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Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1980 No. 23 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


By reason of RCW 36.57A.110, the Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area recently established pursuant to chapter 36.57A RCW may operate a charter bus service to the same extent that such a charter bus service was previously operated by the City of Tacoma.

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                                                                     July 2, 1980

Honorable Marion Kyle Sherman
State Rep., 47th District
24629 S.E. 200th
Maple Valley, WA 98038                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1980 No. 23

Dear Representative Sherman:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does the Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area recently established pursuant to chapter 36.57A RCW have the authority to operate a charter bus service?

            We answer the foregoing question in the affirmative for the reasons and on the basis of the facts set forth in our analysis.


            A public transportation benefit area (PTBA) is a special municipal corporation, the establishment and operation of which was first authorized by chapter 270, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess.  That legislation, together with amendments not here material, is now codified in chapter 36.57A  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] RCW. For purposes of the law, the term "public transportation service" is defined by RCW 36.57A.010(8) to mean:

            ". . . the transportation of packages, passengers and their incidental baggageby means other than by chartered bus, sightseeing bus, together with the necessary passenger terminals and parking facilities or other properties necessary for passenger and vehicular access to and from such people moving systems:  PROVIDED, That nothing shall prohibit an authority from leasing its buses to private certified carriers or prohibit the authority from providing school bus service."  (Emphasis supplied)

            By reason of the underscored portion of this definition, it has been suggested that, generally speaking, a PTBA is not authorized to operate a charter bus service.  It appears to us, however, that we need not reach and determine that issue in order to deal with your immediate question.  It is our understanding that in this particular instance the geographic area being served by the Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area includes the City of Tacoma.  And, with that in mind, we note the following language of RCW 36.57A.110:

            "The public transportation benefit area shall have and exercise all rights with respect to the construction, acquisition, maintenance, operation, extension, alteration, repair, control and management of passenger transportationwhich any component city shall have been previously empowered to exercise and such powers shall not thereafter be exercised by such component cities without the consent of the public transportation benefit area:  PROVIDED, That any city owning and operating a public transportation system on July 1, 1975 may continue to operate such system within such city until such system shall have been acquired by the public transportation benefit area and a public transportation benefit area may not acquire such system without the consent of the city council of such city." (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Following receipt of your letter, we asked for and received from the Tacoma city attorney his confirmation that (a) the city of Tacoma did, indeed, operate charter busses as part of its former transportation system and (b) it had clear legal authority to do so.1/   It therefore follows, in our opinion, that the Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area may lawfully continue to offer such charter services to the same extent as they were formerly offered by the city‑-notwithstanding the apparent general lack of authority of a PTBA to operate such a charter bus service.

            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, letter dated June 9, 1980 (copy enclosed).