The RSF Guide to Uber/Lyft Driving in Seattle


Driving in cities varies according to each cities geography, social layout, and hot spots. The traffic issues have a major impact on how a city manages its transportation issues, and that is why public transport systems don't cover the needs of the many. This is why rideshare has become so popular since it provides a personalized solution to a time old problem; how do I get from where I am to where I want to be? So here at RSF, I decided to start preparing guides for my readers, comprehensive insights into anything and everything rideshare related.

RSF City Guides for Drivers

This series will look at specific cities and focus on issues that are related to each and every city. Take into account that all information provided will change over time. Cities tend to change their transportation routes, and business, as well as social locations, move around.

Seattle, WA

This amazing modern and vibrant city is constantly expanding and is growing at a rate of approximately 1,000 new residents per month. With a total population of 704,000 residents, this cities growth and newcomers is the reason why experienced rideshare drivers are in constant demand.

Here is the list of busiest locations in and around the Seattle:

  • Downtown / Belltown - Pike Place Market, 1st Ave
  • Capitol Hill - Pike/Pine Corridor
  • South Lake Union - Amazon campus
  • Ballard - NW Market St, Ballard Ave NW
  • Fremont - N 36th St
  • Queen Anne - Seattle Center / Key Arena, Queen Anne Ave N
  • University District - University of Washington, University Way NE
  • Pioneer Square - 1st Ave S

Since the city is split into two sections with a lake separating them, the Eastside is constantly in demand, and only two bridges connect between the sides. Due to this, either driver will be focused on one side or will be lucky enough to gain a passenger that wants to drive to the other side.

Eastside areas that are popular include:

  • Bellevue - Bellevue Square Mall,
  • Kirkland,
  • Redmond - Microsoft Campus,
  • Factoria - Factoria Mall.

Pioneer Square

Pioneer square houses Safeco and Centurylink, which makes this area popular after sporting and other stadium events.

Capitol Hill and Downtown

These areas are saturated with drivers, so passengers seeking a ride will always get an immediate request answered. The driving is usually between 5 to 30 minutes, which is dependent on the time of day that influence the road congestion. Take into account that due to high saturation, many drivers vie for fewer passengers. Just remember to try and create a seamless shift, which means getting a ride back to the city from a residential area. If you can't get a request from Uber, then use Lyft or one of the various delivery gigs.

Sea-Tac Airport

Seattle's airport is a 15 to 20-minute drive south from the city center. The airport is very active, so rides start as early as 3 am, continue throughout the day and end around 10 pm. Weekdays Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the busiest days for airport rides. If you are partial to driving to Sea-Tac, then hang around the Amazon campus in South Lake Union, and the Microsoft campus in Redmond or Downtown, during the day hours, you will get quite few business people needing rides to the airport.

As an Uber and Lyft driver, you are required to have a Sea-Tac permit. Uber and Lyft apply on your behalf and is used for picking up passengers form the airport. The Uber and Lyft Drivers staging area are at the Ground Transportation Staging Lot located at 3069 S. 160th St, Sea-Tac WA 98188. Don't forget to display your trade dress, for-hire windshield sticker, and in-cabin for-hire permit when entering the rideshare pick-up area.


Uber and Lyft

Most drivers in Seattle drive for both companies. Lyft still outdoes Uber with its sign-up bonuses, while Uber offers weekly guarantees.

Rideshare earnings keep in line with what Uber and Lyft both advertise, where most drivers can earn between $25 - $30 per hour during busy times and on the slower periods between $15 - $20 per hour.

Most drivers will work for more than just ridesharing, and it is common to find most also driving for DoorDash, GrubHub and Amazon Flex.

Driving Hours

  • Monday - Thursday mornings between 7 am, and 9 am
  • Monday - Thursday evenings between 3 pm and 6 pm
  • Friday - Sunday evenings from 6 pm until 2 am
  • Friday - Sunday mornings and afternoons from 8 am-11 am and 1-5pm

Rider Habits

Mornings: From residential areas to Downtown, South Lake Union, and across the lake to the Eastside for work.

Afternoons: Lunch crowds and the occasional errand.

Evenings: From commercial ad business centers back home to residential areas.

Nights: From residential areas to Belltown and Capitol Hill.

While Seattle is a growing community it is close knit; this means that most of the residents, old and new, are all aware of everything that's going on in and around the city hotspots. This is why rideshare drivers have to be in the know all the time. Constantly update yourself on what is happening, when and where. Since Seattle is not a major city like NYC or LA, you will not find a lot of night life spread over the city but concentrated in hotspots and much more conservative numbers. However, whenever a Seahawks game play's local, get ready for the entire city to come alive.

Seattle Traffic

As in any city, traffic has its habits, and these are based on the number of vehicles, the size of the population and the design of the street and roads. In general, extreme congestion occurs during the morning and evening rush hours, where routes are so tightly packed that movement is reduced to a minimum. This stop-start congestion is located around 1st Ave, 5th Ave, Denny Way, South Lake Union, and any streets nearby a highway entrance or exit.

One amazing feature of the Seattle traffic beast is that it is quite precise in its timing, and from around 6pm and for the following half an hour, the congestion eases up considerably.

Navigation Apps

Before you rely on your various GPS apps such as Uber's map or Waze, consider knowing your city from every angle. This is called "the knowledge" in many locations, and its all about knowing alternative routes to and from any place in the city. It is also about knowing all the famous landmarks for tourists as well as the hotspots, social and sporting events and anything else that can be useful for passengers.

Using Waze is imperative since it gives you an accurate account of the congestion as well as the recent traffic blocks that arise from accidents and other reasons.

Here is a general tip, use the Aurora/99 highway when the I-5 is congested. This highway goes both north and south and is a great alternative for airport rides. However, remember that the Aurora route is old, and the way has its issues with signage.

Important and Useful Links

12 Seattle Traffic Tips

  1. Rush Hour
    Road congestion gets worse as the week progresses, and Friday is the worst day of the week for driving.

  2. Bad Merging
    For some reason, Seattle drivers like to wait for the last second to merge with traffic. They will not wait for someone to open the way, they will force their way into your lane.

  3. Rain Driving is Worse
    While Seattle is a rainy city, drivers tend to slow down to a crawl on rain days. So don't expect any improvement in driving conditions, expect the opposite.

  4. Blinkers Urge Overtaking
    You would think that when you put on your blinker for a merge or a lane change that the driver behind or next to you would understand your need. NO, they understand that they have to be first and when you put on your blinker, wait for a second, let the idiot overtake you in a rushed frenzy of acceleration and then change lanes or merge.

  5. Cyclists
    Bicycle riders in Seattle think that they own the city or that the city was designed for them. Funny, because I ride a bike too and feel the same way when I am cycling. Psychology is a batch, huh!

  6. Know your Route
    As with many cold cities that grew up with no real planning in mind, Seattle has a load of one-way streets and if you miss a turn off expect a long way back. We all make navigational mistakes; the first one is not using Waze.

  7. Variety is the Traffic System
    Seattle is a host to many cultures, including drivers that have never driven on Earth before, as well as those that believe driving is akin to the "charge of the light brigade," just be prepared for an old granny driver in front of you and a mad Ghost Rider wannabe on your back.

  8. Beware of Buses
    Do not get behind a bus, it starts and stops for passengers, and no one will let you into their lane to overpass the bus. So, don't get behind one in the first place.

  9. The Lane Change Dance
    Some drivers think that blinkers are used after they make the lane change, and others drive in two lanes while a third group owns the road. Just watch out when someone blinks to change lanes, they usually don't wait for a second, they are already in the middle of the lane change when they blink.

  10. Parking Costs
    Seattle is a city parking haven, where every frees space is another source of income for the city. Don't try to park if you have no money. In fact, don't plan on driving in Seattle if you don't want to pay for your parking. Just know that parking lots give discounts after 6pm on weekdays. Also, make sure you have small change or bills on you, some car parks don't have credit card machines or staff.

  11. Beware of Narrow Roads
    In some places, due to the old architecture and city planning, narrow roads have cars parked on either side, leaving only room for one car even in a two-way road. When you enter such a road, make sure it's free. Otherwise one of you will be reversing.

  12. Snow Driving
    While Seattle and Puget Sound don't get hit by a lot of snow, when snow does fall, it tends to melt and re-freeze causing ice. If you are not a snow driver or don't have the necessary tire accessories, don't drive in snow.