Opened in 2006, the Portland Aerial Tram was built to link Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) main campus on Marquam Hill with its new facilities in the South Waterfront development. Initially controversial due to massive cost overruns in construction (the tram cost four times the original projected budget), the tram has quickly become part of Portland ’s landscape, and riding the tram is a popular tourist activity.
The tram travels 3,300 linear feet at 22 mph, rising 500 feet for the three-minute trip over I-5, the Lair Hill neighborhood, and SW Terwilliger Parkway. Round-trip tickets are $4; the tram is not part of the TriMet system, so bus transfers and MAX or streetcar tickets are not valid on the tram. However, TriMet monthly or annual passes are honored. Tickets are available from ticket machines at the lower terminal and are checked only upon boarding at the lower terminal.
The tram operates 6 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday year-round, and additionally 1–5 p.m. Sunday late May–mid-September.
The easiest way to catch the tram is to ride the Portland Streetcar to the SW Moody and Gibbs station (you can also drive from Macadam Blvd. by following signs to South Waterfront and turning at SW Curry St.). When you’re aloft, views over the city and to the surrounding volcanic peaks are spectacular.
There’s not a lot to do once you get to the top, although there’s an art gallery to visit, and food is available at five different hospital refectories. Most people simply catch the next tram back down and take in the views in reverse order.