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Never Uber from SeaTac Airport to Downtown Seattle: Here’s Why

In Seattle, travelers should never Uber from SeaTac Airport to Downtown Seattle because rideshare cars are slower, dirtier, and more frustrating to use than the public transportation options available on the routes between the airport and the city.

Need more reasons? Choosing the light rail train instead of a rideshare from Seatac to Seattle will save you at least $30 (and during traffic or uber “surges” the savings could be $100 or more!) and if that’s not enough- the Link Lightrail train is a carbon-neutral transportation option that is powered entirely by wind-generated power (source). Read on to learn more about the easier, faster, and cheaper way to get from SeaTac to Downtown Seattle.

When arriving in most US cities, it makes sense to catch a Uber or rideshare car from the airport to get to a hotel. This is because many cities have not effectively linked their airport to their downtown area with accessible public transportation options that appeal to travelers ranging from business travelers to budget travelers.

An airfield at seatac airport with mount rainer in the background.
An airfield at SeaTac airport with Mount Rainer in the background.

In many cities, taking public transportation from the airport to the city center takes longer than an Uber– and for travelers who need to get to a meeting or use every bit of their vacation, public transportation may seem like a ridiculous option. But that’s not the case in Seattle! In Seattle, there is a unique traffic situation: Seattle is a large city on an extremely, relatively, small plot of land.

Making highway travel even more challenging- the Puget Sound and connected waterways slice up the region and require crossing via bridges or ferries.

Because of all of this, traffic in Seattle is some of the worst in the United States.

Catching an Uber from SeaTac airport to downtown will put you in a car smack dab in the middle of this traffic. In traffic, it can easily take an hour or more to get from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle. Thankfully, this is not a new problem, but rather something that travelers and locals have been dealing with for decades.

The solution?

An efficient, clean, and inexpensive light rail train connecting SeaTac airport to Seattle and beyond. There is absolutely no reason to pay for an Uber and get stuck in traffic for potentially hours when riding the light rail from SeaTac airport is clean, efficient, and (compared to public transportation in other countries, really easy to navigate for travelers and first-time riders.

Sunset as seen from seattle's link sound transit light rail train.
Public transportation in Seattle is generally clean, modern, and efficient.

While I’ve explained in detail how to get from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle in my article of the same name, in this article I want to focus specifically on why it’s a bad idea to pay for transportation from pay for an Uber from the airport to the urban heart of Seattle.

The cheapest way to get from SeaTac airport to Seattle

By far the cheapest way to get from SeaTac airport to Seattle is using the light rail train. Even if you aren’t particularly budget-conscious, the train is the way to go because it circumvents the horrendous traffic that surrounds SeaTac airport, downtown Seattle, and most points in between. The light rail is easy to ride and the light rail station closest to SeaTac airport is just a five-minute walk through a covered, well-marked, and well-lit walkway that starts at the baggage claim area of SeaTac airport. Once you arrive at the station, you can buy a ticket from an ATM-like ticket kiosks (see a video on using them here)

The cost of an Uber from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle:

Prices vary significantly according to surges, but you can expect to spend between $40 and $100 to take an Uber from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle. Taking the light rail train, however, costs $3 and makes the trip in about 40 minutes, consistently. Click here for more information on ticket prices from Sound Transit.

While navigating from SeaTac airport to downtown destinations by car can have a huge variance in travel time, the light rail is more consistent. Reliably picking up passengers every 10 minutes during peak hours and delivering passengers to their downtown destination from the airport in about 40 minutes.

Woman with a smartphone ordering taxi cab or alternative modes of transport.

What to expect riding the light rail.

When you board the train at the SeaTac airport, expect to find a train car parked in the SeaTac station. Trains a stay parked on the tracks in this destination to allow travelers with luggage to board and settle their luggage into a shelf, seat, or corner. There is limited shelving for suitcases and an area designated for bicycles (which can also be used for luggage as needed).

Stay Safe:

I recommend keeping your luggage in front of your eyes, rather than stowed on a shelf behind you. Although rates of personal crime are very low in Seattle, theft can and does happen on the light rail. Make sure that, wherever you place your luggage, you can keep an eye on it throughout the whole trip. For less of a headache, I recommend keeping your luggage with you in your seat. This is my preferred method when traveling solo, and is easy to do with my one bag travel style, since it means I can turn on some music, stare out the window, and not have to pay attention to my luggage.

About every 10 to 15 minutes, the train will announce a departure and roll out of the SeaTac Airport station.

The light rail trip from the airport to downtown Seattle goes through South Seattle, a historically more marginalized region of Seattle. If you keep your gaze out the window, you’ll see parts of Seattle that most tourists don’t see.

The light rail goes through a few tunnels, but for the most part remains above ground, predominantly on elevated tracks (although a portion of the route follows street-level tracks through the Columbia City neighborhood of South Seattle).

If it’s your first time riding a light will rail train, you might be surprised how quiet the train is as it chugs onward into Seattle. Well, chug is definitely the wrong word since Seattle’s Link Light Rail Trains are powered entirely by electricity produced by wind power. The motion of the train is actually more of a gentle glide that provides a really comfortable ride for passengers.

FInal Thoughts

The reason I think someone should never take an Uber from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle is because of the ease of accessibility and affordability of the light rail train. While some might not mind the expensive cost of a Uber from SeaTac to downtown Seattle, if time is money, then surely that Uber ride is one of the most expensive in the world. And why choose an exceedingly expensive Uber route when a more environmentally friendly, faster, and cheaper option is available!

By my calculations, you can save 90% off your Uber from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle by choosing to ride the light rail train instead. Even after I moved to Seattle and lived for years, by choice, in Seattle without a car, I took many Ubers around the city, but never, ever to SeaTac airport.

Melba Fleming

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

We took UBER last Monday 10/25 @7am from SEATAC to our house in the Hallerlake next to Northgate Area. The UBER driver instead of just staying in i-5 straight to Exit 174 and go left 130th street overpass bridge i-5 then quick right to 3rd Ave deliver us to our house what he did was drove his car from Seatac 1-5 then go entered Marginal Way all the way Downtown Seattle traffic passed by Pioneer Square all the way to Cherry St. and up we go towards i-5 and continue return the trip back driving in i-5 and finally we exited in Exit 174. I was late to clock in for my Work From Home 8:00 start time. Because of the stupid route the Uber driver took going Downtown traffic and then after wasting 15 to 20 minutes returned to the correct straight route i-5 straight up to Exit 174. That passing by downtown traffic route triggered mental anxiety on me it was a torture because I wanted to get home early and sign in to my computer for my Work From Home 8 am start time. The driver was not friendly never talk during the trip. That was the problem. Since it was our first time to take UBER we did not talk too. When we were Downtown navigating the traffic, we were just observing him. We did not complain why pass by Downtown when he could have just stayed straight to i-5 towards Exit 174. For fear that he can make our trip more miserable we opted to keep silent. My husband is a Retired US Army and I know he was ready to confront the driver and if that happened it can be more delayed time for us if it gets to a worst scenario. I am so glad that you are giving me this platform to vent our frustrations riding in Uber. I agree with you to take the light rail train. I paid $100 UBER. Using the light rail train I can used my Metro Pass provided by my office. My spouse ticket can only be less $10. Then we can go scenic trip via South Seattle Columbia City to Downtown Seattle. I wonder if there is a connecting light rail train to Northgate Light rail train which just open 2 weeks ago. Then we can just catch the Bus 41 to our destination at 5th avenue near Exit 174 corner Roosevelt Way. Thank you.

jake ellis

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Oh and Ubers and lyfts have been cleaner than public metro.....always. Out of 1341 trips in the Seattle area since COVID I have yet to have a unclean uber. Never had a clean public transportation since may 2020 when they stopped doing the daily cleaning of buses.

jake ellis

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

I don't feel like this correct for multiple reasons. I ride 4 diff buses a day in the Seattle to Des Moines area. And the last 60 days I have had to Uber to work due to start times. King county metro and the light rail have homeless people, garbage, urine, and ceiling leaks on over half of the buses.