I frequently get emails asking about the public transportation options for getting to downtown Portland from PDX and vice versa. So I thought I would list out what options are available but also expand on it to include shuttles to central Oregon and Eugene.
Options to Downtown
The MAX is a train that services certain parts of Portland and surrounding suburbs including Hilsboro, Beaverton, Gresham, and Clackamas. The redline MAX runs between Beaverton and the PDX with stops in Downtown Portland. A one-way ticket will cost you $2.50. The train takes about 45 minutes to go from downtown to PDX. I think this is a great option and should probably your first choice. However, there are two situations in which I would not recommend the MAX. First, if you are a heavy packer you may want to consider another option. Carrying a lot of bags onto the train, especially if it is crowded, can be inconvenient. The second situation where I would suggest another option is if you will be on the train late at night. The Redline MAX runs through some less savory parts of town. During the day, things are completely safe, and frankly 9 times out of 10 so is the nighttime. That being said, we do have problems on the train so if it were me I would avoid it at night.
Blue Star Shuttle:
This is a shuttle service that serves almost all of the hotels in downtown. The shuttle is $14 person and makes scheduled stops at the Benson, Marriott City Center, Hilton, and Marriott Waterfront. If you are stopping at one of these hotels no reservation is needed. The shuttle serves other hotels downtown, but you will need to make a reservation if you want to be picked up or dropped off at a different downtown hotel.
Portland has a handful of taxi companies but by far the two most popular and most reliable are Radio Cab and Broadway Cab. A taxi from downtown to PDX is about $35 on a metered fare. However, Radio Cab offers a fixed rate of $31 from downtown to PDX. Another taxi company, Green Cab, also offers a fixed rate fare of $30 from downtown to PDX. If you are departing from PDX to downtown add $2.50 to the fares mentioned above thanks to an airport surcharge.
Suburbs to PDX and Sort of in the City
Uber has just launched in the Portland Metro Area suburbs. Unfortunately, you still cannot order an Uber ride within city limits. However, Uber can drop you off inside the city from a ride originating in a suburb. This is probably one of the cheapest options for transportation to PDX from a suburb. This is even cheaper if you use my referral link which will give you a $15 credit on your first ride. If you don’t know what Uber is I explain it here. Update: As of 12/5/14 Uber started operating in Portland. The fun part is that they are doing so without the city’s permission. I encourage you to order a ride with Uber. Hopefully when the city sees how popular it is they will allow it to operate. Competition is good for the consumer, especially in Portland’s taxi market.
Update 2: Uber is now fully operational within Portland city limits and beyond into the metro area. Uber is my go to option for taxi rides. The $15 credit for first time use also makes it a good budget option to get to and from the airport.
Shuttle to Central Oregon
Central Oregon Breeze:
The Breeze has a shuttle that runs between Portland, Redmond and Bend. The fare is pretty reasonable at $49 one-way or $88 roundtrip. Although, unless you will be staying with friends or plan on renting a car in Central Oregon instead of the airport I would suggest renting a car. There is just way too much to see and do in central Oregon that you will miss without a car. Reservations are required.
Shuttle to Salem and Eugene
The HUT shuttle runs down the I-5 corridor with stops in Woodburn, Salem, Albany, Corvallis and Eugene. Rates range from $30 to $59 depending on which city you want to stop at. Eugene and Salem both have pretty good public transportation. If you are not planning any day trips from those locations you could probably get by without renting a car and using the shuttle if you so desire. Reservations are required.