Last month we talked about bicycling around the beautiful Seattle area, this time we’d like to talk about the next cheapest and environmentally friendly way of travelling around town – public transportation.  In Seattle this is made up of the Metro and Sound Transit systems which use buses, Light Rail, ferries, commuter trains, and Van Pools to get you where you need to go.  You can find maps, schedules, and trip planners on both Metro and Sound Transit’s websites.

(On a side note, if you haven’t ridden the Light Rail yet from downtown Seattle to the airport or vice versa, you need to – it is so easy.  If you are a visitor wanting to commute from the Seattle Tacoma International Airport to downtown Seattle, the Light Rail is the way to go.  There is a light rail station right outside the airport (follow the signs to the Link Light Rail) with a passenger crossing bridge connected to the airport parking garage.  The current fare from SeaTac to downtown is $2.75 per person and the trip takes approximately 30 minutes.  If you are a local, using the Light Rail to get to the Airport is often easier than arranging a ride with a friend or taxi.)

No matter what option you choose; public transportation is one of the best ways to save money, save time, and save you from high stress.

  1. Money
    Taking public transportation saves you gas, tolls, parking fees, and wear and tear on your own vehicle all of which saves you quite a bit of cash.  And many employers or even educational programs can offer you discounted or free transit cards, like the Orca card.
  2. Time
    Since public transportation can run on its own tracks, or its own bus lines, or at the very least carpool lanes, significant time is saved in bypassing the intensity of Seattle traffic.  Plus, public transportation runs on a tight schedule nearly all the time (for better or worse, depending on your own timeliness).
  3. Stress
    Because you’re saving time and saving money you’re also saving your sanity by reducing stress.  You’re also not gripping the wheel and grumbling against other drivers.  But one of the best ways public transportation allows for a less stressful life is giving you true free time.  You know you will be on the bus, Light Rail, train, ferry, etc for a certain length of time every morning and every evening (or different hours for less traditional shifts).  This free time can be used to simply sit and have no one asking for something (moms, at a minimum, know what I am talking about here), sleep, read a book, chat with a friend on the phone or online, send an email, knit like my friend Irina, or even chat with a friend you made on the daily commute.  You get more time to get things done or more time for yourself or rest.  Forced commuter free time is still free time.  Write the great American novel, the next top Billboard song, a great new blog, or even just a to-do list.  Search for a better job, put a new book on hold from the library, or even schedule your next vacation.  With a pen and paper or even a smart phone, there are so many productive ways to spend your time when you’re using public transportation.  And a nap never hurt anyone (though my infant son doesn’t always realize that point). Nearly anything you do with your commuter time is helpful and can bring your stress down.

I love love love Seattle Metro and Sound Transit, except when it doesn’t save me time or stress, though always my money.  Sure, you can get around town and nearly anywhere in the Greater Seattle Area but it doesn’t mean you can always get there easily or quickly.  I once had a commute from Columbia City to Bellevue that took two hours each way on 2-3 buses (on top of 11 hour work days).  But I appreciate and acknowledge that things are always improving on the Metro and Sound Transit systems.  The Orca Card made things much easier in getting rid of the sometimes confusing paper transfer system.  The Rapid Ride bus lines are increasing across the city.  More and more systems are getting free Wi-Fi.  And the Light Rail is slowly inching its way both politically and via track lines across town in all directions.  I know that public transportation is always working to do the right thing and will continue to save locals and tourists money, time, and stress.

So have you ridden a bus recently?  Tried the Light Rail yet?  Converted anyone else to commuter trains?  Started a Van Pool?