Transportation Guide: Portland’s many-headed beast

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Illustration by Lauren Chapluk

Portland State is widely known as a commuter campus, and for many incoming students, the question of how to get to school each day will be more complicated than throwing on a hoodie and staggering half-awake out of the dorms. Luckily, Portland is rife with wheeled options to get you to class on time.

Meet TriMet

Portland’s streets boast high-speed rail transit, multiple bus lines and a streetcar through TriMet, the region’s public transit agency. Most adult TriMet passes give access to all transit and are $2.50 for two hours or $5.00 for a whole day.

TriMet bus line numbers 1, 8, 9, 12, 17, 19, 44 and 94, as well as the MAX green and yellow line trains and the Portland Streetcar, all stop on the PSU campus.

Pro tips:

Overwhelmed by dense color-coded transit charts full of numbers? The Google Maps smartphone app has a transit feature with all of TriMet’s info on lock. Simply put in your destination, and voila! (What can’t you Google?!)

If you’ll be riding often, buying a term-long PSU FlexPass can save you about 40 percent on daily fare. Plus, you can ride the OHSU skytram for freesies. (Random? Yes. Super fun? Like, at least pretty fun, and you’ll get some sweet vista pics.)

*Note: The FlexPass is only sold for two weeks before and two weeks after the term’s start date, and must be purchased in person at the Transportation & Parking Services office. Bring your PSU photo ID and get one while the gettin’s good.

For long distance commuters, it is worth it to ride the closest MAX train, even if you have to drive or bike to the stop, as MAX lines travel on separate tracks and aren’t ensnared in Portland’s ever-worsening traffic.

Reasons to choose public transit as your to-campus chariot:

Someone else is navigating, which frees up your attention to nap/listen to music/finish that reading before class. (MAX trains also run smooth enough to write by hand while riding…just saying’.)

The whole “it rains 9 months out of the year in Portland” situation.

The Portland Streetcar is free for all PSU students, all the time—just flash your student ID.

On the other hand…

Itay take (way) longer than driving.

You run the risk of someone embroiled in a domestic dispute holding up the MAX train by obstructing the automatically closing doors while all his belongings are piled on the platform and his jilted wife, still on the train, refuses to give him his cell phone.

You’ll feel super-sly once you realize you can slip onto the MAX without paying, but watch out for a $175 fare evasion ticket, given at random times by Trimet employee ticket-checkers on the prowl. It feels a lot less cool taking a $175 train ride home.

Got a license and strong masochistic tendencies? There’s always driving

Let’s be real—driving downtown is the worst. But for many it’s convenient and/or necessary.

Pros: One thing PSU has going for it, car-wise, is an aggressive number of parking structures, right in the heart of campus.

Cons: The streets are a tangled mess of one-ways laced with bus lanes and speeding bikers, there’s never available parking, the crosswalks are bursting with oblivious tourists, and now that Pokemon Go is a thing, it’s really only a matter of time before someone wanders in front of your car.

Pro tips:

Parking on a per-day basis is spendy, $2.50 to $4 per hour, so as with anything, buying in bulk is a solid choice if driving is your main mode of transport. Term parking passes run between $300 and $400, and can be bought online. However, if doing so, factor in enough time for the pass to be mailed to you before you need to use it.

Note: “Carpool” passes are cheaper, but come with a large amount of caveats, including the need for at least one reliable carpool buddy—potentially a hard ask for incoming students yet to make all their new friends.

If you want to share costs, one reliable way to find a co-pilot is the Drive Less Connect tool, a free ridesharing website. Signing up with your PSU email confers the added benefit of access to a PSU-only rideshare community.

You don’t even need your own car to drive to campus. Car2Go is pretty dang popular all over Portland, and has a one-time registration fee of $35. After that, you just pay for the time spent driving. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can hop in a tiny, bubble-sized electric car and zip wherever you need to go. If you can find a parking spot with more than a 1-hour time limit, you can leave your li’l go-cart there, guilt free. It seems like it should be against the rules, but somehow isn’t.

“If you don’t know, now you know.“ – Notorious BIG

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