Our history

Photo of Union Station with buses in front of it

The agency you know today as Sound Transit — officially known as the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority — began in 1993 as a joint effort by the Snohomish, King, and Pierce county governments in western Washington state. 

Three years later, Sound Transit District voters went to the polls and approved “Sound Move,” the fledgling agency’s initial 10-year plan to fund the creation of a high-capacity transit network to connect the growing region.

The 1996 vote authorized taxes for funding and the agency’s first light rail, commuter rail, and express bus projects. Learn more about our modes of service.

In September of 1999, the agency launched its first transit service: ST Express buses. 

That fall, Sound Transit also celebrated moving into the headquarters we still occupy today: Seattle’s historic Union Station.   

photo of Sound Transit staff cutting the ribbon at the Northgate Station opening

Expansion milestones 

After Sound Move in 1996, regional voters continued to support further investments in transit, passing the ST2 ballot measure in 2008 and ST3 in 2016. Learn more about Sound Transit’s history of voter-approved plans.

Together, these programs paved the way for major expansion milestones like: 

  • 2000: Sounder train service debuts in the South Sound (now called the S Line) with an inaugural run from Tacoma to Seattle. 
  • 2003: Light rail joins the Sound Transit family with the opening of “Tacoma Link” (now known as the T Line).
  • 2003: Sounder service expands north of Seattle (now the N Line) to Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Everett.  
  • 2009: “Central Link” (now the 1 Line) launches between Tukwila International Boulevard Station and Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. On July 19, more than 30,000 first-day riders try the system and cheer from the platforms. A few months later, in December 2009, service reaches SeaTac and the region’s bustling airport. 
  • 2012: Sounder S Line adds two more stations, at South Tacoma and Lakewood.
  • 2016: Light rail ridership doubles when Link extends north to the University of Washington (March) and south to Angle Lake (September). 
  • 2021: As the global COVID-19 pandemic begins to recede, thousands of new passengers embrace transit when three new 1 Line stations open north of University of Washington: U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate.  
  • 2023: The Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension opens, doubling the length of Sound Transit’s first light rail project, the T Line, with six new stations. 
  • 2024: The first segment of the Link 2 Line, serving eight new stations over 6.5 miles between South Bellevue and Redmond Technology, will open in April. Later in the year, Link service will cross county lines for the first time when the 1 Line opens to Snohomish County in August. Extending north from Northgate, the 8.4-mile extension will serve four new stations in Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood.

Coming soon: Sound Transit’s system expansion program is now the largest in the nation. Explore more information to see what’s coming next!