The Aerial Tram will close for 38 days next summer

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…


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

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