This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Monorail. It isn't necessarily a vital piece of the city's transportation picture because of its limited extent - it connects the Seattle Center (the area near the Space Needle) with Westlake Center (a shopping center at the north end of downtown). However, it does prove useful for a number of people and there are a number of transit connections at each end of it. The distance is approximately one mile.
The service operates 7:30 am to 11:00 pm on Weekdays, and 8:30 am ot 11:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. However, special events may cause the monorail to operate different hours. As an example, during special events at the Seattle Center the monorail may operate until 11:30 pm, while special low traffic holidays may make it start operating at 8:30 instead of a normal weekday schedule, depending on how many people they expect to want to use it. Check the web site for special announcements regarding possible changes if you are visiting on a special day.
The majority of the route is elevated above 5th Avenue, which has sort of a median strip to allow the elevated track supports.
The view from the monorail isn't much these days, as the building sizes have increased in the area north of downtown. However, if you view such movies as "It Happened at the World's Fair" and a few others that are set in a much earlier Seattle, you will notice that the monorail originally had a decent view because the buildings along the line were mostly one or two floors.
The monorail only accepts cash for payment, and the fare is $2.25 one way, $4.50 round trip, or $1 one way for those allowed to have a discount fare. Monthly passes are $45.
There are two trains: one with a little bit of red on the edge of the roof and one with blue in the same location. They are seldom in operation at the same time since the construction of the Westlake shopping center, as this has caused the station to be reconfigured to only allow one train to operate at a time, unless the station is constantly reconfigured for one train or the other as walkways must be moved to allow one or the other to board there.
Trains generally operate once every 10 minutes or so.
In 1962, the futuristic expanses of glass construction of the monorails must have seemed an amazing leap forward in transit construction.
The interior design of the trains is very similar to what you would find in many airport automated people movers today, with seats facing both directions and a fair amount of space for people to move to allow fast boarding and detraining.
The design of the Seattle Center Station is in keeping with the original intent of the system, and allows a high rate of passenger boarding and detraining by opening the doors on one side to allow arriving passengers to exit, and then opens the doors on the boarding side so there are no flow of passenger issues. The Westlake station redesign around the shopping center does not allow very efficient boarding or detraining.
The Seattle Center station is located just east of the Space Needle, between the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project / Science Fiction Museum. The Westlake Station is located on the second floor of the shopping center, near some of the food court locations.
Take the LINK for efficient, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly transportation from the SeaTac Airport to downtown Seattle. There are four stations in the downtown area: Chinatown/the International District; Pioneer Square; University Street; and Westlake.
Trains leave about every 10 minutes in the middle of a workday, and the journey takes 37 minutes. The one way fare is $2.75.
Along with the regional system of express buses and the Link light rail lines, SoundTransit also operates a set of commuter trains over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe main line between Everett through Seattle to Tacoma. Extension of the service to Lakewood is currently underway.
The service is operated reasonably quick, but it only operates during peak commuting hours, with certain special weekend operations during certain events at the two big stadiums at the south side of downtown Seattle.
Seattle south to Tacoma passes through Tukwila, which is somewhat close to the SeaTac airport and connected to it by King County transit bus. However, the best option from downtown Seattle to the SeaTac airport really is to take the light rail line, and the best option from Tacoma is to take the express bus route that goes from Tacoma to SeaTac directly. Therefore, for most tourists the Tacoma to Seattle service is unlikely to be extremely useful unless you are doing a day trip to Tacoma to visit the museums there, or one of the smaller local attractions in one of the various communities.
However, the route from Seattle north to Everett may be useful as an activity in its own right as the route parallels the shoreline of Puget Sound for most of the way between the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Everett. Much of this is reasonably scenic (see the main photo). As the service is currently limited to strict commuting traffic (inbound trips only in the morning and outbound trips only in the evening) it would be necessary to take one of the express buses coming back if there is no interest in doing anything in Everett.
The line north to Everett also stops at Mulkiteo and Edmonds, which are small communities with a few small attractions, but also useful transfer points to get to the ferry routes and additional public transit connections.
The cars used on the Sounder trains are fairly typical North American split-level cars, with a lower level, an intermediate level, and an upper level. The lower level is at platform height, while the intermediate level is where the car to car walkway is located. Each have a restroom that is accessible from the lower level. The lower level of the cars is reasonably comfortable, but the upper level is far enough up that it is possible to feel many track defects up there.
Seating has two basic types: simple 2+2 seating facing each other, and 2+2 seating with a work table between the seats. Both types of seats are seen in the second photo. WiFi service is reportedly available but I did not attempt to use it, and also notice that there are no electrical outlets on the trains.
Fares range from $2.75 from Everett to Mukilteo up to $4.75 for Seattle to Tacoma.
You really don't need a car in Seattle's City Center. There are street cars, buses, trains and even a monorail. The monorail has only two destinations, Westake Center and Space Needle. An adult ticket will cost you $2.25 one way. You have some great views as you make your way to the other side.
We rode the Waterfront Streetcar once and it was fun. We walked down to the waterfront from our hotel and rode the streetcar over to the aquarium. Transportation within the city by bus or subway in certain boundries is free but the Streetcar is not. The cost about is now $2.50 to ride it but takes you quite a distance.
See link for a map for the Waterfront Streetcar. Make sure you are not get confused with bus stops which are also on the map.
I had a good experience with the metro/train here. I arrived at the airport and it was a 10 minute walk from my gate to the train station. The self serve ticket machines can be a little confusing if you don't know your way around but there's usually an attendant standing around to help people out. I took the train right to downtown seattle without any issues. No one even checked the ticket while on the train. It's fast and convenient and there was room to sit when I was there.
SoundTransit operates the Central LINK, which is called a "Light Rail" line between downtown Seattle and the SeaTac airport. However, unlike "light rail" lines in much of the rest of the USA and Canada, the line as currently built shares almost none of its distance with street traffic, and distance between stations is fairly long once it leaves the downtown Seattle core. Thus, in many ways it is more like a full metro / subway / elevated line than most "light rail" / tram lines.
Trains operate fairly frequently and compared to being stuck in traffic on one of the freeways the trains move fairly quick thanks to being separated from city streets.
More Detailed Information
This is the cheapest method of getting from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle, but it may not be the best, depending on the amount of luggage you have with you. At the current time, however, trains do not tend to be at full crush load capacity. So, most of the time there is enough space for those with luggage. Due to the distance between the SeaTac Airport (which isn't even in the city of Seattle, but is in the city of SeaTac which is south of the city of Tukwila which is south of Seattle) and Seattle it may be better to take LINK from the airport to a place closer to downtown Seattle before getting a taxi.
The line shares a tunnel in the downtown area with a number of different bus routes, and therefore does not operate very fast through the downtown area. Once it leaves the downtown core, it operates on a route that is mostly separated from auto traffic except at the occasional street crossing. A significant tunnel exists on the line as it enters the ridge south of Seattle, but much of the route is either elevated or in a road median.
The downtown part of the route follows the transit tunnel, with station stops at International District, Pioneer Square, University Street, and Westlake Mall.
Peak period train frequency is about every 15 minutes, or every 7.5 minutes during the peak commute hours. The line operates approximately 5 in the morning to midnight, though it is advisable to check the schedule for the specific day you will be using it.
Fares must be purchased prior to boarding the train from one of the ticket vending machines. Single ticket prices range from $2.00 just for going to the next station, to $2.75 to get from downtown to the SeaTac airport. The current (September 2011) basic fare structure is $2.00 base fare plus $0.05 for each mile of the trip, in increments of $0.25. Check the SoundTransit web site for the latest fare information, as the fares may have gone up since this has been written.
See http://www.soundtransit.org/Fares-and-Passes/Link-fares.xml for current fare information.
In the downtown Seattle transit tunnel, the ticket vending machines are located one level above the station platform level. Thus, you must purchase the tickets before getting on the platform. Elevated stations are set up similar, but in the several stations that are at street level the ticket machines are located on the platform.
The fares are not transferrable to other SoundTransit services unless you purchase a regional transit card. For the vast majority of tourists the $5 price outweighs the usefulness of the card, as except for the airport to downtown trip getting into downtown Seattle there isn't that much of interest to tourists along this route.
Also, it should be noted that the light rail line is operated by SoundTransit, while most of the Seattle buses are operated by King County Metro. Unfortunately, what this means is that there is no sharing of fares between the two systems, except if you spend $10 to buy an ORCA card (see my ORCA card tip). It also means that the light rail trains are not free of charge in the "Ride Free Area" downtown - only the surface bus lines operated by King County Metro are free of charge there. You can not use your bus transfer on the light rail line, nor can you use your light rail ticket to ride the bus as it is two different agencies.
Special Events and Getting to Stations
For those wanting to get into Seattle for some event, there are several Link stations with park and ride lots at them. However, it should be noted that some of those stations close outside the commuting hours, and therefore may not be good options to use. Check the hours of operation of the parking lot on the SoundTransit web site before you park there. It may be worth considering parking near one of the stations on a city street rather than in a designated park and ride lot, especially if you are unsure if you will be back in time for the lot closing time. It may also be worth considering a long term parking lot near the SeaTac airport if you are concerned about the safety of your vehicle on a city street.
Only the single line is in operation right now. There is currently construction of a line south from the SeaTac airport to a major transit connection point. There is also ongoing construction of a line north from downtown to reach the University of Washington. Efforts are also underway to run a line east to Bellevue.
Getting downtown from SEATAC Airport became a lot easier in summer of 2009 when the Central Link light rail service began operation from the SEATAC Airport to downtown Seattle. For me this is the only way to travel to downtown Seattle! The 14 mile light rail stops at 12 stations including Pioneer Square, Safeco Field, China Town and Westlake. The service operates daily from 5 in the morning until just after midnight. The cars are nice and clean and are most importantly safe.
To get on Central Link once you get off your flight at SEATAC you will need to get to the fourth floor of the parking garage. To do so proceed across one of the four covered bridges to the parking garage, go to the four floor and then follow the circuitous signs that will lead you about a half mile through the garage. Once you get to the station you can take an escalator or stairs to the station.
Trains leave the station for downtown at headways between every 10 and 20 minutes depending on the time of the day. It takes 37 minutes to get to the end of the line at Westlake Station.
Here is the Central Link schedule and stations;
Fares are $ 2.75 for one way for those 18-64 and 0.75 for 65 and over. There is also a full day pass available. You must purchase your ticket before entering the light rail train.
The airport's light rail station is connected to the fourth floor of the main parking garage at the airport. To get to the main terminal and ticket counters from SeaTac/Airport Station, walk across the covered bridge.
Follow the signs shown in the picture below from the airport terminal to the light rail station.
Are you thinking of crossing the border and head to Vancouver from Seattle? Might as well since you are close anyway...Who knows when you come back to Seattle? When I take trips, I usually try to visit the neighboring city, too...
Take the Amtrak Cascade's train to Vancouver. Make sure to book online. Reservations are required on Coaches.
The fares to Vancouver varies depending on the time.
Service on Amtrak Cascades Trains:
Coaches: Reservations required
Cascades Business Class service
Wi-Fi available on board
Sleeping cars:Superliner sleeping accommodations on Trains 11 and 14, the Coast Starlight. Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge available in Portland for Sleeping car service passengers.
Dining Cars: Comple meal service on Trains 11 and 14.
Lounge.Bistro cars:Sandwiches, snacks and beverages on all trains.
Bicycles: Trains 500 through 517 are equipped with a limited number of bike racks for carrying unboxed bicycles.. Reservation required, service charge applies. The passenger brings the bicycle to and picks it up from the baggage car. Certain connecting Thruway buses also carry bicylces. Consult agent.
Visit clippervacations.com or call 1-800-888-2535 for schedules to Victoria, B.C.
Time is available at Eugene to ticket University of Oregon passengers.
Bus will not operate 7/3 and 9/4. Bus will also opoerate 7/4 and 9/5.
Cantrail Coach Lines accpets two free suitcases and one carry-on bag.
Additional bags for a fee. Bicycles must be in a box. Call 604-294-5541.
Note: Proper documentation is required to cross U.S./Canadian border. See General information at Amtrak.com for important customs and immigration information.
Operation of Trains 500 through 517 and Thruway bus service between Portland and Eugene is financed primarilyu through funds made available by the Oregon Department of Transportatin, and between Vancouver-Seattle-Portland by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Passengers holding multi-ride tickets should be aware that reserved ticketed passengers have priority seating on Amtrak Thruway buses.
Prices as of October 11, 2011:
Lowest Price Morning
Shortest trip: 3 hr, 8 minutes
When we were walking down to Pike Street Market, I saw several vehicles which in the old days we would have called Trackless Trolleys. They have bus bodies but run on the overhead electric lines like a trolley would. The current Seattle Route 99 it is a route that is free that goes around the downtown district. The first picture is Route 13
A trackless trolley avoids the rails in the street but has the sometimes ugly overhead wires. It does avoid the diesel exhaust fumes from a bus and also does not require recharging batteries.
Inn at the Market Seattle
4 Reviews and 1163 Opinions A very nice hotel half a block away from Pike's Place Market and a convenient walk to many of the...
Mayflower Park Hotel Seattle
6 Reviews and 880 Opinions I booked this hotel to stay the night before the cruise because it was within a distance that I...
6 Reviews and 846 Opinions We stayed at this hotel from July 5 - 9th, 2010 as a family of four with 2 adults and 2 children...