Interstate 5 is apparently the main traffic artery for Seattle.
When I was up in the Space Needle I could see the commuter's traffic jam on I-5 and the TV reporter in the helicopter reporting on it.
We did have some folks in the course who were commuting from the Olympic penninsula by car. It was fortunate in a way that I did not have a car, so did not have to worry about traffic jams. (The hotel had a shuttle to the course location which was only about a mile away.)
When Bob and I visited in 2011, the traffic didn't seem to be so much of a problem (photos 4 and 5), but there are still traffic sites/cameras dedicated to reporting traffic there.
Seattle is generally considered a safe city, but it's still a big city. Just exercise commonsense caution and street-savvy you would for any urban area, and your chances of getting into trouble are minimal.
One specifically travel-related danger I can think of is that, from late fall to spring, driving conditions across Cascade passes (I-90 at Snoqualmie, US-2 at Stevens, and US-12 at White) can change rapidly and unpredictably, and can be quite treacherous (sometimes requiring traction tires or chains).
If your travel plan includes driving up to or across one of the passes, get the latest information from the weather report or the web site of Washington State Department of Transportation (see below), and listen into AM highway advisory radio, whose frequencies are posted alongside the highway.
This could go under transportation but I'm putting it here to give it more emphasis!
As with many urban areas, having a car in Seattle comes with its particular set of challenges: rush hour traffic is terrible, downtown parking is scarce and expensive (even more so if you get a ticket) and central downtown is cross-hatched with one-way streets that makes getting from Point A to Point B an exercise in frustration. Add to that hotel parking rates as high as $40 a night and the uninitiated traveler can wind up with a few nasty surprises.
Here are a few tips to try and relieve some stress:
• If not planning on traveling outside of the metro, Central Link Light Rail has a route from SeaTac to various points downtown for super reasonable rates. See this website for info and more links on this service:
• Much of central downtown is serviced by ride-free (no cost) bus services between the hours of 6:00 AM - 7:00 PM See this link for info and map of the ride-free zone:
• If you MUST bring a car, consider this when booking hotels and read the fine print carefully for daily parking rates: $20 - $40 a night can add up very quickly. Hotels with higher book rates but free parking might be a better deal if you do the math. Our rental had free parking - which made an already good deal even better.
• If staying downtown with a car, get a good map that shows all of the one-way streets BEFORE driving into the city, or use a GPS.
• Avoid driving during rush hour whenever possible
• If parking in a city lot or at a meter, be aware of time limit/hourly cost - allowing your allotted time to expire or staying longer in a lot than planned will be expensive
• Walk whenever possible. You're going to get a workout puffing up all those hills but you'll also enjoy great views of the Sound, wonderful architecture and fun window shopping.
Seattle is famous for its rush hour traffic. Through the heart of Seattle lies I-5, the major freeway that paves its way along the western USA from Canada to Mexico. I-5 is about 8 lanes wide once you get to Seattle, but the irony is that despite all this freeway infrastructure, during rush hour the traffic is not moving any faster than if you were to take the regular city streets.
Seattle's rush hour can be felt as far as 30 miles outside of the city on either side. What would otherwise take 30 minutes to drive ends up taking over one hour.
If you're travelling around Seattle in a car, be aware of its rush hour traffic, especially if you have to get somewhere on time. The Sea-Tac Airport, for example, is located south of downtown Seattle, so if you're catching a flight, give yourself a lot of extra time to get there.
Likewise, many people use the Sea-Tac airport as a cheaper alternative to flying into Vancouver in Canada. But in order to drive to Vancouver from the Sea-Tac, you have to drive through downtown Seattle. Rush hour traffic could easily add an extra hour and a half, so its always best to give yourself extra time if you're planning to drive in Seattle during rush hour.
From my personal experience, it's always best to avoid Seattle's rush hour if you can. And if you can't, just be aware of it and plan around it.
There are many bikers going to the Ballard Locks. There are two intersections at the front of the Ballard Locks gate: first there is the bike path and then the train tracks! Watch out for traffic of bikers!
Yes, traffic is bad in the Seattle area. A: we have no mass transit system. Heck, Boston has had a subway since the late 1800's! We do have a good bus system - use it, please, if you can. I'd avoid our cute Monorail as it only goes a few blocks and may break down. B: we are trapped by water on one side and mountains on the other (albeit, a pretty trap). C: too many people live here as there are lots of jobs (thanks, Big Red Giant). What you need to know is that rush hour may be 7-9 am and 4-6 pm, as some state, but I feel that if you are going to drive I-5, you better do it by 2pm. That goes for I-405 out of Bellevue, too. If you are going to drive around, simply get back to the city by 2 or stay away until after 6. If there is a ballgame in town, all bets are off. Traffic does pick up again after the dinner hour and can still be busy even at midnight or later. If you are driving north through Everett or South to Tacoma, good luck and Godspeed.
I'm really surprised that Seattle has so many tailgaters. Under ideal, sunny, dry conditions, drivers are expected to maintain 1 car length for each 10 mph -- and more under rainy or snowy conditions.
But, no one explained this to the driver that rear-ended me on Interstate 5 where Interstate 90 merges. Similarly, no one explained it to the driver of the little white sports car with the big rear spoiler. I nearly got hit a second time while making a left turn into the police station in Tukwila. That driver must be compensating for inadequate anatomical features with the big rear spoiler.
Anyway, drive safe and give yourself plenty of space. Neither my rental car, nor my back, deserved the damage.
If you're driving a car in Seattle, be ready to be stuck in traffic any time you venture onto the highway to get out of town. In the old days you were OK if you avoided rush hour but no longer -- rush hour can be an all day affair. Build extra travel time whenever you need to drive on I-5 or I-405 or across either of the Lake Washington bridges.
Use the Dept. of Transportation site below for real time traffic flow information.
YeeGADs is the traffic awful during rush hour! No wonder they lie about the weather to keep more people from moving here.
It used to be I could outfox it by staying downtown when I worked in other parts (e.g. Bellevue) so I was going in the opposite direction of most traffic, but that doesn't work anymore.
Only suggestions I have:
- Try to stay close to where you want to be, walk a lot & use public transportation whenever possible;
- Try not to drive around rush hour (not very practical);
- or make sure you drive with a buddy or carpool so you can use the HOV lanes.
I'm no traffic-wuss, I drive in Atlanta, Beltway, LA/the 405, Bay Area, Chicago, so I've seen bad traffic, but Seattle metro area seems to be gettin' pretty bad these days.
♫♫ .... he blew his mind out in a car......♫♫
© Lennon & McCartney
I've lived in Seattle for 24 years, and the traffic only gets worse every year. In the mornings, it's difficult to get into the city. In the afternoons, it's difficult to get out of the city. And the freeways are sticky all weekend long. And we haven't even begun to talk about never-ending road construction!
Try to avoid Interstate 5, Interstate 405 or any of the bridges across Lake Washington.
If you must join the throngs on the road, live like a local and allow extra travel time. You can also check the Washington Department of Transportation website for traffic updates before you leave.
Fortunately, Seattle never lacks in beautiful scenery to pass all that time!
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