Directions and Transportation


The conference is located at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel

Public Transit

Seattle has reasonable transit for an American City.  There are light rail, various express and local busses and a small above ground tram system.  In particular, the Airport is Linked directly to downtown via a light rail link that takes about 38 minutes and costs $3.  The last stop (Westlake) is two blocks from the Sheraton.  For those of you who are European, please don’t assume the transit is logically planned, so check it’s available at the time you want (in particular, the last train from the Airport leaves before the last flight of the night arrives, so check the timetable if you’re going to be arriving late).  For those of you who make extensive use of the transit system, an orca card (standard transit pay as you go smart card) might be a good investment.  They cost $5 and are available from most transit vending machines.

If you plan to make extensive use of the bus system, Orca is a great option because otherwise you have to tender exact change when you get on the bus and try to get the driver to give you a paper transfer pass if you’re planning to use more than one bus.

If you only plan to use the light rail to and from the airport, it’s probably not worth investing in an orca card, and you can buy a single ticket from the machines below the platform in Seatac and above the platform in Westlake (note, there are no ticket machines on either platform itself).  If you use an Orca card, you need to tap in and tap out on the light rail (fares are variable) and the tap machines are usually pretty well hidden.  At the airport, for instance, there are none on the platform, they’re all somewhere close to the escalator that goes up to it.

Air Travel

Seattle actually has several airports, but every commercial flight apart from the seaplanes and inter island flights land at Seatac.  Seatac is about 15 miles from the Sheraton.  Traffic can be really bad depending on what time you arrive, so the light rail might be a cheaper and more reliable option than a Taxi (Taxi fare will be $50-$80 depending on traffic).  All Seatac terminals are connected airside, but the N and the S “pods” are only accessible via an underground rail link from the main terminal.  All international flights (without US pre clearance) land in the S pod, which is where the customs are.  If you can manage it, it’s often much faster to take your luggage with you on the rail link to the main terminal than it is to re-check it and wait for it to arrive on belt 1 (belt 1 is also carefully situated about 500m away from where the rail link exits into the luggage hall).

Seatac has free wifi (login required) which extends throughout the terminal, ticketing and baggage claim areas.

It is possible to arrive in Vancouver Airport and take a bus to Seattle.  However, if you take this option, you will need a visa for both the US and Canada.  For those of you who think you don’t need a visa for Canada, please think again: Canada is introducing a mandatory electronic visa system for everyone, like the US already has, with the estimated introduction date being 5 August.

Car Travel

The Pacific Northwest is quite far away from the rest of the US, but if you are planning to arrive by car, please plan for parking.  Downtown parking is really expensive (The Sheraton, for instance, only does Valet parking for $50 a night).  There’s also not much use for a car downtown and in August there will be frequent city block road closures for events and block parties.  It is possible to use park and ride, but the lots usually enforce a maximum stay of 48 hours.