Seattle's free waterfront shuttle bus is returning Memorial Day weekend for the summer season. (Seattle Historic Waterfront Association)

Special shuttle services launch this week with the return of the Waterfront and Discover Park shuttles. Both shuttles will run at least through Labor Day weekend, with the Waterfront shuttle starting on Friday, May 24 and the Discovery Park shuttle starting on Saturday, May 25.

Waterfront Shuttle rides again with higher frequency

The free Waterfront shuttle will operate between Pioneer Square, starting at King Street Station, and the Space Needle (Seattle Center) via Alaskan Way. In between, stops are located near Pier 56, Pike Place/Seattle Aquarium, and Pier 66 (near the Cruise Terminal and Olympic Sculpture Park), and Pioneer Square Station.

The City has not yet released a map for the 2024 route, but it will likely resemble the 2023 route, shown here, except with 15-minute frequencies planned this year. (Seattle Waterfront)

Waterfront shuttle service will run seven days a week with trips about every 15 minutes from 10am to 8pm. This is an improvement over the 25-minute frequencies advertised during the 2023 season.

The shuttle season may conclude on Monday, September 2 based on the current plan. Vans will be used for the service with capacity for 25 seated riders (two of three vans are wheelchair-accessible). Riders wishing to use the service will want to look for special blue signs posted along the corridor marking stops.

From 1982 to 2005, the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line operated on a 1.6-mile route along Alaskan Way, but the maintenance barn was demolished to make way for the Olympic Sculpture Park and a portion of tracks were later removed as part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project. Another stretch of tracks is set to be converted into a bike and pedestrian trail. The shuttle has sought to replace the waterfront transit service that the streetcar had provided.

Discover Park circulator

The Discovery Park circulator offers a quicker way to and from the lighthouse, or between the North Parking Lot and visitor’s center. (Friends of Discovery Park)

As for the Discovery Park shuttle, service will operate on a loop between the east and north parking lots and the beach about every 30 minutes between 11am and 5:30pm on Saturdays with the season running through Saturday, September 7. Strollers and service animals are permitted onboard the shuttle. 

Rides on the shuttle are free, but donations are encouraged. The Associated Recreation Council (ARC), which provides the service in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, estimates that the average roundtrip ride costs about $5. Any donations made to ARC are tax-deductible and can be made at the Discovery Park Visitors Center or online.

Riders looking to reach Discovery Park by transit can take King County Metro’s Route 24 and Route 33, which pass near the main park entrance at W Government Way. Seattle Parks has not granted access for bikeshare and scootershare vehicles in its major parks like Discovery Park, meaning those users typically have to park on the edge of the 534-acre park’s boundaries.

In addition to these summertime shuttles, King County will also launch its Trailhead Direct service with two routes offering connections to popular hiking areas in East King County.

Article Author

Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.