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Sound Transit

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Sound Transit
Sound Transit logo.svg
Locale Puget Sound region, Washington
Transit type Regional express bus, commuter rail and light rail.
Number of lines 27 express bus
2 commuter rail
2 light rail
Daily ridership 96,000 (weekday, 2013)[1]
Annual ridership 30 million (estimated, 2013)[1]
Chief executive Peter M. Rogoff
Headquarters Union Station, 401 S Jackson St, Seattle
Began operation September 19, 1999[2]
Operator(s) Community Transit, King County Metro, Pierce Transit, BNSF Railway
Number of vehicles 350[2]

Sound Transit, officially the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, is a regional transit system serving the Greater Seattle area since September 19, 1999.[2] It was formed in 1996[3] by the Snohomish, King, and Pierce County Councils. It operates express bus, commuter rail, and light rail service in the region and constructs capital projects in support and expansion of those services.


Sound Transit offers three main services. A series of express buses throughout the metro area, commuter rail lines running on existing freight rail tracks, and a light rail system.

Sound Transit Express bus[edit]

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

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 maintained and operated under contracts with local transit authorities (Community Transit, King County Metro, and Pierce Transit).

Sounder commuter rail[edit]

Sounder trains at Seattle's King Street Station.
Main article: Sounder commuter rail

Sounder, a commuter rail service between Everett and Seattle, and between Seattle, Tacoma and Lakewood is operated under contract by BNSF Railway. There are currently 7 peak-direction and 2 reverse commute round-trips daily between Lakewood, Tacoma and Seattle and 4 peak-direction round trips between Everett and Seattle. Sound Transit will eventually run up to 18 daily round-trips from Tacoma once all trackwork is completed by BNSF Railway. In 2012 service was extended to serve south Tacoma and Lakewood stations.

Current stations are:

Everett Station, built in 2002 for the Sounder North Line and Amtrak

Link Light Rail[edit]

Main article: Link Light Rail
Tacoma Link train in front of the Tacoma Convention Center.

Sound Transit's light rail system consists of a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) line in Tacoma called Tacoma Link and a 14.6-mile (23.5 km) line in Seattle, Tukwila, and SeaTac called Central Link.

Tacoma Link connects the city's Theater District, Convention Center, Union Station (a former train station now serving as a federal courthouse), and Tacoma Dome area.

Central Link runs between downtown Seattle and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The initial section opened on July 18, 2009.[4] The initial section runs through the Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, and portions of Tukwila. On December 19, 2009, the line was extended to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport through Tukwila and SeaTac.

From 1998 to 2009 Seattle artist Norie Sato was system artist for Sound Transit, contributing her own work and coordinating the work of the many others including local artists Sheila Klein and Dan Corson who helped design the nine stations of the light rail system.[5]



The predecessor to Sound Transit was an early 1990s ballot measure. This measure would have been all light rail, with no bus or commuter rail services. This meant that no service was provided to some major suburbs, such as Everett, and opposition from the suburban communities ultimately lead to its failure.[citation needed]

The first Sound Transit ballot measure passed in 1996 as the current mix of buses, commuter rail and light rail. By proposes a much smaller light rail line, 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.[6]

Sound Transit 2[edit]

2007 vote[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8] The ballot measure was defeated by voters.[9]

2008 vote[edit]

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.[10][11] 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. Central Link Light Rail 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) is proposed from Central Link's 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.[12]

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.[13]

Future plans[edit]

Under construction[edit]

University Link is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) extension of the Central Link Light Rail system that is currently under construction. Construction on the line began on March 6, 2009, and is scheduled to be complete by early 2016. The line will be underground for its entire route and will connect downtown Seattle to the University of Washington via Capitol Hill. The cost of the extension is about $1.9 billion with half of the funding expected to come from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

South Link[14] is a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) extension of the Link Light Rail system that is currently under construction. Construction on the line began in May 2013, and is scheduled to be complete by 2018. The line will be aerial for its entire route, and will connect 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 expected to come from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, WSDOT, and Puget Sound Regional Council.

Funded projects[edit]

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. Although Sound Transit is currently developing the schedule for final design and construction, it already finished the North Link's Final Environmental Impact Statement in April 2006. The light rail line will link the University of Washington station to Brooklyn and Roosevelt, finally terminating at the Northgate Transit Center. The Northgate station would further provide access to the Northgate Mall and Lynnwood, via the Lynnwood Link Extension Project. This line is expected to be completed by 2021, following the completion of the University Link in 2016.[15] Continuing further north, the Lynnwood Link Extension Project is expected to extend the line from the future Nortgate stop to Lynnwood, via stations at NE 145th Street, NE 185th Street, and Mountlake Terrace. However the Lynnwood Link Extension Project will rely primarily on federal grant money, for which Sound Transit still will need to complete the Alternative Analysis stage to qualify. Although this also means that the stations can be changed to reflect a number of scenarios, the Link Light Rail line is expected to be elevated.[16]

The South Link Project is expected to extend Link Light Rail from the planned S. 200th Street stop 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.[17]

The Tacoma Link Expansion Project[18] is currently under study to extend the current Tacoma Link light rail 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.[19]

A new line known as East Link will connect Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond using the Interstate 90 floating bridge. This would also serve the main campus of Microsoft. Construction is expected to being in 2017.

Sound Transit 3[edit]

Sound Transit 3 is a proposed 2016 ballot measure to expand Sound Transit. The projects involved have not yet been decided, but would likely include light rail to Everett and Tacoma, and several neighborhoods in Seattle.


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[20] assigned full-time to Sound Transit.

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

Board of Directors[edit]

The current CEO of Sound Transit is Joni Earl. She took the position in 2001 and will retire in early 2016 once the extension to the University of Washington is complete.[6] Her replacement will be US Transportation under-secretary Peter Rogoff.[21]

Sound Transit is governed by an 18-member Board of Directors, which sets policies and provides direction to the CEO and staff.[22] By state law, the board includes the Washington State Secretary of Transportation and the King, Pierce, and Snohomish County Executives. These three executives also appoint other elected officials from their counties to the remaining seats on the board.[23]

As of 2016, the board members are:[24]

Member Position Notes
Dow Constantine King County Executive Board Chair
Paul Roberts Everett City Councilmember Board Vice Chair
Marilyn Strickland Mayor of Tacoma Board Vice Chair
Nancy Backus Mayor of Auburn
Claudia Balducci Mayor of Bellevue
Fred Butler Issaquah City Council President
Dave Earling Mayor of Edmonds
Dave Enslow Mayor of Sumner
Rob Johnson Seattle City Councilmember
John Marchione Mayor of Redmond
Pat McCarthy Pierce County Executive
Joe McDermott King County Council Chairman
Roger Millar Acting Secretary of Transportation
Mary Moss Lakewood City Councilmember
Ed Murray Mayor of Seattle
Dave Somers Snohomish County Executive
Dave Upthegrove King County Councilmember
Pete von Reichbauer King County Councilmember

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c "Sound Transit marks 10 years of serving customers". Sound Transit. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  3. ^ "Regional Transit System Planning". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  4. ^ Lindblom, Mike (2009-04-20). "Light rail to open July 18". The Seattle Times. 
  5. ^ Longtime light-rail artist Norie Sato is ‘curator’ of Link station art; Seattle Times, July 11, 2009
  6. ^ a b "How Joni Earl saved light rail | Crosscut". Crosscut. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  7. ^ Larry Lange (2007-04-26). "Sound Transit expansion ballot-bound". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  8. ^ "Sound Transit completes major transit expansion package for November Roads & Transit vote". Sound Transit. 2007-04-26. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  9. ^ Larry Lange (2007-11-07). "Proposition 1: Voters hit the brakes". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  10. ^ Lindblom, Mike. "Sound Transit calls Prop. 1 a gift "to our grandchildren"" 5 Nov. 2008. Seattle Times. <>.
  11. ^ "Election 2008 | Complete results — Ballot measures". The Seattle Times. 5 November 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "Sound Transit System Expansion -- News Release". Sound Transit. 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  13. ^ "Sound Transit System Expansion -- What's Proposed". Sound Transit. 2008-08-08. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Northgate Link Extension". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  16. ^ "Lynnwood Link Extension Project". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  17. ^ "South Corridor HCT Project". Sound Transit Projects. Sound Transit. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Earl, Joni (2010-02-26). "Sound Transit: CEO Corner". Archived from the original on 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  21. ^ III, Ashley Halsey (2015-11-20). "Transportation Undersecretary Peter Rogoff is departing for Seattle". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  22. ^ "Sound Transit: Board of Directors". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  23. ^ "RCW 81.112.040". State of Washington. 
  24. ^ "Sound Transit: Board of Directors". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2016-02-12. 

External links[edit]