with questions. "Why didn’t the streetcar swerve?" is still my favorite.
Since then chapters include: vintage trolleys, extensions, new streetcars, additional facilities, completing the loop, and many more fun and interesting people to work with. During all of this I was blessed with a family, streetcars included! Thank you to all the people who thought I could do the job and gave me the opportunity! It’s a little hard to believe that 20 years have passed.
Congratulations Portland Streetcar - all the best for many more years to come.
20-Year Streetcar Superintendent Dee Grice (in vest):
When I saw the job posting for Portland Streetcar Superintendent I was torn between my love of MAX and a new startup, Portland Streetcar. I had challenged myself by becoming a MAX operator, which I loved. Then I became a Controller followed by a Rail Supervisor. When TriMet started building the Hillsboro Line, I found that to be very exciting. I enjoyed the process of testing the tracks, making sure the trains fit into the platforms, tracking the pantographs on the overhead wires, making sure the crossing gates were timed properly, figuring out the Elmo Yard. So, when the opportunity came to apply for Streetcar Superintendent, it was not too difficult of a decision. It was a wonderful opportunity. The variety of it all was too good to let pass by.
In the very beginning, pre-startup, we staggered the arrival of superintendents and operators according to their seniority. Two superintendents, two mechanics and one operator were already here when I arrived. Outside of TriMet, there was a maintenance manager, an operations manager, an office manager, and the people of SKODA which included several vehicle technicians from the Czech Republic and the City of Portland which made this all happen. Shortly before startup, Lenore DeLuisa was hired on as an assistant manager of operations and soon took over as the operations manager.
The first and only, at the time, operator was used to burn in the cars, check for clearances in the shop and alignment, testing of the signals and pantograph tracking to name a few. The idea was to make sure everything was ready for the arrival of operators. This is where I was brought in to join the team.
First order of business was to figure out the streetcars and how to troubleshoot them. This was a lot of fun--no sarcasm. The Czech techs did not speak much English. They always tried to have at least one technician that spoke English decently. We did a lot of pointing, demoing, laughing, and miming. Think Charades. This was pre-startup so there was time to figure things out, and the Queen of Troubleshooting was born.
While learning the cars, we trained a few more operators so they could learn the cars and help with the burn in of the streetcars. We staggered the arrival of the operators for training timing this so all would be trained and ready for service on for the Grand Opening Day of July 20th.
Startup: thirteen operators, three superintendents, and two mechanics made up the original group from the TriMet side. The loop went from Northrup to the single-track turnaround to PSU Urban Plaza. It took an hour to do a full loop with a 15-minute recovery at Urban Plaza. Full service consisted of four streetcars.
The flex would offer each operator a full loop break. If short on operators, it was not unusual for a superintendent to go out to do a loop while waiting for another operator to come in, and, still run operations from the cab. However, this came to a stop when we found ourselves operating a train when an emergency came up. Can’t be in two places at the same time.
Because we were such a small group, I was more than happy to help wherever needed. When the tracks got slick, I would go out to remove leaves and clear track and street drains. When the water started to get deep and cover the tracks, we would head "upstream" towards Good Samaritan Hospital and start clearing track and street drains of all the leaves and debris so that they could keep up with the rainfall. I remember one year it was so bad that when I came to work and opened the shop, I could hear waterfalls! Every stairwell leading to the maintenance bay pits was like a fish ladder with water streaming down and filling up the pits.
After verifying that we were not going to be electrocuted, I started shipping operators out in service. The first operator tried to go out to the wash track and could not open the side door. Neither could I. I ran around the back door to the wash track and found the water was about track-high, a foot and a half deep against the building: yikes! We needed a train from the shop out and when the bay door was opened, a wall of water came rushing in adding to the waterfall. There was so much, the pits looked like a lap pool. Let me tell you, that was a real mess to clean up.
Another fun task Lenore (DeLuisa) and I would do was to pressure wash the platforms and paint over the graffiti. Whatever it took to keep service, we would spring into action and get it done. Since then, Streetcar has gone through multiple extensions taking us up to present day.
Former Mayor Charlie Hales (left), pictured here in 2001 with former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield:
After making the decision to proceed with the Portland Streetcar project, we had a challenge: buying the streetcars themselves. The only domestic manufacturers just made historic trolleys, not modern trams. For those we had to go abroad, so a trip to Europe was organized. Sounds exotic, but it was kind of a forced march, visiting six cities in six days in order to meet with manufacturers and actually ride the vehicles under consideration on the street somewhere.
We had a budget to buy three vehicles. That was a rounding error for most of the manufacturers, so just getting their attention was part of the challenge. At one point, our delegation was on a balcony looking out at the factory floor of Siemens’ plant, where they were fulfilling a $300 million order for a European customer. Laser-guided plasma torches and robotic welders were flashing and whirring as far as the eye could see. There we were, with our little checkbook, trying to order three streetcars.
Wow, 20 years! How did I get here? While vacationing in New York City, I received a phone call from my friend, co-workers and now former streetcar operator Sharon Reddick, letting me know she was transferring to Portland Streetcar and I will be going with her. That is how my journey at Portland Streetcar started. I can't believe that we were making history by being the first modern day streetcar system in the country. We started with 5 streetcars and 13 operators, and have grown over the years to 17 streetcars and over 50 operators. We've had transit agencies from all over the country flock to Portland to learn how to get streetcar systems in their cities.
The most amazing thing to see was how neighborhoods changed around the streetcar and even more amazing, seeing neighborhoods created. I watched the Pearl District and South Waterfront neighborhoods being built, along with the Tilikum Crossing and Moody/Porter crossing. Things are still changing and new buildings are being built along the streetcar alignment. I wish that I had before and after pictures of the transformations.
The one thing that I look forward to while operating the streetcar is seeing the kids waving at the streetcar as it goes by. I always try to wave back and ring the bell or honk the horn. It really makes my day to see their faces when I respond to their waves. Before the pandemic changed the world, we had kids' packets to hand out to our little riders. I always made it a point to give the little ones a streetcar treat.
The Portland Streetcar is one of Portland's tourist attractions that gets tourists to other tourist attractions. Streetcar operators are ambassadors of the city, which is a great honor.
I've been with TriMet for 29 years and 20 of those years have been with Portland Streetcar. I'm now the senior operator, which carries a lot of clout (laughing out loud). It just means that I outlasted all the others (just joking).
It has been 20 years, I still enjoy coming to work. There is never a dull day, because there is always something going on. I have met some interesting people over the years and some have become great friends, fellow employees and passengers alike.
"I came to Portland Streetcar in June of 2001 as an operator. I was seven out of the original thirteen that came over for start-up. I decided after being here for a short time that being part of the Streetcar family was the best place to be as a TriMet employee. It was the best of bus and rail combined. I operated for 14 years and in that time I grew to know and love so many of our riders. Other operators would make fun of me because I knew so many people by name. It was a nice change from MAX; being able to greet our riders and get to know them. It was fun to allow kids to ring the bell when they were getting off the streetcar. I served as the Chairperson of the Safety Committee for ten years and was the first “Extra Superintendent.” In March 2015 I became a City of Portland employee as one of the Streetcar Operations Supervisors and have enjoyed my career here. There has been and continues to be an awesome work group and I truly am blessed to be part of this organization!"
The next time you watch an episode of The Simpsons, created by native Oregonian Matt Groening, be sure to take a Streetcar ride through NW Portland’s Alphabet District immediately after and examine the street signs – look familiar? They should, as Groening named some of his famous characters after the district’s street names, including Flanders, Lovejoy and Quimby.
This piece of local trivia and dozens more are included in Portland Streetcar’s new app “Portland By Streetcar,” which provides Streetcar riders with an interactive tour of various landmarks, historical sites and points of interest located within a three-block radius of Streetcar’s three lines (A Loop, B Loop and NS Line).
The app features an interactive map containing photos and audio recordings of more than 80 attractions around the Streetcar lines. The app is also “location aware,” which means that as a user rides on Streetcar with the app open, their screen will update on its own to show all relevant attractions around them, with a simple touch of the screen providing more detailed information.
“In addition to providing an affordable and readily available transit option for the city, the Portland Streetcar lines have the potential to attract significant tourist interest,” said Portland Streetcar Executive Director Dan Bower. “Because of the lines’ proximity to popular areas, ‘Portland By Streetcar’ will support major public attractions along the lines and provide Portlanders old and new with illuminating facts about their city.”
For the first time ever, Portland Streetcar weekday ridership surpassed 16,000 daily riders. February 2017 saw a record 16,351 average daily riders, a nearly 10% increase over the same month last year.
In January the Portland Aerial Tram marks 10 years of service and is hosting a special Community and Family Day to celebrate. In the Center for Health and Healing lobby there will activities for the kids, historical displays, presentations on the construction of the Tram and the future of South Waterfront, samples from local restaurants and more. There will also be expert talks, facepainters and special Tram Anniversary giveaways. Join Portland Streetcar as we help celebrate this once-in-a-decade event!
WHAT: 10th Anniversary of the Portland Aerial Tram at their Community Day
WHEN: Saturday, January 28, 2017 10am-3pm
WHERE: 3303 SW Bond Ave, Portland, OR 97239 (Center for Health and Healing atrium, next to the lower terminal of the Tram)
SPECIAL TALKS & TOURS:
10:30 Talk Creating the Portland Tram,
Art Pearce, Portland Bureau of Transportation
11:30 Talk Portland's South Waterfront Community- building a vision, seeking connections, designing with nature Bob Hastings, TriMet and South Waterfront resident
12:30 Walk South Waterfront Beyond the Tram Pete Collins, South Waterfront Community Relations
1:30 Talk A Look into the Future of South Waterfront Steve Szigethy, Portland Bureau of Transportation and Geraldene Moyle, Portland Development Commission
2016 was a big year for Portland Streetcar as we celebrated 15 years, 50 million riders and so much more. Take a look back with us at all that occurred this past year.
We kicked off the year with our #GoesWell campaign. Signs were placed at all unsponsored shelters and we celebrated many events throughout the year.
Freezing rain and ice halted service just after the New Year began.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Mayor Charlie Hales and our former Executive Director Rick Gustafson celebrated the opening of the DC Streetcar in Washington, DC.
In an effort to increase the speed, safety and reliability of Portland Streetcar, we began a trial closure of 5 stations: NW 10th & Everett, NW 11th & Everett, SW 10th & Stark and both directions at SW 1st & Harrison.
The Broadway Bridge closed for the final time as part of the Painting Project. The project, which began in 2015, removed all of the lead paint on the Broadway Bridge to make it safer for generations to come.
Updated schedules began in March after the first 6 months of service on the Loops to provide more reliable service to our riders.
At the end of March Portland Streetcar permanently closed the stations at 1st & Harrison, 10th & Stark and 10th & 11th at Everett.
As part of their series "10 That Changed America", PBS debuted their special "10 Towns That Changed America" featuring the Pearl District and Portland Streetcar.
Portland Streetcar, Inc. Board Chair Jim Mark and former Chair John Carroll celebrated the opening of the Kansas City Streetcar at the Streetcar Summit in Kansas City, Missouri.
"Free Ride First Thursday" begins. Internet provider Wave G sponsored free rides for all riders each First Thursday from May to October.
Streetcar 002 was "named" Desire in honor of the production at Portland Center Stage. Several lucky riders were randomly selected to win 2 tickets to see the show!
We were proud to join our partners at TriMet to march in the Pride Parade.
After digging through all of the old photographs and memories from 2001, we began our "Then and Now" series depicting the same places along the alignment in 2001 and 2016.
On July 20, Portland Streetcar celebrated 15 years of service between NW 23rd & PSU.
BikeTown opened adding to the many ways Portlanders can get around the City. Three of the closed stations were converted into BikeTown stations.
The 7th Streetcar Mobile Music Fest was held in celebration of 15 Years of service. 9 bands played on the alignment that first opened 15 years earlier.
In an effort to improve information and offer more to our riders, we launched our new, updated website with arrival times, news feed and more.
The 15-Year celebrations continued with our first ever Art Contest. 27 artists from around the area participated in two categories.
We held our first ever "Storytime on Portland Streetcar" reading to kids and then taking them on a Scavenger Hunt in the Central Library.
Executive Director Dan Bower welcomed on board our 50 Millionth rider since July 20, 2001.
Celebrated the 1st Anniversary of the Loops opening and the 4th Anniversary of service to the east side.
Held a photo contest with Portland Center Stage for Little Shop of Horrors.
Reached our highest ridership to date of 15,921 average weekday riders.
Released new development numbers totaling $6.5 Billion in new buildings.
Released data showing that for each new housing unit that opens along the Streetcar line, Portland Streetcar realizes one new rider.
Protests and Rioting all along the alignment caused delays and service interruptions following the election.
Snow and ice events caused disruptions two weeks in a row and even shut down service one morning due to freezing rain and ice overnight.
We look forward to 2017 and bringing you our video "From Concept to Reality: The Story of Portland Streetcar" as well continuing the work to improve reliability and safety around the system. Thank you for 15 years and for a wonderful 2016 with all of you.
On September 22, 2012 the Central Loop opened providing streetcar service to the Inner Eastside for the first time in nearly 60 years. The 3.35-mile extension of the original North|South (NS) Line crossed the Broadway Bridge connecting the Rose Quarter, Lloyd District, Convention Center, Central Eastside Industrial District and the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.
Now, four years later, we have two lines serving the east side, crossing both the Broadway Bridge and the Tilikum Crossing with over 6,400 combined riders and over 2,000 riders on the east side.
One year ago, on September 12, 2015, Portland Streetcar, TriMet, and the community celebrated the Grand Opening of the A & B Loops, the Tilikum Crossing and the TriMet Orange Line. At the time, east side ridership for Streetcar hovered around 850 riders per day with 3,260 riders on the old Central Loop (CL) line. Ridership has more than doubled with over 2,000 daily riders on the east side alone and 6,420 riders on the combined A & B Loop streetcar service. With more buildings opening soon all along the alignment, increased awareness and a focus on reliability, we are excited for what the coming year will bring. Thank you for taking the ride with us!
Share your Portland Streetcar or Loop stories with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #pdxstreetcar.
15 years ago, we shut down the streets and dirt roads for a parade of 5 streetcars, the Lions of Badacuda and a band of supporters to walk the new Portland Streetcar route from Portland State University to NW 23rd Avenue. With the hope of 2,000-3,000 riders a day and supporting a new neighborhood the spirits were high.
Collage of photos from the July 20, 2001 Grand Opening Celebration.
In 2016, we celebrate 15 years of service, a tripling of the system to 3 lines and 16-miles of track and over 49 MILLION riders over the life of the system. A lot has changed since that opening day, we now serve the South Waterfront and the east side, serve 15,000 riders a day and operate 14 streetcars Monday through Saturday. The next 15 years are sure to bring more growth and adventure. We look forward to taking the trip with you!
2015, what a year. From improving our data collection to a new logo. From temporary closures to Grand Openings. From updated development data to a little Portlandia love. Below are some of the highlights of 2015.
Installed new Automatic Passenger Counters, allowing more accurate tracking of ridership on the system.