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Portland Aerial Tram Getting Too Crowded, Planners Say

Seven years after its $57 million construction, the Portland Aerial Tram faces a perhaps enviable problem: It's too crowded at rush hour to be included in future transit planning.

"It's near capacity during rush hour right now," says Malu Wilkinson, principal regional planner for Metro. "So adding more people that need to use that tram would be a challenge."

The conundrum, first reported by Nick Christensen of Metro News, came up Tuesday at an advisory-group meeting to discuss plans for a Southwest Corridor High Capacity Transit line.

The project, a light-rail or bus rapid transit line running through Southwest Portland to Tualatin, could include drilling a second train tunnel through the West Hills under Oregon Health and Sciences University.

The tram—which carries passengers between OHSU and the South Waterfront, after a controversial construction that ran four times over budget—might be expected to be a crucial link in that expanded transit network.

But planners from Metro and TriMet say the tram can't be relied on to carry more riders up Pill Hill from the new rail or bus line.

"Today," says Wilkinson, "it's already serving as many people as it can."