Why Commute by Road or Rail When You Can Ride in the Sky?

Portland, Ore., is home to one of only two aerial commuter trams in the United States.
by | November 2015

In a city famous for its network of streetcars and bike lanes, there is another way to get from point A to point B. That is, if point A is Portland’s South Waterfront and point B is Oregon Health and Science University. Both are connected by the Portland Aerial Tram, a Swiss-built system of three cables and two cars named Jean and Walt, after former students. The university, which is the city’s largest employer, needed a convenient and efficient way to transport people between its two campuses. A trip by car can take 45 minutes, but the tram ride lasts just four. The tramway opened to the public in 2007 and is one of only two aerial commuter trams in the U.S. -- the other is New York City’s Roosevelt Island Tramway. Not to be confused with gondolas, which have cabins suspended from a continuously circulating cable, aerial trams simply shuttle back and forth on cables. Recently gondolas have been discussed in Seattle and Washington, D.C., among other places. So far, though, the proposals are just pie in the sky.

GOVERNING Logo
David Kidd | Design Director | dkidd@governing.com