Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Oregon Iron Works to get Portland streetcar order

with 2 comments

This story in the Railway Age updates a recent posting about Portland. The Mayor told us that they had not received federal funding (under the Bush administration) for their streetcar system but that is now changed as they will now get $75 million for its extension.

Roughly $45 million of the federal package comes from the federal Small Starts program directed at smaller-scale urban transit systems; Small Starts itself received a funding boost through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Another $30 million comes from the Department of Transportation.

Portland seeks the additional cars to serve a 3.3-mile extension of its streetcar line expected to open in 2011. Czech-built Skoda/Inekon cars operate over the current 4-mile line. Cars built by United Streetcar will be similar in design to those of Plzen, Czech Republic-based Skoda Transportation a.s., under a technology transfer agreement signed by the two companies in 2006. The OIW prototype car is now undergoing testing on the system.

This also confirms the policy – which is very much the same as that adopted by the BC Green Party – that local manufacture of transit vehicles is good for the local economy. In the longer run, Oregon may well start building modern streetcars for other cities and maybe even exporting them.  This is not at all the same idea that the NDP adopted when it built a “factory” for doing predelivery work on new Bombardier Mark II  SkyTrain cars adjacent to the Edmonds maintenance centre. That factory closed when the order was competed as no-one else was buying SkyTrain who needed them finished in Burnaby.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 4, 2009 at 7:48 am

Posted in Economics, transit

2 Responses

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  1. Streetcars of the Skoda/OIW variety can run on boring old steel tracks and are running in at least Portland, Tacoma and Seattle. ALRT is trapped by being proprietary. That these basic facts escaped any government isn’t really shocking, given how badly transit decisions are usually made. Just witness the mess in New York, San Francisco, LA or a score of other US cities as they struggle to fund transit systems.

    As an aside, I am surprised that Portland was allowed to buy the original streetcars from Skoda before the OIW deal was fully running.

    Corey Burger

    May 5, 2009 at 3:35 am

  2. Corey – Portland’s previous streetcar contracts have not used US federal funds, so have not been subject to Buy America.

    Stephen – If lucky, OIW will in future be able to tell a story similar to Siemens’ plant in Sacramento, CA: started early 1980s as an assembly site to meet Buy America, and gradually expanded as more orders were won throughout the US as well as Calgary, Edmonton, San Juan (PR) & Valencia (VZ). There are now well over 500 people employed building complete rail transit vehicles at Siemens Sacramento.

    John Schumann

    May 5, 2009 at 11:53 am


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