I've made up my mind - Salem, OR it is. Now I need some info, please.
October 31, 2011 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Need some info about Salem, OR please...

Okay, here's the plan... I've been applying to Community Colleges in Oregon (and parts of Washington) but it may take a while before any of them get back to me, and I can't wait in Mississippi for someone to answer. So this is what I'm going to do. The semester ends the first week of December (finals are the first and second week of December). Graduation is the 15th of December. Of course then there are the holidays... My lease is up on the 31st of December, but my landlady won't squawk if I'm here a couple of extra days.

If I don't get a solid offer by the middle of December, I'm buying a train ticket for the first week of January and heading to Salem. I don't want to go to Portland because I don't think I'll be a good fit there. There are plenty of temp agencies in Salem so I can put my years of admin experience to use and get temp work while looking for a job as an English instructor. I've checked out the average rent, and I can afford to rent a room or studio for six months on what I have saved and still have enough to live on. I'm thinking on paying up front if possible because that will make my life easier (I also have a reference from my current landlady). I'll be moving up there with whatever fits into two suitcases so the room I rent needs to be furnished... And I don't want to get into a "roommate" situation but would prefer to rent a private room or a studio apartment if possible.

If anyone can tell me which neighborhood would be best to look for a place that would be great - single woman in my mid-forties... Don't need any night life, I'm pretty quiet and something of a home-body.

Also, is the public transportation up there in the PNW as good as I remember? If I'm going to sign up with the temp agencies, then it's important that I have access to public transport (no car). Any information about what to expect from Salem would be great. Thanks.
posted by patheral to Travel & Transportation around Salem, OR (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you are looking for employment at a community college, then Chemetketa is on the Northeast quadrant of Salem. The city of Kaiser, just to the north of Salem, would be worth checking out also.

The bus system there is OK, from what I have seen. No light rail.
posted by Danf at 3:06 PM on October 31, 2011

I live in Portland, but have a few friends from and currently living in salem, and they all say that the bus system is not the most reliable.

Salem's bus system map.

It's my understanding that if you settle in Salem, you're going to want a car pretty bad after a bit. Even if Portland and you aren't going to be a good fit culturally, it is much better in that regard....also, Portland is a pretty big place, with many little enclaves and cultures within it, and just barely better unemployment than Salem.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:01 PM on October 31, 2011

If you want public transit, Salem isn't your best bet. Really, your options for cities in the PNW with enough of a transit system to be able to use are Portland and Eugene.
(Lane is a good CC), but I've heard good things about Chemetketa.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:23 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

The community college is on the far NE side of Salem, and the buses from there to the rest of town can take a while. It's not that big of a place, but you can easily spend an hour bus ride trying to get downtown. When I lived there my friends without cars were always pretty miserable about the public transit system, especially after a big price hike combined with drastically reduced hours and routes about 2 years ago. Portland would be a much better choice if you're not going to have a car in the near future.

The area near Chemeketa is lower income for the most part. There are awesome ethnic stores and restaurants, but there is a fair amount of gang and prostitution activity on that end of town. Honestly, I left Salem last year because the crime and meth problems were just getting to be too much. It's a bit of a cultural wasteland and unemployment was out of control. The area near downtown and Willamette University is probably your best bet so you'll be as close to as many bus routes as possible, but it's really hit or miss from one block to the next as far as living conditions go.

I personally, wouldn't recommend Salem, but I might be biased after living there most of my life. I think you can do a lot better in one of the outlying suburbs of Portland, but I wish you luck wherever you end up.
posted by evilbeck at 4:25 PM on October 31, 2011

hmmm... maybe Bend or Eugene then? I'm open...
posted by patheral at 5:06 PM on October 31, 2011

What are your concerns re Portland?
posted by bluedaisy at 5:17 PM on October 31, 2011

I live in Springfield (next to Eugene). The transit system in Eugene/springfield is pretty good, and we are expanding the bus rapid transit system pretty fast (there are currently some NIMBY problems in Eugene with it). The bike trails here are even better and if you have good rain gear it is a better faster way to get around. Our unemployment here has recently started dropping noticeably (although still at about 10%). All of the school districts in Oregon are hurting and laying off teachers but the worst of it is probably over there. However the birthrate here is not great and there aren't a lot of new kids enrolling. Both the Eugene and springfield districts closed schools this year due to declining enrollment and more are slated for next year. Lane Community College is a good school and well regarded locally with lots of satellite campuses. Corvallis might be better for finding a job but really the Willamette valley is split between northern end (portland/salem) and the southern end (eugene/springfield/corvallis/albany) and there is a lot of commuting between cities as jobs shift around. With six months living expenses and cheap living (no car/regular apt) you can live here if you are willing to work all kinds of jobs as they are available. I am kinda rambling, if you have any questions about the Eugene / springfield area memail me and I will try to answer them.

BTW it is a great place to live and I hope to stay here the rest of my life after moving in 08 from growing up and living in the southwest US.
posted by bartonlong at 5:36 PM on October 31, 2011

Bluedaisy, from what I've heard of Portland, there's a definate in-your-face liberal tendency there, and I'm very much middle-of-the-road in all things. I tend to get tiffed when people get in my face...

bartonlong, that sounds pretty interesting and worth investigating.
posted by patheral at 5:42 PM on October 31, 2011

In case the in-your-face liberal tendency is your only concern about Portland, rest assured that there ARE middle-of-the roaders here, myself and many of my friends included. The only people who have gotten in my face are the paid canvassers from Greenpeace, ACLU and the like. They are annoying (regardless of what issue they are canvassing for) but a minor, minor inconvenience in an otherwise great city.

Agreeing with bartonlong regarding the great bike trails in the Eugene/Springfield area and inexpensive living.

And Bend is beautiful and in my opinion much less liberal-leaning than Portland or Eugene.
posted by click at 6:40 PM on October 31, 2011

Patheral, I was going to suggest, then, that perhaps you consider the Portland metropolitan area more generally. Portland is a liberal town (it's not in-your-face to me, but I'm a liberal gal, so, you know, take that with a grain of salt), and one of the advantages of this liberalism is a lot of investment into transit infrastructure. So you can probably rely on public transportation and not live right in town. Beaverton and Lake Oswego are not liberal bastions by any means. You can also go a bit east of Portland and consider Mt. Hood Community College.

There are other colleges in the area that hire folks with MAs (right?) to teach, at least on an adjunct basis, including Clark College and Portland State University. I'm also guessing some cc folks might not look too closely at out-of-state applicants.

Oregon's economy has taken a beating in the past few years, like everywhere, and I don't know that any town here has a lot of jobs right now.

Bend is a lovely town. I tend to think of it as being very pricey because it relies so much on tourism and many people have vacation homes in the area. It also attracts a lot of seasonal workers in the winter, to work at Mt. Bachelor. I don't know if you'd have to compete with those folks for smaller apartments. Maybe someone else will chime in with information about that.

I agree if you're trying to avoid a very liberal place, Eugene isn't going to be a whole lot different from Portland. It's a college town, after all.

Good luck with your applications and decisions.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:02 PM on October 31, 2011

Chiming in for Bend here, yes, the rental market is a bit competitive right now, but it seems there are good studios/temporary furnished options. COCC is pretty well regarded. Again, I'm biased since I left Salem to move here, but as a lifelong Oregonian, I feel pretty strongly that Portland, Eugene, and Bend would all be better fits for your situation. I personally adore Bend and definitely agree that it's less liberal, but I don't know how great the job market is, and the public transportation again leaves something to be desired. Basically though, if you're moving to Oregon, you're heading in the right direction!
posted by evilbeck at 2:07 AM on November 1, 2011

Yeah, I wouldn't rely on public transit in Bend.
It's better than it used to be (which is to say it exists at all now), but nobody has ever mistaken it for good.
Otherwise, it sounds like Bend meets your criteria.
OTOH, Portland does too (as long as you don't live in SE Portland or NW Portland). Reputations and reality are not always the same thing.
If you're looking to avoid liberal folks, either Bend or Portland will serve you better than Eugene.
posted by willpie at 8:06 AM on November 1, 2011

I may have to reconsider Portland... If Salem's transportation system isn't all that great. I honestly cannot afford a car at this point and will need to rely on public transport until I get settled. I'm not worried about scraping a living because I survived working temp for a very long time, and my needs aren't much. If I can't find work as an instructor right away, I have options.

I'm looking at Oregon because most of my maternal family hails from OR. They're scattered about all over the place up there with the exception of my mom - the rebel. She lives up in WA, but we moved around a bit when I was a kid. I get my traveling ways from her. I'm getting too old (45) and decrepit (see previous posts) to keep be-bopping around and want to settle down for a bit.

Anyway, I figure OR is a nice state. I've visited a few times and I like it. I'm cool with WA too, but something's calling me to OR. I'll have to see how much snow Bend gets (snow + no car = bad situation) because it's east of the mountains, but I'll definitely look into Bend, Eugene, and Portland.
posted by patheral at 9:29 AM on November 1, 2011

You could also consider Southwest Washington/Vancouver, Wash., which is a more conservative/moderate suburb of Oregon and has its own community college.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:55 AM on November 1, 2011

I grew up in Eugene, but haven't lived there for a few years, so things may have changed a bit. But I thought I would share to give you more opinions to consider.

My impression of the bus system was that it was not great (mostly, a bit slow), but perfectly usable. And it sounds like there have been some improvements since I left, so I think it would meet your needs.

Lane Community College seemed well regarded when I was growing up, and I took one class there, which I enjoyed. I was always impressed by how much community involvement they have. They do have satellite campuses, including one in downtown Eugene, but the main campus is a bit far, though with good bus service. If you would be spending a lot of time at the main LCC campus, I would recommend looking at living near a bus line that heads out that direction to save you time. (Plus, being a student qualifies you for a discounted bus pass!)

Eugene does tend to be pretty liberal. I have a hard time judging how annoying it might be to someone more middle-of-the-road as I am liberal. However, I certainly know people in Eugene who are more moderate, so I don't think you would be alone. Or, you could try living in Springfield. Springfield has quite a different reputation and feel from Eugene. More gritty, and less hippy.

Any follow-up questions, feel free to memail me.
posted by dormouse at 12:46 PM on November 1, 2011

I just looked at the rent prices in Portland on craigslist, and... ouch! They're twice what I found in Salem. That cuts my window to find work down by half if I move there. Eugene is about the same as Salem so there's that... Of course there are more temp companies and CC's up in Portland.

*sigh* I'm awful with these things. Can't I just throw a dart at the map and move there? ;)
posted by patheral at 12:47 PM on November 1, 2011

My family all grew up in Keizer, north of Salem, and I've lived in Eugene for over 20 years. I much prefer Eugene, and have chosen not to pursue some promotional opportunities at work because they all require moving to Salem. Public transit and bike trails are great in Eugene. Food is better, if that matters to you. We finally have a decent library-Salem was way ahead there for a long time. And LCC is expanding into a new downtown site, right across from said library.
posted by purenitrous at 9:40 PM on November 1, 2011

Does anyone have any experience with the temp companies in either Eugene or Portland? I have a list of the temp agencies but knowing which companies are out there is no substitute for knowing if they're competent or not. For example, I've worked with Manpower in many states, and some are heads and tails over their sister companies.

I'm going to spend a good part of Friday (my day off from school and work) sending out applications to the Community Colleges in both places and see what I can dig up on the literacy programs out there as well.
posted by patheral at 1:08 PM on November 2, 2011

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