How to pay for your rides on Trimet

I love mass transit, and Trimet gets me where I want to go in Portland, Oregon! The payment options have been changing, so here’s an update on the current situation.

Portland’s mass transit is straightforward to ride. You can pay with cash as you get onto buses, but you need to buy your fare before you get onto the light-rail trains (MAX). Fare info is here on the Trimet website.
If you want to plan further ahead, we now have Hop Fastpass. You can buy a Hop card at the kiosks at the light-rail stations, online, at a wide variety of stores, and at the Trimet offices in Pioneer Square. You can also set up a phone application to pay for your fare.
Using your Hop Card: tap your card or phone at the pad when you get onto the bus or onto the light-rail platform. You do not need to tap when you get off. There are some great perks for doing this:
  • if you ride twice in a day, you have an all-day pass (this used to drive me crazy when I wasn’t sure how many rides I’d take in a day)
  • if you spend $100 in a calendar month, you have a monthly pass
  • you can register your card in case you lose it
  • you can set your card to autoload so you always have a fare
There is a non-Hop card option for your phone as well. For this, you need to activate your fare before getting onto the bus or the train. Show the activated fare to the bus driver when you get onto the bus. For MAX, you only need to show your fare when requested by a fare inspector.
The lightrail system (MAX) first started to be built out in the 1980s, and none of the stations have turnstiles for fares. This means that we’re on the honor system to pay for our rides. Please pay for your ride! There’s all sorts of great Trimet and mass transit history info on in the Trimet history section of their website.
Trimet has all sorts of things that make me happy, but recently I’ve been appreciating the music lyrics on the front of the buses on the bike racks — keep an eye out!

How to use Biketown, Portland’s bikeshare

Besides walking and taking public transportation (Trimet), using Biketown bike share (external link) has become one of my favorite ways to get around town. Biketown combines the speed of the bus with the individualistic pleasure of walking. And unlike riding my own bike, I don’t need to remember to start my day with a bicycle or worry about someone stealing my bicycle.
The big orange bicycles are a pleasure to ride on flatter roads, with an upright stance and smooth glide over (most) bumps in the road.
Biketown has worked hard to create an inclusive bike share program, including Biketown for All with adaptive and e-bikes, as well as subsidies for lower-income Portlanders. Their staff has always helped with any random questions I’ve thrown their way, including when they are doing maintenance on the bikes.

How to get started

  1. Create an account on their website. Get an annual membership if you can afford the price. It’s currently $99 for a year that includes 90 minutes of free rides a day (XX cents a minute after that). There are often $20 discounts running, so keep an eye out for those! If you have a lower income, there are subsidies available.
    1. The other great benefit to an annual membership is that you can park your bike anywhere within the Biketown.
  2. Create a PIN. Create a PIN that only includes two numbers. This slightly horrifies me since I spend a fair bit of time thinking about security. But the keypads on the orange bikes are the most challenging part of Biketown, and you only want to have to hit the keys a minimal amount. Additionally, the worst that will happen is that someone will steal your account number and go for a joyride on your account. You’ll get a notice on your phone and you can shut down that poor person from any further rides.
    1. I suggest the pattern of one unique digit and then picking a second unique digit for the second through fourth position in your PIN. You may end up with a bike that doesn’t like one of the numbers you picked, but you’d have that issue whether you used that number once or three times.
    2. Note: the keypads are getting replaced (yay!), but as of October 2018, still need to be fully swapped out. If these keypads work better, consider switching your PIN to a more random number.
  3. Install the app on your phone if you haven’t already.
  4. Get an account card. You want to get an account card so that you don’t have to wrestle with the keypads on the bikes to enter your account number. Stations that have the little wireless icon goober will let you print out a plastic id card:

Ready to ride: handkerchiefs, helmets and safety notes

I like having a handkerchief with me in general — it’s just handy. I’ve also felt rather clever when it has been a bit wet and then I want to ride an orange bike. I can easily dry the seat off with my cloth handkerchief (some of which used to be my grandfather’s…awww….)
I’m a big believer in helmets because I am not the most coordinated person. Plus my brain doesn’t need to be knocked around — it’s already losing its marbles. I have an orange helmet that I keep at work to use with Biketown. However, I also ride just as frequently without a helmet. Some of this is because I like routes where I’m relatively protected from big dangerous cars. And I’m also pretty comfortable on the orange bikes by now.
That being said, if you’re diving into using Biketown for the first time, you might want to carry a bike helmet for some extra brain protection.
My other safety consideration has been to throw an extra bike light in my bag if I think I might ride a bike later at night. They do have lights on the front under the basket, but they aren’t the brightest.

How to find a Biketown bike

You can be opportunistic and see if you can spot one as you walk to your destination, walk to a bike station corral , or use the map on the Biketown website or in the phone app.
Bikes can also be reserved ahead of time for ten minutes, but note that you will be charged for the amount of time that the bike is reserved, whether you check out the bike or not.

Checking out a bike

  1. Make sure the bike has air in its tires.
  2. Hit some keypad numbers to wake up the bike, but I’m not sure that is actually needed.
  3. Hold your Biketown card patiently over the keypad (sometimes 10-20 seconds) until the keypad asks for your PIN.
  4. Adjust the seat if necessary.

Riding tips

The bicycles have instructions on both the screens on the back of the bikes and in the baskets. They are good tips!
My key suggestions:
  • When shifting, don’t pedal. Totally backwards from what a lot of us learned to do, but the poor gears grind out terribly if you are pedaling hard when shifting.
  • Don’t ride on the sidewalk downtown. Yield to pedestrians when riding on the sidewalk outside of downtown.
  • Do it three times before giving up on Biketown.

Also, these bikes are much, much heavier than any bicycle I have previously owned. This is great for riding smoothly, but can be an unexpected challenge on hills or if your parking efforts.

Bike parking

There are two other areas where you can park your bike anywhere: Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) dockless “Superhub” area and Portland State University (PSU).
Otherwise, you need to park at a Biketown station. Many of these are starting to be regular bike corrals (versus the orange “i” Biketown stations). If you don’t, you may be charged extra.
Anywhere inside the boundaries if you have an annual membership! There is a map online and in the phone app of the boundaries. You are supposed to lock the bike to an official bike rack, but I have seen all sorts of creative alternatives. Try to avoid these if you can since it can cause issues with the bicycles being kept safe.
Locking the bikes is pretty straightforward, but still occasionally I have trouble getting the lock and holes to line up. Special bike racks can cause unexpected problems — and be thoughtful about leaving room for other bicycles to also use the racks.

Earning credits

In the phone app (but not on the website map), you can see bike stations/corrals that will give you a dollar credit if you return a bicycle to that location. Help distribute bikes AND earn your membership!

A few other observations

A note on Bike(y)town

I like to call our bike share Bikeytown. Or the orange bikes. As in, I’m taking a Bikeytown orange bike to get to my appointment. I’m not sure how the Biketown marketers feel about this, but it makes me happy! Bikey fun good times!

Stash tea — a Portland institution

Portland is a city with wonderful tea. While our beloved Steve Smith has died and moved onto the great tea tasting room in the sky, there continue to be many wonderful options for tea in Portland.

Having grown up in Portland, I have a soft spot in my heart for Stash Tea. They have been around since 1972 (older than me!) and now have their headquarters south of Portland in Tigard. Their company story is really fun to visit — and most grocery stores in Portland carry their teas. Their bagged teas are always solid and dependable, and their loose-leaf is delicious.

You can also purchase their teas on Amazon! I’m particularly partial to their lemon ginger for a non-caffeinated tea option.

Biketown: a month of freedom!

Portland’s bikeshare, Bike(y)town, is doing two awesome things in the month of May.

  1. You can ride an orange bike for up to 90 minutes a day for free.
  2. You can lock the bikes at any bike rack/staple within the bike share boundaries — you do not need to lock the bike to an orange station rack/dock.

Official details here on the Biketown FAQ site.

Free rides

This is great! Enjoy! You’ll want to create an account so that you can enter your account number/PIN and go! If you just want to try it out, set yourself up as a “single ride” account.

When I did this for my partner, I had to enter a credit card and I purchased a $2.50 credit. It wasn’t clear to me if there was a way to do create an account with no purchase. This was also right at the beginning of May and maybe they’ve smoothed the kinks since then.

Dockless bike parking

I’m really enjoying this one! I can park about a block from my house rather than 6-8 blocks away. Pretty sweet. I’ve been jealous of the Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) dockless “Superhub” area, so this is super convenient.

I figure this also lays down a desire trail to have bike parking closer to where I live (and maybe push the boundary area further east).

Theories on why

  1. Fend off dockless bike share
  2. Gain data about where people would really like ride and what happens when lots and lots of people are riding the bikes

A few other observations

We have adaptive bikeshare! These are also free in May!

Biketown for All: discounted memberships for Portlanders living on low incomes.

Ready to ride: handkerchiefs, helmets and safety notes

I like having a handkerchief with me in general — it’s just handy. I’ve also felt rather clever when it has been a bit wet and then I want to ride an orange bike. I can easily dry the seat off with my cloth handkerchief (some of which used to be my grandfather’s…aw….)

I’m a big believer in helmets because I am not the most coordinated person. Plus my brain doesn’t need to be knocked around — it’s already losing its marbles. I have an orange helmet that I keep at work to use with Biketown. However, I also ride just as frequently without a helmet. Some of this is because I like routes where I’m relatively protected from big dangerous cars. And I’m also pretty comfortable on the orange bikes by now.

That being said, if you’re diving into using Biketown for the first time, you might want to carry a bike helmet for some extra brain protection.

My other safety consideration has been to throw an extra bike light in my bag if I think I might ride a bike later a night. They do have lights on the front under the basket, but they aren’t the brightest.

Designs!

While most of the bikes are orange, there are also some interesting additional designs: shoe-inspired visuals and others from Nike and our new community designs.

A note on Bike(y)town

I like to call our bike share Bikeytown. Or the orange bikes. As in, I’m taking a Bikeytown orange bike to get to my appointment. I’m not sure how the Biketown marketers feel about this, but it makes me happy! Bikey fun good times!

Grain & Gristle: my favorite restaurant

I feel a little wild, saying that I have a favorite restaurant. There are so many wonderful ones in Portland and I love so many of them.

But I’m going to go out on a limb (for me) and state my favorite. I love Grain & Gristle the most. The space is small and cozy. The staff is friendly without being smarmy or condescending. There are no televisions. The drinks are great: house wine never disappoints, cocktails are scrumptious, and they serve my favorite local brewery (Upright Brewing — deserving of their own post).

The food is delicious. The burger is fabulous. The mussels slay me. The “two-fer” is a great and amazing deal. I love pickles.

I believe dessert is also great, but I’m usually too full to order any.

They are on my bus line: #8.

Grain & Gristle is in NE Portland at 15th & NE Prescott. You can make reservations on Open Table.

Woodblock Chocolate: oh, when will you open!?! – updated

The chocolate manufactory I just discovered I needed.

Updated: Woodblock Chocolate is open and is delicious!

Look what I just discovered in my neighborhood: our very own chocolate manufactory (best word ever): Woodblock Chocolate. Now, admittedly, there are other chocolate shops very, very close by (Creo Chocolate, Alma Chocolate, Missionary Chocolates), so it is not that I am deprived of chocolate (and we shall not speak of 180 Xurros — the most dangerous siren call of all).

But I stumbled across this beauty all on my own, without any warning. I cannot wait for them to open… But when will they open?!?

New Years Resolutions 2016

Well, 2015 received NO love from me on this website. Portland has been so over-hyped recently, I didn’t really have much motivation to fan the flames. But now we’re into 2016, when I guess we can have a clean start? I dunno.

In any case, 2016 shall receive at least as many posts as 2015.

Resolutions:

  1. I’m more than a third of the way through my Hale Pele rum tasting, so hopefully by next year, I’ll be down to the last third.
  2. I’m going to stop eating dessert when I go out to dinner unless I didn’t actually eat much dinner. I’ve been getting uncomfortably full. If I want dessert, I will go out specifically to have dessert.