How to get from Portland Airport to downtown by MAX Light Rail

Portland International Airport (PDX)
Portland International Airport (PDX)

One of the easiest and best ways to reach downtown Portland from Portland International Airport is by taking the MAX Light Rail Red Line. Since opening in 1986, the MAX Light Rail today has 5 color-designated lines and 94 stations. Operated by TriMet, the MAX Red Line connects Port International Airport with downtown Portland in about 40 minutes. Once leaving the airport, the train makes brief stops along the way before passing through downtown Portland. The train then continues on to Beaverton Transit Center to the west of downtown..

For those who are wondering, a Lyft or Uber will cost about $30-$40+ from the airport to downtown Portland, depending on the time of day and traffic. A one-way ticket on the airport train is $2.50. So, if you are traveling alone or with a few people, the train is a great option. If you are traveling in a larger group, an Uber or Lyft might be the better option. This guide will focus on those who choose to take the airport train.

Orientation to Portland International Airport (PDX)

Portland International Airport (IATA: PDX) is an international airport located about 12 miles northeast of downtown Portland. Covering 3,000 acres and with almost 20 million passengers prior to 2020, PDX is the largest airport in Oregon.

The airport consists of one main terminal and four concourses (Concourse B, Concourse C, and Concourse D, Concourse E) with two concourses split on each side of the terminal. Concourse A was closed and demolished in 2019 and subsequently replaced with an expanded Concourse B. Due to construction, the two sides are not connected after security. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 20225.

After arriving at one of the four concourses, passengers will make their way by foot to the main terminal. Once at the main terminal, travelers will find baggage carousels, taxis, ride pickup, rideshare, parking, security checkpoints, restaurants, and access to public transportation.

If you are trying to reach downtown Portland from Portland International Airport, one of your best options is by riding on the MAX Red Line.

Arrival at Portland International Airport

Arriving at Concourse E
Arriving at Concourse E

Welcome to Portland. When you land at Portland International Airport, your plane will arrive at one of three concourses (Concourse B, Concourse C, Concourse D, or Concourse E). Once inside your arrival concourse, your first step will be to follow the signs towards Baggage Claim. This is true for all four concourses.

I arrived at Concourse E on my recent visit to Portland. If you arrive at another concourse, the directions to reach the MAX Light Rail station from your arrival concourse should be similar. Once you are off your plane and in the concourse, follow the signs towards Baggage Claim.

Exit to Baggage Claim
Exit to Baggage Claim

Follow the signs for Transporation.

Portland International Airport Station

Purchasing a ticket for the MAX Light Rail

All riders must hold a valid ticket prior to boarding a train. Those who do not have a reloadable transit card, known as Hop Fastpass, must purchase a ticket. Purchasing a ticket is simple.

Single trip tickets and day passes can be purchased from TriMet MAX Light Rail ticket machines. You can find these ticket machines inside the main level of the arrivals terminal near the exit to the light rail. You will also find more machines outside on the train platform.

Here is how to purchase a ticket using the machines. Fist select Adult, Honorary Citizen, or Youth. Next, select the type of ticket you would like (2.5 hour ticket or 1-day pass). Then, select how many tickets you need (1-6), and finally pay for your fare. All ticket machines accept credit card. Certain machines accept only credit card or debit card. Also, some machines require exact fare if you are paying by cash. These machines will display “Exact fare only on the screen.

As of 2022, MAX Light Rail fares are:

Adult (18-64): $2.50 for 2.5 hour ticket or $5 for 1-day pass
Honored Citizen (65+ or Medicare/disability): $1.25 for 2.5 hour ticket or $2.50 for 1-day pass
Youth (7-17 or high school/GED students): 1.25 for 2.5 hour ticket or $2.50 for 1-day pass
Children (under 6): Free

Boarding MAX Light Rail Train

Riding MAX Light Rail Train

On board MAX Light Rail, Portland, Oregon
On board MAX Light Rail

Once on board the train, you can sit back and relax until you reach your destination. Depending on your stop, the journey to downtown Portland takes about 40 minutes, give or take. The journey to Hunt Valley, the end of the line takes about 80 minutes.

One important thing to note is the lack of luggage storage space or overhead racks on the MAX Light Rail trains. If you are traveling with a standard carry-on suitcase, you should have no trouble finding a place to sit with your bag. If you are traveling with larger luggage, you may need to stand with your bags while the train is moving.

If display is lit, press to open door
If display is lit, press to open door

The doors will open automatically at each stop. If for any reason the door display is lit, press it to open the doors, allowing you to exit the train. Once you have arrived at your MAX Light Rail station at your destination, simply exit the train.

Welcome to Portland.

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