SeaTac to Olympia Transport Options
This "tip" was created in response to a posting on the VirtualTourist Forums, and therefore significant changes will have to be made over time (including photos). Expect the material here to be a bit raw for a little while until I have time to do a better job editing it and getting it up to VT "tip" standards.
Your best source of information is the SeaTac Airport web site and its ground transportation web page:
The SeaTac to Olympia trip has some options, but the problem is that Olympia is served by a completely different transit agencies than SeaTac, so if you are trying to do this trip by buying a single transit ticket, it simply doesn't work that way under the current circumstances. Driving distance is 55 miles and approximately 1 hour, assuming the best of traffic conditions.
However, much more to the point, you have to pass through a number of different cities, and three different counties to make this trip. This means that a taxi that is waiting in line at SeaTac is most likely not licensed to take you all the way to Olympia due to the different governing authorities in each city and county. Also, due to the distance involved (see above paragraph), it will be expensive if it is licensed to make this trip, and much more expensive if it isn't licensed to take a return fare back to the Seattle area.
Further complicating matters is that each of the three counties are served by different transit agencies. King County Metro serves the area around SeaTac airport and downtown Seattle. Pierce Transit operates in Tacoma, and Intercity Transit operates in Olympia. SoundTransit operates certain regional routes connecting some of the cities, but it doesn't operate comprehensive local service. None of these accept cash fares from any of the others - you have to pay again each time you board a different agency's vehicle.
Your available options also depend a bit on when you are arriving, your budget, what types of inconvenience you are able to withstand, and where in the Olympia area you are trying to go.
For example, under the right circumstances you could take a taxi or King County Metro bus route 156 from SeaTac to the Tukwila train station (very close to SeaTac), take Amtrak from Tukwila to the Olympia / Lacy station, and have someone pick you up there, or take one of the local buses that serves the Olympia / Lacy station (there isn't much bus service there, but there is a little). However, this depends on when you arrive at SeaTac, as there are only four Amtrak trains per day that stop at Tukwila. Please note that the Coast Starlight stops at Olympia, but does not stop at Tukwila.
SoundTransit also operates commuter trains that stop at the Tukwila station. Currently, the closest to Olympia you can get with these trains is Tacoma. In the long term, the eventual plan is for them to go all the way to Olympia, but they don't. Efforts are currently under way to extend them to Lakewood, however.
By Public Tranist Bus?
There are several public transit options, but it depends a lot on where you are trying to go in Olympia. For example, SoundTransit bus route 574 goes from the SeaTac Airport to Lakewood, and you could get off at the Tacoma Dome Station (before Lakewood) and then transfer to any of several bus routes going from the Tacoma Dome Station to Olympia (Intercity Transit route 603, for example, gets you to downtown Olympia, but that only works if downtown Olympia is where you want to go). Lakewood may be a better spot for someone to pick you up than downtown Olympia or Tacoma, so bus route 574 all the way through to Lakewood may be your best bet for getting to certain areas of Olympia.
Pierce Transit and Intercity Transit operate a number of other routes, including several Tacoma to Olympia routes that may assist you in getting close to where you need to go, if it isn't anywhere near downtown Olympia.
By Other Option?
Various other vanpool and ground transport options exist. Just type "seatac airport transport" into Google and you will get several hundred results. Among those results include quite a number of vanpool and airport transport services going to Olympia. Capitol Aeroporter ( http://www.capair.com/ ) is one of many that come up, but that particular one is specifically aimed at the SeaTac to Olympia market. I've never used their services, and can not say how good they are. It is simply an example of one of the various options available.
Various Web Sites:
Olympia's Public Transit Routes are Here:
Pierce County Transit Routes (where Tacoma is, as where you need to get in Tacoma may be closer to one of their routes than to one of Intercity's routes):
SoundTransit Routes are Here:
Amtrak Routes are Here:
(Tukwila = station code TUK, Olympia = OLW)
Trains stop at Tukwila at 7:45 am, 11:40 am, 2:35 pm, and 5:45 pm, and the trip time is about 1 hour. The price is in the $17 to $22 range, depending on how many tickets have been sold.
There are quite a number of airport transport companies serving the SeaTac airport, but most of them are on the SeaTac Airport web site:
Amtrak Station isn't in Olympia!
The best routing for intercity passenger trains between Portland and Seattle wound up not passing through downtown Olympia due to nearby hills. That was acceptable at first, since adequate train traffic existed on the branch line to meet the needs of Olympia.
Unfortunately, today, with the passenger traffic cut back to only a few trains a day between Seattle and Portland and the branch line in a condition that does not support any passenger traffic, it means that the Olympia train station is actually quite far to the southeast of downtown Olympia - in fact it is in the rapidly growing suburban town of Lacey. If downtown Olympia is your goal from the train station, you may be looking at a bus ride of close to an hour or more to get there from the station. If you are coming from the north, it may be better for you to transfer to InterCity transit express bus routes from downtown Tacoma in Tacoma - it is several blocks between the bus routes and the Amtrak station in Tacoma, but it is better than waiting for a very long period and then take the long slow local bus between the station and downtown Olympia. Unfortunately, a similar option does not exist from the south.
There are five trains in each direction that serve the Olympia / Lacey station.
The station is not popular enough for it to be staffed by Amtrak. The station does have "Quik-Trak" ticketing machines for printing your tickets from a reservation bar code, however.
Intercity Transit (the bus service that serves Olympia and surrounding communities) serves the station with both bus routes 64 and 94. This is better transit service than many communities provide for their Amtrak stations. Route 94 passes by the station on its way to Yelm, so for that route you need to make sure you get on the bus going the right direction. 64 terminates at the station, and connects it with one of the primary business districts located in Lacey. Unfortunately, the intercity train schedules and local bus schedules are not extremely well coordinated and the wait at the station may be quite long.
The station also serves as a small park and ride lot, as well as a small regional police office.
Taxi service does not appear to be regular at the station. I am certain they would come if called, but I have not seen them at the station on a regular basis as they are in the larger cities.
- Budget Travel
Small Transit Service is Award Winner
While the resources for providing public transit in Olympia and surrounding areas are somewhat limited due to the population level and the sheer amount of sprawl all over any available piece of ground, Intercity Transit does a reasonably good job with what it has available.
To that end, Intercity Transit has also won the 2009 "America's Best Transit System" award from the American Public Transit Association. So, they must be doing something right with what they have.
However, it is still a small population to support transit compared to many of the more populated areas around the region, so don't be surprised that many of the bus routes operate only once every half hour, and a number of them are only hourly.
While most of the bus routes are local routes that serve the Olympia area, there is one bus that goes all the way to Yelm, and several express buses that are jointly operated with Pierce Transit in Tacoma to connect Olympia, Lakewood and Tacoma. At Lakewood and Tacoma, it is possible to transfer to SoundTransit buses to the SeaTac Airport or buses and trains to a number of different locations.
As of this writing, the fare structure is pretty easy to understand: getting on a bus costs $1. This doesn't give you any ability to transfer from one route to another, but it is a ride going on one bus one location. If you need to transfer bus routes, you can purchase a day ticket for $2 and ride anywhere in the system for that price (except the express to Tacoma).
Currently, the ORCA regional fare card is not accepted on any InterCity bus routes except the bus routes that operate as express routes to Tacoma.
- Budget Travel
Olympia is located extremely...
Olympia is located extremely close to Interstate 5 and downtown is just a couple of minutes away from the exit. Moving around town is fairly easy but make sure to watch out for several one-way streets, especially 4th Ave.