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The Portland Aerial Tram Now Open To The Public

The Portland Aerial Tram opened for routine service (Jan. 29) at 6 a.m. after a grand opening weekend during which an estimated 10,000 people were treated to free introductory "flights" on the city's newest public conveyance

The Portland Aerial Tram opened for routine service (Jan. 29) at 6 a.m. after a grand opening weekend during which an estimated 10,000 people were treated to free introductory "flights" on the city's newest public conveyance.
 "Today in a real sense represents the crowning moment for the Tram because this is the day when it takes its place as a workaday part of Portland's transportation system and proves its value not only for OHSU but for the public," said Joseph Robertson, M.D., M.B.A, president of Oregon Health & Science University.

The city of Portland owns the tram and OHSU operates it under a unique city-university partnership arrangement.

The Tram provides a fast, reliable transportation link that allows OHSU - Oregon's major research institution and only academic health center - to focus its future expansion in the South Waterfront, an underused industrial area on the Willamette Riverfront just south of Portland's downtown core. OHSU recently completed one of the greenest buildings in the world - the 16-story Center for Health & Healing - at the base of the Tram to house OHSU physician practices, outpatient clinics, research labs and a wellness center. The Center is expected to revolutionize the design of large complex buildings and is on track for platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the U.S. Green Building Council's highest ranking. Over the next several years OHSU will further expand its campus on 20 acres of donated riverfront property nearby.

The university's decision to expand to the riverfront, which hinged on construction of the Tram, provided the catalyst for some $2 billion in investments in the South Waterfront after years of failed efforts by private developers. The district is rapidly taking shape as a dynamic new neighborhood of high-rise condominiums, a greenway along the river, a park and extension of the Portland Streetcar.

The Tram also represents another pioneering step in Portland's march toward a sustainable future. The Tram links seamlessly to the energy-efficient Streetcar which, in turn, provides a connection to the rest of the city and other mass transit alternatives. The Tram will eliminate annually an estimated 2 million vehicle miles that otherwise would be traveled in the city, thereby saving 93,000 gallons of gas and reducing greenhouse emissions by more than 1,000 tons.

Today's public opening of the Tram - the only one in the world that serves as a link with an academic health center and only the second in the nation to provide regular commuter service - is the culmination of a process that began five years ago when the decision to build it was made and an international design competition was initiated to select an architect.

Doppelmayr-CTEC, the U.S.-based subsidiary of the firm that manufactured and installed the tram's ropeway and machinery, operates the Tram under a contract with OHSU, which has jurisdiction over tram operations under an intergovernmental agreement with the city.

Eighty-five percent of the cost of building the tram was paid for by OHSU and other South Waterfront  property owners. The city's 15 percent share - $8.5 million - came from bonds to be repaid from taxes on the rise in South Waterfront property values as that district grows and prospers.

OHSU also is paying 85 percent of the annual operating costs for the first five years of operations on the assumption that most riders will be OHSU employees and patients and VA Hospital patients.  During that five-year period the city's share of annual operating costs will be capped at approximately $240,000 and all public fare revenues up to that total will go to the city to cover its share. If annual fare revenue exceeds the city's share of annual operating costs, it will be shared 85 percent- 15 percent between OHSU and the city. After five years, the operating costs - which currently are projected to run about $1.7 million a year - will be apportioned between OHSU and the city based on the actual rather than the currently estimated split between OHSU and public riders.

The Tram operates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Those with annual and monthly TriMet and Portland Streetcar passes can ride free. Annual Tram passes may be purchased for $100 and will be a valid fare instrument on the Streetcar system as well. The fare for riders without Tram or transit passes is $4 for one round trip on the day of purchase.

Throughout February introductory rides will be offered for free to the public from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and all day on Saturday.

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