Portland Aerial Tram Greets Its One-Millionth Passenger

02/21/11  Portland, Ore.

The Portland Aerial Tram carried its one-millionth passenger October 17 since beginning operations in mid December of last year.

She is Coelleda Y. O’Neil, a 25 year employee with Oregon Health & Science University, who stepped out of a Tram cabin in the lower Tram terminal at 8:20 a.m. after riding down from Marquam Hill.

O’Neil, a computer user support analyst with the OHSU Department of Family Medicine, regularly uses the Tram to do her job. The department’s clinic is on the ninth floor of the OHSU Center for Health & Healing in the South Waterfront, and it also has facilities on Marquam Hill. Today, however, O’Neil was using the Tram as a patient. She was traveling to a doctor’s appointment in the Center for Health & Healing.

She found it a little overwhelming to be greeted by camera crews from every local television station and the joyful sounds of African drumming by students from DaVinci Performing Arts Middle School. All the hoopla had an effect. “The doctor examined me when I got to my appointment, and my blood pressure was up,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil got a warm handshake from Matt Folsom, OHSU tram concierge, when she arrived at the lower Tram terminal and received a prize package from OHSU Tram Administrator Michael Brooks. The gifts include a luxury messenger bag filled with chocolates, a Tram T-shirt, a hat, and a multitude of other goodies. The milestone also was marked by tram posters designed by students from the Art Institute of Portland.

O’Neil’s milestone ride was in Tram cabin two, which is named after Jean Richardson, the first female civil engineering graduate of Oregon State University.

O’Neil has been working with the family medicine department for 18 years, designing its monthly newsletter, flyers and brochures. She uses the Tram to go from her office on Marquam Hill to the Center for Health & Healing to take photographs for her publications.

The Tram opened to the general public on Jan. 25, although it began transporting OHSU employees in mid December. It was the culmination of a process that began five years ago when a city-sponsored study concluded that an aerial tram offered the fastest, most reliable transit connection between OHSU's Marquam Hill Campus and its planned expansion sites in the South Waterfront. The Center for Health & Healing, which is celebrating its first anniversary, was the first OHSU structure to be built on the riverfront. A new OHSU educational complex is planned for the future Schnitzer Campus to the north of the center.

The Tram has taken its place as one of Portland's icons. It is one of the city’s most visible public transportation connections – and one of its greenest. The three-minute ride eliminates 2 million vehicle miles annually, saving 93,000 gallons of gas per year and reducing greenhouse gases by more than 1,000 tons.