Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
It is one of several light rail systems in Portland. The larger MAX network serves the overall region, and the Lake Oswego Trolley has service from the Riverplace area to Lake Oswego, Oregon. By contrast, the Portland Streetcar is a smaller and more localized transportation system. While MAX is owned and operated by the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), the streetcar is operated by a non-profit public benefit corporation called Portland Streetcar Incorporated, whose board of directors report to the Office of Transportation of the City of Portland.
There is currently only one line, a 4.8 mile (7.7 km) loop of single track, which opened on July 20, 2001. It was the first new streetcar line to be constructed in North America since World War II. It runs from the RiverPlace, through the campus of Portland State University (PSU), the Pearl District, and then west to Northwest 23rd Avenue. Trains run counter-clockwise around the loop at 14 minute intervals (less frequently on nights and weekends). The cost of this initial construction was about US$57 million. Most of the funds came from local sources, and only $5 million came from the U.S. federal government. The investment has already paid off in some respects, reportedly bringing billions of dollars in new urban development to the area.
The southern end of the line has been extended from PSU to RiverPlace, a distance of 0.6 mile. This $18 million extension (including the addition of two more streetcars) is one phase of an ongoing plan to serve Portland's South Waterfront development area. Service to RiverPlace began on Friday, March 11, 2005. An additional extension another 0.6 mile south to Southwest Gibbs Street, to serve the South Waterfront and to connect to the proposed Portland Aerial Tram (PATI), began construction in January 2005 and is expected to open in July 2006. The completion of the PATI and the North Macadam streetcar extension will link the main campus of the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) to the currently being constructed Schnitzer Waterfront Campus in the North Macadam district south of the Ross Island Bridge, as well as to Portland State University. The extension is expected to cost $15.8 million, including the purchase of an additional three streetcars, with the intent to improve headways along the route to 10 minutes.
The streetcar vehicles are a Czech design, built by Skoda-Inekon in Plzen. They are shorter and narrower than MAX cars because they have to run in neighborhood streets, alongside parked automobiles. The streetcar runs in mixed traffic, while the MAX tracks run in a reserved lane. The streetcars operate as single cars. Because of this, the vehicles were designed without couplers as a safety feature to any hapless motorists who may collide with the end of the streetcar.
Portland Streetcar maintains a fleet of seven Skoda trains. Cars 001 through 005 have been in operation since 2001, while cars 006 and 007 were added in 2002. In prior to March 11, 2005 schedule revision, Portland Vintage Trolley cars also operated to supplement the Portland Streetcar fleet on weekends.
Streetcar tracks are similar to MAX tracks. In fact, they are the same gauge, but streetcar tracks are of a lighter construction (the rail bed is only one foot, or 30 cm, deep). Because of this, a streetcar could run on MAX tracks (for example, if it had to go to another location for maintenance); but a MAX train would be too heavy and too wide to operate on the streetcar's tracks. The free Portland Vintage Trolley tourist trains run on both Streetcar and MAX tracks on weekends.
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