Tacoma Link - Tacoma Dome Station (Photo by Dave Honan)

On Wednesday, the “Build the Streetcar” campaign and the Tacoma City Attorney met to discuss draft ballot language for their citizen’s initiative to extend Tacoma Link. This move signals a go-ahead for a 180-day, 4,000 signature petition drive. This development comes after five years of attempting to use traditional political processes to move the project forward – previously covered on the STB (Tacoma Streetcar on the Slow Path).

The “Build the Streetcar Act” would authorize a 0.2% increase in the sales tax in the City of Tacoma to fund an extension of Tacoma Link from its northern terminus in the city’s Theater District to Tacoma Community College (utilizing a Transportation Benefit District – more on that later). The extension would cover a distance of 8.8 km (5.5 miles), with stops at the Stadium District, Tacoma General Hospital and along 6th Avenue – Tacoma’s most popular transit corridor.   The approximately $100 million in funds raised would be added to the ~$80 million in ST2 funds, which voters approved in November 2008.   It would require that they City dedicate a staff person as a Transit Director who would be tasked with leading a coordinated effort with Pierce Transit and Sound Transit to make the project shovel ready by November 2011.

Other components of the initiative include creation of a citizen Transit Commission, which would be tasked with overseeing progress on the streetcar extension, while crafting a thirty year transit plan for the city – mirroring current City efforts in Tacoma to improve bike-ped mobility over the next decade.

Initiative petitions will be available at the latest on Monday, March 1st.  The campaign kickoff is slated for late March.

More information to available at

21 Replies to “Tacoma joins Rail Transit Space Race”

  1. Nice that’s awesome! It’s great to see cities other than Seattle getting into streetcars. I guess Tacoma has seen how well its Tacoma Link line has done already.

  2. As a Tacoma resident, I am glad to see this happening. We desperately need to have frequent transit service in and out of Downtown Tacoma, especially in the evenings.

      1. Well, I’ve donated to most of the Seattle projects and I don’t even live there. I certainly will be donated time and $ in my home town.

  3. Streetcars for Tacoma are good. All that Ozone from the sparking pantograghs should put a dent in the stink of the Tacoma Aroma™!

  4. This is excellent news – I don’t think anyone can have much – if anything – to say against this!

  5. So with our two posts today, we see that Tacoma’s expecting to cut bus service roughly in half, eliminating service to major parts of its district, while proposing a new tax to build expensive new infrastructure downtown.

    If I was a bus rider in an outlying part of Tacoma, I’d have good reason to be angry.

    I’m generally supportive of rail transit, but this timing is frankly horrific.

    1. These are two different things; the 6th Ave Link (unless they give it a different name?) vs. PT Tomorrow

      Believe me, I’m trying to convince my family in DuPont to support the 0.3% tax increase assuming it goes before the public

    2. You are missing several points. 1)The new tax is a transportation benefit district, thus it only applies to the district along the line. 2)The funds coming from the generally Pierce County district have long since been approved in ST2 for this purpose, because strengthening the downtown district does help everyone. 3)By creating a frequent, higher-capacity system along the county’s busiest transit corridor, Sound Transit is relieving burden from Pierce Transit, potentially freeing up money to be spent elsewhere.

      1. It would be good if they could do this because the #1 bus “Super Route” as I have heard drivers call it is a pain – They combined two bus routes. The thing takes forever and is often late heading north. This is a route that would stand to benefit from 7 minute headways or Articulated buses (Honestly, it would be interesting to see those things try to get up the hill heading up Pacific – but I digress).

        By running streetcars out that way they will be doing a great favor to all of the business and residents that operate and live along Sixth.

      2. I agree, the 46 portion needs artic buses (I’ve been as far as Parkland TC, so I don’t know about how crowded it is down by the Roy Y or Wal-Mart).

      3. BRT is planned for the Pacific Avenue corridor.

        We definitely could use some articulated coaches or 7 minute service or trolleybuses for that matter.

        What we’re trying to do down here though is to try to reduce operating costs while increasing ridership. PT’s farebox recovery is kind of crummy, but 6th Avenue is a bright spot. When the line is constructed, I have no doubt that we’ll be even more cost effective than we are today.

    3. So in an ideal world…

      Once 6th avenue light rail is running, you would be able to take the service hours spent on the 6th avenue bus line and reallocate them elsewhere in the system.

      In an ideal world….

      We need to be careful and not wind up like the infamous South Lake Union Trolley, and not have the electric streetcar operating expenses get pulled out of exisiting bus service hours. Otherwise you would wind up cutting in other parts of the system to support the new line’s operations, and while ridership would be higher you would not be doing any service to exisiting patrons who may already have a loss to deal with.

      1. The SLUT didn’t replace any bus routes, this will, so Pierce Transit can eliminate bus hours. Plus, I’m guessing ST will at least partially provide operating costs, does anyone know if they will?

      2. That’s the plan. PT saves money, ST spends money. PT gets to redeploy intensive bus service elsewhere. Everybody wins.

    4. I could see how someone would perceive it that way, but simply giving PT another .3% isn’t going to solve it’s long term financing or operating problems – it only restores service to it’s pre-I-695, I mean pre-recession levels.

  6. What about doing something similar about the Aloha Street Extension on the First Hill Streetcar? Or the First Ave. Streetcar?

    1. That’s what they did for the SLU streetcar, and they probably will get a portion of the funding for the other ones from TBDs like this.

      1. The SLU vote was much easier as Vulcan owned most of the land that got to vote, thanks to the failed Seattle Commons project. And Vulcan was the prime driver to implement a street car vs anything else. Which is really too bad, as an elevated system through that corridor would have avoided all the traffic mess (dangerous tracks for bicyclists, Mercer crossing mess, etc.) the street car created.

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