How to Get Around Seattle

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by Santorini Dave • Updated: January 29, 2020

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Public Transportation in Seattle

What’s the best way to get around Seattle?

In downtown Seattle, a rental car can be more of a burden than a benefit. Parking downtown is tough (and expensive), and daily hotel parking rates add up fast. Taxis and rideshare services (like Lyft and Uber) are plentiful, and an easy way to get where you need to go. Public transportation in Seattle is good, and getting better.

Seattle Public Transporation on Land:

  • Link light rail runs from SeaTac Airport through downtown and up to the University of Washington in Northeast Seattle. It has station stops at the sports stadiums, the International District, Pioneer Square, downtown, and Capitol Hill. The airport station is about a 5-minute walk from the main terminal and baggage claim, trains depart every 5-10 minutes or so, and the trip into downtown takes about 35 minutes. (This is longer than a taxi ride in the best conditions, but can be quicker if there’s heavy traffic – which there often is.)
  • The Seattle Streetcar has two different lines, one running from downtown to South Lake Union, and one from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill, via the International District.
  • The Seattle Monorail runs from Westlake Center in downtown Seattle to the base of the Space Needle in Seattle Center. It’s privately owned, so fare is not transferable from other modes of transport.
  • Buses go everywhere, and are generally reliable.

You’ll likely want to use a combination of all of these options to get around Seattle, and it’s easy to do so. Use Metro’s Trip Planner to determine your route. Payment is coordinated between transit lines through an Orca Card or through the Transit GO mobile app. With either method, you won’t have to worry about having exact change, and transfers are free within a two-hour window.

With Transit GO, tickets can be purchased for most Seattle Public transit carriers, including buses, light rail, Sounder, Monorail, streetcars, and water taxis but excluding ferries. Transit GO sells individual adult and youth tickets and day passes; youth tickets are discouted fares for kids aged 6-18.

Orca Cards for adults or youths can be used for just about all Seattle public transit, including ferries but excluding Monorail and water taxis. Orca Cards can be pre-loaded with funds to use like cash or with a regional day pass, good for unlimited rides under $3. Buy your Orca Card in advance online or at any Link light rail station.

Seattle Transit by Boat:

  • Colman Dock on the Seattle waterfront provides daily ferry service to Bainbridge Island, and the quaint town of Winslow is within a ten-minute walk from the island’s ferry terminal – stop by the terminal’s Visitor’s Kiosk for a map and more information.
  • The King County Water Taxi shuttles passengers back and forth between Pier 50 in downtown Seattle and two terminals: Seacrest Park in West Seattle and Vashon Island. Public transportation is accessible from either spot, with free shuttles running from Seacrest Park to Alki Beach and the West Seattle Junction shopping district.
  • Seattle On Foot:

    Seattle is a pedestrian-friendly city, and most points downtown are easily walkable. Certain parts of the city are built on a steep grade, however, and the hilly streets can be a challenge for folks with mobility issues. The University of Washington’s Access Map is a handy tool to plan a more easily-walkable route around town; showing which streets are steepest, and which sidewalks are blocked due to construction.

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