Orange you glad it isn’t just another bus line?

The new light rail crosses the Tilikum Bridge over the Willamette River, connecting SE to Downtown Portland. (Photo by Madison Barnard)

Q&A about the New Orange Line, the Tilikum Bridge, and where it all can take you


PORTLAND’S famed public transportation corporation, Trimet, has done it again, finishing the latest installment to their ever-expanding service line. The MAX Orange line officially opened for service on Sept. 12, becoming the first MAX line to enter Southeast Portland and provide service as far south as Milwaukie, which is the city directly southeast of Portland. Trimet estimates that the new line will have as many as 30,000 daily riders by 2030. Also marking the day was the opening of Portland’s newest bridge, the Tilikum Crossing. This brand new bridge is the first to be built since the Fremont Bridge began welcoming traffic in 1973. What’s more, the Tilikum Crossing is the only bridge in Portland to allow pedestrian, bike and public transit traffic only — no murderous drivers allowed!

This is great news for cyclists looking for a safe and easy way to get between downtown and Southeast Portland, although some critics have pointed out that’s only if you’re already on the south waterfront. The bridge itself goes between the OHSU condominiums and the Ross Island Industrial area, which both happen to be out of the way for most central Southeast commuters. Using the overcrowded Hawthorne bridge for biking across the river can be a challenge though, and hopefully this alternative route will alleviate some of the traffic strain. For those going between Downtown and the southern neighborhoods of Portland, such as Woodstock, Sellwood and Milwaukie, the Tilikum Crossing could be very beneficial. More importantly, the new Orange Line provides better access for Lewis & Clark students looking to explore new neighborhoods more easily.

Where does it go?

The Orange Line connects downtown Portland directly with Southeast Portland and the suburb of Milwaukie. The streetcar goes from Downtown Portland and back north along the Eastside waterfront. LC students can catch the Orange Line by getting off the Pioneer Express (Pio) and walking 3 blocks south to the 5th and Jefferson MAX stop. An adult pass only costs $2.50, and can buy you hours of fun, as far as fun to hours go, that’s a fantastic ratio.

So this is just a new bridge and MAX line?

The Orange Line doesn’t just mean MAX. The streetcar now makes a complete circle around the Portland waterfront, going north and south along Grand St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There are a ton of trendy shops, restaurants and bars (for the Pio-population who happens to be 21+) all along these streets that the streetcar passes directly by. The streetcar is easier and faster than buses, with less stress, and has more stops than your average MAX line. Each line is color coated in the same way certain subway systems are, plus it’s the closest thing we have to a European trolley and that’s pretty cool.

I have a BMW, so why does this concern me?

The sad truth is even the fanciest- shmanciest of sports cars won’t save you from the deathtrap that is Portland traffic. During rush hour if you want to go anywhere in Southeast, then you can either ruin your day in a vehicle or take fun public transit. Additionally, if your Reed, Southeast, or Sellwood party group doesn’t feel like choosing a designated driver or paying for an Uber, just hop on the Pio and transfer to the Orange line downtown. And afterward, the trip home is easy enough.

How’s the view from the ride?

The most important part, the new and shiny Tilikum Crossing, has a great view of the Willamette. You can see OMSI’s submarine, the south waterfront beaches (complete with killer geese), dragon boats and kayaks, and all of the suckers stuck in traffic on the Marquam Bridge right next door. The line itself meets up with the major train tracks heading south through Portland. Because of this the view from the MAX becomes a little disappointingly industrial at times, but is there any part of Portland that is actually unattractive? While you’re cruising through, check out the newly remodeled Trimet headquarters in the Brooklyn neighborhood (bonus points if you get off and explore Milwaukie Avenue as you head south into Sellwood). Admire the tree-lined beauty of the East and West Moreland neighborhoods, and use the Southeast Bybee Stop for your closest access to the Reed Campus and surrounding area. Ride the line all the way to Milwaukie for a fun day of exploring the infamous Goodwill Bins, enjoying the Milwaukie farmer’s market, or checking out the downtown area full of cafes, boutiques and coffee shops.

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