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Disappointing Seattle
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-08-13 09:48:39 | Seattle, Washington, United States
Keywords: coffee, transit
I wanted for a long time to visit Seattle, and its space needle. I must say the city disappointed me, and didn't live up to the high expectations I had. It's not the environmental heaven most of us think and it's not very tourist-friendly, but it does like coffee.

I wanted to view the Space Needle, this iconic futuristic tower built in 1962 for their World Fair, along the monorail that is at its base. The Space Needle has become the landmark signature of Seattle, with its 605 ft (184 m) high. I did take picture from the base, but I didn't go up the observation deck, because they had looooooong waiting lines, and many people from Seattle told me it wasn't worth the $20 it costs to get up there, since the view isn't that nice. Finally, the weather wasn't that nice while I was downtown and was often cloudy with smog. The monorail is cheap ($2.25), but it's very short and since it's running over streets... it's often inside a canyon of buildings or trees... preventing any nice view. It's also very aged... and shows its 50 years.

Yes, Seattle has smog and pollution. Because there are tons of cars... and most of the shoreline along downtown is blocked by highways and the port, making the water inaccessible. Although Seattle has lots of hybrid cars, it's still a city where car is king. One of the reasons for that might be their transit system. They have an inefficient transit system. Looks like Seattle has tried lots of various transportation options, but haven't decided on any. In addition to the short and aged monorail, there's also one short line of street car, one short line of light rail, electric buses that use a tramway-like power cables, hybrid buses and regular buses. All this all mangled and hard to use in an effective way.

On top of being very disorganized the transit system is also very expensive. In most cities, you will find tourist or conventioneers options like day passes, where for the price of 2 to 4 times the regular base fare you can have unlimited transportation for the day. Nothing like that here. So, even with their old paper-based transfer system that allows you up to 2 hours of continuous transit, in any direction, it could easily cost a tourist over $15 a day to visit Seattle, just for public transportation. Worst, there's not even a weekly or monthly passes for people living here. So, they have to pay up to $160 per month just to go to work and back, that's twice the cost of most transit systems.

In addition to the poor transit system, Seattle has two other features that make it tourist-unfriendly: its street naming system and its hills. Just like Portland, Oregon, I visited a few days ago, Seattle is divided into neighbourhoods and that local information is added to the name of the street. So, you have many streets with the same name... except for the little area info. For locals, it's very handy... but for tourists, it can be very confusing. Seattle is very hilly and the city buses often don't go in some special spots, like the Pike Market, so it's hard for a tourist without a car to fully explore the city, especially on weekends.

But it's Heaven for coffee-lovers... there are small coffee shops at almost every corner. Some are just little shacks with a drive-in window to order your shot of espresso.... and run with it. Of course, there's the omnipresent Starbucks. I didn't go in the original restaurant because the line up was so long... but on my way out of Seattle, I stopped into one to have a breakfast. I didn't expect to find much... but they had nice sandwiches. Everything was extremely expensive and way out of my budget... but I did it for the experience and to encourage a 'local' business. Below you see the $10 breakfast I had (in the cup, it's hot chocolate, not coffee).

Related posts:
Cultural Coffee Landscape
Transportation in Medellín
Mexican city buses
What is what in San Francisco


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