I’ve been thinking more and more about the Tacoma streetcars, and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. So Pantograph Trolleypole pointed out that Portland built six track-miles of streetcar for $56 million. In the latest ST2 proposal, Sound Transit looks like it might invest $222 million on express buses in the South Corridor. If equal proportions come from South King and from Pierce, and assuming Pierce is 60% of the population of the South Corridor (it’s a bit more) that would be $141 million for Express Bus. At that price, it’s almost 18 track-miles of streetcar, enough for a 6th Ave extension, a Portland Ave extension, and a lot more. That doesn’t event include the Tacoma General Hospital extension already planned. Here’s another analysis comparing a potential Tacoma streetcar system’s cost to ones being built in New Orleans and Washington D.C. The cost in that piece are less than the Portland system.
Consider the economic importance of keeping employers like Russell Investments in Tacoma, and the opportunities to add new employers in Downtown Tacoma, and I think the investment might payoff more in the long run than express bus service.
I don’t know whether the modern streetcar proposal would get Federal funding, and it may take more funding sources than just cutting express bus, but I’m coming around to the idea that there are ways to make a larger streetcar investment work out for ST2 for Tacoma.