For many Portland residents, the aerial tram, which opened for service in December 2006, is a great big meh. For others, especially those that live below the tram route it is a nuisance and an unwelcome presence over their homes and neighborhood. For employees and patients at OHSU the service saves nearly two miles of driving up or down Terwilliger Boulevard, which winds up the front of the West Hills. For the rest of us though the tram can be a wonderful way to take in some spectacular views of the city and the Cascade Mountains.
We took a ride on the tram the other day because it offered a quick way down to the waterfront to catch a bus over to a nearby supermarket. The spectacular views during the four-minute ride were an added bonus. Clouds unfortunately obscured views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, but otherwise we could see far into the distance.
The tram is one of only two commuter trams operating in the U.S. (the other is in New York City). It was built by the city of Portland along with OHSU, and today is part of Portland’s wonderful public transportation system although it is operated by OHSU. A round-trip ride is free for OHSU employees and students, some patients, and active duty and retired military but otherwise a round-trip ticket must be purchased ($4.70) unless a passenger has a monthly TriMet passes to ride (HOP cards don’t work though). Going from OHSU to the waterfront the ride is free.
I’m not sure I’d enjoy riding the tram on a windy or stormy day, but who knows? It might be fun! On a clear, sunny day however the gorgeous views of Portland as you ride down from the top can’t be topped.