Update Below
Andrew Austin at the Bus Stops Here argues that the Tacoma Streetcar proposal is regional partially in response to my post about the subject. His argument is basically that the streetcars are cheaper than light rail, and the streetcars are pro-Pierce County and pro-Tacoma rather compared to Sounder or Express buses which favor Seattle as an employment center.

Andrew is off on the streetcars being cheaper than Tacoma Link, he claims that “using the same amount of money [as extending the streetcar to Tacoma General], extending the LINK with streetcar at-grade technology, and taking it to Stadium, 6th Ave., and Portland Ave., would be a better deal.” That’s impossible. Tacoma Link is the exact same type of streetcar the, made by the exact same company, as the Seattle streetcar is. Tacoma Link is not the same technology as Central Link which has much larger and faster cars. So it wouldn’t be cheaper, it’d be exactly the same cost, since it’d be exactly the same thing.

Secondly, the argument that building more streetcars would be good for Tacoma and could help Pierce County from “hav[ing] e to ship 30% of our brain power and workers to Seattle forever” goes completely against the notion that it is regional. I could argue that Seattle shouldn’t rebuild the 520 to ship workers to Redmond (though traffic there is about 50/50 each way), and the argument is clearly against regionalism.

I think the Tacoma Streetcar system is an awesome idea, and if Pierce County voters, about a third of whom live in Tacoma, feel that is the best use of their Sound Transit dollars they should get it. But it’s important to keep the details straight.

Hat Tip to Erik from Tacoma Urbanist.
An anonymous commentor asked why I hate the Tacoma streetcars. I don’t, I’m 100% for them. I just am not sure if the rest of Pierce County would want to see their ST2 money spent on those streetcars. If Pierce County does, then they should absolutely be a part of the proposal. I like Streetcars a whole lot more than express buses.

8 Replies to “More Tacoma Streetcars”

  1. Actually it would be cheaper if they built to streetcar rather than light rail standards as the Tacoma Link was built to. They expected eventual Light Rail so they built accordingly. The Tacoma Link cost $80.4 million for 1.6 miles (~3 track miles). The Portland Streetcar cost $56 million for 6 track miles at about the same time. Both of these included a maintenance barn and vehicles.

  2. If I remember correctly, Tacoma Link cost quite a bit more than you’d expect on a per-mile basis because they rebuilt the streets to allow heavier rolling stock a la the Central Link cars. So it’s not out of the question that streetcars lines built to carry only streetcars could be cheaper.

    (Of course, Sound Transit could also extend Tacoma Link on the assumption Tacoma Link would be streetcar-only, too.)

  3. I think they should rename the Tacoma Link the Tacoma streetcar. They should never have central link trains in basically a streetcar configuration.

  4. The Seattle Streetcar cost $50mn for 1.3 miles.

    The .5 mile extension of tacoma link to the hospital even built to Link LRT standards wouldn’t cost the same price as extensions way south or way north built to streetcar designs.

  5. An anonymous commenter asked why I hate the Tacoma streetcars. I don’t, I’m 100% for them.

    Thanks for the support Seattle.

    Streetcars connected to other transit would also result in a much smaller parking lot needed for any commuting.

    Our transit choice need to be built on good urban and environmental standards.

  6. The other great thing about the streetcars is that they build a better community in Tacoma. Which is really important in doing things like keeping russel investments.

  7. The streetcar question shouldn’t be one of “either/or.” (ie either streetcar OR light rail to the airport).

    I think there could be something for everybody in ST2, or at least more than was offered in the defeated ballot measure last fall. That something could be streetcars and increasing the current level of service (ie more Sounder both ways).

    If Sound Transit wanted to think long term though it would be creating small “starter” streetcar lines that could grow as demand rises.

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