Visiting Seattle and wondering how to get around the city? Because parking in central Seattle is often costly and hard to find, visitors are encouraged to use the excellent public transport system, or a taxi or rideshare service, such as Uber.
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Public Transportation in Seattle by Land:
If you are coming into town from the airport, the light rail link takes about 35 minutes to get you downtown and makes a lot more sense than sitting in a taxi in traffic. Trains run about every 6 to 10 minutes, and from SeaTac main terminal it’s about a five-minute walk to the station. The train also makes convenient stops at Capitol Hill, the International District, Pioneer Square, the stadiums and the university.
Other options for transportation within the city include the monorail which connects the Space Needle with the Westlake Center and the two lines that comprise the streetcar. And don’t forget the buses – the reliable bus system will also get you just about anywhere in Seattle.
Buying an Orca card allows you to coordinate payment across the different transit lines, and the card can be used on the ferries as well as all ground transportation, except the privately owned monorail which must be paid for separately. The card allows free transfers as long as you are transferring within a two-hour window and of course, it means you don’t have to hunt around for a change. You can plan your route around Seattle ahead of time by using the Metro, Trip Planner.
The Orca card can be purchased ahead of time at any light rail station or bought online, and you can add funds to the card which you use in much the same way as a debit card. If you are visiting Seattle with children aged between 6 and 18, the youth fare version of the card will save you some money.
Seattle Transit By Boat
If your plans call for visiting the picturesque town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island, you can take advantage of daily ferry service from the Colman dock on the harbor. Timetables and maps are available at the visitor’s kiosk in the ferry terminal, and from there it’s about a 10-minute walk to the shops and restaurants of Winslow.
And if you are heading to either Vashon Island or Seacrest Park, make your way to Pier 50 in downtown, where you can catch the King County water taxi. From Seacrest park, a free shuttle will then take you to the shops of West Seattle Junction, and to popular Alki Beach.
Seeing Seattle On Foot
If your stay in Seattle is mostly confined to downtown, you can probably get away without taking any public transport at all, as Seattle has the reputation of being very walkable, and often it’s the easiest and fastest way to go a short distance. Keep in mind that if you have a mobility issue, some of the city’s hilly neighborhoods can present a challenge. If you want to walk around town and avoid those streets that are hilly, as well as streets that have road construction leading to blocked sidewalks, the Access Map produced by the University of Washington is a useful tool to have.