The #75 TriMet is a lifeline for many in the rapidly changing city—a link between old and new, despair and hope.

In Portland, Oregon, the past moves out while the future keeps moving in.

The famously livable city now has a severe lack of affordable housing. In the last year, home prices have grown at a faster rate than in any other major metro area in the U.S. What’s more, the vacancy rate is less than 2 percent and homeless shelter attendance is up 30 percent.

To get a glimpse of this transformation in motion, I, along with photographer Geoffrey Hiller, have been riding the #75 TriMet bus and posting about it on our blog, Bus 75: Hidden Portland.

Bus 75— which received a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Portland’s local arts organization—is about life in the back pockets of Portland, off the radar and out of the ordinary.

It’s also, of course, about the 75 bus itself. From near the Willamette River in Milwaukie, the 75 winds its way north for 20 miles through different areas and eras, ending back near the Willamette River in St. Johns. Some neighborhoods bloom with pride while others are overgrown with apathy.

The bus is a lifeline for many and a link between old and new, despair and hope. The places (and faces) on Bus 75 portray a Portland that is unknown to most people and bring to light the transformation occurring around almost every bus stop.

Hidden people

(Geoffrey Hiller)

More people are getting on the bus. Devoid of expression, they stare at phones, books, the seat in front, and out the window, but seldom look into the face of a fellow passenger. Alienation prevails until you hear a stranger excitedly say, “Hey, how are you? It’s so good to see you again!”

Portland Flea Market

(Geoffrey Hiller)

For centuries, people have gathered near the Willamette River to buy and sell goods, just as they do today at the Portland Flea Market. The “treasures” have changed, but the traders haven’t. Admission is only one dollar. No negotiating that, but everything else is up for dickering.

“I got the time and I got the junk,” one vendor says. “Might as well get rid of it. But it’s mostly just junk.” He’s right. Living at the poverty level, he didn’t make enough to pay taxes last year. He wishes he did.

Ace Typewriter

(Geoffrey Hiller)

For the past 50 years, Ace Typewriter has been restoring old machines with polish and love. “Business is good,” the owner laughs. “There’s only a few of us doing this. Many writers are going back to typewriters now instead of computers. You can refer back to what you’ve written and keep going—helps prevent writer’s block.”

Anvil Barbershop  

(Geoffrey Hiller)

Tradition is kept alive at Anvil Barbershop in Milwaukie. It’s as legit as a straight-cut barbershop gets: a place where men get a cut and shave, hang out, joke, have a beer and escape from the house. No kids, no women. The walls are covered with photos, posters, and oddities and the air has a faint scent of butchwax. 

Thu Fashion

(Geoffrey Hiller)

From Vietnam to Italy to Portland, Thu Duong has seen, and sewn, a lot. After studying fashion design, she uprooted herself and family and immigrated to Portland, one of the whitest cities in the U.S.

“I could not find a job because I did not speak English,” Thu says. “I had two little children.” She persevered and eventually opened Thu Fashion, a small shop where she made alterations. She hopes she won’t have to move. “My customers need me,” she says.

Heartbeat Silent Disco

(Geoffrey Hiller)

At the Heartbeat Silent Disco in Laurelhurst Park, people tune into their own muse and frequency, listening to sound an on-site DJ transmits via wireless headphones. The signal carries deep, not far—just a 1,500-meter radius. Some of the entranced dance, others just sit on blankets and sip on the scene. It’s a new way to escape.

Double J Tire

(Geoffrey Hiller)

Double J Tire on MLK is a family-owned tire dealer and a longtime local favorite. Much of the work is done in the parking lot as cars (and buses) whiz by.

“It’s a hell of a lot safer now,” says Scott, Double J manager. “The neighborhood has improved a lot since they changed the name from Union to MLK. When my family first opened here it was pretty sketchy.” Why did they start the business there if it was so unsafe? “It’s a busy street. People need tires.”

In plain sight

(Geoffrey Hiller)

It’s the mundane parts of life that are hardest to see. Ride the bus. Look around. Your views may change.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  2. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  3. an illustration depicting a map of the Rio Grande river
    Maps

    Between Texas and Mexico, a Restless Border Defies the Map

    In El Paso, we call it the Rio Grande; our neighbors in Juárez know it as Río Bravo. It’s supposed to be a national border, but the river had its own ideas.

  4. An illustration of a turtle with a city on its shell
    Transportation

    Why Speed Kills Cities

    U.S. cities are dropping urban speed limits in an effort to boost safety and lower crash rates. But the benefits of less-rapid urban mobility don’t end there.  

  5. Maps

    The Map That Made Los Angeles Make Sense

    For generations in Southern California, the Thomas Guide led drivers through the streets of Los Angeles. Now apps do that. Did something get lost along the way?

×