Getting around a new place is tough. Going places in a car seems nice, but dealing with traffic is a major bummer. Plus, you have to worry about getting a parking slot and paying fees. Though technically someone else can drive for you (rent-a-car, taxis, Uber), you’ll probably end up racking up your credit card bill. Not a fun sight to go home to after a vacation, if you ask me. Public transport in Seattle is safe, convenient, and cheap. You just have to know your options
The Seattle Streetcar has two routes: South Lake Union Line (SLU) connects Lake Union to the downtown area. The First Hill Line (FHL) starts at Pioneer Square and ends at Capitol Hills.
Trains run every 10-15 minutes from 5 AM -11 PM. Schedules are different during weekends and holidays, so plan your trip in advance (Website: https://seattlestreetcar.org.)
Link Light Rail
The Link Light Rail connects Seattle’s major districts. It’s connected to the SeaTac Airport so you can hop right on from your flight. From the airport, you can get to T-Mobile Park Sports Stadium (around 33min); International District (~40min); Pioneer Square (~41min), Downtown Seattle (~46min); and Capitol Hill (~54min).
Trains arrive between 5-10 minutes. It’s open from 5 AM – 1 AM from Mondays to Saturdays, and 6 AM-12 MN on Sundays and holidays.
Heading to Seattle Center? If you’re from the Downtown Area, using the monorail is the best way to go. The monorail runs directly from Westlake Center Mall to the Seattle Space Needle.
Trips start at from 7:30 AM-11 PM on weekdays, and 8:30 AM-11 PM on weekends.
Metro Transit Bus
If you can’t reach your destinations with the options above, you can always take the bus. Buses are widely available, and they can take you virtually anywhere. You can plan your trip on their website at https://m.tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/.
You’ll notice that the trip planner suggests different transit lines, not just the bus. This means you can plan all your trips in advance without worrying how and where to transfer. Payment is also a breeze since all transit lines can be paid through the ORCA Card (wireless smart payment card), except for the Monorail (which is privately-run).
With an ORCA card, you don’t have to line up for ticket for every trip. Transfers are also free as long as the trip is under 2 hours. You can buy the cards at stations, or order them in advance online. Kids 6-18 years can also avail of discounted “youth” fare cards, while kids under 5 ride for free!
If you plan on visiting Bainbridge Island, you can take ferry services from Colman Dock (Pier 52) in downtown Seattle. They have trips as early as 4:45AM, and as late as 1:35AM (last departing trip). The ride is around 1 hour. Watch out for changes in schedule, especially during harsh weather.
Water taxis are available from Downtown Seattle (Colman Dock) to two destinations: Seacrest Park in West Seattle, and Vashon Island. Aside from avoiding land traffic, you also get to enjoy a scenic boat ride. From the drop-off points, you can take free shuttles to a beach or the shopping district.
Note that some routes may not be available on holidays. Schedules can also be affected by the weather. Be sure to check with their website before planning your trip!
ORCA Cards can be used for both the ferry and water taxi.
One final (and most practical) way of exploring the city is by walking. If you’re already in Downtown Seattle, you’ll find that it’s easy to go around on foot. Walking is a great way to discover a city. Seattle is known to be the 8th most walkable large city in the US, so you’ll definitely enjoy strolling through the beautiful sidewalks and parks. Plan your route in advance and you’ll be surprised at the places you can discover.