PT Cuts Coming September 29th

Erubisu 27/Flickr

In the wake of Pierce Transit’s narrow defeat at the polls, the only remaining question was when the cuts would come. Monday the Board decided to enact a 34% cut beginning September 29th.

The 34% cut is quite a bit better than the 53% estimate from August. The agency credits union concessions in September and higher-than-expected revenues, combined with early printing deadlines and the staff time required to recompute the estimates. All weekend service will still disappear, but contrary to pre-election plans some weeknight service will remain. The hit to mid-day service will be milder than expected.

PT promises details on the cut from 417,000 to 275,000 service hours in the coming days, and what is sure to be a pitiable period of public comment in May.

Comments

  1. mic says

    I like the new headsigns on the PT fleet “2 Lakewood via TCC”
    So everyone going to Lakewood is encouraged to join Transportation Choices Coalition?

  2. Brent says

    Ending the parallel weekend paratransit will make life really hard for dialysis patients. Essentially every PT Shuttle rider having to go to kidney centers will have to do so on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule with no margin for error on missing appointments.

    • asdf says

      The assumption here is that if you live down there and can’t drive, you have a friend or relative available and willing to drive you around whenever you have something important to go to. To accommodate weekdays when the driver is at work, that’s why bus service remains on weekdays.

      So, the dialysis patients will still get to the kidney centers. The hardship will be on their friends and relatives you will have to drive them there and back, rather than do whatever else they would have preferred to do with that time.

      • asdf says

        To be clear, I don’t really agree with the comment I just said. I meant to say that it’s an argument people will be making to justify the cuts and is an argument we need to be prepared to rebut.

  3. Brent says

    What’s going to happen to that pay-in from PT to subsidize (but not fully offset) the cost of getting riders from Gig Harbor to downtown Seattle?

    • T.K. says

      Remember about 40 percent of the ridership on the 595 route actually comes from people who board at TCC or the Narrows Park and Ride, and who actually do live in the Sound Transit district. You need to take into account that it’s not just serving Gig Harbor. It’s not Sound Transit that’s in the budget crunch now, it’s Pierce Transit, anyway. The effect of this on PT’s budget is a drop in the bucket compared to the deficit they’re facing. (And I think the 595 is probably more productive than the local PT route 100 in Gig Harbor.)

      I am pleased to see that the 500/501 service into King County is being curtailed at the county line for many runs in the proposal put before the board. Metro used to serve much of that territory along Pacific Highway and near Weyerhauser but pulled out because Pierce Transit was there as well.

      • MrZ says

        Personally, I’d like to see RR-A Extended to South Federal Way P&R. This way it may be more cost effective for PT to go there and make connections with RR-A into FWTC. Of course I’d also like to see RR-A extended to Tacoma, but that’s a bit of a dream. It will be interesting to see if Metro does something with the abandoned portion of route 501 (north of Milton) Since it serves DeVry University, A Xerox Call center, and Weyerhauser along with some apartment complexes. Most of this used to be served by Metro route 181 if I remember right.

      • AlexKven says

        Yes, I agree with the RR line extended. Actually, what would be good is if the RapidRide G line was created, from the Federal Way Transit Center to 10th and Commerce (in Tacoma), or even TCC, where the A line would switch to the G line upon arrival at the TC, and vice versa.

        I think that a new route should be created from the Federal Way TC to SE Federal Way and sr161 by Wild Waves. This would make a good circular route with clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. It could be route 184 or DART 902.

      • Mike Orr says

        It would make more sense to extend the A to Tacoma than to put another RapidRide terminating in Federal Way. That would just replicate the Swift/E mess, which hopefully the agencies have learned from. It would also make less sense because both Swift and the 358 individually have high ridership and (relatively) lots of destinations. Fife is pretty sparse and, um, industrial (prefab houses and RVs and the like, which you can’t carry home on transit), so it would be a bit silly to have a separate RapidRide route through there. But the A could be extended if PT put money into it, and that would give a one-seat ride between Tacoma and Fife and south King County, which would be more useful.

      • Brent says

        I, too, have long wished to see the RapidRide A extended to South Federal Way, in part so that it actually stops next to the Commons, rather than an arduous 20-minute walk away at the Car Park.

        I’d actually like to see the 124 reach the south terminal stop at the airport, and likewise make that the north terminus of the A Line, certainly after Angle Lake Station opens.

  4. says

    I learned from an Flat rate for hire driver in Bellevue that the have a contract with Hopelink for free rides. Is there an equivalent service in Tacoma for night/weekends?

  5. Ryan on Summit says

    Hard to believe 275,000 service hours still means no service on weekends. I wonder how many commuter buses are being kept so that people who already have cars can get to work without them, leaving people unable to buy groceries on the weekends if they don’t have a car.

    • asdf says

      I think you’re exaggerating the effect a little bit. No weekend service doesn’t mean people who don’t have a car can’t get groceries. It simply means they need to either go on weekdays, walk to the store, have someone drive them, or order groceries online.

      Even on weekdays, taking an hourly bus for routine grocery shopping sounds horrible – way to much standing around and waiting.

      Given that, even in car-dependent urban areas, most people still live within a mile of a decent grocery store (and often considerably less), I’m guessing that most people without cars do most of their grocery shopping on foot.

  6. Mark Dublin says

    Following up on some language in Bruce’s posting yesterday about what county transit agencies do and don’t deserve, I’d like to focus on what citizens of a modern country definitely deserve: public transit that runs all week.

    My own work-day, and -week, can easily take me from Olympia to Lynnwood, any day. If economy recovers, Bellingham could be on the map as well. Many of us have been living, and making our living, this way quite awhile now.

    A transit agency dying across a county line is like gangrene: my work-week gets blood-poisoned by having to use my car when I don’t want to and shouldn’t have to. The planet is starting to burn up and wash away too, but that’s OT here.

    So just as I now have to be ready, willing, and able to pay to drive my car across county lines, I think it’s time we organized transit exactly the same way. From what I see of generation that just turned voting age, should be easy to build something that will deserve to be funded.

    Mark Dublin

  7. Stephen says

    No weekend service is laughable. I come from a small town in Michigan of about 15k people, and we had several fixed routes Monday-Saturday. If a tiny town in the midwest can provide Saturday service, how can a county with 100,000’s of service hours not handle it? Honestly, I think no Sunday service is unacceptable too, but there is a big difference from no service once a week, to going two days w/o service.

    • Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says

      Because Michigan, like many states, sees public transportation as a good thing and subsidizes local transit agencies out of state revenues.

      Here, we’re lucky if we convince Olympia to let us tax ourselves for transit.

  8. Bernie says

    The hit to mid-day service will be milder than expected.

    Thank goodness Wal-Mart shoppers will still have 15 minute service out to the Roy Y! Obviously they are gearing up for “the sky is falling” phase in hopes for a favorably outcome at the polls next time around. It could backfire if people see empty buses running around mid day and nights and it gets out that no cuts, or worse salary increases for management. It would be interesting to know how far back in history the last time PT service hours were at 275,000. I bet you’d find they were able to run Saturday and Sunday service.

    • T.K. says

      I’d venture to guess that every single Route 1 trip, even on Sunday night, is more productive than some of the suburban routes on weekdays. Since the base and dispatch will still have to be open in order for the Sound Transit routes to operate, the incremental cost of running a few highly productive local routes on the weekend can’t be that high. If anything, I could see this making PT’s operating costs for the Sound Transit contract more expensive in the future and jeopardize even more work for their employees.

    • MrZ says

      Route 1 wont be every 15 minutes. It will be every 20 minutes from TCC to Parkland, and every 40 minutes beyond that to Roy Y and Wal-Mart (every other trip short turns at Parkland) The service levels now will be around 1980 levels.

      @T.K. Yes, I could see how this might be a problem in the future as well. It will be interesting to watch if ST keeps PT as a weekend contractor, or contracts with CT or KCM to run weekend service (Depending on the cost, It may be cheaper to deadhead buses from Lynnwood or Bellevue to Seattle or the Airport to start runs, I’m sure the schedules could be easily re-cut to start in the north instead of the south)

  9. says

    How many management/office positions will be cut? If none, why not?

    Cutting all weekend service is lazy, dumb, unethical, and probably illegal. Service cuts require a scalpel, not a chainsaw.

    Why save the routes of commuters, who are most likely to own a car and can drive to work, and cut service of the truly transit-dependent?

    • T.K. says

      Don’t get me started on the $100,000 Pierce Transit spends to have two full-time upholsterers on staff.

      The vanpool program is an expensive luxury for choice riders — shutting it down and surplusing the vehicles could save some essential service for the transit-dependent.

      As much as I think weekend service is crucial, I think you’d have a hard time arguing that cutting it is illegal. Except for Metro, Intercity, Spokane, and I think Grays Harbor, none of the other systems in the state run on Sunday.

      • Bruce Nourish says

        The ADA has nothing whatsoever to say about when or in what areas an agency must operate fixed route service.

      • says

        “The vanpool program is an expensive luxury for choice riders”

        Vanpool programs also tend to be the most cost effective service that transit agencies offer. For those who can use them, they are an effective, and relatively cheap, method of reducing peak hour congestion. Do not think for a minute that eliminating Vanpools will save much money.

      • Bernie says

        Whatcom voted for a tax increase to restore Sunday service in the city of Bellingham. Velo is right about the van pools. They have far and away the highest cost recovery. Not surprising since almost 70% of PT’s budget goes to wages and benefits. I couldn’t find data pre 2000 but at that time PT was providing about 450,000 service hours with a smaller percentage of the sales tax pie.

      • djw says

        Whatcom Transit runs a number of productive Bellingham routes on Sunday. Jefferson transit also has minimal Sunday service, although it’s scheduled to end on June 30.

      • MrZ says

        @TK and who repairs the bus seats that get cut, damaged, or defaced if you don’t have an Upholstery shop?

        The ADA only specifies that you operate a paratransit service within I think 3/4 of a mile of any fixed route when the fixed route is running. A crime to civilization it may be to loose weekend service, but technically illegal, no.

      • asdf says

        Cutting all weekend service is exactly the kind of decisions that ADA incentivises. If you don’t have fixed-route buses running weekends, you don’t need paratransit running on weekends. Have fixed-route buses running weekends, you have to pay for parantransit on weekends as well.

        ADA increases the relative cost-effectiveness of concentrating all your bus service at peak times and having no service whatsoever at other times.

    • Orv says

      It’s interesting that you bring that up, because of the recent post noting that getting people out of their cars and onto buses to reduce congestion, and serving people who are disabled or unable to afford cars, require different strategies that are often at odds with each other. That was obviously one of the choices PT had to make in this case.

      I’m in Metro territory, so the cuts don’t affect me. I’m one of those people who could drive (and in fact drives to a park-and-ride) but chooses to take the bus. The implication that doing that is somehow immoral because it takes resources that could be used elsewhere is interesting. I guess those of us who don’t live downtown simply can do no right in the eyes of Seattleites.

      • Nathanael says

        One of the biggest problems is that you *can* serve disabled people with the same bus system you use to reduce congestion… but only if you plan holistically. It works just great if there are handicapped-accessible houses and apartments in the middle of the dense housing, with handicapped-accessible sidewalks leading to the handicapped-accessible bus stop. How much of that is under Pierce Transit’s control? Not much.

        There’s something similar going on with people who are unable to afford cars — if they’ve ended up in housing where buses are not needed to reduce congestion, then serving them with the same bus system creates a conflict, but if they’re in housing which is right there next to the natural congestion-reducing bus routes, then there is synergy.

        But who controls housing policy? Not the transit agency. Probably not even the county (in the case of Metro/King County). Possibly nobody.

    • T.K. says

      As far as I’m aware, only PT and Metro (whose fleet is five times the size of Pierce Transit) have full-time upholstery shops. Most agencies contract that work out.

      And it is an option to buy coaches with hard plastic seating that needs no maintenance. It may not be pretty, but it gets the job done.

    • Mike Orr says

      “Why save the routes of commuters, who are most likely to own a car and can drive to work, and cut service of the truly transit-dependent?”

      Um, why do we have commuter transit in the first place? Oh, to mitigate congestion, decrease pollution, and enable transit-dependent people to get to work. Cars in stop-and-go traffic generate more pollution and fuel waste than cars zipping around when the roads are empty.

  10. AlexKven says

    Thank you for making another PT post. The situation is really more dire than it gets attention for. I think that the Mayans were on to something.

    There are some parts of southeast Federal Way that were only covered by PT routes 402, 500 and 501. Metro obviously deemed sending a route to the SE FW area unnecessary because PT covered it, but with the failure of prop 1, that part of King County will be hit hard as well. Does KCM plan on running any replacement routes in that area?

    • David L says

      I doubt that Metro has any interest in replacing weekend trips on a route that ran as infrequently as the 501 to begin with. For the 402 and 500, if they wanted, they could change the weekend 182 routing to use Pac Hwy to 348th rather than turning early to serve the businesses along 9th Ave S. In any case I would expect to see Metro look hard at revisions to the 182 in light of the PT 62 disappearing. They could well decide they do not want to serve NE Tacoma anymore because they are no longer receiving the benefit of the 62 serving a bit of southwest Federal Way.

      • T.K. says

        Except for peak trips on the 402, all 402/501 service to Federal Way will be cut. Both routes will terminate at Meridian and Emerald in Edgewood.

      • AlexKven says

        @T.K., are you freaking kidding me? Please tell me you are joking. It’s a bad joke right? A really bad joke? I now have a new opinion about Pierce Transit overseers. Terminating 402 and 501 at the county line except for peak times? I guess it makes no difference for 501 because it will only run at peak times (even though it’s a neighborhood bus route that was meant to run during the day). But the 402 also? What is this world coming to?

        The 402 was just cut on the south end. Now it will be cut on the north? Much of its ridership comes from the Federal Way transit center. This is BAD. This is the kind of thing that makes me scared to live in twin lakes, because it’s just a 20 minute walk from the county line. Good grief, 402 will only run every 2 hours anyway, and they don’t have enough money to drive a few miles north? Oh gosh, WHY didn’t the measure pass? Why does Pierce County have to have so many anti transit car dealers? Man, I hope metro makes that new route soon.

      • asdf says

        So, I guess to get from Meridian/Edgewood to Federal Way, you’re expected to go south to Tacoma and backtrack north on the 574. Shouldn’t take more than an hour or two each way, depending on how long you have to wait.

      • AlexKven says

        @asdf And to get to wild waves theme park, they are supposed to walk from S 348 st and 9 ave S, for the sole reason that the route 182 has no relation to Pierce Transit.

      • AlexKven says

        Actually, to get to Federal Way from Edgewood/Meridian, you need to travel south to Puyallup (The major player on the “no on prop 1″ by votes), then get on the 578 (Thank God for Sound Transit). Travel north to Federal Way, after detouring to Sumner and Auburn, and getting set back $3.50 (Which is the highest Seattle area bus fare that exists except for community transit commuter routes).

      • David L says

        Oh wow that’s ugly. I assumed the weekend and late-peak trips would be cut but the rest of the service would stay more or less as is.

        Pac Highway between Federal Way and Tacoma doesn’t need anything like Link or a RR line, but it definitely needs bus service. I think half-hourly would be about the right frequency. The situation that will result from having only the 182, with no connection to Pierce County without a detour to Tacoma or a very long walk, is an atrocity.

      • T.K. says

        There will still be service on Pacific Highway, and the peak service will actually be increased from 60-minute headways to 30-minutes. It’s east of the freeway that gets cut.

  11. says

    I’ve lived in Tacoma for 30 years, and I love this city dearly, but I’m moving to Seattle next month because of this.

    • Atenhaus says

      I considered staying and living in Tacoma after graduating from PLU, but not now. I’m moving up to Seattle as well.

      • T.K. says

        You do realize that it’s quite possible Metro will have to undergo severe cuts in the not-so-distant future, too? Once the temporary car tab fee runs out, all bets are off.

        I recall hearing somewhere that the amount of service hours Metro would have to cut in that situation would be equivalent to the entire Pierce Transit operation.

      • MrZ says

        The Car tab fees are only good for two years. Metro is coming next. The real problem isn’t misled penny-wise pound-foolish voters, its the fact we base essential public services on an extremely volatile funding source that leaves little cushion in its wild swings.

      • Mike Orr says

        The two-year measure forestalled a 20% service cut in Metro. Saturday and Sunday are 29% of the days of the week. Service is a lot lower on weekends, so the weekend’s percentage of service hours is less than 20%. This means a 20% cut in service hours is equivalent to deleting weekends and then some. Metro probably wouldn’t do that because King County has a much higher population and density and poor people than Pierce or Snohomish, so it would probably spread the cuts throughout the week and delete the lowest-performing routes. Still, we never thought Community Transit would eliminate Sundays or Pierce Transit eliminate weekends either. That then raises the issue of how safe weekends are on Sound Transit, if its revenue shortfall becomes worse than expected.

    • AlexKven says

      No, the car dealers have deceived, and the people have failed to research. I know that there are a bunch of people in Pierce County that will always vote no on a measure if it brings any sort of tax increase. Avoid taxes at all costs is their motto. Some cities in the county have a hard time passing the fire department, let along public transit.

      Thank you car dealers for giving people this attitude. Imagine all the tax savings that could be acquired if they would stop maintaining the roads!

    • David L says

      The people of Puyallup and South Hill shoved “No!” down unwilling Tacoma voters’ throats.

  12. alexjonlin says

    It looks like the Tacoma City Council is declining to try to establish a Transportation Benefit District just for Tacoma that would be able to preserve transit service at least in the city, where people support it and need it? How could they justify not doing that?

    • William says

      I’ve been out of touch – have they declined, or have they just not taken action yet? (They do have eight months before it happens…)

      • T.K. says

        The mayor and at least one other member of the council have publicly stated that transit funding is not on the table for the TBD.

      • d.p. says

        Well, goodbye, nascent Tacoma Renaissance!

        I kind of wanted to root for you, you hardscrabble underdog, with your charming pioneer-era downtown, your dramatic cliffs overlooking the bay, your potential to be an artists’ refuge from the overpriced-and-not-quite-as-cool-as-it-thinks-it-is Seattle, your signature odor…

        But you’re totally fucked now. Enjoy oblivion!

      • Bernie says

        I get down that way a fair amount. Since the last cut, which was bigger than the one slated for this fall, there’s no discernible change. As much as transit cheerleaders hype this up it’s really not going to make a hill of beans difference. About as significant as the end of the Mayan calendar. This isn’t like the tube shut down in London. Tacoma really doesn’t depend on transit. Might even prove a boon to the economy as more people buy cars and increase the velocity of money. It could even prove a plus for the environment as people who can’t or don’t want to own cars move to more walkable neighborhoods of which there are plenty that are still affordable in Tacoma. For some people it will make a big difference but by and large they are the unseen. Pierce County’s major transit usage is commuters coming to jobs in Seattle and the eastside and for them ST keeps rolling along. As for the starving artists, they can still take the bus.

      • Nathanael says

        I will say, it’s very polite of Pierce Transit to give people eight months to move out of Pierce County. Gives people some time to find new housing, let their old rental contracts run out or put their house on the market, etc.

      • Bernie says

        Wow, an exodus of two. One a student that would be moving anyway to find work and another that will likely stay and continue to grumble. If someone in Pierce County has a job and depends on transit how is moving to King County going to work. Move up here and hope to find a job and affordable housing where there’s great transit? Good luck with that in an economy with ~8% unemployment and median home prices are ~50% higher. What if the world comes to an end and nobody notices?

      • Mike Orr says

        There is cheap housing in Kent and industrial/retail jobs. The bus service isn’t as good as Seattle but it’s better than much of Pierce County.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        I think Bernie is basically correct. There will be no obvious impact like increased congestion, and the suffering of the people affected will be largely invisible to the wider population.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        On that part, yes. However I do think they risk pushing out their young educated urbanist population. DT Tacoma was seen as a great rehab project, a place that has the bones to be a great urban center and was still cheap. Now some/many/most? of those people will move on.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        Eh. If you’re a young professional urbanist living downtown you’ve still got Link and a zillion ST bus lines, non-catastrophic levels of PT service on weekdays, the ability to walk to a lot of stuff, and it’s pretty cheap to park your car if you really want it to go further afield.

      • Mike Orr says

        Another issue is where companies locate. Tacoma is already having a hard time trying to keep companies from defecting to Seattle. Wal Mart will happily locate in the exurbs with or without transit, but some employers ask the question, “How easily can my employees and customers get to me, and are cars their only option?” The more PT cuts, the more Tacoma becomes unattractive to these employers.

  13. AlexKven says

    I will bring this up once again: Could the voters of Pierce County decide to abolish Pierce Transit, and have some sort of extension of the authority of King County Metro to Pierce County?

    • Mike Orr says

      Metro could presumably contract to provide service outside the county, like how the Bellevue fire department serves parts of unincorporated areas. But those are small residential neighborhoods, not an entire county. And with the Metro/King County merger, Metro is King County government.

      • T.K. says

        Since Metro is a department of county government and not a PTBA, I think merging them with Pierce Transit or somehow assuming its operations would be nearly impossible. I could envision two PTBAs merging together, much in the way Chelan-Douglas (Link Transit) and Benton-Franklin (Ben Franklin) cross county lines, if the smaller of the two was failing. But, even with the cuts to service hours down to 275,000, Pierce Transit is still quite a bit larger than its neighboring agencies. Intercity runs about 200,000 and Kitsap runs about 100,000.

      • AlexKven says

        Yeah, but Metro runs about 3,000,000 service hours. Pierce County is not less than 1/10 the size of King County. There is no doubt that Pierce Transit is failing its county.

        (As a side thought, Kitsap Transit ironically has MORE routes than Pierce Transit)

      • says

        Metro has a history of out-of-county service to Snohomish County, including one current route (317?) to Mountlake Terrace TC. Metro also ran a semi-express route between Seattle and Tacoma in the 1970s. IIRC, you couldn’t get off in the originating city or on in the terminating one, but there was no restriction on stops *between* the two cities.

    • says

      Whether it’s possible or not, it might be unattractive to both sides. On one hand, KCM usually has higher costs than other agencies (which is why ST tends to contract with the other agencies). On the other, KCM as a county agency may not want to be tied to a county that can’t raise enough money to fund weekend service. It might be a lose-lose.

      • T.K. says

        If the PT board was interested in contracting out (and their hands weren’t tied by the ATU agreement), I’m sure that First Transit or Veolia would bid a lot lower than Metro ever could anyway.

  14. asdf says

    So why exactly is it that Whidbey Island, with their same 0.6% as Pierce Transit, can afford buses running 6 days a week, with some service on weekday evenings, with 0% farebox recovery (Island Transit fares are free), in spite of having a much less population density than Tacoma?

    What is Island Transit doing right that Pierce Transit is doing wrong? Is it the (in)competence of the people running it, or something else?

    • AlexKven says

      Because they run much fewer trips. Island County is much smaller than Pierce County. Island county doesn’t have huge 1, 2, and 3 routes that need to run every 15-30 minutes all day.

  15. Mike Orr says

    So what would be some good transit walks around Tacoma and Pierce County, to use PT’s weekend service before it goes away. (Although ST-only trips would be OK too.) E.g., which are Tacoma’s most walkable neighborhoods? I can also think of the Commencement Bay trail to Pt Defiance, or the 4 terminus (Vashon ferry terminal) and the park. Maybe River Road and Puallup to Federal Way. Any others?

    • Zach Shaner says

      There’s the adjacent trail, yes, but River Road itself is a sidewalkless, highway-speed death trap. The lifetime of cervical spine pain I have to look forward to is a testament to its unsuitability as a bike route.

    • T.K. says

      Route 100 is a nice ride over the Narrows Bridge from (the other) TCC and winds its way through downtown Gig Harbor, which is a nice place to spend a sunny afternoon. When the daffodils are out, Route 409 from 72nd and Portland to Puyallup is a pleasant ride and downtown Puyallup is very walkable.

      Route 53 used to be pretty scenic when it went down by Titlow Beach, but that portion of the line was eliminated during the last round of cuts.

      • AlexKven says

        The 100 is very nice. And if you are a youth, it’s a cheap ride across the bridge. The only problem I have with that route is it doesn’t go to Downtown Tacoma. I think the 102 should be scrapped, and the 100 should be extended downtown. I had a series of appointments in Gig Harbor, and I live in Federal Way. I would take transit all the way, but with a 3 hour total transit time, and 3 (!) transfers, I was just driven to commerce street most of the time, and I only ended up making the whole trip on transit once. (Reason #4,729 why I wish they kept Route 61)

      • T.K. says

        Before I-695, Route 100 was an express to TCC from the Kimball Drive Park and Ride that ran every half-hour and only took 15 or 20 minutes. The current route is actually a combination of the old 111 and 112.

    • Mike Orr says

      Which walkable Tacoma neighborhoods or streets or potential urban villages should not be missed?

      • Mike Orr says

        Oh ye of little faith. There are two aspects to consider. One is where the physical infrastructure remains or could easily be restored: blocks of small-lot houses, frequent neighborhood commercial districts, big-box things that are already obsolete and presumed to be torn down someday. These are areas where we don’t have to fight to allow small lots or convert single-family to commercial/multifamily zoning, and there won’t be as much opposition to recycling big boxes. Another factor is proximity to downtown or to one of the one-digit bus routes or potential routes. (I guess those are PT’s proto-RapidRide; they were always advertised as special “frequent” routes.)

        The second aspect is where are people already taking steps, however small, to go in a more urbanist direction. Again, there we can leverage what’s already happening rather than doing the much harder task of convincing, e.g., Surrey Downs, that density is good. The fact that Tacoma Tomorrow and others are pushing for streetcars, shows that something is happening. There may be disagreements about how dense is ideal, but we have those too. And as we’ve seen, 10-story buildings aren’t necessary everywhere. Seattle’s streetcar suburbs thrived with one-story buildings, but they were closely spaced and had robust commercial districts within walking distance. What we most need to minimize are the space-wasting unwalkable buildings; it doesn’t matter as much whether the average height is 2 stories or 3 or 10. Especially in outer places like Tacoma where Belltown density is not expected. We only need to achieve the modest goal of giving Piercians who want to live in some kind of urban village without leaving the county, the option for it.

        I spent a summer on the Hilltop and have traveled around Tacoma and Lakewood occasionally for family reasons, but I don’t know it that well. I do know it well enough to say there are opportunities south and west of downtown. North Tacoma has some small lots but is perhaps too decisively residential. Bridgeport Way is a basket case: lots of apartments but unwalkable except in a minimal sense, and it attracts people who probably prefer driving.

      • T.K. says

        In the past several years, the area west of the mall between S. 43rd and 48th (centered around the old Madison Elementary School) has become incredibly dense by Tacoma standards. I believe there is still a 10-year property tax exemption in effect on any new construction in this area, so most of the existing suburban style apartment complexes have been remodeled and have had more buildings added. Many of the small ramblers that also dotted the neighborhood have been razed and been replaced with townhouses. A highrise apartment complex was built just north of the mall and another highrise is being built in the lot west of the Tacoma Mall Office Building. None of this is fancy construction, but they have increased the number of housing units significantly.

        Not far away is 56th & South Tacoma Way, the center of what had been originally been the separate streetcar suburb of Edison (and later South Tacoma) and would have revitalization potential. Unfortunately, the old Tacoma Cemetery eats up most of the real estate between there and the mall and some of the topography is hilly, so it would be hard to make it completely walkable.



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