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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Portland prepares for plentiful public transit picks


Transportation options in Portland, Ore., have been increasing regularly since Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met) opened its Eastside MAX light-rail line in 1986, followed by Westside MAX in 1998. But those options are going to increase even more within the next two months.

After less than two-and-a-half years of construction, Portland Streetcar is preparing for its July 20 grand opening.

The vehicles, manufactured by Czech Republic-based Skoda, are about eight feet wide and 66 feet long — nearly 10 inches more narrow than a MAX double-car train and one-third the length. The cars would operate within mixed traffic for two-and-two-fifths miles, accommodating up to 150 passengers when fully packed.

Although the line is not part of Tri-Met’s system, Tri-Met plans to pay two-thirds the estimated $2.4 million annual operating expenses. The balance would be paid by revenues from new parking meters, fareboxes, and from sponsorships and promotions. No advertising will appear inside or outside the cars. Tri-Met passes, tickets and transfers will be accepted on the streetcars, and fares will be the same as Tri-Met’s. But passengers traveling only within Fareless Square won’t have to pay any fare at all.

But expenses and fares likely won’t be top-of-mind for the 50,000 to 100,000 people projected to attend the grand opening weekend events.

Portland Streetcar officials plan to put the first streetcar on the tracks at 9:45 a.m. and, following dignitaries’ speeches, depart Portland State University nearly an hour later, accompanied by blaring trumpets. A 40-piece Brazilian-type band will march in front of the train in a parade toward the northwest district.

Festivities would continue until 10 p.m. July 20, then restart at 10 a.m. July 21 and continue until 10 p.m., including live music at several locations, food, drink, museum family day, tours and more. The weekend would wrap up July 22 with festivities at Bridgeport Brew Co.

Portland residents will barely finish using a single monthly pass before Tri-Met’s 5.5-mile Airport MAX extension opens for business Sept. 10. Officials also plan to open Interstate MAX — yet another light-rail transportation option — in September 2004.