I’ve got relatives coming to Seattle from Minnesota in June. They mentioned to me that they were going to RENT A CAR. I screamed “NO”. A car is the one thing you do not want or need to easily and cheaply get around. We have some of the best public transportation in the country and some of the worst traffic. We’ve got buses, streetcars, the Monorail, light rail trains and an underground train system. Plus, this is a very walk able city. You do not need to rent a car in Seattle. If I am not driving my beautiful tour coach, I use public transportation for most of my trips.
The first question any one has when coming to Seattle or any new city is, “How do I get from the airport to downtown or from my airport area hotel to downtown. It’s a piece of cake. You simply hop on the light rail transit (LRT) train which is shown in the bottom picture above. If there is any drawback to the LRT, it’s the approximately 200 yds (183 meters) you need to walk from baggage claim to catch it. It’s an easy covered walk and almost all luggage these days has little wheels. If you are at an airport area hotel, simply ask your hotel courtesy shuttle driver to take you to the nearest light rail station. You’ll need to purchase a ticket at the station kiosk.
The price is $3.00 per adult and any credit card is accepted. Now here is the comparison. If you take a taxi or a private car for hire service, you’ll pay between $45 and $60. The LRT is clean, safe, inexpensive and efficient. The ride takes about 40 minutes in to downtown. You’ll disembark at Westlake Center.
From there, you’ll come out of the tunnel and go up to street level. If you are staying at a downtown hotel, you can walk or call your hotel for it’s courtesy shuttle bus. Cabs are plentiful also. The LRT is the way savvy Seattleites transit between downtown and the airport. The trains operate approximately every 6 to 10 minutes between 5 A.M. and 1 A.M.
After you’re comfortably checked in to your hotel, you’ll find that most of the downtown attractions are easily accessible on foot. But this article is about transit. Let me start with the bus system.
BUS SYSTEM: Yikes is it easy. You may want to get an Orca card but it is not necessary. An Orca card (named after our indigenous whales) is a card that that can be prepaid. It’s a good idea to get one. You’ll need to go to 210 Jackson Street in Pioneer Square. You can prepay the card or if you are a senior, it will allow you to board the bus for just $1. The regular fare is $2.50. To get around on the bus you simply go online and search www.metro.kingcounty.gov. On their site, you go to “Transit Trip Planning”. Type in your current address and the address of the attraction to which you are going. Bingo. Up comes your options.
The Pike Place Market is on first avenue but third avenue is the main transit artery. Look for the kiosk that has your buses number on it. When the bus arrives, you’ll step on and pay cash only if you do not have the prepaid Orca card. If your trip plan calls for a transfer, ask the driver for one. It’s a little piece of paper and is good for approximately four hours. When you transfer buses, simply show the paper to the new driver. The buses have a GPS system which shows stops on a reader board at the front of the bus. You should watch for your stop to appear and then you may have to pull the cable above your head to request a stop if no one else has. An important note, if you are exiting a rear door you may have to firmly push the door after the bus stops to open it.
Street Cars: We have a limited street car system but they go to some key parts of the city. One line goes from downtown Westlake Center to south Lake Union and another goes from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill/Broadway area. For more information, go to www.seattlestreetcar.org.
Light Rail (LRT): This is the train you are all ready familiar with. This is the one that brings you in from the airport. Once downtown, it goes underground between the Pioneer Square, sports stadiums, Chinatown (international district), Capitol Hill/Broadway area and to the University of Washington. Visit www.soundtransit.org for details.
Monorail: O.K. so we who live here may not use this train a lot but as a visitor it’s a great way to get between downtown and Seattle Center which is where the Space Needle, MoPop, Chihuly glass and McCaw Hall (ballet, opera) are. If you are downtown, catch the monorail at Westlake Center (think Nordstorms) and two and a half minutes later your trip is completed. If you are at Seattle Center, you can see the monorail station from the Space Needle ticket window. The cost is $2.25 adult and senior $1. It is cash only. Visit www.seattlemonorail.com for details.
Getting around Seattle on public transportation is easy and inexpensive but don’t forget a non transit option..walking. Ours is a very walk-able city if you don’t mind a few hills and possibly a little…rain. So hop on a bus and say “Hi” to a group of folks I totally respect and admire. The men and women who pilot these huge pieces of equipment so expertly and safely for our enjoyment and convenience.
We’re entertainers with years of tour guide experience who love Seattle and want to show it to you. We offer unforgettable1.5 hour sightseeing tours of Seattle by minibus with highlights like Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, Lake Union, and the Space Needle.