​Paying for regional transit

Voter-approved taxes that pay for new transit

Voter-approved funding sources

Motor vehicle excise taxes (car tabs), property taxes and sales taxes make up just over half of Sound Transit's total funding. The rest comes from federal grants, fares, interest earnings and miscellaneous revenue. In 1996, 2008 and 2016 voters within the Sound Transit District approved tax increases to build and operate the regional mass transit system. These taxes will help complete the voter-approved program to extend light rail to Tacoma, Everett, Redmond, Issaquah, Ballard, West Seattle and cities in between; extend Sounder commuter rail to DuPont while expanding capacity; provide bus rapid transit (BRT) service on I-405 and SR 522; and add parking and access improvements at station facilities.

Tax Total Imposed/Levied
Car tab (MVET)              1.1% ($110 annually for each $10,000 of vehicle valuation)
Property tax $0.25 annually per $1,000 of assessed valuation ($100 annually on a $400,000 house)
Sales and use tax 1.4% ($0.14 on a $10 taxable purchase)
Rental car sales 0.8 percent ($0.80 on a $100 car rental)

With voter approval in November 2016, an additional 0.5 percent sales and use tax took effect April 1, 2017; an additional 0.8 percent MVET tax began March 1, 2017 with new and renewal vehicle registrations; and a new property tax of $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation began Jan. 1, 2017.

An additional rental car increase of up to 1.372 percent ($1.37 on a $100 car rental) can be authorized by the Sound Transit Board in the future.

State law obligates the Sound Transit Board to roll back taxes to the level required for permanent operations and maintenance of the system following completion of transit capital projects unless a future ballot measure directs otherwise. Within seven years of the scheduled 2041 completion of the system authorized by voters in 2016, Sound Transit and an independent advisor, Piper Jaffray & Co., have calculated that the entire taxes authorized in 2016 could be eliminated, along with approximately 11 percent of the sales taxes authorized in 1996 and 2008. This or an alternate mix of tax reductions could cut total agency tax collections in half.

The 0.3 percent car tab tax approved by voters in 1996 will expire in 2028, reducing car tab taxes from 1.1 percent to the 0.8 percent level approved by voters in 2016.

Sound Transit's policy of subarea equity means tax dollars raised in each of the five geographic areas forming the Sound Transit District are used for the projects and services that benefit that area's residents. Subarea equity requirements are legally binding and regularly undergo independent audits. The five subareas are: Snohomish County, Seattle area, South King County, East King County and Pierce County.