Info for Colloquium Speakers

The Basics

It is a pleasure to invite you to speak at U.W. We certainly hope that you will enjoy your trip and visit. Please let us know if there’s anything that we can do to help.
+ Title/Abstracts/Meetings: Tyneshia Valdez, 206-685-2150; tvaldez AT

The UW Astronomy Department’s phone number is 206-543-2888. Tyneshia Valdez will be making any hotel reservations and purchasing your plane tickets for you. (Note that State of Washington restrictions are complex, so leave the airfare and hotel arrangements to us or we may be unable to reimburse you!! More about this later.)

U.W. (36,000 students and 2200 faculty) is located about 4 miles northeast of downtown Seattle and 25 miles north of SeaTac Airport. Nearby hotels and restaurants are plentiful. For more information about:

The Astronomy Dept. is located in the Physics-Astronomy Bldg at the corner of N.E. Pacific Ave. and 15th Ave. N.E. on the southwest side of the main U.W. campus. Astronomy occupies most of the third floor of the building. The Astro Finding Chart will help you to locate people and their offices.

Astronomy colloquia are in the Physics-Astronomy Building room A102 every Thursday at 4 P.M. during the standard academic year (aside from holidays and final exams). Coffee and cookies are served at 3:30. Speakers are welcome to the use of an office and an Xterminal, printer, copy machine, etc.

Seattle weather is temperate. Generally, the temperatures are 5-10 degrees cooler than the Bay Area all year. Temperatures rarely go below freezing and snow is highly unusual. Fog is rare except in winter. Rain is common, especially October through March. See Seattle’s annual weather trends for the details.

Making Arrangements That Work

If we are providing you with any form of travel support, then you might want to know about some of the State of Washington regulations that constrain our planning and reimbursement:

  • Seattle must be a point of arrival and departure for reimbursable travel. This must be documented on your airline tickets or receipts.
  • If you buy your own airline tickets, our reimbursement cannot exceed certain rates prescribed by state law, which are fairly inexpensive. It’s best to coordinate your reimbursable travel plans with Tyneshia Valdez ahead of time.
  • We can provide convenient hotel rooms at reasonable rates provided that we make the reservations for you and set up the billing directly to our accounts. Again, check with Tyneshia Valdez before you plan your stay.
  • To claim reimbursements, retain your airline ticket stubs, any receipts for car, boat, train, gasoline, hotels (unless the hotel directly bills us), etc.
  • No U.W. or State employee is allowed to claim reimbursement for the local meals or other expenses of guests or themselves (with very minor exceptions). So pay your own way and claim reimbursement from the University.
  • All reimbursement requests should be mailed to Tyneshia Valdez, Astronomy, Box 351580 UW, Seattle WA 98195-1580 along with an appropriate form that he will send home with you during your visit here. Be sure to sign it.


Guests are normally housed at the University Inn 4140 Roosevelt Way NE, 206-632-5055 (toll free: 1-800-733-3855) or the Best Western – University Tower Hotel (aka The Meany Tower), 4507 Brooklyn Ave N, 206-634-2000 (toll free: 800-899-0251). Both are fine older and recently refurbished hotels about 0.6 mile from our building (see local hotel map). If you prefer a modern motel, request the Silver Cloud Inn, 5036 25th Ave NE, 206-526-5200, 1.25 miles from the Dept (shuttle available). Other closer accommodations are possible too. Just ask, especially if you have special needs. By default we request a quiet non-smoking room.

Information about the local area and its amenities can be found at this page. Interesting hotels and restaurants throughout the Northwest are listed in “Northwest Best Places” available at any bookstore.

Air Travel to Seattle

By air: Seattle’s Seatac Airport (airport code SEA) is served by all major airlines. United, Northwest, and Alaska are among the largest carriers in and out of the region.

Reimbursement for travel to U.W. is primarily governed by the laws of the State of Washington. The State has negotiated a set of “contract air fares” with specific carriers on many routes throughout the U.S. You need not necessarily fly these carriers; however, we cannot reimburse you for more than the round-trip “contract fare” between your home and Seattle no matter what arrangements you might make. These fares can change on timescales of just a few months. There are other subtle restrictions.

Consequently it is important to check with Tyneshia Valdez or your colloquium contact before making any plans for air travel. As soon as you know when you would like to travel, they’ll help you to find the appropriate carrier and they’ll purchase and send you the tickets. If you have airline preferences then let us know and we will try hard to work with you.

Ground Transportation

The arriving passenger has many choices of conveyance to downtown and UW. See this regional map for a layout of the metropolitan region. Click this airport map to see the various passenger pickup/dropoff modes and locations of service. The campus map will help you to locate our building, and our office finding chart will guide you to our offices, all of which are on the third floor of the Physics-Astronomy Building. A local hotel map and list can also be useful.

By shuttle: If you’re going to the Meany Tower or other University-area hotels, the cheapest (and sometimes one of the slowest and most confusing) ways is to use the airport Shuttle Express. You can call the shuttle ahead of time to make reservations at 206-981-7000 or 1-800-487-7433. There are two pickup locations at opposite ends of the baggage claim area. Save and return all receipts.

The system is far simpler for the return ride from the Meany Tower Hotel to the airport: the hotel clerk will arrange the trip to SeaTac for you. The shuttle costs about $20 per person.

By taxi: This is the simplest method of transportation by far. Taxis depart from the street at the baggage level (the company STITA has the sole license to serve SeaTac Airport). If you don’t see a cab then use one of the marked phones along the sidewalk. Your destination is likely to be either the Meany Tower Hotel, N.E. 45th and Brooklyn N.E. in the University District (1/2 mile east of I-5 exit 169) or the Physics-Astronomy Building, N.E. Pacific St and 15th Ave N.E. (SW edge of campus). Expect to pay $40 cash or credit card. Save and submit all receipts.

Any cab company can take you back to the airport. Far West (206.622.1717) is reliable.

By bus: There’s a hotel shuttle bus (called the Airporter) that leaves from either end of the street in front of the baggage claim area every 30 minutes ($8.50). You’ll see booths at either end of the sidewalk outside the baggage claim area where you can get tickets and the schedule of departures. The drive to downtown is 20 minutes. Then the bus stops at all major hotels. Get off at the first stop and then take a cab from there ($10). For the return take a cab to the Westin Hotel downtown, and then catch the Airporter. Departures from the Westin are at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour except for very late at night. Save and subit all receipts.

The Seattle Light Rail will take you from the airport into the U district stadium station, which is about a 10-15 min walk from the department. Alternatively, you can take the light rail into downtown Seattle. From there, you can transfer to an express downtown-UW bus, numbers 43, 49, or 70 (every 10-15 minutes during the daytime M-F). These do much the same thing as the more lavish “Airporter bus”. Pay as you board, $2.75. Bus drivers do not make change. The ride normally takes 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.

Once You Check Into Your Hotel

3820 15th NE SEATTLE, WA 98105 - Google MapsYour First evening: Dinner restaurants are a walk. Downhill near the water front are Agua Verde (stylized Mexican) and Northlake Tavern (huge pizzas). Several more restaurants catering to students are found along University Way between 42nd and 50th Sts…there are many varieties, most of them good, and none of them outstanding. Walk east along 42nd St to University Way, then turn uphill. Pick any open restaurant. You can find vegetarian food at Flowers–43rd and University–or any Asian-style restaurant.

Your first morning: Walk to NE 40th then east to Stevens Way (1 block east of 15th Ave NE), then south to the “C” part of the Physics Astro Bldg and enter from the east side of “the Tower”. Take the elevator to the third floor, turn left, and enter the Astro office in Room C319. Anyone there can help you. Arrive about 9:30. We’ll get you into an office. (See the floor layout.)

Combined Trips with DAO, U Vic, or UBC

If you’re combining a trip to U.W. with travel to U.B.C. or Victoria, read on. Be warned that you’re in for a stop at Canadian or U.S. Customs as you cross the border. YOU MUST HAVE A VALID PASSPORT TO CROSS THE BORDER, PARTICULARLY TO ENTER THE U.S.! Expect 1-hour delays at customs on the highways on holidays and at peak periods of the day. Here’s a page of general Seattle-Canada transportation information.

Seattle – DAO/Victoria Travel Info

Visit the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory Homepage. DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT!

+ By car: Although the driving time is 2-3 hours, you must add to the time to catch a ferry: 100 minutes sailing time plus ferry queues. Plan a 5-hour trip. From Seattle drive I-5 to Canadian customs and follow Rte 99 to the signs to the Tsawassen ferry terminal. Click here for ferry information and schedules.
+ By boat: A 2-hour ride on the Victoria Clipper. Scenic in good weather. Seas can be choppy at times. About $70 one way, though cheap advance-purchase round trip fares are available. Click here for schedules and fares.
+ By float plane: Kenmore Air between Lake Union in Seattle and Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Convenient to DAO and UW campi. 20-minute flight (VFR only, meaning flights are cancelled if sightings of the ground from the plane are too limited.). About $85 one way. See here for schedule information.
+ By regular airlines: Several airlines ply the winds. Check with the DAO people for the latest information. Flights in and out of Seattle use SeaTac airport, the main regional airport, which is 25 miles from campus. It is possible to make connections to many other flights, though layovers can be long.

Seattle – UBC/Vancouver Travel Info

Visit the UBC Astronomy home page is here, with additional travel information here. BRING YOUR PASSPORT if you hope to return home someday.

+ By car: It’s a simple 3-hour 150-mile drive up I-5, through Canadian customs, along BC Rte 99, into downtown Vancouver. Once you cross the Oak Street Bridge turn left (westbound) on 70th Avenue, which turns into Southwest Marine Drive (or if you miss that, any of 41st, 16th, 10th or 4th Avenues) and thence to UBC at the western tip of the peninsula. If you’re driving from the U.S. you must have proof of auto insurance, which most rental car companies will provide on short notice.
+ By train: Use Amtrack’s “Cascade Corridor” Service (1-800-USA-RAIL). High-speed train service between downtown Seattle (four miles from UW) and Vancouver (about ten miles from UBC). Cost in summer 2003 was $23 each way.
+ By regular airlines: Many flights on major carriers. However, the airports of both cities are not especially convenient to either campus.