It is easy to get around without a car. James Olstein

First, say these words: "Seattle's transit system sucks!" With that, you've become just like a lot of people who tangle with Seattle's public trains, buses, and streetcars. And while you're not totally wrong about it sucking, you also need to know that Seattle's transit system has been getting a lot better in recent years—and that you, yourself, can do some things to make it suck less for you and me and everyone we know. Here's how.

Spring Seattle Restaurant Week is back April 1 – 30. Showing support has never been so delicious!
$20 lunch and $35 / $50 dinner options. Venues offer takeout, delivery, indoor and outdoor dining.

Light Rail

Seattle's light rail network is definitely not the New York City Subway. It doesn't even compare to Chicago's L or the Portland MAX. But it is useful, growing, and crowded with people who (hooray!) are not riding in gas-guzzling, planet-warming, road-crowding cars. It's formally called "Link," but the Legend of Zelda kinda already has that one, and everyone here just calls it light rail.

It will get you to the airport for just a few dollars, and it will take you from your Seattle University dorm room to the University of Washington dorm room where your app-assisted hookup is going down for just $2.25. (In about six minutes! Some walking required!) If your school gives you a free or subsidized ORCA card, your intercollegiate sex will be even cheaper.

Route maps and more can be found at, but the thing you need to be really clear about before you board is how you intend to behave. Over the years, The Stranger's Charles Mudede has devoted a considerable amount of his energy to teaching the people of Seattle how to properly comport themselves on public transit—and you, dear student, would do well to search out Mudede's many articles offering advice and, when appropriate, castigation.

To summarize a few of Mudede's most important rules: Your bag goes on your lap, not in its own seat; no public meltdowns, please; no talking on your cell phone ("If the phone rings and you see it's your dying mother, kill the call and text her your goodbyes"); "sit upright, feet on the floor"; and, finally, if you're going to stand on the station escalator, stand on the right side of the escalator only. The left side is for walking up the escalator stairs. Most of these rules apply to bus riding, too, and speaking of buses...


The bus network is called Metro and it goes a lot more places than light rail (there's a good route finder at, but it's also generally slower than light rail and, at times, more pungent. Your ORCA card will work on Seattle's buses, or you can just pay cash: $2.75 a ride if you're over the age of 19.

If Seattle had a real subway system—and the people at Seattle Subway are working on that—you wouldn't end up living so much of your life on a bus. But since it doesn't, you will.

And you know what? When you get a good bus, and it comes when the app tells you it will, and it whisks you along in a dedicated bus lane using planet-conscious hybrid fuel technology, and you can just read a book or listen to music or stare at the raindrops on the bus window or redesign your Bumble profile, and then you arrive and you step off right where you want to be—well, what's better than that?

Also! King County, which runs Metro, is offering a brand-new bus service known as Trailhead Direct that will drop you off at nearby hiking trails and pick you back up again when you're done. For $2.75! Cheap mountain action! Get some!


Seattle is currently littered—sometimes literally—with bike-share bikes, which you can "unlock" with a smartphone app and then ride wherever you damn well please for, like, 25 cents a minute. The green bikes are from a company called Lime. The red bikes are from a company called Jump. You need to know how to ride a bike, and county law says you can get a $30 ticket if you're caught riding without a helmet. Also, you need to think about where you're leaving the bike, because slamming it down in the middle of the sidewalk and peacing out is just rude.

Or you can buy your own damn bike. It's easy to find a cheap used one, a cheap lock, and an affordable helmet, and it will do some nice things for your legs and ass.

In Seattle, it's generally best to stay in bike lanes and on greenways whenever possible if you're not a seasoned rider. (Though of course that's often

not possible due to this city's relative lack of bike lanes and greenways.) When you encounter streetcar or light rail tracks, cross them at a perpendicular angle so your tires don't get caught. And watch out for cars—the hard reality is that they weigh a lot more than you and their drivers aren't always nice (or even paying attention).

Yes, riding a bike is better for you and the environment than just about any other form of transportation except walking, but unfortunately that doesn't win you immunity from bad luck, bad road rage, and bad weather. Bike smart. Your legs and ass will thank you—and admirers of your legs and ass will thank you, too.


What are Seattle's streetcars even for? Does anyone actually ride them? Could they possibly move any slower? If your fancy schooling provides you the answers to these questions, please tell us! Streetcars cost $2.25 a ride.

Support The Stranger

Transit Activism

At some point in your Seattle transit-riding career—and hopefully that point is now—you will think to yourself: How can I, personally, improve this sucky system? Here are three easy steps: One, register to vote and then vote for candidates who promise to support the kinds of protected bike lanes, light rail expansions, and increased bus services you want. Two, follow transit politics on Slog, The Stranger's blog, and at other sites like Seattle Bike Blog and Seattle Transit Blog. Three, when you hear about public transit forums and other requests for public comment (or even when no one's directly asking for your comment), make your voice heard. Repeat as needed.