GREETINGS, NEWCOMER! Like most of us, you're probably incapable of teleportation, astral projection, or Superman-style flight. Given that, you need a way to get around Portland. Here are the basics:
• The bus system can get you basically everywhere in the metro area with a certain degree of reliability. Download PDX Bus and the TriMet ticket app for your phone.
• The MAX (AKA the light rail, or the Metropolitan Area Express—and yes, we should've called it the "MAE," but whatever, X is a cooler letter than E) is great, but limited. It will take you downtown and to the hinterlands, but won't deliver you to deep Southeast Portland (say Division/Foster/Powell), which has no shortage of worthwhile bars, venues, and neighborhoods.
• You'll have nights where the evening gets away from you, and you'll need a way to drag your ass home after the buses stop. If/when that happens, you'll have to summon a car. If you take Uber, I will judge you. Uber has an ugly recent history with the city government, and plenty of locals will give you loads of passive-aggressive side-eye if you use it. No one has strong feelings about Lyft. Take Lyft if you feel like it. If you take Radio Cab, though, you will have fully integrated yourself into Portland culture, and we will heartily accept you as a member of the tribe.
• Buy a bike. You may be tempted to get a cruiser or a mountain bike, imagining either easy Sunday rides or rough mountain trail biking. Your commutes in Portland will resemble neither of these things. The thing you ride to events, bars, parties, work should be a basic road bike. Don't go too fancy. A high-end bike will probably get swiped, so go for something ordinary looking that won't catch the eye of thieves. Also invest in a U-lock. Anything else is an invitation to theft.
• Invest in rain gear, and wear a helmet. You will look like a dork, but we all look like dorks with helmets and rain gear. No one will shame you. There is a tacit, unspoken agreement that if everyone looks dorky, no one does.
• Learn the bike routes. Familiarize yourself with the bike-friendly streets (as well as unfriendly ones, see pg. 21). Don't ride on arterial streets like SE Hawthorne or Foster, unless you enjoy the sensation of motorists hating you.
• When biking or busing, you'll notice that it's much easier to travel east to west than north to south. This the result of all kinds of things, such as land claims that were platted by lots of different dudes in the 1800s, the layout of the bus routes in the 1970s, and the fact that, historically, most commuters flowed from neighborhoods to downtown and back. It's a lot easier to bike from Foster-Powell to downtown than from Foster-Powell to Hollywood, for instance. That's just something you'll have to live with like the rest of us.
• If you are truly desperate, you can also get a car. Drivers here are polite to the point of aggravation. You will be be tempted to honk. Do not. By honking, you will mark yourself as an outsider, and everyone will think you're an asshole. You will instead, sit behind your wheel, move slowly, fume impotently, and endure it.
More Newcomers' Guide Articles:
Welcome to Portland!
Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain!
A Portlander's Pronunciation Guide
A Newcomers' Guide to Making Friends
Portland Free Stuff
Getting Around Town
Finding a Place to Live
How to Apologize for Moving to Portland
Bicycle Death Traps
Portland History 101
Portland Myth Bustin'!
Portland Tourist Traps