Updated: February 21, 2017
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 ride share 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 by 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 – you can use it for just about all Seattle public transit, including ferries. With an Orca Card, you won’t have to worry about having exact change, and transfers are free within a two-hour window. The one exception to this is the Monorail, which is privately owned and you’ll have to pay for separately. You can pre-load your Orca Card 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. Remember to purchase the cheaper “youth fare” cards for kids aged 6-18.
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 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.