Newcomers to Portland do not have much to worry about when it comes to getting around the city. Besides being one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, it is also ranked among the top cities for public transport.
Public transport in Portland
While it may be easy to navigate the city centre on a bicycle, or even on foot, those travelling longer distances from neighbourhoods a little further afield should consider the city’s world-class public transport system. The city’s rather wet weather may be yet another reason for newcomers to choose to hop on a bus or train to get around.
The TriMet bus system has 84 lines, covering the city and its neighbourhoods thoroughly. The buses are all wheelchair accessible and are also equipped with bike racks for the tired or rain-soaked cyclists in the city.
TriMet no longer uses a paper-ticket system, but fares can be paid using a Hop Fastpass, or Hop card. These can be bought at the TriMet Information Centre, as well as at local retailers and grocery stores, and can be used on buses, and light-rail and streetcar networks. Topping up the card can easily be done on the TriMet mobile app, or at local stores.
Also run by TriMet, Portland’s MAX light-rail network has five lines, 90 stations and 60 miles (96.5km) of track. While services are less frequent in the early morning, midday and evening, MAX trains run on average every 15 minutes, starting around 4am and finishing before midnight.
Travelling to most areas of the city, MAX trains are the easiest way to move around Portland and, as Hop cards are also used on the network, paying fares is just as simple.
The Portland streetcar, built in 2001, was the first modern one of its kind in the US. Although it originally started with only one line, two more have been added since. All three lines operate daily and cover 16 miles (26km) of track around Portland’s city centre. The streetcars run frequently and, as they are also operated by TriMet, fares can be paid using Hop cards.
Taxis in Portland
There are many different private taxi services in Portland. Fares are metered, and taxis can be called for immediate pickup or booked in advance. Alternatively, taxis could be hailed on the street, although it may be difficult to find an empty cab. Most taxi services have contactless payment methods and newcomers will therefore not have to worry about having cash on hand, although cash payment is also an option.
Ride-share apps, such as Uber and Lyft, also operate in Portland and can be cheaper than traditional taxis. They also have the added benefit of knowing the fare beforehand.
Driving in Portland
For intercity travel, owning a car in Portland is extremely unnecessary. Newcomers to the city will easily be able to get around using public transport as the TriMet buses and MAX light rail also cover the cities surrounding neighbourhoods.
That said, a car is necessary for those wanting to explore Portland’s surrounding areas. With plenty of options for day trips available, from the Columbia Gorge National scenic area, to the wine country, Mount Hood, or Oregon’s coast, newcomers wanting to get out into nature on their off days will need to either own or rent a car. With numerous car rental companies to choose from in Portland, this may be the more feasible option. The costs involved in buying and owning a car in a city that is so well connected by efficient and budget-friendly public transport may well outweigh the benefits.
If choosing to drive in Portland, newcomers to the city should watch out for the copious number of cyclists on the road. There are also areas of the city where one-way streets are extremely common.
E-scooters in Portland
A recent addition to the cities transport system are the electric scooters (e-scooters) that now line the streets of Portland. This energy efficient alternative to driving a car around Portland’s streets is as simple as downloading an app to unlock a scooter and taking it for a spin. The scooters can go up to 15 miles (24km) per hour and can be rented for one-way trips via the app. While it is essential to wear a helmet, ride in the bicycle lanes and yield for pedestrians, these environmentally-friendly e-scooters are easy to use and are a popular choice among locals and tourists in Portland.
Cycling in Portland
As one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, Portland has wide bike lanes and road rules that favour cyclists. Bike Town, Portland’s bike renting service, is popular among the city’s population. Portland is also surrounded by beautiful scenic areas that one can explore by bike, as well as popular mountain biking trails.
►Learn more about Portland's weather patterns.
"Great, excellent, very European. We have busses and street cars. In so many American cities, sidewalks are non-existent but here you have lots of them. As I said before, Portland is very civilised. They don't see walking as a weird thing!" Learn about Peter, a Danish expat, and his experiences living in Portland in his interview with Expat Arrivals.
Are you an expat living in Portland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Portland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.