I grew up in Portland and have been a journalist here for almost ten years. In high school, I would ride the TriMet bus to campus, with a backpack and a horn in tow. Now I mostly cycle or walk through the city.
Portland has a convenient and easily navigable transit system. But it’s not the most car-centric city – many locals, myself included, prefer to cycle or take public transport, as the routes are more direct than driving. Many roads and highways are only two-lane or one-way, and often you’ll see lanes painted green or red, meaning bike or bus only.
If you’re planning a trip to Portland, here are the best ways to navigate to and around the city.
Portland International Airport
Portland International Airport, on the north side of the city along the Columbia River, is the best commercial option for flying into the region. It serves both national and international flights and is ranked among the best best airports by Travel + Leisure magazine several times for his street prices (meaning the airport shops have the same prices as their downtown counterparts) and famous carpet.
At the airport you can rent a car, take a taxi or take a ride with a taxi service. (If you rent a car, the downtown parking app is what you’re looking for Parking Kitty.)
If you are looking for cheap transport and don’t mind spending hours on a bus, Greyhound offers rides to Portland from all over the US. Into the old station Chinatown in the Old Town closed, but the new location is a few blocks north along Station Way. (You can still buy tickets and get information at the old place, though.)
In Portland, where there are many modes of transport, a car is a luxury and not a necessity. But if you’d like your own wheels on your visit, there are airport and city-wide rental options, including Hertz, Kyte, Avis, Enterprise, and more.
I recommend to use the app Parking Kitty, which allows you to pay for street parking on your phone.
Portland’s Public Transportation Agency, TriMethas the MAX light rail, buses and the Portland Streetcar, which navigates through the city center. The tram is convenient to hop on for a tour of the city.
Bicycles, e-scooters and Segways
Downtown Portland is relatively small and mostly flat, so renting a bicycle or scooter can be a convenient option for exploring hop-on, hop-off. get a Cycling City bicycle, pick up Lime e-scooter, or jump on a Segway.
Before you go, make sure you know: regulations off the road here for bicycles and e-scooters. Many streets have dedicated bike lanes and are the safest for cyclists to use. (The green lanes are for bicycles, while the red lanes are for buses only.)
I’ve been biking around the Portland metro area my whole life and many locals practice for the Hood to Coast relayso cyclists take road safety and generally share very seriously.
Portland is organized into neighborhoods or districts on either side of the Willamette River, which separates the city into East and West Portland. There is Nob Hill to the northwest, the Southwest Hills and Goose Hollow, the Pearl District and the South Waterfront.
The neighborhoods on the west side have windy, hilly roads, and on the east side you’ll find downtown, the industrial district and several cute neighborhoods, each with their own main street, organized in a more grid-like way.
On either side of Willamette are the streets that run parallel to the river in ascending numerical order in either direction (for example, SW 2nd Street and SE 2nd Street are both two blocks from the river, on either side). If you are north of West Burnside Street, all roads are in alphabetical order from south to north.
There are 12 bridges over the Willamette River connecting the east and west sides. The newest bridge, Tilikum Crossing, is only open to cyclists, pedestrians and public transport – no cars are allowed on this bridge, which has been appropriately nicknamed the People’s Bridge. However, if you are not in a walking mood, you can take the Orange Line of the MAX light rail to cross.
The Steel Bridge is also a good choice for cyclists as there is a pedestrian and cycle path below the deck so you don’t have to drag to the main viaduct. You can access here from the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade on the east side, or the Waterfront Park Trail on the west side. Please note that this is a through truss, double deck, vertical lift bridge – meaning if it goes up you will have to wait for a barge to navigate through.
As for highways, if you’re in a car, know that Interstate 5 goes north to south, 26 east to west, 405 to downtown, and 205 south before heading northeast to the airport. And always, always yield to the TriMet buses.
Check out Insider’s comprehensive guide to visiting Portland, Oregon.