Portland, Oregon is a great place to visit all year round, but what many people want to know is how to get around Portland. Thankfully, Portland transport is brilliant and there are lots of different ways from getting from A to B. Let’s take a look at some of the popular Portland transports.
Getting around Portland by bicycle
Portland is a great city to see on two wheels! People often refer to this city as the most bike-friendly in the United States. There are lots of bike lanes and many streets are designed with cyclists in mind. You’ll often see green zebra crossings and white painted bicycles on the pavement. Some intersections also have ‘bike boxes’. These are painted green and are there to prevent collisions when vehicles turn right.
Biketown – Portland’s bike-share program
If you don’t own your own bike or are coming to Portland without it, you can still use a bike to get around. Portland is home to a bike-sharing scheme called Biketown. This program has 1500 bikes located at more than 180 stations in downtown Portland and many neighborhoods. The idea is that these bikes are quick and convenient – they’re also an affordable and fun way to explore the city or get to where you need to go.
Using them is simple – firstly, you need to create a membership on the Biketown mobile app or website. Once you’ve done that and you’ve located a bike, you can unlock it with the QR code. Before setting off, you need to put the cable lock securely in the holster and you’re off. When you’ve finished your ride, you can put the bike back into any Biketown station. You can even lock it to a bike rack in a public place – you will pay a small fee for this and it still has to be in the service area.
There are two ways of using Biketown. You can pay per ride or get an annual membership. A single ride will cost you $1 to unlock the bike followed by $0.20 per minute thereafter. With an annual membership, you’ll pay a fee of $99 for the year and then you pay $0.10 per minute on each ride – without paying unlock fees. There are also cheaper memberships for people who meet certain criteria. This includes: students, affordable housing residents, the unemployed, TriMet Honored Citizen pass holders, and Oregon Health Plan (OHP) members, among others.
Bike rental – longer term
If you’re going to be in Portland for a while and don’t want to rely on finding a Biketown bike, you could rent a bike. Everybody’s Bike Rentals offers a range of different bikes available for hire. These include:
- Full-suspension mountain bikes
- Hardtail mountain bikes
- E-bikes – to give you a boost up the hills!
- Modern road bikes
- Carbon gravel bikes
- Elite road bikes
- City quick bikes
- City comfort bikes
- Touring bikes
- Kids bikes
- Kids trailers
- Kids trail-a-bike
The cheapest bike to hire is the city comfort bike, which costs $25 for 24 hours. If you hire for a week, the price is $90. You can also hire the bike for $245 per month.
The most expensive bikes to hire are the full-suspension mountain bike and the carbon gravel bike. These cost $75 per day, $245 per week, and $650 per month.
How to get around Portland via Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light rail
Portland’s MAX light rail is easily navigable and connects the majority of the suburbs and major areas. The MAX light rail has 94 stations on five lines with almost 60 miles of track. The system is operated and owned by TriMet and operates in Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas counties. You can also get from the city center to Portland International Airport (PAX). The light rail is popular and has almost 121 thousand rides each day.
You can download a system map from TriMet. Generally speaking, the five different lines spread out from Portland city center to a different part of the city. For example, the Blue Line goes from Hillsboro to Portland Center to Gresham. The Red Line, on the other hand, operates from the Airport to the center and on to Beaverton.
In terms of fares, adults pay $2.50 to allow them to ride for 2.5 hours or $5 to travel for a whole day. There are different fares for people who are over 65, on a low income or medicare, or who are disabled. People under 18 pay half fares.
Although not as extensive as other methods of transport in Portland, the Portland Streetcar system is efficient and can help you get around the eastern side of the city. There are three different lines, which all overlap at some point. The A Loop is a clockwise line that crosses Broadway Bridge and Tilikum Crossing. The B Loop is a counter-clockwise loop, and the NS line is the North South Line that goes from NW 23rd to South Waterfront.
If you have certain needs or requirements that mean you need to travel by car, you should be aware that car traffic in the city can be awful. The population of the city has grown much quicker than its infrastructure can handle.
Hiring a car is probably a good option if you’re thinking of taking a trip away from the city for the weekend as driving around the city ends up not being as convenient as you might expect.
How to get around Portland by car sharing
Just like the rental bikes dotted around the city, Portland has a similar car-sharing system called Free2Move.
To begin, you need to download the app and create an account – you’ll need to upload your ID.
When you’re ready to hire a vehicle, you simply reserve the one you want through the app and have between 15 and 30 minutes to go and retrieve it. The car will unlock in a single click through the app.
You can park for free in paid parking spaces and can lock the car. This won’t finish your rental. When you’re done with the car, you leave the keys in its globe box and lock the car through the app.
Walking – How to get around Portland on foot
If you want the cheapest way of getting around Portland, walking is the answer! The central city area and downtown area is pretty compact and can be explored easily on foot. Aside from Forest Park and Washington Park, the majority of the city is flat and so walking isn’t too much of a challenge!
For a more novel way of exploring the city, how about an electric scooter aka “e-scooter”? These scooters first arrived in Portland in Summer 2018 for a pilot program lasting four months. In a similar way to Biketown, e-scooters were rented via an app. There was a second pilot in 2019 and 2020. A company called Lime now runs the e-scooter sharing program.
TriMet bus system
Portland is home to a TriMet bus system, which runs 84 lines through the city. The buses’ maps and interactive schedules are available online. You can even track real-time information on the TriMet app. There are fewer services running at night and the majority stop completely at 1 am, so it’s worth being aware of other Portland transport types too if you want to travel late.
The good thing about transport in Portland is that the bus system, streetcars, and MAX light rail are all run by TriMet. This means that you can use any ticket on any type of transport within 2.5 hours of purchase.
Apart from the MAX light rail, you can’t use the train to get around Portland. However, the city is a real travel hub for other major cities in the U.S.
The trains arrive and leave from Union Station, which is located on 6th Avenue. The station is open each day between 5:30 am and 10:00 pm.
How to get around Portland by taxi
You can get around Portland easily enough by taxi, though be aware that you will probably encounter traffic problems.
You can access cabs 24 hours a day by phone. Sometimes, it’s possible to flag a taxi down in downtown Portland. Also, some bartenders will be kind enough to call a cab for you.
Two reliable taxi operators include Radio Cab and Broadway Cab.
Common ride-sharing taxis like Lyft and Uber operate in Portland too.
While not yet in operation, there is exciting news in regards to ferry transportation in Portland. The idea is that there will be a passenger ferry service between Portland and Vancouver.
Friends of Frog Ferry is the organization behind the plan. The plan is to run one seventy-passenger vessel for 14 hours a day. This pilot project will run for two years starting in the Summer of 2022. It is estimated that 200,000 passengers will use the ferry each year – that’s 1000 passengers a day. What’s more, it is estimated that the pilot will mean a reduction in around 600 cars each day on the roads in the region.
The boat journey will last around 25 minutes each way and will cost $3 per journey, or $2 (honored citizens).
Final thoughts on how to get around Portland
No matter your needs or preferences, Portland transport is plentiful! If you’re in the city for leisure, you might prefer to try out each type of transport to see the city from a different perspective. If you’re here on business, you should make the most of the bike schemes and public transport as traffic can be quite busy, especially in rush hour!
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Gary is an award winning full time professional photographer and videographer with too much wanderlust for his own good. Fuelled by strong coffee, you’ll often find him wandering well off hiking trails in search of interesting photographic subjects or scenery to video. Self taught and with the use of pioneering digital techniques, he quickly built up a strong client base and has worked with many prestigious organisations, including GQ, BBC, London Fashion Week, Grazia, Sky, Metro, Vogue Italia. He specialising in evocative images of people, places and cinematic videography and his goal is to make the viewer look twice and engage. As well as a penchant for good design, the ketogenic diet and Hungarian Vizslas, he also has a huge affection for Chicago, Bucharest, Scandinavia, Croatia and absolutely everywhere in Italy. Find him on Instagram @garynansome, Twitter @garynansome and his website https://garynunn.co.uk/