Portland Aerial Tram



Photo of the Week: Portland Aerial Tram Turns 10!

Fun day with @cambriacsmith. We took a ride on this animal. #portland

A photo posted by Brandon Smith (@bdsmith84) on

Happy birthday to @theportlandtram! 10 years young! #tramturns10

A photo posted by PBOT (@pbotinfo) on

Photo of the Week / Portland Aerial Tram
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Photo of the Week: Portland Aerial Tram



Photo of the Week: Portland Aerial Tram

Photo of the Week / Portland Aerial Tram
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System Dossier: Portland Aerial Tram

Portland Aerial Tram. Image by Flickr user Dougtone.

The Portland Aerial Tram is one of the best-designed CPT systems in the world.

Its shiny, metallic, pill-shaped cabins float gracefully across the Rose City skyline, transporting medical staff, patients and sightseers from the South Waterfront district to the Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) atop Marquam Hill.

The 1km aerial journey takes less than 4 minutes, saving commuters from the hassle and inconvenience of a circuitous bus route. OHSU personnel and transit pass holders ride free but a round-trip ticket for sightseers seeking sky-high views is a very affordable $4.35.

Its jigback cable system has won many design awards, but also caused more than its fair share of controversies, including signficant “scope creep”, privacy issues and, interestingly, aesthetics. (Such is the reality of urban design. One person’s “award-winning vision” is another’s “ugly”.) These days, those initial challenges are largely forgotten and residents beneath the CPT co-exist peacefully with it. In fact, many home sellers tout their property’s “prime location next to an aerial transit line”.

The lower Tram station is a great example of a multi-modal transit hub, with great access to streetcars, buses and bike racks. This precedent-setting level of integration has contributed to its success and more than ~1.4 million passengers ride the system each year.


Length (km) 1.0
Stations 2
Year Opened 2007
Capacity 980
Ridership (yearly) ~1,400,000
Trip Time 3-4 minutes
Maximum Speed (m/s) 10

Technology overview:

Related Posts:

System Images:


Portland Aerial Tram / System Dossier
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Where do you put the towers?

On this blog there’s a lot of talk about cable as a flexible and adaptable technology for urban transit. CPT can travel above roads and traffic, go through buildings, and cross rivers and gorges. But for all that to work there needs to be space for towers and stations, too.

So what happens when a city’s simply got no space?

They deal.

Take New York City, for example. The Roosevelt Island Tram’s been dealing with this problem for 35 years by building a tower right over a road. Of course they did, because the system has three towers, two of which are located in Manhattan, the most densely populated New York City borough and the country’s densest county.

The Roosevelt Tram tower sits right on top of 60th St. -- CC image by Flickr user David Berkowitz.

Then there’s a system in Romania, where the city of Piatra Neamt built a cable car system, of which an entire kilometer traverses the city — towers and all.

To do this they built a tower in a road median . . .

Image courtesy of Doppelmayr.

. . . one over a parking lot . . .

Image courtesy of Doppelmayr.

. . . and even one on top of a sidewalk, so as not to obstruct pedestrian traffic underneath.

Image courtesy of Doppelmayr.

Now, we’re not saying this is the best way to go about designing towers. Remember, there are practical designs and then there are pretty designs.

London and Portland have the aesthetics down pat. Both cities dedicated a lot of thought and effort (not to mention a few dollars) to create stunning architectural towers, and in return have (or will soon have) practical works of art, so to speak.

But the adaptability seen in New York and Piatra Neamt should not go unnoticed either. As drab and industrial as the tower designs are, they represent a collaboration that can exist between municipalities and transit planning when both parties add a bit of imagination and ingenuity to the mix.

The important question here is how to blend the practicality of New York and Piatra Neamt with the beauty of London and Portland. That’s the challenge and the opportunity.



Introducing White Cards

Here at the Gondola Project we’ve been busy producing what we’re calling WHITE CARDS — a new learning tool for those interested in Cable Propelled Transit. They’re basically a quick-read version of a white paper:

Sample White Card by CUP Projects.

The series kicks off with cards on Major CPT Systems. Each card provides basic information on the system (with images and stats), our brief analysis of the installation, and other related Gondola Project posts and pages.

The first two WHITE CARDS are now available online. You can find them on the WHITE CARDS Page or in the drop down menu, under “Learn About Cable” in the header.

All White Cards are being released with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 license. For those unaware of what means:

  • You can download, email, print, share and distribute the White Cards as much as you wish so long as:
  • You do not make money from the distribution and sharing of the White Cards.
  • You do not change anything in the White Cards.
  • You do not “cut-and-paste” from the White Cards.

Otherwise, feel free to share them in whatever form you like. Enjoy!



The 7 Most Important Aerial Cable Systems In The World (For Various Reasons)

Others might disagree with my selection, but if you’re new to the world of Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) and Urban Gondolas, these are the 7 aerial systems you need to know about:

Read more

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