Streetcar History


The Portland Streetcar was designed to fit the scale and traffic patterns of the neighborhoods through which it travels. The first 10 streetcar vehicles, manufactured by Skoda-Inekon in Plzen of the Czech Republic, are 2.46 meters (about 8 feet) wide and 20 meters long (about 66 feet), about 10 inches narrower and 1/3 the length of a MAX (TriMet´s light rail system) double car train. An additional 6 vehicles from United Streetcar of Clackamas, Oregon have been added to the fleet.  The six vehicles, 5 production streetcars and 1 prototype streetcar, are the same size as the original 10 vehicles.  They run in mixed traffic and, except at platform stops, accommodate existing curbside parking and loading. The Portland Streetcar is owned and operated by the City of Portland. During construction, neighborhood disruption was minimized. A unique shallow 12-inch deep track slab design reduced the construction time and utility relocations. Maneuverability of the shorter and narrower streetcar vehicles has allowed the 8-foot wide track slab to be fitted to existing grades, limiting the scope of street and sidewalk reconstruction.


Streetcar Service


Streetcars run on a 16-mile system made up of three lines.  The North/South (NS) Line, runs on an 8.0-mile continuous loop (4.0-mile in each direction) from Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital at NW 23rd Avenue, on Lovejoy and Northrup, through the Pearl District and on 10th and 11th Avenues, Portland State University, SW River Parkway & Moody (RiverPlace), SW Moody and Gibbs in the South Waterfront District where it connects with the Portland Aerial Tram to a terminus at SW Lowell and Bond.  The A Loop operates a 6.14-mile continuous loop clockwise around the Central City of Portland connecting the Pearl District, the Broadway Bridge, the Lloyd District, OMSI, the Tilikum Crossing, and Portland State University.  The B Loop operates a 6.56-mile continuous loop counter-clockwise around the Central City of Portland connecting the Pearl District, Portland State University, the Tilikum Crossing, OMSI, the Lloyd District, and the Broadway Bridge.  Two routes double in each direction from NW 10th/11th & Johnson to SW Moody & Meade providing 7-10 minute frequency with 15-20 minute frequency on the rest of the system.


Streetcar vehicles can carry a sardine load of up to 156 passengers, are air-conditioned and have a low-floor center section (like the MAX vehicles) with full handicapped accessibility.  Ten of the Streetcars were manufactured in the Czech Republic by Skoda-Inekon in Pilzen.  The remaining seven were manufactured in Clackamas, Oregon by United Streetcar.


A total of 77 stops are located along the alignment located about every 2-6 blocks. A real-time arrival system is installed at most stops and on the Internet. This GPS tracking system allows our customers to check at the stop reader board and on the Internet to find out when the next Streetcars will arrive.

Additional Info:

Streetcar Planning Goals

  • Link neighborhoods with a convenient and attractive transportation alternative.
  • Fit the scale and traffic patterns of existing neighborhoods.
  • Provide quality service to attract new transit ridership.
  • Reduce short inner-city auto trips, parking demand, traffic congestion and air pollution.
  • Encourage development of more housing & businesses in the Central City.

Key Milestones

Year Event
1990 City initiates Streetcar Feasibility Study and establishes the Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee
1992 City of Portland receives $500,000 federal HUD grant and matches with local funds
1995 City issues RFP to design, build, operate and maintain Streetcar. The non-profit corporation, Portland Streetcar, Inc., is selected
May 1999 Construction begins from Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital to Portland State University
April 5, 1999 Official ground breaking ceremony
May 1999 Start construction of phase I & II alignment trackwork from Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital to Portland State University
September 1999 Notice to proceed for Skoda-Inekon to begin construction of Streetcar vehicles.
November 1999 Start construction of Streetcar maintenance facility (beneath I-405)
January 2001 Substantial completion of construction of phase I & II
April/May/June 2001 Receive five (5) Streetcar vehicles, begin training and testing
July 20, 2001 Begin Streetcar passenger service from Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital to Portland State University
Summer 2003 Receive two (2) additional vehicles for a total fleet of seven (7)
January 2004 Construction begins from Portland State University to RiverPlace
March 11, 2005 Begin Streetcar passenger service to RiverPlace
January 2005 Construction begins from RiverPlace to SW Moody and Gibbs
August 2005 Construction completed to SW Moody and Gibbs; opening delayed until arrival of new streetcars in 2006.
October 20, 2006 Begin Streetcar passenger service to South Waterfront
August 2006 Construction begins on Lowell Extension in the South Waterfront District
December 2006 Receive three (3) Streetcar vehicles, begin training and testing
August 2007 Begin Streetcar passenger service to Lowell & Bond in the South Waterfront District
August 2009 Begin Streetcar construction (water and sewer) on Streetcar Loop Project.
October 2009 Small Starts Grant awarded by Federal Transit Administration
January 2010 Begin trackwork on Streetcar Loop Project.
December 2011 Substantial Completion of Streetcar Loop Project.
September 22, 2012 Begin Streetcar passenger service on the Central Loop from SW Market to OMSI.
September 12, 2015 Begin Streetcar passenger service on the A & B Loops over the Tilikum Crossing.

Modern Portland Streetcar History

The City of Portland, Oregon is noted for the dramatic revitalization of its downtown core.

In the 1960s, Portland, like many other cities throughout the U.S., was threatened by loss of residents, businesses and capital. Suburban housing developments, shopping areas, and business parks were draining the vitality from the city center.

Today, however, Portland´s central city is one of the most admired in North America. Many things contributed to this turnaround, but one key factor was an emphasis on transit and cooperative planning for transportation and land uses. Some examples of changes in the 60s and 70s that led to Portland´s status as a highly livable city are:

  • Establishment of TriMet, a public regional transit agency with new buses and a 12-block downtown transit mall
  • Elimination of a freeway along the Willamette River where a popular public park now sits
  • A decision not to build a freeway that would have destroyed housing in established Portland neighborhoods, and State and local support for MAX, the regional light rail service which now links suburban communities more than 33 miles apart to each other as well as to downtown Portland. A 5.5-mile spur to the Portland International Airport opened in fall of 2001 and a 5.8-mile spur opened north to EXPO in May 2004.
  • The Portland Streetcar system is one more important transportation decision that has enhanced Portland´s vitality while helping the city accommodate new residential and business growth.

Portland's Original Streetcar History - Links