Between Seattle and Port Townsend on Transit, Scooter and Bike

Introduction Jack and I own a car that hardly ever leaves the garage.  I get around Port Townsend on my bike and Jack on his scooter, Segway or tadpole trike.  Every summer, we cruise up the Inside Passage on our sailboat, with bike and scooter on board for shore visits. For trips to our favorite cities – Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and Victoria – we go multimodal. Busses, ferries, and light rail all link up to get us where we need to go. We can enjoy the scenery, read, work or relax. We end up in the thick of the city, without needing to find parking and without spewing CO2.

We’re documenting our itineraries so others can enjoy the ride.  Since there are a lot of people in Vancouver, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver who use bikes and wheelchairs, we want to show them how they can visit Port Townsend without a car.

Seattle to Port Townsend in a Nutshell

Traveling to Port Townsend from Seattle? Go multimodal! Busses, ferries, and light rail all link up to get you into the heart of our town without a car. Come by wheelchair or on foot.

ORCA – One Regional Card for All   Let’s start our trip in Seattle, where a number of public transit offering have appeared in the last two decades.  King County Metro brings together an enormous  bus network that connects with Link light rail,  the Seattle Streetcar, and Sounder trains.

360px-orca_card_logo-svgThanks to ORCA cards, riders no longer have to fumble with bills and coins to come up with the right fare.  On busses, trains and the ferry, the ORCA card works like cash or a pass, automatically tracking your fares and transfers. Fare can be added at machines  in transit centers, at participating retailers, or online after you register your card and get a login.

There are several ways to get an ORCA card. You can buy one at a ticket vending machine, from a participating retailer or online.  If you want a youth card (ages 6-18) or a senior card (65+),  however, you have to purchase it by mail or in person and show proof of age.

360px-orca_cardSeniors and people with disabilities are eligible for the reduced regional fare permit (RRFP).  If you have a disability, ORCA RRFP cards are only available at customer service centers as you must show proof of disability and have your photo taken.  Eligibility criteria are outlined here.  ORCA Cards for seniors and people with disabilities never need to be renewed.

To use your ORCA card, you “tap to ride.”  ORCA card readers are located at the entry to buses, on the right side of ferry turnstiles and near the elevators that go up or down to Link rail platforms.  You lay your card against the ORCA logo with the stylized killer whale until you hear a beep or see a green light and your fare on the screen.  The amount of remaining fare also appears.  All card readers work the same way.  If you try to swipe or insert the card, it won’t work.

Since rides on Link Light rail are based on distance traveled, you need to tap your card at both the station where you board and the station where you get off.  Fare enforecement officials frequently board trains, so be sure you tap to ride before you get on.  And to avoid running up a very large fare, tap again at your destination.

Navigating around Seattle  Moving around Seattle through traffic, up and down hills and over bridges takes planning.  Here are some maps and tools to help you plan your trip.

Bike maps for Seattle are on the Department of Transportation website.  Here’s the edition of the same map that works on a mobile phone.  , You can also download the map in pdf here. To request a free copy of the map sent by mail order it online here or call the Cascade Bicycle Club at (206) 522-3222. Commute Seattle has additional resources for cyclists including an interactive bike map that shows bike parking and other cycling amenities.

If you’re moving on a scooter or in a wheelchair here are some more tools.   Start with
King County Transit Accessible Services.  Note that Metro offers Transit Instruction to individuals with  cognitive, emotional, and physical Disabilities, students with Individualized Educational Plans, and all senior citizens.
Also useful is Wheelchair Travels’ Seattle Wheelchair Accessible Guide and Wheelchair Jimmy’s reviews of accessible attractions and hotels.

Do you want to know about the latest transits apps for Seattle and the region.  King County Metro has reviews of 14 free apps and download info for 10 mobile phone apps at its App Center.

Space for wheelchairs and scooters is mid-car next to fold-up seats.

Riding Link Light Rail  Link light rail currently serves 16 stations along a north south route from the airport at SeaTac to the University of Washington.

When a train pulls up all door open to permit boarding.  If you’re using a wheelchair or scooter, you should board first. Cars are roll on roll off; no ramp needs to be activated.

You may enter any door, although spaces for wheelchairs, scooters and strollers tend to be near the middle of each car. If people are seated in the reserved area, ask them to kindly move from the bank of three fold-up seats. Trains have no straps to secure wheelchairs so be sure your breaks are on and hold on to the bar attached to the underside of the folded up seats.

Bikes hang in nooks near ends of car.

If you’re board with your bike, you’ll find nooks to hang bicycles near the ends of the car.  Link trains  also serve the airport, and luggage is accommodated in the bicycle space on a first come, first served basis.

If you cannot safely hang your bike,  stand with it near one of the doors, taking care to move out of the way when other riders exit.  There should be no more than four bicycles per car.

Single-seat, two-wheeled, standard-size bikes, including electric bikes, are permitted. Tandems, family bikes and oversized and cargo bikes are not. If you have a folding bicycle stow it near your seat

During rush hour consider leaving your bike on the racks at the station.

Taking Metro Buses  To load your bike on a Metro bus, alert the driver before stepping off the curb and be sure the driver acknowledges your desire to load. Remove any accessories or panniers that might fall off enroute. Squeeze the rack handle upwards to release the folded bike rack. Note that the label on each rack shows the direction of the front wheel.  Lift your bike and fit wheels into the slots. If the outside slot is vacant, load your bike there.  To secure your bike, push in the black knob at the end of the support arm. Pull the support arm all the way out and over the top of the front wheel releasing it as close as possible to the bicycle’s frame.

Signal the driver before loading and securing your bike in outermost slots on rack.

If you’re moving from light rail to bus in the Seattle Transit Tunnel be mindful of several other instructions.

  • Wait with your bike at the bus bay sign.  If your bus is second in line, signal the driver of the second bus after the first bus leaves, then walk to the bus to load your bike. The second bus in line does not have to stop again at the head of the bay. If your bus is third in line, wait at the bus bay sign and alert the operator as the bus approaches.
  • Load your bike only after the bus driver has stopped the bus, opened the door and acknowledged your desire to load.
  • Be aware that most curbs are 14 inches and do not lose your balance stepping down. Also be careful to not hit your head on bus mirrors.
  • After unloading your bike, step up on the curb and let the driver know all is clear.

Getting to the Ferry Terminal on the Waterfront  If you’re on Link Light Rail, get off at Pioneer Square and  If you’re on a bus on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Avenues overlooking Puget Sound, get off near Marion Street.   Whether walking, rolling and biking to the terminal, the slope on which downtown Seattle meets its waterfront and current construction there can make this a difficult connection

From bus or light rail, the Marion Street Walkway is the safest way to the Ferry Terminal.

To avoid steep hills, Alaskan Way traffic and waterfront construction use the Marion St Pedestrian Bridge and Walkway.  It takes you directly from 1st Avenue to the Ferry Terminal.

Cyclists and wheelers heading toward the ferry from Pike Place Market may want to take the elevator down to the waterfront near the Seattle Aquarium, cross Western Avenue and Alaskan Way and take the sidewalk to the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal.

Sailings with the best connections for Port Townsend.  Ferry sailings from Seattle at 6:10am, 9:35am, 3:00pm, 3:45pm and 5:30pm have the best connections for Port Townsend.   Connector schedules for Kitsap and Jefferson transit are in this downloadable leaflet. (See schedules effectve Dec 5, 2016)

Fares for cyclists, wheelers and walk-on passengers are round trip; no fares are collected on the Bainbridge-Seattle return. Current fares are here.

Boarding the Ferry by bicycle.  If you’re walking your bike on the Marion Street Walkway, turn left just before the terminal building, take the elevator down to street level, continue a half block south, and join the right hand lane where cars enter the terminal area.  Stay in the lane to the right of the toll booths. Swipe your ORCA card on the card reader on your right opposite the toll booth. If you don’t have a card, purchase a ticket at the booth.  Note the $1.00 bicycle surcharge.

Bikes line up next to motorcycles between lines of cars at the Seattle Ferry Terminal. Cyclists are first on and first off the ferry, making bike commuting especially efficient in terms of time.  When the attendant gives the call, ride onto the ferry and go straight to the front of the ferry on either the lower or upper car level.  Park your bike against one of the railings. There’s no need to lock it when you got up to the passenger deck to join other passengers for the view.

Cyclists line up  between cars and motorcycles on street level below the terminal building.

About five minutes before the ferry arrives in Bainbridge, there’s an announcements asking passengers to return to cars and bicycles.  Be ready to ride off as soon as the ferry docks.

Preparing to disembark, cyclists gather at the front and on the side ramps.

Ferry boarding for passengers, including wheelchair users.  Enter the Coleman Dock Ferry Terminal and look for the Bainbridge ferry on the right.  The one one the left goes to Bremerton. Around the central ticket booth are restaurants, shops, restrooms, and seating.  Windows allow you to enjoy the view and see arriving passengers disembark.

Use ticket or ORCA card to board ferry.  Note wide turnstyle for wheelchairs at right.

Take Kitsap Transit Bus #90 to Poulsbo. The Kitsap Transit bus by is right outside of the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal.  Wheelchair and scooters riders exit directly from the passenger deck. You can either go through the terminal waiting room or stay on the sidewalk that leads to the busses. Cyclists ride can right into the bus bay or walk bikes along sidewalk.

Find Bus #90 for Poulsbo. The signs on newer buses flash both Poulsbo and Jeff Transit.

Before boarding, signal your intentions to the driver. At the appropriate time, the driver will lower the bus, so the ramp can be deployed and bikes can be loaded more easily. It’s necessary to move out of the way when the ramp is deployed.

Load your bike like this:  First, lower the rack by squeezing the handle. Next, lift the bike and place the wheels into the slot. Then lift the hook over the front wheel and board the bus.   On arrival repeat the process in reverse. Lower the hook, lift your bike out, and squeeze the handle to return the rack into the upright position.  Before making these moves communicate with the driver and try to move out of the way of the busy fairly quickly.

KPT – Bike Rack v3 from Kitsap Transit on Vimeo.

Pay your fare by tapping your ORCA card on the cardreader to the left of the entry or insert exact change in the box on the right. Normally you’ll get a transfer as proof of payment.  Let the driver know you’re going to Port Townsend so they can tell the Jefferson Transit driver to wait.

Catch Jefferson Transit Bus #7 to Port Townsend.  Jefferson Transit’s bus #7 for Port Townsend pulls up to transit center platform right where you got off the the #90 or #33 from Poulsbo. There are a couple of bus shelters plus a porta potty that is not wheelchair accessible.  There is a Mexican restaurant about 200 feet behind the transit center.

UPDATE: As of January 2017, the new North Viking Transit Center has replaced the former stop on the side of the road.  The new location does not have a restroom or a portapotty. 

UPDATE:  Following rider pushback, Kitsap Transit placed a wheelchair accessible porta potty at the North Viking Transit Center.  See Transit’s Missing Link: The Public Toilet.

Like Kitsap Transit buses,  Jefferson Transit buses are equipped with wheelchair ramps and bike rack with similar instructions for loading.  What is doesn’t have is an ORCA card reader. It’s old style: you put the correct fare into the fare box.  That’s $2 because this bus crosses a county line. Should you not have change, it’s likely you’ll just be asked to pay up  later.

Once this bus crosses the Hood Canal floating bridge to Jefferson County, it serves a number of rural communities. At night and before dawn drivers may ask cyclists to bring bikes into the bus, rather than place them on the rack. This permits them to more easily see riders who wait along the route and use flashlights to signal their desire to board.

Should you be traveling with a group of cyclists, drivers may accommodate up to five bikes inside the bus. Since this assumes space is available, it’s best to check with Jefferson Transit ahead of time. You can reach Customer Service at (360)385-4777 ext 1  or post requests for information online here.

Jefferson Transit’s Bus #7 takes you to Haines Place Park and Ride in Port Townsend

Do not get off bus #7 at the Four Corners Park and Ride, unless someone is meeting you or the driver announces a bus change.  Bus #7 goes into Port Townsend, stopping at the Haines Place Park and Ride on Sims Way.   There are currently no restrooms at the Place Park and Ride; instead riders are asked to use the facilities at the nearby Safeway and McDonalds.

From Haines Place Park and Ride, a shuttle bus and Fort Worden bus #2 serve other parts of Port Townsend. There are also buses to  Brinnon, Quilcene, Port Hadlock, Chimacum and Sequim. Calallam Transit connections serve Port Angeles, Forks and other areas around the Olympic National Park .

Best bet on weekends: The Dungeness Line  If you’re headed from Seattle to Port Townsend on a Saturday, be aware that there’s a single ferry-Kitsap-Jefferson Transit connection that takes you to Port Townsend. (Note that there are two connecting itineraries in the opposite direction). Neither Jefferson nor Kitsap Transit operates on Sundays.

The Dungeness Line, operated by Olympic Bus lines, offers two trips between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula every day of the week. Buses depart SeaTac airport at 11:50am and 7:00pm delivering travelers to Port Townsend (63 4 Corners Rd) at 3:00pm and 10:30pm. (Eastbound buses leave Port Townsend at 6:55am and 2:00pm)

Dungeness Line buses have lifts between the wheelchair seating area and the passenger door.

An independent agent of Greyhound, the Dungeness Line boasts comfortable service complete with complimentary snacks, bottled water, Wi-Fi, and a front seat ride on the Washington State Ferry between Edmonds and Kingston.

Since the Dungeness Line transports patients between communities on the Olympic Peninsula and Harborview Medical Center, buses are equipped with state of the art wheelchair lifts.

Each bus has two bicycle racks in front. Boxed bicycles of air passengers and small folding bikes are accommodated in the rear luggage compartment. There’s a $5 bike charge.

The fare from SeaTac is about $40 (less for seniors) with price depending on day and demand.  Most passengers book online. Passengers with wheelchairs and bikes should also call 1-800-457-4492 to confirm there is space.  It’s also possible to simply show up at one of the mandatory stops on a seat available basis.

Important option! Clallam Transit’s Straightshot Service

In mid 2017 Callalam Transit initiated its Straight Shot service between Port Angeles and the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal. The trip takes about 2.5 hours. Otherwise known as route #123, Straight Shot stops in Sequim but not in Port Townsend.  Weekdays and Saturdays feature two trips per day in each direction. Sunday service has one trip.  The schedule is here.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 06.25.16
Stops on Clallam Transit’s Strait Shot Service

The sole stop in Jefferson County is Discovery Bay. While we have yet to use this service, we believe the stop is just west of Fat Smitty’s. Riders may board at all and only at stops designated in the schedule.  Regular fare is $10 and Regional Reduced Fare Permit Holders (RRFP) is $5. Let’s assume you will want exact change and your ORCA card will not work.

There are no restroom facilities on board this bus, which is a typically clean and comfortable public bus. What is disappointing is this message that appears on Clallam’s schedule: Attend to these needs just prior to boarding—and skip that second cup of coffee! We certainly hope that an optional restroom stop at Kitsap Transit’s North Viking Park and Ride is offered. While the wheelchair accessible porta-potty is not the best, it is located on the north end of the platform just before busses exit. (Note our dismay that a proper restroom was not included in the plans of this costly bus terminal and our push for efforts to remedy a very bad situation.)

Cyclists should note that Clallam’s Straight Shot service from Port Angeles to the Bainbridge Ferry does not allow bicycles inside the bus when the front rack is full. This policy differs from that of Jefferson Transit, where drivers allow 2 or 3 bikes inside buses on a space available basis. Customer service can probably estimate the number of bicycle (and wheelchair) riders on any given route. Otherwise, Clallam Transit would be derelict in their duty to serve small groups of people using mobility devices, be they wheelchairs, electric scooters or bicycles. This is something we need to look into.

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