The history of TriMet is steeped in Oregon’s fabled pioneering spirit. Founded 50 years ago from the ashes of the bankrupt Rose City Transit, TriMet has been profoundly influential in shaping the growth and character of the Portland region. Through innovations in policy development, system design and technological advancement, TriMet continues to set benchmarks for the transit industry at home and abroad.

1872-01-01 00:00:00

First Horse Drawn Streetcar

Twenty-one years after Portland's founding, a horse-drawn streetcar line opens along SW 1st Avenue—the Portland Street Railway Company, started by Ben Holladay.

1882-06-01 00:00:00

Horsecar Expansion

The Multnomah Street Railway Company and the Transcontinental Street Railway Company provide competition with horsecar lines extending west and northwestward from downtown.

1888-06-01 00:00:00

First Eastside Horsecar Line

The Willamette Bridge Railway Company builds the first eastside horsecar line across the Morrison Bridge to the separate city of East Portland.

1888-06-01 00:00:00

Steam-Operated Streetcars

Horsecars continue to provide most street railway service, but horses couldn't provide longer suburban service.

1889-06-01 00:00:00

Electric Streetcars

Electric streetcars gradually replace horse-drawn, cable and steam-powered lines.

1890-06-01 00:00:00

First Electrified Streetcar

An era of expansion includes lines on both sides of the Willamette River. The first electrified streetcar, operated by the Willamette Bridge Railway Company, served the Albina area.

1890-06-01 00:00:00

First Cable Cars

The first cable cars, which were imported from San Francisco, ran on Fifth Avenue. They were operated by the Portland Cable Railway Company.

1891-06-01 00:00:00


Large consolidations of financially troubled companies begins. City & Suburban Railway absorbs three smaller companies—Willamette Bridge Railway, Transcontinental Street Railway and Waverly-Woodstock Electric Railway—and their lines to form the largest street railway company west of the Mississippi River. It is now possible to cross from one side of town to the other (approximately 16 miles) on a single fare. The next year, Portland Consolidated Street Railway Company forms, absorbing the remaining three lines—including the Metropolitan Railway and Portland & Vancouver Railway (a steam line).

1893-06-01 00:00:00

First Interurban Electric Railway

A 16-mile interurban electric railway (first in the United States), the East Side Railway Company, and high-voltage transmission line are constructed from Oregon City to Portland—one of the first attempts at long-distance electrical transmission powered by a new hydro-electric plant at Willamette Falls. Other interurban lines follow, connecting Portland to its suburbs and outlying towns.

1896-06-01 00:00:00

The last cable lines are converted to trolley

1902-06-01 00:00:00

East Side Railway Company Forecloses

The East Side Railway Company, with its electric passenger/freight railroad service, sells in foreclosure, forming the Oregon Water Power and Railway Company.

1904-06-01 00:00:00

Electric Streetcar on the Council Crest Line

Just prior to the Lewis and Clark Exposition, the electric streetcar is reintroduced on the Council Crest Line by Portland Railway, using powerful new trolleys operating over the Ford Street Viaduct.

1905-06-01 00:00:00

Merged and Sold

Portland Railway and City & Suburban merge and is sold to the Clark Family of Philadelphia and Seligman Company of New York for $6 million, becoming the (2nd) Portland Railway Company.

1906-06-01 00:00:00

Portland Railway, Light and Power Company

The Portland Railway and City & Suburban consolidates with Oregon Water Power becoming the Portland Railway, Light and Power Company, a system of 28 electric streetcar lines and interurbans. PRL&P's standard vehicles are long-vestibuled "Pay-As-You-Enter" (PAYE) cars built by the American Car Company.

1910-06-01 00:00:00

Extending Interurban Railway

Interurban railway service extends from Vancouver south to Eugene and Corvallis, and from Gresham and Troutdale west to Forest Grove and McMinnville.

1910-06-01 00:00:00

"Good Roads" Movement

The "Good Roads" movement takes shape: Oregon embraces the automobile and becomes the first state to pay for roads with a gas tax.

1911-06-01 00:00:00


After years of franchise battles, the Mount Hood Railway & Power Company lays tracks for an interurban line from East Portland to Bull Run. Dreams of connecting Portland with Mount Hood die after the line becames part of PRL&P the following year, however, and even though beautiful interurban cars arrive from the Kuhlman Car Company of Cleveland, the line is never electrified.

1912-06-01 00:00:00

A Growing Portland

Portland's population reaches 257,490. Rail transit ridership hits 70 million annually, with new residential areas and suburbs springing up along the rail lines, making Portland the center of one of the largest urban rail systems in the West.

1913-06-01 00:00:00

Oregon Highway Commission

With only 25 miles of paved road in the state, the Oregon Highway Commission is created to "get Oregon out of the mud."

1918-06-01 00:00:00

Streetcars vs Automobile

After World War I, streetcars begin feeling the pinch from the automobile. PRL&P ordered 25 new Birney Safety Cars to maintain efficient operation on marginal stub lines. With the Birneys come the first one-man operation, and they are the last cars ordered for many years.

1919-06-01 00:00:00

The first Oregon road map is published

1920-06-01 00:00:00

Slow Transit Growth

Trolley transportation growth slows. Cutbacks in service and labor economies, such as remodeling equipment for one-man car operation, are the norm.

1923-06-01 00:00:00

Streetcar Ridership

National streetcar ridership peaks at 14.8 billion annual trips.

1924-06-01 00:00:00


Portland Railway changes its name to Portland Electric Power Company (PEPCO), a holding company that includes Portland General Electric (PGE), Portland Traction Company and an interurban system.

1930-06-01 00:00:00

Further Declining Ridership

Several interurban rail lines discontinue passenger service as ridership declines. The aging streetcar system begins converting to buses and trolleybuses. In time, Portland enjoys an extensive trolleybus network, particularly on the east side.

1931-06-01 00:00:00

Fred Meyer

Fred Meyer opens its first department store in the Hollywood District, and road improvements would follow for future stores.

1940-06-01 00:00:00

Effects of WWII

The advent of World War II brings a reprieve for trolley lines as the nation turns to fuel and rubber rationing. The process of converting trolley lines to buses stops. In fact, the Bridge Transfer line is brought back after its tracks are chipped out of the pavement. However, "progress" returns after the war.

1943-06-01 00:00:00

Robert Moses

Celebrated urban planner from New York, Robert Moses, is hired to plan Portland's urban form and road network.

1944-06-01 00:00:00

Transit Ridership Peaks

Portland-area transit ridership peaks at an all-time high during World War II, due in part to limited availability of automobiles and Portland's extensive transit infrastructure.

1946-06-01 00:00:00

Modernization Plan

The interurban lines were turned over to a new company called the Portland Railroad and Terminal Division which launches a modernization plan, bringing in several used streetcars from other cities for their suburban service.

1950-06-01 00:00:00

Streetcar Declining

The last streetcars run on the Council Crest, Willamette Heights and 23rd Avenue as ridership drops sharply after the war. A Willamette Heights owl is the last run...

1956-06-01 00:00:00

Rose City Transit

Rose City Transit assumes the city routes of the Portland Traction Company.

1957-06-01 00:00:00

Metropolitan Planning Commission

The Metropolitan Planning Commission is created with the three Portland-area counties represented to collect data and discuss regional issues.

1958-01-01 00:00:00

The Banfield Freeway is constructed between Portland and Fairview

1958-01-02 00:00:00

End of the Line

The pioneer interurban electric rail line to Oregon City and the trolleybuses die out as ridership declines to less than a fifth of its wartime level.

1958-01-03 00:00:00

"Save our Streetcars"

Though both passenger and frieght service had become profitable, PR&T Divisions's San Francisco owners don't encourage ridership and, in spite of a last minute citizen's effort from "Save Our Streetcars" (SOS), all trolleys disappear from the Rose City with cessation of interurban passenger service between Oregon City and Portland.

1958-01-04 00:00:00

Further Change

The writing had been on the wall when the Hawthorne Bridge was remodeled in 1956 without replacing its rails. Diesel freight operation takes over on the former interurban division. In the same fateful year, the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society is formed to preserve traction heritage. Within a few years former Portland streetcars find their way to the OERHS trolley park in Glenwood, Oregon.

1958-01-07 00:00:00

The transit's system now consists of gas buses operated by seven different bus companies

1958-06-01 00:00:00

Portland Development Commission

Portland voters approve the creation of the Portland Development Commission which has taken on the role of making Portland a livable city with specific charges for housing, land development and economic development. Urban renewal districts would provide a significant source of local financing for the Red, Yellow, Green and Orange MAX lines.

1959-06-01 00:00:00


The Oregon State Highway Commission launches the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Transportation Study (PVMTS) to look at the highway needs of the Portland region.

1964-06-01 00:00:00


The Federal Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA), conceived in the Kennedy administration, is signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

1966-06-01 00:00:00

I-5 Completion

The Minnesota Freeway (I-5) is completed within Oregon.

1966-06-01 00:00:00


The Columbia Region Association of Governments (CRAG), a new regional planning agency, is set up and in 1967 coordinates the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Transportation Study (PVMTS). It provides the first comprehensive analysis of travel demand in the region, assuming no constraints on highway travel.

1968-06-01 00:00:00

Falling Ridership for Rose City Transit Company

Transit ridership falls to 16 million/year from a wartime high of 169 million/year. The Rose City Transit Company, faced with bankruptcy, demands a major fare hike or threatens to discontinue all service.

1969-01-01 00:00:00

A New Transit Advisory Commission

With some pressure from the business community dependent on transit services for employees, shoppers, etc., Mayor Terry Schrunk appoints a seven-member Mass Transit Advisory Commission.

1969-03-01 00:00:00

Power of Payroll Tax

The Oregon Legislature passes House Bill 1808 allowing the creation of transit districts and providing them with the power to raise revenue though a payroll tax.

1969-06-01 00:00:00

PVMTS Approved

The PVMTS is approved and calls for 54 new highway, road and bridge projects that would establish highways on roughly a 2-mile grid. Transit's role is played down, except for rush hour commute travel to downtown Portland.

1969-10-01 00:00:00

Resolution 30598

Portland City Council passed Resolution 30598 to create the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met). The first organization meeting takes place two weeks later with Victor Cox, a Rose City holdover, serves as Tri-Met's first general manager.

1969-11-01 00:00:00

Handing the Keys to Tri-Met

Rose City Transit proposes turning its operation over to the City and Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met), while maintaining title under legal resolution of fair value and pension claims were worked out.

1969-12-01 00:00:00

Agreement Reached

TriMet agrees to the Rose City Transit proposal and a Memorandum of Understanding is agreed to between the City and Rose City Transit whereby Rose City Transit would turn over its property to the City at 12:01 am on Monday December 1st and the City would immediately transfer same to TriMet. A driver walk-out is threatened to begin within 48 hours. On December 1, with 175 buses and a daily ridership of roughly 65,000, TriMet begins operation, a day after Local 757 approves a new 19-month labor contract.


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