If you’re planning to visit Seattle this summer, you might want to consider alternate forms of transportation. While a car is the quickest and easiest way to get around, car rental prices are higher than ever. What’s more, rideshare prices are also up and public parking spaces can sometimes be at a premium. Fortunately, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest features one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the country.
Learn how to get around Seattle without having to use a car!
Seattle Public Transportation
Link Light Rail (Sound Transit)
Multiple transportation options are available for you to get around a large swath of Seattle. In fact, if you’re flying into SeaTac, you can save money by taking Link Light Rail to downtown. Light rail trains depart every 12-15 mins and the fare is just $3. What’s more, this Link line can take you near or close to several local attractions. That’s means the Link can practically be your sole source of transportation. The Link is the easiest way to get around Seattle.
Instead of using cash, you should download the Transit Go Ticket app or obtain an ORCA card for cashless fare payments. The Transit Go Ticket can be used for fare and retail stores. That’s because transit agencies are not accepting cash in order to reduce the risk of exposure to germs.
King County Metro is the primary operator of public bus service within downtown Seattle. The bus system operates more than 120 routes and connects with Link at multiple stops. See the system map for more details of bus service. Visit the King County System Maps to plan your bus trip. Fare can be paid with an ORCA card. In addition to Metro, Sound Transit operates express regional bus service. Lastly, RapidRide is another express bus service that may come in handy.
If you want to use public transportation but find it difficult, there are a few apps to try out. Moovit is very easy to follow and understand as is Rome2Rio. Another popular app to consider is Wanderu.
Seattle Center Monorail
The first of its kind in the U.S., the monorail links Seattle Center and downtown Seattle. This .9 mile route is particularly useful since most every visitor wants to see the Space Needle at Seattle Center. Regular one-way fare is $3. At this time, the monorail is operating at a reduced level of service. Please check with Seattle Center Monorail for up to date information.
Westlake Center Station
In downtown Seattle, the monorail station is at Westlake Center, a major retail area and transportation hub. There is a Link Light Rail station at Westlake Center and several bus bays for transit bus service.
Please note that construction is currently going on at the Westlake Center station. Construction is expected to be completed in Fall 2021. However, more improvements will continue at least through 2030. In fact, more plans are currently under consideration. For instance, community members are hoping that a new station in Chinatown is moved to another location. That’s because the present spot is next to the historic Chinatown Gate.
Two streetcar lines provide additional public transportation options within the city. However, depending your itinerary, you might not need to use the Seattle Streetcar. The Lake Union Park route operates between the Westlake and Lake Union. Several Amazon buildings are located along this route, including Amazon headquarters.
The First Hill route operates between Occidental Mall near Pioneer Square and Cal Anderson Park. Attractions are this route are Frye Art Museum and Japanese Tea Garden. Also near the southwest border of Cal Anderson Park is the statue of Jimi Hendrix.
Seattle Boat Transportation
King County Metro operates two water taxi routes, with service from the Seattle waterfront at Pier 50 to West Seattle and Vashon Island. Fare can be paid with the Transit Go Ticket app or ORCA. Water taxis do not operate on weekends or on major holidays. This includes the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Seattle maintains the largest ferry system in the country and world’s second largest. Managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation, the system operates 10 routes. The ferry system serves islands and communities within Puget Sound. Service to British Columbia, Canada is currently out of service due to COVID-19. Among popular destinations served are Olympia, Tacoma, Bainbridge Island and San Juan Islands.
Several boat tours are available, with boats of all sizes. Among the best is Argosy Cruises, well known for its scenic harbor cruises. Service on Argosy Cruises just resumed June 14 and reservations can be booked online. Other popular services are Waterway Cruises and Seattle Boat Company. For whale watching, Clipper Vacations is the only local tour operator.
Both Uber and Lyft operate in Seattle and its surrounding areas. Taxi service is available, with operators like Yellow Cab, Orange Cab and Viking Cab. Additionally, several limousine services operate in Seattle. Among top recommendations are Aces Town Car Service, Century Car Service, Seattle STS Town Car and A&A Limousine.
Please note that prices for rideshare and taxi service may be higher than normal.
Tour buses are a great way to see many of Seattle’s top attractions in a day or two. This can be especially helpful for those who have difficulty taking public transportation. Several local tour operators are available with a range of options.
Hop On Hop Off
Among the most popular are multi-hour city tours and the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off buses. The latter provides stops at many top attractions like Pike Place Market and Seattle Center. Local operators also offer trips to regional attractions like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park.
As one of America’s most bike friendly cities, Seattle has an extensive network of bike paths and trails. To meet the demand, the city implemented a bike share program, with a fleet of electric-assist bicycles. The program has proved to be very successful, with one in four Seattle residents using shared bikes in 2019.
JUMP is the vendor for shared bikes while three vendors manage shared scooters. JUMP bikes in Seattle can be rented with the Uber app.
Seattle has a number of bike shops that offer rentals. However, most businesses in downtown Seattle are bike tour operators. Among the most popular are Seattle Bicycle Tours and Seattle Cycling Tours. Standard and electric assisted bikes are available on selected tours.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, CBS Los Angeles, CBS Chicago and CBS San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. His other stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBSNews.com, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University, U.S. Army veteran and lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.