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Navigating the US: Getting Around in Seattle, Washington

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Otherwise known as the “Emerald City,” Seattle has given us Starbucks, the grunge scene of the 1990s, and The 12th Man. Known for beautiful mountains, the Space Needle, and a whole lot of rain, Seattle has been found to be one of America’s most progressive, literate, and intelligent cities. If you’re planning a trip to Seattle, you’ll be happy to find that it also boasts one of America’s most intelligent public transportation systems, which should make your journey all the easier.

Worried about getting around in Seattle? Let us ease your mind:

Recommended Modes of Transportation

  • King Country Metro –  calls the Metro “easy…affordable…and greener.” Schedules/trip planners can be found at, or they can be reached by telephone 24/7 at 206-553-3000. Seattle’s Metro fleet consists of 1,300 vehicles that vary from electric trolley and dual-powered bus to hybrid diesel-electric buses and streetcars.
  • King County Water Taxi – The water taxi costs $4 and will transport you between Pier 50 and Seacrest in about 10 minutes. According to their schedule, there are two routes available: Vashon Island/Downtown Seattle and West Seattle/Downtown Seattle.
  • Monorail – No, this isn’t another Simpsons joke; Seattle has a monorail all its own. Running from Downtown to Seattle Center on a daily basis, the monorail departs every 10 minutes from 7:30am-11pm (Mon-Fri) and 8:30-11am (Sunday). The monorail picks up in Downtown at Westlake Center on 5th & Pine, and at Seattle Center near the Space Needle. More information is available at
  • Link Light Rail – If you are arriving at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Link Light is your best bet to get from SeaTac in a little over a half-hour. For $2.50, you can make the trip in about 35 minutes, seven days a week. See for hours, prices, and maps.


Major Highways and Roadways to Know

Upon departing from SeaTec, you will take WA-518 EAST, then I-5 NORTH for 10 miles. Seattle will be visible as you approach downtown. Important exits include:

  • Exit 165 for Seneca Street
  • Exit 167 for Seattle Center

Coming from the east, you’ll be taking either Interstate 90 or Freeway 520. From the west…well, you’re taking a boat, because that’s all water, bubba.

The two roads that run through Seattle from north to south are I-5 and SR 99 (otherwise known as Aurora Avenue/Alaska Way Viaduct). notes that these roads are “natural traffic magnets,” which seems to signal that public transportation is the ideal way of getting around in Seattle.

According to, Seattle has something of a learning curve. Here’s some of what we’ve gleaned:

  • North-Southbound streets are Avenues
  • East-Westbound streets are Streets
  • The city is divided into 7 directional sectors (North, Northeast, East, South, Southwest, West, Northwest)
  • Street names follow the format of Direction Address; Avenue names follow the format of Address Direction
  • Downtown Seattle streets have no directional designation and are primarily one ways. According to Trip Advisor: “1st Ave is bidirectional. 2nd Ave is one way south. 3rd Ave is a transit corridor and should not be used. 4th Ave is one way northbound. 5th Ave is one way south. 6th is one way north.”


Alternative Ways of Seeing the City

Best Places to Park is your most useful resource here. They include parking maps, pay-by-phone options, and tips galore. Garages can be had for prices as low as $3/hour, and on-street parking is free after 8pm weeknights and Saturdays (6pm in certain areas) and all day on Sundays and holidays.

Car Rentals

Zipcar is popular for its by-the-hour rental service, and Car2Go offers by-the-minute rates for the shortest of trips.

For more information, please check out the following resources:

Have any helpful tips for getting around in Seattle that we may have missed? Leave us a comment!


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