Visitor’s Guide to Using Public Transit in the Seattle area
What transit agencies provide service in the Seattle area?
The Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan region, also known as the Puget Sound Region, is served by seven major Transportation agencies that work together to provide a public transit network across King (including the cities of Seattle and Bellevue), Kitsap (including Bremerton), Pierce (including Tacoma) and Snohomish (including Everett) Counties.
Below is a list of all the public transit agencies you can use to get around the Puget Sound Region. You can pay and transfer easily across seven agencies with the ORCA card, a regional transit card that you can load money and/or daily or monthly passes to.
- Community Transit, primarily serving Snohomish County and commuter routes to and from Snohomish County to Seattle and Bellevue
- Everett Transit, serving the City of Everett and parts of Snohomish County
- King County Metro, primarily serving King County
- Kitsap Transit, primarily serving Kitsap County
- Pierce Transit, primarily serving Pierce County including the City of Tacoma
- Sound Transit, providing regional rail and bus service connecting King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties
- Washington State Ferries, a division of Washington Department of Transportation, providing ferry service across the Puget Sound
What are transit agency hours in the Puget Sound region?
Transit systems do not run 24 hours per day in the Puget Sound region, but all agencies have both early morning and late evening options. You can use Google Maps or this regional trip planner from King County to see what options are available for when you want to travel. For specific route timetables and information, visit each transit agency’s website linked above for more information.
What modes of public transportation are offered in the Puget Sound region?
Seattle area transit agencies offer one of the most diverse lists of transportation modes for getting around. Like many cities the region offers bus, light rail, and regional rail. But some of the more unique ways to get around include Water Taxis, Foot Ferries, Fast Ferries, and Vehicle Ferries, Monorail, and the Seattle Streetcar.
Customers can load money or passes on their ORCA card to use and transfer between all these modes. For more information about how the ORCA card works, and how to plan and pay for trips, visit info.myORCA.com.
What transit connections are available to and from airports, train stations and cruise terminals?
Transit is available to all regional airports, major train stations and cruise terminals in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area. Plan your trip using Google Maps or visit the King County Metro trip planner to plan your trip. Additional resources are available below:
- Sea-Tac International Airport: If you are flying into Sea-Tac International airport, you can connect directly to the Sound Transit Link Light Rail at the Airport and ride approximately 37 minutes to Downtown Seattle. ORCA cards are available for purchase in the vending machines located in the Sea-Tac light rail station. For more information about public transit options to and from Sea-Tac International airport, visit the Port of Seattle’s transit information page.
- Paine Field in Snohomish County: Paine field is served by Bus Rapid Transit, via the Community Transit Swift Green line, Community Transit 105 bus route and the Everett Transit route 8 bus. For more information about ground transportation to and from Paine Field, visit their transportation information page.
- Amtrak service to Tacoma, Seattle and Everett: Amtrak connects with a variety of public transit options at major train stations including Tacoma Dome Station in Tacoma, King Street Station in Seattle and Everett Station in Everett.
- Seattle Cruise Ship Terminals: For information about getting to and from Pier 91 in Smith Cove, visit the Port of Seattle’s transportation page for Pier 91. For cruises departing from Pier 66 in Downtown Seattle, visit the Port of Seattle’s transportation page for Pier 66.
Where can I go with transit in the Seattle area?
Many of the Seattle Region’s most popular business and tourism destinations are easily accessible via public transportation. From restaurants, to culture, nightlife and sports, public transit can take you there reliably and safely.
Major attractions include the Washington State Convention Center, Pike Place Market, The Space Needle and Seattle Center. Concerts and sporting events at Climate Pledge Arena, Lumen Field, T-Mobile Park, and Husky Stadium are all easily accessible via public transit too.
What are the payment options for transit?
Each transportation mode offers different options for payment, including cash, buying tickets, the TicketGo app (on King County Metro and Sound Transit) and using a regional transit payment card, called the ORCA card.
Using the ORCA card offers many benefits including real-time loading via myORCA website or thee myORCA app for Android or Apple, avoiding long lines to buy tickets or reload during peak hours or events, transfer credit across all seven regional agencies within a two hour window, ability to register your card to protect your balance in the event of a lost or stolen card, and ability to buy an unlimited transit pass for the day or month.
The ORCA card also offers savings for seniors, persons with disabilities, customers with lower incomes and acts as a free transit pass for Youth 18 and younger. Remember, children 5 and under also ride free with a paying adult.
Where do I get an ORCA card?
ORCA cards are available at hundreds of locations across the Puget Sound Region, including vending machines, retail stores and customer service locations. For the latest list of locations visit our ORCA location map. You can also buy an ORCA card with pre-loaded funds and passes in online and receive it by mail. Allow up to three weeks for delivery for online purchases.
To get a youth or senior ORCA card, you can apply online or visit a transit customer service location. Note that these card types are not available at retailers or from vending machines.
To get an ORCA LIFT card or a Disabled card, you must visit a transit customer service location, or apply online at the King County Reduced Fare Portal.
How much does an ORCA card cost?
New ORCA cards are available for $3 at all locations where they are sold. Reduced fare cards are available at select locations and online: the first card is free, and replacement of lost/stolen/damaged cards is $3. For more information, see “Where do I get an ORCA card?” above.
Should I load money or passes onto my ORCA card?
You can choose from flexible options for loading money and/or passes on your ORCA card. Depending on how you plan to use transit while you’re in the Puget Sound Region simply adding money, buying a pass, or adding money and a pass may be right for you.
- Adding money only. If you plan to take a few trips or only one trip, this might be the most cost-effective option for you. You can add money (also called E-Purse) to your ORCA card to pay for individual trips. If you’re not sure how many times you’re going to ride transit, setting up an autoload gives you flexibility.When you get low on funds, the card is automatically reloaded, and we email you a receipt. You can watch this video to learn how to set up an autoload by creating an account on myORCA.com. All sales locations can load money on your ORCA card, so you can simply reload at a vending machine, retailer, or transit customer service location as needed. Search our interactive location map to find a location near you.
- Adding a day pass. This is the best option if you plan to use transit many times in one day. You can add a regional day pass to your ORCA card for $8. This gives you unlimited rides on all seven transit agencies for the day on any one-way trip that costs $3.50 or less, with some exclusions for paying for a car on Ferries and some special trips. Remember, retail locations can only load money to your card. You can use the money you purchase at a retail location to buy a pass online, at a vending machine, or via ORCA customer service.
- Adding a monthly pass. If you’re planning to use transit longer or more frequently, a monthly pass is the best choice for you. Since many transit agencies participate in the ORCA payments system, there are many passes with different prices to choose from. Remember passes are based on the calendar month and prices are not prorated, so we recommend purchasing your pass in advance for the next month to get the most out of it, for example purchasing the December pass when it becomes available on November 15. Remember, retail locations can only load money to your card. You can use the money you purchase at a retail location to buy a pass online, at a vending machine, or via customer service. Here are few examples of how monthly passes work:
- Single agency pass. If you know you will just be using just one transit agency, for example King County Metro buses, you can purchase the monthly King County Metro Pass for $99. Note that $99 is the same price as the “$2.75 Puget Pass” since King County Bus fares are $2.75 per trip. If you do the math, $99 divided by $2.75 per trip equals 36 trips to break even on this monthly pass. So, if you plan to ride the bus more than 36 times in a month, this pass can save you money.
- All-agency pass (PugetPass). If you plan to frequently travel on more than one transit agency per month, for example, riding a Community Transit commuter bus from Everett to Northgate Station then riding Sound Transit Link Light Rail to Downtown Seattle, our all-agency regional pass, called the PugetPass is the best choice for you. Since the one-way fare for a Community Transit commuter bus is $4.25, you would purchase the $4.25 PugetPass for $153. Doing the math, $153 divided by $4.25 is 36 trips, so if you plan to ride more than 36 times in a month this pass can save you money. This pass will also allow you to tap on to the Light Rail with a free transfer in the example above. The pass will also work on any other trip in the regional system with a fare of less than $4.25, for example a ride on a King County Metro bus, or a ride on an Everett Transit bus.
- When should I add a pass and money to my ORCA card? The ORCA card allows customers to use the fare from their last ride toward a transfer to their next ride within a two-hour window. For example, if you have a $2.75 PugetPass and start your trip by riding a King County Metro bus, then transfer to a Sound Transit light rail trip that costs $3.50, you will only be charged the fare difference of $0.75 for that trip. So, if you mostly ride the bus, but occasionally use Sound Transit Link Light Rail for higher cost trips, it’s a good idea to load some money (E-Purse) on to your card so you have enough funds to pay the fare difference.
What else do I need to know about the ORCA card?
- You can load your card instantly with money or passes at myORCA.com or using the myORCA app for Android or Apple.
- You need a physical card to use the app for now. We will be launching tap-to-pay with your phone soon.
- Each rider needs their own card. Remember, children under 6 ride free and don’t need a card. Youth 18 and under now ride free with an ORCA Youth card or other form of ID such as K-12 Student ID or Drivers License.
- Make sure you tap on and off when using trains! If you don’t tap off, you will be charged the maximum fare zone in the direction you were traveling.
- ORCA Cards cannot be used to pay fare for cars on ferries. They can only be used to pay for passengers.
Thanks again for using public transit during your visit to the Puget Sound region! Whether you’re here for meetings, a business trip, a cruise, experience the nature of the Pacific Northwest or visit one of the many attractions in our area we hope you enjoy your time here and come back soon!