Portland transportation is often a huge concern for first-time visitors. This is an understandable worry for anyone. Getting into and around an unfamiliar city, particularly as one as large and bustling as Portland, can create stress for many visitors, especially those unaccustomed to busy metropolitan areas. However, new visitors quickly discover that Portland is a dream to navigate especially when compared to other big cities.
Public transportation in Portland Oregon is masterfully designed and fluidly integrated with the city’s walkable neighborhoods and biking infrastructure. On average, buses, trains and streetcars run every 15 minutes. These schedules ensure riders have easy access to anywhere they wish to go. Commuters can purchase consolidated pass cards digitally and take advantage of free rides, which makes these transportation systems appealing to all customers.
Extremely eco-conscious, Portland strongly promotes transit solutions of every kind that minimize the need for private vehicles and excessive driving. No matter where you’re starting from or where you need to go, the city has easy, cost-effective transportation options for you.
Many visitors initially enter the city through the Portland International Airport. Nonstop flights are available between Portland and major cities all over the world. From there, visitors can gain easy access to the rest of the city. Portland airport transportation options include hotel shuttles, rental cars, a TriMet stop, rideshares and even bicycle accommodations! Full details are available on the airport website for interested travelers.
Portland Bus Lines
The backbone of the Portland public transportation system is the TriMet bus system. Extending throughout the city and across most major suburbs, the system features buses that are clean and accessible, even to individuals in wheelchairs or facing other mobility challenges. Nearly all of the buses have also been outfitted with bike racks in an effort to fully integrate the city’s alternative and public transit infrastructures. Busy routes see buses running consistently every 15 minutes during peak transit times.
At $2.50 for the first two-and-a-half hours of riding, the TriMet public transportation system is extremely affordable. After a passenger spends $5 on the system in the same day, all of his or her additional rides that day are free. Similarly, once a user has spent $100 on TriMet Fares within a calendar month, all of his or her remaining rides that month are free of charge. If that wasn’t enough, TriMet fares also cover transfers to the Portland Streetcar line at no additional charge.
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For passengers’ convenience, the TriMet system is fully accessible online. An interactive online public transportation map is available free of charge to help users find their way and plan the most efficient routes between destinations. While riders can continue to use the TriMet Tickets app to purchase digital tickets through the end of 2019, as of January 2020 all fares will be handled via Hop Fastpass cards. Hop cards are available at ticket offices or from local retailers and can be reloaded via easy electronic payment.
Portland MAX Light Rail
Visitors exploring how to get around Portland without a car will discover that the TriMet system links seamlessly with the city’s five MAX light rail lines, which consist of nearly 100 stations studded throughout the city and surrounding regions.
The Blue Line serves Hillsboro, City Center and Gresham. The Green Line serves Clackamas and City Center. The Red Line connects the Portland International Airport with City Center and Beaverton. The Yellow Line runs between the Expo Center and City Center. Finally, the Orange Line links the Central Eastside, Milwaukie, Sellwood and City Center. Between them, these lines fully cover nearly everywhere visitors could hope to go.
It is important to note that tickets for the MAX system cannot be purchased on board the trains. Visitors must obtain a ticket via a machine at any Portland transportation center or MAX stop, use a Hop Fastpass card, or purchase a ticket using the mobile ticking app before boarding. As of January 2020, physical tickets and the mobile ticking app will be phased out, and all boarders will need a digitally reloadable Hop Fastpass, available at numerous Portland retailers.
Visitors can ride the MAX directly to an array of popular locations and attractions, including:
- Washington Park
- The Oregon Zoo
- Moda Center
- Union Station
- Cascade Station
- Providence Park
- Portland International Airport
- Portland State University
One of the most unusual options available to visitors determining how to get around in Portland is the city’s modern streetcar system. Implemented in 2001, the streetcar system is comprised of two lines.
The first line connects Portland State University, the city’s Nob Hill and Pearl Districts. The second line takes passengers between Portland’s east and west sides, with stops along the Pearl District, Lloyd neighborhood, Tilikum Crossing and Portland State University. Riders can purchase fares using TriMet tickets or Hop Fastpasses, and some frequent riders will qualify for free streetcar use.
Streetcars run from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on weekdays. On Saturdays they operate between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., and on Sundays they run from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Traveling by Foot, Bike and Other Methods
One of the most defining features of the Portland transportation scene is its interconnectedness. Most of the neighborhoods in Portland are structured to promote walkability, making travel by foot an extremely practical option for much of visitor’s time in the city.
Miles upon miles of bike paths and bike lanes strategically connect neighborhoods, as well, expanding the distances visitors can quickly and easily travel without a vehicle. Bike stations at key locations such as the airport with dedicated space and tools for bicycles further encourage residents and visitors to take bicycles instead of fossil-fueled vehicles whenever possible. Many Portland hotels have bicycles on site for patron use, and digital apps are available to help visitors locate bicycles they can borrow or inexpensively rent throughout the city as needed.
Finally, there are numerous opportunities to rideshare in Portland. Online apps and websites make it quick and easy to find Portland rideshares both in advance and in the moment, as needed. While they are often unnecessary, given the extensive transportation options in the city, rideshares can be a convenient backup plan for visitors traveling at odd times or who find themselves with specific needs during their stays.