Portland, Oregon is a haven for lush greenery, strong coffee, and is a biker’s paradise. Whether you already live there, are considering a move, or want to visit for a short trip, you want to get acquainted with Portland transportation options. There are many Portland public transportation options, with the city ranked number 9 for best public transportation in the U.S. To understand all the ways to explore the city, here’s your guide on how to get around Portland.
The transportation authority in Portland is TriMet which runs the city’s bus services, light rail, and commuter rail. There are over 84 bus lines in the Portland metro area, with many connections to get you where you need to go. One-way tickets cost $2.50 for up to 2 ½ hours and the day passes are $5. It’s important to note that as of 2019, TriMet stopped taking paper tickets, so you can pay using your phone or a Hop card. Use the TriMet Trip Planner to see which bus lines go to your desired destination.
The MAX Light Rail
One of the best Portland public transportation options is the MAX light rail. “The MAX” as it’s commonly referred to is short for Metropolitan Area Express and has various lines that connect downtown Portland to other nearby areas like Hillsboro, Beaverton, and Gresham.
You can easily take the MAX Red Line to and from the Portland International Airport (often voted one of the best airports in the U.S.). Since the MAX is also run by TriMet, the fares are the same as the bus at $2.50 for one-way for up to 2 ½ hours. There are five different MAX lines including:
- The Blue Line
- The Green Line
- The Orange Line
- The Red Line
- The Yellow Line
Figuring out how to get around Portland is easy with the MAX, given the diversity of lines and the fact that it runs about every 15 minutes or less.
The Portland Streetcar
The Portland Streetcar originally began in 2001, serving the downtown area around Portland State University and up to NW 23rd Avenue, commonly referred to as The Pearl District.
Streetcar service has expanded to offer riders service across Tilikum Crossing, the newest bridge connecting the East and West sides of Portland (Side note: Portland is divided into quadrants, with East and West divided by the Willamette River and North and South divided by Burnside Street).
The streetcar is in service Monday through Friday starting at 5:30am to 11:30pm, on Saturdays from 7:30am to 11:30pm, and Sundays from 7:30am to 10:30pm. During the week, it runs every 15 minutes, and during the weekends, every 20 minutes.
Tickets are $2 for 2 ½ hours or $5 for the day and can be purchased on the streetcar or you can use your other TriMet tickets that cost $2.50 on the streetcar as well.
Driving around Portland
Another Portland transportation option, though seemingly less popular, is driving. Driving in the City of Roses is fairly intuitive given that the city is mostly on a grid and divided by quadrants. The main things to be aware of when driving in Portland are:
- Bridges! There are a lot of them.
- Bicyclists, buses, and pedestrians.
You can make a wrong turn and end up on a bridge going to the East side. Also, as noted above, Portland is very big on public transportation and biking, so be aware of bike lanes and bike boxes. Lastly, be mindful of one-way streets that can be dangerous if you’re not going with the flow of traffic.
If you’re a low-mileage driver in Portland and rely mostly on biking and Portland public transportation, check out pay-per-mile car insurance to lower your costs.
The city of Portland is a bicyclist wonderland and comes in the second spot for best bike-friendly cities in the U.S. There are a whopping 385 miles of bikeways comprised of 162 bike lanes, 94 miles of Neighborhood Greenways, and 85 miles of bike paths, according to Portland Bureau of Transportation data. The city was also named the top biking city in the U.S. by Bicycling magazine for several years as well.
Portland is primarily on a grid and has numerous bridges with walkways connecting various parts of Portland, making it a pretty walkable city. The city has a Walk Score of 67, making it pretty walkable, though some areas like downtown and the Pearl district are better than others.
Aside from using your own two feet for how to get around Portland, walking is a beloved activity recreationally as hikers take to the many trails and parks in the area.
Alternative Portland transportation options
There is no shortage of choices when figuring out how to get around Portland. But aside from the Portland transportation options listed above, there are newer, alternative options as well.
If you don’t want to take Portland public transportation or don’t have access to a car or you simply don’t want to drive, you can use a ride-sharing program. Ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft are household names now and available in Portland. Though Uber is typically used more often, as of 2019, Portlanders used Lyft more often, according to Willamette Week. Simply download or use the apps on your phone to call a ride to get where you need to go.
BIKETOWN bike-sharing program
If you don’t have your own bike in Portland, don’t fret. You can still get around on two wheels, thanks to the city’s signature BIKETOWN program. There are 1500 bikes available at over 180 stations, according to the BIKETOWN website. It costs just $1 to unlock the bike and 20 cents per minute while riding, making it an attractive option for quick jaunts or errands. You can download an app, unlock a bike, and get riding.
Another Portland transportation option to consider is going by electric scooter, more commonly referred to as an e-scooter. There are various e-scooter providers to choose from, including Lime, Spin, and more. You must wear a helmet and stay off the sidewalks. Portland launched e-scooters as part of a pilot program that is being reviewed. You can find more info with this 2019 E-Scooter Report and Next Steps.
The bottom line
Getting around Portland comes with an abundance of choices. You can use Portland public transportation or more alternative transportation options as well. Regardless of what you choose, figuring out how to get around Portland is easy with so much available in the city. If you’re based in Portland and don’t drive that much, you may be overpaying for your car insurance coverage. Why pay more when you can pay for the miles you drive plus a low base rate, using pay-per-mile insurance? Check out a free quote with Metromile to see how much you could save.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.