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Among King County’s many assets is a well-developed transportation system providing excellent links to other parts of the nation and the world. Seattle is closer to the producing countries of Asia than any other major U.S. port, and a transportation network has been built to accomplish efficient distribution to inland consuming markets.

Two transcontinental railroads, extensive nationwide trucking capacity, three interstate highways, a ferry system, a world-class port, and an international airport contribute to our multi-modal transportation system.

Commute Trip Reduction

Washington State’s 1991 Commute Trip reduction Law (CTR) affects worksites in King County with 100 or more full-time employees who arrive at work between 6 and 9 a.m. Affected organizations are required to develop and implement CTR programs that encourage employees to reduce how often and how far they drive alone to work. The spirit of the law is not punitive, and public agencies and local jurisdictions have developed programs and services to support employers’ efforts to meet the requirements. For more information, visit the Commuter Challenge Web site at:

To promote alternative transportation, Washington State offers a credit against Business and Occupation or public utility tax liabilities for employers that pay those taxes and provide employee subsidies for commute options, including riding the bus, carpooling and vanpooling, bicycling, walking and ferry riding.

Nonprofit and government organizations that do not pay those taxes also receive a credit for employee subsidies. Employers may claim up to 50% of subsidy payments (or 30% for two-person carpools), up to $60 per employee per year, with an overall cap on credits of $100,000 annually per employer.

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Numerous steamship and barge companies operate out of Seattle including: APL Ltd., Hyundai Merchant Marine, Mitsui OSK Line, NYK North America Line, OOCL, Hanjin Shipping, Matson Navigation, COSCO Americas, Totem Ocean Trailer Express and Westwood Shipping.


With the West Coast’s premier harbor facilities and closest proximity to Asia, the Port of Seattle is the fastest route for cargo to and from America’s heartland. The transit time from port cities in Asia to Seattle is eight days, which is 30 hours less than through Southern California ports.

Seattle is the eighth largest container port in the United States and the fiftieth largest container port in the world. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma combined are the third largest container load centers in the U.S.

The Port of Seattle is served by 26 regularly scheduled steamship lines. Harbor services include:

  • On-dock and near dock intermodal rail
  • Sea-to-air transfer
  • 501 container terminal acreage
  • 4 container terminals, 1 barge terminal, 2 cruise terminals, 1 multi-purpose terminal
  • Grain terminal: 3.99 million bushel capacity
  • Off-dock CFCs available
  • 26 cranes (7 of which are super post Panamax), 10 container berths
  • 5 million cubic feet of cold storage
  • Port of Seattle Trade Zone #5 authority encompasses all 1,400 acres of the ports seaport and aviation facilities
  • Monthly and guest moorage slips with capacity for 1,630 recreational boats up to 130 feet (40m), at 3 Port owned and operated marinas
  • Complete facilities for commercial fishing and commercial marine vessels in freshwater Fisherman’s Terminal and Maritime Industrial Center, with combined capacity of 340 stalls and 4,000+ linear feet of alongside moorage for vessels up to 300 feet (92 m) in length

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Twenty-four airlines fly out of Sea-Tac and six cargo-only carriers. Direct scheduled flights go to more than 24 international and 83 domestic destinations. There are 40 non-stop flights each week to Asia and seven to London. In 2016, 45.7 million passengers and more than 366,000 metric tons of air cargo passed through the airport. Sea-Tac aiport brings more than $16.3 billion in business revenue, generates 171,796 jobs (109,924 direct jobs) and creates over $2.8 billion in direct earnings - an important player in our regional economy. 

The Seattle Air Program, a united effort by area freight forwarders and agents to simplify freight transport and minimize costs, offers less-than-truckload shippers the lowest rates of any western U.S. airport.

Because of the state’s strategic geographic location, Sea-Tac is one to two hours of flying time closer to Pacific Asia than Southern California airports. In addition, trans-polar routing enables Sea-Tac to rival East Coast cities like New York in flight times to European capitals. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) serves as the regional air hub for the Pacific Northwest, providing direct and regular service for passengers and cargo to major U.S. and international destinations. The airport is ranked among the five best U.S. airports by the International Airline Passengers Association and is ranked as the 9th busiest U.S. airport. Sea-Tac is located between Seattle and Tacoma and is only a twenty-minute drive from downtown Seattle.

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All King County communities are accessible from Seattle over an efficient, well-planned freeway system. The average commute time between Seattle and outlying cities and suburbs is 23 minutes (non-peak drive time) and 45 minutes (peak drive time). The County’s transportation network is anchored by three major highways:

  • U.S. Interstate 5, running north-to-south, from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Diego, California; provides quick transportation from Seattle up and down the West Coast.
  • Interstate 90, running west-to-east; connects Seattle with New York.
  • Interstate 405, running parallel to Interstate 5 east of Lake Washington; connects cities on the “Eastside,” including Bellevue, Redmond and Renton.

For more information on traffic patterns in the Seattle Metropolitan region, visit: For information on all available Puget Sound public transportation options including route maps, go to:


Truck transportation in Washington is made possible by over 3,700 interstate trucking companies, including common carrier and contract companies. With the inclusion of Interstate Commerce Commission registered companies, and those firms exempt from ICC registration, there are about 12,700 trucking companies in the state. Washington also ranks among the top 10 states in general freight tonnage carried by trucks intrastate. This level of competition results in favorable negotiated freight rates.


Destination       Hours   Miles
Atlanta  60         2,653
Chicago            49         2,066
Dallas   50         2,119
Denver  35         1,356
Los Angeles      28         1,160
Minneapolis      40         1,655
New York       60+       2,901
San Francisco   18         811

Source: Individual Freight Forwarders


Public transportation within King County is provided by King County Metro, which has a fleet of 1,200 buses and the largest public vanpool fleet in the country, with over 700 vans. The agency is part of a three-county regional computerized ride match system that matches commuters for carpools and vanpools. The county and the Washington State Department of Transportation operate a system of free “park and ride” and “park and carpool” lots throughout the county, from which commuters can connect with buses or their pooling arrangements. King County Metro also has partnership grants available to businesses to help them reduce commute trips to their work sites. High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are enforced 24 hours a day on major highways in the county.

Sound Transit is overseeing a $3.9 billion project to provide a new system of 25 miles of electric light rail, 81 miles of commuter rail, more than 100 miles of HOV Expressway (with direct access on/off ramps), 20 new regional express bus routes, and region-wide coordination of schedules and fares among all local and regional transit services. The project encompasses major portions of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. This ten-year project was initiated in 1996.

Many commuters also rely on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s ferry system. This system extends the state highways across Puget Sound, transporting over 10 million vehicles a year (3.3 percent commercial trucks or large motor homes). Walk-on commuters are also encouraged to use the system with low fare commuter books and ferry runs that meet transit connections. It is estimated that roughly 25.5 million passengers and vehicles used the ferry system each year.

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The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Union Pacific Southern Pacific (UPSP) railroads serve the King County area. New BNSF double-stack container trains and UPSP’s existing double-stack service offer Seattle excellent intermodal service. Both railroads have spur lines that span King County, making it possible to deliver almost any type of load. International cargo and cargo originating in Seattle travels quickly over these two rail networks to inland U.S. markets, including the Midwest, South, and East. There are also over 4,000 miles of operable track across the state.


Destination       Days    Miles
Atlanta  6-7        2,653
Chicago            3-5        2,066
Dallas   5-6        2,119
Denver  3-5        1,356
Los Angeles      3-5        1,160
Minneapolis      3-5        1,655
New York 6-7        2,901
Philadelphia      6-7        2,820
San Francisco   3-5        811












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