Newcomer's Handbook Seattle

Getting Settled

Once you’ve found a place to call home, you’ll need to arrange phone service, electric and/or gas accounts, trash pick-up, and so on. Most of your utilities can be hooked up with a phone call, although in some cases you may be required to mail or fax documents. Other services in this chapter, such as auto registration or photo ID, will require a visit to an office but you can probably live without these for a few days or even weeks. Also included in this chapter: a list of broadcast media; passport, voter, and library registration details; assistance with finding a doctor and/or vet; and consumer protection and safety information.

Utilities

Electricity

Seattle City Light (206-684-3000, 206-684-3225 [TTY], seattle.gov/light) supplies electricity for all residences within the city limits. Seattle City Light offers four ways to open a new account. You can handle it by phone using one of the following numbers: 206-684-3000, 800-862-1181, 206-684-3225 (TTY); or download a form online and fax it to 206-684-3347 or mail it to Seattle City Light Customer Service Center, 700 5th Ave, Ste 3300, Seattle 98124-4023. You can also set up your new account completely online, where you can transfer service and close accounts as well. You will also need to get a meter reading at your new address. You can do this by reading the meter yourself, paying a fee to have Seattle City Light do it for you, or let them estimate the reading for free.

Outside the Seattle city limits, Puget Sound Energy (888-225-5773, 800-962-9498 [TTY], pse.com) provides electrical service for the remainder of King County and much of Pierce County. Customer service is accessible any time of day at the above numbers. Multilingual representatives are available.

In Tacoma, electric service is provided by Tacoma Power (253-502-8600, mytpu.org). Tacoma Power also covers Fircrest, University Place, Fife, and parts of Steilacoom, Lakewood, and unincorporated Pierce County. In Snohomish County, including Everett, contact the Snohomish County Public Utility District (www.snopud.com, 425-783-1000; 425-783-8660 [TTY], or toll free in western Washington at 877-783-1000), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Natural Gas or Oil Heat

In Seattle, heating options are electric, natural gas, or oil. Most likely you will go with whatever is already at your new house, apartment, or condominium. Unless the cost is included in your rent or condominium dues, you will be responsible for setting up a new account and for filling the existing tank (if using oil). If you decide to install a new furnace, water heater, or stove, you must be home for the line hook-up. If you choose the same fuel as the previous resident, just call for service; the gas or oil company will handle the rest. Natural gas is supplied to Seattle and Seattle suburbs by Puget Sound Energy, 888-225-5773, pse.com.

Heating oil may be purchased from any of several local companies; a few are listed here. Check the Yellow Pages or online for additional companies.

Telephone

With the prevalence of mobile phone service today, fewer people have or need landlines in their homes. Residential telephone service is often bundled with access to high-speed and wireless Internet and cable TV. For those who want a designated residential line, the following companies provide local telephone service:

  • CenturyLink (formerly Qwest), 800-475-7526, 800-223-3131 (Voice and TTY); call 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekdays to set up your account, or go to qwest.com, to order service online.
  • Comcast, 800-266-2278; call anytime, or visit comcast.com
  • Verizon, 800-922-0204; call Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., or order online at verizon.com.
  • Vonage, 888-692-8078; call anytime or visit vonage-promotions.com

Be prepared with the following information: home address, preferred long distance company, and information on your previous phone account (including your former address and telephone number). A deposit may be required when you set up service depending on your credit status and previous telephone service history.

Area Codes

The area code in Seattle, and just north and south of the city limits, is 206. A large group of cities located to the north, east, and south of Seattle uses the 425 area code. In cities farther south, like Kent and Tacoma, the area code is 253. Other areas in western Washington use 360 (both north and south of Seattle). East of the Cascades the area code is 509. Long distance calls require 11 digits (1 + area code + number).

The following area codes represent the Seattle local calling area and surrounding communities:

  • 206: Bainbridge Island, Des Moines, Kirkland, Redmond, Richmond Beach, Seattle, Vashon
  • 253: Auburn, Des Moines, Kent, Tacoma
  • 425: Ames Lake, Bellevue, Bothell, Duvall, Everett, Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Lynnwood, Maple Valley, North Bend, Redmond, Renton, Snoqualmie

Long Distance

Long distance service providers frequently advertise very low per-minute rates, but be sure to read the fine print. If you have to pay $5.95 a month to get the five-cents-per-minute deal, and you don’t make many long distance calls, it may make more sense for you to use a prepaid calling card—or even your cell phone for long distance. For help comparing long distance and wireless calling plans, visit the Consumer Reports website at consumerreportst.org. Major long distance service providers include:

Cellular Phones

There are many choices for cellular service in Seattle. Shop around, as rates and telephone prices can vary widely, and always ask about current promotions or discounts before committing yourself to a contract. If you will be working for a large company or government agency, ask your employer whether there is a company service plan. Often these offer much lower rates than you could get on your own. Listed here are some cellular companies that serve the Seattle area:

Prepaid Cellular Phone Service

With only slightly higher rates and no yearly contracts, prepaid cellular phone service is catching on with those who need mobile phone service. Simply purchase a phone that comes with prepaid service and activate the service online or with a phone call. When minutes run out the service is easily replenished with a payment. Some of the bigger cellular companies like Verizon (www.verizonwireless.com) and T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.com) offer prepaid plans, and other companies like TracFone (www.tracfone.com) are exclusively prepaid. Phones may be bought online or at hundreds of retail stores like drugstores and grocery stores.

Directory Assistance

In today’s Web-oriented world, directory assistance need no longer be fee-laden. An online Yellow Pages directory is available from Dex (www.dexknows.com) and numerous sites are dedicated to providing telephone listings and websites, including the following:

Of course, you can still pay to access a local or national number by dialing 411. In Washington, a directory assistance call can cost you $1.99 for two listings, for both local and national numbers.

Online Service Providers

There are many online service providers that offer basic Internet access and e-mail service via existing phone lines. Some of these provide free service but often bombard you with advertisements. For a complete list of Internet service providers located near you, check the Yellow Pages under “Internet Access Providers.”

For high-speed Internet (aka broadband) access, consider signing up for service on a digital subscriber line (known as DSL), or via cable modem access. DSL runs over copper wires like those used for telephone calls, but on a separate line. Unlike a dial-up option, a DSL connection is always on, so logging onto the Internet is nearly instantaneous. Cable Internet access is available from cable TV providers. Like DSL, the cable modem is always on. One possible disadvantage with cable modem is that your access speed may decrease if your neighbors also use cable. Before you sign up for cable modem, ask the provider what speed they guarantee.

Whatever type of connection you select, here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • What must the provider do to your home when installing the system?
  • Does the provider offer technical support?
  • What are the tech support hours?
  • What is the average wait on the telephone for technical support? How long is it before tech support e-mail is answered?
  • Does the provider offer e-mail accounts?
  • Will the provider host your website?
  • What is the monthly fee?

Here are some Internet providers that offer dial-up access, DSL, and/or cable modem:

Water

Seattle Public Utilities supplies drinking water to more than 1.4 million people in the Seattle/King County area. If you are renting, the property owner must notify the utility of changes in occupancy, but it’s likely you will be responsible for the monthly bill. If you have purchased a home, you must change the current service to your name. Call 206-684-3000, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., or visit seattle.gov/util. The charge for water usage can amount to a significant portion of your utilities bill. For suggestions about how to conserve water, see the Green Living chapter of this guide.

According to Seattle Public Utilities, the water it provides—which is supplied by the Cedar River and Tolt River watersheds—meets or exceeds all federal drinking water quality standards. The Cedar River Watershed, 143 square miles in size, at an elevation ranging from 538 feet to 5,447 feet, collects between 57 and 140 inches of precipitation each year and supplies over 65% of the area’s drinking water. The South Fork Tolt River in the foothills of the Cascades east of Carnation, at an elevation ranging between 760 and 5,535 feet, collects between 90 and 160 inches of precipitation each year and supplies about 30% of Seattle’s drinking water.

Like electricity, water service outside Seattle is provided by local public utility districts or private companies. If you live outside the Seattle Public Utilities district, the Department of Ecology recommends that you call the city nearest you to determine your supplier. See the Useful Phone Numbers and Websites chapter to contact your local government office.

If you have questions or concerns about water quality, call King County Environmental Health Services (206-205-4394) or the state Department of Ecology (425-649-7000). For current reports on water quality and legislative activity related to the state’s water supply, visit the Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water website at doh.wa.gov/ehp/dw.

Garbage and Recycling

Seattle Public Utilities provides trash and recycling services. The Seattle Municipal Code requires that all residents have garbage containers and pay for garbage collection. Charges appear every other month on a combined utility bill, along with water and sewer fees. Garbage is collected once a week on an assigned day. The cost of the service depends on the number and size of garbage containers. It is important to note that recycling is mandatory in Seattle and the city will provide recycling containers and pickup at no charge. You can be fined for putting recyclables in your regular garbage. Call 206-684-3000 for customer service or recorded information on rates and services. To view a rate table, visit seattle.gov/util/services.

For most apartments and condominiums, sanitation and recycling fees are included in your monthly rent or dues. For single-family residences, you must buy a garbage can from the city or from a hardware store, and you must set up service with the city. Charges vary from $16.55 to $79.20 depending on the size of your container. Backyard collection is available at higher rates. There are also charges for additional garbage collected beyond your usual level of service. Yard waste is collected every week, on your regular garbage day. The city requires that yard waste be contained in rigid cans, placed in compostable bags, or bundled with twine. A monthly charge of $8.35 covers the 96-gallon container provided by the city; smaller containers cost less. Food scraps, including meat, fish, eggshells, and bones, as well as food-soiled paper such as napkins and greasy pizza boxes is allowed in yard waste containers.

The city also offers recycling pick-ups every other week at both houses and apartments in the city, scheduled on the same day as your garbage collection day. One recycling container is provided for newspapers, mixed papers, aluminum, plastic, tin, and glass. Recycling is free in Seattle, and should go a long way toward reducing what you pay for garbage. Again, call 206-684-3000 for customer service or recorded information on services. If you live in an apartment or condominium, these services should be provided for all tenants. If you are renting or have purchased a house, the recycling containers should be with the house.

The City of Seattle runs two recycling and disposal stations. Both transfer stations are open seven days a week, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Each site features a web cam, so you can see how long the wait is before you go. Go to ci.seattle.wa.us/util for hours or directions or to access the web cams.

  • North Recycling and Disposal Station, 1350 N 34th St
  • South Recycling and Disposal Station, 8105 Fifth Ave S (south of First Ave South Bridge)

Residents outside Seattle should check with their local municipality regarding trash pick-up and recycling.

Hazardous Waste Disposal

Hazardous waste materials, such as fluorescent light bulbs and tubes, oil-based paint, and cleaning products, should not be tossed in with your regular garbage but must be taken to one of the following designated facilities for disposal:

  • North Hazardous Waste Facility, 12550 Stone Ave N; open Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • South Hazardous Waste Facility, 8105 Fifth Ave S; open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Both sites are closed on July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. &

There is no fee for disposing of these items. For more information call 206-296-4692 or visit the website of the King County Hazardous Waste Management Program at lhwmp.org. A roving Wastemobile makes regular visits to surrounding communities such as Bothell, Kirkland, Sea-Tac, and Vashon. To find out about the schedule, call 206-296-4692, 888-869-4233, or go to the website above.

Consumer Protection—Utility Complaints

It’s always a good idea to try to resolve billing or other disputes directly with the utility company. If that fails you can file a formal complaint with the appropriate consumer complaint office. A division of the Department of Neighborhoods, the Customer Service Bureau fields all complaints about city departments. Call the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-8811, or fill out an online service request/complaint form at seattle.gov/customerservice/request.htm.

To file a complaint about a state department or independent company, contact the state Consumer Protection Division (800-551-4636). You may also file a complaint online, or download a complaint form at atg.wa.gov/consumer.

Automobiles

Details about licensing, operating and parking a car in Seattle, auto insurance, and seatbelt laws are covered here. For information about auto repair and consumer protection related to automobiles, check the Helpful Services chapter. Additional auto-related listings, such as auto impound numbers, parking tickets and traffic violations line, and who to call about illegally parked and/or abandoned vehicles are in the Useful Phone Numbers and Websites chapter.

Driver’s License, State Identification

You must apply for a Washington State driver’s license within 30 days of becoming a resident. You are considered a resident when you establish a permanent home in the state, register to vote, receive state benefits, apply for any state license, or seek in-state tuition fees. To obtain a license for the first time, you must pass a written exam, a vision test, and a driving skills test. The fee is $45. If you have a valid driver’s license from another state, bring proof of identification, fill out an application, and pay a fee to receive a Washington license. You will have to surrender your out-of-state license. If you currently live out of state, you can order a Washington State Driver’s Guide by phone, or find it on the Department of Licensing website (dol.wa.gov; click on “Driver License,” then “Getting a License,” then “Driver License Testing”). The cost of a state photo ID is $20. Given the proximity of Washington State to Canada (Seattle is just a three-hour drive from Vancouver), if you don’t already have a passport, you might also want to consider getting an enhanced driver license (EDL) or enhanced ID card (EID), which confirms your identity and citizenship. An EDL/EID is an alternative to a passport, allowing reentry to the United States at land and sea border crossings. The fee for a new EDL is $60 and an EID costs $35. For more information, call 866-520-4365.

You must visit a department of licensing to obtain your license, temporary permit, EDL/EID, or photo ID card. Recent customer service improvements have greatly increased the efficiency of these offices, but you’re still better off going on a weekday rather than a Saturday when the lines are longer. Bring your current (valid or expired) license, other proof of identification, and proof of state residence, such as a utility bill or rental agreement. If you’ve recently been married and need your name changed on your driver’s license, bring your marriage certificate. Finally, don’t forget to bring cash or a personal check. The Department of Licensing accepts credit cards, personal checks, and cash as payment. Most offices are open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but office hours vary by location. Call to confirm hours of operation before you visit, or check their website (dol.wa.gov).

  • Bellevue/Bel-Red, 13133 Bel-Red Rd, 425-649-4281
  • Bremerton, 1550 NE Riddell Rd, 360-478-6975
  • Downtown Seattle (renewals only), 205 Spring St, 206-464-6845
  • Downtown Seattle (EDL/EIDs only), 1000 2nd Ave, 866-520-4365
  • Everett, 5313 Evergreen Way, 425-356-2966
  • Federal Way, 1617 324th St, 253-661-5001
  • Kent, 25410 74th Ave S, 253-872-2782
  • Lynnwood, 18023 Hwy 99, Ste E, 425-672-3406
  • North Bend, 402 Main Ave S, 425-888-4040
  • Renton, 1314 Union Ave NE, Ste 4, 425-277-7231
  • Shoreline (limited services), 18551 Aurora Ave N, Ste 100, 425-670-8375 &
  • Tacoma South, 6402 S Yakima Ave, Ste C, 253-593-2990
  • West Seattle, 8830 25th Ave SW, 206-764-4143

Seniors and disabled persons may apply for a City of Seattle identification card, entitling them to discounts in the Seattle area. Call the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens (206-684-0500) for more information about the Gold Card for Healthy Aging (for residents age 60 and above) and the FLASH card (for disabled adults).

Auto Registration

You must license your automobile or motorcycle within 30 days of becoming a Washington resident, even if the tabs from your previous state of residence are still valid. The fine for driving an unregistered vehicle is a minimum of $330.

The cost of licensing your vehicle in Washington is a basic license fee of $30. In addition, you will pay various filing, county, and state fees totaling approximately $30. You may pay a $10 surcharge if you get your registration from a sub-agent (often worth the additional charge for the added efficiency; see below), and a $15 emissions test charge (for vehicles manufactured after 1967; see below). The State of Washington Department of Licensing webpage (dol.wa.gov) offers tips on vehicle, vessel, and driver’s licensing; contact them at P.O. Box 9030, Olympia, 98507-9030, 360-902-3600, 360-664-0116 (TTY). For more information on vehicle licensing in Washington, contact the King County License and Regulatory Service Division (500 4th Avenue, Room 401, 206-296-4000, metrokc.gov/lars/autoboat).

Vehicle/Vessel License Sub-Agents

  • Bellevue: Bel-Red Auto License, 15600 NE 8th Ste O-14, 425-747-0444
  • Bothell: Canyon Park Vehicle Licensing Agency, 20631-D Bothell-Everett Hwy, 425-481-7113; Worthington Licensing, 10035 NE 183rd St, 425-481-1644
  • Edmonds: Edmonds Auto License Agency, 550 5th Ave S, 425-774-6657
  • Everett: Bev’s Auto Licensing Inc., 9111 Evergreen Way, 425-353-5333; Julie’s Licensing Service, 1001 N Broadway, Ste A-7, 425-252-3518; Snohomish County Auditor Auto License, 3000 Rockefeller Ave, 425-388-3371; Village Licensing, 9327 4th St NE, Ste 7, 425-334-7311
  • Federal Way: Federal Way Auto License Agency, 32610 17th Ave S, Ste C4, 253-874-8375
  • Kent: Kent License Inc., 331 Washington Ave S, 253-852-3110
  • Kirkland: Eastside Auto License, 12006 NE 85th St, 425-828-4661
  • Lakewood: Active Military/Civilian Agency, 12500 Bridgeport Way SW, 253-588-7786; Military Retired Bureau, 10644 Bridgeport Way SW, 253-588-9049; Lakewood Vehicle/Vessel Licensing, 10102 Bristol Ave SW, 253-588-7786
  • Lynnwood: Lynnwood Auto License Agency, Fred Meyer, 4615 196th St SW, Ste 150, 425-774-7662
  • Mountlake Terrace: McMahan License Agency, 22911 56th Ave W, 425-670-3874
  • Renton: Renton License Agency, 329 Williams Ave S, 425-228-5640
  • Seattle: Ballard Licensing Agency, 2232 NW Market St, 206-781-0199; Bill Pierre License Agency, 12531 30th Ave NE, 206-361-5505; Georgetown License Agency, 5963 Corson Ave S, Ste 162, 206-767-7782; Puget Sound License Agency, 3820 Rainier Ave S, Ste C, 206-723-9370; University License Agency, 5615 Roosevelt Way NE, 206-522-4090; Wendel’s License and Service, 13201 Aurora Ave N, St206-362-6161; West Seattle License, 5048 California Ave SW, 206-938-3111; White Center License Agency, 10250 16th Ave SW, 206-763-7979
  • Snoqualmie: Sno-Falls Licensing, 9025 Meadow Brook Way SE, 425-888-8705
  • Tacoma: Parkland Licensing Agency, 215 Garfield St S, 253-537-3112; Pierce County Auditor Auto License, 2401 S 35th St, Ste 200, 253-798-3649; Quik Stop Licensing II, 6722 W 19th St (University Place), 253-564-6555
  • Vashon Island: Vashon Island Vehicle Licensing Agency, Island Mall Building, 206-463-9170
  • Woodinville: Woodinville License Agency, 17403 139th Ave NE, 425-486-0289

Emissions Test Information

In Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties, most vehicles must pass an emissions test every other year, even if the vehicle is certified in another state. The fee for testing is $15 and can be paid in cash, or with a check, credit, or debit card. Testing station hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The list below is for testing stations in King County. For additional sites and more information, call the state Department of Ecology at 425-649-7000, or visit the agency’s website: ecy.wa.gov

  • Auburn, 3002 “A” St SE, 253-939-1225
  • Bellevue: 15313 SE 37th St, 425-644-1803
  • Redmond: 18610 NE 67th Ct, 425-882-3317
  • Renton: 805 SW 10th St, 425-228-6453
  • Seattle: 12040 Aurora Ave N, 206-362-5173; 3820 6th Ave S, 206-624-1254

Automobile Insurance

The State of Washington requires drivers to have automobile insurance for all owned or leased vehicles, providing liability coverage for damage to the other driver’s vehicle, as well as bodily damage to the driver and passengers of the other car. Minimum requirements are $25,000 for bodily injury to the other driver; $50,000 for total bodily injury to driver and all passengers; and $10,000 for property damage to the other driver’s car. The fine for not carrying automobile insurance is steep, at $450. You are required to show proof of insurance if stopped for a moving violation or if involved in an automobile accident. Coverage is available from area and national insurance companies. Contact your homeowners’ insurance agent first, and ask about a possible discount for carrying multiple policies with the same company. Check the Yellow Pages under “Insurance” or search online for listings of area companies. The Washington State Insurance Commissioner provides a free online consumer guide to auto insurance at insurance.wa.gov.

Automobile Safety

Washington is a pretty safe place for drivers. In 2010, traffic fatalities reached an all-time low, after the state established a plan called Target Zero, aiming to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2030. According to the state Traffic Safety Commission, the declining number of deaths on Washington roads is the result of public education campaigns, highway safety projects, and strenuous enforcement of traffic laws.

When highway accidents do occur, they are often caused by the combination of drinking and driving. In 2009, alcohol-related deaths accounted for 42% of the state’s traffic fatalities. In comparison, the national percentage for alcohol-related fatalities was 32%. While dropping the legal blood alcohol level for drivers to 0.08% in 1999 and enacting new laws slowed the rate of deaths, driving under the influence remains a problem.

According to the Washington State Patrol, the new laws give police more power when arresting people charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence), allowing them to suspend driver’s licenses, impound vehicles, and pursue drivers across state lines. The rules also require breath-triggered ignition locks, for at least a year, for those drivers convicted of DUI with alcohol levels above 0.15%, and limit to once in a lifetime the opportunity to avoid DUI prosecution by entering an alcohol-treatment program.

Distracted driving is a new and growing problem. A recent study by the National Safety Council determined that 28% of traffic accidents occur while people talk on cell phones or send text messages while driving. State legislation passed in 2010 made it a primary offense to talk or text on a wireless device that is not hands-free while driving, which means that the police can pull you over for that reason alone. If an officer sees you holding your phone or PDA, you can be pulled over and ticketed to the tune of $124.

Washington also regulates the use of seat belts and child restraints. Every person riding in a motor vehicle must wear a seat belt. Driving without a seat belt is considered a primary offense. The fine for driving without a seat belt is $124. Child guidelines are: kids under one year or less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing infant seat; kids between one and four years, or up to 40 pounds, must be in a forward-facing safety seat; and kids between four and six, or up to 60 pounds, must ride in a booster seat. For tips on properly installing car seats check with your local fire department or go to safekids.org.

Parking

Parking in Seattle can be challenging at times. Leaving your vehicle for a few hours in the business district can be very expensive, with the average lot charging $7.50 for two hours. Street parking is also available throughout downtown, at a cost of $4.00 per hour, but be sure to read the signs carefully. Some streets restrict parking during the busiest traffic hours; other parking meters have special time restrictions or fees. Parking fines are not insignificant: $42 for a street parking infraction. (See below for more about parking tickets.) The good news on street parking downtown is that you only need to pay between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday–Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in other areas of the city. Meters are free on Sundays and holidays. Outside of the city’s commercial core, on-street parking is more affordable, starting at $1.00 per hour in neighborhoods such as Greenlake and Roosevelt.

If you’ll be commuting to downtown Seattle, your least expensive—and possibly most convenient—option may be to take the bus. Metro transit’s online Trip Planner will help you tailor your route (http://tripplanner.kingcounty.gov). If that’s not practical, consider setting up or joining a carpool and take advantage of reduced parking fees. Call City of Seattle Commuter Services (206-386-4648) to arrange for a carpool parking permit. Downtown carpool parking costs range from $300 to $600 per quarter (three months); vanpool parking, which costs just $5 a quarter, is far more popular. (See Transportation for more information.) Your employer may offer discounts at nearby parking lots or offer incentives to carpool or ride mass transit. You can also research your options on Rideshare (www.rideshareonline.com, 888-814-1300), an excellent resource for commuting options in the Northwest, which provides free carpool and vanpool ride-matching services, as well as bus/rail options.

If you prefer to drive to work by yourself, arrange to rent a space in a parking lot or garage. Street parking is too expensive and inconvenient for all-day parking. Here is a partial list of downtown parking garages.

  • 1111 3rd Avenue Garage, 1111 3rd Ave, 206-623-0226
  • 4th & Columbia Parking, 723 4th Ave, 206-622-7373
  • Broadway Market Garage, 806 E Harrison, 206-324-0107
  • Grand Hyatt Self Parking, 1508 7th Ave, 206-652-1451
  • IBM Building Garage, 1200 5th Ave, 206-623-2675
  • Impark, 2020 5th Ave, 206-448-9992
  • Key Tower Garage, 700 5th Ave, 206-628-9042
  • Parking at Pacific Place, 600 Pine St, 206-652-0416
  • Public Market Parking, 1531 Western St, 206-621-0469
  • Russell Investment Parking Garage, 1301 2nd Ave, 206-261-8444
  • Seattle Tower Garage, 3rd Ave at University St, 206-624-2473
  • Securities Building Garage, 1922 3rd Ave, 206-623-9937; 1913 4th Ave, 206-269-0762
  • Third Avenue Building Garage, 1111 Third Ave, 206-623-0226
  • U-Park: Tower Lot, 1825 7th Ave; 7th Ave & Marion St; 100 4th Ave S, 206-284-9797
  • Union Square Garage, 601 Union St, 206-447-5664
  • Union Station Parking Garage, 550 4th Ave S, 206-652-4602

Residential Parking Permits

In Seattle proper, residential neighborhood parking can be a problem in some areas. Although there is still free street parking in residential neighborhoods, restrictions are common. Restricting parking on busy streets is done to keep traffic flowing, and parking time limits keep spaces available for shoppers. Other restrictions that limit parking on residential streets during certain hours of the day target habitual long-term parking by people who do not live in the area. For instance, neighborhoods with popular theaters and restaurants may have evening parking restrictions; areas with office buildings or hospitals nearby may have daytime parking restrictions. If your neighborhood has restricted parking, you’ll want to get a residential parking zone permit. These RPZ permits cost $65 and are usually good for two years. Call Seattle Transportation at 206-684-5086 for more information, or visit seattle.gov/transportation/parking.

Parking Tickets

If you get a parking ticket, you must pay it within 15 days, or you’ll be charged a penalty. If you have four or more unpaid tickets, a Scofflaw Ordinance allows your car to be “booted,” or immobilized with a device that locks onto the wheel. The city will also notify the state Department of Licensing and a collection agency. To pay in person, visit the Municipal Court of Seattle in the Public Safety Building, 600 5th Avenue: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Friday. The court will accept cash, cashier’s check, money order, VISA or MasterCard. If you can’t get away during business hours, there is a green deposit box in front of the building, but only cashier’s checks or money orders are accepted. You can also pay your ticket at one of seven neighborhood service centers around the city. Online ticket payments are accepted, too, but you will be charged an extra $3 for that convenience. Finally, you can mail payments to the Municipal Court of Seattle, 600 5th Avenue, Room 100, Seattle, WA 98104. For more information about parking tickets, call 206-684-5600 or visit seattle.gov/courts.

Towed or Stolen Cars

There are tow-away zones and red curbs throughout the city where you may not park, even temporarily, or you will be subject to immediate towing. There are three towing companies that provide towing service and impound lots in Seattle. If you believe that your vehicle has been impounded by order of the police department, call 206-684-5444 (have your license number ready) and you will be directed to the appropriate lot. Sometimes it can take several hours for information to reach the police department, so if you want to take immediate action you can try calling the towing companies to discover which has your vehicle.

  • ABC Towing, 206-682-2869
  • E T Towing, 206-622-9188
  • Lincoln Towing, 206-364-2000

Towing fees vary, but they start at a minimum of $65 and can go much higher. If your car was towed while on private property, call the owner or manager of that property or the posted towing company number. To report a stolen vehicle, call the Seattle Police Department non-emergency line at 206-625-5011.

Social Security

It is the rare American citizen who does not have a Social Security number. Non-citizens who are working or studying here will also need a number. This can be done by mail, by first calling 800-772-1213 and answering five automated questions, then mailing a completed application form with the necessary documents (the form will be sent after the initial telephone interview); or go online to ssa.gov. You may also visit the nearest Social Security office (see the telephone book or get the address from the 800 number above or at ssa.gov), no appointment necessary.

  • Bring with you a certified birth certificate and two other pieces of identification: passport, driver’s license, school or government ID, health insurance card, military records, an insurance policy. A Social Security employee will complete the application, and you should receive a card with your number within several weeks.
  • Non-citizens need a birth certificate and/or a passport and a green card or student documentation, as well as whatever immigration documents you have. It may take a month or more to receive a card.
  • If you already have a number but have lost your card, call the number above to apply for a new card.

Voter Registration

To register to vote in Seattle, you must be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the United States, and a legal resident of the state of Washington. To vote in an upcoming election, you must register at least 29 days prior. You may register to vote online, at government offices, fire stations, neighborhood service centers, schools, and public libraries. You can also register through the mail or through the “Motor Voter” program. “Motor Voter” registration is completed when you apply for or renew your driver’s license. It takes only an extra minute or two. You need not declare your political affiliation or party membership when you register. In 2011, Washington was the second U.S. state, after Oregon, to begin conducting all elections by mail. Registered voters receive ballots in the mail prior to every election. Completed ballots can be mailed back or deposited at ballot drop boxes. For more information, or to register by mail, call the Secretary of State’s Voter Information and Elections Hotline (800-448-4881) or go to secstate.wa.gov/elections/register.aspx.

Library Cards

The Seattle metropolitan area has two overlapping library systems, the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System. Both libraries offer an extensive selection of books and other materials and, upon request, will reserve books at other libraries in their system for your use.

The Seattle Public Library free service area includes the City of Seattle, the City of Bothell, and most of King County. The exceptions are the cities of Enumclaw, Yarrow Point, and Hunts Point. Anyone who lives, works, attends school, or owns property within the service area qualifies for a free library card. Seattle Public Library cards are available at any neighborhood library. Check the Neighborhoods chapter for listings of Seattle libraries near you. You must show identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. If you live outside the library’s free service area, you can purchase a non-resident library card for an annual fee of $85. For more information, call Borrower Services at 206-386-4190.

To borrow books from the King County Library System (KCLS), you must apply for a King County Library card, which is available to anyone who lives in the KCLS service area, or in the service area of another library system that has a reciprocal borrowing agreement. This includes residents of Seattle, Renton, and Enumclaw. The KCLS service area consists of unincorporated King County and just about every city in the county. For the complete list, visit kcls.org. You can apply for a card at any King County Library branch or online at kcls.org. You must provide ID and verification of your address. Call the following for more information:

  • Seattle Public Library, Central Library, 800 Pike St, 206-386-4636, spl.org
  • King County Library System, Main Office, 960 NW Newport Way, Issaquah, WA, 800-462-9600, kcls.org

Seattle residents also benefit from proximity to the University of Washington and its libraries. Free services to visitors include in-library use of most materials, limited access to library computers, reference assistance, tours, and classes. Call 206-543-0242 or visit lib.washington.edu for more information. See the Literary Life section of the Cultural Life chapter for a list of UW libraries.

Passports

In Seattle, passports are processed at the Seattle Passport Agency, located downtown at the U.S. Department of State, Jackson Federal Building, 915 2nd Avenue, Suite 992, 877-487-2778 (appointment line). This office serves only those customers who are traveling within two weeks or who need foreign visas, and is by appointment only. Hours are Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Travelers not meeting those criteria may pick up passport applications at the Lake City, University District, Ballard, Delridge, West Seattle, Southeast, or Central neighborhood service centers. Check the Neighborhoods chapter for locations. Bring two standard passport photos, a picture ID, and proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a previous U.S. passport, certified birth certificate, naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship. The cost is $135 for a new passport for those 16 and older, $105 for those under 16, and $110 to renew a passport issued less than 15 years earlier. The standard turnaround time for a new passport is 25 days, but an expedited three-day passport can be requested for an additional $60 fee. For appointments and recorded information, call the Seattle Passport Agency office. To use the Internet for your passport application, go to the website for the Bureau of Consular Affairs (travel.state.gov).

Television

Cable

Comcast, whose various services have been rebranded as XFINITY, provides cable television service to all of Seattle except for some parts of the Central District and Beacon Hill, where residents are served by Broadstripe (800-829-2225, broadstripe.com). Broadstripe also serves Duvall, the Sammamish Plateau (east of Redmond and north of Issaquah), Redmond, Issaquah, and Bellevue. Comcast/XFINITY currently offers hundreds of digital cable channels in Seattle, with similar lineups in King, Pierce, and Whatcom counties. The company also offers high-speed cable Internet access and digital phone service. Installation fees and monthly rates vary depending on which package you choose, but the company frequently offers special packages to new customers. Prices can vary widely depending on service, and the company offers discounts when you “bundle” services, such as having your cable TV, high speed Internet, and phone service all through Comcast/XFINITY. To order new service, call 800-COMCAST, or visit comcast.com. The website has a list of locations where you can pay your cable bill. Comcast/XFINITY office locations are listed here:

  • Auburn, 4020 Auburn Way N
  • North Seattle, 12645 Stone Ave N &
  • Redmond, 14870 NE 95th St
  • South Seattle, 15241 Pacific Hwy S

Local Stations

If you signed up for cable or satellite service, the local broadcast stations listed here may differ:

  • Channel 4, KOMO-TV, ABC
  • Channel 5, KING-TV, NBC
  • Channel 6, KONG-TV, NBC
  • Channel 7, KIRO-TV, CBS
  • Channel 9, KCTS-TV, PBS
  • Channel 11, KSTW-TV, CW
  • Channel 13, KCPQ-TV, FOX

Radio

Radio Stations

Seattle area residents love their music! The evolution of Internet radio means you can find anything you want to hear online. Here’s a guide to local radio stations:

Adult Contemporary

  • KLCK, 98.9 FM
  • KLSY, 92.5 FM
  • KMIH, 88.9 FM
  • KMTT, 103.7 FM
  • KPLZ, 101.5 FM
  • KRWM, 106.9 FM
  • KSGX, 104.9 FM

Alternative/Modern Rock

  • KEXP, 90.3 FM
  • KGRG, 89.9 FM
  • KNDD, 107.7 FM

Christian

  • KBLE, 1050 AM
  • KCIS, 630 AM
  • KCMS, 105.3 FM
  • KGNW, 820 AM
  • KLFE, 1590 AM

Classical

  • KING, 98.1 FM

Country

  • KKWF, 100.7 FM
  • KMPS, 94.1 FM

Jazz, Blues

  • KBCS, 91.3 FM
  • KPLU, 88.5 FM

Kids

  • KKDZ, 1250 AM

Korean

  • KSUH, 1450 AM
  • KWYZ, 1230 AM

News, NPR

  • KIRO, 97.3 FM, 710 AM
  • KPLU, 88.5 FM
  • KOMO, 1000 AM
  • KSER, 90.7 FM
  • KUOW, 94.9 FM

Oldies

  • KBSG, 1210 AM
  • KJAQ, 96.5 FM
  • KJR, 95.7 FM
  • KMCQ, 104.5 FM
  • KVI, 570 AM

Public Affairs

  • KSER, 90.7 FM

Rock

  • KISW, 99.9 FM
  • KIXI, 880 AM
  • KRWM, 106.9 FM
  • KZOK, 102.5 FM

Spanish

  • KBRO, 1490 AM
  • KKMO, 1360 AM
  • KNTS, 1680 AM
  • KTBK, 1210 AM

Sports

  • KIRO, 710 AM
  • KJR, 950 AM
  • KRKO, 1380 AM
  • KTTH, 770 AM

Talk Radio

  • KJR, 950 AM
  • KKNW, 1150 AM
  • KKOL, 1300 AM
  • KLFE, 1590 AM
  • KPTK, 1090 AM
  • KTTH, 770 AM

Top 40/Dance

  • KBKS, 106.1 FM
  • KNHC, 89.5 FM

Urban Contemporary

  • KRIZ, 1420 AM
  • KUBE, 93.3 FM
  • KYIZ, 1620 AM

World Music and Folk

  • KBCS, 91.3 FM

Local Newspapers and Magazines

Once upon a time, Seattle could boast two metropolitan daily newspapers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, founded in 1863, and The Seattle Times, locally owned by the Blethen family since 1896, brought generations of Seattleites their news until March 17, 2009, when the last print edition of the P-I rolled off the presses and the paper converted to an online format. Years later, the city still mourns its passing. A beloved Seattle landmark, the giant eagle-topped globe that proclaims “It’s in the P-I” still spins slowly over the paper’s former headquarters on Elliott Avenue.

The following newspapers and magazines serve Seattle and surrounding communities:

Finding a Physician

When searching for a doctor in Seattle you will find plenty of options. Begin by determining your needs: are you looking for a general family practitioner or a specialist? An MD or a naturopath? Do you prefer the comforts of a small clinic or the more extensive services of a large hospital? And perhaps most importantly, does your health plan limit who you can see? Many new residents rely on recommendations from friends or co-workers when looking for a doctor. Another option is to contact the King County Medical Society at 206-621-9396 or kcmsociety.org. Their website allows you to search by physician’s last name, zip code, specialty, or language. Or, you can call a physician referral line or local hospital. Here is a list of local referral lines, many of which are affiliated with major area hospitals:

Should you have a serious complaint about a medical provider, which you cannot resolve directly with your provider, contact the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission, P.O. Box 47865, Olympia, WA 98504, 360-236-2762, or the Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (same address, 360-236-4700).

The Office of the Washington State Insurance Commissioner assists consumers with questions about health insurance concerns, from Medicare to HMOs to long-term care, through their Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA). Call their 24-hour consumer hotline, 800-562-6900.

Pet Laws & Services

Pets in Seattle must be licensed annually, even those that generally are kept inside. A dog license costs $47.00 ($27.00 if the dog is spayed or neutered); cats are $30.00 ($20.00 if the cat is spayed or neutered). Two-year licenses are available for a discount. To qualify your pet for a license, you must provide proof that your pet has received a current rabies vaccination. The reduced license fee for a spayed or neutered pet requires a copy of a veterinarian’s spay or neuter certificate. Low-income senior citizens and disabled persons with a City of Seattle ID card qualify for a 50% discount on all fees. (See the Driver’s License, State Identification section of this chapter for more information about ID cards.)

Seattle is a very dog-friendly city—many people regularly bring their pet to work with them, and some establishments keep a full water bowl outside in case customers’ dogs get thirsty. Nonetheless, all four-legged pets (except cats) must be on a leash or held by the owner when in public places in Seattle, including sidewalks. In addition, Seattle has strict “scoop laws” that require the person in charge of the animal to clean up after the pet.

Eleven city parks have “off-leash” areas where pets are allowed to roam freely, but there are a few rules. Owners must have voice control over their pets, dogs must be licensed, and poop must be scooped.

  • Dr. Jose Rizal Park, 1008 12th Ave S
  • Genesee Park, 4316 S Genesee St
  • Golden Gardens Park, 8498 Seaview Place NW
  • I-5 Colonnade, beneath I-5, south of E Howe St, between Lakeview Blvd and Franklin Ave E
  • Magnuson Park, 7400 Sandpoint Way NE
  • Northacres Park, 12718 1st Ave NE
  • Plymouth Pillars Park, Boren Ave between Pike and Pine sts
  • Regrade Park, 2251 3rd Ave
  • Sam Smith Park, 1400 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
  • Westcrest Park, 9000 8th Ave SW
  • Woodland Park, 100 N 50th St

Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island also has a popular off-leash area at 2040 84th Ave SE. One of the area’s most popular dog parks is located outside the city limits in Redmond. This off-leash area at Marymoor Park covers over 40 acres and provides dogs with swimming and fetching opportunities. A nonprofit group, Serve Our Dog Areas, is dedicated to its maintenance and preservation. To volunteer, call 425-881-0148 or visit soda.org.

If you’re interested in adopting an animal, you can visit the Seattle Animal Shelter at 2061 15th Avenue West (in the Interbay area), 206-386-7387. Fees range from $5 (for hamsters, birds, and snakes) to $200 depending on the size, gender, and type of animal. You must provide current photo ID, and your landlord’s name and phone number if you live in a rental property. For more information about Seattle Shelter and pets available for adoption, visit the website at seattle.gov/animalshelter.

Organizations that may prove useful for those who have lost a pet or have found a stray are:

  • Humane Society for Seattle/King County, 13212 SE Eastgate Way, Bellevue, 425-641-0080, seattlehumane.org
  • King County Animal Control Enforcement, 206-296-7387
  • King County Animal Control Shelter, 21615 64th Ave S, Kent, 206-296-7387, kingcounty.gov
  • Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), 15305 44th Ave W, Lynnwood, 425-787-2500, paws.org
  • Seattle Animal Control Hotline (Lost Pets) , 206-386-7387, seattle.gov/animalshelter
  • Seattle Animal Shelter, 2061 15th Ave W, 206-386-7387, seattle.gov/animalshelter

Pet Care Services

If the off-leash areas in the city’s parks aren’t enough to convince you that Seattle has gone to the dogs in recent years, consider the rise in the canine comfort industry, and the increase in pet-sitting and dog-walking providers. If you must leave your dog or cat home alone for the day—or for weeks—consider hiring a surrogate or sending your pet to daycare.

Does your dog or cat need a ride to daycare, the vet, or a groomer? One service in town offers pet transport for a variety of needs. Try Seattle Dog Taxi, 425-780-9241, seattledogtaxi.com.

Safety and Crime

According to statistics compiled by the Seattle Police Department, in 2010, 36,706 major crimes were reported in Seattle, a 6% decrease from the previous year. Of these, 3,517 were violent crimes, with aggravated assault leading the way with 1,973. The murder rate saw a significant decrease in the 2000–2010 period, with 19 homicides reported in 2010, the lowest murder rate recorded since 1956. Property crimes—burglary, larceny, and auto theft—decreased 15% over the same ten-year period. Mere numbers don’t tell the whole picture, of course. While Seattle is a relatively safe place to live (in 2009 Forbes magazine rated it the fourth safest large U.S. city), there are places you’d be wise to avoid after dark, such as the area surrounding Pike and Pine streets downtown.

Auto theft is a crime of opportunity, so your best defense is to deny a thief the opportunity to take your automobile. Also protect yourself from car prowls or smash and grabs by not leaving anything in the car. Valuable or not, items left in cars are tempting to thieves. The Seattle Police Department Car Prowl Task Force recommends the following preventive measures:

  • Always lock your car, and remove valuables when parking.
  • Park in well-lighted areas, even at home.
  • Park in areas of busy pedestrian traffic.
  • Install an anti-theft device.
  • Call 911 to report suspicious activity.

Auto thefts and car prowls notwithstanding, most Seattle neighborhoods are safe. Take precautions, however, especially in unfamiliar areas. The following safety tips may be helpful: walk quickly and with a purpose, especially at night; don’t dawdle or slow your pace, even when approached, and keep clear of alleyways, deserted areas, and dead ends. If riding in a bus, stay close to the front, near the driver. Most of all, trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about a person or situation, there may be a good reason for it. For more personal safety tips, visit the Seattle Police Department’s crime page at seattle.gov/police.

Many neighborhoods participate in Block Watch, a free crime prevention and emergency preparedness program sponsored by the Seattle Police Department. Overseen by precinct coordinators, there are currently over 3,800 registered “block watches” operating throughout the city. To participate, or for more information, go to www.seattle.gov/police/blockwatch/default.htm.

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