The city has its share of traffic woes, but there are alternatives to getting around by car.
In Seattle, commuting can be a major headache. Of course, the city has its share of traffic woes, but there are alternatives to getting around by car. Whether you’d rather be getting where you need to go by foot, bike or public transit, you might be surprised at how you can find a shortcut, depending on what neighborhood you live in — and where you’re heading. Before you know it, you might even turn that pain of a commute into a pleasant part of your day.
Don’t let the hills scare you off; Seattle is actually a bike-friendly commuter city, if you know what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in trying out a bike commute, look for a major bike trail nearby, says Jonathan Hopkins, executive director of the nonprofit Commute Seattle. The ones to keep an eye out for: Burke-Gilman, Westlake Cycle Track, Mountains to Sound Trail, Roosevelt bike lane, West Seattle/Alki Trail, Lake Washington Boulevard and the Waterfront trail from downtown through Magnolia/Interbay to Ballard.
That means that good neighborhoods for bike commuters are plentiful in Seattle. Everywhere from northern Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford and Green Lake over to University District, Magnolia, Lower Queen Anne and parts of the Central District will get you close to one of those major trails that will then connect to a lane heading downtown.
Roger Morris, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Bain who runs the Seattle neighborhood blog On the Road With Roger, notes that he has many clients who are bike commuters and will dictate their searches for homes in Seattle based on access to bike routes. He often reminds them that the most convenient commute isn’t always about being as close to your work as possible. “It’s more about being close to certain arteries, like the Burke-Gilman, and then having that bike lane accessibility all the way to your destination. For example, the bike lane that goes all the way across the University Bridge can connect Maple Leaf with the University of Washington more easily by bike than Wedgwood, even though it’s farther north.”
Public transit-friendly neighborhoods
Many Seattleites are looking to avoid the car commute and are starting to explore public transportation. The good news? “Most of Seattle is well connected with transit … 64 percent of city residents are less than half a mile from transit that comes every 10 minutes or less,” says Hopkins of Commute Seattle. With the expanding light rail and bus service that’s concentrated in certain areas, commuters in certain neighborhoods have a leg up on getting around via public transit.
Neighborhoods along the light rail line provide great access to public transportation that can almost certainly help them along on their commutes. Especially because, Hopkins says, “bus service also concentrates around light rail stations.” Light rail runs from 5 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m., depending on the day. Neighborhoods along the existing light rail line such as Rainier Beach, Othello, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Downtown, Central District and University of Washington are all well served by this service currently. In the next few years, University District, Roosevelt, Northgate and Judkins Park will all have stations of their own.
Three particular areas of the city have extraordinary bus service: the University District, Capitol Hill, and the stretch between Belltown, Downtown and Chinatown-International District.
When thinking about bus connectivity, Hopkins says look for the prevalence of overnight bus service to see corridors where the investment in bus service is the highest. Even if you don’t live in one of the best-connected bus neighborhoods, you probably live on a line that will get you into one of those hubs that could vastly improve your commute.
Seattle has no shortage of neighborhoods with dense, walk-friendly business districts where you can explore and get your errands done — and even commute — by foot. “The hot neighborhoods for walkability are always going to be Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford,” says Morris. But, Morris says, there are plenty of other neighborhoods with nice business districts that people might just not be aware of or that aren’t as densely packed with businesses. Morris suggests Wedgwood, Maple Leaf and even the Northgate area as good alternatives to the more crowded central neighborhoods. “The area by Northgate Mall is going to just explode with the light rail coming in 2021, which will really open up all kinds of options for getting out and doing things there without your car,” he says.
The beauty of a walk through a Seattle neighborhood is one of the things Geraldine Troisfontaine thinks about a lot. Troisfontaine has been leading weekly urban walks through different neighborhoods for the past 18 months. Some of her favorites? North Queen Anne, Laurelhurst and Beacon Hill.
She suggests a walk through North Queen Anne if you’re interested in beautiful architecture, checking out the Beacon Food Forest in Beacon Hill to learn about urban agriculture, or heading out for an urban sunrise hike in Laurelhurst. “Planning a walk around sunset or sunrise can make a great difference in the colors and emotions we experience,” says Troisfontaine. “Walking where we usually drive or run or bike is a great way to slow down the organism and notice a different reality.” You can get walking maps from the city’s website to plan your own walk for commuting or just taking a moment for yourself.
Visit FindMySeattle.com, sponsored by Amica Insurance. Take the quiz, browse the map or explore 40 neighborhoods to find the right one for you.