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The Aerial Tram will close for 38 days next summer

Posted by on October 17th, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Go By Bike shop in South Waterfront-9

The Tram reflected in an OHSU building as seen from the Go By Bike valet lot.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I know it’s eight months away, but I thought you might want to start saving up for an e-bike…

The Portland Aerial Tram will close for track maintenance from June 23rd through July 30th, 2018. That’s 38 days where you’ll have to find a different way up the hill. If you need or want to bike up to Marquam Hill for the campus and facilities of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), your ride will go from 180 seconds to about 30 minutes. Or maybe not (keep reading).

The Tram is a crucial link between South Waterfront and Marquam Hill for 7,000 daily commuters. OHSU data shows that of the 10,000 employees who work on the hill, about one-fourth of those who take the tram use a bike to get to campus. The Go By Bike valet at the base of the Tram averages over 328 bikes in its parking lot every day.

If a bunch of people decide to hop in a car during the closure this summer, it could be a mess. Not only are the roads leading to Marquam Hill relatively narrow, parking is extremely limited (Metro has reported an eight-year waiting list and an average monthly fee of $128) and spots must be maintained for patients and their visitors. Hopefully a large percentage of people will continue to bike. But it won’t be easy…

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Dotted line shows Tram route, grey line shows the bike route (ouch).

Without the Tram to whisk bike riders up the hill, the option is a circuitous route that includes riding on SW Barbur and Terwiliger and over 400 feet of elevation gain.

OHSU Transportation Options Coordinator John Landolfe says he’ll help soften the blow by educating people on other ways to make the trip. He has helpful advice on everything from walking (30 minutes) to carpooling and ride-sharing (about 12 minutes) on a special webpage about the closure. “Every option is on the table to increase biking to Marquam Hill, and sustain it during the tram closure,” Landolfe shared via email today.

How about e-bikes? They’re quickly gaining popularity in Portland and this seems like a perfect application for their use.

We’ve recently seen headlines about Jump Mobility electric bike share launching in San Francisco and Washington D.C.. Jump is an off-shoot of Social Bicycles, the company that supplies Portland’s Biketown bikes. Asked if Portland might see the battery-powered bikes any time soon, Dorothy Mitchell, general manager of Biketown’s operator Motivate Inc., said, “It’s something we’re having conversations about, but no official word yet.”

If Jump wanted into the Portland market, it seems like arriving as the savior to a dreaded detour would be the perfect time to do it.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Chris I
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Chris I

If they really want to limit congestion, they should close Sam Jackson Pkwy to all traffic except emergency vehicles, and an every 10-min shuttle between South Waterfront and OHSU. The shuttle would still take a long time to get up the hill, but will at least offer an option for those that can’t ride or walk up the hill.

Kittens
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Kittens

Or you can take the bus. It runs like every 10 min during RH.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

Don’t jump on that ebike purchase quite yet. If 25% of the 7000 commuters that take the tram daily arrive by bike then 5250 arrive at the bottom of the hill via car, streetcar or max. All those people will have to come up the hill in additional buses, ubers, or cars. The narrow road up to OHSU will be much more clogged and dangerous than it is now. The only solution I see is to bring back those big Pan Am Chinook helicopters they used to fly first class passengers from midtown to JFK back in the 1960’s and 70’s. That or plan your vacation for next summer.

John Liu
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John Liu

Doesn’t seem like any big deal. Bike, bus, share Uber, etc.

Lester Burnham
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Lester Burnham

Well we seemed to get by for a long time before the tram so we should be just fine.

rick
Guest
rick

This is yet another reason why PBOT and Parks dept need to rebuild the trails that connect Barbur Blvd to Terwilliger ! Legit crosswalk of Naito at Gibbs Street.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

I always preferred riding both up and down to OHSU on Sam Jackson, but when traffic was choked, and exhuast fumes and shoulder crowding made this difficult, then going up on Terwilliger was easier. Also, at night, SJ not too well lit. If you have to go all the way to the top of campus (VA Hospital, Library, Mac Hall and Research Buildings) then entering at Casey Eye on Terwilliger and use a shortcut of the parking garage elevator located behind Doernbechers – can be a welcome break from the extra climb.

Third option is the single track trail behind the Y (now Under Armor) – avoids a lot of the distance on SJP, but not sure if this trail is still accessible…

JR'eh
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JR'eh

E-bikes aside, if you have an eight year waiting list for parking, your rates are too low.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Tram up, bomb down. They let me take my folding bike on the shuttle bus last time the tram was down for service…

todd boulanger
Guest
todd boulanger

Wow!, what a 10th Anniversary birthday gift to its riders…talk about testing how effective a service is until it ain’t open. It will be interesting…hope the TDM planners are as creative as the 1997 Interstate Bridge trunnion repair closure.

pdx2wheeler
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pdx2wheeler

Why don’t they do what they did with the Sellwood Bridge? Take the existing tram and scoot it over, then build a second tram in its place. Once the second trams about ready switch everyone over to it, then disassemble the first one. Super efficient.

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

Find some private property up near the hospital and park your RV or “tiny house” on wheels. Eudaly will give you a pass.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

bikeninja
Don’t jump on that ebike purchase quite yet. If 25% of the 7000 commuters that take the tram daily arrive by bike then 5250 arrive at the bottom of the hill via car, streetcar or max. All those people will have to come up the hill in additional buses, ubers, or cars. The narrow road up to OHSU will be much more clogged and dangerous than it is now. The only solution I see is to bring back those big Pan Am Chinook helicopters they used to fly first class passengers from midtown to JFK back in the 1960’s and 70’s. That or plan your vacation for next summer.
Recommended 2

I once rode that helicopter from JFK to the top of the PanAm building.

Great idea! OHSU already has a helicopter pad.

Douglas K
Guest
Douglas K

Long term, they should build a second tram from OHSU to PSU over Duniway Park and Sixth Avenue. Connect to MAX at Jackson Street. That way, when one tram is down for maintenance the other can absorb some of the overflow. Crow-flies distance is about the same as the existing tram, so the cost should be in the same ballpark.

Steve
Guest
Steve

What happened to the crosswalk they were going to put on Whitaker to get across 99W? PBOT had a group bike ride around the time the Gibbs Pedestrian Bridge opened, and we stopped at those stairs where Whitaker ends at 99W. The ride leaders described a crosswalk there as well as another at Barbur to get to the trail to OHSU. That Barbur crosswalk was built, but nothing has happened with the 99W crossing.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Trimet’s SW corridor light rail is going to drop patients and employees on Barbur and expect them to walk up some series of escalators or tunnels+elevator. Maybe we better get that funicular built.