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How to Use the MAX Light Rail Service in Portland, Oregon

Updated on February 12, 2013

The light rail system in Portland is used by thousands of travelers year round. Where the light rail system stops, the bus system continues. If you prefer, you can bring your bike aboard the light rail and bike the rest of your trek.

Here are a few of the subjects that will be covered in this article:

  • What is a light rail system
  • How to use the MAX light rail system
  • How to use the MAX system on your Iphone
  • Light rail station map

What is a light rail system

A light rail system like Portland's MAX system is a smaller, lighter, system that travels at a slower pace, in doing so, it avoids a plethora of rules and regulations that govern these and other rail systems in the country. The faster and heavier rail systems are rightfully called 'heavy rail' systems. A street-car version of the light rail system actually travels on the road alongside cars, bikers, and pedestrians.

It is not uncommon to see a person that will take the light rail system - or as we call it in Portland, the MAX - then take a street car or bus a little further to his destination, and ride his bike the rest of the way in.


How to use the MAX light rail system

The MAX light rail passes approximately every 15 minutes - but times may vary during the early morning times, holidays, and weather permitting. Purchase your tickets before boarding the MAX. Signs at each station will tell you where to stand for each route. You will be able to identify the destination of the rail cars by the front window. When the rail arrives, stay back, the doors will open automatically, and the MAX will stop at every station so there is no need to ring a buzzer or pull a cord.

Stay off the tracks when a MAX rail is approaching, and do not ride your bikes on the platform.

Basically, there are four color coded rails that over-lap each other throughout the City Center, and reach into more distant cities and public destinations:

  • Blue line
  • Red line
  • Green line
  • Yellow line

Blue line
These particular MAX rail cars will pass through Gresham, City Center, and Hillsboro.

Red line
The Red line will travel from the Airport PDX, City Center, to Beaverton.

Green line
The Green line will travel from Clackamas, City Center, and on to Portland State University (PSU).

Yellow line
The Yellow line travels from the Expo Center, City Center, and on to PSU.


How often do your ride the MAX?

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Light Rail Station Map

Self explanatory map above lists the area that each color coded rail cars destinations will cover. The map covers practically all of Portland and outlying cities. There are MAX stations listed, and there are parking areas that are free for MAX rail riders near almost every major station.

The map listed also shows the routes that street cars cover so you can plan your trip to almost any area in Portland.

For MAX arrival times you can call this number: 503-238-RIDE

The TriMet App available from your App Store.
The TriMet App available from your App Store. | Source

How to use the MAX system on your iPhone

Search your App Store for the app under Portland Oregon Tri Met. You should be able to download it for free. As soon as you have it down loaded, you can access information on all of TriMets services. You can utilize the app to find out what color lines will travel to what part of the city. You will also be able to check bus routes, street car routes and time schedules for each.

Your app will also provide you with fare information for each service, and go into greater detail as to the time limits for certain fare tickets, and information as far as Honored citizens and students. You can even scan your ticket using your iPhone for ease of use.


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