This is easy in Portland. Portland is a city far ahead of its time in environmental policy. This way of life stretches from green spaces and large sections of untouched land to the way people travel.
Portland gets our vote for best public transportation system in the world. The Max is Portland’s super convenient and efficient rail system. The Max covers an extensive area, including the east and west sides of the city and outlying suburbs, including the airport. You can get to almost all major sites in the city by riding the Max and walking a few blocks (at the most). The website has a trip planner where you can enter your starting point and destination and print out the best route (http://www.trimet.org/).
City dwellers and travelers are encouraged to use the Max through an extensive fare-free zone. This zone includes all of downtown Portland between the Willamette River and I-405, and also includes the Lloyd center on the east side of the city. Beyond this area, tickets are bought and used on the honor system. That’s right, you heard me correctly. You buy your ticket from an electronic ticket vendor at any Max stop for $1.25. There is no one to take your ticket, however. The city of Portland relies on your honesty for ticket sales. What other city could operate on a system like this?? For visitors to the city, the all-day pass is a good option at $3.50 per ticket for unlimited use of all tri-met services. For a 3-day version, you will pay $10 per person.
The Portland Streetcar operates under the umbrella of the Max system. The streetcar is the first modern trolley system in the US. It opened for the first time in the summer of 2002. This is a nice way to step back in time and visit the city. The street car travels between the PSU area (including the Portland Farmers Market) and northwest Portland (NW 23rd Ave. and Washington Park). The fare system is the same as the Max. For a great day utilizing the street car, begin a Saturday morning at the Portland Farmer’s market (South Park blocks, see my other entry) and pick up some local produce, bread, wine, and cheese. Then hop on the street car at the far end of the market and ride to NW 23rd Ave. Spend some time window-shopping and walking here and then hop on the no. 63 bus (or walk about the half a mile up the hill) to Washington Park and the Rose Garden (see my Rose Garden entry for a great picnic location where you can enjoy your farmer’s market meal). The tri-met bus system links to the Max Rail system and offers wonderful service. Buses run about every 15 minutes or less everyday and can get you to just about every location that the Max doesn’t go. The same fare system described above applies to the bus system. On the note of environmentally forward-thinking policies, the city of Portland is one of the few in the process of testing hybrid-electric buses. The company is testing these buses over the next 2 years with the hopes of working them into the mainstream to replace existing buses. For more information on tri-met, including trip planners, maps, and schedules, visit http://www.trimet.org/.
Portland was also the leader in another environmentally friendly form of transportation - the bike share. Around the city of Portland, you will see yellow bikes. These bikes are part of a program run by the Community Cycling Center. Simply hop on a bike (completely free) and ride to your destination. Then leave the bike for the next person to pick up and use. This idea really embodies the spirit of Portland. The system relies on honesty, sharing with others, and living in a way that promotes healthy people and a healthy world. Since Portland initiated this program, other cities such as Toronto have created similar programs. Visit http://communitycyclingcenter.org/ for more information.
For those who must drive to a location, Portland offers a greener option. The flex car company was initiated in the city of Portland and has now spread to several locations throughout the country. Through this company, you can borrow a car from a number of convenient locations, use the car for a few hours, and then return it to a site at your destination. Gas, insurance, and parking are included in the price of $9 an hour. See http://www.flexcar.com/portland/default.asp.
The best way to see the city is via tri-met. But if you want to have use of a car for a short amount of time, a car share is a great idea. On a final note, don’t forget about Portland’s best transportation option - walking. Portland is a wonderful city for walking (try NW 23rd Ave,, NW 21st Ave., or a walk down by the Willamette River - see my other entries).