Fear not, Tacoma residents: Tacoma Link will continue to be free for at least the next two years. Downtown Tacoma businesses, seeking to prevent a projected 19% drop in ridership, have agreed to pay $58,000 over the next two years to keep Link free in downtown Tacoma. From the ST press release:
“We are pleased the Board has agreed to accept the Business Improvement Area’s offer to offset the need to collect fares for the next two years,” said Mayor Strickland, who is also Vice Chair of the Sound Transit Board. “Tacoma Link is a great option for those who travel downtown and we must do all we can to promote ridership of this popular service. BIA is commended for stepping up and actively supporting public transportation as an integral benefit to businesses, tourism, the arts and the city overall.”
Tacoma Link is currently the only service in the region that does not charge fares, due to a longstanding Sound Transit Board policy that only allows fare-free service in very limited circumstances, including when the cost of collecting fares exceeds potential revenue. With recent growth in ridership, Tacoma Link no longer falls under that policy. The outside support for covering Tacoma Link’s projected net revenues, also allowed by Board policy, will postpone the move to a fare collection system.
This seems sensible. Link is an important downtown amenity, and it’s good to see downtown businesses pitching in to support it. See Tacoma Tomorrow if you’re interested in more reasons why a fare would be counterproductive at this time.