First Time Sounder Guide

The ultimate guide to getting around by Sounder commuter train

The Sounder commuter train runs from Lakewood to Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Downtown Seattle and Everett. With so much service area, the Sounder train helps you easily choose alternative transportation modes that get you where you need to go while saving money and lowering carbon emissions.

Riding is stress-free and enjoyable when you know the basics. Check out these tips for new riders!


The Sound Transit Trip Planner makes it easy to plan your trip route:

  1. Enter your starting location and destination.
  2. Choose if you’d like to ‘Leave now,’ ‘Arrive by’ or ‘Depart after’ a designated date and time. 
  3. Enter optional filters, such as wheelchair accessibility and maximum walking distance between transfers.
  4. Select ‘Plan your trip.’
  5. The trip planner shows you the best route(s), including mixed use of the bus, Sounder train, or Link light rail and total walking time and distance between transfers based on your itinerary.

You may also want to check out the Sounder commuter train routes and schedules online

First time sounder guide - PLAN YOUR TRIP

Our favorite Sounder tips:

  • Travel to popular destinations, such as the Sea-Tac airport and major stadiums, on the Sounder to avoid traffic and parking woes.
  • Use the ORCA card to buy your fare — it’s reloadable online to make paying for transit fares a breeze!
  • Subscribe to Rider Alerts for email or text updates about changes or delays on Sound Transit routes.


You have a few options to purchase your Sounder train ticket:

  • Use your ORCA Card: Buy/load your ORCA card online or at a ticket vending machine located at any of the Sounder train stations. Make sure you have enough loaded on your card for your trip and then tap the card on the yellow card reader when starting and ending your trip. ORCA calculates the cost of your trip and deducts the amount from your account. Fare inspectors may ask to check your ORCA card.
  • Purchase your ticket using the Transit GO Ticket app: Buy your pass on the application and activate your boarding pass before getting onto the Sounder. Fare inspectors may ask to see your mobile ticket.
  • Buy a ticket through a ticket machine: Ticket machines, located at every Sounder train station, let you buy a single trip or all-day/round trip ticket using cash, credit or debit card, or ORCA card. Be sure to carry your ticket with you for your entire ride. Fare inspectors may ask to see your printed ticket.
First time sounder guide - BUY YOUR TICKET


Arrive early at the Sounder station to park and buy your ticket, if necessary, and to safely get to your departing train on time.

If you drive to the Sounder station, you can park at a nearby parking lot

Riding a bike to the station? Take your bike with you — there are four bike spots available on each train. You can also use a free bike rack to lock up your bike or store it in a paid locker or cage. Check out the Sound Transit bike information page for more information on taking your bike on the train and where to lock up at stations.


If using your ORCA card, you’ll need to tap it on the yellow card readers once before boarding the train. 

Once the doors open, let people with disabilities and seniors board first. Once you board, find a comfortable seat on the lower or upper level of a car.

If you are using your ORCA card to pay your fare, tap your card at the yellow card reading station when you board. Whether using your ORCA card, a paper ticket or ticket purchased on the mobile app, a fare inspector may ask to see it.

Take a look at the Sound Transit Rules and Etiquette guidelines to make the trip enjoyable and safe for all riders. Restrooms are available in all cars for your convenience.

First time sounder guide - GET TO THE TRAIN STATION

Our favorite train riding activities:

  • Take advantage of free wireless internet to get some work done or surf the web
  • Sit back and relax while listening to a podcast or music through your headphones
  • Play Sudoku or do crossword puzzles
  • Read a book or the newspaper
  • Relax!


When you deboard, make sure you have all your belongings. If you used an ORCA card, tap off at a reader station before continuing on to your destination.

Continuing your ride on public transit? Check out these tips for transferring between rail and bus.

First time sounder guide - PAY BOARD THE TRAIN


For every trip you log into the RTP Trip Calendar you can see how much money you’re saving and be entered to win prizes!

First time sounder guide - ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION