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PORTLAND TRIBUNE PHOTO: ,JOHN M. VINCENT - A Portland Streetcar rolls off the Tilikum Crossing on a test run this summer. The Streetcar Loop will be completed on Sept. 12.With all the buzz about the TriMet’s Orange Line MAX, it’s easy to overlook the other milestone that’s reached when the Tilikum Crossing opens Sept. 12.

Portland’s newest bridge also closes the Portland Streetcar loop, enabling seamless service around the city’s core.

Riders now will have two loops serving the South Waterfront, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and inner Southeast Portland, the Lloyd District, the Pearl, downtown and Portland State University. The “A Loop” will operate on a clockwise route around the core, while the “B Loop” operates at the same time in a counterclockwise direction.

Both loops replace the outgoing “CL” line. The North-South “NS” line will continue to operate from the south end of the South Waterfront district, through downtown and the Pearl, before turning west to serve Northwest 23rd Avenue and Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center.

“The Orange Line provides a critical link for the Portland Streetcar. The Orange Line’s Tilikum Crossing is not only beautiful, but finally completes the streetcar loop, connecting both sides of the river,” says Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “It creates a new transit option and makes connections in a new way, while bringing more workers and customers to businesses along the way,” he says.

Fares also changed on Sept. 1. Two-and-a-half-hour streetcar-only fares jumped from $1 to $2, while monthly and annual passes rose to $40 and $440, respectively. Fares for Honored Citizens jumped along with TriMet’s Honored Citizen rate to $1.25 for a two-and-a-half-hour ticket.

The price increase won’t affect all streetcar users, as many ride using TriMet tickets and passes, Portland State University IDs or employee-sponsored passes.

According to streetcar officials, the new connections will accelerate a trend that shows that the system is becoming a commuting tool, rather than just a central city circulator.

“We’ve seen a really sharp increase in the number of riders coming in from the Lloyd District to downtown, especially during commute hours,” says Portland Streetcar Inc. Executive Director Dan Bower.

Just south of where the A and B loops turn on and off the Tilikum Crossing is the Portland Aerial Tram, already one of the most popular stops on the streetcar system. System changes will double the service to the most popular stop on the system, SW Moody and Meade, next to the OHSU Collaborative Life Sciences building in the South Waterfront.

Timing the Portland Streetcar through what’s been called one of America’s most multimodal corridors has been a challenge, according to Bower.

“Trying to get all these overlapping modes coordinated is a pretty amazing feat,” he says. “All that integration has just been a wild ride this summer, getting it all lined up.”

Watching the operations at the west end of the Tilikum Crossing is like watching a ballet where only half the performers have fully memorized the music. There’s MAX rolling on and off of the bridge, some Portland Streetcars pulling on and off the bridge, while others move straight to serve the southern end of the South Waterfront.

Then there are the cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists, each moving at their own rhythms and vectors. There’s going to be a steep learning curve for all the area’s users once the system becomes fully operational on Sept. 12.

With the rebooted routes comes a new identity for the system. A new logo ditches the skyline theme, as not all the areas that the streetcar is set to serve have high-rise buildings — yet. If planners see their predictions come true, proximity to the streetcar will spur significant development along the streetcar corridors.

A recent study conducted by EcoNorthwest for Portland Streetcar Inc. purports to show that such investment already is happening.

Significant housing growth is expected in the Lloyd District, for example, with major projects already announced.

Portland’s Streetcar revival began in 2001 with routes slowly expanding over the past 15 years. Weekday ridership topped 15,000 in April, and projections show more than 20,000 riders per day by 2020.

“Portland kind of kicked off the renaissance in modern American streetcars,” says Portland Streetcar spokesperson Leslie Carlson. “Nationally there are 15 or 16 modern streetcars that are up and running and probably another 10 in development,” she says.

Not all have shown the success of the Portland system. Atlanta’s system opened over a year late and significantly over budget.

Washington D.C.’s system was expected to open in 2013, but has yet to become operational. Kansas City voters rejected a measure last year to expand their system, even though the first phase has yet to be completed. Delays in the delivery of streetcars for the Kansas City system are further complicating its opening.

Portland’s 17-streetcar fleet includes a mix of cars, including seven built in Clackamas by United Streetcar LLC.

John M. Vincent is a Portland, Oregon freelance journalist. Reach him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @OregonsCarGuy on Twitter.

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