Learn how the Tram has performed in its first ten years and the history behind it on the 10th Anniversary page.
How high, how far, how fast?
The Tram cabins travel 3,300 linear feet from South Waterfront to Marquam Hill. Traveling at 22 miles per hour, the Tram cabins rise 500 feet during the four-minute trip. Each of the two cabins have a capacity of 79 people, including the operator. The Tram operates load-n-go. If you miss one, expect another in just a few minutes.
What can I expect at the lower terminal?
The lower tram terminal is at the intersection of SW Moody & Gibbs--the most transportation-diverse intersection in the country. In addition to one of the nation's only aerial commuter trams, you'll see cars, buses, shuttles, a streetcar, a soaring pedestrian bridge, a shipyard, a cycle track, and the densest bike parking in America's #1 biking city. Bike valet is offered free to the public at Portland Aerial Tram. It is sponsored by OHSU and operated by our partner Go By Bike.
South Waterfront is an emerging neighborhood with several dining options within site of the lower terminal and more opening all the time. Elizabeth Caruthers Park is one block south of the terminal and hosts a seasonal farmers market. The South Waterfront Greenway is two blocks southeast with access to the river.
The Tram Tower is lit in a color schedule designed by the artist Anna Valentina Murch. Read her full artist statement here.
What can I expect at the upper terminal?
The upper deck has views of downtown Portland and the largest enclosed sky bridge in North America. As you exit the upper terminal, take a right to enter an outdoor patio with seating and views of the terminal, the surrounding region and, on a clear day, Mount Hood and Mount St Helens.
The upper terminal links to the 4T Trail--a self-guided tour by train, trail, tram and trolley. Much of Marquam Hill is a natural protected area with several trails that make for a great forested hike.
Why a tram?
As many as 20,000 people a day visit Oregon Health & Science University's main campus on Marquam Hill. OHSU is Portland's largest employer, medical destination, and home of several medical schools. Marquam Hill is also home to a residential neighborhood, nature trails, and hospitals owned by Shriners and Veterans Affairs. However, from downtown Portland, Marquam Hill is accessible by just two 2-lane roads. To keep Marquam Hill accessible, an ambitious solution was needed. After reviewing a few different options, the City and stakeholders determined a tram was the best possible solution.
Who designed the Tram and cabins?
The Tram was designed by Angelil/Graham/Pfenniger/Scholl, based in Zurich, Switzerland, and Los Angeles. The custom-designed cabins were made by Gangloff Cabins of Bern, Switzerland.
Who owns and operates the Tram?
City of Portland owns the Tram. OHSU provided $40 million of the $57 million construction cost of the Tram. The City’s share of construction costs ($8.5 million) will be collected over time from rising property values in the district. In comparison, 1 mile of an urban 4 lane freeway costs between $60 million to $300 million.
OHSU oversees operation of the Tram, while the City is responsible for maintenance of the stations and tower and provides regulatory oversight.
Tram personnel perform continuous rider counts to determine the mode split--which then determines the share of operating costs split between OHSU and the City. Public fare is set and collected by the City and OHSU rides are paid by OHSU.
What are the Tram names?
The Trams are named Jean and Walt. The north cabin is named after Jean Richardson--the first female engineering graduate from Oregon State University. The south cabin is named after Walt Reynolds--the first African American to graduate from OHSU (University of Oregon Medical School at the time). The real life Jean and Walt rode their namesake cabins for a naming ceremony in 2007.
The station names come from the local Tualitin language. The lower station is named Chamanchal ("on the river") and the upper station is named Chemeffu ("on the mountain").
How safe is the Tram?
The Tram is exceptionally safe. Concerns about the seismic history of our region have been addressed in the Tram’s design. It meets the new, more rigorous Swiss standards for aerial tramways and, thus, exceeds U.S. seismic standards. The Tram is equipped with redundant (backup) drivers and generators in the event of power outages, and the entire system is under constant computer monitoring.
Will weather affect the Tram?
There will be times when high winds or ice may affect Tram operations. However, this type of Tram has proved itself very capable and trustworthy in the extreme winter conditions of the Swiss Alps. Tram staff constantly monitor weather conditions and will adjust operations as needed.
The Tram is the recommended route to and from Marquam Hill in the event of a snow storm or icy roads.
Will the Tram cabins ever get delayed in mid-route?
Tram operators know from experience that Tram cabins will occasionally be stopped in mid-trip for a few seconds or – in rare instances – for several minutes while Tram operators make routine adjustments. If there is a delay, your Tram operator will explain the reason and give updated information on how long the delay will last.
Want to learn more?
The Tram is frequently host to school groups, travelers, engineers, transportation aficionados, and the just plain curious! Step over to our "Groups & Tours" page to get a behind-the-scenes look hosted by the tram's operators.
Photography by Kent Anderson, Randy Glary, John Landolfe, Larry Mayer
Review our standard operating procedures here.