Portland is blessed with a fabulous public transportation network, so all you have to do is learn how to use it. Plus, if you’re sticking just to a few central areas on both sides of the Willamette River, you can also get around easily on foot or bicycle, too.
Portland Public Transportation
The Portland Metro area’s public transportation system is called TriMet, and it covers both the bus lines and the MAX trains which run through the city. The bus lines have both numbers and symbols to help make connecting easier, and TriMet’s website is extraordinarily helpful in planning your routes. Buses run regularly throughout most parts of Portland, and there are even some lines which run on what are called “Frequent Service” – on those routes, a bus comes by every 15 minutes, every day. All buses are equipped to handle disabled passengers, and some have bike racks on the front for cyclists.
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The three MAX Light Rail lines make getting around certain parts of the city extremely simple. Each line has a color designation, and all three connect with downtown Portland. The Yellow line stretches to the Expo Center, the Red line goes back and forth from the Portland airport, and the blue line runs all the way from Gresham out to Hillsboro. Many MAX stops have displays telling you when the next train will arrive, and each station has ticket machines for you to buy your tickets in advance (you can’t buy them on the trains).
If you stay within what’s known as the “Fareless Square,” you can ride both the bus and the MAX train for free – all day, every day. Lucky for most visitors to Portland, the Fareless Square includes downtown Portland. If you plan to travel outside this free zone, however, you’ll need to pay for the ride. An adult ticket covering all zones costs $2.05 and lasts for two hours, and an all-day pass costs $4.25. As mentioned, you’ll need to buy a ticket before you get on the MAX train, but you can buy a pass from the driver when you board the bus. Don’t get caught riding mass transit without a ticket – you could expect to pay between $100-250 in fines.
Find out more details about TriMet fares here, and get more information about TriMet at their website. If you need in-person help planning your trips, you can stop into their office in Pioneer Courthouse Square and pick up maps or talk to a TriMet representative.
In addition to TriMet’s services, there’s also the Portland Streetcar which is maintained by the city and which connects downtown Portland with NW Portland, the Pearl District, South Waterfront and Portland State University. The Streetcar also honors the Fareless Square borders, and beyond that an all-zone adult ticket is $1.75, which is valid all day long. What’s more, all TriMet tickets and passes cover the Streetcar as well. Like the MAX train, you’ll need to purchase your Streetcar tickets before you board the train at one of the ticket machines at the Streetcar stops. Learn more about the Streetcar from their website.