PORTLAND

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Portland, “the City of Roses”, is the largest city in Oregon and the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest after Seattle. It lies about 70 mi (124 km) from the Pacific Coast on the northern border of the state of Oregon, straddling the Willamette (pronounced will-AM-et) River 12 mi (19 km) south of its confluence with the Columbia River. Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with Vancouver, Canada) is a Portland suburb and lies immediately on the other side of the Columbia River. About 50 mi (80 km) to the east lies Mount Hood, which forms the perfect backdrop for Portland’s skyline. The city is noted for its scenic beauty, great outdoors environment, a large number of microbreweries, and its eco-friendly urban planning policies.
Climate
Climate
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Daily highs (°F)
45
50
56
61
68
73
80
79
74
64
52
46
Nightly lows (°F)
34
36
39
42
48
53
57
57
52
46
40
36
Precipitation (in)
5.4
4.1
3.7
2.5
2.0
1.6
0.5
0.9
1.6
3.1
5.5
6.5

Check Portland’s 7 day forecast at NOAA
As in other places in the Pacific Northwest, there is abundant rainfall in the fall, winter, and spring. The rain is often a menacing drizzle or mist, meaning you’ll often be wet; total precipitation in Seattle and Portland is technically less than many east coast and southeastern cities because there are fewer downpours, instead the rain opts for a near constant drizzle. A sunny day in the rainy season can seem to be very rare, and Portlanders have the unusual habit of wearing shorts and flip-flops the minute the sun comes out, even if the temperature is barely above freezing. Portland has very little snow, instead the winters are very rainy. Bring or buy an umbrella if you’re in Portland between October and June. However, it is no myth that a large portion of “Portlanders” don’t use, or even believe in, umbrellas, instead preferring hoods and raincoats.
It’s worth mentioning that there are really only two seasons in the Portland area – rain and summer. The rain and clouds typically last 9 months, from late September often until late June, then suddenly the clouds clear and it is hot and sunny. There is not really a gradual increase in temperatures, it’s basically either 48°F (9°C) degrees and raining, or 85°F (29°C) and sunny. Prospective visitors who don’t care for rain should be aware that Portland summers, although short, are quite pleasant – July through September have only a 10% chance of rain on any given day, temperatures rarely exceed 85°F (29°C) degrees or so, and local produce (including fresh sweet cherries and some of the world’s best berries) is available at farmers’ markets and fruit stands in and around the city. July and August are typically the hottest months, temperatures occasionally hit 100°F (38°C) or more.
Get around
Basic road map of Portland; click to enlarge
Downtown Portland map
Portland is an easy city to bike, walk or use public transport. However there are topographical features that affect how streets and roads flow, so planning and maps are important for any journey of more than a few blocks. The verdant West Hills slope up from downtown and divide it from the suburbs of Beaverton, Hillsboro and others.
Much of Portland is a grid, and fairly easy to navigate. Portland is divided into five sectors, sometimes referred to oxymoronically as the “five quadrants”. These quadrants are roughly divided by Burnside Street between north/south and the Willamette River between east/west, with a fifth sector (North) between the Willamette River and Williams Avenue. If you hear Portlanders talking about Southwest or Northeast, they’re probably talking about a sector of the town rather than Arizona or Massachusetts.
  • SW – South of Burnside and west of the Willamette River, this sector includes the downtown core.
  • SE – South of Burnside and east of the Willamette River.
  • NE – North of Burnside and east of Williams Avenue.
  • N – North of Burnside, east of the Willamette River and west of Williams Avenue.
  • NW – North of Burnside and west of the Willamette River, this sector is immediately north of downtown and includes the Pearl District, Old Town, and the Northwest district.
All Portland addresses contain their designating sector inserted between house number and street name (i.e. 3719 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) The house address numbers increase 100 per block starting from Burnside Street or the Willamette River. This should make it easier to figure out where things are. In general, East/West streets are named while North/South avenues are numbered. An exception is North Portland where North/South avenues are also named. On the West side, some streets and arterial roads follow a North/South grid, others follow the topography and curve a great deal. There are major arterials that cross town in NE/SW or NW/SE orientation including Sandy Boulevard, and Foster Road on the East side, and Barbur Blvd on the SW. The streets of inner Northwest Portland are arranged alphabetically starting with Burnside, followed by Couch, then Davis, etc. through NW Vaughn Street making directions easy to follow here.
Driving around downtown is not recommended: inconvenient, expensive and hard-to-find parking combined with active parking meter enforcement (8AM-7PM) and non-intuitive street closures, transit malls and restrictions make it frustrating–even for locals. Most people can walk from one end of downtown to the other in 15 min—-faster than driving at times.
Be aware that most of the the city (and everything near downtown) is along the northerly flowing Willamette River, and not the much larger Columbia which flows west. However, the airport and Portland’s northern neighbor, Vancouver, Washington is next to the Columbia. If you confuse the two rivers, you can easily mix up your bearings. As the Willamette River can be hard to spot on a map of Oregon, many newcomers mistakenly think Portland is along the nearby Columbia.
Cars can be rented throughout the city and at the airport. Additionally, car-sharing services available in Portland include car2go and Zipcar.
On foot
Portland is a great city for walking. Many intersections are designed with pedestrians in mind, and Portland has a lot of street life. Good mass transit also makes walking more feasible in Portland. The City of Portland Office of Transportation offers free, highly detailed walking maps that may be ordered online. For a scenic walk, the Eastside Esplanade along the Willamette River across from downtown offers lovely views of the skyline. Parts of the esplanade actually float on the water.
By bike
Portland is an excellent city for cycling, with a network of streets designed to be predominantly used by bicyclists. These streets, such as SE Ankeny, SE Salmon, SE Lincoln, and SE Clinton, are usually spaced about halfway between the main car thoroughfares in the grid of East Portland. The bike streets are generally signed with green “Bike Route” signs. Additionally, many major streets have striped bike lanes. Maps of bike trails can be obtained from Metro, in the Bike There! section. Bikes can also be taken on all buses and MAX lines. The City of Portland Office of Transportation has a bicycle rental webpage.
By public transit
MAX Light Rail train
TriMet maintains bus, streetcar, and MAX light rail throughout the Portland area. There are four MAX Light Rail lines:
  • The Blue Line, which runs from Hillsboro east through Beaverton and downtown to Gresham.
  • The Red Line, which runs from the Portland International Airport to downtown and west on to Beaverton.
  • The Yellow Line, which runs from the Expo Center south to downtown and the Portland State University along N Interstate Ave (Hwy 99W).
  • The Green Line, which runs from Clackamas Town Center north and west to downtown and the Portland State University along I-84 & I-205.
  • The Orange Line, which runs from Amtrak’s Union Station, past OMSI, to the suburb of Milwaukie. In downtown it runs along yellow line tracks so make sure your train goes all the way to your destination!
All of the lines go through the city’s downtown, with the red and blue lines going in a east-west direction and overlapping on Morrison/Yamhill Streets, while the yellow/orange and green lines go in a north-south direction and overlap on the Portland Transit Mall, along 5th/6th Avenues. The light rail lines run every 15 minutes for most of the day, with service every 30 minutes in the wee hours of the night.
In addition, TriMet maintains the Portland Streetcar lines. The NS (North/South) line runs through the downtown area along 10th and 11th Avenues every 13-20 minutes, connecting the Northwest Portland, Pearl District, Downtown, Riverplace, and South Waterfront neighborhoods, plus Portland State University. The CL (Central Loop) line runs along the east side of the Willamette River, primarily on MLK & Grand Avenues (both SE & NE). The CL line crosses the Willamette over the Broadway Bridge. The Tilikum Crossing bridge was completed in 2015, which allows bikes, pedestrians and the streetcar to cross the Willamette near OMSI. Streetcar-only tickets can be purchased via credit card from vending machines at streetcar stops, and in cash from ticket machines onboard the streetcar. A two hour streetcar-only ticket is $2.00, and the $5.00 all day ticket is honored on both the streetcar and all of TriMet.
A two hour TriMet ticket costs $2.50. All-day tickets are $5.00. TriMet Tickets are good on MAX, bus, and streetcar. You can purchase a ticket at any MAX station with card (though you might have to cross to the opposite platform to find a working ticket machine) or with cash when boarding a bus. Bus drivers do not give change. Keep the ticket to show to fare inspectors and as a transfer to other lines. An extensive system map is available for a small cost from the TriMet store in Pioneer Square.
MAX stations are usually unstaffed and there are no ticket barriers. As a result, fare evasion on the MAX is comically easy. Ticket inspections do sometimes happen, however, and they can turn your free ride into a $175 fine.
Crime on the TriMet system is extremely rare. Cell phone chatter (it is illegal in Oregon to use a cell phone while driving), however, is a problem.

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