Portland Air Tram
One of the really cool and innovative transportation initiatives in Portland in recent years (and there are many!) has been the integration of an 'AIR TRAM' into the city's transit system. Note in this photo the Tram vehicle in the station: the silver pod in the center of the image onto which the person with the bike (in line) is about to board.
Air Tram vehicles are large and spacious. The trip takes about 3 minutes and connects the bottom of the "mountain" with one of the major hospital and public health complexes in the city. The entire line is supported by a single massive but beautiful tower and the anchor station at the top of the line. At the bottom of the tram line passengers can connect with streetcars (btw, bikes are permitted on streetcars in Portland). An underground parking garage also exists so that parking and congestion going up the mountain can be reduced.
While the tram went well over budget in construction that was only due to having to reconfigure the offloading station at the top of the hill. Originally the tram was going to be anchored to a new hospital building and was budgeted as such. At some point it was pointed out that the new building was the microsurgery building and having a tram attached to it might not be a good idea! In the end an entirely separate structure and bridge had to be created to link the tram to the new building making the project run over budget.
The good news is that operating costs are covered by tourists and other visitors(like myself) who hitch a ride just for the experience.
On reliability: The hospital has facilities at the foot and peak of the mountain. While we were waiting to board a person with a cooler saying "AIR TRAM ORGAN TRANSPORT" cut to the front of the line and zipped up the hill. If it was more reliable to drive you can bet that cooler would have been in a van.
Wikipedia Entry on the Tram
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