Portland, OR Streetcar Tour Summary
Rick Gustafson - Executive Director, Portland Streetcar Inc.
Rick Gustafson discussed the origin of Portland Streetcar, Inc., focusing on the
cooperation of the public and private parties to design, construct and operate the
streetcar system. Developers wanted the streetcar project to be separate from
Tri-Met’s jurisdiction in order to fulfill the needs of Downtown Portland. Tri-Met
does however fund two-thirds of the streetcar system’s operating expenses.
Rick provided a detailed account of funding sources for the Portland Streetcar.
Funding sources included parking garage bonds, parking meter fares, tax
increment financing, and the creation of a local improvement district.
A 1975 Oregon state law created a “Fareless Square” in downtown Portland
which made any form of public transportation free within its boundaries. The
legislative intent was to reduce air pollution and ameliorate the shortage of
downtown parking. The fareless square also applies to the streetcar service in
Streetcar Ride and Walking Tour in Pearl District
After taking the Portland Streetcar north, Julie Gustafson (Portland Streetcar
Inc.) lead a short walking tour of the Pearl District which included a stop at a two
community parks. An interactive water feature in one of them attracts day care
programs and families with young children during periods of fair weather. Julie
explained that the growing numbers of families in the Pearl District is an
unintended consequence of creating a more livable neighborhood. The city is
now scrambling for an appropriate property to open an new school in the
Tiffany Sweitzer - President, Hoyt Properties
Tiffany Sweitzer presented the history of the Pearl District which was formerly
low density railroad yards but is a thriving residential community today. In
exchange for up-zoning the property from 15 units per acre to 125 unites per
acre, Hoyt Properties agreed to include parks and affordable housing in its
redevelopment plan. The group took a tour of a Hoyt Property penthouse which
overlooked the Pearl District and the streetcar tracks which bisected it.
Patrick Sweeney – Senior Planner, Portland Office of Transportation
Patrick Sweeney provided the group with the public sector viewpoint regarding
streetcar alignment and corridor development. The city policy on streetcar
expansion is to “develop streetcar lines to connect new or redeveloping
neighborhoods to employment opportunities and other destinations, including
shopping, education and recreation.” Patrick stressed the importance of success
for the first phase of streetcar development in order to sustain momentum for
subsequent phases. It was essential to have the streetcar begin and end in
locally significant destinations. Portland intends to link the Rose Quarter, located
east of the river, with the downtown business district through future streetcar
Chandra Brown - President, United Streetcar
Chandra Brown met with the group at the Portland Streetcar maintenance
facility. Her comments focused on the development and production of modern
streetcars in Portland by her company. The group was able to step inside a
streetcar made by United Streetcar in the United States. United Streetcar is in
the process of developing a battery powered streetcar using technology similar
to that being developed by Rockwell for other applications.
Charles Hales – Principal, HDR Engineering
Charlie Hales lead a walking tour of the South Waterfront district and explained
the neighborhood’s relationship to Oregon Health and Science University. The
Portland Aerial Tram is a necessary piece of infrastructure that links OHSU, a
major employer, to the South Waterfront district and the streetcar network.
Charlie has had several roles in streetcar development, the first of which was as
a locally elected official and Portland Streetcar Inc. board member.
Dennis Wilde - Principal, Gerding Edlen
Dennis Wilde welcomed the group to the South Waterfront development area.
Historically, the area was heavily industrial and one barge manufacturer is still in
business. Dennis described the mixed use high rise building projects that have
been built and are planned around the terminus of the streetcar and the Portland
Aerial Tram. The streetcar connects the area to downtown Portland. The
Portland Aerial Tram connects the area to a hospital and health care center. This
proximity to transit combined with the riverside and trail amenities are huge
quality of life benefits for consumers of the development projects.
Greg Baldwin - Partner, ZGF Architects
Gregg Baldwin shared his experience with Portland’s streetcar development and
encouraged the group to apply his observations to DC’s effort:
Don’t hit home hunts. Bang out the bunts. Advance the base runner.
Create places where people want to be.
Make sure it’s inviting and accommodating. Streetcar is an extension of
the pedestrian realm. Quality of the spaces that it goes through matters.
Connect complementary activities. PSU and OHSU and OMSI. Streetcar
becomes an umbilical cord to opportunities to collaborate that would not
haven’t had happened otherwise.
The pedestrian realm is 2 miles by 3 miles and the streetcar is a
Tad Savinar - Artist and Urban Design Consultant
Tad Savinar shared with the group his façade improvement projects located
within Portland’s transit mall. Tad was awarded a grant which he divided among
several retail establishments in Downtown Portland. Developing a personal
relationship with both store owners and city officials allowed him to expedite the
approval process for façade refurbishment. He used his artistic skills to convert
dull and underutilized spaces to attractive and operable retail.
Tad began the project by compiling a perceptual inventory of 117 block faces. He
explained that this was an inventory of the experiences pedestrians have walking
along a block. He noted by way of comparison that Disney plans for pedestrians
to experience an “event’ every 42 feet.
Tad decided to forget about creating patters of streetscape and to approach
each block individually to determine its potential for animation. Portland is
generally laid out in 200 ft x 200ft blocks On larger blocks it was important to
create access at a minimum.
Downtown Portland Transit Mall Walking Tour
Tad and Greg took the group on a walking tour of the transit mall. Greg
discussed the design principles and techniques used by ZGF Architects along the
transit mall. He stressed the use of high-quality materials in street design
because of increased longevity and greater aesthetic value.
Greg explained that transit customers want to spend minimal amounts of time at
shelters. They want to know precisely when their bus will arrive. This allows
transit customers to optimize their time and potentially spend money at nearby