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Public Transportation Systems in Washington

This page lists the local public transportation (transit) systems in Washington State, along with their various enabling statutes, funding sources, and basic service information.

Overview

As of 2017, there are 32 transit districts/systems in Washington, most of which are operated as public transportation benefit areas (PTBAs) or other special purpose districts. A few are directly operated by cities or counties. Below is the breakdown:

  • 21 public transportation benefit areas 
  • 5 city transit agencies
  • 3 county public transportation authorities
  • 1 metropolitan county transit agency
  • 1 unincorporated transportation benefit area
  • 1 regional transit authority

For a map of the transit districts, see WSDOT's map of transit authority districts.

Statutes

Below are some of the statutes relevant to transit agencies in Washington:

  • Cities and Towns - Authority to acquire and operate transportation facilities - RCW 35.92.060
  • Municipal Public Transportation System (1965) - Ch. 35.95 RCW - Provides for financing
  • Utility and Other Services Beyond City Limits - See RCW 35.84.060 - Street Railway Extensions - Provides that municipal corporation which owns or operates an urban public transportation system as defined in RCW 47.04.082 within its corporate limits may acquire, construct, extend, own, or operate such urban public transportation system to any point or points not to exceed fifteen miles outside of its corporate limits. Urban public transportation system definition includes buses, streetcars, trains, electric trolley coaches, other public transit vehicles.
  • City Transportation Authority - Seattle Monorail (2002) - Ch. 35.95A RCW
  • County Ferry District, passenger-only (2003) - RCW 36.54.110 - RCW 36.54.190
  • County Public Transportation Authority (1974) - Ch. 36.57 RCW
  • Public Transportation Benefit Area (1975) - Ch. 36.57A RCW
  • Public Transportation Systems - Authority of municipalities to acquire, operate, etc. -- Indebtedness -- Bond issues - RCW 35.58.2721
  • Regional Transit Authorities - Sound Transit (1992) - Ch. 81.112 RCW
  • Unincorporated Transportation Benefit Areas (1975) - RCW 36.57.100
  • Transit Taxes
    • RCW 82.14.045 - Sales and Use Tax for Public Transportation Systems
    • RCW 35.95.040 - Levy and Collection of Excise Taxes Authorized

List of Transit Systems

Public Transportation Benefit Areas (PTBAs)

Most transit systems in Washington are public transportation benefit areas (PTBAs), special purpose districts formed specifically to provide transit service. PTBAs are governed by chapter 36.57A RCW, adopted in 1975.

Below is a list of all known PTBAs as of 2017 and their current sales tax rates.

Agency Sales Tax Rate Notes
Asotin County PTBA 0.2% Began providing transit service by contract with Valley Transit in 2004; assumed direct operation of transit service in 2010. Also provides service to Lewiston, ID.
Ben Franklin Transit 0.6% Serves Tri-Cities area and some unincorporated parts of Benton and Franklin counties.
Clallam Transit System 0.6% Serves all of Clallam County.
Community Transit (Snohomish County PTBA) 1.2%1 Established in 1976 and gradually expanded in 1980s and 1990s to include all cities and towns in Snohomish County (except Everett, which operates its own transit system), Tulalip Indian Reservation, and many unincorporated areas.
C-TRAN (Clark County PTBA) 0.7% Serves Vancouver and its urban growth area, as well as current city limits of Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal, and Yacolt. (Used to be countywide; boundaries were reduced in 2005 after a failed 2004 ballot measure.) Also provides service to downtown Portland, OR.
Grant Transit Authority 0.2% Serves all of Grant County. Paratransit service provided through contract with nonprofit organization (People for People).
Intercity Transit (Thurston County) 0.8% Serves Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm, and areas approximating their urban growth boundaries. Only transit system in the state with private citizens serving on its governing board (3 citizens appointed by board).
Island Transit 0.9% Serves all of Island County. No fares on most routes.
Jefferson Transit Authority 0.9% Serves all of Jefferson County. Different fare structures for eastern and western parts of county.
Kitsap Transit 1.1%2 Serves all of Kitsap County. Introducing high-speed passenger-only ferry service from Bremerton, Kingston, and Southworth to downtown Seattle (2017-2020).
Link Transit 0.4% Serves all of Chelan County and part of Douglas County.
Mason Transit 0.6% Serves all of Mason County.
Pacific Transit System 0.3% Serves all of Pacific County. Also provides service to Astoria, OR.
Pierce Transit 0.6% Serves Tacoma and vicinity. Bonney Lake, Buckley, DuPont, Orting, and Sumner opted to leave the PTBA in 2012.
RiverCities Transit (Cowlitz Transit Authority) 0.3% Serves Kelso and Longview (Cowlitz County). PTBA serves as taxing authority only - all transit and administrative services are provided through contract with City of Longview.
Skagit Transit 0.4% Initially served just the Burlington and Mount Vernon areas when formed in 1993, but has since expanded to include all cities and towns in Skagit County, as well as many unincorporated areas.
Spokane Transit 0.8% Serves Airway Heights, Cheney, Medical Lake, Millwood, Liberty Lake, Spokane, and Spokane Valley, plus nearby unincorporated areas. Voters approved additional 0.2% sales tax (to 0.8%) in 2016, expiring in 2028.
TranGO (Okanogan County Transit Authority) 0.4% Serves all of Okanogan County except Colville Reservation. PTBA initially created in 1996 but not funded. Voters approved the first sales tax in 2013 and service began 2014. Contracts with nonprofit organization to provide paratransit service.
Twin Transit (Lewis County PTBA) 0.2% Serves Centralia and Chehalis (Lewis County).
Valley Transit 0.6% Serves College Place, City of Walla Walla, and nearby unincorporated areas.
Whatcom Transportation Authority 0.6% Serves Whatcom County, including all cities and towns and the Lummi Nation.

Includes additional 0.3% sales tax under RCW 82.14.045(3) for PTBAs in a county of 700,000 or more that includes a city of 75,000 or more. [back to table]

2 Includes additional 0.3% sales tax for high-speed passenger-only ferry service under RCW 82.14.440. [back to table]

City Transit Agencies

Agency Funding Source Notes
Everett Transit 0.6% sales tax Operates as the city transportation services department, under the direction of the transportation services director (part of the mayor's senior management). CEO is mayor, who has authority to modify service and adjust schedules. City council has authority to establish fares and recommend tax rates.
Pullman Transit 2.0% utility tax Part of the public works department, under the direction of the public works director. Governing body is city council.
Selah Transit 0.3% sales tax All services provided through contract with Yakima Transit. Contract is overseen by public works director.
Yakima Transit 0.3% sales tax Part of the public works department. Transit manager oversees daily operations and reports to public works director and city manager. Governing body is city council. Also provides contract service to Selah.
Union Gap Transit 0.2% sales tax All services provided through contract with private company (Medstar Transportation). No fares. Contract overseen by city council.

County Public Transportation Authorities

County public transportation authorities (Sec. 36.57.010 - 36.57.090 RCW) may be formed by any county to provide countywide public transportation services (including all cities and towns within the county).

Agency Sales Tax Rate Notes
Columbia County Public Transportation 0.4% Demand response only. Began providing service in 1996 as a county department, county public transportation authority formed in 2005.
Garfield County Transportation Authority 0.4% Demand response only. Initially formed as unincorporated public transportation benefit area, converted to county public transportation authority (including Pomeroy) in 2016.
Grays Harbor Transit 0.6% Fixed routes and vanpool program. Incorporated 1974.

Metropolitan County Transit Agency

Agency Funding Notes
King County Metro Transit 0.9% sales tax Serves entire county, including all cities and towns. Initially operated by Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle in 1972, merged with King County in 1992 (retaining powers of RCW 35.58)

Unincorporated Transportation Benefit Areas

Unincorporated transportation benefit areas (UTBAs - see Sec. 36.57.100 - 36.57.100 RCW, adopted 1975) allow counties to perform transit functions in some or all of their unincorporated areas, except areas already included in a PTBA. The UTBA may only include areas that would reasonably assume to benefit from such service.

Currently, there is only one UTBA in Washington. (Garfield County replaced its UTBA with a county public transportation authority in 2016.)

Agency Funding Notes
Whitman County UTBA N/A Established in 2009 to provide vanpool service, but county did not take further action and does not currently provide service.

Regional Transit Authority

Regional transit authorities (RTAs) may be formed by two or more contiguous counties each with a population of 400,000 or more, for the purpose of developing and operating a high capacity transit system.

RTAs are governed by Ch. 81.112 RCW, adopted in 1992. Sound Transit is the only RTA, and no other counties are currently eligible.

Agency Funding Notes
Sound Transit Property taxes, sales taxes, motor vehicle excise taxes Provides light rail, commuter rail, and express bus service to King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

Intercity Bus Program

The WSDOT Travel Washington Intercity Bus Program also provides service between cities in some areas. 

Recommended Resources


Last Modified: May 04, 2017