The Portland Historic Streetcar Project

Since my last post on Portland's historic streetcar network, I've been hard at work re-creating the network on Portland's current street grid. The map is now done and the spatial analysis can begin. We will be asking if the city's urban development, specifically residential and commercial density as measured by the creation of new tax lots, was impacted significantly by the implementation of the streetcar.

From the looks of our preliminary data, the majority of new tax lots in the decades between 1880 and 1900 were within close proximity (1/4 mile or less) to new streetcar lines. We will continue to look at the entire 20th century, as well. Where will we find the majority of the new tax lots (i.e. development) from 1950, when the last streetcars were decommissioned, to 1985, when the Blue Line Max came on-line? East Portland, around 205? West Portland on the border of Beaverton? Since we are only looking at the City of Portland, we won't get into suburban development.

In the last six weeks I have learned a lot about the old streetcar system, but there is a ton of missing information. As far as I can tell John Labbe's Fares Please! Those Portland Trolley Years and Richard Thompson's website and book are the only sources out there. Some of you posted questions about streetcar routes through your part of town. The map my project partner and I developed will answer some of your questions, but not all. Unfortunately, it is not complete. Some of the inter-urban raillines, like the Springwater, West Portland (up to Hillsdale), and Oregon Electric (out to Multnomah Village) are missing. The biggest challenge for us centered on these particular raillines routes - for the most part they did not use streets, which posed a significant challenge to draw accurately. The Springwater would have been the easiest to draw since it followed the current trail alingment, but we didn't want to only look at one inter-urban line and not include the others.

So we are left with a map that documents as many on-street raillines that served the City of Portland from 1880-1950 that I could find and verify. I'll publish the map and our analytical report on the blog. Keep an eye open...

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