Traveling to a new city I didn’t consider transportation as in depth as I was overwhelmed with the exciting places I planned to see. I left Las Vegas thinking I would be renting a car to get around in Seattle. To my surprise the transit and transportation options became a favorite discovery of my trip. So if you are planning a visit, or are new to this Emerald City, then pay attention for an all you need to know on getting around the city.
A must know if you want a car-rental/ traffic free way to get to the heart of downtown directly from the airport. For a maximum fair of only $3.25 you can get from Seatac Airport to the University of Washington. Along this route is 11 more stops you can disembark to begin your Seattle stay. However, the experience truly begins once you enter the Light Rail and pick a seat. On game days you will see jerseys for all of our favorite home teams and fans packing in friendly and happy to share space. The people watching doesn’t end there as you see business suits, uniforms, tourists, and all walks of life enter and exit along your ride. With decent windows you can take in the sights of the city because they are very different making the core of our diverse culture. There are also some fun aspects like the LED playing cards displayed in the tunnels that make you double take. See if you can spot the suit and color next time you take the ride. For most, you will likely exit one of the 3-4 downtown exits to head to your hotel or airbnb. So when you do and still need to go a little further or don’t want to walk in the rain then try one of these next options.
Depending on where you are from this may not be surprise, but hands down the most available option in our great city. The short of this service for somebody new is this is a phone based app you can download. Once you’re signed up with basic info and payment option you can request a car to accommodate your group and it will pick you up at the location you set. Then simply track the little car on the map to find your driver. Aside from a low fare, you will be able to critique the ride with a review and tip if your feeling generous. No need for cash or negotiating a price. On average I get my Uber or Lyft within 5 to 10 minutes and the drivers make for good conversation. Now, which app to use well this is personal preference. I use Uber for no good reason over the other and frequent both for the quickest most cost friendly ride. These drivers will go most places and some offer refreshments. This is great for getting out of the light rail and getting directly to your hotel or friends place so you don’t have to navigate yourself in a new city. Also, useful all visit long to get to restaurants, bars, parks, and a million other attractions. With parking being as bad as traffic I wouldn’t recommend hunting for street parking or paying $20 to park in a garage.
Say you absolutely need a car or rather drive. Guess what? There is still an option for you that doesn’t require a whole car rental deal. In fact, how does using a car for just a one way trip sound? With many services you can simply use the app to find the car, unlock it, and drive for only the time you need or destination your headed. Once you arrive, park at an approved parking area and leave the car to finish your transaction. A new and popular app is ReachNow. This service uses higher end luxury vehicles like BMW and Mercedes. Other apps are Car2Go, and Zipcar. Using a combination of all will give you the best advantage for quicker transportation. Fore warning, Car2go is always a tiny smart car, and though a smile will form when starring at the clown car these are great for getting around the tight city streets and finding that “too small” for most cars parking space.
Those more adventurous and open to using a little more research will find the bus system is surprisingly simple and available in more places than expected. Like many, I am not from Seattle and the bus system in the cities I’ve lived are not ideal. Seattle has an ever improving system with hundreds of routes taking you all over the city and nearby neighborhoods. By no means is there a host to greet you with drinks and appetizers so keep your belongings close, but they are not to be feared. Even after three years of living in Seattle I couldn’t suggest a ton of routes but a few stick to mind from my travels. I take the C line to and from the city to West Seattle. The D line from downtown to Ballard, and the 24 to Magnolia. There are many more. Using the OneBusAway app is the most accurate for finding a bus and bus times, however the google and apple maps feature will give you very accurate advice on walking directly to the bus stop, where to transfer, and at what time.
Yes! They still exist. I haven’t used one in a long time, but YellowCab and OrangeCab are still available and easier to verify. I couldn’t write about rates as I have no recent experience to share and honestly find it to be more stressful than using one of the above mentioned modes. This industry has been heavily disrupted by the growth in Uber and Lyft and I have witnessed the aggressive tactics to attract a fare, but wouldn’t you if your businesses was being redirected so abruptly?
Hands down the favorite option of mine. Anytime I can take a ferry I vote yes. The experience is an eye opener for me. I pick a destination such as Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, Bremerton, San Juans, or Clinton. Then pay with my orca card(local transit card for bus, light rail, ferry) or with cash/ card and follow the simple instruction to wait and drive your car on the boat. Yes, drive your car right onto the boat. Once you park you can walk up to the main seating area and enjoy the views or walk about the bow. Warm sunny days are great and the breeze is refreshing, while cold days you may experience a bit of a chill. You can always warm up with some hot cocoa or cool down with an ice cold beer. The snack center on the ferries is actually pretty impressive and I always enjoy a good snack as the visit reminds me of my high school cafeteria. Alternatively, there is also a West Seattle water taxi. This is a fun way to get to famous Alki Beach from downtown by getting a one of a kind boat ride to enjoy. From the downtown water front you can pay at the ticket machine and walk up when the boat is ready to board. The schedule is usually spot on. The view is the best as you watch the city skyline slowly shrink. Taking it all in is worth the $5.75. Once you arrive at the docks you are greeted with a restaurant that offers food and drink or a rental center where you can rent bikes, boards, kayaks, and more. I am a fan of renting a bike to ride down to Alki about 1.5m away. Otherwise, the walk is refreshing too.
A new and ever growing option is a bicycle renting service. The enticing part of this service is no need to return the bike where you got it or to any special place at all. In fact, you literally find the nearest available bike(s) and walk to it, use the app to reserve it, and ride. Once your done, say so on the app and leave it. Before the city had a bike service but you had to return the bike to a special station around the city every half hour making your destination route compromised or inconvenient. I suggest Limebike if your looking for a quick way to the water front or simply want to cruise the city.
The average American walks 2.5 miles a day. 2.5 miles will get you pretty far in downtown and if your staying downtown its not a bad choice. During the day the streets are safe to walk and you can find boutique shops and restaurants and local art on buildings and statues. The buildings alone are from years of change and provide beautiful history in and of themselves.
This mode of transportation is better for the tourist going to Seattle Center and the Space Needle from Downtown looking for a historic adventure. It was created during the Worlds Fair that brought the Needle to the city. There are a ton of fun facts about its creation and which famous celebrities rode it. This is a cash only ride and about $5 will get a rider a roundtrip ticket.
No matter which option you choose the adventure will be a memorable part of your trip. The city is growing faster than the roads can support and these alternatives to driving will not only remove the stress from your stay but contribute to reducing traffic. I hope you enjoy your stay in this wondrous city and have fun doing it the Seattle way.