Do You Need a Car in Seattle?

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

No car needed: Seeing Seattle sights without the hassle

Do You Need a Car in Seattle?

Renting a car is an easy way to explore at your own pace; however, traffic congestion, parking and navigating unfamiliar streets can make it a challenging way to get around. Seattle is one of the top 20 most traffic-clogged cities in the U.S. with one-lane streets and elusive parking that can leave you feeling anything but relaxed on vacation. A wealth of transportation options in the city let you kick back and enjoy the city's sights while ditching traffic hassles.

See the sights

To see Seattle's sights, check out options that travel between the city's tourist attractions:

Hop on Hop Off Tours: Hop on the Emerald City Trolley first thing in the morning and ride the 1.5-hour loop to get a feel for the city and the sights you'd like to see. The trolley not only connects you to the Space Needle, Pike's Market and other must-see destinations, it also lets you hook up with the ferry or get a hassle-free ride to sports venues and other downtown events. One- and two-day tickets are available, along with an optional leg to Northwest Seattle. The trolleys run daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day and on weekends through September 24.

The Seattle Monorail: Seattle's famous monorail is a must-see attraction by itself. Ride it from Westlake Center Station at 5th Avenue and Pine Street to the Seattle Center Station by the Space Needle. You can connect to the airport by light rail at Westlake Station, making the monorail a fun transportation option if you're staying near Seattle Center. The privately owned transportation accepts cash only but costs only $2.25 or less to ride each way.

Ride all public transit with one easy card

Seattle's public transit system makes it easy to get where you're going. Get an ORCA card to easily use buses, trains and ferries with a tap of your card when you board and disembark. The card also lets you load regional day passes, giving you unlimited rides for up to 12 days. Register your card online and you'll never have to worry about losing money if your card gets lost or stolen.

Use your ORCA card on the following public transit options.

Double decker city buses and more: See over the top of traffic and get a good look at the scenery by riding a double tall bus on the Community Transit bus system. The city presently has 45 double-decker buses running along routes between Seattle and Everett 30 miles north. Double decker buses are just one part of the vast Community Transit system that services more than 2,100 stops throughout Seattle and the surrounding communities.

Other bus systems honored by your ORCA pass include Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit and Sound Transit.

Light rail: Catch Link light rail at the Sea-Tac Airport to head into downtown Seattle. The light rail line runs from the University of Washington to Angle Lake with stops at points of interest like Rainier Beach, Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill.

Commuter train: The Sounder train runs only during weekday mornings and afternoons as well as during major weekend events like Mariners and Seahawks games. The train's routes run between Seattle and Lakewood to the south, or Everett to the north.

Streetcar: Streetcar lines connect to light rail and bus routes, letting you ride the iconic modern system. Travel through downtown on the Center City connector or take the First Hill line to visit Capitol Hill, Chinatown-International District and Pioneer Square.

Water taxis and ferries: Use your ORCA card to board Kitsap and King County ferries to enjoy mountain and city views from the water and reach sights in outlying areas. Take the Bremerton ferry for picturesque sightseeing that includes a trip past Bainbridge Island and classic U.S. Navy vessels at the Bremerton dock. Plan a return trip at sunset when the Seattle skyscrapers blaze gold from the setting sun's reflection.

When you choose a car

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft let you download an app, summon a ride, and pay without ever cracking open your wallet. You also don't have to search for elusive parking. If you do decide to rent a car, pay-to-reserve parking apps like Park Me or Parking Panda can save time and frustration.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.