History of AORTA

Working for Balanced Transportation in Oregon Since 1976

On Saturday, May 22, 1976, twenty-six persons gathered at a restaurant in Salem, Oregon to establish an organization to promote rail service. Seven days later the Articles of Incorporation for the Oregon Association of Railway Passengers (OreARP) were signed and submitted to the State of Oregon. The original Directors were Ken McFarling, Donald M. DuShane and Arthur Poole. In addition to the Directors, early active members included John Perrin, Bill Perrin, Bob Rynerson, Bill Parrish, Michael Ackley, Phronsie McFarling and Larry Griffith.

One of OreARP’s first major undertakings was promoting and lobbying for rail service from Portland through Eastern Oregon, Boise, and beyond. Following an extensive letter and telephone campaign, OreARP conducted a “familiarization tour” in August 1976 from Portland to Ontario to meet with officials, the public, and promote what would soon become the Pioneer.

In February of 1981 OreARP published a “Proposal for the Development of an Oregon State Surface Transportation System.” The publication included an inventory of the existing surface transportation system and a five-phase implementation plan for expanded rail and bus service.

One of AORTA’s biggest undertakings in its 30-plus year history was the campaign to prevent developers from removing passenger shelters and most of the trackage at Portland’s Union Station. Arguing that intercity passenger rail would play an expanded role in the area’s future, AORTA resorted to legal action in an effort to protect facilities at Union Station. A compromise agreement in 1990 resulted in preservation of the two remaining shelters, five tracks, and space for a sixth. A few months later the State of Washington would invest in modern, European-style trainsets for passenger rail service through the Cascades corridor, proving the prophesy of a resurgence in rail passenger services at Union Station.

In every legislative session AORTA has worked for funding to continue Amtrak Cascades and Thruway bus service in the state. Most notable was the 2003 campaign when AORTA’s grassroots campaign generated thousands of letters, calls and petitions to elected leaders in Salem, saving the service for another two years. AORTA continues to work for a dedicated source of funding to continue and expand services into the future. The successful legislative campaigns in 2005, 2007 and 2009 (Connect Oregon I, II and III) are important steps in that direction.

AORTA continues to work for expansion of local and intercity passenger rail and bus service, freight rail, intermodal connectivity, and a healthy, pedestrian/people friendly environment, which will enable a strong economy for the long term.