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William’s Travels: Vancouver to Portland on public transit

William’s Travels: Vancouver to Portland on public transit


Over the next few days, the Buzzer blog will be documenting the travels of TransLink’s William Hui while he takes public transit from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, Oregon!

William is ready for his adventure!
William is ready for his adventure!

Many of us in Metro Vancouver have visited Portland before. The mode of choice for this journey is usually car, train, intercity private bus, plane or boat. But is it possible to take public transit all the way? This is a question TransLink systems engineer William Hui said he wanted to answer when he told me about his plan over a year ago.

Tomorrow morning, William’s idea becomes a reality. He’ll start his journey Thursday in Vancouver on a Coast Mountain Bus and will hopefully alight a C-Tran bus in Portland, Oregon around 6 p.m. on Friday.

Before he set off on this historic trip, I thought I’d ask him a few questions.

Why do you want to take public transit from Vancouver to Portland?

I’m a bit of a transit geek (and that’s putting it lightly), and I thought it would be a cool thing to do.

Most people drive, some people take the train or a plane, but taking city buses all the way down is not something you hear about often, and I thought it would be a neat adventure.

The first part of my trip will be to Portland, but just to get as far south as I can, I’m going to Salem before coming back to Vancouver.

Where did you get the idea?

I think someone sent me a blog post of someone going between Seattle and Vancouver. I wondered to myself how far south I could actually get using public transit alone.

How long have you been preparing to do this?

I hatched the idea last summer, but I didn’t start seriously planning the trip until this spring.

Tell me about the planning process. How did you line up schedules and figure it all out?

A rough sketch of William's trip which he plans on doing completely on public transit (with a little walking as well)
A rough sketch of William’s trip which he plans on doing completely on public transit (with a little walking as well)

In truth, Google did the leg work. Believe it or not, there are other transit enthusiasts out there who have looked into this. Here’s a link to taking public transit from Vancouver to Seattle, Seattle to Vancouver and Seattle to Portland.

Some of the information is a bit dated, but once I got the general idea, I basically just went online: I went to Whatcom Transit (the service in Blaine) and saw how far south that would take me. Then I saw what services were available at that point and repeated the process until I got to Portland.

How long will it take?

Nine hours from Bridgeport to Tacoma. Ten hours from Tacoma to Portland (with a 2-hour stopover in Chehalis). Two hours from Portland to Salem. So, about 20 hours of travel time, but it can’t be done continuously from one end to another due to bus scheduling.

How are you going to spend your time waiting for the next bus? Are you bringing a good book with you?

I’m actually going to do some exploring at my layovers. One neat thing about this trip is that I’m going to be stopping at places where most people wouldn’t think to stop if they were driving.

For example, when people go to Bellingham, they go to Bellis Fair or the Costco, but how many have visited Downtown Bellingham (they’re not the same place!)? I’m also looking forward to spending some time in Alma, Chehalis/Centralia.

Will you have any time to enjoy Portland and your stops in between?

Yes, I’ll be spending the weekend in Portland, and in addition to what I mentioned above, I’ll have some time to check out the Link in Tacoma.

What do you think will be the most challenging part of your journey?

Two parts of my journey are a bit challenging: the border and the bus between Elma and Centralia. I’ll have to walk across the border, and I can just imagine the raised eyebrows I’m going to get when I tell them where I’m going and how I’m getting there.

Secondly, the bus from Elma and Centralia runs only Monday and Fridays – not Mondays to Fridays, but only two days of the week. It also runs only 3 times during those days, so if it doesn’t show up, I might have some trouble getting to Portland.

Are you excited?

Very much so. I’m looking forward to riding buses across 11 different transit systems and just seeing what’s off the beaten path.

William will be communicating with us along the way, and we’ll update the blog on his progress as well as feature his thoughts on the trip after it’s all done. We’ll also be tweeting his progress on Twitter, so you’ll want to follow his progress at @thebuzzer.

We wish William the best of luck on his trip!


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