My husband and I went to Seattle for a few days this week for our anniversary. We stayed with friends in the Wallingford neighborhood northeast of downtown. Now, we could have rented a car, or taken the Gray Line Seattle Airporter, which falsely bills itself as "the least expensive transportation between the downtown Seattle hotels and the Seattle-Tacoma (SeaTac) International Airport." (It starts at $10.25 one way.) But of course, we opted instead for the King County Metro No. 194 bus, which expresses its way up I-5 to downtown. Cost: $1.50, or $1.25 in non-peak hours. Such a deal!
Once downtown, we switched to the No. 16 Northgate bus, which serves downtown, Wallingford and the U-District. It stopped along Stone Way just two blocks from our friends' place. Total travel time from the airport to Wallingford was just about an hour, in early rush-hour traffic. Total cost for two: $3.
Seattle is friendly to people who want to use alternative transportation, so much so that our friends have managed with just one car for a family of four for 15 years. They frequently ride their bikes to work and had a drawer full of bus schedules for various parts of the city, with three routes within a few blocks of their home.
Seattle also is looking forward to the opening of light-rail service from downtown to Sea-Tac in 2009. Many of the tracks downtown appear ready to go; the stretches by the airport are still under construction. In his visit to Boise a few weeks ago, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels offered his city's light-rail experience as a cautionary tale in how long it takes to plan and build transit: King County voted for its light rail in 1988.
One more note: This weekend, Seattle begins Elliot Bay water-taxi service between West Seattle and the downtown waterfront.