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Portland Laments Losing "Hipster" Streetcars to St. Louis

portlandtrolley.jpg
TriMet
Portland's Vintage Trolley #512 is on its way to St. Louis.
St. Louis' gain is Portland's loss.

After twenty years running in the City of Roses, Portland's old-timey streetcars are moving to St. Louis as part of a ten-year lease deal, according to KGW News in Portland, Oregon..

St. Louis will lease two of Portland's cars, which are currently running only eight days a year, for $80,000. A new streetcar costs more than $1 million.

See also: Loop Trolley Project Slapped with Second Lawsuit

But Portland -- a city with a deep love for public transit, nostalgia and all things hipster -- is already dreading the loss of their iconic downtown streetcars.

"Once they're gone, they won't come back," says Bill Failing, whose group, Portland Vintage Trolley, helped bring streetcars to the city two decades ago, to KGW. "People will not realize what they've lost, until it's lost."

Keeping the streetcars "would have added to the whole hipster vibe of the city," says Hannah Stewart, a twenty-year-old student, to KGW. "It would have been fun to ride them."

Portland revitalized its trolley system in 1991 to bolster a struggling downtown district. But since then, business has picked up and a new electric streetcar line has rendered the streetcars into little more than a tourist attraction -- one the city says it simply can't afford.

"Transferring them to St. Louis will put them in daily use on a new heritage streetcar line," says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch. "They will be the centerpiece of the city's efforts to revitalize the Loop Business District. If someone else can make better use of them, that's exciting."

The trolleys should arrive in St. Louis mid-summer. The Loop trolley project aims to build a streetcar line from Forest Park through the Loop Business District, and the Federal Transit Administration has committed $25 million to the project.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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34 comments
Mekaeg
Mekaeg

@Myra_Monkhouse Funny how St Louis & Atlanta are putting in trolleys after smaller markets like Memphis, Portland, & New Orleans did first

Erica Chandler
Erica Chandler

I'd rather see the money spent on expanding the metro link and making it safer.

Chris DiMercurio
Chris DiMercurio

So the city can pay for streetcars but not afford plowing and salting the streets in a reasonable manner? That's like owing your friend $500 and buying a ps4 only to say well you can play with me if you want.

Barbara Brown Lyon
Barbara Brown Lyon

Oh, but I love it! I think it will be a definite plus for St. Louis. I know that I, for one, will definitely be riding them! Portland's loss -- our gain! I remember as a child riding all over St. Louis on the streetcars.

John Null
John Null

Where is "here" supposed to be? It's still not legal in Oregon or Missouri.

Travis Maurer
Travis Maurer

No. We'll be happier when we can carry legal marijuana on it like we can here.

Edward Hecker
Edward Hecker

I agree with you about Metrolink being built out to St. Chas and West County. Problem with that is neither St. Chas or West County want metrolink out there as it would bring City Black people out. Not a good fit for the very racist westplex area. As for how the trolley is going to fit? Same way it fit from the very early 1900s to the early 1960's. That is the reason they call The Loop, The Loop, after all.

Edward Hecker
Edward Hecker

Love PDX's cleanliness and progressive attitude. Hate the unemployment, the 2-class (unemployed, welfare hipsters on one side and walled-off milliionaires on the other without much in between) culture; the high cost of everything and the monotony of the climate. If you're going to move back, you better have a job waiting and some money in the bank.

Tim Danneman
Tim Danneman

Oh RFT. Thanks for letting us know about hipster things.

Dahmen Piotraschke
Dahmen Piotraschke

Nothing like hanging off side of a trolley in the north side..more Metro plz

Christopher Schmidt
Christopher Schmidt

Last I looked Delmar is barely wide enough for 2 lanes of traffic to go by, so how are they going to squeeze that trolley in between, oh wait, they are cutting down old trees. Good idea to have a trolley, but money would have been better spent building Metrolink out to St. Charles county or West County (maybe widen I-64 through I-270 interchange and build it down the highway like parts of the L in Chicago area). Using it as a tourist trap I get it, but doubt it will pay for itself in the next 10 years.

Lydia
Lydia

What happened to the original streetcars that mysteriously "toasted crisp" in St. Charles, MO near the New Town subdivisions a few years ago?

What happened to the former historic house that also (once upon a time ) stood near that same location: and mysteriously/conveniently burned ?t

Things seem to mysteriously "disappear into ashes " around that development (as did the developer).

PS---those streetcars that recently sat near New Town in St.Charles, MO were identical to the ones used on the U-City Loop in the 1950's & 60's.

They may have even been the originals!

ithardin
ithardin

So, the dream of the 90s WAS alive in Portland :)

Edward Hecker
Edward Hecker

As a property owner who lives near both East Delmar Loop and DeBaliviere, I am excited to see this project move forward. While the trolleys don't have a clear prospect of having a positive return on investment when taken by themselves, when viewed as a catalyst for economic development of the East Loop/DeBaliviere area trolleys become much more attractive. Hopefully the trolleys will break even on their ROI, but if not, it is still a good investment. Hopefully, tolleys will be a prudent investment for Delmar going from DeBaliviere into the Central West End, one day. As for the assertion that Portland is losing their trolleys permanently? Its a ten year lease. Portland isn't losing anything, they're leasing, which means they're earning much more money out of the trolleys than they would by running them only eight days a week, and, after ten years, they can have them back.

ehecker
ehecker

As someone who lives very close to DeBaliviere, I, for one, am excited about the trolley project.  While it might not have the strongest potential return on investment on its own merits, I am confident it will catalyze economic growth and development for the East Loop and DeBaliviere areas by adding pedestrian capacity to The Loop/DeBaliviere.  In time, hopefully, the trolley will be a prudent development for Delmar East of DeBaliviere, to the Central West End, as well. 


As for Portland "losing" their trolleys permanently?  Ten year lease is what it is.  Not forever.  


Jason Robertson
Jason Robertson

So do we get to know the forest and mines where the materials that built this street car came from so we can visit them and make sure they were humanely harvested?

Terry Deschain
Terry Deschain

25 million? Really? Must be nice to have that spare change laying around for a goofy little train.

Jenna Petroff
Jenna Petroff

This former San Francisco girl cannot wait to see an actual trolley (not a painted bus!) in STL.

Maria Sparks
Maria Sparks

As a former resident of PDX I must say that so many things about that city are far superior to STL -- public transportation, thriving downtown and determination to be and stay clean just to name a few -- but it will be cool to see the streetcars here. Might make me want to move back even more!

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

why not move forward instead of being stuck on stupid

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