Walk Score: 73.7
If convenient neighborhoods weren't making Seattle a tough place to leave already, improved transit and costly tolls on roads into the city surely will. The waterfront and Pike Place market, the downtown shopping district, the yuppie condo kennels of Belltown and the old-stone restaurants, shops and pubs of Pioneer Square represent the ideal combination of density and amenities the city is looking for, but even that's still not enough to convince most folks to abandon cars altogether. That's going to be a problem for those outside the city when proposed tolls on the bridges and main arteries heading into Seattle go into effect, but the future's looking bright for residents within its borders. Referendum items have helped expand Seattle's public transportation to the point that buses, trolleys and the light rail system handled 28.5 million riders last year and has provided a direct link to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The light rail and the Sounder commuter rail service that brought in 5.6 million riders from Everett, Tacoma and stops in between last year are still slated to grow in the next half-decade. Meanwhile, Seattle's ferry system is the largest in the U.S. and carried 4.6 million passengers last year alone. None of this helps more remote areas of the city such as Alki, Windmere and North Beach, which don't have the convenience or transit choices as the more central neighborhoods. More bustling enclaves such as Ballard, Freemont and the University District are already being targeted for light rail expansion and only stand to get more dense and funky, though. If toll-terrified commuters like Seattle's convenience but don't want to pay more for it, there are two options: Embrace the park-and-ride or get on a bike and take the former rail grade now known as the Burke-Gilman Trail past reverse commuters heading to their gigs at the Microsoft ( MSFT) and Nintendo campuses in Redmond or starting their long weekend trip to Issaquah for some salmon seeing.