Commuting to campus is a fact of life for many Portland State students. I commute to campus from Washington state at least three times a week. While PSU is accessible for commuters, located in the middle of the city surrounded by public transit options, it can still be a struggle to figure it all out, especially during your first quarter at PSU.
When commuting to campus, you can choose a variety of methods: car, train, or bus. If you live close enough to campus, you may choose to bike, as many students do. Sometimes the best option is a bike and public transit combo. Whatever method works best for you will really depend upon your location.
Going by car
The first option is to drive. If you have classes during peak times—starting early mornings or ending after three—traffic will be awful. The plus side is that you can easily go anywhere you want after class, but be cautious about storing bags and valuables in your car. PSU has parking structures and lots all around campus, and parking passes start around $100 and cap at about $430, depending on your vehicle and schedule.
My favorite is Parking Structure 3, located near the Honors Building. It’s the cheapest—$2.50/hour, $10 for a day—and I have never had a problem finding a spot. Street parking is also great, but spots fill up fast. If paying to park doesn’t sound ideal, parking across the river and walking 20 minutes to campus is also a popular option.
Chillin’ out, MAXin’
The second option is taking the MAX train. The Yellow and Green lines run directly to PSU, stopping outside the Academic Student and Recreation Center. The Orange line starts in Milwaukie, and the Green starts in Clackamas. You can also easily access PSU using the Red line—running from Airport/Parkrose—and Blue line—Hillsboro, Beaverton. Both go to Pioneer Square, where you can hop on a Yellow or Green train and be at PSU in five minutes. You will want to give yourself some extra time when using a Blue or Red train since there may be a 5–10-minute wait before the Yellow or Green train arrives.
The last option is the bus. Most areas around the Portland Metro area have a bus that will get you where you’re going. If you’re using TriMet, using the Trip Planner on its website or mobile app can help. PSU offers Tri-met Flex-passes at a discounted rate: $180/three months, as opposed to a regular 30-day pass currently priced at $100.
The Commuter/Express buses are going to be the best for long commutes. They make fewer stops before getting to downtown Portland. Keep in mind some express buses may have limited operating hours, which may not always work for your classes. While in Oregon the fare is not going to go up drastically for an Express bus, in Washington the fare is much higher than a normal Trimet/C-Tran bus.
Things to remember
When commuting, you won’t have a dorm to go back to and you may not have your car. This makes what you put in your backpack more vital. Always remember a water bottle and a lunch and healthy snacks so you can keep going through the day. You’ll want to bring a laptop or a Kindle/iPad so you have a way of doing homework.
Also, I can say from past experience that it’s worth investing in a good backpack and learning to use it correctly. Carrying around a heavy load can really hurt your back after a while. If there’s simply too many things to even carry comfortably, you could also think about renting a locker at PSU.
Welcome to Portland’s commuter campus!