Getting Around in Seattle

Seattle’s public transport network is adequate but perhaps not as extensive as those in other major US cities. Traffic in Seattle is not too intense; in fact it is highly regulated, and thanks to the city’s small but well-maintained public transport network, extended commute times are only experienced during peak hours. Newcomers to the city will find getting around Seattle is fairly easy and efficient.

Locals generally prefer travelling by car, although commuting to and from work each day by car isn’t always convenient. Expats living in Seattle will find that most large companies in Seattle provide passes for public transportation, which encourage people to travel using these systems rather than driving. 


Public transport in Seattle

All of Seattle’s modes of public transport connect the city’s suburbs to the downtown area. While there is a choice of transport options available, they are not all fast or well-networked. 

Fares for public transport vary according to the mode of transport and distance travelled. For expats wishing to use the public transportation system frequently, it is wise to invest in an Orca Pass which provides a cost-effective and convenient option of getting around Seattle.

Light rail 

Operated by Sound Transit, the Link light rail system is limited but is a fast way to get around. Currently consisting of two lines (Central Link and Tacoma Link), extensions are planned for the future.

Although most residents of Seattle don’t use the service on a regular basis, it is useful for expats who travel for business and need to access the airport. It is the fastest and most affordable way to get to the airport.

Buses

There are various types of buses in operation in Seattle, all which fall under the King Country Metro Transit system. The bus network is fairly extensive, with connections to most areas of the city. 

Seattle’s Sound Transit is an additional bus system that doesn’t fall under the King Country Metro Transit system. Sound Transit provides an easy, convenient and fast way to travel along the freeway to the suburbs.

Streetcar

This tram service consists of two lines: the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar. Trams arrive every 10 to 15 minutes, depending on time of day.

Ferry

Washington state operates the largest fleet of ferries in the US and runs both passenger and vehicle ferries. Services are regular and it isn't uncommon to commute via the ferry.


Taxis in Seattle

Taxis are readily available in Seattle’s city centre. One can hail a taxi from the side of the street in the downtown area, but those travelling from outside the city centre should book their vehicle in advance. While commuting by taxi in Seattle is convenient, it is expensive.


Driving in Seattle

Driving in Seattle is relatively easy and should not be much of a challenge for new expats, as long as they are in possession of either a US or international driver's licence. Peak-hour traffic can be a little aggravating, but unlike in most US cities, drivers don’t find that they are delayed for hours.

Parking can be an issue in Seattle’s city centre and parking options can be very expensive as free parking in the city centre it is limited. 


Cycling in Seattle

Seattle has an extensive network of bike trails and the city’s temperate climate makes cycling conducive. However, because of frequent rainfall and a hilly topography, protective gear is suggested to avoid unexpected skids or accidents.


Walking in Seattle

Seattle is a pedestrian-friendly city. There are clearly marked sidewalks (footpaths) and crosswalks (pedestrian crossing), where pedestrians have the right-of-way. Vehicles need to stop for pedestrians obeying traffic rules.

Padmaja Ganeshan-Singh Our Expat Expert

Padmaja Ganeshan-Singh is a new expat from India and a rookie Superwoman. She is the mother of a high-energy preschooler who presents her with the challenges of preserving the culture of her homeland while embracing the culture of her new home in Seattle. From driving on the 'right' side of the road to understanding the craze behind Halloween candy, Padmaja's trying to make meaning out of the madness around her. Visit her blog at www.vasudhaiyer.blogspot.com

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