Getting To & Around Mercer Island: A Commuting & Public Transportation Guide

March 26, 2019 | by Julia Hess

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Mercer Island’s central location between Seattle and the Eastside makes it an ideal home base for anyone who wants to live close to the action of two major metropolitan areas and enjoy a relatively easy commute.

As an island, Mercer Island was once only accessible by boat until the first bridge was completed in 1923. Now it’s easy to forget that Mercer Island was once geographically isolated as many island residents and visitors travel daily on and off the island by way of Interstate 90 (I-90).

I-90 crosses the north end of Mercer Island and connects Mercer Island to Seattle by the Lacy V. Murrow Memorial Bridge (the second largest floating bridge in the world) and to Bellevue by the East Channel bridge. Hop on the freeway and you can be in downtown Bellevue or Seattle in 10 or 15 minutes (depending on traffic and time of day).

Travel by Bus (Public Transit)

Route 204 (& ST 550): Route Map

Bus riders on Mercer Island are served by Metro Routes 204216630 (Community Shuttle) and Sound Transit Routes 550 and 554. These routes make trips to Seattle, Bellevue, and Issaquah.

To commute by bus, you’ll need to have cash on hand or an ORCA Card, which you can buy online or at a variety of retailers, including the north end QFC.

Visit How to Ride Metro for more tips on routes, fares, and boarding policies.

Where to catch the bus on Mercer Island

Metro Routes 204 and 630 (the Community Shuttle) provide weekday service on Mercer Island, starting at 5:50 am and ending around 7:30 pm.  Route 204 was recently converted into a DART route and offers flexible service areas in both south and north Mercer Island. Trips in flexible service areas are allowed outside of peak hours and must be requested in advance. DART buses are smaller and will look similar to the current Route 630 bus. Route 204 also provides Saturday service from 9 am to 6:50 pm.

See the graphic at right for the map of Route 204. Use Metro’s regional  to plan your route and get real-time bus arrival information.

No bus stop location near your home? Many bus riders catch the bus at the station next to the Mercer Island Park & Ride located at 80th Ave SE and North Mercer Way.

This Park & Ride has 447 parking stalls, but commuters should note that the two-level lot is usually full by about 7 am every weekday morning. Additionally, there’s a Park & Ride lot next to the south end QFC Village shopping center, as well as at several local churches, providing 77 additional spots.

(See our “Tips for Commuters” section below for “last mile” travel options to and from the Mercer Island Park & Ride on North Mercer Way as well as about other parking options.)

What’s your Destination?

Downtown Seattle

There are a variety of routes that can get you downtown Seattle in 8 to 14 minutes. The 630 Shuttle is popular with commuters providing direct service from Mercer Island to Seattle. The shuttle operates Monday through Friday, 6 am to 8:50 am and 4:00 to 7:30 pm.

Once you are in the heart of downtown, you can catch another bus or the Link Light Rail to go to other greater Seattle locations.

But don’t take the bus just for work. The bus is great for traveling to recreational spots as well.

Going to a Mariners, Sounders, or Seahawks game? Take the 550 and get off at the International District / Chinatown Station stop, then walk for about 5 – 10 minutes to the stadium. It’s also a great spot to get off for the popular First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square, which is about a 10 minute walk from the station. Coming back from downtown Seattle, I highly recommend taking the 550, as it’s a very fast bus ride!

Heading to Pike Place Market for the day, or taking relatives to see popular tourist spots in Seattle? The 554 bus line stops at 4th & Pike St, making it an easy 20-30 minute bus ride and a short walk to the great restaurants, shopping, and scenic views of the market.


Routes to Take: 550, 554, or 216

Similar to commuting to Seattle, you can take the 204 community bus to the Park-and-Ride and catch one of these three buses to Bellevue. From the Mercer Island Park-and-Ride, you can take this route to three locations in Bellevue: South Bellevue Park & ride, Bellevue TC Bay, and 110th Ave NE & NE 10th St. Heading from Seattle to Bellevue, the 550 stops at the Park-and-Ride on Mercer Island every 10 – 15 minutes, making it an incredibly convenient route to take if you’re commuting to Bellevue.


Routes to Take: 554 or 216 (550 > 218)

If you work in Issaquah but live on Mercer Island, there is an express bus that will take you straight from Mercer Island to Issaquah and Issaquah Highlands. If you’re coming from the south, hop on the 204 to the Park-and-Ride and catch one of these two bus lines.

Heading from Seattle to Issaquah, the 554 stops at the Park-and-Ride station every 20-30 minutes, though it has more frequent stops between 4 – 6 pm. It has a pretty consistent schedule that you can check out online in order to plan ahead! There’s also the 216 bus line, which is a quick 20-minute ride to the Issaquah Park-and-Ride. Going west, the 216 can also take you to downtown Seattle.

Travel by Carpool, Vanpool, SchoolPool, or Corporate Shuttle is an online resource that helps commuters find a carpool or a vanpool.  It can also help parents find a carpool, or “schoolpool,” for transporting kids to schools and educational programs located off-island.  If you want to bike to work, can also help you find a biking partner to keep you company and accountable to your commitment to riding your bike to work.

According to the City of Mercer Island, some large tech companies have added Mercer Island stops to their shuttle programs (i.e. Amazon). Inquire with your Human Resources department!

Tips for Mercer Island Commuters

Here are some additional tips and resources to help ensure your smooth commute to and from Mercer Island, especially if you are using public transit:


  • Visit the City of Mercer Island’s website page “Helpful Information for Commuters” for lots of great resources and information about local construction, road and ramp changes, and more:

Helpful Apps

  • Google Maps is helpful for figuring out your route, but if you have a smart phone, make sure you download the One Bus Away app for up-to-date information on when your bus will arrive. This app is organized by route, so you’ll need to find out which route is best for you to take (which you can find on Google Maps).
  • If you decide to drive to Seattle or the Eastside on a daily basis, you’ll want to download the Waze app for traffic information. This app is crowdsourced, meaning that it updates as users provide data on the current flow of traffic.

Parking near the Mercer Island Park-and-Ride Lot

  • King County Metro recently launched a new, off-site pilot paid parking program at the Aviara building, a downtown apartment building that is a short walk from the Mercer Island park and ride.
  • The City has on-street commuter parking permits (Town Center) for residents only

Other Park & Ride Locations

  • There are several Park & Ride lots located around Mercer Island, as listed in the table below.  These lots provide 77 additional parking spots around Mercer Island.  Locations include the south end QFC Village Park & Ride, the Congregational Church of Mercer Island, the Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, and the Mercer Island United Methodist Church.

Once you have the tools you need to commute, you’re good to travel to or from Mercer Island! Have we missed your favorite resource? Share it with us in the comments below!

Coming in 2023 . . . Light Rail

Coming in 2023!  Yes, that seems like a long wait, but construction is already underway for the Mercer Island Light Rail Station, which will be located at the center roadway of I-90 and will have two entrances (or “headhouses”) – one at 77th Ave SE and one at 80th Ave SE, near the Mercer Island Park-and-Ride lot.

Construction at the Mercer Island Light Rail Station site on April 2nd, 2018

Mercer Island’s station is one of 10 new stations of Sound Transit’s East Link project, which expands its light rail system from downtown Seattle to Redmond.

Design rendering of the Mercer Island Light Rail west headhouse (entrance) at 77th Ave SE (looking east)

Here’s what you can look forward to upon completion of East Link and the Mercer Island light rail station.

  • Fast, frequent and reliable service 20 hours a day
  • Exclusive and semi-exclusive right-of-way for rail transit, separated from other traffic and congestion
  • East Link will connect to the Central Link line providing a one-seat ride (no transfers) from Overlake to the University of Washington via Bellevue, Mercer Island, downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill
  • Reliable connection to Sea-Tac Airport
  • Light rail trains are electric and do not emit harmful contaminants into the air
  • Development concentrated around light rail stations promotes walkable communities, which leads to improved public health and mobility
  • Light rail can carry crowds associated with fairs, sporting events, concerts, festivals, and other special events; trains can be lengthened based on demand.

Source: City of Mercer Island

East Link Expansion Project

Travel times (from Mercer Island Station)

  • International District/Chinatown = 10 minutes
  • University of Washington = 20 minutes
  • Bellevue Transit Center = 10 minutes
  • SeaTac Airport – 45 minutes (with transfer at International District Station)
  • Redmond Technology Center = 16 minutes

Source: Sound Transit

Learn more about ongoing developments related to Sound Transit’s East Link light rail expansion on the City of Mercer Island’s website.

Written by Julia Hess & Erin Sirianni. Images credit: Sound Transit, Erin Sirianni/My Mercer Island