Open main menu

Sound Transit (ST), officially the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, is a public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Washington. It operates light rail service (Link light rail) in Seattle and Tacoma, regional Sounder commuter rail, and Sound Transit Express bus service, as well as managing the regional ORCA fare card system. In 2017, Sound Transit services carried a total of 47 million passengers and averaged 157,000 riders on weekdays.[2]

Sound Transit
Sound Transit logo.svg
Seattle Union Station in 2016.jpg
Union Station, Sound Transit's headquarters since 1999
Agency overview
FormedSeptember 17, 1993 (1993-09-17)
TypeRegional transit authority
JurisdictionSeattle metropolitan area
HeadquartersUnion Station
401 S. Jackson Street
Seattle, Washington
47°35′55.32″N 122°19′42.6″W / 47.5987000°N 122.328500°W / 47.5987000; -122.328500Coordinates: 47°35′55.32″N 122°19′42.6″W / 47.5987000°N 122.328500°W / 47.5987000; -122.328500
Motto"Ride the Wave"
Annual budget$1.6 billion USD (2017)
Agency executive
  • Peter Rogoff, CEO
Key document

Sound Transit was created in 1993 by King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to build a regional rapid transit system. After an unsuccessful proposal in 1995, the agency's plan for regional light rail, commuter rail, and express bus service, named "Sound Move", was approved in November 1996. ST began operating its express bus service, taking over existing routes from local transit agencies, in September 1999;[3] the first commuter rail line, between Tacoma and Seattle, started in December of the same year; and the first light rail line, Tacoma Link (now the Orange Line), began service in August 2003. Light rail service in Seattle began in 2009, and is the largest part of the Sound Transit system in terms of ridership. Union Station in Seattle has served as the agency's headquarters since its renovation in 1999.[4]

Sound Transit is independent of local transit agencies and is governed by an eighteen-member Board of Directors made up of elected officials from member jurisdictions and the Secretary of Transportation. It is funded by local sales taxes, property taxes, and motor vehicle excise taxes, levied within its taxing district in portions of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The agency has passed three major ballot measures to fund system expansion: Sound Move (1996), Sound Transit 2 (2008) and Sound Transit 3 (2016). Planning and construction of new light rail lines is anticipated to continue until 2041 under the Sound Transit 3 plan, expanding to a network of 116 miles (187 km) and 70 stations.


Sound Transit operates three transit services across the Seattle metropolitan area: the Link light rail system in Seattle and Tacoma; the Sounder commuter rail system from Everett to Lakewood, via Seattle; and the Sound Transit Express bus system. In 2017, these three systems carried more than 47 million passengers, including an average of 156,000 riders on weekdays.[2]

Link light railEdit

An Orange Line train in front of the Tacoma Convention Center

Sound Transit's Link light rail system currently consists of two disconnected lines: the Red Line between Seattle, Tukwila and SeaTac; and the Orange Line between Tacoma Dome Station and downtown Tacoma. The system serves 22 stations and has a total of 21.95 miles (35.33 km) of track.[5] Link light rail trains carried 23 million passengers in 2017, or an average of 71,058 per weekday,[2] making it the 10th-busiest light rail system in the United States.

Red Line trains are operated and maintained under contract with King County Metro, while Orange Line trains are operated and maintained by Sound Transit staff (the only service in the system to not have operations and maintenance performed under contract).

Sounder commuter railEdit

Sounder trains at Seattle's King Street Station.

Sounder is the name for the commuter rail services operated by Sound Transit.

Sound Transit currently operates Sounder as two separate services:

  • North Line trains operate between Everett and Seattle. There are currently 4 peak-direction round trips on the North Line.
  • South Line trains operate between Seattle, Tacoma and Lakewood. There are currently 7 peak-direction, 1 mid-day, and 2 reverse commute round-trips daily on the South Line. Sound Transit plans to eventually run up to 18 daily round-trips on the South Line once all proposed track improvements are made.

Trains are operated under contract by BNSF Railway and maintained under contract by Amtrak.

Sound Transit ExpressEdit

Sound Transit Express bus on route 550 between Bellevue and Seattle stopped at a station in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

Sound Transit Express is a network of regional express buses providing service to cities in all three counties, including Seattle, Redmond, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Issaquah, Lakewood, Bellevue, Auburn, Federal Way, Gig Harbor, Everett, Woodinville, and Tacoma. The bus fleet is owned by Sound Transit and buses are operated and maintained under contracts with local transit authorities (Community Transit, King County Metro, and Pierce Transit).

Two bus rapid transit lines, on Interstate 405 and State Route 522, are planned to open in 2024 and be known as "Stride".[6]


For its 2017 budget, Sound Transit expected annual revenue of $1.6 billion. 93% of that revenue to come from taxes, predominately local sales taxes, property taxes, and motor vehicle excise taxes, levied within its taxing district in portions of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. Passenger fares, investments, and advertising income make up the remaining 7% of revenue.

The agency has successfully passed three major ballot measures to fund system expansion, including Sound Move (1996), Sound Transit 2 (2008, and Sound Transit 3 (2016). Planning and construction of new light rail lines is anticipated to continue until 2041 under the Sound Transit 3 plan. Capital improvement projects will cost $1.3 billion in 2017.

Sound Transit's day-to-day operations were expected to lose $190 million in 2017. Tax revenues exceeded the capital improvement budget for the year, so the net loss should be $131 million.[7][needs update]



Throughout the 20th century, Seattle planners and voters rejected various proposals for rapid transit systems. The Forward Thrust program of the late 1960s produced two ballot measures for a rapid transit system that were unable to pass with the state-required supermajority for bonds. Federal funding that was allocated to the project was instead sent to Atlanta, Georgia, forming the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. The Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (Metro), the regional water quality agency, took over bus operations in King County and the city of Seattle on January 1, 1973, after approval from voters in response to the failure of Forward Thrust.

The Puget Sound Council of Governments, an inter-county planning agency, partnered with Metro to complete a light rail corridor study in 1986. The regional transportation plan was amended the following year to include rail transit, and the Washington State Legislature formed a State Rail Development Commission to study a regional transit system with light rail, commuter rail and express buses.


The predecessor to Sound Transit was a 1995 ballot measure that was rejected by voters because of its $6.7 billion cost.[8] The first Sound Transit ballot measure passed in 1996 as the current mix of buses, commuter rail and light rail, at a cost of $3.9 billion. By proposing a much smaller light rail system, the remaining funds could be used for the two other services, ensuring that the entire Seattle area received services from the measure.

Sound Transit started out in scandal. The agency faced a crisis of financial mismanagement and poor planning, and federal officials ordered an audit in 2000 and pulled promised funding. After a series of executives resigned in 2001, Joni Earl took the helm and is widely credited with saving the agency. Largely, this was by being more realistic and being more honest with the public — reportedly she used the slogan "Optimism is not our friend." Largely due to her efforts, by 2003 Sound Transit received a clean financial audit, and was re-rewarded the funding lost two years earlier. Despite this, the earlier crisis required Earl to drop about one-third of the originally promised light rail line.[9]

Sound Transit 2Edit

2007 voteEdit

Sound Transit 2 (ST2) was part of a joint ballot measure with the Regional Transportation Investment District entitled Roads and Transit, which was presented to Snohomish, King, and Pierce county voters on November 6, 2007. Sound Transit 2 would have made a number of mass transit related improvements, as well as a series of highway improvements.[10] These changes included almost 50 miles (80 km) in new light rail lines, four new parking garages, two new Sounder stations, a streetcar line connecting First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the International District, a transit center in Bothell, and two expansion studies, one for studying rapid transit across the SR-520 floating bridge and the other studying the use of the Woodinville Subdivision between Renton and Woodinville.[11] The ballot measure was defeated by voters.[12]

2008 voteEdit

The Sound Transit Board on July 24, 2008 voted to put a reduced Sound Transit 2 plan before voters. It passed by large margins (58% to 42%) on November 4, 2008.[13][14] The financial plan for the measure shows $17.8 billion expenditure over 15 years, funded with a 5-10% rise in the regional general sales tax, which essentially doubles Sound Transit's revenue. Light rail service will be extended from the currently funded northern terminus at Husky Stadium north to Lynnwood. To the south, the tracks will continue from the current southern terminus at Sea-Tac Airport to the northern edge of Federal Way. The proposed East Link Light Rail will depart from Downtown Seattle and end in Overlake via Bellevue. A First Hill Connector (streetcar) was proposed from Capitol Hill station to the Jackson Street terminus of the former Waterfront Streetcar. In total, 36 miles (58 km) of new two-way light rail track were approved by this measure.[15]

Sounder Commuter Rail will receive longer and more frequent trains, for a 30% increase in service. Express Bus service will be immediately boosted (17% increase in service; 25 additional buses) and Washington State Route 520 will receive a Bus Rapid Transit line. A new commuter rail line is proposed to run from North Renton to Snohomish if additional funding beyond the Sound Transit taxes is secured.[16]

Sound Transit 3Edit

Sound Transit 3 was a ballot measure that was approved by voters during the November 2016 elections in King, Pierce, and Snohomish in Washington. The $53.8 billion Sound Transit 3 plan will expand the existing Link light rail system to the suburbs of Tacoma, Federal Way, Everett and Issaquah, as well as the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard and West Seattle. The local portion of the measure would be partially funded by increases in sales tax, motor vehicle excise tax, and property tax.

The resulting transit network after the completion of Sound Transit 3 will include 62 miles (100 km) of additional light rail serving 37 new stations; the entire, 116-mile (187 km) light rail system would carry an estimated 600,000 daily passengers. A Sounder commuter rail extension to DuPont and bus rapid transit lines on State Route 522 and Interstate 405 are also part of the package.[17] The package's projects would open in stages from 2024 to 2041.[18]


University Link is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) extension of the Central Link light rail line (now part of the Red Line) which opened on March 19, 2016. Construction on the line began on March 6, 2009, and completed in early 2016.[19] The line is underground for its entire route and connects downtown Seattle to the University of Washington via Capitol Hill. The cost of the extension was about $1.9 billion with half of the funding coming from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The South 200th Link Extension[20] is a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) extension of the Link Light Rail system. Construction on the line began in May 2013 and opened to the public September 24, 2016. The line is aerial for its entire route and connects Seattle–Tacoma International Airport to the new Angle Lake station and park-and-ride garage at South 200th Street in SeaTac. The cost of the extension is about $383 million with funding from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, WSDOT, and Puget Sound Regional Council.

Under constructionEdit

A new line known as East Link will connect Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond using the Interstate 90 floating bridge. It would terminate at the Microsoft Redmond campus in Redmond's Overlake area. Construction began in 2016 and is expected to finish in 2023.[21]

Northgate Link Extension, an expansion of the Link Light Rail system from the University of Washington to Northgate, was approved by voters in November 2008. The light rail line will link the University of Washington station to the University District and Roosevelt, finally terminating at the Northgate Transit Center. Construction began in 2012 and is expected to be completed by 2021.[22]

The Orange Line Hilltop Expansion Project is currently under construction to extend the current Orange Line from the Theater District Station to St. Joseph Hospital, via Wright Park and Tacoma General Hospital along Stadium Way, Division Street, and Martin Luther King Jr Way.[23]

Funded projectsEdit

The Lynnwood Link Extension is expected to further extend the Red and Blue lines from the future Northgate stop to Lynnwood, via stations at NE 145th Street, NE 185th Street, and Mountlake Terrace. The extension is expected to be elevated along the entire route.[24] Despite concerns that President Trump's proposed budget could cut federal funding for the project,[25] in Fiscal Year 2017, Sound Transit received $100 million of the requested $1.2 billion in federal funding.[26] This funding was followed up in Fiscal Year 2018 with another $100 million.[27] At the end of Fiscal Year 2018, the full $1.2 billion grant, as well as $650 million in low-interest loans were approved by Congress, fully securing the requested federal funding.[28]

The Federal Way Link Extension is expected to extend the Red Line from Angle Lake station to Redondo/Star Lake, in a plan approved by the region's voters in November 2008. The project would add 4.8-mile (7.7 km) of track with stations at Highline Community College and Redondo/Star Lake. As the cost estimates have not yet been considered, the line is expected to be a primarily aerial line along SR 99. Final alignment and station designs are to be determined through the project level design and environmental review.[29]

Sound Transit 3Edit

Sound Transit 3 is an approved 2016 ballot measure that will expand Sound Transit services with $54 billion in funding (combining local taxes and federal grants) over a 25-year period beginning after the completion of Sound Transit 2. The measure will add 62 miles (100 km) of light rail, with the completed 116-mile (187 km) system carrying an estimated 500,000 riders per day.[30] The plan also funds Sound Transit Express bus routes, adds two Bus Rapid Transit lines and expands Sounder commuter rail with longer trains, potentially better frequency and two additional stations in Tillicum (near Joint Base Lewis–McChord) and DuPont.


King County Sheriff's Office patrol car in Sound Transit Police livery.

Sound Transit contracts with the King County Sheriff's Office for police services. Deputies assigned to Sound Transit wear Sound Transit uniforms and drive patrol cars marked with the Sound Transit logo. There is currently one chief, one captain, five sergeants, four detectives, 23 patrol officers, and a crime analyst[31] assigned full-time to Sound Transit.

Sound Transit officers patrol Sound Transit property around Puget Sound including vehicles (trains & buses) and stations.

Board of directorsEdit

The current CEO of Sound Transit is Peter Rogoff. He served as President Obama's Federal Transit Administrator and Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Sound Transit is governed by an 18-member Board of Directors, which sets policies and provides direction to the CEO and staff.[32] By state law, the board includes the Washington State Secretary of Transportation and the King, Pierce, and Snohomish County Executives. The three county executives appoint other elected officials from their counties to the remaining seats on the board, which are apportioned based on population, with each county receiving a seat for each 145,000 people that live within the county.[33]

As of 2019, the board members are:[34]

Member Position Representing Notes
John Marchione Redmond Mayor King County Board Chair
Ron Lucas Steilacoom Mayor Pierce County Board Vice Chair
Paul Roberts Everett Councilmember Snohomish County Board Vice Chair
Nancy Backus Auburn Mayor King County
David Baker Kenmore Mayor King County
Claudia Balducci King County Councilmember King County
Dow Constantine King County Executive King County
Bruce Dammeier Pierce County Executive Pierce County
Jenny Durkan Seattle Mayor King County
Dave Earling Edmonds Mayor Snohomish County
Rob Johnson Seattle City Councilmember King County
Kent Keel University Place Mayor Pierce County
Joe McDermott King County Councilmember King County
Roger Millar Washington State Secretary of Transportation State of Washington
Dave Upthegrove King County Councilmember King County
Pete von Reichbauer King County Councilmember King County
Dave Somers Snohomish County Executive Snohomish County
Victoria Woodards Tacoma Mayor Pierce County

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Accountability Audit Report: Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit), For the period January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017". Washington State Auditor. December 31, 2018. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Fourth Quarter 2017 Service Delivery Quarterly Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. February 22, 2018. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  3. ^ "Sound Transit marks 10 years of serving customers" (Press release). Sound Transit. September 18, 2009. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  4. ^ "Regional Transit System Planning". Sound Transit. Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  5. ^ "Schedules". Sound Transit. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  6. ^ "Provide feedback on access to future BRT stations". Sound Transit. January 11, 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  7. ^ "2017 Adopted Budget" (PDF). Sound Transit. December 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  8. ^ Sane Transit v. Sound Transit, 151 Wn.2d 60, 64 (The Supreme Court of Washington Mar 4, 2004) ("After the voters rejected Sound Transit's 1995 proposal for a $6.9 billion, 16-year regional transit plan, Sound Transit promulgated a second, less ambitious plan in May 1996.").
  9. ^ "How Joni Earl saved light rail | Crosscut". Crosscut. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  10. ^ Larry Lange (April 26, 2007). "Sound Transit expansion ballot-bound". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved April 27, 2007.
  11. ^ "Sound Transit completes major transit expansion package for November Roads & Transit vote" (Press release). Sound Transit. April 26, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  12. ^ Larry Lange (November 7, 2007). "Proposition 1: Voters hit the brakes". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
  13. ^ Lindblom, Mike (November 5, 2008). "Sound Transit calls Prop. 1 a gift "to our grandchildren"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  14. ^ "Election 2008 | Complete results — Ballot measures". The Seattle Times. November 5, 2008. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  15. ^ "Sound Transit System Expansion -- News Release". Sound Transit. July 24, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
  16. ^ "Sound Transit System Expansion -- What's Proposed". Sound Transit. August 8, 2008. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
  17. ^ "Sound Transit 3 Overview". Sound Transit. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  18. ^ "Sound Transit takes its game to the next level with kickoff of massive infrastructure investments" (Press release). Sound Transit. April 27, 2017. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  19. ^ David Schaefer (November 8, 1996). "Voters Back Transit Plan On Fourth Try". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  20. ^ "South 200th Link Extension". Sound Transit. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  21. ^ Murray, Ryan (April 25, 2016). "Sound Transit breaks ground in Bellevue". Bellevue Reporter. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  22. ^ "Project phases – Northgate Link Extension". Sound Transit. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  23. ^ "Tacoma Link Expansion". Sound Transit. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  24. ^ "Lynnwood Link Extension Project". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  25. ^ "Puget Sound transit projects would lose big under Trump budget". Sound Transit Projects. The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  26. ^ "Lynnwood Link light rail extension receives $100 million federal appropriation". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  27. ^ "Federal Transit Administration allocates $100 million in FY 2018 funding for Lynnwood Link light rail extension". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  28. ^ "Federal Transit Administration executes $1.17 billion grant and $658 million loan for Lynnwood light rail". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  29. ^ "South Corridor HCT Project". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  30. ^ Lindblom, Mike (March 24, 2016). "$50B Sound Transit proposal: big taxes, big spending, big plan". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  31. ^ Earl, Joni (February 26, 2010). "Sound Transit: CEO Corner". Archived from the original on August 15, 2006. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
  32. ^ "Sound Transit: Board of Directors". Sound Transit. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  33. ^ "RCW 81.112.040". State of Washington.
  34. ^ "Board Members | Sound Transit". Sound Transit. Retrieved January 22, 2019.

External linksEdit