There are several great options for gettting around Seattle and the Central Puget Sound region without a car. Seattle has an extensive bus system that can be used to travel througout the Puget Sound. The three primary transit providers in the Seattle and Central Puget Sound area are King County Metro, Community TransitPierce Transit, and Sound Transit. In addition to buses, Sound Transit offers commuter rail service between Tacoma, Seattle, Edmonds and Everett. Sound Transit also operates a light rail system that provides convenient service between Sea-Tac Airport and downtown Seattle.

 

Getting Transit Directions In and Around Seattle

You can find specific point-to-point transit directions using either the Sound Transit Trip Planner, official Metro Trip Planner or TripGo . All of them are excellent and provide accurate information, but only TripGo provides multi-modal transport options, combining public and private modes to give you the most suitable plans depending on your priorities (budget or convenience). 

Obviously Google Maps is always a good choice, use Google Maps and enter "[Your starting point] to [Your destination]" and click the search button. You can also use names of places for your start and end points. For example, you can type in "Pike Place Market to La Rustica" and get directions from The Pike Place Market to the restaurant called "La Rustica" in West Seattle. After you click search, you will see driving directions between your two points. To get transit directions, look to the left-hand side of the screen for a bar of icons that include a car, a bus, a person, and a bicyclist (as shown below).

Google Maps Bar 

Click on the bus and Google Maps will provide you transit direction from point A to B. 

 

Types of Transit in Seattle 

 Link Light Rail/Sound Transit

 Sound Transit operates two Link Light Rail lines, the Central Link and the Tacoma Link.

The Central Link operates between Seatac International Airport and Westlake Station in downtown Seattle, making 11 stops along the way. For solo travelers, the Link light rail is a very inexpensive way to get from the airport to downtown Seattle ($2.75/per person). Link trains run every 7.5, 10 or 15 minutes depending on the time of day. Service is available from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Sunday and holidays. 

The Tacoma Link light rail travels 1.6 miles through downtown Tacoma, making five stops along the way. Link trains run every 12 to 24 minutes depending on the time of day. Service is available from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and holidays. Riding Tacoma Link is free!

Fare information for Central Link can be found hereChildren under 18 are $1.25, one-way on the Central Link.

ORCA Card,  cash, and credit card are accepted as payment. Paper transfers issued by Metro are not valid on Link light rail. If paying with cash, purchase your ticket on the platform before boarding at a ticket vending machine. You can also purchase an ORCA card at these vending machines. If you use an ORCA card, tap at the station when you get on and then tap again at your destination station. Adult fares range from $2.00 to $2.75 depending on how far you travel.

 

Bus

 Buses provide access to many attractions and locations throughout the Seattle area. The trip planner or Google Maps provides the easiest way to determine the correct buses to take and the total fare. 

Bus route 99 is a transit bus that goes from the Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square north up 1st Ave to Broad Street. Getting off near Broad street will allow you to walk  a few blocks to the space needle. Route 99 Bus was previously free but no longer as of Sept 2012. It goes west on Broad St giving you a chance to visit the Olympic Sculpture Garden and the waterfront. While seawall reconstruction is underway along the waterfront, the bus no longer travels Alaskan Way, rather it loops back to 1st Ave. and heads south past the Pike Place Market to the Pioneer Square and Chinatown/International District areas. It is very convenient for visiting the Klondike Gold Rush Museum or to go to the Underground Tours in Pioneer Square.

There are two bus service providers in Seattle: King County Metro and Sound Transit. Sound Transit generally provides longer distance, commuter focused buses, while Metro provides most bus service in the City of Seattle. As a visitor, you will mostly be using Metro buses. For specific fare information, please see the King County Metro page and the Sound Transit page for fares on their respective services. Paper transfers issued by Metro are not valid on Sound Transit buses. ORCA Card and cash are accepted as payment. Adult fares inside the city are $2.25 off peak (10am to 3pm and 6pm to 6am) and $2.50 peak (6am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm). If you travel between the city and king county, then you pay a "two zone" fare of $3. If you travel only within king county and do not enter the city, then you also pay only the single zone fare of $2.25 off peak/$2.50 peak.

 

Monorail 

 Another option within downtown Seattle is the historic Monorail to Seattle Center, site of the 1962 World’s Fair and the landmark Space Needle. The Seattle Center Monorail operates daily, with departures every 10 minutes from the station at Seattle Center, (across from the Space Needle) and from Westlake Center Mall, at Fifth and Pine Street.  Each trip takes two minutes to cover the 1 mile route. Each train can carry up to 450 passengers per trip. The Monorail provides two-train service during special events and activities, with departures every five minutes or less.

Fare information can be found here. The monorail does not accept ORCA cards or credit cards for fare payment.  

 

Seattle Streetcar - South Lake Union Line

 The Seattle Streetcar - Southlake Union Line is a 2.6 mile route that runs from Westlake Center to the South Lake Union Neighborhood. A good option for travel to/from hotels in the South Lake Union area, the new Lake Union Waterfront Park, the Center for Wooden Boats or the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Fare information can be found here. ORCA Card or cash is accepted as payment. Paper transfers issued by Metro are valid on the Seattle Streetcar.

 

Sounder Train/Sound Transit

 The Sounder trains travel between Tacoma and Seattle (making stops in Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila) and between Everett and Seattle (making stops in Mukilteo and Edmonds).  Sounder regularly runs weekday mornings and afternoons only.  Sounder also serves select major weekend events such as Mariners and Seahawks games.  Adult fares are between $2.75 and $4.75 depending on how far you travel.

Fare information can be found here. ORCA Card and cash are accepted as payment. Paper transfers issued by Metro are not valid on Sound Transit, including the Sounder Train.

 

Washington State Ferries

 From downtown Seattle, you can also take advantage of the Washington State Ferry System and take a scenic ferry ride to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton.  Beautiful Whidbey Island and Deception Pass State Park are also accessible via ferries departing from Mukilteo, a 30-45 minute drive north of downtown Seattle. Washington State ferries take both cars and walk-on passengers. From downtown, the ferries leave from Colman Dock at pier 52, at the end of Madison Street. 

Fare information for the Washington State Ferries can be found here. Passenger fares are only collected westbound (from Seattle). Car fares are collected both directions. ORCA Card, cash, and credit cards are accepted as payment. Paper transfers issued by Metro are not valid on the Washington State Ferries. For specific routes, please see:

 

Water Taxi 

 King County Water Taxi operates passenger ferries to West Seattle and Vashon Island from downtown, leaving from pier 50 just south of the State ferry dock at the end of Yesler Way. 

Fare information for the King County Water Taci can be found here. ORCA Card, Cash, and credit cards are accepted as payment. Using the ORCA card grants you discount on your fare. Paper transfers issued by Metro are not valid on the Water Taxi. Credit cards can only be used with the onshore ticket vending machine, and not on-board.

 

Transit Outside Seattle 

 Traveling outside of downtown Seattle? Not a problem. Plan your trip online with a regional trip planner.  Just type in your location within King, Pierce or Snohomish counties and your destination. The trip planner will give you several options for getting there. Google Maps can also provide directions.  

 

Paying Your Fare on Transit in Seattle

Cash

Cash is accepted throughout the public transit system and by the Seattle Monorail. Exact change is required for buses. On Metro buses, you will also recieve a paper transfer (see below), which is valid only on metro buses and the Seattle Streetcar from until the time shown on the transfer that day. The transfer is not accepted on Sound Transit, Washington State Ferries, the Water Taxi, or the Monorail. For specific fare information, see each section above.

 

ORCA Card 

The ORCA Card is a credit-card size transit pass that is accepted by all public transit agencies in the region, except for the monorail. It can either be loaded with a pass, such as a monthly pass, or loaded with an E-purse that can be used to pay the regular cash fare. The card costs $5 and can be purchased most conveniently at any Link light rail or Sounder station ticket vending machine. You may also purchase single trip tickets for both Link light rail and Sounder from ticket vending machines located in all rail stations. The primary advantage with the ORCA Card is the ability to transfer for free between Sound Transit and Metro services, which may or may not be to your advantage.

Generally, unless you plan to use Sound Transit buses or the Link light rail regularly during your visit, you will not need an ORCA card. 

 

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