Three years ago I decided that having a car was causing me much more trouble than it was worth, especially after I moved up to Capitol Hill. Parking was literally a nightmare, I had to move my vehicle every 72 hours and the stupid thing hated going up hills. (On the plus side, I now know how to drive around town without risking getting stuck on one of Seattle’s monstrous hills.)
Going car-less saved me a lot of money (insurance, gas, parking tickets) and luckily I happen to live within 4 blocks of 3 different grocery stores, next to three bus routes that go directly downtown and to the Seattle Center and I’m surrounded by 9 billion nightlife options. But when I venture off of the Hill, here’s how I get to where I’m going:
Recent changes aside, Seattle has a pretty decent public bus system that crisscrosses the city. A bus is a bus, and you’ll be sure to encounter some yucky smells and the occasional crazy person, but ultimately it’s an affordable option.
To ride the bus, you can pay cash or get yourself an Orca card ($5 for the card itself), which you just tap on the card reader upon boarding the bus. You can get an Orca card at any fare vending machines and online and by mail, and there are several retail locations where you can reload it. I typically just reload my card when I’m downtown in one of the tunnel stations. Click here for all the different Orca card options.
Make sure you download the OneBusAway app on your smartphone so that you have the most accurate bus arrival times at each stop. This is very important! I’m not sure what Seattleites did before we had this app – it’s essential.
Bus fares are between $2.25 and $2.75 and also depend on where you’re headed. You also have a 2-hour transfer window so you can go from bus to bus without being charged within that window of time. If you’re paying cash, make sure to ask for a transfer slip of paper.
Have you ever ridden in a taxi, tried to pay with a credit card and had your taxi driver cop some major attitude about it? I’ve had taxi drivers go out of their way to drive me to an ATM so I could get cash to pay them (and of course they kept the meter running). It’s such an incredibly unpleasant experience.
And that right there is why I love Uber.
Uber is an on-demand black town car service that you control from your phone! It’s so genius – you sign up for Uber and enter in your preferred credit card for payment, and then you download an app for your phone. Then you open up the app, submit your location and your car is on the way! You can see how close the nearest car is on the app, and they’ll send you text messages letting you know that your car is arriving.
All that sounds great, right? But here’s the best part. It’s a cash-less system. The credit card info you entered in upon sign up? It just gets charged at the end of your ride, and it includes tip and tax! No more battling with your cabbie to let you use a card to pay. You’ll receive an email receipt after your ride and you can rate your driver on the service they provided.
Uber cars are often stocked with bottles of water, candy or even magazines and you will feel like a million bucks when you roll up to… well, anywhere, in your black town car (or SUV!).
Sign up for Uber using my promo code and you’ll enjoy $20 off of your first ride – and I’ll earn $20 in credit towards my next ride! And make sure to follow along with Uber on Twitter and Facebook – they offer different fun promo codes for events happening in your city – yes, they’re in most major US cities and even in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Vancouver!
Zipcars are wheels when you want them – a car-sharing service that allows you to rent a vehicle when you’re in need. Zipcar’s fleet of vehicles range from Mini Coopers to trucks and SUVs and are available to rent by the hour or by the day and are located all over the city.
Sign up and you’ll receive a special Zipcard that allows you to lock and unlock your rented vehicle. Rent your vehicle online based on price and location and you’re on your way! You can extend your Zipcar rental time by text message if you find you need an extra half hour to get home, which is really helpful if you find yourself in traffic or with an extra errand to run.
Lyft, like Uber, is an on-demand ride share service, but it’s peer-to-peer and you sit in the front seat! So basically anyone can be a driver (okay, probably not people with bad driving records, super creeps or the like) but you can drive your own car and accept rides. The idea is that because it’s more social, you’re building community while getting to where you need to go.
I personally prefer Uber over Lyft, because sometimes you just want a ride home and don’t feel like talking to people, but the Lyfts I HAVE been in have actually resulted in some fun conversations and usually a sugar high (lots of Lyft drivers outfit their cars with candy.)
I don’t really understand why anyone bothers to drive to the airport. SeaTac is connected to downtown Seattle by the Central Link Light Rail that literally takes you from Westlake Center to the airport (and back again, should you choose to go round trip). In fact, you can just tap your Orca card in the downtown tunnel, hop aboard and sit back and relax – and the train comes between every 10 and 15 minutes.
So save yourself the hassle of parking at the airport, save your friends the hassle of driving BACK from the airport (that’s where all the worst traffic is) and just Uber or taxi or bus or get dropped off at one of the 11 stations and ride the rails down to the airport!