How Sound Transit was established
In the early 1990s, the Washington State Legislature authorized King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to create a single agency -- The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) -- to plan, build and operate a high-capacity transit system within the region's most heavily travelled corridors. The Sound Transit District includes the three-county area's urban centers and close to half of the state's population. In September 1993, the Sound Transit Board of Directors held its first official meeting.
In May 1996, the Sound Transit Board adopted Sound Move . The plan includes a mix of transportation improvements: high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access improvements, ST Express bus routes, Sounder commuter rail and Link light rail. The plan includes new community "gateways" -- connections in urban and suburban areas for communities to connect to the rest of the region. Sound Move is a comprehensive regional transit plan made up of almost 100 separate but interrelated capital and service projects. The plan also contains commitments to:
- Equitable revenue distribution. Local tax revenues will be used to benefit the five subareas of the Sound Transit District (Snohomish County, North King County, South King County, East King County and Pierce County) based on the share of revenues each subarea generates.
- Simultaneous work on projects in all subareas. Work will begin on projects in each of the subareas so benefits will be realized throughout the region as soon as possible. Projects likely to be implemented in the latter part of the first phase are those requiring extensive engineering and community planning.
- Coordinated services and integrated fares. Regional and local transit services will be coordinated and an integrated fare structure developed.
- System expansion or tax rollback. Any second phase capital program that continues using local taxes for financing will require voter approval. In the absence of voter approval of any plan to expand the system, Sound Transit will roll back the tax rate to a level sufficient to pay off outstanding debt, and operate and maintain the investments made as part of Sound Move.
- Annexations and extensions of service outside the Sound Transit District. Sound Transit may provide services outside taxing district by contracting with local agencies. Areas that would benefit from Sound Transit services may be annexed into the Sound Transit District if citizens within those areas vote for annexation.
- Public accountability. Sound Transit will hire independent auditors and appoint a citizen committee to monitor Sound Transit's performance in carrying out its public commitments. Citizens will be directly involved in the placement, design and implementation of facilities in their communities.
On November 5, 1996, voters in the three-county Sound Transit district approved the local taxes necessary to fund the regional bus and rail transit systems described in Sound Move by a 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent margin. The measure received a majority of votes in each of the three counties in the Sound Transit District (58.8 percent in King County, 54.4 percent in Snohomish County and 50.1 percent in Pierce County).