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.
This holiday weekend, ride free on Portland Streetcar, Max light rail or TriMet bus. As a partnership to encourage economic recovery, riders can shop, eat and explore without paying a fare Saturday through Monday!
Take transit and avoid the hassle of traffic and parking, wherever you go!
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.
With record-high temperatures in Portland over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the Portland Streetcar closed Sunday afternoon and will remain closed until Tuesday morning when cooler air moves through the region.
Sagging overhead wires, power issues on the Broadway Bridge and a downed tree limb on the overhead wires downtown all led to delays, speed restrictions and other problems on the system. Rather than leave riders stranded while trying to travel, all streetcars were returned to the maintenance yard Sunday afternoon.
Crews will work through Monday to ensure power issues are resolved and service is ready to be restored when temperatures decrease through Tuesday morning.
TriMet's regional MAX light rail system also suspended service due to similar issues with overhead wires and extreme heat. MAX service is also expected to resume Tuesday morning. TriMet buses are still running and riders without fare will not be turned away during this extreme weather event.
"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!"