Series: City Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Around Seattle

Posted on Aug 20, 2020

If you’re new to Seattle, figuring out the best way to get around the city can be challenging. New cities bring new sights and new experiences. To make the most of your time in Seattle it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the transit system.

The good news is that Seattle has an excellent public transit system consisting of a monorail, light rail, and bus options. The Emerald City is also bike-friendly and has a wide-array of ride-sharing and taxi options available, ensuring that no matter what your preferred mode of transportation is you’ll never have too much downtime between adventures.

The ORCA Card

The ORCA card, short for One Regional Card for All and a clear nod to the majestic whales that navigate the nearby Puget Sound, is an essential tool you can use to cost-effectively make use of various public transit systems throughout the Seattle area.

The ORCA card is used for traveling by one of the many rail, train, or bus routes throughout the city. ORCA cards allow users to easily transition between various modes of public transportation without the need to buy additional tickets or fare. They’re easy to use, easy to carry, and accepted on the most popular transit routes you’ll be using.

The ORCA card can be loaded with various levels of passes depending on what you want to do and how long you are in the area. A Regional Day Pass is a great option if you need to use multiple transit lines in the same day, while a regional monthly pass is the best option if you are just moving to the area and getting situated or on an extended stay. You can also load your card with funds ahead of time, referred to as an E-purse, which allows you to pay for fares on the spot without the need to carry cash.

The ORCA card Regional Day Pass can be used for transit on the following light rail, bus, and ferry systems:


  • Community Transit
  • King County Water Taxi
  • Kitsap Transit
  • Monorail
  • Pierce Transit
  • Seattle Streetcar
  • Sound Transit
  • King County Metro
  • Everett Transit

Note that the Regional Day Pass isn’t valid for use on the King County Metro Access vans, Washington State Ferries, and the Kitsap Transit Fast Ferries. Additionally, each one-way fare that costs more than $3.50 for adults or $1.75 for children will have an additional fee not covered by the Regional Day Pass.

The Regional Day Pass costs $8 for adults or $4 for children, making it a great value and an essential tool for seeing the city. The ORCA card itself costs $5.00 to purchase and can be purchased at a number of retailers throughout the Seattle area. Getting around Seattle is a breeze with an ORCA card loaded with the day or monthly passes. If you’re wondering, “should I move to Seattle ?”, it’s definitely a good idea to invest in a regional pass and give the transit system a test. You’ll feel more comfortable navigating the city and get to know it from a different perspective.

King County Metro Transit

The King County Metro Transit system is an extensive bus system that services the downtown area. If you’re wondering, “how do you get around in Seattle?”, the bus system is a great tool. If you need to get around in the downtown area but your destination is a bit further than walking distance, there is sure to be a bus line that will get you there.

Riding the bus is simple. Each stop will have numbers corresponding to the bus route. The buses will also have their route number on the front of the bus. Just confirm that the route of the bus matches the route number for your destination stop and you’ll be on your way!

Keep an eye out for the red RapidRide buses in the downtown area as well. These buses move quickly along the same route all day, arriving every 10 minutes. They offer late night and early morning service 7 days a week and are a very simple, quick way to get around the downtown area.

You can pay for the bus with the Regional Day Pass loaded on your ORCA card, cash, a Metro ticket, or Metro transfer.

Link Light Rail

The Link light rail runs from Sea-Tac Airport to University of Washington Station and is an essential component of public transportation Seattle. Offering 13 stops along the way and running between the hours of 5 am–1 am Monday-–Saturday, or 6 am–12 am on Sundays, the Link light rail is an excellent resource for navigating the city.

The trains run quickly, with the longest wait being 15 minutes or the shortest wait being 6 minutes, depending on the day. If you’ve just flown into the city, the total transit time from Sea-Tac International Airport to downtown Seattle is about 40 minutes, making this one of the fastest methods of how to get around Seattle.

Fares vary on the Link light rail depending on how far you travel, but if you have a Regional Day Pass you’ll be covered for your travel no matter the length. Fares range between $2.25 to $3.25 for adults ages 19-64. Rates for children ages 6-18 are a flat $1.50, and seniors or disabled riders pay a flat $1.00 for the fare.

Seattle Center Monorail

If you want an adventurous and beautiful ride from downtown Seattle to the Seattle Center, you’ll definitely want to take a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail. The Monorail has two stations and departs every 10 minutes. If you’re in the downtown area, your stop will be the Westlake Center Mall on 5th Avenue and Pine Street. The second stop is at the Seattle Center, next to the Space Needle and Museum of Pop Culture. Check out our tips on how to make friends in Seattle . Many events where you can meet new people, like concerts and festivals, occur in Seattle Center.

Fares for riding on the Seattle Center Monorail are $3.00 for adults ages 19-64, $1.50 for children 6-18 and seniors 65 and older. Children under 5 ride for free. Also note that these are one-way fares, so if you plan on taking a return trip on the Monorail back downtown it will be $6.00 total. You can pay your fare using your ORCA card, as well as cash, credit, and debit cards.

The Seattle Center Monorail is currently shut down due to health concerns related to COVID-19. However, officials will provide updates on the Seattle Center Monorail homepage under the “Rider Alerts” section once service has resumed.

Seattle Streetcars

Seattle offers streetcar service on two different lines that offer a convenient way to get around the downtown area.

The South Lake Union Streetcar line only runs 1.3 miles in total, making nine stops along the way. However, that line is packed with bustling shops along the Lake Union waterfront. Using this line you can connect to other transit systems, including the Monorail, Light link rail, or Metro transit bus system. The hours of operation are Monday–Thursday 6 am–9 pm, Friday–Saturday 6 am–11 pm, and Sundays 10 am–7 pm. Cars run every 10 minutes during the day on weekdays, or every 15 minutes during early morning hours, evenings, weekends and holidays.

The First Hill Line consists of 10 stops that connect residential neighborhoods, business districts, colleges and medical centers in the downtown Seattle area. The line is 2.5 miles long and Streetcars come every 12-18 minutes during most operating hours. The line operates Mondays–Saturdays 5 am–1 am, and Sundays 10 am–8 pm. The first Hill Line can also be used to connect to other regional transit lines, including the Light rail line, Amtrak and Sounder Commuter Rail at the King Street Station, as well as Metro Transit buses.

Fares on the Seattle Streetcar system are $2.25 a ride for adults ages 19-64, or a day pass can be purchased for $4.50. Single rides for children ages 6-18 are $1.50, or $3.00 for a day pass. Seniors 65 and over can get a single pass for $1.00, or a day pass for $2.00. Children under 5 ride for free. You can pay with your ORCA card, cash or credit/debit at a pay station located at the stop.

Finding a Place to Stay in the Metro Area

Need a place to stay while you visit the Emerald City? Book a rental with Zeus. Our thoughtfully furnished homes are ideal spaces to stay in if you’re planning on visiting Seattle for a month or more. Curious about what is the best time of year to visit Seattle ? Check out our helpful guide to find the best time to book your trip. We have a variety of beautiful, centrally located homes for rent in the Seattle area. Our homes come equipped with comfortable beds, WiFi, cookware, and daily essentials like paper towels and soap.

Renting with Zeus is the best way to get to know a new city. Our rental homes are centrally located, ensuring you can quickly and easily get anywhere in the city. The great part about Zeus is that the longer you stay, the more you’ll save! Stays of 3 or more months receive up to a 10% discount, making our rentals a cost-effective and comfortable solution for long-term visits.

Check out our tips on free things to do in Seattle so you can save even more on your trip!

Closing Thoughts

Getting around the Seattle area is easy once you understand what resources are available to you. The network of buses, light rail, and streetcars ensures that you’ll never be more than a few steps away from your next connection.

Be sure to take advantage of an ORCA card to make riding the public transit system as easy as possible. The Regional Day Pass or Regional Monthly Pass are excellent options if you want the flexibility to ride multiple transit lines on the same day or on a regular basis.

Are you ready to plan your next trip to the Emerald City? Head on over to Zeus today to find the perfect Seattle rental for trips lasting a month or longer! Our rentals are impeccably furnished and equipped with amenities you need like WiFi, cookware, and daily staples. To learn more, visit Zeus or contact us today.

Sources
  • https://visitseattle.org/visitor-information/getting-around/
  • https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/getting-around/transit/streetcar
  • https://www.seattlemonorail.com/information/
  • http://www.seattlecenter.com/
  • https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/schedules-maps/maps/seattle/frequent-routes.aspx
  • © 2020 All Rights Reserved