Portland Aerial Tram

The Aerial Tram that connects the South Waterfront to OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) is a recent addition to Portland’s infrastructure. Despite its striking design, the tram is not without major controversy (cost overruns, privacy issues, funding, corporate welfare, etc). I’ll avoid the politics of the tram’s creation and focus on its beauty.

Designed by AGPS, a firm based in Zürich and Los Angeles, the tram is probably the most striking piece of architecture built in Portland since the construction of the Oregon Convention Center’s glass towers in 1990. Each 12-ton car travels 3,300 horizontal feet and to an elevation of 500 feet.  The drive system is located at the lower station, with the counterweight cleverly hidden (in plain sight) at the upper station.  I can tell that great attention was paid to aesthetics and proportion- This is a beautiful system!

Here are my photos and sketches:

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3 thoughts on “Portland Aerial Tram

  1. Nick Chu says:

    Awesome pictures and sketches! You’ve really captured the architectural beauty and elegance of this Cable system.

    If you’re interested, The Gondola Project http://www.gondolaproject.com, has more cool info on other Cable Lifts.

    PS – The length of the Portland Aerial Tram is only 1km or 3300 feet long.

    • Thanks Nick! I’m fascinated and frustrated by this tram’s upper station, which is an elegant but complex structure (hard to draw correctly). I visited your link and really enjoyed the site. I’m excited to see Portland’s tram on the “important cable systems” page. I look forward to exploring the gondola project’s site more.


  2. Ryan L. says:

    Great photos and sketches of the Portland Aerial Tram, Mike. We have added your post to the Tram’s Facebook page. And thanks Nick for the fact checking and heads up about the Gondola Project. I’ve already spent time exploring it and it’s very interesting.

    Happy New Year!

    Ryan L. (Portland Aerial Tram marketing)

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