Portland made an early investment in light rail in the 1980s. The first line in Portland was built in 1986, becoming the third-ever light rail system in the country. TriMet, the agency that oversees the Portland metro area's transit systems, started with a 15-mile line from Portland to Gresham, Ore.
The first line in Portland's tram system took four years to build and cost about $214 million. Adjusting for inflation, it would cost just over $500 million in 2019.
In the 33 years since it opened, the MAX Light Rail in the Portland area has grown to over 60 miles of track and new lines have been added every few years. The MAX had additions in 1998, 2001, 2004, 2009 and was last expanded in 2015.
The total cost of the MAX Light Rail? $3.72 billion dollars.
Federal government agencies paid for 60% for the total costs for Portland's light rail system.
The massive investment from federal and local governments have been done in an effort to cut back on traffic and bring the Portland metro area closer together, according to Tia York, a spokesperson for TriMet, the agency that oversees the Portland metro area's public transportation services.
York said the MAX is built with Portland's vision of growth and development in mind.
"Transit connects people to opportunity and their community – whether they use it for work, school, a doctor’s visit or to get to a Blazers, Timbers or Thorns game," she said. "It also makes communities more vibrant and livable, by addressing congestion and helping reduce carbon emissions."
BELOW: Map of Trimet rail lines
The investment to get cars off the roads to reduce traffic and emissions seems to be working, as the MAX Light Rail averaged 121,100 boarding rides per weekday in the 2018 financial year.
"When congestion is reduced – freight can travel more freely and people spend less time in traffic, freeing up time to spend with family or do something enjoyable," York said. "Our transit system improves our region’s livability."
The transit system has also spurred new developments as businesses, restaurants and residences opened near the stations. TriMet claims that over $13.2 billion of development has been built in the vicinity of MAX lines since 1978, when the project was first approved.
"We have seen extensive development and redevelopment in station areas," York said.