A Guide to Public Transportation in Portland

A Guide to Public Transportation in Portland

  • David Merrick
  • 08/6/23

Known as the "City of Roses," Portland, Oregon, offers a delightful mix of urban amenities and outdoor adventures. With a backdrop of stunning mountains and lush forests, residents and visitors alike can indulge in hiking, biking, and exploring the numerous parks and gardens that dot the city. From the enchanting beauty of the International Rose Test Garden to the serene tranquility of Forest Park, Portland's natural wonders never fail to inspire.

With an extensive network of buses, light rail, and streetcars, Portland takes pride in its commitment to public transportation and bicycle-friendly infrastructure. This commitment to sustainable transportation aligns with Portland's eco-conscious mindset, making it a leader in urban sustainability.

What are the types of public transportation in Portland?

TriMet Buses

TriMet operates over 100 bus routes that serve the city and its suburbs. The most popular bus routes are the Frequent Service lines, which run every 15 minutes or better throughout the day. These lines include the 12-Barbur/Sandy Blvd, 10-Harold St., 9-Powell Blvd., 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th, 6-Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 4-Fessenden, and 1-Vermont.

MAX Light Rail

TriMet's MAX Light Rail system’s Red Line runs from Beaverton to Portland International Airport. The Blue Line runs from Gresham to downtown Portland. The Green Line runs from Clackamas Town Center to downtown Portland. The Yellow Line runs from NE 7th Avenue to the Portland Zoo. Some of the most popular stations are Union, Lloyd Center, Rose Quarter, and Gateway Transit Center.

TriMet's MAX Light Rail system operates from 4:00 AM to 1:00 AM, seven days a week. The frequency of trains varies by line and time of day, but most lines run every 15 minutes or less during peak hours.

Portland Streetcars

The Portland Streetcar service area includes stops at some of the city's most popular destinations, such as the Oregon Convention Center, the Portland Art Museum, and the Portland State University campus. The NS Line runs from NW 23rd Avenue and Glisan Street to the Oregon Convention Center. It is the busiest line, and it runs every 15 minutes or less during peak hours.

The A Loop runs from the Oregon Convention Center to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). It is a shorter loop, and it runs every 20 minutes or less during peak hours. The Portland Streetcar also has a B Loop, which is a shuttle service that runs between the Oregon Convention Center and the Portland Art Museum. The B Loop runs every 30 minutes or less during peak hours.

Other Transportation Options

The WES (Westside Express Service) Commuter Rail System is an additional option for those who need to travel north–south from Wilsonville to Beaverton to Wilsonville via Tualatin and Tigard. This rail system offers north-south travel along a route parallel to OR 217 and I-5. With five stations and MAX Light Rail connection at Beaverton Transit Center, it's a convenient option. Weekday service operates during rush hours with trains every 45 minutes.

BIKETOWN is a bike share system that offers convenient and affordable bike rentals. There are bike stations all over the city, so you can easily pick up a bike and ride to your destination.

The Portland Aerial Tram is a gondola that runs from the South Waterfront to Marquam Hill. It's a great way to get to the top of the hill, and it offers stunning views of the city. 

How do I plan my Portland trip with public transportation?

Mobile apps and online resources for trip planning

Google Maps is a popular navigation app that also has a public transportation feature. Moovit is another popular navigation app with a public transportation feature. PDX Bus is a website that allows you to plan trips using public transportation in Portland. The Portland Streetcar website has a trip planner that allows you to plan trips on the Portland Streetcar.

Tips for finding the best routes and transfers

Planning your trip in advance will help you to avoid delays and make sure that you are taking the most efficient route when using public transportation in Portland. TriMet has a variety of routes, so it is important to be aware of the different options available to you. You can transfer between TriMet buses, MAX light rail, and streetcars for free. A Hop card is a reloadable fare card that can be used on all TriMet services and offers some discounts.

Peak and off-peak hours and service schedules

Peak hours are typically Monday through Friday, from 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm. Off-peak hours are typically Monday through Friday, outside of rush hour, and all day on weekends. In general, buses run more frequently during peak hours and less frequently during off-peak hours. MAX light rail and streetcars run more frequently throughout the day.

What ticketing and fare information do I need?

Overview of fare structures and payment options

Single ride is the most basic fare and is good for one ride on any TriMet bus, MAX light rail, or streetcar. A day pass includes unlimited rides on all TriMet services for one day, while a month pass includes unlimited rides on all TriMet services for one month.

You can purchase a Hop card at any MAX station or participating retail location. You can also add money to your Hop card at any MAX station, participating retail location, or online. Cash payments for your fare are also accepted on board any TriMet bus or MAX light rail train. Contactless credit or debit cards are accepted at the fare readers on board any TriMet bus or MAX light rail train. Additionally, you can add a virtual Hop card to your mobile wallet and use it to pay for fares just like a physical Hop card. This is a convenient way to pay, as you can just tap your phone and go. You can also add money to your virtual Hop card online or through your mobile wallet.

Speeding through the city with Portland's public transit

Public transportation in Portland offers a robust option for finding your way around the city and suburbs. If you’re considering moving to Portland, Oregon, look no further than David Merrick for representation when buying your new home. Licensed in both Oregon and Washington, David delights in helping buyers find the perfect home. Reach out to David today to find out how to get started.

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