What You Need To Know
Portland is the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. The city covers 145 square miles (380 square kilometers) and had an estimated population of 639,863 in 2016, making it the 26th most populous city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 2,424,955 people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous MSA in the United States. Its Combined Statistical Area (CSA) ranks 18th with a population of 3,160,488. Roughly 60% of Oregon’s population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.
Named after Portland, Maine, the Oregon settlement began to be populated in the 1830s near the end of the Oregon Trail. Its water access provided convenient transportation of goods, and the timber industry was a major force in the city’s early economy. At the turn of the 20th century, the city had a reputation as one of the most dangerous port cities in the world, a hub for organized crime and racketeering. After the city’s economy experienced an industrial boom during World War II, its hard-edged reputation began to dissipate. Beginning in the 1960s, Portland became noted for its growing liberal political values, and the city has earned a reputation as a bastion of counterculture, which proceeded into the 21st century.
The city operates with a commission-based government guided by a mayor and four commissioners as well as Metro, the only directly elected metropolitan planning organization in the United States. The city government is notable for its land-use planning and investment in public transportation. Portland is frequently recognized as one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities because of its high walkability, large community of bicyclists, farm-to-table dining, expansive network of public transportation options, and over 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of public parks. Its climate is marked by warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. This climate is ideal for growing roses, and Portland has been called the “City of Roses” for over a century. “Keep Portland Weird” is an unofficial slogan for the city.
Population: 639 863 (2016)
Area: 145 sq mi (376 km2)
Portland is located 60 miles (97 km) east of the Pacific Ocean at the northern end of Oregon’s most populated region, the Willamette Valley. Downtown Portland straddles the banks of the Willamette River, which flows north through the city center and consequently separates the east and west neighborhoods of the city. Less than 10 miles (16 km) from downtown, the Willamette River flows into the Columbia River, the fourth-largest river in the United States, which divides Oregon from Washington state. Portland is approximately 100 miles (160 km) upriver from the Pacific Ocean on the Columbia.
Portland experiences a temperate climate with both oceanic and Mediterranean features. This climate is characterized by warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. The precipitation pattern is distinctly Mediterranean, with little to no rainfall occurring during the summer months and more than half of annual precipitation falling between November and February. Of the three most populated cities within the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Vancouver and Portland) Portland has the warmest average temperature, the highest number of sunshine hours, and the fewest inches of rainfall and snowfall. According to the Köppen climate classification, Portland falls within the dry-summer mild temperate zone (Csb), also referred to as a warm-summer Mediterranean climate with a USDA Plant Hardiness Zones between 8b and 9a. Other climate systems, such as the Trewartha climate classification, places it within the oceanic zone (Do), like much of the Pacific Northwest and Western Europe.
Portland’s location is beneficial for several industries. Relatively low energy cost, accessible resources, north–south and east–west Interstates, international air terminals, large marine shipping facilities, and both west coast intercontinental railroads are all economic advantages. The U.S. consulting firm Mercer, in a 2009 assessment “conducted to help governments and major companies place employees on international assignments”, ranked Portland 42nd worldwide in quality of living; the survey factored in political stability, personal freedom, sanitation, crime, housing, the natural environment, recreation, banking facilities, availability of consumer goods, education, and public services including transportation. In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. by CBS MoneyWatch.
Legacy Health, a non-profit healthcare system in Portland, operates multiple facilities in the city and surrounding suburbs. These include Legacy Emanuel, founded in 1912, located in Northeast Portland; and Legacy Good Samaritan, founded in 1875, and located in Northwest Portland. Randall’s Children’s Hospital operates at the Legacy Emanuel Campus. Good Samaritan has centers for breast health, cancer, and stroke, and is home to the Legacy Devers Eye Institute, the Legacy Obesity and Diabetes Institute, the Legacy Diabetes and Endocrinology Center, the Legacy Rehabilitation Clinic of Oregon, and the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing.
The Catholic-affiliated Providence Health & Services operates Providence Portland Medical Center in the North Tabor neighborhood of the city. Oregon Health & Science University is a university hospital formed in 1974. The Veterans Affairs Medical Center operates adjacent to the Oregon Health & Science University main campus. Adventist Medical Center also serves the city. Shriners Hospital for Children is a small children’s hospital established in 1923.
The Portland metropolitan area has transportation services common to major U.S. cities, though Oregon’s emphasis on proactive land-use planning and transit-oriented development within the urban growth boundary means that commuters have multiple well-developed options. In 2014, Travel + Leisure magazine rated Portland as the No. 1 most pedestrian and transit-friendly city in the United States. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Portland 12th most walkable of fifty largest U.S. cities.
In 2008, 12.6% of all commutes in Portland were on public transit. TriMet operates most of the region’s buses and the MAX (short for Metropolitan Area Express) light rail system, which connects the city and suburbs. The 1986-opened MAX system has expanded to five lines, with the latest being the Orange Line to Milwaukie, in service as of September 2015. WES Commuter Rail opened in February 2009 in Portland’s western suburbs, linking Beaverton and Wilsonville.
The city-owned Portland Streetcar serves two routes in the Central City – downtown and adjacent districts. The first line, which opened in 2001 and was extended in 2005–2007, operates from the South Waterfront District through Portland State University and north through the West End of downtown, to shopping areas and dense residential districts north and northwest of downtown. The second line opened in 2012 and added 3.3 miles (5.3 km) of tracks on the east side of the Willamette River and across the Broadway Bridge to a connection with the original line. The east-side line completed a loop to the tracks on the west side of the river upon completion of the new Tilikum Crossing in 2015, and, in anticipation of that, had already been named the Central Loop line in 2012. However, it was renamed the Loop Service, with an A Loop (clockwise) and B Loop (counterclockwise), when it became a complete loop with the opening of the Tilikum Crossing bridge.
Fifth and Sixth avenues within downtown comprise the Portland Transit Mall, two streets devoted primarily to bus and light rail traffic with limited automobile access. Opened in 1977 for buses, the transit mall was renovated and rebuilt in 2007–09, with light rail added. Starting in 1975 and lasting nearly four decades, all transit service within downtown Portland was free, the area being known by TriMet as Fareless Square, but a need for minor budget cuts and funding needed for expansion prompted the agency to limit free rides to rail service only in 2010, and subsequently to discontinue the fare-free zone entirely in 2012.