This page has the following resources to help you find more information about Public Transit in Washington
Many cities, counties, and regions operate public bus routes that provide low-cost transportation. You can pay for bus rides using various ride cards, phone apps, buying a bus pass, or paying for a ticket on the bus with exact change. Before you ride, please review your route and take note of all stops and transfers necessary to make it safely to and from your destination.
How to ride a bus:
- Find the bus stop with your route number or letter listed. Bus stops will be marked by a pole with a sign listing all bus routes stopping there. Not all stops will have seating or shelter available while you wait for your bus.
- When a bus pulls to your stop, check for your route on the sign at the top or side of the bus. When the bus makes a full stop and opens the front doors, you can board. Only board a bus through the front doors nearest the driver so you can pay for your ride.
- Once on the bus, you must pay for your ride. Pay by swiping a ride card, showing a valid transfer ticket, or paying exact change for your ticket at the pay station. You will not receive change if you pay more for your ticket. If you are making a transfer, ask the driver for a paper transfer to use when boarding your next bus.
- Watch and listen for your stop as you ride. Stops will be announced over the speaker and displayed on a screen at the front of the bus. Once you see that your stop is next, pull the yellow cord on the wall of the bus or press the nearest red STOP button.
- The STOP REQUESTED sign will light up and a chime will ring. Once the bus has made another full stop, you can exit through the side or back doors. If you have mobility restrictions, you can also exit through the front door via a ramp.
Here are some general tips for riding buses in your area:
- The OneBusAway app is a great resource if you’ll be riding the bus often. It provides real-time service information for numerous transit agencies that can help you keep track of your routes and stops.
- Find the right route map for your trip and note the arrival and departure times.
- Routes will often differ on weekends or holidays, so check before your trip!
- If there is no route directly to your destination, look for routes that cross each other. You can walk to make a transfer onto another bus line to make it to your destination.
- Transit Centers are common transfer points for many bus lines.
- Larger transit agencies (King County, Sound Transit, etc.) offer online trip planning services that can help you plan your trip. If you have access to these services, you can input your departure and arrival destination to receive a full trip itinerary, including trip duration, transfers, and price.
- Depending on your location, you may have access to ride cards (ORCA, HOP, etc.) that allow you to simply swipe your card to pay for your ride. If these options are unavailable to you, you can either buy a multi-day bus pass from the related transit agency or buy individual tickets with cash as you board the bus.
- Bus drivers cannot provide change, so try to pay the exact amount to avoid overpaying for your ticket.
- If you are riding with bags, ride with them in your lap and avoid placing them in seats someone else might need. If you are riding with a bike, most buses are outfitted with bike racks or can accommodate a bike being brought onto the bus. Check for more information before riding.
Several counties operate commuter rail lines to other locations. Like buses, you can purchase tickets using ride cards, phone apps, buying a train pass, or buying a ticket at a kiosk near the train terminal. Before you ride, please review your route and check for delays or train service outages.
How to ride a train:
- Plan your trip based on the most current train service schedule. Look at the rail line’s website for updated service information. If you know the details of your trip, you can try to book your ticket early to avoid waiting in ticket lines.
- Arrive early to the terminal! Give yourself plenty of time to buy your ticket and find your train platform before the train begins boarding. Arriving about 30 minutes early is a good place to start.
- Keep your ticket ready! Many trains have staff who will walk around checking tickets to make sure they are valid for the current trip.
- If you are traveling with bags, luggage, or a bike, place them in the designated baggage/bike areas when you’re on the train. Keeping aisles and rows clear of obstacles is typically an important rule when riding trains.
- Listen to the announcements during your ride. There will usually be an announcement for every stop to help passengers prepare to exit the train. If you know your route, listen for the stop before your stop to give yourself plenty of time to gather your belongings.
Here are some general tips for riding trains in your area:
- Here are some train safety tips published by WSDOT:
- Stay away from the tracks. Leave about 6-feet between you and the tracks.
- Trains are very large and moving faster than you think. Since they can’t stop quickly, do not try to “race” the train to get across the tracks.
- Because train rides can be much longer than bus rides, many trains offer restrooms and sometimes limited food or beverage options. Even if you are riding a light rail train, many terminals operate bathrooms.
- (which trains are available, how to use them, etc.)
Using Vanpool Services
Vanpool programs allow you to share daily commuting costs with other people in your community! These programs usually offer affordable leases on 7-passenger or 15-passenger vans that are driven and paid for by the riders. Depending on the trip distance and size of your vanpooling group, the monthly costs are split between the riders and covers gas, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. Groups determine their own schedules and often meet in a centralized area that is convenient for all riders. Many agencies also have vanpool scheduling services that can connect you with existing vanpools!
This option can be much more affordable than buying, renting, and maintaining your own vehicle. According to AAA, driving 15,000 miles in a vanpool can save nearly $7,000 annually when compared to driving that distance in a personal vehicle. Many agencies also sell retired commuter vans to the public at a reduced cost if you are looking for your own vehicle.
How to use a vanpool:
- Look for a vanpool program operating in your area. You can either sign-up for an existing vanpool group that operates along your desired route, or find at least two other riders who can sign-up with you to create a new vanpool group.
- If you are joining an existing vanpool, you must submit an application through the relevant agencies website. You’ll then be put in contact with that vanpool group to coordinate your pickup and dropoff schedule.
- If you are starting your own vanpool, you must coordinate the route details with your group and submit an application. The agency will follow up with next steps such as determining driver eligibility, bookkeeping, and maintenance responsibilities.
- Once you have joined a vanpool, you’ll have a reliable means to commute to and from work! Your monthly fees will depend on the number of riders and the average daily distance of your commute. If the number of riders, trip distance, or maintenance costs change, the rider in charge of bookkeeping will be able to adjust the monthly fees for the group.
- Groups may want to exchange contact information to provide updates or manage scheduling conflicts. This is not required, but may improve your ability to coordinate your rides.
- For a five-person group traveling 50 miles everyday Monday-Friday, the typical cost per person would range from $125-160 per month depending on the vanpool program you’re using.
Here are some general tips for riding vanpools in your area:
- Seek existing vanpools first! Even if you want to start a vanpool with people in your community, knowing if there are vanpools operating in your area can help you decide which option is best for you.
Riding Ferries and Water Taxis
There are several easy ways to cross the Puget Sound without having to drive around the coast or pay for toll bridges. Water taxis allow you to travel across on foot or bicycle while larger ferries can even transport you inside your own vehicle! Although you can purchase tickets for water taxis using ride cards, phone apps, or at self-service terminals, ferries are usually first-come first-served so you will have to wait in line at the terminal to ride. You can also purchase multi-use passes if you plan to use these transit options more often. Before you ride, check for service availability to plan your trip.
- Plan to arrive and get in line at your terminal at least 20 minutes before your departure time! These lines will stand still in between departures, so plan ahead with any snacks, beverages, or entertainment while you wait. WSDOT also has recommendations on the best time to ride for each ferry route.
- Once you get to the terminal, you can purchase your tickets. If you are boarding on foot, tickets will usually be less than $10 per person. If you are boarding with your vehicle, you will pay an initial vehicle and driver fee (usually about $15 for a commuter vehicle) along with an additional fee per passenger. People under 18 ride for free!
- After purchasing your ticket, staff will give you directions so watch and listen to them closely. WSDOT provides safety and security tips for those riding the ferry. Boarding will be different depending on how you’re riding the ferry.
- If you are boarding with your vehicle:
- Staff will direct you to waiting lines until the ferry is ready for boarding. While you wait, you can turn off your engine and exit your vehicle, but remain within hearing distance of the loudspeaker announcements.
- When its time to board, follow the cars in front of you and watch for the directions of staff. They will guide you to your boarding lane on the ferry.
- Once you have parked your vehicle on the ferry, turn off your car alarm, engage your emergency brake, listen for directions over the loudspeaker, and return to your vehicle as you near your destination.
- If you are boarding on foot:
- Staff will direct you to scan your ticket and walk across the boarding ramp onto the ferry.
- Once onboard the ferry, listen for directions over the loudspeaker and be ready to exit the ferry as you near your destination.
- Once you have boarded, you can move freely around the ferry and enjoy your ride! There are limited food and beverage options available on the upper decks as well as lovely views and open air decks.
- After reaching your destination terminal, you can depart by following the cars or passengers ahead of you.
- If you are boarding with your vehicle:
Here are some general tips for riding ferries in your area:
- WSDOT usually operates around 10 ferry routes throughout the Puget Sound. Before you ride the ferry, check for service availability and use the fare calculator to plan your trip!
- Certain ferry lines are particularly busy and may require a vehicle reservation if you plan to transport your vehicle. The following routes are the ones most likely to need a reservation:
- Anacortes/San Juan Islands (Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, Shaw Island, Lopez Island)
- Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, British Columbia
- Port Townsend/Coupeville
- Even if you make a reservation and purchase your ticket online before you arrive, you will still need to wait in line to board the ferry. Showing up early is the only way to improve your chances of making it onto a particular departure.
- If you miss your ferry, you will need to wait for the next departure. Some routes leave as often as every 30 minutes, but others have very long waiting periods of up to 90 minutes! Check the departure schedule to see how long you may have to wait if you miss your departure and plan accordingly.
How to ride a water taxi:
- Water taxis transport passengers who are either walking or biking to another destination. Plan to arrive and get in line at your terminal at least 10 minutes before your departure time!
- You can purchase tickets using phone apps or in person at the terminal with ride cards, debit/credit cards, or cash. Tickets are usually less than $10 per person. Water taxis can accommodate around 20 bikes at no extra cost and people under 18 ride for free!
- After purchasing your ticket, staff will give you directions so watch and listen to them closely. Staff will direct you to scan your ticket and walk across the boarding ramp onto the water taxi. Once onboard, listen for directions over the loudspeaker and be ready to exit as you near your destination.
- Once you have boarded, you can move freely around the water taxi and enjoy your ride!
- After reaching your destination terminal, you can depart by following the passengers ahead of you.
Here are some general tips for riding water taxis in your area:
- (which routes are in operation, how to make it to the terminals, etc.)
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