How's the commute from Beacon Hill or Greenlake to downtown Seattle and Bellevue?
August 28, 2010 10:10 PM   Subscribe

Looking for opinions on commuting from Greenlake or Beacon Hill to downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue.

So my wife and I are moving to Seattle, with jobs lined up; mine will be in downtown Seattle, hers will be in downtown Bellevue. We want to live somewhere in Seattle proper that offers reasonable commutes to both downtowns, but we want to live away from downtown itself and the denser neighborhoods around it. Ideally we'd like reasonable commutes via mass transit to both downtowns as well... figure this will be more difficult for my wife, as she may end up having to drive to Bellevue. We'll keep at least one car for general-purpose use and occasional commuting use.

So far we've been focusing on Greenlake and Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill looks great for commuting to downtown Seattle via transit due to the light rail, ok to Bellevue (~ 45 min by bus according to Google maps). Greenlake looks a bit worse commute-wise, but the overall area seems prettier and more interesting.

I'd love to get y'alls thoughts on those neighborhoods, those commutes, and other areas that might work.

Anon due to not all of our friends/family/colleagues knowing about the move just yet. Also if anyone has followup questions or would like to answer privately you can email me at

posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about Mercer Island, it's right in between both. There is a fairly large Park and Ride on the north end.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:27 PM on August 28, 2010

I can't speak to Beacon Hill, but we live in Greenlake. My spouse commutes downtown, usually by bus, but I'm about to start a job in West Seattle so I'll drop her off on my way to work.

Depending on where you live in Greenlake, you'll be taking either the 16 or the 358. Both are good busses; the 358 can be a little sketchier (but plenty safe) and very quick to downtown. Check the bus maps, though. Bellevue will take about 45 minutes, but your wife should consider driving to a park and ride and taking a bus in, if she works in downtown Bellevue.

As far as neighborhood, Greenlake is nice but it can be a little boring. You have the lake right there, which is beautiful and a great place to run/walk/watch funny dogs. But there are also lots of families and not a whole lot in the way of nightlife. If you're looking for a slightly quieter neighborhood, it's probably going to be a good fit. Good schools in the area, too, in case that is a consideration.

Feel free to email with more questions (username @ gmail).
posted by rossination at 10:28 PM on August 28, 2010

Oops, you're anonymous. Also say that Beacon Hill isn't the greatest of neighborhoods, and commuting from Greenlake to Bellevue will take at least an hour to commute via bus.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:31 PM on August 28, 2010

Greenlake to Bellevue will stink on transit. 520 is a nightmare for the rush-hour reverse commute, which is often surprising to newcomers. I-90 is not as bad. Some mornings traffic is light, sometimes it's pretty slow.

Considerer the north end of Beacon Hill especially. Buses from Rainier Ave freeway station go directly to downtown Bellevue and make good time. (But you wouldn't want to live right next to that.) The #36 and #7 buses provide pretty good commutes to downtown Seattle -- this might be the best compromise. The light rail is good but there's a reason not that many people use it to commute...

Beacon Hill is not that nice, but people frequently judge it based on negative impressions from several years ago. A lot of my friends live there and like it.

Mercer's not a bad choice (another easy bus commute) but it's very different from living in the city.

Feel free to mail me for more.
posted by zvs at 11:35 PM on August 28, 2010

I think you might like the Madrona/Mt.Baker/Seward Park area. It's close to the I90 bridge, which I think, of the two floating bridges, is the easier one to get the east side, and it is close to downtown. Beacon Hill can feel a little isolated from the rest of the city.

Warning: Any bus ride going downtown and back is going to be a piece of cake compared to your wife's commute.
posted by macinchik at 12:42 AM on August 29, 2010

Commuting downtown from either place will be pretty easy. Commuting to the east side is a PITA by car or bus, unfortunately, and the choke point is the bridge, so it doesn't matter much where you live on this side.

I'd say that Greenlake is a bit nicer but also a bit less interesting than Beacon Hill. OTOH, that's not really a problem; the #16 and #26 will take you downtown and back (or to Fremont or Queen Anne) even pretty late at night if you want to do something other than stroll around the lake. I lived in Greenlake for a few years but I've never lived in Beacon Hill.
posted by hattifattener at 12:48 AM on August 29, 2010

Not only is 520 a PITA normally, but the bridge is being replaced starting in a year or so. They're completely redoing the Montlake interchange which is how you would usually get onto 520 from Greenlake. I'd avoid any North Seattle-Eastside commute over the next 3-4 years.
posted by five toed sloth at 7:23 AM on August 29, 2010

There's also the 316 from greenlake, a commuter bus that runs during rush hour, and I think is faster than the 16 and nicer than the 358.

You might also look at the University district and Northgate, they both have good bus options to both downtown and Bellevue (but are further out than either of the neighborhoods you mention).
posted by Gorgik at 7:26 AM on August 29, 2010

One more thing. You might consider living in Bellevue. The bus options to Seattle are pretty good, especially if you live close to I-90, and that would make the Bellevue commute a lot easier.
posted by Gorgik at 7:28 AM on August 29, 2010

A good friend of mine would confirm Madrona/Mt.Baker/Seward Park area. She moved from Greenlake about a year ago & couldn't be happier in terms of it being a more interesting area as well as access to both the other side of the lake & downtown.
posted by susanbeeswax at 10:53 AM on August 29, 2010

You don't say where you are coming from. I would tell you that to "live away from downtown itself and the denser neighborhoods around it" is a very relative term. Seattle is a small, small city and many neighborhoods that look very close to downtown feel very suburban and quiet.

You really need to focus on the commute to Bellevue, I think that's going to be the harder thing to accommodate. Are you willing to live on the East side? Greenlake to downtown should be fine any way you want to get there (bike, bus, car) but Greenlake to Bellevue, on mass transit, yikes! Beacon Hill seems like a much better compromise, but as others have said it's a perennially "up and coming" neighborhood -- and there are some great things there, but there certainly are a few more sketchy areas there than other parts of town, especially Greenlake. Again, Seattle is a small city and sketchy is a relative term.

I would consider Seattle neighborhoods that have easy access to the I-90 bridge, which has a bike lane, easy bus routes, and has significantly less traffic than the 520 bridge. Such neighborhoods include Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Madrona, Mt. Baker, First Hill. With the exception of First Hill, most of these places do not "feel" densely populated.

Or, you could do what most people do when they move here. Rent an apartment in Capitol Hill for your first year, then decide what neighborhood makes sense. Capitol Hill is super dense, but central to everything and an easy home base for exploring and commuting, and has apartments and condos in literally every price range.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2010

PS, 45 min to Bellevue from Greenlake by bus seems optimistic. My only data point is a friend that takes the bus from Montlake to Redmond and it's 45 minutes for him on a normal day with normal traffic, often much worse.

PPS, almost no-one I know here has a 45 minute commute, you can do a lot better than this.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2010

If two more people move here, traffic may come to a standstill.
People complain about traffic, but an hour long commute can be accepted. The question is about commuting, but the decision to live in Seattle proper implies that good commutes aren't a high priority. The suggestions above for Mercer Island and access to I-90 are good. The total of your commutes from Green Lake could be more than from Issaquah (east of Seattle on I-90).
The HR department of the Bellevue company may have good ideas about commuting.
There are a lot of variables so I don't think the equation can be resolved without living in the area. I would put most of my stuff in storage and rent apartments with short term leases to get to know the area before settling in.
posted by llc at 3:38 PM on August 29, 2010

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