Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (though locals call it "Sea-Tac", airport code SEA) is the 16th busiest airport in America with passenger counts growing each year. After a confusing history of additions, SEA Airport Master Plan is finally making sense for travelers. Runways have been tweaked to handle more flights across North America and to Asia, while mitigating noise over more nearby homes. Over 3200 spaces in the parking garage became available when car rentals were moved north of the terminal. Passenger amenities are inviting in the airy Central Terminal anchoring 4 concourses, WiFi, dining, shops, a business conference center and a massively large window to view flights. The North and South Terminals, attached to Central Terminal, are smaller with fewer passenger amenities, but also have satellite gates. June-August is the busiest time for SEA Airport, with 100,000 passenger per day.
Transit: Central Link light rail travels from SeaTac Airport Station to downtown Seattle. Shuttles: Catch Shuttle Express in the parking garage to downtown for about $25 or Airport Express (800-544-0739) for $9 to downtown hotels. Both shuttles depart SEA Airport every 20 minutes from 4:30a-11:10p,r eservations are not required. Taxis: All taxis must charge a $32.00 Flat Rate for trips from the Downtown Seattle Hotel District to SEA Airport. Applies to direct trips only. There is NO flat rate from SEA Airport to Downtown. Call Yellow Cab (206-622-6500), Orange Cab (206-522-8800), or Farwest Taxi (206-622-1717). Car Rentals: A shuttle bus transports you to the rental facility northwest of the terminal for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Dollar, Enterprise and National pick-up centers. Though you are only 11 miles from downtown, trips there via I-5 Freeway take 25-50 minutes, depending on commute hour.
King Street Station at 303 Jackson Street is served by Sounder commuter rail and three Amtrak routes:
Coast Starlight: Los Angeles-Santa Barbara-Oakland-Sacramento-Portland-Seattle
Empire Builder: Seattle-Spokane-Fargo-Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago
King Street Train Station, Seattle
Cascades reaches up to 79 mph with modern European-style trains that have WiFi, wide seats, electrical outlets at each seat, bicycle & ski racks, regional food and beverages. No wonder ridership has jumped 50% the last 10 years. Coast Starlight and Empire Builder operate once daily "land cruise" travel experiences with fine dining, unparalleled views and other passenger amenities.
Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-Eugene is a 466-mile Canadian and U.S. High Speed Rail Corridor designated for federal funding. Each year, more miles of track are being upgraded and road seperations are being added for faster speed. By 2017, Amtrak will increase from 5 to 7 daily Seattle-Portland trains that reach 90 mph top speed and cut half an hour for 3-hour trip time. Also by 2017, Seattle-Vancouver daily trains will increase from 4 to 6 and Portland-Eugene daily trains will increase from 5 to 6. For more context on this important subject, see Interstate High Speed Rail.
Seattle Central Link light rail is a 16-mile, 13 station local service that operates every 7-15 minutes on Weekdays and every 10-15 minutes on Weekends from 5a-Midnight. Central Link couples tunnels and elevated sections with road level sections for quick service is from downtown at Westlake Station with stops at University Street, Pioneer Square, International District, Stadiums, SoDo, Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Columbia City, Othello, Rainier Beach, Tukwila and Sea-Tac Airport. Fares range from $2-$2.75 one-way depending on length of trip. There are reduced fares for youth and seniors, kids under 6 ride Free. CENTRAL LINK SYSTEM MAP
Underground construction is extending Central Link north to the University of Washington campus for scheduled opening in 2016.
Sounder commuter rail headed to Lakewood
Sounder commuter rail is an 89-mile regional service operating 4 daily trains from Everett to Seattle and 9 daily trains from Tacoma to Seattle, with several stops in between. Fares range from $1.50-$4.75 depending on length of trip. Each year, more Sounder trains add WiFi service and upgrades to Sounder track shared with Amtrak complete. Construction is underway that extends Sounder south of Lakewood Station by 2014-15. SOUNDER SYSTEM MAP
Tacoma Link is a short light rail line that provides a great way for tourists to get around downtown Tacoma -- its Free. Daily service runs every 12-24 minutes, 5:30a-9a. TACOMA LINK ROUTE MAP
Seattle-Tacoma Freeway System extends serves every major community west of Puget Sound and it shows. I-5 Freeway from the airport to U. of Washington is one of the nation's most congested commutes. Car pool lanes, metered entrances have been added to help traffic flow in this fast growing region. Major highways are:
5 Interstate Freeway connects Seattle to Tacoma
16 State Freeway & Highway connects Tacoma to Bremerton
90 Interstate Freeway & bridge connects I-5 with central I-405
99 State Highway runs north-south on the western side of Seattle
167 State Freeway runs parallel to I-5 from Renton to Puyallup
205 Interstate Freeway connects eastern suburbs to I-5
509 State Freeway connects with 99, but goes to the airport
512 State Freeway connects Lakewood to Puyallup
516 State freeway connect between I-5 and SR 167
518 State Freeway connects SR 509 with I-5 and I-405
520 State Tollway & bridge connects I-5 with northern I-405
405 Interstate Freeway connects suburbs east of Seattle with I-5
SR 520 bridge across Lake Washington now features automated toll collection. Rental cars may be assessed a steep service fee by the rental company, in addition to the automated toll, so be sure to ask first or avoid this bridge.