Anyone who is familiar with Seattle knows that traffic here can be a challenge. In fact, it’s becoming such an issue that we’ve started to gain national recognition for it. The yearly TomTom Index of Traffic ranked Seattle 4th on its list of the most congested U.S. cities.
Seattle even took the honor of being named the second-worst city in the U.S. for congestion during rush-hour traffic commutes, with a 75 percent increase in travel time. All in all, Seattle drivers with a one-hour commute are wasting 148 hours per year due to congestion.
That’s some terrible traffic, but fortunately for many Seattle residents, it doesn’t have to be a problem. We’re always pleased to tell newcomers about public transportation in Seattle, because it is truly a top notch system. We rank 6th on Smartasset’s list of best public transport in the United States, and there has been an increase of approximately 3.8 percent in public transit usages since 2011. That’s the largest increase of any major U.S. city.
Regardless of whether you’re just in town to visit or live here full time, public transportation will save you time and frustration. To help you get started, we’ve put together this great guide to getting around Seattle without ever moving your car.
The SoundTransit System
The SoundTransit system manages one of our two major public transportation networks. The network includes several different transportation methods, but the Sounder train and Link Light rail make up the system’s backbone.
Sounder trains service residents between Seattle and Lakewood, while making stops in South Tacoma, Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila. The line also runs in the opposite direction, servicing Everett, Mukilteo, and Edmonds.
The trains are commuter oriented, but also service certain weekend events like Mariners and Seahawks games. Fares run between $3.25 and $5.75, depending on travel distance, and commuter packages are available for daily travelers.
Light Link Rail:
Seattle’s Light Link rail is an electric rail system that allows for easy transportation within Seattle’s city limits. The train travels from UW Station to Angle Lake Station, making 14 stops between those two points.
Link trains are great for anyone who is traveling around the Seattle metro area. They run every 6, 10, or 15 minutes depending on the time of day, and the fare ranges from $2.25 to $3.25, depending on how far you’re traveling. The trains even run until 1am, which makes them a great choice for a late night out on the town.
King County Metro
King County Metro operates the majority of public transport within Seattle’s city limits, covering even more local area than the Light Link rail.
The metro bus is your downtown Seattle solution for low-cost, hassle-free travel. The bus has over 200 routes that run within the city limits and into surrounding areas. The bus line is so loved that between 2010 and 2014, Seattle experienced the biggest jump in the number of bus riders of any major U.S. city.
The sheer number of routes and variations in time schedules would take pages to explain, so instead of getting overwhelmed by all of the details, check out this handy trip planner brought to you by King County.
The Seattle streetcar is another form of downtown transportation. It doesn’t come close to covering the amount of area that is serviced by the bus lines, but the streetcar serves two lines with many different stops. Prices are reasonable at only $2.25 for adults, and $1.50 for kids ages 6-18 years. The streetcar is a fun way to get around during a leisurely visit to downtown, and we highly recommend this mode of transportation if you want to give your out-of-town guests a special Seattle experience. More route information is available on the streetcar website.
ORCA cards are recommended for those who rely heavily on Seattle’s public transportation systems. The cards allow you to pay for both bus and train fairs throughout the greater metro area. Simply load up money or buy monthly passes for your public transport of choice.
Check out the ORCA webpage for detailed instructions on purchasing your card and accompanying passes or credits.
Hopefully this guide gives you everything you’ll need to know about getting around Seattle without a car. In our experience, using public transport can actually improveyour quality of life in Seattle. The same can’t be said for many cities.
If you’re looking to buy or sell a Seattle home, get in contact with us. We specialize in the greater Seattle area and would be happy to show you around our great city.