5th and 6th Avenues – Portland Transit Mall: Portland, Oregon


The Portland Transit Mall is a unique 1.2-mile couplet of one-way streets — 5th and 6th Avenues — that lie at the cultural and economic center of Portland. It traverses six districts of downtown Portland including Old Town, Chinatown, and Portland State University, and has 116 block faces housing businesses, hotels, nonprofits, urban housing, and educational institutions.

Designated Area

57 blocks along 5th and 6th Avenues from NW Irving Street to SW Jackson Street.

Portland Mall blocks host a variety of uses after the successful completion of the Portland Mall Revitalization Project. Photo by Bruce Forster.

Planning Excellence

The original mall was a transportation project built in 1978. The idea for the transit mall was born out of Portland's 1972 Downtown Plan. Portland was losing residents, investment, and employment to the suburbs. The plan was simple but firm in its vision — downtown should not be reconfigured to accommodate automobiles, parking should be restricted, transit should be enhanced, and downtown should be a pleasant place to work, live, play, and visit. From this idea, a bold initiative emerged: conversion of the city's prime commercial 5th and 6th Avenues into a pedestrian- and transit-oriented corridor.

The original Portland Mall transformed the perception of downtown with its wide brick sidewalks, majestic trees, and its custom-designed furnishings and amenities.  It became one of the country's most used bus transit corridors and marked a cultural shift in Portland, embracing transit and pedestrian mobility as a lifestyle choice. Over time, the physical attributes of the mall have taken on an iconic status and appear in visitor literature and commercial branding for city center information.

In 2009, the Portland Mall Revitalization Project was completed to preserve and renovate the mall's treasured features yet adapt it for a different, more mature urban population. Improvements included the addition of a light rail alignment along 5th and 6th Avenues. New light rail stations were added and bus stops were repositioned. A through travel lane was integrated into the right-of-way while preserving the wide pedestrian zones. New shelter architecture, signs, seating, and street furnishings were added to refresh and update the original design. The project successfully improved the region's transit core and enhanced vitality along the entire length of 5th and 6th Avenues.

Public art along the transit mall. Photo courtesy City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

Defining Characteristics, Features


  • The Downtown Plan laid the framework for the conversion of 5th and 6th Avenues into the Portland Transit Mall (1972)
  • Portland Transit Mall opened with 22 blocks of 5th and 6th Avenues as a bus transit corridor (1978)
  • Fourteen-block extension was added north to Union Station (1994)
  • Portland Mall Revitalization Project included an 18-block extension south to Portland State University, renovation of existing mall, and addition of light rail (2009)

Economic and Urban Development

  • Block-by-Block Program focused on small-scale, relatively low-cost improvements that could be made to storefronts in a matter of months to coincide with the opening of MAX light rail service
  • When the revitalized mall opened, 40 storefronts had been renovated, two hotels were built and several institutional projects were constructed; represented $1.5 billion in private investment along the transit mall (2009)
  • Portland Mall Management Inc. is the nonprofit responsible for cleaning, maintenance, security, and programming; publicly and privately funded
  • More than 60,000 transit riders pass through the mall on an average workday

Sustainable Features

  • LED Lighting installed throughout the mall
  • Solar powered-assisted transit buildings
  • Stormwater plantings integrated into the streetscape
  • Much of the demolition materials from the renovation recycled and granite salvaged and reused; materials transformed into artwork; a bus shelter transformed into a thriving coffee kiosk

The revitalized Portland Mall includes intermittent bus stops and light rail stations, with transit traveling in the center lane between stops and stations. Photo by Bruce Forster.


  • Streets feature broad brick and granite sidewalks, formal tree rows, architecturally designed shelters, furnishings, and fixtures
  • Sand-set brick paving system at intersections allows for easier maintenance and repair while alerting drivers and pedestrians where they are most likely to encounter each other
  • All five of the region's light rail lines as well as the busiest, frequent service bus routes, converge at the mall, making connections to any point in the metropolitan area.
  • The completed travel lane allowed bikes to traverse the entire mall; designated bike lane was  added at an uphill portion of 5th Avenue
  • Four bike oases and 130 bike parking spaces provide covered bike parking for inclement days
  • Sleek, unobtrusive bus and light rail shelters with amenities give stations an updated, contemporary look that does not dominate surrounding historic and newer architecture
  • More than 40 sculptures from over 14 artists are featured throughout the Transit Mall
  • Pioneer Courthouse Square has become the region's "living room," hosting events such as political rallies to live newscasts, free concerts to an annual holiday tree lighting; bounded by light rail stops on three sides, including 6th Avenue

For a more detailed map visit http://trimet.org/portlandmall/