Over at Crosscut, an otherwise interesting article by Peter Lewis on travel to Seattle’s airport is blemished by this bizarre claim:

A check of Metro Transit’s bus service to Sea-Tac shows fares at less than $3 from central Seattle, but those routes generally involve transfers and take an hour or more.

Well, not exactly. From downtown Seattle, the bus is by far the cheapest option to SeaTac. And it’s nearly as fast as a cab.

I give you… the 194.

Behold its radiant glory.

Depending on the time of day, the 194 picks up travelers in the downtown every 15 or 30 minutes and arrives at SeaTac in 30 minutes. (Between those departures, the 174 also leaves from downtown, but it takes 45 minutes to arrive at the airport.) With the recent fare hike for Metro buses, the 194 costs exactly $1.75 during peak periods and $1.50 during off-peak periods. Better yet, the 194 is mostly immune to congestion because it travels via the bus tunnel through downtown, the bus-only express lanes through SoDo, and then the HOV lanes on I-5. From downtown, the 194 requires no transfers. (Neither does the 174.)

Without any fanfare, the 194 operates very much as a low-tech version of bus rapid transit. That is to say: it’s often over-crowded and slightly smelly, and yet it’s also very inexpensive, reliable, and frequent. It takes good advantage of dedicated lanes and better loading platforms, and yet it’s also wildly imperfect and crammed with the suitcases of clueless travelers. But lest ye carp too much about taking the bus to the airport, please remember what our options are. Airport parking is either pricey (if on-site) or inconvenient (if off-site). Airport shuttles are expensive, require advance planning, and are often crowded and slow. And taxis are expensive and prone to not showing up on time.

The bus is the better option hands-down. And it’s amazing to me that our excellent airport bus service is overlooked and ignored by pretty much everyone who talks about airport travel connections. That’s not helpful.

Update below the jump.

  • Update 11:20 a.m.: Without notation, Crosscut has updated the questionable passage to read:

    A check of Metro Transit’s bus service to Sea-Tac shows fares at less than $3 from central Seattle neighborhoods, but those routes generally involve transfers and take an hour or more. From downtown Seattle, the bus fare is $1.50 and takes 45 minutes or less.

    At the risk of sounding grouchy, this update is still a bit misleading. No transfers are required from the central Seattle neighborhoods of downtown, Pioneer Square, SoDo, and possibly Belltown, as well as some nearby areas. And even doing a transfer and leaving from, say, the University District (the 70s), Greenwood or Fremont (the 5, 5 Express, or 358) shouldn’t take an hour. Also, fares are indeed “less than $3”—they’re $1.75 during rush hour and $1.50 at other times—and they’re always the same from city neighborhoods as they are from downtown. Transfers are always free.

    I’ve gotta say, I’m surprised that the bus is such foreign territory.


    Update 9/12, 2:10: Ha. I think I’m so smart, but the correct fare is actually $2.25 from downtown to the airport during peak hours; it’s $1.50 for most of the day. Apparently, the trip is a “two zone” trip, as shown on this service map (huge pdf). Hat tip to commenter leero, below.

    In my defense, I’m pleading ignorance because I have an annual bus pass: I just swipe it and ride wherever and whenever I like.