Attempting to find a place to park in downtown Seattle can be painful, and with a free public transit district covering much of downtown it is difficult for me to think of a reason why anyone would want to try.
However, there are a few things to think about if you do try to park on a street in Seattle's downtown area:
+ Streetside parking is currently being done in two different ways: parking meter machines that take cash or credit cards, and require that you print a receipt and post it in your car window on the curb side. There are some locations that still use the traditional coin-only parking meter. A few streets on the downtown side of Pike's Place Market still use these, so if you want to park in those areas you may want to stock up on quarters.
+ Flags in certain areas indicate how many hours maximum it is allowed to have a car parked in a particular location. The more popular the location, the shorter the time allowed, in general.
+ There are some parking areas along the waterfront that are accessed from Alaskan Way. Some of these seem to be somewhat slow in filling up, but some of the more open ones are subject to debris falling from bridges above (including bird defecation and road dirt). Of these, the parking area near Pike's Place Market seems to fill up the fastest, of course.
Photo 1: shows a typical parking receipt machine with a flag attached to it that indicates the maximum amount of time allowed at this location. In this particular example, the maximum time allowed is 10 hours.
Photo 2: shows a detail of the display and workings of one of these machines. From the top you see a solar panel that provides power to the machine, basic information on the parking spot (how long you are allowed to leave a car here, days that free parking is allowed and other information about this location), then there are instructions on how to use the machine and the various buttons and displays required to use the machine.
Photo 3: shows the detailed instructions on how to use Seattle's parking system, a few parking regulations, and other such information. These are posted on the side of the new parking machines.
Photo 4: parking meters in some parts of Seattle only take coins. These are the older, traditional style parking meters, and may be replaced by the time you read this. This is based on my May 27, 2009 visit to Seattle, and as time goes on more meters will be replaced.
We took a rental from Seattle Tacoma airport to Portland, Oregon and back. The route was very scenic - full of large rivers, lakes and green foliage. Reminded me of the movie Twilight which I think was shot near that area.
Thrifty's garage is outside SeaTac so you need to take the 24/7 shuttle. Not very reasonable for the elderly or sick since WA's temp is freezing the time we were there. The shuttle drivers were very accomodating and would assists load and unload those huge luggage. But considering we (husband & I) were able bodied, we thought Thrifty's lower than others rate is worth the bother of going outside SeaTac to retrieve the car. The rate we got was around $50 all in/day. I was a bit disappointed because they issued a Cruizer (translation: funny looking vintage ambulance) with a below average mpg. I think we spent additional US$40 to return a full tank car. Not bad for a quirky looking car.
I have a big problem paying exorbitant $$$ for downtown parking so what I frequently do is book a hotel at a great rate on Hotwire.com, drop off my luggage at the hotel, and then park the car in the Queen Anne area where there is enough free unlimited parking to accommodate.
One can then take a taxi or bus ride back downtown, though I always walk back to Seattle Center and catch the Monorail because, with my camera in hand, nothing is more enjoyable.
Interstate 5, passes through downtown Seattle, connecting it to other major West Coast cities including Vancouver, Portland, Sacramento, LA, and San Diego. This 1,381 mile interstate that is the primary West Coast north-south route, is also the only US interstate that connects to the borders of both Mexico and Canada.
Built primarily in the 1960s, I-5 stretches across 276 mile of Washington state, and it follows much of the route of the original US 99.
The first segment of I-5 formally opened in Tacoma on December 21, 1960. The last temporary stop light was removed north of Everett in May 1969, marking the completion of I-5.
Water and hills everywhere make for a beautiful city, but they limit the routes people can take to get to and from work. Add to this the fact that big employers like Microsoft are set up in some areas causing reverse traffic flows (away from the city in the morning and toward the city in the evening) and you get a nightmare on wheels. Traffic can hit any time of day (or night) and seemingly in any direction. Add to it the construction efforts that will eventually improve the situation and you get Seattle traffic. Outside of traditional morning and evening rush hours there seems to be no reason behind the myriad of other traffic hold ups you are likely to experience. Sadly there is not much you can do to avoid these messes, just do your best to get through them and know that something wonderful is waiting at the other end of the road.
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!
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