Seattle has always teetered somewhere between a truly big city and a more modest, regional one. One calculation that defines a major metropolis? The ability to live without a personal car. The Seattle Times reported that we have 610 cars for every 1,000 residents, much higher than the likes of San Francisco and Boston, but the number of vehicles has leveled out in recent years. Here's how to locomote without your own whip.
Someone Else's Car
Remember the craze over the so-called sharing economy? Part of it is still alive and well with Seattle's Zipcar network, a short-term rental service that swallowed its Seattle-based competitor, Flexcar, more than 10 years ago. Memberships are $7 per month, with rental fees starting around $10 per hour, with cars parked in designated spots around the city. While rivals have come and gone—Car2go became ShareNow, which bounced in 2019—currently Gig Car Share from AAA does the free-range system, where cars are parked anywhere within a certain zone. Rates for their hybrids are $17 per hour.
Someone Else's Car and Driver
Uber and Lyft are still going strong in Seattle, having made car services a steady presence since the former set up shop 10 years ago. When the city council passed an act that required drivers to earn a minimum wage, Uber started charging up to 50 percent more at the beginning of 2021. But don't sleep on regular old taxis; they're also still out there.
Bike and Scooter Share
The saga of Seattle bike shares is a long one, akin to tracing how the English throne was tossed between warring dynasties and reformations. (Remember Pronto, with the bike docks? Practically medieval.) Lime e-bikes went away, only to resurface in June 2020 as Jump. Currently the red electric-assist cycles are strewn around town, activated with the Lime app and $0.36 per minute after an unlocking fee. But while the age of the bike has waned, the scooter epoch is upon us. Four different options exist: three standing e-scooters, from Lime, Link, and Spin, and one seated version from Wheels. Be careful where you leave them; an improperly parked one could earn a $20 ticket.
We don't all need to fight over the few shared wheels; Seattle is a very biked place. With more than 150,000 cyclists inside city borders, even our famous hills can't keep people from daily green commutes. E-bike ownership has blossomed in recent years, and Ballard's own Rad Power Bikes is a national phenomenon. Bike paths have expanded in the last decade, most notably with protected lanes downtown, and an Amazon grant will soon help King County complete a giant 42-mile rails-to-trails project on the Eastside called Eastrail. But the Burke-Gilman? Still has a missing link.
And, of course, there's the truly public option. Seattle's sprawling public transportation system is spearheaded by the bus system from King County Metro at $2.75 a ride, including programs like RapidRide (express bus), Dart (a smaller bus on off-route trips), and the Night Owls (night bus). While ferries connect us to Bainbridge, Bremerton, and beyond (with cheaper rides for walk- and bike-on passengers), water taxis go to West Seattle and Vashon Island. On rail, there are Sounder trains out of town, the Seattle Streetcar in South Lake Union (Ride the SLUT!) and First Hill, and, well, the Monorail for tourists and, soon, Kraken fans. The ever-expanding LightRail system, at $2.25-3.50 per trip, will open three new stations in October 2021—all the way to Northgate.