The cost of parking in and around downtown Portland is prohibitive if you are a cash-strapped student struggling just to keep your head above water until your time at Portland State is complete. Then there are those who do not even own a vehicle. How ever will frugal or poor people find passage from their home to PSU and back? Never fear, PSU boasts many transportation options for the economically-challenged student.
First, let’s talk about TriMet. TriMet is our regional transit agency tasked with ensuring that Portlanders can get from one place to another, in Portland and beyond, without a vehicle. While a day pass on TriMet will cost you an unreasonable $5, your best bet will be to purchase a PSU FlexPass. This subsidized quarterly pass will save you $30 a month as a result of not having to pay the full $100 TriMet charges for a monthly pass.
While TriMet has scaled back their bus service in recent years, they can still get you to and from most corners of the city, as well as the suburbs (Hillsboro, Gresham, etc.). And lucky for students, most of the buses end up downtown at some point in their trip.
The MAX trains cover many similar areas. TriMet runs different lines that extend to Gresham, Hillsboro, Beaverton and Clackamas, as well as the airport. With the MAX, all roads lead to downtown. Better still, the Yellow and Green lines lead directly to PSU. If you are looking for convenience, then keep those two colors in mind when making housing arrangements for the school year.
If you are disabled and worried about accessibility, then you can rest assured TriMet has you covered. All of their buses and trains are wheelchair accessible and offer priority seating up front for those who need it. If for some reason you are medically unable to make it to a bus or MAX stop, then TriMet’s LIFT Paratransit Service has you covered. According to TriMet.org, LIFT buses will pick you up and drop you off anywhere within three-fourths of a mile outside of TriMet’s boundary from 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. seven days a week. At $74 a month, LIFT passes are fairly reasonable.
Next, we have the Portland Streetcar. While it is free for PSU students, you should remember to bring your student ID with you in case you are accosted by one of their overzealous fare surveyors. I call them surveyors and not inspectors because they are not police and cannot cite you. But they can shake their clipboard at you as they berate you for your apparent moral turpitude. Make it easy for everyone and carry your student ID.
The streetcar runs from the South Waterfront through Portland State, travels a few blocks west of Pioneer Square, past Powell’s Books and—depending on whether you are on the CL line or the NS line—will take you either through the Pearl District and to the very entertaining Northwest 23rd Avenue, or past Lloyd Center to the Convention Center and all the way to OMSI. These are all fairly desirable places to live. Naturally, if you are worried about transportation costs, then move near one of the aforementioned landmarks or areas and you will be entitled to free streetcar transportation for as long as you are a student at PSU.
Have a bicycle? Portland didn’t paint green boxes on its roads for nothing. These are for you! Get out there and use them! PSU also offers a unique safety feature for bicyclists. The parked cars on Broadway are situated one lane out; this creates a buffer for bicyclists to rely on when riding hastily and perhaps haphazardly to class. Bicyclists do not have to worry about getting clipped by a moving car, they just have to worry about cars at intersections and other bicyclists or pedestrians who might also be in the bicycle lane.
If you are chronically broke and are worried about transportation options while attending PSU, you can relax. As you can see, there are plenty of options that are more affordable than paying for gasoline, parking and repairs. If you can afford a car, good luck making it to class on time in all the traffic resulting from Portland’s transformation into a hipster Mecca. For everyone else, there is public transportation and biking to save the day.