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Built for the 1962 World's Fair, Seattle's monorail was probably the first in the nation. You can take this one only as far as from the Westlake Center to the Seattle Center but you get to see some of downtown Seattle in the bargain. It's normally $1.50 each way for adults and .50 cents for youth, seniors and the disabled. Call for departure times.
It was closed for repairs when we tried to ride it, so they offered us a FREE bus to the Seattle Center roundtrip! Now that's service!
would be nice if train was more extensive
King Street Station in Seattle is a great story of success. Built in 1905 in the heart of downtown Seattle, its tower was modelled on one in Venice and at 242 feet tall was the highest building in town at the time. Over the years, it fell into disrepair with much of the interior features covered in thoughtless renovations. It would have been easy for the city to bulldoze it but its central location and potential prompted a restoration in 2003 that is nearly complete. It looks quite nice from the outside and certainly adds to the luster of the sports complex that dominates the neighborhood. But it is the interior that is the real marvel. If you are in the area, be sure to stop in and see what a real train station in the US can and now does look like. Now, all we have to do is get more trains going and more people riding them!
There are some lines still running through Seattle like the Coast Starlight that runs all the way from King Street Station to Los Angeles as well as one up to Vancouver, BC in Canada. It is unfortunate that there are no services to the National Parks in the state.
We were on a six month camping trip so a car was the best way to go. It allows us access not only to the National Parks that were the focus of the trip but also a means of getting around them. We could also carry all our equipment with us. Typical distances: Seattle to Mount Rainer National Park/100 miles and 2.5 hours. Seattle to Olympic National Park/100 miles and 3.5 hours (including ferry to peninsula). Seattle to Vancouver/230 miles and 2.5 hours. Seattle to Portland, OR/175 miles and 3 hours.
You can walk around most of Seattle's touristy areas and buses service the outlying neighborhoods.
- Historical Travel
In 1994, since my hotel was up in the shadow of the Space Needle, I used the monorail once to get to downtown Seattle. I thought it was something that I should do as it was one of the icons of Seattle, plus it was a convenient link from Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, the Experience Music Project to downtown Seattle. The Seattle Center Monorail was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair
The Seattle Center Monorail currently is open Monday through Friday: 7:30 AM to 11:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday: 8:30 AM to 11:00 PM.
The Seattle Center Monorail departures every 10 minutes from two stations:
Seattle Center station, across from the Space Needle
Westlake Center Mall station, at Fifth and Pine Street
Each trip takes two minutes to travel the 1 mile route.
When we came to Seattle in 2011, I picked a hotel at the Westlake Center (Mayflower Park) and we took the monorail up to the Space Needle for dinner. As seniors, we paid $2.00 each for the round trip. The station at the Westlake Center was just about the same, but there was new construction at the other end (photo 4). We could see the monorail from the Space Needle (photo 5). The view from 1994 is photo 2.
- Business Travel
The first afternoon I had free, I bought a trolley ticket for the waterfront trolley. Unfortunately, none of my pictures turned out very well. This was my first experience on the hop on/hop off type of tour.
I understand that the trolley no longer runs as the track has been paved over. Today, it is bus route #99, and operates like any other bus route: no real tour or explanation of sites etc.
Bus Stops included:
- Downtown Shopping District
- Seattle Center / Experience Music Project (EMP) / Space Needle
- Bell Street Pier / Odyssey
- Seattle Aquarium / Seattle IMAX Dome
- The Waterfront / Argosy Cruises / Tillicum Village
- Safeco Field / Seahawks Stadium
- Pioneer Square / Underground Tour
- Seattle Art Museum
- Pike Place Market
Seattle still has streetcars - they just aren't the same as this one.
The South Lake Union line of the Seattle Streetcar runs seven days a week at 15 minute intervals during the following hours:
Monday through Thursday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
These hours of operation are coordinated with other modes of transportation, such as Metro and Sound Transit buses, as well as local and regional events.
Adult Fare: $2.50
Reduced Fare (65 and over, persons with disabilities & persons with Medicare cards): $.75
Youth (ages 6-17): $.75
Children 5 and under ride free!
ORCA cards and Metro transfers are accepted as proof of payment on the Seattle Streetcar. Individual ride tickets may also be purchased at the station platforms with debit or credit cards, or on board using cash.
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Getting downtown from the airport
Even though the Sea/Tac Airport is located quite a long way from downtown Seattle, it's pretty easy to travel to and from the airport using the Link Light Rail system. Once you get to the airport, just follow the train signs to the station - it takes about 5 min to walk over there. Train runs from 5:00 am to 1:00 am daily (6:00 am to midnight on Sundays) and depart every 10-15 minutes. It only costs $2.50 to travel downtown and tickets can be bought from the machines located at the station using cash, credit or debit cards. There isn't that much room for luggage inside the trains, but patrons are used to people traveling with suitcases so it's no big deal. Depending on where you get off, it takes about 35-40 min to travel downtown. If you're staying near Pike Place Market, you'll want to get off at the Westlake station (on Pine Street between 4th and 5th avenue), at the very end of the line.
- Budget Travel
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.
- Business Travel
Quick and cheap.
If you park in the 5th Avenue Parking lot [by the skate park & the EMP] you usually only pay about $5 on the weekend. Then you can walk over to Seattle Center, catch the monorail [$1.50 each way or $3 roundtrip] to downtown. You are then left in a shopping center and but blocks from Pike Market. Everyone rushes to the front of the monorail to sit but the best view is from the back. You can snap pictures as you leave the area. It’s great for a Space Needle shot.
- Theme Park Trips
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Like the space needle, the Monorail offers a 1960s view of the future which is now the present. However, the monorail is an effective means of transportation between downtown and Seattle Center. The Seattle Center is home to the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project, the Science Fiction Museum, and other attractions.
The trains run on ten minute intervals. The track is only one mile long. The journey lasts about two minutes. It has only two stops, downtown and Seattle Center.
Roundtrip fare is $4.00 for adults, which is a bit steep given the short distance covered.
The monorail operates between 9:00am to 11:00pm. Those taking it for a late night on a town will need to return via the Metro Bus or taxi.
The Seattle Center stop is at the Seattle Center near the Space Needle. The downtown stop is at Westlake Center Mall, which is located at Fifth and Pine Street.
One word of caution. We tried to take the monorail back to Seattle Center on a holiday evening after the Westlake Center Mall had closed. All the signage to the monorail directed us to locked doors of the mall, some were up several flights of stairs. The system is set up and signed to try to make patrons walk through Westlake Mall and hopefully buy something on their way to the train. However, when the mall is closed, it is not easy to find one’s way to the monorail. In fact, it is frustrating and a little exhausting to the follow signage that only lead to locked doors. But don’t despair, a door to the monorail station does exist after the mall is closed. However, we had to ask a helpful custodian where it was and he was happy to provide directions.
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Seattle Center Monorail
The Monorail (although it is a pain for the local residents because it causes more traffic than you can imagine) provides a more convenient link from downtown to Seattle Center with an easy access to most of the tourist destinations.
The stations are located at Westlake Center (5th and Pine St.), 3rd floor and at the Seattle Center (adjacent to the Space Needle and EMP.
For more information, check their website at www.SeattleMonorail.com
The telephone number is 206-905-2620
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Central Link Light Rail Line
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.
- Budget Travel
Central Link Light Rail From SEATAC to Downtown
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.
Riding the Monorail to Seattle Center
The Seattle Monorail was built for the 1962 World's Fair, or "Century 21 Exposition", to bring visitors from downtown Seattle to the newly created Seattle Center area. It's estimated that over 8 million people rode the Monorail during the 6 months of the fair, and today it still carries about 1.5 million people annually. Since it only covers a distance of about 1 mile, I might not have bothered taking it had it not been for the fact that the downtown station was right around the corner from our hotel, inside Westlake Center. One-way tickets cost $2, and with the monorail traveling at a top speed of about 50 miles/hour (making it the fastest monorail in the US), it takes about 2 min to travel to the Seattle Center station. I must admit that it was kind of a fun ride - we managed to sit at the very front of the train (I even shot a little video) and had a great view of the Experience Music Project building as the monorail drove through it.
The Monorail runs daily from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm, with trains departing every 10 minutes.
South Lake Union Streetcar (called SLUT by locals)
This tip is divided into two sections: the useful part that actually talks about Seattle's first modern streetcar line, and the not-so-useful part that talks of how it wound up with the most unfortunate name in modern transit history in the USA. Naturally, the not so useful materal starts first:
For decades, Seattle's trolley bus operations have been called "trolleys" and so when a heritage streetcar line opened on the Seattle waterfront naturally it was called the "Waterfront Trolley" - so for a very long time electric public transportation here in Seattle has been called The Trolley.
Unfortunately, that didn't necessarily work that well a few years back when local developers and the city joined forces to build a new streetcar line (tram line) linking the shopping district around the Westlake Mall with the south end of Lake Union. Some maps call this new streetcar line the "South Lake Union Streetcar" while others call it the "Lake Union Trolley" but unfortunately for the city planners and boosters, the accidental descriptor arrived at years ago from area residents was South Lake Union Trolley (or SLUT).
Thus, when you ask for directions to the Wooden Boat Center or a few other tourist attractions, and are told the easiest way to get there is "Ride the SLUT" the person giving you instructions isn't trying to be obnoxious or funny. That is the unfortunate name used by everyone other than city and South Lake Union boosters for this streetcar (tram) line.
These days, the SLUT has been made somewhat of a folklore icon in certain areas of Seattle, with Ride the SLUT T-shirts and other memorabilia available. There is even a slightly off-color song by a local band about The SLUT.
Unofficial Ride the Slut information and memorabilia is available at the Ride the SLUT web site, which does also contain a map but no actual official information on how to ride the actual streetcar:
The route of the South Lake Union Streetcar is from Westlake Mall at the north side of downtown Seattle (near the Westlake Monorail station) at approximately Westlake and OliveWay. The line runs north on Westlake until it arrives at Lake Union (Broad Street). The line then runs up Fairview several blocks to the southeast corner of Lake Union.
Payment for riding is made by purchasing a ticket before riding if you have a debit or credit card, or by using cash on board the car. Transfers from King County Metro bus routes are also accepted, and the ORCA Card (tap the card before entering) but transfers from other forms of public transit are not accepted at this time.
I'm not that convinced that this streetcar really serves any useful transportation functions, as it doesn't go anywhere the bus routes don't already and the route stops short of the downtown area as well as not going anywhere that useful at its north end. Yet people do seem to be riding it quite a lot, and it does go by several art galleries, interesting restaurants, and the new park at the south end of Lake Union.
- Budget Travel
Monorail Mile and new Lightrail
This is another relic of the 1962 World's Fair and the quickest way from Seattle Center to downtown shopping/hotels. Or vice versa. We used it to cut some walking time to Pioneer Square and the International District - still a hike but a good one when the sun is out. It only goes a mile, takes 2 minutes, runs every 10 minutes and only stops at Seattle Center on the one end, and Westlake Center shopping mall on the other. Tickets are $4 RT for adults, $1.50 for kids (5-12) and $2 for seniors or persons with disabilities. One-way tickets are 1/2 of RT prices.
The stations and ticket booths are near the Space Needle at Seattle Center, and on the 3rd floor of Westlake Center.
2011 UPDATE: You can now get to downtown Seattle from SeaTac airport or near the Amtrac station via a slick new lightrail system. The last station in the city center is the Westlake shopping complex, and trains don't run 24/7 but based on the traffic around the city, this is, hands down, your quickest way downtown if flying in. Tickets are about $2.50 from airport to Westlake at time of this writing. There are lots of hotels around the Westlake area, and cabs/buses are easy to snag from there to other parts of the city. See this website for lightrail info:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
The Waterfront Streetcar is a tourist attraction in itself. It's also a nice way to see Seattle's Waterfront. Among its many stops is the Seattle Aquarium. It also stops at Pioneer Square. While the streetcar operates within the Ride Free Area, you always pay a fare when you ride it. Fare is $1.25 during off-peak hours and $1.50 during peak hours (6-9 AM and 3-6 PM).
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Seattle Travel Guide
Explore the World
- Fort Caswell Hotels
- Frankfurt am Main
- Chennai (Madras)
- Kawempe Hotels
- Dunns River Falls and Beach Hotels
- Calumpit Hotels
- Train to & from Schiphol Airport
- Sankt Wolfgang im Salzkammergut Transportation
- Sawai Madhopur Transportation
- Desenzano Transportation
- Almuñécar Transportation
- Palenque Transportation
- Bus or Taxi
- Moshi Transportation
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- Garmisch-Partenkirchen Transportation
- Meaux Transportation
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