Public Transportation in Seattle: The Ultimate Guide

Worried about how to optimize your trip to Seattle by not having to spend much? Fret not! We are here to tell you all about it. One of the best ways to explore a city in the cheapest way possible is via public transportation. According to reports, the public transportation network in Seattle is voted as the best, ahead of all other cities in the United States. You can find buses in Seattle, having their network in all of the busiest streets and is the most common public transportation method in the city. There are other methods of traveling across the city as well. So keep reading to choose the one which suits you best!


The different modes of public transportation operating in Seattle are:

Road Transport in Seattle

1. Buses in Seattle


Seattle has a vast network of buses. It is the most popular and reliable mode of public transportation in the city. King County Metro is the most recommended bus service operator within King County. With more than 220 buses and trolley routes, buses in Seattle can take you anywhere across the city.  With so many routes, planning on which bus to take might seem tedious at first, but after going through the route map and schedule, easily accessible at malls, libraries, and at the Metro Customer Help, it does not seem like such a task. You can pay the fare using cash, a metro ticket, or an ORCA card. 
How much to pay?
: $2.75 (Ages 19 to 64)
Youth:$1.50 ( Ages 6 to 18)
Kids: Free(Ages 5 and below)
ORCA holders: $1.50 Access Transportation: $1.75

How to pay?
ORCA holders: Swipe your card on the card reader as you enter the bus
Cash: Deposit cash in the farebox next to the driver. 
Tickets: Deposit the ticket in the farebox next to the driver
Mobile Tickets: Activate the ticket on your phone and while boarding show the driver the ticket.

What if you want to Transfer?
ORCA holders:
If you are using an ORCA card, then you get a two-hour transfer, which works for all transit buses, water taxi services, Sounder trains, monorails, streetcars etc. All you need to do is just tap the card while boarding.
Cash and tickets: Ask the driver for a paper transfer while you pay. What you receive is valid only on metro buses. If you plan on using more than one transit system, then you must pay a fare each time you board a different bus.
Mobile Tickets: Mobile tickets holders are allowed unlimited transfers for up to two hours from activation. 
King County Metro is the most recommended choice within King County, but to avail services to far off places such as Everett in the North and Dupont in the south, one needs to use Sound Service. King County Metro is essentially a bus network within the circle, whereas Sound Transit offers express buses to areas away from King County. There is no fixed fare like King County Metro, but their fares vary according to your final destination. 

For more information on the schedule of Sound, Transit services, visit their website.

Special Bus Services offered:

2. Rapid Ride


Rapid Ride buses are specially designed to operate on a more frequent basis with limited stops. One need not use a timetable to avail of Rapid Ride buses in Seattle. You can show up at the nearest Rapid Ride bus stop, and the bus will arrive within a few moments. With six routes covering 64 miles, one can save up to five minutes per trip during peak hours, so you can leave your worries behind and travel faster.  Fares for RapidRide buses follow the same fare structure as regular bus services. 

A Line: Tukwila – Sea–Tac Airport – SeaTac – Des Moines – Kent – Federal Way
B Line : Redmond – Overlake – Bellevue
C Line : West Seattle – Downtown Seattle – South Lake Union
D Line : Crown Hill – Ballard – Interbay – Uptown – Downtown Seattle
E Line: Shoreline – Bitter Lake – West Green Lake – Downtown Seattle
F Line : Burien – SeaTac – Tukwila – Renton

Apart from these six routes, there are plans for expanding the routes further in the future.

3. Dial- a-ride Transit (DART) 


Operating on a fixed route basis in the city, DART services have the flexibility to operate on a limited number of off-route locations upon request by passengers. To request a ride, one has to call the DART reservation office and make a booking at least two hours before pick up time, and reservations can be made 30 days at a time, a month in advance. Reservations are made on a first-come, first-serve basis. Standard public transit fare applies to avail of this service.
Operating hours:
Monday thru Friday: 5 AM – 11 PM
Saturday: 7:30 AM – 9:30 PM
Sunday/Holidays: 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM

4. Night Owl Service


Night Owl Service runs between midnight, and 5 am, seven days a week. They offer 18 late-night routes and operate to and from Sea-Tac Airport, Auburn, Burien, Federal Way, Kent, Tukwila, and Shoreline. Fares for Night Owl services are the same as regular bus service.

5. Solid Ground Circulator

This is a free service for those traveling with medical facilities and human service agencies in Seattle’s Downtown and First Hill neighborhood. However, users are free to use this service for any purpose. The Solid Ground Circulator uses shuttle buses to travel in a fixed-route wherein passengers can hop on at any point with no prior reservations. Although the circulator is open to everyone, it is intended for homeless people and belongs to the low-income category.

6. Access Bus Rides

Solid Ground also offers free shuttle services for those with special transportation needs who cannot ride on public transport in Seattle. They operate throughout the day; however, one has to be eligible for a ride upon request. To check your eligibility, please visit the Metro Access Website.

7. Trains in Seattle


Sound Transit Services offer not only to express buses but train services as well. 

8. Link Light Rail


Their services run from Angle Lake Station through downtown and up to the University of Washington.  Stations are located at sports stadiums, Pioneer Square, Downtown, Capitol Hall, International District, and SeaTac Airport. Trains arrive at an interval of 6 to 15 minutes, depending on whether it is peak or non-peak hour. On average, it takes around 40 minutes for one to travel from the airport to Downtown Seattle.
For adults( ages 19 - 64 years): it ranges from $2.50 to $3.25 based on the distance travelled.
For senior citizens ( ages 64 years and above) it is $1.
For youths( age 6 to 18 years) it is $1.50.

9. Seattle Streetcar


They have two different lines. One runs from Downtown to Lake Union, and the other one runs along Broadway to Pioneer Square, via the International District. The former takes you to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). In contrast, the latter takes you to Seattle’s historic district, where you will find the Smith Observation tower and many other architectural buildings.
For adults( ages 19 - 64 years): $2.50
For senior citizens ( ages 64 years and above) it is $1.
For youths( age 6 to 18 years) it is $1.50.
Mon-Thu, 6:00am–9:00pm
Fri-Sat, 6:00am–11:00pm
Sun, 10:00am–7:00pm

10. The Seattle Monorail


If you are on a time constraint and want to reach any place in between Downtown and Seattle Center, then you should avail yourself of the monorail services. It runs from Westlake Center in Downtown to the base of Space Needle. The monorail was built back in 1962 and still operates daily from 9 am to 11 pm. They leave at an interval of 6-10 minutes, depending on the time of travel. Since it is privately owned, its fares are not transferable across different modes of transportation.
For adults( ages 19 - 64 years): $2.50 
For senior citizens ( ages 64 years and above) it is $1.
For youths( age 6 to 18 years) it is 75 cents.

Water Transport in Seattle


Seattle, is located on the Puget Sound, commutes to places not having bus or train services much easier.

There are two water transport services that you can avail of in Seattle:

11. Washington State Ferries


This is the most extensive ferry service provider in the United States, offering both walk-on and drive-on services, wherein you can take your cars along with you on the ferry by paying an extra fee. The ferry services make for a fun ride with mesmerizing views of the city skyline. You can avail of ferry services from Downtown to Bremerton and Bainbridge and a few more stops on the route. Tickets for the ferries may be bought online or in-person and are valid for 90 days. 
Fares: Seattle to Bainbridge Island (One way) -$8.20 (adults),
$4.10 ( senior citizen and youth) Extra charges for cars depending on the model.

12. Water Taxi


Water Taxis operate from Pier 55 to Seacrest Park, connecting one of Seattle’s most popular beaches, Alki beach to nearby spots. Operating from West Seattle to Vashon Island, Water Taxis offer only walk-on services. Fares can be paid via cash, ticket, or an ORCA card onboarding the Water Taxi.

             Downtown to West Seattle:
             $5.75 for adults (19 to 64 years)
             $5.75 for young adults (6 to 18 years)
             $2.50 for Seniors citizen and persons with disabilities
             Free for children ( 5 years and under)Free for bicycle riders

     Downtown to Vashon Island:
     $6.75 for adults (19 to 64 years)
     $6.75 for young adults (6 to 18 years)
     $3 for for Seniors citizen and persons with disabilities
     Free for children ( 5 years and under)Free for bicycle riders

Rentals in Seattle

13. Taxis in Seattle


Taxi services in Seattle are ample yet varied. You can get access to public taxis like the yellow cabs and privately owned ones such as Uber and Lyft.  Despite its easy availability, taxis are not always recommended as it might not seem economical at times.

14. Bike Rentals in Seattle

Seattle Government offers bike rental services wherein you can rent a bike for a few hours based on hourly charges, and then you can park the bike anywhere on the city bike racks or sidewalks but make sure you follow the parking guidelines. All you need to do is download the app to move forward with the rental for renting bikes. 

15. Car Rentals in Seattle

Car rental is an easy process in Seattle as there are too many privately-owned companies offering their services. Cars can be booked via their company website or in person by visiting any rental kiosk at the airport. Some hotels and tourist centers also provide car rental services.

Tips on using Public Transportation in Seattle:

  • If you plan to cover your entire stay in Seattle on public transportation, you should go for an All-Day Regional Transit pass, which comes for only $8. This pass can be used as an access card for all public transport services across the city, except for Seattle monorail and Washington State Ferries. The only pre-condition is that you might have to buy a reusable transit card (ORCA), easily available at any vending machine, at a minimum cost of $5 to be eligible for an All-Day Pass. This extra $5 is totally worth it as it saves you from the hassles of different fare policies, overlapping agencies, and transfer rules. 
  • The all-day pass is discounted for senior citizens at $4 and the reusable transit card at $3.5. For kids under 5, transportation is free if traveling with a paying adult.
  • According to locals, a combination of walking and using buses in Seattle is always recommended. You can download an app called ‘One Bus Away,’ which gives you an up-to-date arrival time at your location. It takes into account the traffic conditions as well, so one must not worry about saving time.
  • Using google maps is also very helpful when considering to move from point A to B using public transportation in Seattle. It gives you very detailed information, keeping in mind the shortest route and traffic detail.
  • If you have plans of visiting a specific place at a specific time, Metro’s trip planner, available both on the web and as an app, is quite helpful. Although it doesn’t always give you the best routes, it does a decent job for tourists.
  • While using buses in Seattle, make sure you have the exact fare ready as drivers do not carry change. As you enter the bus, deposit the fare in the farebox beside the driver.
  • People with disabilities must not worry about availing of public transportation. King County Metro is highly committed to people with disabilities, and they offer special services to them if booked in advance.
  • If you plan you use the Washington Ferry services, then keep in mind that booking a ticket does not always book your spot on the ferry. To avoid any overload on the Ferry, people can board the ferries on a first-come, first-serve basis, so plan accordingly. 
  • For rental services, be it bikes or cars, do remember to go through the road rules. In the case of a bike, do not forget your helmet, and for cars, seatbelts are a must.

Like any other metropolitan hub, Seattle is infamous for its heavy traffic, and with so many neighborhoods to explore, to plan on how to save on both time and money can seem daunting at first, but with this guide in hand, you are all set to go!

This post was published by Asmita Sarkar

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