This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 9, 2006 5:59 PM. The previous post in this blog was Public-private partnership. The next post in this blog is Wreck of the Old 47. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, November 9, 2006

Aerial tram cars on the move [rim shot]

All sorts of OHSU Medical Group aerial tram stuff [rim shot] in my inbox this afternoon. First, radio dude Bob Miller sends along some photos of the Bankruptcy Bubbles themselves, including these:

I hope all that plastic's biodegradable. Bob adds:

Incidentally, I've written a song about the tram (shameless plug) and put it on a CD that Shari's is selling for me at $8.60. The song is not exactly complimentary. Proceeds of the sale of the CD go to families of local deployed troops: http://www.rocketpromo.com/tram.htm

Even more significant, though, from a historical perspective, is this message, from another reader:

I've been informed by OHSU Public Safety personnel that the aerial tram cars have just completed their maiden voyage between SoWhat and the Marquam Hill Campus.

I think it's time we started putting together some betting pools.

- Date of the first gridlock on I-5 due to the tram.

- Date of the first tram malfunction.

- Date of the first tram malfunction requiring passenger rescue.

- Date of the first tram malfunction requiring passenger rescue by lowering them to a gridlocked I-5.

- Date of first pot-shot taken at tram cars.

- Date of first pot-shot taken which actually damages a tram car.

- Date of first hostage situation using the tram cars.

- Date of first passenger to be subdued on the tram car and arrested.

- Date of first baby born on tram car.

- Date of first death on tram car.

- Date of first injury attributable to the tram.

Such fun!

Sure, if you don't think about what it's already cost us all, and how horribly much more we'll be paying for it in the future.

UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.: KGW has video.

Comments (19)

Date of the first gridlock on I-5 due to the tram.

I'd phrase it slightly differently:
Date of the first multi-vehicle accident on I-5 caused by rubber-necking at the tram.

Other possibilities:
- Date of the first couple caught having sex on the tram
- Date of the first lawsuit alleging property damage because of something dropped from the tram
- Date of the first press release explaining that the tram has been such a successful lynchpin of development that they plan another one between Old Town and the Convention Center Hotel. And this one's a steal at $100 million.

The KATU helicopter footage includes a nice shot of the bookstore down below. No footage of me on the ground taking pictures, tho.

I'll have pictures up once I finish culling through the 300+ I have from today.


That's a fer piece tween them towers and a whole lot a slack in them there cables.

Looks more like a Wind Energy Generator experiment.

Is it to late to bid on the barf-bag concession?

You go first!

I'm only standing by silently waiting to be wrong in my predictions, again, for having said On This Blog HERE, that the first paying trampassenger is never going to happen.


Start here and click your way forward.

Well, it looks pretty! Thank you, Jack.

So how much is it going to cost non medical passengers (general public) to ride this tram??

$60 million or so, whether you ride it or not.

And approx. one million per year ONGOING OPERATING COSTS. (The underground people mover backed by citizens who actually had reliable figures had approx. $50,000 in annual operating costs). I saw hearings where Sam Adams learned of the one milllion annual figure. Then, months later, I saw hearings where Sam Adam said he didn't know what the amount was. Even when reminded, he acted as if he had never known this. My image of Sam (who I voted for and handed out flyers for) as a detail person went out the window. I could hardly believe it. How can you forget the yearly ongoing operating costs of something so high profile that you had JUST finished so laboriously scrutinizing for several months? That and many other things I've seen have made me feel that 5 councillors cannot govern all the activities that takes place in a city of over 400,000. (Perhaps when the U.S. was small and cities averaged 1000 people.)

More fodder for the betting pool:
- First bad movie featuring the tram. Double points if Benicio del Toro stars.
- First 24 hour period the tram is inoperable due to freezing rain.
- First Big O "Living" section article gloating about how the tram is "uniquely Portland". Double points if Gragg writes it. Triple points if the article also mentions Powell's and Voodoo Donut.
- Official start of the campaign to push OHSU off of Pill Hill and replace it with even more condos. Kohler & Co. won't mind this as much as you'd expect, since deep down most doctors would really rather be real estate speculators, if they can't hack it on the PGA tour.
- First non-personal-injury lawsuit. Probably a contractor suing a subcontractor or vice versa, or the city suing someone, or vice versa.
- Initial evidence of Big Dig-style corner-cutting. There aren't any concrete slabs to fall and crush anyone, but there are lots of other things that could go wrong.
- First person tasered by the cops for riding the tram while black.
- First tram-related fatality on the ground. Falling debris, distracted drivers, the possibilities are endless.
- First sign that passenger revenue estimates were wildly exaggerated, and the city needs to make up the difference out of the general fund.
- First news item noting that the tram is already at full capacity and people are waiting half an hour in line just to get on the silly thing. It'll turn out that we didn't plan ahead, and expanding the system is neither easy nor cheap. We'll either run the cars faster, or buy bigger cars (and thicker tram cables), or build a second tram a block over, or blather something inane about gridlock encouraging people to go by bike instead.
- First Seattle Times or P-I article wringing its hands about how it's not fair that we have a tram and they don't. Eventually Seattle will spend a few billion on endless studies and community meetings and charettes and such, and in the end nothing will happen.

Awesome photos, b!x...thanks for sharing.

After all is said and done, and whatever huge reservations I have about this project...I can't help be struck by the courage of the workers building this thing, and the incredible hubris of thinking we can do it. And I mean "hubris" in a good way...the way I've been awestruck by riding trams --and the "Glacier Express" train-- in the Alps.

None of which speaks to the financial viability of the project, or how it fits in with other transportation priorities, or whether it will survive the next earthquake...but I think maybe there's some part of us --as humans-- that wants to build crazy stuff just to show we can. I kinda like that crazy part of us.

Great p!X, b!X.
Seeing the workers proceeding on the cables with their own open-aired tram car, made me wonder why that isn't the rescue vehicle, instead of the city's rescue plan - in which the passengers descend down a rope?

I hear we have a "potential high wind event" coming on Sunday...hope that thing holds up.

I think Bob Miller has come up with the name for the tram, if you look at his CD cover:

Pill Hill Aerial Rapid Transit (PHART).

Did anyone figure out when they're going to do the evacuation tests? Last I heard, Sam Adams said he was willing to volunteer as a guinea pig. I wonder if they ever found any other volunteers to shimmy down the rope ladder.

A previous comment mentions the 60 million cost. Also remember the approx. one million per year in ONGOING OPERATING COSTS. (The underground people mover backed by citizens who actually had reliable figures had approx. $50,000 in annual operating costs). I saw hearings where Sam Adams became aware of the one million annual figure. Then, months later, I saw hearings where Sam Adam said he didn't know any amount for ongoing operating costs. (In response to a direct question). Even when reminded, he acted as if he had never known this. The last minute, "unusual engineering" for the upper tower I believe is going to bring us some surprises down the road, as well. Expensive surprises. Recreationally, the tram will be a lot of fun. Predictions? It will be two weeks after opening day before the crowds die down.

Did anyone figure out when they're going to do the evacuation tests?

I keep not getting an answer to this question from Sam Adams' office.

I look forward to the inevitable You Tube video if he goes through with it. Thanks for the update.

B!x, I heard Sam will be testing the evacuation plans tomorrow in the 40-50mph winds. I can't wait to see him crawling out into the harness 225 ft above the ground swaying 20 degrees.

As city officials keep forgetting, there is also the debt services on the $60M dollar hard cost bill, plus don't forget all the city staff time, design competition costs, architectural/engineering fees. It would be appropriate that PDC/City/Sam added up all the true costs for the tram, and include the land costs in the figure. Accounting? What's that?

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