Where in Seattle can I stay to walk everywhere?
October 15, 2018 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I haven't driven a car in years and would rather not start up again in a foreign state.

I need to be in Seattle for a few weeks and would like to be within walking distance of everywhere if possible. I live in NYC so I haven't driven in quite a while and I'm not sure what public transport is like over there. If I stay a few weeks will I be missing out on much if I don't rent a car?
posted by fantasticness to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on where you need to go! Most of the transit to hiking locations has closed for the season; on the other hand, the tech employment centers are all accessible by busses that will come, but at the mercy of traffic. Most of our cultural buildings, and the airport, are now accessible by our one light-rail line. If you're visiting suburban relatives, someone's going to need to drive in the evenings.
posted by clew at 1:20 PM on October 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Public transportation is largely via the bus, but there is a light rail that goes from the University, through downtown, and all the way down past the airport, so anywhere relatively close to the light rail stations opens up some faster transit options for you. There are also ferries for going to/from the islands. Really, anywhere in the metro area will be fine as far as getting around goes. Outside of the metro area is still possible but some of the routes run to match common commuter times and may not work well for you if you want to stay downtown late at night. Lyft/uber is very popular in Seattle, so there's always that back up option if you find yourself stranded.

Get an Orca card, which will work on the transit here. You can order in advance and have it shipped to you or buy one when you get here.

Here is a link to the King County Metro site.
posted by acidnova at 1:22 PM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lots of Seattle folks don't have cars! Pretty much any neighborhood near the center of the city should do.
posted by k8t at 1:22 PM on October 15, 2018

"Pretty much any neighborhood near the center of the city should do." What is the center of the city? Is that fremont? Columbia city? Sorry, I'm pretty lost.
posted by fantasticness at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2018

You might play around with the Mapnificent tool, which sez it throws up a map of estimated trip times via public transit from your chosen spot. I set it for 45 mins and dropped it on the Space Needle. Also, it has neighborhood names.

Fremont is on the Ship Canal, which defines roughly 1/3 from the northern edge of Seattle. Columbia City is toward the upper (northern) part of the southern 1/3 on the Lake Washington (East) side of teh city.

Both areas are rapidly gentrifying.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:34 PM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's hard to get places from Fremont without taking multiple buses. Columbia City is on the light rail, which is good, but it's relatively outlying and also South of downtown so you'd have to add 20 minutes to your transit time if you were going anywhere North of downtown. Probably downtown, Capitol Hill, or lower Queen Anne (near the Space Needle) would be better bets.

It really depends on what "everywhere" means to you. What do you want to be able to get to? Seattle is separated by multiple bodies of water that add complexity and travel time to getting around, and the public transportation system is pretty pathetic.
posted by matildaben at 1:39 PM on October 15, 2018

Downtown Seattle has the most access to transit. You can get almost anywhere easily from downtown. Nearby neighborhoods like Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, and the International District are also relatively well served.

In general you can get from anywhere to downtown and back, but it's harder to go cross-town. For example, from most of Northeast Seattle, it's easy to get to and from downtown, but less convenient to get to many other parts of the north end, even though they are closer geographically.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:41 PM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

To add to mrbrubeck's post:
Downtown also encompasses neighborhoods such as Belltown, Pike/Pine Corridor, Pioneer Square, Western Edge.
Nearby to that are Capitol Hill (mostly pretty good transit access, especially "lower" Cap Hill - closer to downtown). Transit is Not Great in Seattle, but I know many people who live downtown-ish with out cars - but they do use Uber quite a bit. It would be really helpful to know what you absolutely have to be able to get to - that will inform the answers. Do you have a job you have to go to every day? Medical appointments? etc.
posted by dbmcd at 1:58 PM on October 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seattle is built on north-south running glacial gouges and hills, and it's generally easier to get N or S from anywhere than E or W. (In a car or a bus.) Everything crosses in downtown, which I think of as the ferry docks eight blocks to the freeway going W-E and from Pine to Jefferson going N-S, which is minimal. Pike-Pine and Belltown are adjacent to downtown and Capitol Hill starts a few blocks farther and all three have the currently cool bars and nightclubs, and lots of hotels and probably AirBnBs. The University is half an hour from downtown and has more hotels and BnBs.

It really does depend on where you want to be. If you just want to see Seattle on foot, walk in big circles -- the shorelines or the ridgetops -- and eventually a bus will take you home. Good places to eat everywhere. Check out the Center for Wooden Boats.
posted by clew at 2:02 PM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seattle is a pretty spread out city in weird ways because of our geography (ridges, lakes, canals) so for us to give you the best advice possible, we need to know where you actually want to go on a regular basis.

For instance, Columbia City would indeed be a great neighborhood if you're interested in a neighborhood that's walkable to bars/coffeeshops/etc. and need to go downtown on a regular basis. But if you want to explore lots of different neighborhoods, I'd suggest First Hill or Capitol Hill or Lower Queen Anne, where you are near the transit hubs and thus can go pretty much anywhere in the city walking or bussing/light railing.

FWIW Seattle is not really a city that's built for walking "everywhere" because of those weird geographical features. It is very much a city of individual neighborhoods with their own little downtowns, and people walk a lot within those neighborhoods, but between neighborhoods you often have a canal or a huge hill/ridge or a trainyard with a bridge over it or something like that. I do actually know people who do "urban hiking" between neighborhoods and that's a fun thing, but it's not a stroll. Most people drive or take public transit between neighborhoods if they're able.
posted by lunasol at 3:02 PM on October 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

I need to be in Seattle...

What do you need to do in Seattle? Answer that question, and the rest sorts itself out. For example, if you need to be in/at the north end for specific reasons and specific times, then the south end isn't the greatest choice.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:00 PM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you want Capitol Hill. Somewhere within walking distance of Broadway, where you can get the light rail or buses easily; also there's a streetcar which will take you to the South part of downtown, near Pioneer Square and the stadiums.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 4:16 PM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was carless in Seattle this summer, though only for a few days. I don't know that Seattle's really built to be able to walk everywhere, but I walked a lot, and had a very easy time by staying on a north-south bus line in Capitol Hill that was also a 10-15 minute walk from light rail, and it's a lovely neighborhood in its own right. (I was near the southern end of Volunteer Park, if a landmark helps.) Not sure what your budget's like, but I got pretty much everywhere I wanted to go and only really used a Lyft when I needed to go faster than a bus would. The only exception was that if I was going to meet a friend for lunch in his suburban office north of the city, it would have taken a sizeable chunk out of my day to get there and back unless I wanted to drop a bunch of money.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:28 PM on October 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is a longshot, but if you're here for a few weeks and want to do the most foresty carless thing -- you can take the Strait Shot bus from the other end of a downtown ferry to Sequim and walk out the Dungeness Spit. This will be a little tricky in Sequim as it's a small, not transit-heavy town (you might want a taxi), but the Spit is gorgeous and near town (the Strait Shot runs to Port Angeles and other gateways to the Olympic National Park, but I can't think of a good trailhead that's as close as the Spit, and also in the rain some of those hikes aren't trivial.

The thing is, quite a lot of the Strait Shot busroute is through forests, so you will have a peaceful couple hours staring at trees. And sometimes bodies of water.
posted by clew at 2:55 PM on October 26, 2018

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