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About this City Journal

A tour of cities around the world (in a slightly different universe from our own)

Entries in this City Journal


San Francisco International Airport (SFO)


SFO is located on the Peninsula along the San Francisco Bay, 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco. It is the second largest airport in the state of California in terms of passengers served, the 7th busiest airport in the United States, and the 22nd busiest airport in the world - serving approximately 45 million passengers annually and featuring 104 passenger gates.

SFO is owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco, although it is technically surrounded by San Mateo County. SFO is a hub for United Airlines and Virgin America, and also serves as Virgin America's base of operations. SFO has 4 runways, Runways 1L/19R, 1R/19L, 10R/28L and 10L/28R.

There are four passenger terminals: Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and the International Terminal. The International Terminal has two boarding areas: I-A and I-G. All terminals are physically connected, though secured connections (e.g. connections requiring passengers to go through only one security checkpoint are limited to certain terminals).

Freeway access to the airport is provided by a series of ramps connecting the airport terminals with the US-101 freeway, which is located on the western boundary of the airport property. The airport is also served by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). The BART SFO Airport station is located adjacent to the International Terminal. An automated people mover system called the "Air Shuttle" connects all three domestic terminals, the international terminal, all short term parking garages and the Rental Car Center, which is located about a half mile north of the airport.

SFO also features various cargo facilities, as well as major maintenance facilities for United Airlines and Virgin America.

Terminal 1 (T1)


Terminal 1 (T1) is located on the south side of the airport property and houses the B and C Gates. T1 is the oldest passenger terminal at SFO, and is scheduled for renovation soon. All flights using T1 are domestic flights. As such, passengers arriving into T1 can proceed directly to baggage claim, or transfer directly to other domestic flights departing from T1. Passengers transferring to domestic flights departing from Terminal 2 (T2) and Terminal 3 (T3) will need to go through security again at the departure terminal. Passengers arriving into T1 and transferring to international flights must also go through security again.


The T1 B Gates are currently used by Alaska Airlines, Jetblue, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and United Express.


The T1 B Gate area features multiple passenger service facilities, such as restrooms, nurseries and an animal relief area. T1 also has its own baggage claim facility and ground transportation connections serving both the B and C Gates, located on Level 1. In addition, there are restaurants, cafes, newsstands and a sports bar/grille located in this area of the airport.



The T1 C Gates are currently used by Delta Airlines. The T1 C Gates area features multiple passenger service facilities, such as restrooms, nursery, charging station, interpreting services, and a lost & found. T1 also has its own baggage claim facility and ground transportation connections serving both the B and C Gates, located on Level 1. In addition, there are restaurants, cafes, newsstands, a sports bar/grille and the Delta Airlines SkyClub located in this area of the airport.


Terminal 2 (T2)


Terminal 2 (T2) is located on the east side of the airport and houses the airport's D Gates. T2 was formerly known as the "Central Terminal" and served as SFO's main terminal building from 1954 to 1983. In 1983, the building was renovated and from 1983 to 2000, it served as the airport's International Terminal. In 2000, the new International Terminal at SFO was opened to the public and T2 again underwent extensive renovations. The renovations were completed in 2011, and T2 is currently served by American Airlines and Virgin America, the latter of which is based out of San Francisco.


T2 is a very modern facility and features many passenger service facilities, such as restrooms, nurseries, kids play areas, and a yoga room. In addition, there are many restaurants and shops located in this section of the airport. The concourses and boarding areas in T2 are very wide, allowing easy pedestrian flow throughout the terminal.


Passengers arriving into T2 can proceed directly to baggage claim and ground transportation connections on Level 1 of T2 or connect directly to any other domestic flight departing from T2. Passengers connecting to domestic or international flights in other terminals can either walk (inside) or take the automated Air Shuttle (outside). Passengers connecting to flights in other terminals will have to go through security again at the departure terminal.

Terminal 3 (T3)


Terminal 3 (T3) is located on the north side of the airport and houses the airports E and F Gates. T3 is used exclusively by United Airlines and United Express for UA's domestic and Canada flights.

T3 has its own baggage claim facility as well as direct connections to ground transportation options. T3 also features a secure walkway to the International Terminal's Boarding Area G, allowing domestic passengers arriving into T3 to transfer directly to international flights departing from the International Terminal Boarding Area G without having to go through security again.

The T3 E Gates were recently renovated and opened to the public earlier this year. Below is a photo of the T3-E Gates. The T3-E Boarding Area is a very modern facility with wide walkways and many passenger service facilities, restaurants/cafes/bars and shops. T3-E also features one gate capable of serving wide-body aircraft, such as United's Boeing 787.


The T3 F Gates are a bit older, but still feature many facilities for passengers.




Also located in T3 is a United Airlines Red Carpet Club for first class/business class and frequent fliers with status on UA's loyalty program.

International Terminal


The International Terminal is located on the west side of the airport and has two concourses, each with its own boarding area and security checkpoints. The two boarding areas are known as I-A (located on the south side of the International Terminal) and I-G (located on the north side of the International Terminal). The International Terminal opened in 2000 and is a very modern facility.

All flights arriving from international origins use the International Terminal, with the exception of some flights from Canada, since passengers on Canada flights pre-clear US Customs & Immigration in Canada. However, Air Canada currently uses the I-G Boarding Area. Likewise, some domestic flights use the International Terminal, specifically Hawaii-bound flights on Hawaiian Airlines (I-A). Passengers arriving into the International Terminal from domestic, Canada or Ireland flights can proceed directly to baggage claim on Level 1 upon arrival in SFO, or transfer to other flights within their arrival boarding area. Passengers arriving into I-G from Canada or Ireland can also transfer directly to T3 without having to pass through security again. Passengers arriving into I-A and I-G and wishing to transfer to other flights (in T1 and T2) must go through security again at their departure terminal.

All other passengers must clear US Customs & Immigration upon arrival. The US Customs & Immigration facility is located on Level 1 of the International Terminal. Once arriving passengers have cleared US Customs & Immigration, they can either exit directly out to the International Arrivals Waiting Area on Level 1, or re-check their bags and go through security again to connect to domestic flights departing from any of SFO's other terminals.


The International Terminal has its own set of short term parking garages, one garage for I-A and another for I-G. Both garages are connected underground to each other.

The International Terminal also has multiple shops/restaurants and passenger service facilities, including duty free shops. There are also multiple airline lounges for first class, business class and frequent fliers with status. The International Terminal is also home to the San Francisco Airport Museum, which features exhibits that are open for anyone to visit and is also the closest airport terminal to the SFO Airport BART station.

International Terminal Boarding Area A is currently used by Air France, Alaska Airlines (arrivals from Mexico only), Asiana Airlines, Avianca, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, Virgin America (arrivals from Mexico only) and Virgin Atlantic.





International Terminal Boarding Area G is currently used by Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways (ANA), EVA Air, Lufthansa, Swiss Air and United Airlines (international flights only).





Hi everyone,

Well, SFO isn't quite ready to show in full, yet. There's still some more work to be done, and I haven't quite gotten it to where I want it to be.

In the mean time, however, here are some teaser shots. I hope to get the full entry out sometime next week. Stay tuned!






Welcome back everyone! Before we begin on our next region, just a quick note... I've edited some of the previous entries with bonus pictures of both Portland and Seattle.

With that said...

Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Area!

The SF Bay Area is home to 7.45 million people. It is the largest metropolitan area in Northern California, and the second largest metropolitan area in the State of California.

It's three largest cities are:

San Jose (population: 1,000,536)

San Francisco (population: 837,442)

Oakland (population: 400,740)

The area is named after the San Francisco Bay, a large waterway that pretty much runs through the center of the metropolitan area.

Quick note on Freeway Terminology: In the Bay Area, Sims usually refer to freeways by their route numbers only. For example, Interstate 680 is generally referred to as "680". State Route 92 is referred to as "92", etc., etc. I'll be using the local terminology throughout.


The Bay Area is served by three major airports with commercial passenger service: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK) and San Jose Mineta International Airport (SJC). There are many other airports in the area that focus on military uses, executive and/or general aviation. For our tour, we'll be visiting the 3 major airports with commercial passenger service. We may see some of the other airports in passing, though, depending on time.

The largest airport w/commercial service in the Bay Area is San Francisco International Airport (SFO). SFO, with 104 passenger gates, is quite big... so I thought that it would warrant its own entry. Therefore, SFO will be shown in the upcoming (second) entry for the Bay Area. I hope to get that one out soon.

For now, let's visit Oakland International Airport (OAK) and San Jose Mineta International Airport (SJC).

Oakland International Airport

Oakland International Airport (OAK) is located 5 miles south of downtown Oakland. The airport is owned and operated by the Port of Oakland. It is the closest airport in terms of distance to downtown Oakland and downtown San Francisco. The airport serves primarily as a reliever airport for the much larger SFO.

OAK has passenger service to cities throughout the United States, and has one scheduled daily non-stop flight to Mexico. It serves approximately 9 million passengers annually. The airport is a focus city for Southwest Airlines and a hub for FedEx.

OAK features 22 passenger gates, most of which have jetways. There are 3 passenger concourses, all of which are located in the same building. The airport is served by three runways.

Short term parking is available across the main roadway from the terminal building in an open-air, surface parking lot. Long term parking is available as well, with shuttle buses running to/from the long term parking lots and the main terminal building.

OAK also features several cargo centers. The cargo centers serve United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx. OAK is the primary cargo airport for domestic freight in the Bay Area. OAK is currently a hub for FedEx.

OAK also has general aviation facilities, with general aviation accounting for approximately 45% of the airport's operations.

In addition, the airport is served by the Bay Area Rapid Transit's (BART) "AirBart", a shuttle service that provides connections between the airport and the nearby Coliseum BART station. BART is a subway/elevated train system that serves the greater Bay Area.

Freeway access to/from the airport is provided by Interstate 880, via the Hegenberger Road and 98th Avenue exits.


Gates 14 through 22 are currently used by Southwest Airlines. In addition, there are food, retail and passenger service facilities in this section of the airport.


Gates 3 through 13 are currently used by Alaska Airlines, Horizon Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines and US Airways Express. There are also food, retail and passenger service facilities in this section of the airport.


Gates 1 and 2 are currently used by Volaris and Hawaiian Airlines. Volaris operates a daily, non-stop flight between Oakland and Guadalajara, Mexico. Hawaiian Airlines operates a daily, non-stop flight between Oakland and Honolulu, Hawaii. Passengers arriving on Volaris are directed to US Customs & Immigration, located in the main section of the terminal building.


The FedEx facility is located north of the main passenger terminal building along Ron Cowan Parkway.


FedEx currently operates MD-11F and A300F aircraft to and from Oakland. FedEx freight destinations from Oakland include Anchorage, Fresno, Fort Worth/Alliance, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Newark, Ontario, Osaka-Kansai, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Reno/Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma, Tokyo-Narita and Vancouver (BC).

San Jose Norman Y. Mineta International Airport

San Jose's Norman Y. Mineta International Airport (SJC) is located 2 miles north of downtown San Jose and approximately 50 miles south of downtown San Francisco. The airport is owned and operated by the City of San Jose. The airport primarily serves the South Bay Area, Santa Clara County and the greater Silicon Valley area. It also serves as a reliever airport for the much larger San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The airport is named after former San Jose mayor and US Secretary of Transportation, Norman Y. Mineta.


SJC has passenger service to cities throughout the United States. It also has scheduled non-stop international flights to Mexico and to Tokyo-Narita Airport in Japan. It serves approximately 8.75 million passengers annually.

SJC has two runways, Runway 36L/19R and Runway 36R/19L. SJC features 27 passenger gates, 24 of which feature jetways. Passenger gates are located in two terminals: Terminal A and Terminal B.

Terminal A is located on the north side of the airport, and Terminal B is located on the south side of the airport. Both terminals are physically connected to each other, however, access between the terminals is restricted to passengers w/tickets and airport staff only, as there is no non-secured connection between the two terminals. Non-ticketed visitors to the airport can either walk between the terminals outside (not recommended) or take the free shuttle bus operating between the two terminals and the long term parking lots.

Each terminal features its own ticket counter/check-in area, and baggage claim carousels. Both terminals also have their own parking garages, located across the airport's main roadway. The Terminal A parking garage is for short term parking. The Terminal B parking garage has short term parking on the 1st floor, while the upper floors house the airport's Rental Car Center. Below is a photo of the Terminal B parking garage and Rental Car Center.


Terminal A was completed in the early 1990s and is the older of the two terminals. Its ticketing area and security checkpoints were recently renovated. It currently serves All Nippon Airways (ANA), American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines, US Airways and Volaris.



Terminal A is home to the International Arrivals area, a section of the airport dedicated to serving flights arriving from Mexico and from Japan. Passengers arriving on these flights proceed directly to US Customs & Immigration. Once they have cleared the passport and customs inspection, they can exit the airport to the curbside International Arrivals pick-up area. Passengers arriving on these flights can also transfer to domestic flights by proceeding to the TSA security checkpoint after clearing the passport and customs inspection. This section of the airport is also home to a first class/business class and frequent flier lounge.


All Nippon Airways (ANA) serves SJC with its Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" aircraft. ANA has one daily flight connecting SJC with Tokyo/Narita Airport in Japan.


Terminal B was completed in 2010. SJC Airport is unique in that the majority of the seats in the gate areas have their own electric outlet, so passengers don't have to spend any time walking around the airport trying to find the one, lone, obscure outlet in the entire airport to plug their electronics into (usually hidden behind a trash can).

Terminal B is used by Alaska Airlines, Horizon Airlines and Southwest Airlines.



Lots of flights connecting SJC with Hawaii destinations on Alaska Airlines...


SJC also has cargo facilities served by FedEx and UPS.


Next up... San Francisco International Airport (SFO)... it'll be BIG, so stay tuned! :)


We're here... downtown Seattle! Downtown Seattle is located between the Puget Sound and Interstate 5. It is the largest financial center and central business district in the State of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.


Since we were traveling southbound from the University of Washington our first stop in downtown will be Seattle Center, home to the iconic Seattle landmark, the Space Needle.

The Space Needle was completed on December 8, 1961. It was the tallest structure in North America west of the Mississippi River when it was completed. It stands at 605 feet tall (from the ground to the top of the antenna spire). Its highest floor is located 520 feet above the ground. The Space Needle was originally built for the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. It has an observation deck at 520 feet and a rotating restaurant at 500 feet, both offering 360 degree views of Seattle and the surrounding areas. It also features conference, banquet and meeting space, some of which are located on the lower floors of the tower. There are gift shops located on the observation deck level, as well as at the base of the tower. The Space Needle's elevators feature windows that allow visitors to look outside as they go up and down.


Located adjacent to the Space Needle is the Experience Music Project (EMP). EMP is a nonprofit museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. It has many exhibits related to music, as well as a Science Fiction Museum and Fantasy Hall of Fame.


Seattle Center is served by the Seattle Monorail, which was built for the 1962 World's Fair. The monorail today, is..., well, a bit very outdated. Last time I rode it, there was duct tape holding pieces together inside the train and I heard all sorts of strange noises... but, it moves, at least... most of the time. Actually, about 50% of the time, it breaks down... stranding passengers midway between Seattle Center and the monorail's only other stop, at Westlake Center in downtown. Sometimes, another train will pull alongside the one that broke down and passengers can transfer to the other (working) train. Most times, however, its really just a waiting game until maintenance can get the train started again. Despite all this, the lack of parking around Seattle Center still makes the monorail the most convenient way to get there.

Adjacent to the monorail station are some amusement park rides, and some retail/food services housed in the buildings that used to be the pavilions and exhibits during the 1962 World's Fair.

Also located at Seattle Center is Key Arena (shown below, bottom left), an indoor sports arena that can seat up to 17,000 people.


The exterior of Key Arena was renovated in 2010, after the original concrete roof collapsed during a rain storm. I guess the monorail isn't the only thing around here that's outdated! Anyways, the arena now features a glass roof and glass exterior siding. Key Arena can seat up to 17,000 people.

It once served as the home of the NBA's Seattle Supersonics basketball team. However, the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Oklahoma City Thunder when an agreement to build a new arena in Seattle failed to materialize. Key Arena also once served as the home of the Western Hockey League (WHL)'s Seattle Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds moved to a new arena in the suburb of Kent in 2009. Today, Key Arena serves as the home of the Seattle Storm women's basketball team of the WNBA, and the Seattle Redhawks of Seattle University, which play NCAA basketball here. Seattle University is part of the NCAA's Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

We leave Seattle Center with one more shot of the Space Needle, and the Experience Music Project.


From here, let's hop on the monorail, which will (hopefully) take us to Westlake Center in one piece.

Westlake Center is one of two major downtown Seattle shopping malls.


It also features the Westlake Center transit station, served by the Link light rail and multiple Sound Transit bus lines. The station is located underground and can be accessed via the basement level of Westlake Center mall. In this area, both Link light rail trains and Sound Transit bus lines operate in a series of tunnels that run underneath the streets of downtown Seattle. Additionally, the monorail station can be accessed via the top floor of Westlake Center, adjacent to the mall's food court.

On the block directly east of Westlake Center is the flagship store of Nordstrom (white building in photo below), a high end department store with many locations across the United States and soon opening in several cities in Canada. The flagship store building is also home to Nordstrom's corporate headquarters.


Directly east of Nordstrom is Pacific Place, another shopping mall. Pacific Place is an upscale mall and first opened in October 1998. Pacific Place is currently anchored by AMC Theaters (an 11 screen cinemas), Barnes & Noble and Barney's New York. There is also a Gordon Biersch restaurant and brewery on the top floor of the mall. Parking is provided by a multi-story, underground parking garage.

Also located in the surrounding area is a Macy's department store, which was formerly the flagship store of locally based Bon Marche. "The Bon" merged with Macy's in the early 2000s.

The twin towers of the Seattle Westin Hotel are also located near Westlake Center. Both towers feature 47 stories each.


From here, let's go west. Which brings us to Seattle's waterfront. But first, a stop at Pike Place Market... a famous public market featuring produce, fresh seafood (including "flying fish"), restaurants, cafes, bars, many food stalls, and stores. It is also home to the original Starbucks Coffee location, which unlike other Starbucks locations, still uses the original brown (instead of green) company logo.


Seattle's waterfront also features many restaurants and shops. As well as piers for boating and the Seattle Aquarium. The waterfront is a very popular tourist destination. Sims can also catch ferries from here, that will take them to a number of places including the suburb of Bremerton on the other side of the Puget Sound, various islands, and to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


Seattle's waterfront is also home to several cruise ship terminals where cruise passengers embark to (or return from) their vacations in Canada and Alaska.


Just east of Westlake Center and Pacific Place is the Washington State Convention Center. The Convention Center sits atop a series of tunnels that allow traffic on Interstate 5 to flow through downtown Seattle.


The Convention Center is the largest convention facility in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

Below is a photo of Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle. The mainline/general purpose lanes are on the right-side and pass through two separate tunnels in this area. The I-5 Express Lanes are on the left-side. Unlike the Express Lanes on I-90 that we saw in my last entry, the I-5 Express Lanes have no restrictions on number of passengers per vehicle. Anyone can use them when they are open for use. However, there are limited exits on the Express Lanes through this part of Seattle.


Adjacent to the Convention Center is Two Union Square, the 3rd tallest building in Seattle. Two Union Square stands at 772 feet, and features 56 stories. It was one of several tall buildings that were completed in the downtown Seattle building boom of the late 1980's.

Another shot of downtown Seattle, on the bottom right is 1201 Third Avenue, formerly known as the Washington Mutual Tower. This building was completed in 1998 and stands at 772 feet tall, featuring 55 floors.


The Seattle Public Library and behind it, Safeco Plaza, once the tallest building in Seattle.


Safeco Plaza from another angle...


On the south side of downtown is the Smith Tower and Pioneer Square. The Smith Tower is a historical landmark, and was completed in 1914. It stands at 489 feet tall and has 38 floors. It was the tallest building in the United States west of the Mississippi River until 1962, when the Space Needle overtook it.


Pioneer Square is an outdoor public plaza. Located near the square are the entrances to one of Seattle's famous tourist traps, the Seattle Underground Tour. If you like roaming around in basements, tunnels from the 1800's, walking through cobwebs, and seeing some re-created (probably fake) historical stuff, this would be for you. If not, then there are plenty of bars and restaurants in this area that are probably a better choice.



Located east of here is Seattle's government center, home to City Hall, various courthouses, the police department, the county offices, and the jail.


And now the tallest building in Seattle, Columbia Center. Columbia Center was completed in 1985. It stands at 967 feet tall, and features 76 stories above ground and an additional 7 floors below ground. The building is currently the second tallest building on the US west coast (shorter only to the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles, CA). In total number of floors, however, it is the tallest building on the US west coast.


There is an observation deck that provides 360 degree views located on the 73rd floor. The building also features a sky-lobby located on the 40th floor that serves as an elevator transfer point for visitors and tenants needing to access floors 41 through 76. The sky-lobby also features views of downtown Seattle and the surrounding areas, as well as a Starbucks coffee and a deli.

Located next to the Columbia Center and connected via underground walkway is the Seattle Municipal Building, which features 62 floors.


There is also an on-ramp that allows traffic to access Interstate 5 via a tunnel that passes under the adjacent buildings.


South of this area and adjacent to CenturyLink Field (that we saw in my last entry) is Seattle's King Street Station.


King Street Station is served by Amtrak and Sound Transit. There is an underground Link light rail station here, as well as an underground bus line. The station is also served by the Sounder Commuter Rail, which takes passengers between Seattle and Tacoma, a suburb located about 30 miles south of here, and Seattle and Everett. Three (3) Amtrak lines serve King Street Station - the Coast Starlight (operating between Seattle and Los Angeles, including stops in Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, and the Bay Area), Amtrak Cascades (operating between Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, BC) and the Empire Builder (operating between Seattle and Chicago with stops in between).

Immediately east of King Street Station is Seattle's International District.


The International District is home to many restaurants, cafes, stores and services catering to Seattle's Asian community, as well as the general population overall.

The International District is anchored by Uwajimaya, a very large Japanese supermarket and gift store. Uwajimaya was founded in Seattle in the early 1900's. Today its flagship store occupies a very large space (Uwajimaya Plaza) in Seattle's International District. It also has outlets in the Seattle suburbs of Bellevue and Renton, as well as a location in Beaverton, Oregon (a suburb of Portland).

It's Seattle flagship store features many Japanese and Asian grocery items, Asian-themed gifts, a sushi bar, multiple food stalls, and a Kinokuniya bookstore, which sells Japanese books, Japan interest books in both English and Japanese, origami/stationary and other gift items.


The International District is also home to many Chinese businesses and restaurants.


There is also a Chinese themed park in the International District, Hing Hay Park.


As well as a much larger, Japanese themed park, Kobe Terrace Park.


In the early to mid 1990's, the area also saw an increase in Vietnamese and Southeast Asian businesses. Today, they, along with Chinese and Japanese businesses, occupy a stretch of roadway directly east and across Interstate 5 from the main core of the International District.


As Interstate 5 passes through this area, you can see the entrance to the northbound Express Lanes.


And that will be it for Seattle! I hope you enjoyed your visit. I will leave you with two more pictures.

First, one more shot of downtown Seattle from the south.


And lastly... a preview of what's to come :)


Thanks for following!


Welcome to Part 3 of our Seattle tour!

As we continue along I-5 north, we are quickly approaching downtown Seattle. However, before that, let's check out the areas south of downtown. We will make a couple stops here, then we'll take a scenic loop around the east side of the Seattle metropolitan area, up to the University of Washington, and then finally, loop back around to downtown.

South of Seattle's downtown core is a large industrial area and the Port of Seattle's Duwamish Waterway seaport facility. The Port of Seattle owns and operates Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, as well as Seattle's seaports. Seattle's seaports handle approximately 2 million containers each year, making it the 14th largest container port in the United States and the 57th largest in the world. It is one of the primary container ports on the west coast of the United States, being the 4th largest on the US west coast in terms of containers handled, behind only the Ports of Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach.



This area is also home to Starbucks' world headquarters. Starbucks is one of the many major companies that call the Seattle area home.


Just south of downtown, I-5 meets I-90 an east-west interstate highway that stretches from here all the way across the country to Boston, Massachusetts. Interestingly enough, I-90 starts near Safeco Field, home to Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners, and ends near Fenway Park, home to Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox. We'll be taking I-90 toward Spokane in a little bit. But for now, let's take Exit 164A to Edgar Martinez Drive.


Located along Edgar Martinez Drive is Safeco Field, the home of the Mariners. Safeco Field seats 47,476 for baseball and features a retractable roof so that games can be played when it rains, which it so often does in Seattle. The ballpark is also home to the Mariners Hall of Fame, and the Mariners Team Store.


North of Safeco Field is CenturyLink Field, home to the current NFL Superbowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Seattle Sounders Major League Soccer team. CenturyLink Field seats 67,000 for NFL football games and 38,300 for MLS soccer matches (the upper seating sections of the stadium are closed for soccer matches).


Now let's head east toward the suburb of Bellevue. We'll take I-90 East. I-90 features Express Lanes for 2 person+ carpools and buses.


Just east of downtown Seattle, I-90 enters the first of a series of tunnels. There are also variable speed limit message signs that can be changed electronically to reflect real-time road conditions. Washington state is one of a few US states to currently use variable speeds on freeways. Variable speeds are currently used on this stretch of I-90, as well as I-5 around downtown Seattle. The maximum posted speed on this stretch of I-90 is 60 mph, but the speed limit can be lowered if need-be, based on road conditions.


As we exit the first I-90 tunnel, we approach Lake Washington and the Lake Washington Floating Bridge. The bridge actually consists of three different bridges, the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge, and a parallel 2-lane bridge in between.

Currently the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial bridge serves the six general purpose lanes of I-90. The Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge serves I-90's six Express Lanes. The bridge in between features two reversible lanes that increase capacity into Seattle during the AM peak hour, and outbound during the PM peak hour. Access to the reversible lanes are controlled by electronic signs and automated barriers that indicate to drivers which direction is open.


The bridges connect Seattle with Mercer Island.


On the other side of the bridge, I-90 enters another tunnel.


We are now in the city of Mercer Island, Washington, a Seattle suburb that is located on an island that shares the same name as the city. Mercer Island is a very affluent area. Many homes on the island have views of the surrounding Lake Washington. The median house sale price here is approximately $1,001,500, making it #209 on the list of most expensive ZIP codes in the United States.


From here, I-90 continues eastbound, crossing over Lake Washington again and leaving Mercer Island. Shortly after, I-90 meets I-405. We will take I-405 North to downtown Bellevue.


Bellevue is Seattle's second largest suburb (smaller in population to only Tacoma). Bellevue is home to 133,992 residents. It is also home to many technology companies, and is adjacent to the Seattle suburb of Redmond, home of Microsoft, Nintendo (North America) and Valve. Companies such as Boeing, HTC, Microsoft and eBay have significant offices and operations in Bellevue. Retail store Eddie Bauer is also headquartered in Bellevue.


Downtown Bellevue has many skyscrapers, especially for a city of it's size. It is also home to the Meydenbauer Center/Bellevue Convention & Performance Arts Center, Bellevue Square Mall, multiple retail stores and major hotels.


For the last decade or so, there's also been quite a condo boom in Bellevue, with many high end/luxury condominium towers built. The tallest are the Bellevue Towers (two twin buildings, each with 43 floors of residential condominiums) and Lincoln Tower One (42 floors), which features 148 luxury condominiums, retail and restaurant space, a movie theater, and a 337-room Westin Hotel. Lincoln Tower One is shown in the photo below. It is connected to Bellevue Square Mall via sky bridge.


Bellevue Square Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is currently anchored by Macy's, Nordstrom, Sears and JC Penney. Other stores include Tiffany's, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Lego, and the Microsoft Store (I've always wondered, who really goes to the Microsoft store?). Restaurants located in the mall include PF Changs, The Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin and Ruth's Chris Steak House. Bellevue Square attracts over 16 million visitors annually. Adjacent to the mall are other retail stores such as Crate & Barrel, office space, a Hyatt Regency Hotel, as well as the Bellevue outlet for Din Tai Fung, a famous Taiwan-based restaurant, and a Lucky Strike Bowling alley.

The mall is shown in the photo below.


Adjacent to the Meydenbauer Center are The Shops at the Bravern, a high end shopping and retail center. It is anchored by a Neiman Marcus department store, currently the only Neiman Marcus store in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Other stores currently include Gucci, Hermes, Tory Burch, Jimmy Choo, Sur La Table, Louis Vuitton, and David Lawrence. Basically a place to go if you're a guy and want to buy something really nice and expensive for your female significant other... or run away as fast as you can. Either one.


This entry is getting a bit long, so let's start heading back to Seattle. We should check into our hotel in downtown Seattle soon anyways. We'll hop back on I-405 north and take SR-520 west back into Seattle. SR-520 crosses over Lake Washington and brings us to the University of Washington (aka "UW"), located on the west bank of the lake.

Here we see Husky Stadium, home to the University of Washington Huskies football team. The Huskies currently play NCAA Division I football and are part of the Pacific-12 Conference. The stadium can seat up to 70,138 fans. The Huskies team colors are Purple and Gold. Adjacent to the football stadium is the Nordstrom Tennis Center (home to the Huskies tennis teams) and the Husky Baseball and Softball Stadium.


Every year, the Huskies take part in The Apple Cup, a rivalry football game against the Washington State University Cougars. Uhh... wait a second... I just noticed that the seats at Husky Stadium are the wrong colors... the seats are Crimson... that's not right, they should be Purple and Gold....... the Cougars' colors are Crimson and Grey... oh boy... looks like someone has played a prank of epic proportions here and switched out all 70,138 Purple seats with Crimson ones... I wonder if SimCoug knows anything about this? :D

Well, luckily for the die-hard Huskies fan who may suffer from a heart attack at the sight of seeing his or her beloved stadium decked out in Cougar Crimson, the UW School of Medicine and the UW Medical Center are literally a stones throw away...


The UW School of Medicine is currently ranked #10 in the nation in research and #1 in primary care and in rural medicine by US News & World Report.

To the north and west of the UW School of Medicine and the UW Medical Center is the main campus. UW was founded in 1861 and is one of the oldest universities on the US West Coast. It occupies over 500 buildings with over 20 million gross square footage of space.

US News & World Report currently ranks UW #42 overall in undergraduate academics, and #10 among public (non-private) US universities. For graduate programs, US News & World Report ranked UW #1 in primary care medicine and in nursing, #3 in social work, #3 in bio-statistics, #4 in library and information science, #5 in pharmacy, #6 in public health, #7 in statistics, computer science and education, #9 in research medicine, #20 in law and #21 in engineering.

Many of UW's students live in or around campus and the university has a prominent Greek System of fraternities and sororities, as well as many student organizations.


In the photo above, you can see the main part of UW's campus, as well as the I-5 bridges (one bridge serves the general purpose lanes, and the other serves the I-5 Express Lanes).

Also near the campus is an area with high density retail, restaurant, residential and office space which is part of the overall neighborhood that includes the UW campus and is also known as the U-District.


Hope you enjoyed this part of your tour!

Next up... downtown Seattle! Stay tuned!


Let's get started on Part 2 of our Seattle tour! I've finally came up with a format for my pictures that I'm satisfied with, so I think we'll be sticking with it for a while :)

As we leave SeaTac Airport, we will be driving on eastbound SR-518. For those on the Link light rail, the light rail tracks basically parallel our driving route... there aren't any light rail stops after the Tukwila/International Blvd. station for this entry. The next stop will be shown in my next entry.

Back on the freeway, SR-518 meets I-5 a couple miles east of the airport. East of the I-5 junction, SR-518 becomes I-405 and continues to the Seattle suburbs of Renton and Bellevue. We will be exiting here to I-5 north toward Seattle, but first, a quick stop at Westfield Southcenter Mall, located near the junction of SR-518/I-405 and I-5.


Westfield Southcenter Mall is located in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila (population: 19,765). The mall first opened in 1968. It is currently anchored by three department stores, Nordstrom, Hechts (which will soon be converted to Macy's) and Sears. It is also anchored by Seafood City Marketplace, a Filipino-American supermarket chain with locations in California, Nevada and Washington. Also located near the mall is the Philippines-based fast food chain Jollibee's. Surrounding the mall are other chain restaurants such as Chili's, Ruby Tuesdays, Hooters as well as other retail stores, such as Barnes & Noble. There is also a Century Theaters cinemas and a hotel across the street from the mall.



From here we will continue north on I-5. In this area, I-5 has four to five general purpose travel lanes per direction, plus a carpool/HOV lane. The Seattle area has an extensive network of HOV lanes. Generally, they require 2+ passengers per vehicle and operate 24 hours a day, but there are exceptions in some locations to the number of passengers required and the hours of operation. Seattle's HOV lanes are also generally continuous access lanes and are separated from the general purpose lanes by a thick, solid white line. Drivers can go in and out of the HOV lane as they please at most locations, provided they meet the minimum passenger requirements.

Just north of Southcenter Mall, the HOV lanes separate briefly from the I-5 north mainline.


Immediately following the HOV lane separation is the junction of I-5 and SR-599.


The HOV lanes re-connect with the I-5 mainline shortly after...


As I-5 curves northward, we get our first glimpse of King County International Airport/Boeing Field (BFI). BFI airport is owned and operated by King County, and it serves as a general aviation and cargo airport, with limited passenger service as well. It is named after William Boeing, founder of the Boeing Corporation. It once served as Boeing Corp.'s headquarters and primary aircraft manufacturing facility. Today, it is no longer the company's headquarters (Boeing moved it's headquarters to Chicago, IL). However, it is still home to Boeing facilities that specialize in final preparation of aircraft for delivery, testing and painting. Most Boeing planes are now manufactured north of Seattle in the city of Everett, at Everett/Paine Field Airport, but the company maintains a sizeable presence at BFI.


BFI features two runways, Runway 10L/36R and 10R/36L. Runway 10L/36R is used only for smaller aircraft and general aviation. All others use Runway 10R/36L.

Some photos of Boeing's facilities at BFI...



On the bottom left is ABX Air's Boeing 767 freighter. ABX is a cargo airline with flights to Cincinnati, Portland and Vancouver, BC, Canada from BFI.

BFI is home to a general aviation facility...


It is also home to an executive air terminal, serving the executives of the many companies with headquarters and operations in the Seattle area and those Sims rich enough to own their own Lear Jet...


United Parcel Service (UPS) operates its primary Seattle-area air operations from BFI airport.


BFI also features a small passenger terminal. Passenger service is limited to destinations near Seattle. The airport is currently served by San Juan Airlines and Kenmore Air, both operating Cessna 208 aircraft. Kenmore Air offers a free shuttle service between BFI and Seattle/Tacoma International Airport. All flights arriving at BFI from Canada (Nanaimo and Tofino, British Columbia) clear US Customs & Immigration at BFI, as there are no US Customs & Immigration preclearance facilities at Nanaimo and Tofino airports.


BFI is also home to the Museum of Flight, located on the southwest side of the airport. The Museum of Flight, a privately owned museum and educational center, is a very popular tourist attraction, with over 400,000 visitors each year. Inside the main building are many exhibits, including many different aircraft.


The museum is also home to Building No. 105, Boeing Corporation's original manufacturing facility, which has been preserved and is now part of the museum. Bldg. No. 105 sits between the museum's main building and the air park.

Across the street from the museum's main building is an open-air plaza called the "air park" featuring several historical planes: a Pan Am 747-100, a British Airways Concorde, a United 737-200 and a military cargo plane. Visitors can tour the interiors of all of the planes except the military cargo plane. The air park is connected to the main museum building by pedestrian sky bridge. At one point, the air park featured VC-137B SAM 970, the first presidential jet which served in the presidential fleet from 1956 to 1996. That plane was moved to the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA in 2013.



That's it for now. Hope you enjoyed this part of your Seattle tour. Stay tuned for more!

... ps: I uploaded some bonus shots of Portland here:


Welcome to Seattle, Washington!

Looks like Seattle, also known as the Emerald City, won the vote on my last entry, so we'll head north! For those who voted for Eugene, don't worry, we'll visit Eugene later on.

Seattle is the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, with an estimated population of 652,405 within it's city limits, and approximately 3.6 million within the greater Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area.


The Seattle area is served by two airports with commercial passenger airline service. The bigger of the two (by far) is Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, also known as SeaTac and SEA. The smaller of the two is the King County International Airport/Boeing Field also known as BFI. Passenger service at BFI is very limited. Therefore, if you're flying into Seattle, chances are, you'll be landing at SEA.

SEA is located south of downtown Seattle, and north of Tacoma, Washington, in the city of SeaTac. The airport is owned and operated by the Port of Seattle. It is currently the 15th busiest airport in the United States, serving approximately 35 million passengers annually. The airport is a hub for Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon Airlines (both headquartered in Seattle). It is also a hub for Delta Airlines.

SEA features 91 passenger gates, most of which have jetways. There are 4 passenger concourses connected to the main terminal: the A Gates, B Gates, C Gates and D Gates. Additionally, there are two additional passenger concourses connected to the main terminal via an underground people mover: the North Satellite (N Satellite) and the South Satellite (S Satellite). The airport is served by three runways, 17L/35R, 17C/35C, and 17R/35L.

SEA airport's short term parking garage features 13,000 parking spaces and is the world's largest parking structure under one roof. In 2012, an off-site Rental Car Center was opened to the public for the first time. Previously, rental car facilities were located inside the short term parking garage.

SEA also features a cargo center, as well as a Delta Tech Ops facility, located on the northeast side of the airport. There are no general aviation facilities at SEA. The nearest general aviation facility is the King County International Airport/Boeing Field.

In addition, the airport is served by Sound Transit's Link Light Rail, via the Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport Station, which is connected to the main terminal by an underground pedestrian/moving walkway.


All ticketing counters are located within the main terminal building, as are the TSA security checkpoints. The main terminal is also home to a large food court, sit-down restaurants, multiple retail stores (including gift shops selling local products), and multiple passenger service facilities such as restrooms, children's play areas, pet areas, and currency exchange kiosks. Baggage claim is located on level 1 of the main terminal.

A Gates - the A Gates are currently used by Delta Airlines, Delta Connection, Hawaiian Airlines, US Airways and American Airlines. All Delta domestic flights depart from the A Gates. Delta's international flights, with the exception of Canada flights, and some departing flights to Mexico, use the South Satellite. Canadian flights are precleared by US Customs & Immigration in Canada, and are therefore treated as domestic flights upon arrival in the United States. The A Gates feature moving walkways, restaurants/retail, multiple restroom facilities, a children's play area, as well as a "pet relief area" for approved furry travel companions. Food services include Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Seattle Tap Room (pub style food and drinks), Manchu Wok (Chinese), Africa Lounge (pub style food and drink), Great American Bagel & Bakery, La Pisa Cafe (Pizza/Italian style food), and Mountain Room Bar (pub style food and drink). Retail services include several outlets of Hudson News & Books, and a BOSE audio shop. The A Gates are physically connected to the main terminal. Arriving passengers can transfer to the underground people mover, or any other concourse, without having to pass through security again. Likewise, arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim on level 1 and exit the airport from there.


B Gates - The B Gates are currently used by Horizon Air, Frontier Airlines, Virgin America, Sun Country and Southwest Airlines and handles domestic flights only. All B Gates feature jetways except for Gate B1, which is used by Horizon Air. The B Gates are physically connected to the main terminal. The B Gates feature restaurants/retail and multiple restroom facilities. Food services include Starbucks, Quiznos, Casa del Agave, Sbarro and McDonalds. Retail services include several outlets of Hudson News & Books. The B Gates are physically connected to the main terminal. Arriving passengers can transfer to the underground people mover, or any other concourse, without having to pass through security again. Likewise, arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim on level 1 and exit the airport from there.


C Gates - the C Gates are currently used exclusively by Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary regional airline, Horizon Air. The C Gates feature moving walkways, restaurants/retail and multiple restroom facilities. Food services include Starbucks, Freshens Yogurt and Smoothies, Waji's Teriyaki and Japanese, Wolfgang Puck Express and Beecher's Homemade Cheese. Retail services include several outlets of Hudson News & Books, a BOSE audio shop, InMotion, a nail salon and a massage bar. The C Gates are also home to the Horizon Air Customer Service desk. The C Gates are physically connected to the main terminal. Arriving passengers can transfer to the underground people mover, or any other concourse, without having to pass through security again. Likewise, arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim on level 1 and exit the airport from there.



D Gates - the D Gates are currently used exclusively by Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary regional airline, Horizon Air. The D Gates feature moving walkways, restaurants/retail and multiple restroom facilities. Food services include Chili's Too, Great American Bagel & Bakery, Seattle's Best Coffee, Alaska Lodge and the Sports Pub & Grill. Retail services include several outlets of Hudson News & Books. The D Gates are also home to the Alaska Airlines Customer Service desk, as well as the Alaska Airlines Board Room/Lounge. The D Gates are physically connected to the main terminal. Arriving passengers can transfer to the underground people mover, or any other concourse, without having to pass through security again. Likewise, arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim on level 1 and exit the airport from there.


North Satellite - The North Satellite (N Satellite) is currently used by Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, United Airlines and United Express. The N Satellite is connected to the main terminal via the underground people mover. All flights using the N Satellite are currently domestic flights, with the exception of Alaska's Mexico flights which may use the N Satellite for departures only. Arriving flights from Mexico on Alaska Airlines use the South Satellite (S Satellite). Prior to 2013, United Airlines' Seattle-Tokyo/Narita flight used the N Satellite for departures only. United cancelled the flight in 2013, after Star Alliance partner All Nippon Airways (ANA) began Seattle to Tokyo Narita service.

The N Satellite features restaurants/retail and one restroom facilities. Food services include Burger King, Starbucks, Great American Bagel & Bakery, BigFoot Food & Spirits, and the Seattle Seahawks 12 Club, a sports bar and restaurant themed after the Seattle Seahawks NFL football team. Retail services include several outlets of Hudson News & Books, a duty free shop, and a massage bar. The N satellite is connected to the main terminal via the underground people mover. Arriving passengers can proceed directly to level 1 of the N Satellite to board the people mover, which will take them to the secured section of the main terminal, where they can then proceed directly to baggage claim on level 1.


South Satellite - The South Satellite (S Satellite) is primarily used for international flights. Currently, it is served by Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Condor, Emirates, EVA Air, Hainan Airlines, Icelandair, Korean Air and Lufthansa. The S Satellite is connected to the main terminal via the underground people mover. Upon arrival, all international passengers are directed to level 1 of the S Satellite to US Customs & Immigration. Passport checks are conducted by US Customs & Border Protection officers. Once passengers clear the passport check, they pick up their bags at the carousels on level 1, and proceed through the US Customs inspection. After clearing customs, all passengers must re-check their bags and proceed through a TSA security screening before boarding the underground people mover, which will take all international arriving passengers and passengers transferring to other flights back out to the secured section of the main terminal. Transfer passengers can then proceed directly to their next flight. Passengers whose final destination is Seattle can proceed directly to level 1 of the main terminal to reclaim their bags in baggage claim.

This is an interesting setup, since the people mover only operates in the secured section of the airport. While convenient for transferring passengers, it is somewhat of a pain for international passengers whose destination is Seattle in that they need to claim their checked baggage twice, as well as go through a rather unnecessary TSA security check immediately following customs inspections, even though they are not boarding another plane. The Port of Seattle realizes this problem, and is currently working on a fix, which would probably be rolled in with planned future renovations of the airport.

For departing passengers, the S Satellite features restaurants/retail and one restroom facilities. Food services include Seattle's Best Coffee, Kobo Sushi (Japanese), Runway Grill (burgers and American food) and Dungeness Bay Seafood House. Retail services include several outlets of Hudson News & Books, a duty free shop, and a currency exchange kiosk. The S satellite is also home to the Delta SkyClub, the British Airways Terraces Lounge, and the Club International lounge.







The Cargo Center - is located on the northeast side of the airport. It is currently served by Asiana Cargo, ABX Air, EVA Air Cargo, Cathay Pacific Cargo, and FedEx. There is also a Delta TechOps maintenance facility located adjacent to the Cargo Center, which is responsible for maintaining the many Delta aircraft that fly in and out of SEA. A larger Alaska Airlines maintenance facility is located on the southeast side of the airport.



Link Light Rail Station

SEA Airport is served by the Link Light Rail. Link is owned and operated by Sound Transit, Seattle's primary transit agency. The Link station at SEA airport is connected to the main terminal via an underground passageway. The passageway features a moving walkway to make the distance a little easier on the feet. There is also a park & ride facility located adjacent to the station. The station is currently served by the Central Link line which connects SEA airport with downtown Seattle's Westlake Center. In this area, the Link is an elevated LRT system. The SEA Airport station is currently the southern terminus of the Central Link line, though construction is scheduled to begin later this year to extend the line southward from here.


The Rental Car Center

All major rental car companies are housed in the Rental Car Center, which opened in 2012. Previously, rental car facilities were located in the short term parking garage. Free shuttles take passengers to and from the Rental Car Center and the airport's main terminal. The Rental Car Center provides easy access to nearby International Boulevard, as well as access to the State Route 518 (SR-518) freeway.


Ok, that's it for Seattle/Tacoma International Airport. Like Portland, there are two ways to get to downtown from here. We can drive using a rental car that we picked up from the off-site Rental Car Center, or we can take the Link light rail.

For those driving, you will go northbound on Airport Expressway until the junction with SR-518. Follow the signs for SR-518 East "to I-5/I-405". The speed limit on SR-518 is 60 mph.

For those on the Link, the next stop after the Airport station is the Tukwila/International Blvd. station, located just north of the junction of Airport Expressway and SR-518.


We should be in downtown Seattle in less than an hour, depending on traffic. Luckily for us, we've landed on a quiet Sunday morning, so it shouldn't be too bad. There are a quite a few sights to see in between, so we'll make our way northward and stop at interesting spots along the way!



Downtown Portland is bounded by the Willamette River to the east and Interstate 405 to the south, west and north. The downtown area is comprised of a grid system of city blocks that are only 200 feet by 200 feet (in comparison, Manhattan blocks are 600 x 800 feet). Originally, this was done to create more corner lots to increase developer profit, but it turned out to also provide a pleasant pedestrian experience, as blocks are short in distance, and therefore, very walkable.



The City of Portland favors walking, bicycling and public transit as the preferred modes of transportation in downtown and throughout the city. Downtown traffic signals are intentionally timed to favor bicyclists and pedestrians over automobiles. Unlike other cities, where cars get a continuous green through multiple intersections, downtown Portland's traffic signals are set so that cars only get continuous greens through a maximum of two intersections in the same traveling direction. This means that drivers will almost always come to a red light after passing through two intersections, unless traveling at a very (very) slow speed. While this might frustrate drivers who are in a hurry, it does benefit pedestrians and bicyclists by slowing automobile speeds significantly, especially when considering the short 200 foot city blocks in downtown Portland. Another benefit for pedestrians is that a Sim could theoretically walk from one end of downtown to the other, without ever stopping, assuming they entered the first intersection when the pedestrian signal just turned to "Walk" and continued walking in the same direction at typical walking speed.

Downtown Portland also features a transit mall on SW 5th Ave. The transit mall is used exclusively by buses and light rail.

Due to the short city blocks, MAX trains can be no longer than 2 car lengths. That's why you will never see a MAX train with 3 or more cars... it would block the intersections in downtown when stopped. All MAX lines serve downtown Portland. The MAX light rail system currently consists of four different lines, they are:

Blue Line = Gresham - City Center - Hillsboro

Red Line = Portland International Airport - City Center - Beaverton

Green Line = South Waterfront - City Center - Clackamas

Yellow Line = Portland State University - City Center - Expo Center

There are many MAX stops in downtown, so I won't list them all here. Generally, there's a stop every other block... which is good if you want to get on or off, and bad if you're in a hurry.

Automobile access to downtown Portland is provided via Interstates 5 and 405, as well as a number of surface street bridges that cross over the Willamette River.

Interstate 5 is the major north-south freeway on the west coast of the United States, stretching from the US/Mexico border to the US/Canada border. In the Portland area, the southern portion of I-5 (south of downtown) travels along the west side of the Willamette River. When it reaches downtown, it crosses over the Marquam Bridge to the east side of the Willamette River as it continues northward. Interstate 405 is a loop freeway that begins at I-5 in the south near the Marquam Bridge, and re-connects with I-5 just north of downtown via the Fremont Bridge, near the Rose Quarter (see my last entry). Both I-5 and I-405 have speed limits of 50 mph around downtown Portland.


Downtown Portland consists of several distinct neighborhoods and areas:

1.) The Downtown Core

2.) The University District

3.) South Waterfront

4.) Northwest/Goose Hollow

5.) The Pearl District

6.) Old Town/Chinatown

The Downtown Core

The main part of downtown consists of commercial office and retail, residential, and restaurants/bars. There's never a shortage of beer in Portland... and there are plenty of bars, pubs and breweries in downtown to give Sims all the liquid courage they need. Portland is well known for its microbreweries and many are based in and around downtown. So pub crawling and brewery hopping has become sort of a major past time here. Several Portland breweries that started out as microbrews have made it big time in recent years. I was lucky to run into Neil Fairbanks, the founder of Portland-based Rush Hour Brewing Company recently, and asked him a few questions. Here's the transcript of our conversation:

portlandexpos04: Tell me about how your brewery started...

Neil: My roommate from college, Sam Armstrong and I started the business during our college days at Portland State University. We weren't the best students, and were much more interested in drinking beer than studying, I mean, that's what college students do, right? Anyways one night, in a drunken stupor, we thought to ourselves, hey, maybe we can make money selling beer. So we started brewing. Our first microbrewery opened in downtown a few years later in 1996. Back then, downtown Portland wasn't exactly the happening place... the suburban shopping malls were sucking away a lot of life from downtown. It was nowhere as popular and lively as it is today. The microbreweries and restaurants really brought people back to downtown.

portlandexpos04: Where'd you guys get the funding to start your brewery?

Neil: Good question. Actually, its kinda funny, Sam and I walked into this waterfront casino down in Louisiana on our spring break trip in college. Actually it wasn't even really a casino, more like a dock that stuck out into the water with a tent that had casino games in it. There was this game they had there, called Weakness Pays... or something like that. Anyways, we sat down and played it. As soon as we started playing, we won. So we played again, and we won again. We never lost, so we just kept playing until we had all the cash we could carry in our pockets and suit cases. It was crazy.

portlandexpos04: That IS crazy. So how did you guys come up with the name Rush Hour?

Neil: Well, the apartment that we were renting at the time had this really awesome view... I mean, really awesome view, of Interstate 405. It was so awesome that all the exhaust fumes from the evening rush hour traffic jams blew right into our living room window every evening. The pollution level was off the heezy... I mean, you'd walk into the living room and see this thick, yellow foamy pollution in the air. The first thing Sam and I thought was hey, that looks like our beer! It smells like it too!

portlandexpos04: I see. Well your beers have really taken off, I see them being sold everywhere, at practically every restaurant and grocery store I walk into...

Neil: Yeah, we've really hit it big time... We even recently started selling our beer in Timbuktu.

portlandexpos04: Why Timbuktu?

Neil: We met this financial advisor, Monique Diamond, who invited my brother and I out to Timbuktu recently. She gave us this whole seminar/tutorial on making money, and it all seemed to make a lot of sense. You should've seen her presentation, she basically told us how to avoid bankruptcy and minimize expenses... yeah, you should've seen it, craziest thing I ever saw. She even had flashing arrows that pointed us around different budget items and stuff. Absolutely the craziest thing I've ever seen. After that presentation, we were totally sold on Timbuktu.

portlandexpos04: okaaay...


Anyways, onward with our tour. Above you will find a picture of the downtown core. Some of the buildings are numbered, and descriptions are included below:

1 - The Wells Fargo Center: consists of two buildings, the "tower" and an adjacent five story office building across the street. The tower was completed in 1972 and holds the distinction of being the tallest building in the state of Oregon, standing at 546 feet and 41 stories. The tower is entirely an office building. The 5-story building across the street is also an office building, with a ground floor Wells Fargo bank branch. When it was completed, local Sims complained about it being ugly and blocking their views of Mount Hood, a mountain located east of Portland standing at 11,249 feet and part of the Cascade Range. As a result, the City of Portland passed an ordinance limiting the height of new buildings.

2 - The KOIN Center: is 509 feet and 35 stories tall. The building was completed in 1984. It is named after it's main occupant, local television station KOIN, Portland's CBS affiliate. Floors 1 through 3 consist of mixed use retail and office, including a small movie theater and a Morton's Steakhouse. Floors 4 through 19 consist of office space, and floors 20 through 31 consist of residential condominiums. Floors 31-35 are used for mechanical purposes, as well as housing equipment for KOIN's radio and television broadcasts.

3 - PacWest Center: is 418 feet and 30 stories tall. PacWest Center was completed in 1984 and consists of office space, with some small retail on the ground floor such as a coffee shop and deli, primarily serving the building's tenants.

4 - Portland City Hall: was completed in 1895. In 1974, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. City Hall is home to the mayor's office, the Portland City Council chambers, ceremonial and conference rooms, and the offices of Neighborhood Involvement, the City Auditor, Council Clerk, City Treasurer and the affirmative action office. The current mayor of Portland is Charlie Hales, who assumed office on January 1, 2013.

5 - The Portland Building: also known as the Portland Municipal Services Building. The Portland Bldg. is 231 feet and 15 stories tall, it was completed in 1982. It houses the staff of all city departments and bureaus that are not housed in City Hall. It is also home to a famous local statue, Portlandia, which sits above the main entrance to the building facing westward toward SW 5th Ave.

6 - The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building: is 270 feet and 18 stories tall. It was completed in 1975. The building is owned by the United States Federal Government and houses federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Portland branches of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as well as the offices of Oregon's United States Senator, Ron Wyden.

7 - The Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse: is 318 feet and 16 stories tall. It was completed in 1997 and named after former United States Senator from Oregon, Mark Hatfield. The building serves as the home of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, responsible for all federal-related court cases in the state. County and city-level court cases are heard in the Multnomah County Courthouse adjacent to the Portland Building.

8 - The Justice Center: serves as the primary home of the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department. The lower floors are used for administrative purposes, while the upper floors serve as the Multnomah County jail. Most Sims find themselves in this building either handcuffed on the way in (and sometimes out), or here to bail out a friend or family member who drank a little too much Rush Hour Beer and got themselves into a little too much trouble... about the only voluntary visitors are friends/family of police officers/staff, or those interested in checking out the small History of the Portland Police Bureau exhibit located in the ground floor lobby.

The downtown core is also home to Pioneer Courthouse and Pioneer Courthouse Square. Pioneer courthouse is a federal courthouse, built in 1869. It is a designated National Historical Location and is also listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It currently houses the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The building features a bell tower, that is accessible by visitors with special permits and provides a nice view of adjacent buildings and Pioneer Courthouse Square.


Pioneer Courthouse Square is located on the block immediately west of Pioneer Courthouse. It is known by local Sims as Portland's living room. The square features a MAX light rail stop, outdoor chess tables and seating areas for Sims to unwind, relax, and people watch. There is a directional compass on the ground in the center of the square that tells Sims the distances (in miles and kilometers) to major cities and sights around the world. There are often live music performances held in the square, and it is also home to the annual Portland Beer Festival and the Portland Italian Festival. During the Christmas and New Year's holiday season, the square is home to a large decorated christmas tree. The square is also quite popular on the night of New Year's Eve, as this is the location of Portland's official New Year's ball drop.

Surrounding the square is the Fox Tower, completed in 2000, and standing at 372 feet and 27 stories tall. The Fox Tower is home to office space, as well as the Regal Fox Tower theater, featuring 10 movie theaters showing the latest blockbuster hits.

Also adjacent to the square is a Nordstrom department store, and a Macy's department store. The Macy's building was formerly the home of Portland-based Meier & Frank department store, before it merged with Macy's in the early 2000s. The building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982. Today, Macy's occupies the lower floors (1 through 3) of the building, while the upper floors (4 through 6) house Portland's only five-star luxury hotel, The Nines.

As mentioned previously, downtown Portland is home to lots of bars and breweries. One of them is Kell's Irish Pub. Originally founded in Portland, the pub now has locations in Seattle and San Francisco as well. The Portland location brews their own beer, and also offers a Whiskey flight, a tasting of various Irish Whiskys, and Irish themed food. The place is packed with local Sims on St. Patricks Day... and finding a seat here during that holiday is pretty much near impossible unless you come right at opening. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights feature live music from local bands.

Surrounding Kell's are several other bars and restaurants. Alcohol is served in the State of Oregon until 2:30 am, with last call happening around 2:00 am.


Also located in the downtown core is the US Bancorp Tower, known locally as "Big Pink". It is the second tallest building in the State of Oregon, standing at 536 feet and 42 stories tall. The bank is home to primarily office space, and was formerly the headquarters of Portland-based US Bank. US Bank merged in 1997 and moved its headquarters to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though the company still leases spaces in the building. The building is also home to Portland City Grill, Portland's top-grossing restaurant, located on the 30th floor. The restaurant offers new American food as well as a nice 30th floor view of Portland. A good place for Sims to impress client(s) or romantic partner(s).


Located west of the US Bancorp Tower along SW Broadway Street is the Benson Hotel. Currently owned by Coast Hotels & Resorts, it is known locally as "The Benson". The hotel was completed in 1912 and added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986. In the past, it was a favorite of many famous people when visiting Portland, including several US presidents. Today it is also home to the El Gaucho Restaurant & Steak House. The lobby is quite small, but features many historical pieces from the early 1900s. Some Sims insist that the hotel is haunted... especially those who just came back from Kell's on St. Patty's Day.


The University District


Immediately south of the downtown core is the University District, home to Portland State University (PSU). PSU is primarily a commuter school, though recent efforts have been made at increasing the number of students being housed on campus. Founded in 1946, it currently serves 23,489 undergraduate students and 5,963 postgraduate students. Schools at PSU include the School of Business Administration, Graduate School of Education, College of the Arts, School of Social Work, College of Urban and Public Affairs, Masseh College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

US News & Report currently ranks Portland State as a second tier research university, but the school is unranked nationally. The school offers a multitude of night classes, and the average student age for undergraduates is 26 years old.

For athletics, Portland State is a member of the Big Sky Conference for most sports. For wrestling, it belongs to the Pac-12 Conference, and for softball, the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. PSU's teams compete at the NCAA Division I level in basketball, women's volleyball, golf, soccer, wrestling, tennis, softball, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country. Football competes at the Division I AA level. PSU's athletic nickname is the Vikings and the mascot is Victor E. Viking. Home games are played off-campus at Providence Park (football) and on-campus at Peter Stott Center (basketball).

South Waterfront & "Pill Hill"


Immediately south of the University District is the main campus of Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU). The main OHSU campus sits on top of Marquam Hill, and because of the medical focus of the school, the area is also known as "Pill Hill". OHSU was established in 1974 and serves as a postgraduate institution with a focus on medicine. Schools at OHSU include the School of Medicine, School of Nursing and the School of Dentistry. US News & World Report ranked OHSU amongst the top medical schools in the United States, placing the school 3rd overall in Primary Care and 31st in Research.

OHSU has a secondary campus on the bottom of Pill Hill in the South Waterfront neighborhood. An elevated section of the MAX Light Rail, Green Line provides direct travel between the two campuses. OHSU employees and students with ID are allowed free and unlimited rides between the OHSU Main Campus Station at the top of Pill Hill and the South Waterfront Station at the bottom of the hill.

OHSU is also home to the Oregon Health & Sciences University Hospital. The hospital is adjacent to Doernbecher Children's Hospital and a Shriners Hospital for Children. OHSU Hospital is one of only two Level I trauma centers in Oregon. The hospital buildings feature helicopter landing pads on the roofs of both buildings. US News & World Report has ranked the OHSU Hospital 23rd in the US for ear, nose and throat specialties; 32nd for urology care in pediatrics and 35th for cancer treatment in pediatrics. Like OHSU employees and students, patients needing transportation between the two OHSU campuses are allowed free rides on the MAX light rail between the Main Campus/Hospital and the South Waterfront Station. Special tickets are issued at reception desks to patients and are good until the expiry date printed on the ticket... though Tri Met does not enforce ticketing between these two stations anyways. There is also a shuttle bus service running between the two campuses that is free for patients, employees and students.

Located along the banks of the Willamette River and south of downtown is the South Waterfront neighborhood. It is home to OHSU's South Waterfront Campus, as well as luxury condominiums, senior housing, and apartments. The residential portion of the neighborhood was developed beginning in 2005. Previously, this area was nothing but grassland and light industrial.


The area is served by the South Waterfront MAX station. Recently, the Tilikum Crossing MAX bridge was completed. In the future, this bridge will serve the MAX Orange Line that is currently being constructed between Downtown Portland and the suburb of Milwaukie. Tilikum Crossing currently connects the MAX Green Line with a light rail turn-around on the east bank of the Willamette River that allows southbound Green Line trains to turnaround and begin their northbound route.

Just north of the Tilikum Crossing is the John Ross Bridge, a two-lane bridge that connects the area with southeast Portland. The roadway becomes Powell Blvd., a major east-west arterial in SE Portland, also designated as US Hwy 26.

Northwest/Goose Hollow


Located on the northwest corner of downtown Portland is the Goose Hollow neighborhood. It is home to small retail stores and restaurants including vintage clothing stores, coffee shops and cafes, as well as one of Portland's best steakhouses, Ringside.

It is also home to Providence Park, a stadium that is currently the home of Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers, and the Portland State University Vikings Division I-AA football team. The stadium, was built in 1926 as Multnomah Stadium. From 1966-2000 it was known as Civic Stadium, from 2001-2010 it was known as PGE Park, and from 2011-2014, Jeld Wen Field. Earlier this year, Providence Health & Services purchased the naming rights for the stadium, and thus, the stadium is now known as Providence Park.

The stadium seats 20,438 for soccer and college football. It was previously configured for baseball and football. From 1956 to 1973, it served as the home of the Pacific Coast League's Portland Beavers, a minor league baseball team. From 1973-1977, it was home to the independent baseball team, Portland Mavericks of the Northwest League. Actor Kurt Russel played as an infielder for the Mavericks.

In 1978, the Pacific Coast League's Portland Beavers returned to the city and to the stadium. Minor league baseball games were played here until 1993, when the Beavers were moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. From 1995 until 2000, the stadium served as the home of the Portland Rockies, a short season, Class A minor league baseball team in the Northwest League.

In 2001, the Albuquerque Dukes relocated to Portland and were renamed the Beavers, bringing Triple-A minor league baseball back to the stadium and Portland. Prior to the relocation, the stadium was renovated to include luxury suites and a new media box.

Beginning in 2001 through 2004, there was discussion about bringing Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos to Portland. The plan was to renovate the stadium to serve as an interim facility for the Expos until a new, larger ballpark could be built in Portland. Efforts went as far as securing $150 million in funding from the State of Oregon for a new ballpark. Nonetheless, the Portland Expos never came, and the team moved to Washington, DC instead, becoming the Washington Nationals.

In 2007, Major League Soccer announced that Portland had won an expansion MLS soccer franchise. The stadium was renovated again to bring it up to MLS standards. Unfortunately, with the renovations, baseball could no longer be accommodated. Efforts to build a new minor-league ballpark went nowhere, and the Beavers moved to Tucson, Arizona, leaving Portland without a baseball team.

Renovations to the stadium were completed the following year, and the Portland Timbers began playing to consistent sell-out crowds in 2009. Today it is still one of the hottest tickets in town, with die-hard soccer fans showing up to each and every home game. The atmosphere is similar to European soccer matches and things get really crazy when the rival Seattle Sounders come to town.

The Pearl District


Yuppies, hipsters, coffee shops, art galleries and luxury condos/apartments/lofts. That's the Pearl District for you. Before 2000, the area was primarily a light industrial and manufacturing area. Today, it's home to everything a yuppie and hipster would want. One point of interest for all, though, is Powell's Books, a locally owned and operated bookstore that has been in business for decades. It has a huge selection spanning two buildings and multiple floors. One can actually get physically lost in this book store, it's that big. It was also one of the first book stores in the country to feature a coffee shop inside.


Old Town/Chinatown


Located north of the downtown core and the US Bancorp Tower is Portland's Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. The Chinatown portion is located along NW 4th Avenue. It spans just a couple blocks, and is much smaller compared to Chinatowns in larger US west coast cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle. There are a few Chinese and Thai restaurants in the area... but today, it is mostly home to bars and nightclubs. One of the more famous local establishments, Hung Far Low Cocktails (I'm not kidding, this place really exists... in our own universe too!), serves up cheap (and strong) happy hour libations. It is probably one of the dive-ist of dive bars you will ever walk into. The entrance way leads directly into a staircase that leads directly up to the restaurant and bar. The walk up the stairs is accompanied by flickering fluorescent lighting. By the time you reach the bar, you'd have thought you were in a bad 1960's kung fu movie and bad guys would jump out at you at any time. It's stereotypical. It's dirty. It's bad. But the drinks will mess you up and it won't cost you much (financially, at least)!


Old Town is adjacent to Chinatown. It's home to mostly social service agencies that help Sims who are in desperate times. The neighborhood is a bit seedy. There's always Portland Police activity around here... but you know, a walk through here is always interesting to say the least!

The area is also home to Portland's Union train station. Served by Amtrak, it connects Portland with Eugene and Seattle/Vancouver, BC, Canada (via Amtrak Cascades), Portland and California (via Amtrak's Coast Starlight) and Portland and Chicago (via Amtrak's Empire Builder).


Alright, well, it's getting late, so let's go grab a quick dinner and hit up that Hung Far Low place for some drinks. Cheers!


Several hours later...


... wow, those drinks were strong!

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Portland! After sobering up, feel free to let me know which city you'd like to visit next. We can either go south to Eugene, Oregon, or we can go north to Seattle, Washington. You can vote by using the poll at the top of this entry.

Thanks for following and I hope you enjoyed your visit to An Alternative Universe Portland!


We're getting closer to downtown Portland! Just a few more stops along the MAX, and a few more miles for those driving. As we begin heading westbound, both the MAX tracks and I-84 will enter Sullivan's Gulch and will continue through it for the next 3.5 to 4 miles. Heavy rail tracks (used by Amtrak and freight trains) also parallel the MAX and the freeway through the gulch. In this section, the MAX tracks are used by the Red, Blue and Green lines. I-84 has 3 general purpose lanes in each direction through the gulch, the speed limit is 55 mph, except the western-most quarter mile, which has a 50 mph speed limit.

Sullivan's Gulch is named after Timothy Sullivan, an Irish immigrant who arrived in Portland in 1851 and who previously owned land in this area. Today it serves as a transportation corridor.

The heavy rail tracks have been in operation since 1881. When it was completed, it linked Portland, for the first time by rail, to the eastern United States. This resulted in tremendous economic and job growth and a population boom in the late 1800s to early 1900s, as goods and Sims flowed east and west on the rail line between Portland and major cities such as Chicago.

In the 1950's, the United States government under the administration of President Eisenhower, began the construction and expansion of the interstate highway system. Interstate 84, as we know it today, was completed and opened to traffic in 1955. It was known as Interstate 80 North (I-80N) until 1980, when it was re-designated as Interstate 84. In the 1970s, city, state and federal highway officials began preparations to build another east-west freeway parallel to I-84, a few miles south. The freeway project was named the Mount Hood Freeway. The plans led to fierce opposition from the general public, and the project was cancelled in 1974. The funds were diverted to a light rail project instead, which was approved in 1978. Planning and engineering for the initial Portland to Gresham light rail line began shortly after. Construction began in 1982, and passenger service on the first MAX Light Rail line began in 1986.

As we enter Sullivan's Gulch, we approach the next stop from Gateway TC... the NE 82nd Avenue Station. Located approximately a half mile from Gateway TC, the NE 82nd Avenue Station serves as a transfer point to Tri-Met bus lines operating along NE 82nd Avenue, a major north-south arterial which is also designated as Oregon State Highway 213 (OR-213). The station is used primarily by local residents.


The station is surrounded by low density residential, light industrial, and light commercial land uses. The area is home to primarily working-class Sims, and homes in this area are very affordable, albeit somewhat outdated.

The next MAX stop is the NE 60th Avenue Station. Similar to the NE 82nd Avenue Station, the NE 60th Station primarily serves local Sims. The NE 60th Avenue Station is located approximately a half mile west of the NE 82nd Avenue Station.


Access to the NE 60th Avenue Station is provided by elevated pedestrian and bicycle walkways that take Sims from the surrounding neighborhoods down to the station platform which is sandwiched between I-84 and the heavy rail line. There are some light industrial land uses in the area, but the station is primarily surrounded by middle-class, low-density residential. The station is also near Normandie Park, which features play areas for children, a softball field and a community garden where Sims can grow various vegetables for their own personal consumption.

For those on the MAX, the next stop is the Hollywood/NE 39th Avenue Station. This station serves the Hollywood District, located to the north of the station and I-84, and the Laurelhurst neighborhood located to the south of the station and I-84. The Hollywood District is a designated historical neighborhood and is home to various retail stores, restaurants/breweries, commercial services, and the Hollywood Theatre, a locally-owned, non-profit theater. Despite sharing a name with Hollywood (California), the district has nothing to do with the Southern California movie-making capital, other than being named after a theater that is in turn, named after the famous Los Angeles neighborhood. The Hollywood Theatre first opened in 1926, originally a venue for vaudeville and silent films. Now-a-days, the theater shows primarily indy films (both local and international), classic movies, grindhouse movies and educational movies, as well as second-runs of recent blockbuster hits.



The Hollywood District is also home to one of several Whole Foods Market stores serving the Portland area. There are a couple banks located in the area, so Sims can take out a loan to shop for organic foods here :D .


To the south of the Hollywood/NE 39th Avenue station is the Laurelhurst neighborhood, a historical neighborhood consisting of vintage homes, first established in the early 1900's. When the neighborhood was built, there were strict, and rather unfortunate rules prohibiting sales of homes to Chinese, Japanese and African Americans. Fortunately, these covenants are no longer legal today. The Laurelhurst Park is a favorite hangout of local Sims, featuring many varieties of plant life and a duck pond.



If you're riding the MAX, the next three stops are all within short distances of each other (less than 600 feet apart) and serve the Lloyd District, home to the Lloyd Center Mall. The stops are (in order): the Lloyd Center Mall station, the NE 7th Avenue station and the Convention Center station.


Lloyd Center Mall opened in 1960, and is the commercial focal point of the neighborhood. The mall was originally built with an open-air configuration. When it opened in 1960, it was the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest. In the 1990s, the mall was enclosed and underwent extensive renovations. Today, the mall is anchored by several department stores, including Macy's, Kohls, Sears and JC Penney. The mall once featured a Nordstrom department store, which closed in 2013, after 40 years at the mall. Nordstrom was replaced by JC Penney earlier this year. There is a food court and a movie theater on the 3rd floor, as well as an indoor ice-skating rink on the 1st floor.


The mall is surrounded by parking, retail, residential, several hotels, and office space. As well as an additional movie theater, the Regal Lloyd Cinemas.

Also located in the Lloyd District is the Oregon Convention Center, which opened in 1989. When compared to convention centers in other cities of similar size in the western United States, the Oregon Convention Center is quite small. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, efforts to expand the convention center were met with opposition from local Sims, concerned about increased traffic and potential negative environmental impacts associated with the expansion project. In 2003, expansion efforts were put on hold until 2006, when another round of efforts were made. Again, local Sims voiced their opposition. With vocal opposition and a downturn in the economy, expansion efforts were completely scrapped in 2009. However, efforts to build a 600-room convention center hotel adjacent to the convention center continue to this day. The hotel project is currently facing legal challenges in nearby Clackamas County.

Across the street from the Oregon Convention Center is a Starbucks, and a locally owned Japanese American family business, Anzen Hiroshi. Anzen first opened in 1904 and has served Portland ever since. From the early 1900s to World War II, Portland had one of the country's largest Japanese American populations. Unfortunately, due to US government internment policies during WW2, Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated inland, and the Japanese population in Portland never recovered after the war. Nonetheless, Anzen Hiroshi survived, and in 1968, it moved to it's current location along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (formerly known as Union Avenue). Anzen Hiroshi sells Japanese and Asian groceries, specialty products and gifts. While small, the store offers competitive prices, and a very friendly staff, always happily greeting customers new and old.


As we pass through the Lloyd District, the next MAX Stop is the Rose Quarter station. Home of the Portland Trailblazers, your tour guide's favorite basketball team :party:

Here passengers can stop for a game or event... or transfer to the Yellow, Blue and Green MAX lines.


And that's it for the east side of Portland! Next on our journey, we will cross the Willamette River into downtown Portland/City Center!

Stay tuned!


Before we continue on our journey, here are a few bonus shots of Portland International Airport (PDX).

The first picture is a historical photo, circa 2004, of a Northwest Airlines DC-10, preparing to depart to Tokyo/Narita Airport in Japan, and a Lufthansa A340-300, which had just arrived from Frankfurt, Germany.


Both Lufthansa and Northwest no longer serve PDX. Lufthansa ended PDX service in September, 2009 due to lack of ridership and competition from Northwest Airlines' flight to Amsterdam. Northwest Airlines, on the other hand, no longer exists as an airline, having merged with Delta Airlines several years ago. Fortunately for Portland, Delta has continued to operate PDX-NRT on Boeing 767-300ER aircraft (after the Port of Portland offered to subsidize the route), and PDX-AMS on both Boeing 767-300ER and A330-300 aircraft. The Amsterdam flight is often full during the summer months, as many Oregonian Sims enjoy traveling to Europe for leisure.

The next photo is a present-day shot of the PDX Cargo Center. The Cargo Center is located on the south side of the airport, directly opposite Runway 10R/28L from passenger concourses A and C. Current cargo service at PDX includes ABX Air flights to/from Seattle, FedEx flights to/from Anchorage, Indianapolis, Memphis and Oakland and UPS flights to/from Chicago-Rockford, Louisville, Ontario, CA and Spokane, WA.


PDX is also home to the Portland Air National Guard Base. The Portland ANGB is located directly east of the PDX Cargo Center, and directly south of passenger Concourse A (opposite Runway 10R/28L). The base is home to the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, the 366th OL-A Communications Squadron, the 123rd Weather Flight and the Air Force Reserve 304th Rescue Squadron. The 142nd Fighter Wing is tasked with supporting global drug interdiction, USAFE air defense, and has participated in operations such as Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.


Now that we've seen some of the non-commercial passenger related operations at PDX, it's time to continue on our tour. Our final destination will be Portland's downtown (also known as City Center).

For those of you who plan to take the MAX Light Rail, you will need to purchase a ticket prior to boarding the train. Tickets are $2.50 per adult. Your ticket acts as proof of payment, and you may be required to show it if random ticket checks are conducted. MAX tickets are good for 2 hour time frames, you can hop on and off as much as you want within the 2 hour time period, and tickets are not destination specific (so you can go to as many destinations as you like, regardless of distance from your point of origin). It is OK if the ticket expires before you reach your destination, as long as you got on the train prior to the expiration time. MAX trains consist of one or two cars. There are no trains with three or more cars (we'll get to the reason for that a little later). MAX tickets are also good for all bus lines operated by Tri-Met (the primary transit agency in the Portland metropolitan area), as well as buses operated by C-Tran (the primary transit agency in Vancouver, Washington - which is located just across the Columbia River from Portland). Full day passes (good until 2:30 am next day), and 30-day passes are also available.

Below is a photo of a MAX Red Line train leaving the Airport station.


For those of you who decided to rent a car, you will follow NE Airport Way to exit the airport, then proceed to Interstate 205 south. Follow the signs for "Portland". Note that the speed limit on NE Airport Way is currently set to 10 mph near the airport terminal, and 40 mph as you get farther away from the terminal building. Be cautious as the Port of Portland Police have been known to heavily patrol this stretch of roadway, happily handing out costly tickets and surly lectures to Sims who are in a hurry to get to and from the airport, or not paying attention when driving. They usually like to ticket you for any speed greater than 5 mph above the posted speed limit. Also beware of the "red light cameras" on intersections along this roadway. Unlike most states, it is illegal to enter an intersection in Oregon when the light is yellow.

As you proceed down NE Airport Way, or the MAX Red Line, you will notice Runway 10L/28R, as well as Alamo Rental Cars and the PDX long term parking lot to the left. Also in the distance is the Columbia River, which separates the states of Oregon and Washington. The Columbia River is a favorite of local Sims for boating and sailing, as well as other water sports. Immediately adjacent to the Columbia River is NE Marine Drive (on the top in the picture below). Sims who are aviation enthusiasts are known to park their cars along this road for plane spotting, as it provides great views of planes taking off and landing on Runway 10L/28R. NE Marine Drive is also a favorite during the 4th of July (Independence Day) Holiday, as it provides a good place to park and watch the fireworks from across the river in Washington State.


If you're on the MAX, the first stop along the way is the Mt. Hood Station, located at the corner of NE Airport Way and NE 82nd Avenue, not too far from the airport terminal.


You may notice that there is plenty of bicycle storage available at the station. Portland is a very bicycle friendly city, and the city government actively encourages Sims to use their bikes. A few years ago, this entire area was nothing but open grassland. Since then, development has really taken off, despite being of the suburban "big box" variety. There is a Holiday Inn Express immediately adjacent to Mt Hood Station, a Target and a couple small retail shops.


Just about a thousand feet from Mt Hood Station is the next stop, Cascade Station.


Similar to Mt Hood Station, Cascade Station is surrounded by recently developed big box retail and office space. There is a small park located just north of the station. Some of the retail here include Best Buy, TJ Maxx, Staples and DSW Shoes. There is also a Hyatt Place hotel, which is the only Hyatt branded hotel currently operating in the State of Oregon.


Cascade Station is also adjacent to Oregon's only IKEA...


You may be wondering why there's so much big box retail near the airport. One reason is that there was lots of open space here before, and therefore, lots of build-able land. However, the primary reason is the proximity to Washington State, which is just across the river. Washington State has a sales tax, and Oregon does not. So lots of Sims from Washington State looking to save a few bucks on stuff such as do-it-yourself "furniture" with odd Swedish names and not-so-good picture-like instructions, or electronics with bad return policies, take the short hop across the Interstate 205 bridge to shop here.

if you're driving, here's where you will get onto Interstate 205. Since we are going to downtown Portland, you will want to go southbound. If you accidentally go northbound, you will find that you are crossing the Columbia River on the I-205 Bridge and will end up in Washington state. Note that in Oregon, most Sims will refer to interstates as I-xxx, as in "eye-xxx" where xxx is the number designation of the route. For example, Sims here will refer to Interstate 205 as "eye-205".

In this area, Interstate 205 features 3 general purpose lanes in each direction. The speed limit is 55 mph. The roadway is made of asphalt, as are most Oregon freeways and highways. This makes for good traction due to the abundance of rain here.

The next stop along our journey is the Parkrose Transit Center, located less than a mile from the Cascade Station. If you're driving, and want to see the transit center, you can take Exit 23 "Bypass US-30/Sandy Blvd".


The Parkrose Transit Center serves the Parkrose and Sumner neighborhoods. It is primarily a park & ride facility for local Sims. From here, Sims can take the MAX light rail, as well as various Tri-Met and C-Tran bus routes. The transit center is also served by the I-205 Multiuse Path, a north-south bicycle and pedestrian pathway that parallels the MAX tracks and I-205.


From here, we continue southbound toward our destination.

As we leave the Parkrose Transit Center, we will pass by Rocky Butte. Both MAX passengers and drivers along I-205 will be able to see it on the right-hand side when traveling southbound. Rocky Butte is an extinct volcanic cinder cone butte, and is a designated natural area.

It is also home to the Portland Bible College and City Christian School/Church. Portland Bible College is a small, four-year bible college offering degrees in theology and church ministry. It is a private college with about 200 students currently enrolled and was founded in 1967.


As we pass Rocky Butte, we will come to the junction of I-205 and I-84 (known locally as the "Banfield Freeway"). For those who are driving, you will want to take Exit 24A, I-84/US-30 West "Portland".


For those on the MAX Red Line, we will continue southbound past I-84, then loop back around. In this area, the MAX tracks transition from ground-level to elevated, as it crosses I-84.

If you look to your left, you will see that the I-205 Multiuse Pathway continues in a southbound direction, paralleling the MAX Red Line, heavy-rail tracks used by Amtrak and freight rail lines, and I-84.


The next stop on the MAX Red Line is the Gateway Transit Center, located about a mile south of the Parkrose Transit Center.


The Gateway Transit Center serves multiple Tri-Met bus lines, and the MAX Red, Blue and Green lines.

Here passengers can transfer to both bus lines and other MAX lines. The Blue line is an east-west line connecting the western suburb of Hillsboro and the eastern suburb of Gresham. The Green line is a north-south line connecting downtown Portland with the southeast suburb of Clackamas. For our tour, we will stay on the Red Line, which loops around at Gateway Transit Center, as the route switches from a southbound to westbound direction.

The Gateway Transit Center is centrally located near the junction of I-205 and I-84, and is surrounded by office space, retail and residential land uses, as well as the Providence Medical Group-Gateway Hospital and various supporting clinics and doctor's offices.




As we leave the Gateway Transit Center, the train will head north slightly, then switch onto the westbound track to continue toward downtown Portland. We have about 5 miles to go before we reach downtown, but still plenty of stops and sights to see in between.

Stay tuned!


Hello and welcome to your tour of An Alternate Universe: A tour of cities around the world (in a slightly different universe from our own).

We will be visiting many cities on our tour. In many ways, these cities resemble those of the same name in our own universe. However, there are slight differences. Feel free to point out these differences at any time during your tour, if you notice them ;) .

Let the journey begin!

Welcome to Portland!

We start our tour in Portland, Oregon, USA. Also known as the City of Roses, Portland is the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Oregon, with an estimated population of 609,456 within it's city limits, and approximately 2.3 million within the greater Portland metropolitan area.

Air Arrivals

If you're arriving by air, you will be flying into Portland International Airport (PDX). PDX airport is located in the northeast quadrant of the city, along the Columbia River, which acts as the natural border between the states of Oregon and Washington. PDX is owned and operated by the Port of Portland. PDX has approximately 50+ gates for commercial aircraft of various sizes. There are two main runways (Runway 10L/28R and Runway 10R/28L). The airport is served by major US-based airlines such as American, Delta, US Airways and United, low-cost carriers such as Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Virgin America, regional carriers such as Horizon Airlines and SeaPort Airlines, specialty airlines such as Hawaiian Air and Canadian carrier Air Canada Jazz. The airport also serves as a hub for Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.


PDX has one main terminal and four primary concourses (A, C, D, and E). Your arriving concourse will depend on where you are arriving from, and what airline you are flying. All check-in counters are located in the main terminal, level 2. Baggage claim for all airlines (except non-Canadian international arrivals) are located on level 1 of the main terminal. All flights originating from Canada are treated as domestic arrivals, since passengers pre-clear US Customs & Immigration in Canada.

The rental car center is located on level 1 of the short term parking garage located directly across the primary roadway from the main terminal. PDX is a completely smoke-free airport, and there is free WiFi throughout the facility for passengers to use. There is a food court and shops located in the "Oregon Marketplace" in the non-secure area of the main terminal. PDX is unique among airports in that it requires restaurants and food services to charge the same prices as their non-airport locations.


Concourse A is served by Alaska Airlines and Alaska's subsidiary regional carrier Horizon Air. Horizon Air is the exclusive carrier for Concourse A, with the majority of these flights arriving/departing from/to airports in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Nevada, California and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Concourse A features a small waiting area, restrooms, and Laurelwood, a local restaurant and brewery. There are no jetways in Concourse A, and passengers must walk out onto the tarmac to embark/disembark from planes. Arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim in the main terminal building, level 1 to collect their checked baggage.


Concourse C is served by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, US Airways and Southwest Airlines. All "C gates" feature jetways. Concourse C features multiple waiting areas, the Alaska Airlines Boardroom, multiple restrooms and multiple shops and restaurants (including "Made In Oregon", Starbucks, Gustav's Pub & Grill, McDonalds, Coffee People, Baskin Robbins and Big Town Hero). Arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim in the main terminal building, level 1, to collect their checked baggage. Concourse C features moving walkways to make the journey a little bit easier on the feet. There is also a secured concourse connector that allows passengers in Concourse A & C to access Concourse D & E without having to go through TSA security screening again.


Concourse D is served by Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines and Virgin America. All "D gates" feature jetways. Concourse D features multiple waiting areas, the Delta SkyClub, multiple restrooms and multiple shops and restaurants (including Burgerville, "Made In Oregon", Starbucks, Columbia Sportswear, Coffee People, Rose's Restaurant & Bakery and Rogue Ales Public House). Arriving passengers on domestic flights can proceed directly to baggage claim in the main terminal building, level 1, to collect their checked baggage. Concourse D features moving walkways to make the journey a little bit easier on the feet. There is also a secured concourse connector that allows passengers in Concourse D & E to access Concourse A & C without having to go through TSA security screening again.


At the west end of Concourse D is the Governor Victor G. Atiyeh International Concourse, named after former Oregon Governor Victor G. Atiyeh, also known as "Trader Vic" for his work in launching international tourism and trade initiatives during his tenure as governor. This section of the airport was completed in the early 1990's, originally built to serve as Delta Airlines' Asia Gateway. During the 1990's, there were non-stop international flights on Delta Airlines, serving Portland-Tokyo, Portland-Seoul, Portland-Taipei, Portland-Nagoya and Portland-Fukuoka on Delta's L-1011 and MD-11 aircraft. The flights typically continued on to Delta's main hub in Atlanta, as aircraft in the 1990's could not fly non-stop between Atlanta and Asia, without stopping for fuel.

Unfortunately, due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, new technology eliminating the need to make fuel stops between Atlanta and Asia and complaints about passenger treatment at the immigration facility at PDX, Delta discontinued all non-stop flights from Portland to Asia in 2001. The last flights were Portland-Tokyo and Portland-Nagoya in March of that year.

Other than flights to Vancouver, BC, Canada, PDX did not have any international non-stop flights between 2001 and 2003. In 2003, Lufthansa announced that it would begin non-stop service between PDX and its Frankfurt, Germany hub. Shortly after, Northwest Airlines began non-stop flights between PDX and Tokyo/Narita and PDX and Amsterdam. Mexicana Airlines began service between Portland and Guadalajara and Mexico City, Mexico. All three airlines utilized the Victor G. Aityeh International Concourse.

Today, there are two international non-stop flights: Portland-Amsterdam (AMS) and Portland-Tokyo/Narita (NRT), both on Delta Airlines. The AMS route is served by A330-300 aircraft during the summer months, and Boeing 767-300ER aircraft during the winter months. The NRT route is served by Boeing 767-300ER aircraft year-round.

Passengers arriving on these two flights are immediately routed downstairs to Level 1 of the Victor G. Atiyeh International Concourse, where they proceed to US Immigration passport control. After clearing passport control, international passengers pickup their checked bags at one of two dedicated carousels before proceeding to US Customs. After clearing customs, passengers have two options. Passengers connecting to domestic flights re-check their bags on Level 1, proceed to Level 2 and are re-screened by TSA. Passengers whose final destination is Portland, are routed with their bags, out to the International Arrivals Shuttle Bus Stop. A shuttle takes these passengers to the international arrivals greeting area in the non-secure section of the main terminal.


Concourse E is served by United Airlines, United Express and locally-based SeaPort Airlines. Concourse E features multiple waiting areas, restrooms, and Laurelwood Brewery Restaurant.. All Concourse E arriving passengers can proceed directly to baggage claim in the main terminal building, level 1, to collect their checked baggage. Concourse E features moving walkways to make the journey a little bit easier on the feet. There is also a secured concourse connector that allows passengers in Concourse D & E to access Concourse A & C without having to go through TSA security screening again. Most Concourse E gates feature jetways. However, some gates do not, primarily those serving United Express, Air Canada Jazz and SeaPort Airlines.


On to the Town...

Once you've collected your baggage and made all the necessary restroom stops, you'll want to figure out how to get into town. There are two main options. For those wishing to rent a car, you can proceed across the main roadway from the main terminal to level 1 of the short term parking garage. Here you will find the Rental Car center. PDX is nice in that most rental car facilities are located within walking distance of the airport terminal, so you don't need to hop on a rental car shuttle bus (unless you are renting from Alamo, Budget or Thrifty).

For those who wish to take public transit, there is a MAX Light Rail station located on the south side of the main terminal building, adjacent to Concourse A. The MAX Light Rail system has served Portland since 1986. The airport is served by the Red Line, which connects PDX Airport with Downtown (City Center) and the suburb of Beaverton.

Next up on the tour will be a ride on the Red Line from PDX Airport to City Center, as well as a driving tour from PDX Airport to City Center (with a couple stops in between).

To Be Continued...


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