Portland Streetcar is rolling out a gift-wrapped holiday streetcar, complete with lights and festive decor. While the lights will make the days bright, we're making the season more merry with a selfie giveaway! Prizes include Portland Streetcar swag bags and one lucky winner will get a free annual pass.
Here's how to win:
1. Find or ride the Holiday Streetcar (for those more familiar with our fleet, it's Car 021)
2. Snap a selfie onboard or near the streetcar
3. Post it on Twitter or Instagram and tag @pdxstreetcar
Winners will be selected at random and contacted at the beginning of the new year. Please be safe and aware of your surroundings when taking photos on or around the streetcar.
Portland Streetcar was awarded an Alice Award by The Street Trust Saturday evening for its innovative Rider Ambassador program. Shared with community partners at OPAL, the award recognizes the program’s community outreach approach to riders experiencing homelessness or living with mental illness or addiction.
“We’re encouraged that our team is being recognized for taking a different approach,” said Dan Bower, Executive Director of Portland Streetcar, Inc. “Instead of having security guards throwing people off a streetcar, we’ve worked hard to find a way that helps all riders maintain a safe, pleasant experience while serving some of our community’s most vulnerable people.”
Started in early 2022, the Rider Ambassador program provides a non-security presence onboard the streetcar working with more vulnerable riders to provide helpful items and connect them with social services. Rider Ambassadors carry backpacks containing bottled water, snack bars, dry socks, hygiene products, first aid kits, naloxone and other useful gear depending on weather and conditions.
Rider Ambassadors are trained in first aid, mental health first aid and other applicable disciplines as gaps are identified. The program comprises a team of six who work in pairs to ride the streetcar. Funded by a Federal Transit Administration demonstration and research grant for one year, the program is currently being evaluated for ongoing funding and potential expansion.
“We are a completely new approach to community safety on public transit, and approach that focuses on and prioritizes the needs of people first,” Rider Ambassador Josh Laurente told the crowd as he accepted the award. “When we go to work, we’re not armed with anything else than a backpack full of water, snacks, supplies and knowledge of the supportive services and resources available to people in our city, a helping hand and a desire to just be there for other people.”
Portland Streetcar began service in 2001 through Portland’s central city and runs on 100% renewable electricity. The system serves thousands of riders per day with accessible, frequent transit.
The Street Trust is a nonprofit organization that advocates for multimodal transportation options that prioritize safety, accessibility, equity, and climate justice in the Portland Metro Region.
As a record-breaking heat wave scorched Portland in late July, Portland Streetcar's rider ambassadors took to the system to help riders stay cool. Over the prolonged period of extreme heat, teams handed out more than 600 bottles of cold water along with spray bottles, cooling towels and other items.
Rider ambassadors carried lists of cooling shelters and helped riders in need find resources to beat the heat, especially if they would otherwise be sleeping outside or without air conditioning.
The rider ambassador program began in January 2022 as a way to provide a non-security response to riders experiencing homelessness or struggling with mental health or addiction issues that might be using transit as a method of getting inside or off the sidewalk. By taking a community outreach approach, teams work to connect riders to applicable resources, offer supplies that might be useful and otherwise provide a friendly presence on the streetcar.
Portland's recent heat wave was yet another example of an extreme event in which having such personnel proved to be a lifeline for many of the community's most vulnerable and transit-dependent people.
A purple vest and a backpack will be a new sight for regular streetcar riders. Newly-hired Rider Ambassadors are working aboard the streetcar to provide a non-security presence to help keep the system safe, supportive and comfortable.
Completing mental health outreach training and equipped with water, dry socks and other supplies, this team will respond to riders experiencing homelessness or struggling with mental illness or addiction.
“Providing more helping hands on the streetcar is a way we can help our neighbors in need while also keeping the streetcar safe and clean for all riders,” said Dan Bower, Executive Director of Portland Streetcar, Inc. “The Rider Ambassador program is an extra layer of community support, and the team can respond to situations where otherwise a security or police response would be called in.”
The one-year pilot program is funded by a research and demonstration grant from the Federal Transit Administration. The grant is also funding the transition from cloth upholstery to easy-to-clean vinyl seat covers and new rider information screens at key stops.
Portland Streetcar expects to collect data, stories and rider feedback about the program to evaluate its effectiveness at the end of the year. The team will be in addition to existing customer service representatives and PBOT’s fare officers.
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.
Since 2015 when Next Adventure generously stepped forward to sponsor field trips, approximately 5,000 students and chaperones have ridden Portland Streetcar for free. With the start of a new school year, we wanted to highlight how this community-focused program impacts our city’s students and their teachers, so we reached out to Lisa Colombo, a 6th grade teacher at Southwest Charter School (changing its name to Cottonwood School of Civics and Science) who is one of many teachers who have made use of the School Field Trip sponsorship.
Tell us about your teaching career. How long have you been with Southwest Charter School? What do you teach there? I started working at SW Charter in 2007 when it first opened. I came from the informal education world -- science museums mostly -- and was drawn to this model of place-based education. I love working here because of the flexibility, community and trust. I feel very lucky that I get to explore the world right along with my 6th graders, guiding them to become involved citizens in their communities and to really care about the place they live. In 6th grade, we explore the chemistry of food, the human body through a simulation of medical school and the civil rights movement with a focus on local Portland history through a social justice lens.
What do you find most rewarding about teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching is the connections I make with people. It is so fulfilling to get to know my students as people, their hopes and dreams and to help them grow into themselves. I also get to develop real friendships with their families. I am kind of an extrovert so being around people is super rewarding.
What do you like about field trips? What is a challenge? Getting out into the community is a huge focus at our school and only few locations are within walking distance. We are lucky we have a streetcar stop only one block from our school. We use public transportation for most of our trips, only relying on parent drivers for the youngest students and for extended trips because so many parents work and have limited flexibility during the day. Our students are well versed in how to get around using public transportation and we often get compliments from other riders. The best part is seeing how much learning happens outside of the classroom and giving students an authentic reason to do work.
How do field trips fit into the experiential learning that is so integral to the curriculum of Southwest Charter? We do make a distinction between field trips and field work. Field trips tend to be more geared towards enrichment and may be a one-time experience, like going to see a play at Northwest Children’s Theater or exploring the Portland Art Museum. Field work is about going to a place multiple times to collect data or perform a service or research. Each classroom has a special place they have adopted and visit many times over the year to practice stewardship with Portland Parks and Recreation and Tryon Creek. We also connect with local organizations like Oregon Food Bank and Zenger Farms for service learning and many classrooms make monthly visits to the library for research. Visiting and making a connection to these places and people is a crucial element to our mission of place-based education. Students would not care as deeply about these places without spending time there and learning how to interact with integrity and curiosity.
Is there anything you would like to tell Next Adventure about their sponsorship of Streetcar rides? Next Adventure is a model of civic engagement and they are so supportive of not only our school but the health and wellbeing of all our citizens. By allowing all students to ride the streetcar for free, they are empowering them to develop deeper connections to this area. Thank you so much for all your support!!
Could you share any specific anecdotes about your students taking Streetcar? One year, I had a group of students who were very aware of others and super compassionate. They would go out of their way to offer their seats to people. It was a badge of honor if they could give their seats up and after one trip to the library, one student ran up to me and shared, “We set a new record!” They had been keeping track of how many times they had done it and were so proud!
Another favorite memory is when our trips happen to line up with other classes. Our 6th graders were coming back from the Northwest Children’s Theater last year and when our streetcar arrived, we ran into our 7th & 8th graders! All the kids happily compared their stories as we traveled back to school together. Impromptu community building!
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.