The Portland Aerial Tram turned 10 in December. Hard to believe—our bouncing baby tram is almost old enough to tie his own shoes. When was the last time you rode the tram? I try to go once a week, more if I can get away with it. I take a long, leisurely lunch break, grab an ice cream and say to the operator going up, "Hey buster, slow and steady wins the race."
In 10 years, the tram has become so deeply ingrained in the culture of Portland that it's now a part of the city's collective consciousness and citizenry, inextricable from what it means to be a Portlander in 2017. Yet it was always naive to believe the tram's existence could continue for much longer in a city that can't seem to stop driving off its best businesses and most cherished cultural institutions.
Friends, the day we have dreaded is drawing near. It's time to face the bitter reality that our beloved tram will soon be gone. We must begin planning for a tramless Portland.
Unlike notable local closures that can be attributed to greedy Californian landlords or failure to turn a profit, the tram is not simply shuttering—it is owed to somebody else and will be relocated. Although public financing disclosures originally indicated that design and construction were funded by Oregon Health & Science University (with minor support from the city of Portland), it was recently revealed this is not quite the case.
The money thought to have come from OHSU actually came from a holding company owned and operated jointly by OHSU and Nevada casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. There was an obscure buyout clause in the agreement between OHSU and Adelson that he recently invoked. The Portland Aerial Tram must be packed and transported at the city's expense to arrive in Las Vegas before the end of the year.
In Las Vegas, the tram will be reassembled and begin its second life offering express round-trip service between McCarran International Airport and the Venetian hotel, where hopefully its gondola-style cars will find themselves right at home. Portland is expected to break ground on disassembly in early December.
The forfeiture of the popular tram could not come at a worse time for the embattled administration of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. It's not immediately clear how and when a plan to replace the tram will be implemented, but one idea apparently gaining traction at City Hall is to build a giant catapult.
The specially designed catapult would launch giant Velcro-covered transportation pods at a giant Velcro wall at the top of Marquam Hill. Supposedly, the impact of the high-speed collision would be mostly absorbed because both the pods and the wall would be covered in a thick layer of Posturepedic foam. Advocates of the Catapult Plan contend that if it proves popular on Marquam Hill, additional catapults and Velcro walls could be added throughout the city. Opponents argue that the catapult and Velcro wall would probably be very expensive.
Wheeler said the city is planning a going-away party for the tram, and hinted at a live musical performance by Pink Martini. The last day of operation for the tram is scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, though it's expected to be open only to VIP riders that day.