If you’re considering driving in Portland, Oregon, the following tips and tricks will help you get established and give you the confidence you need to hit the road. Follow along with RSG contributor Tim Carter as he teaches you the ins and outs of rideshare driving in Portland.
If you are looking for city driving guides, check out the guides we have below! Want to see your city listed? Email Harry (harry[at]therideshareguy.com) and let him know which cities you’d like to see covered.
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- Best Times to Drive for Uber (any city)
- Top drivers can earn around $25-30/hour
- Is Portland rideshare’s best kept secret? If you remember to “keep Portland weird”
- Want to drive in Portland, OR? Sign up to drive with Uber here
Keeping Rideshare “Weird” with a Complex City Design
After onboarding with Uber and Lyft in the spring of 2019, I quickly realized that the biggest rideshare advantages in Portland could also be its most frustrating setbacks. A compact and densely populated metropolitan area means fewer deadhead miles between passengers. However, ongoing additions of bus and bicycle lanes leading to surface street restrictions and only one major east/west corridor leads to extended pickup times and fewer passengers per hour.
The downtown area of Portland is a maze of one-way streets with a notable lack of safe areas for passenger pick-up. Restaurants during the Covid-19 pandemic established outdoor dining areas that have closed several streets in the popular Pearl District and inner Northeast Portland nightlife areas. Once outside of the downtown area (in almost any direction), surface streets become less restricted and pickup areas become plentiful and convenient.
The most useful tip I give new drivers in Portland is to become familiar with the I-405 freeway that encircles the downtown area. Using I-405 can easily circumvent the confined and stifling inner city grid by transporting you to every side of the inner city via freeway within minutes.
The Mixed Blessing of PDX Airport
If you are an early morning rideshare driver, trips to Portland International Airport will be effortless, efficient, and profitable. As early afternoon approaches, the northbound commute to nearby Vancouver, Washington ramps-up and stays congested until approximately 7:00 pm. PDX lies on the northeast side of Portland, just off the I-205 freeway, and is the last exit before crossing into Washington state.
Trips from downtown Portland to PDX before 2:00 pm are approximately 18 minutes for 13 miles resulting in a $16.00 to $20.00 fare. Airport trips after 3:00 pm present some risks. It’s not unusual to see these trips exceed one hour from almost any side of town. Any closures due to accidents or construction in the inner city affect the ENTIRE city and can drastically reduce your hourly averages. The area surrounding the airport rarely produces productive rides.
Hot Spots, Festival Season, and Blazermania!
Spring and summer are very active in Portland for locals and tourists alike. Spring sees the Japanese Gardens and Washington Park Rose Garden blooming. There is a dedicated Uber / Lyft pick up and drop off zone that provides easy access and departure from Washington Park. The Oregon Zoo and Amphitheater (on the southwest side of Washington Park), also features a dedicated rideshare zone with quick access to HWY 26 leading into downtown.
Just southeast of Washington Park is Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), which is a reliably busy spot for Lyft drivers. OHSU currently subsidizes Lyft rides for many employees. It’s common to get an outbound ride when delivering passengers to OHSU. Parking is easily accessible and traffic is usually light in the area at all times.
Summer brings the Rose Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, and Portland Saturday Market to Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the banks of the Willamette River. The festivals occur concurrently. Saturday Market is a weekends only affair from March 5th through December 24th.
Passengers will often request pickup on SW Naito Parkway which parallels Waterfront Park. SW Naito Pkwy does not have a designated rideshare area and is highly congested with foot traffic. I’ve found it best to reach out to the passenger and meet at the closest side street or safe parking area.
Winter brings sports fans to the Moda Center for Portland Trailblazer NBA basketball. Summer brings MLS soccer fans to Providence Park to see the Portland Timbers. The Moda Center is located in northeast Portland’s Lloyd District. Providence Park is located just south of Portland’s boutique retail district (NW 23rd Ave).
During events, rides (and surge) will be plentiful to and from these venues. Both however, have a discouraging lack of dedicated rideshare zones that can result in long wait times for both passengers and drivers.
Southeast Portland is an eclectic mashup of dive bars, vintage clothing stores, food carts, and everything that gives Portland its unique vibe. Hot spots include SE Hawthorne Blvd, SE Division St, and SE Belmont Ave.
Onboarding with both platforms was extremely easy, and I was active within 72 hours of applying for either. Several tasks I completed through the apps, such as uploading photos of my driver’s license, vehicle insurance and registration, and submitting to a background check.
Once my background was approved, I needed to register for and provide a Portland business license, take a Portland city knowledge test, and undergo a vehicle inspection. I went to Uber’s and Lyft’s respective driver hubs to complete these tasks, which took about an hour each. I was activated the same day. It really was that easy!
- Meet the minimum age to drive in your city
- Have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the US (3 years if you are under 25 years old)
- Have a valid US driver’s license
- Use an eligible 4-door vehicle
- A valid US driver’s license
- Proof of residency in your city, state, or province
- Proof of vehicle insurance if you plan to drive your own car
- A driver profile photo
Until recently, earnings were robust enough to facilitate a full-time income between March and December while driving 40 hours per week. My hourly average is returning to pre-pandemic levels as incentives have substantially decreased and gas prices are hovering around $4 per gallon. If I drive 40 hours, I’m noticing about 20% less income (before fuel and expenses) than I was making during and pre-pandemic. As a result, I’ve recently returned to W-2 employment and use gig work as supplementary income.
Current earnings with reduced incentives average close to $30.00 per hour. Without incentives, about $25.00 per hour. However these averages are with GENEROUS tipping as seen below.
A short time ago, I considered Portland a profitable “little rideshare secret.” But recent changes to incentives, record gas prices, and a return to pre-pandemic traffic congestion have me looking at other gig opportunities.
My advice to anyone considering rideshare in Portland is to make sure you are relatable to the culture of the people in Portland. It will make a huge difference in tips as the people of Portland are passionate and expressive about the city and its future.
Considering driving in Portland? What do you think of these tips?
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-Tim @ RSG