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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 151,854 (May 2016, weekdays)[1]
Annual ridership 30 million (estimated, 2013)[2]
Chief executive Peter M. Rogoff
Headquarters Union Station, 401 S Jackson St, Seattle
Began operation September 19, 1999[3]
Operator(s) Community Transit, King County Metro, Pierce Transit, BNSF Railway
Number of vehicles 350[3]

Sound Transit, officially the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, is a regional transit system serving the Greater Seattle area since September 19, 1999.[3] It was formed in 1996[4] 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[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 operated and maintained 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, is the name for the commuter rail services operated 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 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.

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 line in Tacoma called Tacoma Link and a line in Seattle, Tukwila, and SeaTac called Central Link.

Central Link trains are operated and maintained under contract with King County Metro and Tacoma Link trains are operated and maintained by Sound Transit staff (the only service in the system to not have operations and maintenance performed under contract).


Further information: History of Link light rail


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 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] The ballot measure was defeated by voters.[8]

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.[9][10] 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.[11]

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.[12]


University Link is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) extension of the Central Link Light Rail system which opened on March 19, 2016. Construction on the line began on March 6, 2009, and completed in early 2016.[13] 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 is about $1.9 billion with half of the funding expected to come from a grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Under construction[edit]

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 late 2016. 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 begin in 2017.

Sound Transit 3[edit]

Sound Transit 3 is a proposed 2016 ballot measure to expand Sound Transit. $50 billion would be spent over 25 years through new and existing taxes along with federal funding. When built out, the system would be 108 miles (174 km) long and carry an estimated 500,000 riders per day.[20] The projects identified for the ballot measure include the following:

  • Infill stations at Boeing Access Road in Renton, Graham Street in Seattle, and a provisional infill station at 130th in Lynnwood
  • Light rail to Ballard, which will include a new transit tunnel in Downtown Seattle
  • Light rail to West Seattle
  • Light rail to Federal Way and Tacoma
  • Tacoma Link extension from Tacoma to Tacoma Community College
  • Light rail extension from Lynnwood to Everett via Paine Field
  • East Link extension to Downtown Redmond
  • New light rail line from Issaquah to Bellevue
  • Bus rapid transit along Interstate 405 from Lynnwood to Burien
  • Bus rapid transit along SR 522 and NE 145th St to Bothell
  • Capacity improvements along South Sounder and extension to Tillicum and DuPont
  • Transit studies from Everett to North Everett, Ballard to Kirkland via University of Washington, and West Seattle to Renton via Burien.

The original plan was criticized for its lengthy timeline, with many projects taking nearly twenty years to complete. A revised plan moved the timeline forward, and the Sound Transit board will adopt a final plan by June 2016.[21]


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[22] 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 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.[23] 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.[24]

As of 2016, the board members are:[25]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "May 2016 Service Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 7, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "Sound Transit marks 10 years of serving customers". Sound Transit. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  4. ^ "Regional Transit System Planning". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  5. ^ "How Joni Earl saved light rail | Crosscut". Crosscut. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  6. ^ Larry Lange (2007-04-26). "Sound Transit expansion ballot-bound". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  7. ^ "Sound Transit completes major transit expansion package for November Roads & Transit vote". Sound Transit. 2007-04-26. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  8. ^ Larry Lange (2007-11-07). "Proposition 1: Voters hit the brakes". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  9. ^ Lindblom, Mike. "Sound Transit calls Prop. 1 a gift "to our grandchildren"" 5 Nov. 2008. Seattle Times. <>.
  10. ^ "Election 2008 | Complete results — Ballot measures". The Seattle Times. 5 November 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Sound Transit System Expansion -- News Release". Sound Transit. 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  12. ^ "Sound Transit System Expansion -- What's Proposed". Sound Transit. 2008-08-08. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  13. ^ David Schaefer (November 8, 1996). "Voters Back Transit Plan On Fourth Try". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 26, 2007. 
  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. ^ Lindblom, Mike (24 March 2016). "$50B Sound Transit proposal: big taxes, big spending, big plan". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  21. ^ Lindblom, Mike (26 May 2016). "Light-rail stations could open years earlier under new Sound Transit plan". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  22. ^ Earl, Joni (2010-02-26). "Sound Transit: CEO Corner". Archived from the original on 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  23. ^ "Sound Transit: Board of Directors". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  24. ^ "RCW 81.112.040". State of Washington. 
  25. ^ "Sound Transit: Board of Directors". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2016-02-12. 

External links[edit]