How to Get Around Portland in a Wheelchair

Oregon’s largest city, Portland, has long been known as one of the hippest cities in America. True to its reputation, this west coast hotspot is also ahead of the curve when it comes to wheelchair-friendly infrastructure. I just visited Portland a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to get around as a wheelchair user. If you’re thinking of heading to this hip haven, I’ve got a whole heap of transportation tips for you below:

 

Walking and Rolling

Downtown Portland features some of the smoothest curb cuts I’ve ever wheeled over — seriously! The downtown area is easily rollable in good weather and is known for its relatively small city blocks, so I had a truly great time exploring. Situated on the west bank of the Willamette River, downtown Portland is also a pretty scenic place with lots of beautiful bridges. Plus, downtown is the apex of the city’s culture and is where many of Portland’s biggest attractions are located.

Awesome museums, including the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon History Museum, are fixtures of downtown, and there are incredible green spaces to explore too, like Waterfront Park and Director Park. If you’re into fresh eats, downtown is also where you’ll find the famed Portland Farmers’ Market. Yet perhaps the best part about downtown Portland is that it’s easy to get there from wherever you happen to be holed up for the duration of your vacation — I’ll tell you more about all the convenient transport options available below.

wheelchair accessible transportation portland

Wheelchair Accessible Taxis in Portland

 

wheelchair accessible transportation portland taxi

 

Often a preferred mode of transportation for tourists in wheelchairs, accessible taxis are available in Portland and at the airport when you fly in. However, as usual with this convenient option, it’s best to book taxis in advance so you can be sure that you won’t have to wait for one that suits your needs. While I happily encountered an accessible taxi from Broadway Cab after arriving at the airport, you might not be so lucky.

Reserving wheelchair accessible taxis in Portland is really simple, though. Contact the folks at Broadway Cab or Portland Green Cab, another great option, let them know when you need taxi service and they’ll be happy to help you get around their magnificent city. Keep their number in your phone in case you need them on the fly, but if you like to plan in advance, both companies also conveniently allow you the option to book online.

wheelchair accessible transportation portland

Portland City Buses

The TriMet bus system covers the entire city of Portland as well as its numerous suburbs. Convenient and up-to-date, they boast full wheelchair accessibility and a nifty app where you can buy tickets with your cell phone. As with any bus routes in big cities, it can sometimes be confusing to figure out where you’re going. If I use public transportation I always plan my routes in advance, and you can do that here for Portland’s TriMet system.

Alongside a reduced fare for wheelchair riders, buses are all equipped with a power lift or boarding ramp. Most of TriMet’s buses kneel and once you’re aboard, there’s priority seating in the front as well as securement areas for two wheelchairs. If you’re nervous about boarding the bus in your wheelchair, fear not — TriMet has a whole set of crystal clear boarding instructions to make you feel super comfortable taking their buses!

The best part about Portland is the prevalence of public transportation, and the Portland Streetcar is another excellent and fully accessible option. Tickets can be purchased online and in fact must be purchased in advance; routes are available to plan your trips here. You can even buy day passes that are good on both TriMet buses and Portland Streetcars, since the two systems are best used in a complementary fashion. All streetcars feature ramps for boarding, and staff work hard to clear paths in the winter ensuring that snow or ice won’t impede wheelchair users from boarding.

wheelchair accessible transportation portland

MAX Light Rail

 

 

 wheelchair accessible transportation portland

 

The MAX Light Rail is Portland’s classic city train service. All trains have ramps for boarding in a wheelchair, and priority seating is available near the door once you enter the train. The trains don’t have securements for wheelchairs like the buses do, but that’s because the ride is so smooth that they’re unnecessary.

There are some specific procedures you should follow while boarding MAX in a wheelchair: wait for the train near the middle of the platform (but behind the bumpy white tiles), and look for a door with a blue accessibility symbol on it — it’ll be the center set of doors for each traincar. If the driver hasn’t already deployed the ramp, you can do so any time by pressing the blue button on the side of the train. Once you’ve reached your stop and are ready to exit the train, MAX says to “push on the ramp request strip located near the grab bar, or push the blue ramp request button next to the doors.” Once a green light appears, you know that the train operator has received your request and the ramp will be ready when you go to leave the train.

It’s important to note that if you’re staying anywhere on the MAX Light Rail line, you can use it to get from the airport to your hotel! To plan your routes ahead of time, check here to see where else the MAX Light Rail goes.

 

Wheelchair Accessible Rental Vans in Portland

If you’re not into the idea of public transport or would just like another option for getting around Portland, a rental van is always a good bet. I’ve encountered several companies in Portland that offer accessible van rentals, and if you’re looking to use their services, be sure to contact them ahead of time.

Performance Mobility has locations in both west and east Portland and rents out daily, weekly, or long-term. Rentals include 100 free miles per day, and then it’s $0.35 for each additional mile. While they have an entire fleet to choose from, their most common model is a minivan with a low floor and automatic, fold-out ramp.

All In One Mobility also has locations in Portland and Eugene, if you’re looking to explore more of Oregon. One perk of their van rental service is that they offer free airport pick-up and drop-off! Otherwise, they’re located just three miles from the airport. The same as Performance Mobility, All In One offers 100 free miles per day and then it’s $0.35 for each additional mile. Modifications and special equipment are available on request, so be sure to let them know if there’s anything more you need.

Wheelchair Accessible Rental Vans in Portland 

However you choose to get around Portland, this waterfront gem is well worth the visit. A trendy and modern city, it has plenty of awesome attractions and innovative restaurants to explore. Downtown Portland is a vibrant neighborhood that’s easy to explore on wheels, and the city’s public transportation infrastructure is well-suited for wheelchair users to get from place to place with little difficulty.

wheelchair accessible transportation portland

wheelchair accessible transportation portland

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