Getting there

I have been baffled and frustrated with figuring out how to get to the airport lately. I had intended to switch to bus and train at the end of this year but ran into a couple of stumbling blocks that ended up pushing that off the list for the moment.

I started thinking about making the change due to the escalating cost of on-site airport parking. So far this year we’ve spent over $300 parking at the airport proper. Off-site parking is available, generally at about half the cost, but adds an unknown and variable amount of time to the trip, which I will estimate as 30 minutes, changing the no-traffic 35 minute drive into an hour or so.

The primary deal breaker with regard to transit currently is the estimated travel time to the airport from Northgate Transit Center. Trip Planner places the trip at 1.5 to 2 hours, not accounting for the 15 minute walk from the station to the terminal. Starting the trip at the northern terminus of Link Light rail places the trip at an hour, so the variable is the 41 to the transit tunnel downtown.

Adding to the inconvenience is the need to get from the house to the transit center. Taking a cab over is $8.75 one way before tip. Grabbing a Car2Go involves walking to the C2G first and back to the Transit Center after parking it away from the Mall and I estimate should cost about $4. The walking should average an additional 20 minutes beyond the estimated 20 min drive (the drive may be significantly shorter based on traffic).

(I won’t ever be a customer of Lyft or Uber so they are not represented here. Demand-based pricing makes it difficult to plan for anyway, so fuck them. If you want to estimate, look at the cabs and cut the cost basis of the cab fees in half and use that, at the moment. In a few years that differentiation will fall to something like 15% rather than 50%.)

Taking a cab to the new UW station is estimated at about $28 before tip and the total trip time as stated above is drive + rail+ walk, estimated at about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Car2Go is a non-starter here as the light rail design decision to deliberately not provide parking near station terminuses combined with C2G’s no-parking rule for non-public areas such as, oh the entire campus of the University of Washington would mean there would be a mile walk from the car back to the station after dropping off the bags and Viv.

Anyway, I went over a total of NINE transportation strategies with Viv. We originally switched to cabs when we lived on Capitol Hill, which at the time from the area cost about $30 each way plus tip. Prior to that we were using Shuttle Express at about $25 each each way. Viv didn’t like SE because of the trip length uncertainty and anxiety and even back then, before TSA, we would always arrive at the airport later than I preferred to.

Once Viv looked at the transportation options, she decided we’re sticking with on-airport parking.

I made a table which presents the methods, estimated travel times, and estimated costs of each method. The news isn’t good. The basic least-expensive 2-way travel cost is about $30, representing a Car2Go to the Capitol Hill Link station and back therefrom. There is an offsite parking option for C2G now, and that trip looks like about $40 for both in and out. Of course, who knows how well-provisioned the C2Gs will be at WallyPark, so that adds some uncertainty cost.

Taxi to the airport is only marginally more expensive than taxi to UW Link, $130 vs. $160. Shuttle service came in at $90 round trip for 2.

The fundamental market-setting rates appears to be Seattle’s taxi fare rules that are a $2.60 meter drop and $2.70 / mile. That produces a fare base of $40-60 plus tip, and if an average trip is five days and a consumer takes advantage of the airport parking discounts (usually $19/day), the airport has set parking for that trip to be about right in-between the top and bottom costs of travel to the airport via cab from downtown to Shoreline. If you live in the south end, none of this will apply – the train’s gonna be your best bet.

Travel times including walking to a C2G, getting to a transit point, or waiting for a cab, vary between about 35 minutes to 2 hours or a bit more. So not only are you potentially paying the equivalent of an additional plane ticket, the amount of time just getting to your plane including time required at the airport (2 to 3 hours) is equivalent to or greater than many regional or half-continental flights.

My personal preference in this matter? Stay home! The time I spent investigating this only taught me what I already know: traveling is too expensive and insufficiently rewarding, forces me to participate in intricate economic planning that brings me to sense of satisfaction or joy, and that over time, the cumulative cost of all of this – increasing scheduling and price uncertainty, longer delays, more broken out and undisclosed fees – will only increase.

Here’s the table:

COST, low to high TIME,

low to high

1 6 Car2Go to CH Link 5:10 AM 1:30

(10+ 1h + 20min)


($8.20 one way + $2.50 + $2.50)*2

2 8 Car2Go to NGTC, Bus, Link 4:50 AM 2h $30

($4 + $5 + $5)*2

3 8 Taxi to NGTC, Bus, Link 4:50 2h $42


4 3 Car2Go to airport (Wallypark) 5:40 AM 1h




5 4 Wallypark 5:50 AM 1h $65.70 and up
6 5 Shuttle service 5:30 AM n/a, pickups add time $90 ($45/2 passenger)
7 1 Airport parking 6:10 AM 30 min $120 ($19/day)
8 7 Taxi to UW Link, Link 5:10 AM 1:30

(10+ 1h + 20min)



9 2 Taxi 6:00 AM 30 min $160 (2x $80)
n/a Car2go to UW Link Not viable

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