Cars / Taxis / Motorhomes, Seattle
A week rental through usaa.com for $144 total price for 8 days. Sweet. Small economy car, the journey went well with it already waiting for me at the airport, and an easy check-out. However the lady at the service counter kept trying to sell me insurance and an upgrade. Hello? I reserved the car (no credit card necessary) through my insurance company. I ordered an economy car, I don't need to pay more for a full-size (though truthfully would have been helpful with some of my move). Outside of the pushy agent, it was a very pleasant experience. The tire was low on the car, I was disappointed with that. But air-up and it was fine. Feared it might of been a flat. But it held the whole eight days so obviously not. Checkin was good, speedy, easy, and quick receipt. Rated 4 stars out of 5.
Seattle has a reputation for snarled traffic. It's deserved, but blown out of proportion by some.
If you rent a car during your vacation in the Seattle/Tacoma area, here are 5 important tips that will make your car vacation hassel free:
1) Avoid Interstate 5 during commute times - 6-9 am and 3-7 pm. You can try secondary highways for shorter trips during peak periods. Locals use highways 99, 509, and 599 to move north/south, avoiding I- 5 traffic.
2) Plan ahead - Stay in the heart of the city. There are afforadable hotels and motels along Aurora Avenue near the Queen Anne neighborhood. If you need to travel on interstate 5 or 90, or highway 520 during peak periods , make sure you plan extra time.
3) Use the HOV lanes. If you're on vacation, you're probably not alone. Seattle has one of the most extensive carpool lane networks in the country. Use it! All HOV lanes require 2 people in the car, except for Hwy 520 which requires 3.
4) Use the Express Lanes. During the morning, extra lanes on I-5 are opened to soutbound traffic from the north section of the city into the dowtown core. During the afternoons, the same lanes are reversed and reopened to northbound traffic. Interstate 90 also has express lanes across Mercer Island and into the Mt. Baker Tunnel. They too are open toward downtown in the AM and out of town in the PM. This is ideal for folks in suburban hotels wanting to come into downtown to visit tourist sites. Generally, the lanes switch direction around 12 noon.
5) Avoid the freeways if possible. Many of Seattle's best sites are in the core of the city. If you are staying in the city and not in the suburbs, you can easily use surface streets to get downtown or to other sites like the zoo or the Museum of Flight. Plus, you'll actually see more of the city if you take your time and follow surface streets like 15th NW, Roosevelt, Rainier, or 4th Ave S. Those of us who live in the city find surface streets are best for moving about within town. We use freeways only when commuting to the suburbs.
I normally drive to Seattle from my home city of Vancouver, about a 3 hour drive north, in Canada. Unless you plan to fly, the fastest way into Seattle is by car, however you must take rush hour and border line-ups into consideration.
First, there are no actual freeways running through the city of Vancouver. In order to leave the city limits, you must drive through regular city streets - typical stop and go traffic. Once out of the city limits, you would drive for about 40 minutes along Hwy 99 until you reach the border. During rush hour, Hwy 99 can be backed up, so tack on an extra 20 minutes. In general, I say it takes an hour to drive from Vancouver to the USA-Canada border.
Second, even though Seattle has its freeways running through its core, it doesn't really move traffic any faster. Rush hour is brutal. You can sit in gridlock along I-5, moving one car length a minute, for over an hour. Heading southbound, I've been stuck in rush hour as far away as Everett! It's insane! Generally, I'd say it takes 2 hours to drive from the USA-Canada border to Seattle, but it can take 3 hours during rush hour.
Now, the biggest factor to determine the length of the drive between Vancouver and Seattle is the border crossing time. On long weekends, regular weekends in the summer, and on holidays, expect major delays... up to one hour. Listen to the local radio stations for border reports. Be sure to bring your proof of citizenship. That's a photo ID with your birth certificate, or your passport. If everything is legal and you present the appropriate documentation, than the process of going through the border crossing shouldn't take longer than 2 minutes. Just be wary of the length of the border before you go!
All in all, the drive between Vancouver and Seattle is very simple and easy. While it's not exactly the most scenic stretch of highway,The I-5 and Hwy 99 route between the cities is the most direct way or travelling without taking the farm roads or going out of your way.
I guess this is for people from California. Our carpool lanes have certain areas where you can enter in or out of the lanes. The rest of the time there is a double yellow line between the carpool lane and the regular lanes meaning you can't merge in or out. In Seattle, their carpool lanes are only separated by a single unbroken white line, but you can enter in or out at anytime. Weird... but that's the case. At first I thought my friend was willfully breaking the law by crossing a solid line...
Yes I'm sure you've heard about the 'terrible traffic' in Seattle and I must say it's definetly gotten worse over the past 20 years but my suggestions if you happen to be driving in or around Seattle is to:
1) During the week days avoid I-5 South from Northgate to past downtown between the hours of 3-5pm and avoid I-5 North from Boeing Field past Northgate from 4-6:30pm. If your here on vacation you probably are not too worried about the early morning hours if so just send me an email.
2) Watch the news for any updates about Sonics games, Seahawks games or UW football games, the city is definetly affected by such happenings.
3) If you want to check out downtown and the pike place park at the bottom of queen anne near Tower records and Mercer and take the monorail. It's only $3 a person round trip and it will save you money on parking and perhaps even a head ache from the traffic.
Any other questions I always check my email here at VT and I'd love to help!
The cheapest place to get high quality gas is in one of 2 gas stations on the corners of NE 47th St and 12th Ave NE in the University District. I believe there is a Chevron and a 76. Gas here is consistently 5 to 20 cents per gallon less than any other gas stations in all of Seattle! Yes!
Directions from downtown Seattle:
Go North on I-5, take the 45th St exit. Take a right at the end of the ramp, drive to 12th Ave in the left hand lane. Take a left onto 12th Ave and drive one block to 47th St. About a 10 minute drive when it's not rush hour.
We drove to Seattle from Butte, MT which is about a good 10 hour drive, which is long. But Seattle does have a nice airport, also ships, could work.
Seattle, traffic wise hard to drive in, unless you know exactly where your going and where your at. So try to get a hotel close to where your activities are and walk, or get a taxi.
Plane, train or automobile. If you do drive know that there isn't always great parking. Some places are worse than others. If you don't have a car but are planning to trek all over the city it's smartest to take the bus. It's a fairly efficient and easy system. Cabs charge an arm and a leg. Downtown is very walkable if that's your target area.
If you are into excersice, rent a bicycle. You will be in fabulous shape when you get home due to the hills.
Seattle drivers aren't too horrible, they tend to go way too slow, if it starts to rain they will drive as though it's the first time they have seen rain in years so beware for traffic if it's drizzling.
People in the northwest are much more relaxed. Don't ever speed! Not even 10 mph, as we got pulled over twice for going 15 mph over. Also, they require you to carry a proof of insurance, or else it's a $400 fine. The cop were nice to us though, as they saw that we were from out of state and that we both had our seatbelts on.
take a cab! this is not a good place to have a car (and not altogether necessary.) Downtown is a confusing mess of one way streets that not even the locals understand. If you stay in downtown, most things are within walking or cabbing distance anyway and you can always take the monorail to Seattle Center.
Seattle is an important gateway city to the Far East and the South Pacific, so if you're coming from there you'll probably find it's relatively cheap and easy to get to. The airport is very accessible from anywhere in the country, so visitors from anywhere should be able to get there easily. It's also serviced by interstates, but traffic is always a pain. Unfortunately public transportation here is very limited, so if you don't drive into the city you'll need to rent a car once you arrive.
The traffic here is always crowded and a real headache. However, it's really the only way to get around. Seattle is a relatively compact city when compared to others on the West Coast, but unfortunately there's no subway or el I know of (except the Monorail). I think people on this side of the country just love their cars too much! Anyway, it's worth dealing with the traffic to see the city, so just grin and bear it!
Getting here all depends on where you're traveling from! :-)
Traffic is unsightly in the Seattle area. Major thoroughfares, such as I-5 and 405 are often stop and go and bottlenecked for no clear reason. The best advice I can give is to be patient when driving anywhere here. Parking rates downtown can also be rather expensive (day rates of $5-15 for all day). The metro (bus) system is pretty easy to get around on and travels throughout Seattle and the east side (Bellevue area). There's the new Sounder train that travels from Tacoma/Kent/Auburn to Seattle, but my friends that ride that note that the times are limited (e.g., if traveling from Tacoma to Seattle in the morning, the last train leaves at something like 7am not necesssarily conducive to tourists). Travel from downtown to the Seattle Center (or vice-versa) on the monorail is a short trip (~90 seconds), but it beats the dozen blocks you'd have to otherwise walk. Taxis are also a fairly dependable way to get around. You'll find that most Seattlelites drive, bicycle, take metro, or walk in the downtown area.
Well once again Seattle is quite close to my home. It is a 3 hour drive for me, but for those of you wishing to fly in, there is Seatac Airport, and as I recall it is an International Airport. Trains and Ferries also stop here.
The bus system is good and within the Downtown core the fare is free. But if you go further the Driver will apparently hold you hostage on the bus till you show your fare.
Obviously the Taxi system is approachable and no warnings about this mode of transportation.
Traffic Trouble Spots: Unfortunately, there are many. Seattle's topography means that new roads and transit are very difficult to build; the lack of a rail system means that most people rely on their cars. Although horrible traffic jams can happen anywhere, anytime, there are some particular spots to be avoided:
I-5 southbound in the morning; the section between about NE 80th and the Ship Canal bridge is congested almost all the time.
SR-520 both ways, during the morning and evening rush hours. The westbound backup in the evenings is the worst.
I-405 between Renton and Bellevue (northbound in the mornings, southbound in the evenings).
I-405 between the I-5 interchange in Lynnwood, and the I-90 interchange. (northbound in the mornings, southbound in the evenings).
Montlake Blvd. through the UW campus. Southbound is usually worst. If there's a game at Husky Stadium, forget it.
From Vancouver, take Highway 99 all the way down to the border (Peace Arch) and take I-5 all the way south. You'll know you're close once you see the Space Needle.
Around downtown, walking or taking the bus is probably the way to go. Just pick up a free map from the tourist information center. Take the monorail to and from Seattle Center/downtown.