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Here’s the press release:

The Obama Administration’s FY 2016 budget proposal includes $74.99 million in Small Starts federal funding for extending the Tacoma Link light rail line… Expansion of the 1.6-mile light rail system between the Tacoma Dome and Theater District stations requires partnership funding before the expansion can be built. The 2.4-mile expansion requires approximately $75 million in Small Starts funding, $50 million in ST2 revenues, and $40 million from the City of Tacoma, a key partner in the project. To date, Sound Transit and the City have worked together to secure $13 million in grants for the City’s contribution to the project.

So if Congress were to actually enact this, they’d still be $27m short. ST has long anticipated this grant and the news therefore doesn’t really alter the status quo.

The extension would go up to the Stadium District and then turn south on MLK Way.

66 Replies to “Obama Budget Chips in for Tacoma Link”

    1. Not entirely. Since it provides an important grahic of every present and possible station for Tacoma LINK- conditional on where the camera is aimed. But the larger planet definitely has the same color scheme as the Planet Earth, as generally agreed by astronomers.

      The same for the smaller planet, which strongly resembles Earth’s only moon. Which possibly contains the same number of people as Downtown Tacoma. Though the home planet of the aliens who kidnapped (or sponsored as refugees) the former Tacomans is likely much farther away.

      Hopefully the new Federal grant can help to equip the new trains with warp drive. Which serve following purposes: A truly rapid rail route to Seattle. A means to adjust time so that all three LINK lines will already have been built three trillion years ago. And power beam that will shove Big Bertha all the way to Ballard, laying track behind it.

      So: “Live Long and Prosper!”


  1. The Bush FTA only funded transit that privileged “passenger-miles” and strove to attract “new” (suburban, white) riders, no matter how bad the lot of existing urban riders who didn’t vote for him.

    The Obama FTA only seems to fund transit that goes nowhere and does nothing useful.

    Maybe it’s time to stop catering to the whims of this Goldilocks agency, and attempt to write a transit menu that serves our genuine nutritional needs. The bears are almost back, we’re still starving, and this porridge is awful.

    1. Local agencies come up with the plans. Matching funds have to be provided to show some measure of local support. I don’t think it is a promotion of one thing over another.

      The big problem is that so many of the new projects are so expensive that the FTA formulas make stuff like this look worthwhile.

      1. I think Glenn nailed it with the second paragraph. If the feds only focus on cheap projects, then you will skip over a lot of valuable, but expensive stuff. It really defeats the purpose (if the purpose is to provide high quality, but cost effective transit). OK, it works sometimes — I could see Swift getting money, for example. But consider light rail from West Seattle to downtown or light rail from Ballard to the UW. The West Seattle line is actually more expensive, has fewer stops, carries way fewer people, and makes a much smaller difference to the average transit user. But if neither one qualifies for federal matching funds, the local agency can simply ignore what an impartial outside observer would say. The local agency can simply follow the political winds.

        On the other hand, if Sound Transit came up with a few proposals, such as expanding HOV lanes on the West Seattle freeway (especially east bound, where they are needed most) or adding in a few ramps, this might be cheap enough to qualify for matching funds. Maybe a second transit tunnel (used initially for just buses) might be cheap enough.

        Speaking of cheap and effective, do we get matching funds for express buses?

      2. The expense of these projects is their biggest problem. I’ve written a million times about how Vancouver opened the Canada line at half the cost of Central+Airport link, and at a least as high a quality. I’d argue higher quality, but you certainly couldn’t make a legitimate case what they got is worse.

        If everything costs twice as much then even if you spend the same amount of money you get half as much, right? If you could cut costs 25%, that’s like a 33% increase in budget. But no one talks about costs, they just talk about funding.

      3. I agree Andrew. I would love to see an in depth article explaining why Vancouver built their system for so much less money (even though it is better by just about any objective measure).

      4. You’re pitting Tacoma against West Seattle or Ballard, when there’s no evidence the FTA will see it that way. Federal grants should be divided into pools for large vs small projects, because both kinds are needed. When Metro wants a grant to add transit lanes and off-board payment to the 120 route, it shouldn’t be competing directly with a Los Angeles subway line. Because clearly the subway line serves many times more people, but if you follow that logic to its completion then no small projects would ever be funded at all. So you need to set aside some money for small projects, because several of them together can make a meaningful difference at low cost.

      5. “I would love to see an in depth article explaining why Vancouver built their system for so much less money”

        I’d like to see that too. But don’t forget to include the indirect differences that come with international comparisons. How much does Canada’s currency, regulations, tax structure, unemployment rate, lack of litigation, pro-transit government concessions, and lack of lobbyists buying narrowly-targeted laws, affect the apparent cost of the project? For instance, the Canadian dollar affects the cost of Asian and US supplies. Government concessions means cheaper right of way, less red tape, and no Kemper Freeman-like lawsuits and delays. A high unemployment rate means wages aren’t increasing. National healthcare means insurance costs are much less. If you adjust for all these differences, the net cost will be much different, and it might even end up being the same as US projects.

      6. Some of the eye-popping expensive projects are very much needed.

        Examples that come to mind are subway to the sea in LA, second avenue subway, new Hudson tubes, and Eastside access.

        While not in the US, Crossrail is an incredibly expensive project that is very much needed.

    2. Give it, and us, and the rest of the world a break, d.p. You know, after WWII, that stood for “Displaced Person” Any chance that program could be revived in your case?

      Unless you’re aware of a conspiracy to ethnically cleanse Rainier Valley by sending current population to Lynnwood- which would cause the soldiers of every country in the world to arrest you and ship you to the Hague for crimes against humanity, and replace them with the former population of Ballard- charge doesn’t fit the facts.

      An express line in its own second tunnel through Seattle direct to Sea-Tac Airport, was early on replaced by a 4-station surface route serving a multi-ethnic neighborhood. Reverse discrimination case, maybe. But little kids of all colors love betting on whether their train or the automobile next to them will win the race.

      “Goldilocks” example is way off. The real story had the little girl reject the too-hot bowl, and the too-cold one, and pick the one that was “just right”. A true moderate! But she was doubtless very grateful to all three of them ’cause they didn’t use her for a side-dish. Manners means washing the dishes and making the bed!

      Which is an unfair, job killing tax burden! So go stomp your foot in the ground ’till the Arts Project coats you in bronze to give dogs and pigeons equal access to a bathroom.


      1. The Bush FTA explicitly reworked the formula to exclude “existing transit users”, and therefore to devalue the ROI in places like First Hill or the Rainier Valley. Federal funding for Central Link was approved before this change, and might very well have faced a tough fight — or rejection — afterward.

        The Bush-era algorithm helped give us our no-stop express to the northern hinterlands, with a permanent pass on a good transit to First Hill. Go ahead and read the ST Board statements at the time. It wasn’t about soil; it was algorithmically-sowed fear.

        But once again, Mark, I wonder of you realize that slow, infrequent trolleys to nowhere are not civic improvements in and of themselves, and can do nothing to address the decades of opportunity disparity you so rightly abhor. They’re just tools, and poorly made ones at that.

      2. d.p.

        You are somewhat wrong. Construction risk based on experience with building Beacon Hill was very much a factor. The FTA formula was an issue as well. The problem there was the risk combined with the cost-effectiveness formula would have put U-link out of the running.

        Admittedly the Sound Transit board and staff was in a particularly conservative mood at the time due to the near death experience caused by the first attempt to build U-Link.

      3. Meh. If there had been an engineering will, there would’ve been an engineering way. First Hill isn’t made of quicksand or Jenga blocks.

        The Board could still have made a case for funding as well, if it had any spine (pun intended), or any sense of duty to the citizenry.

        But the Bush algorithm absolutely made this funding a harder case, since its essence was little more complicated than: “If your current transit is an abomination, but you use it begrudgingly, then fuck you forever!”

      4. >> Admittedly the Sound Transit board and staff was in a particularly conservative mood at the time due to the near death experience caused by the first attempt to build U-Link.

        Yeah, that was it. I really think they should have shown more courage and gone ahead and done it, but the politicians were really gun shy. One more problem and we might have been stuck with what we have now (a fast ride to the airport, a few stops in Rainier Valley) and nothing more. I think the decision was the wrong one, but I don’t blame them for making it (and they were fairly open and honest about why they made it).

        Failing to even put in a flat spot next to 520, on the other hand, or failing to even consider a stop at 125th/130th was simply incompetence. I don’t trust whatever experts they have on hand giving information to the politicians. A flat spot for a future station in Montlake would have cost peanuts. Even if people didn’t support a station now, they would have in a few months. There will be a lot of people who live or work along the 520 corridor who will say “Wait, what, the bus doesn’t connect to Link? Is the bus supposed to slog through traffic to get to the Husky Station, or am I supposed to walk up the stairs. across the road, across the bridge, then down the stairs to get on Link? Is my bus just going to continue to go downtown (and slog through traffic in the process). How come I don’t get anything out of this mess. Why didn’t they think of this before?”

        If they had a flat spot, these same folks would be told the same thing that people in Lake City and Bitterlake are told: We can still build it, and it won’t cost that much money. So lobby your representatives and make it happen. But instead, they are left with no good answer.

        By the way, the only reason we have a possible station at 125th/130th is because people, ordinary people, lobbied Sound Transit to add it. Again, this shows me that they really don’t know what they are doing. I have no problem with people lobbying for more service here or there, but we really shouldn’t have to fight for something that is really obvious to everyone in the area — a stop at 125th/130th makes a lot of sense.

  2. The shape of this line is similar to the shape of the FHSC + CCC, in that if you’re going to travel from the middle of one of those N-S segments to the other, you’d really prefer an E-W service going directly there than going in a big U. San Jose’s Blue Line is similar, at a different scale. That sort of thing can make sense if the most important destinations are right at the “bottom” of the U, so that trips to the most important destinations are direct. That isn’t really true in Seattle (though some important and unique stuff is down there), it’s the farthest thing from true in San Jose, and I don’t think it’s true in Tacoma.

    It’s not really surprising that cities with small urban cores like Seattle and Tacoma conceive of these sorts of lines (in San Jose nothing is surprising). We get to the end of one urban corridor, want to extend somewhere, and with limited options run down the next one, though it turns the line in the opposite direction. Both lines also sort of “switchback” their way up a hill. This stuff has a certain logic to it, but it doesn’t seem like the logic of good transit network design.

    1. There’s a steep hill in between, and bus routes have been doing various U’s around there for a long time. It has to go at least north to 9th to reach the transit center and fully serve downtown. So the difference is 9th to Division and back, which is about sixteen blocks. But these are Tacoma blocks, which are faster to traverse than downtown Seattle blocks. The ultimate factor is the travel time from 11th & MLK, 19th & MLK, and eventually 6th & Sprague to downtown (Commerce/Convention/Union stations), and how frequent the train is. If it takes ten minutes or less, it’s not that big a deal, especially given the advantage of serving all of downtown and consolidating multiple future lines in one corridor. The comparison is with bus routes that are sometimes more direct but less frequent. Also, some people will be going to Stadium/Theater stations, so they’ll actually gain rather than lose.

      1. Yeah, you can always find someone that will benefit from S- or U-shaped transit routes… but you can usually provide more benefit per-block of tracks laid, or per-hour of service operated, with a network of I- or sometimes L-shaped routes. (Toronto and Chicago have vaguely U-shaped lines that are conceptually separate lines that could be split downtown without changing the network much.)

        The FHSC/CCC plan, like this one, is more like the 24 in Magnolia: run down one flat-ish corridor, then double back up the hill and run along another. If you’re trying to get extend off-peak coverage to transit-dependent people in all parts of Magnolia it’s sort of understandable (people would demand a beeline to the D Line if it was awesome but it isn’t so they don’t). If you’re trying to extend streetcar coverage to all the city-looking parts of your city (where you want to catalyze energy through cromulent buzzwording) this pattern is understandable, too… in the same way that it’s understandable to avoid fluoridated water to avoid government mind control: “I understand that this is sort of crazy.”

      2. People aren’t going to wait 20 minutes for a bus to travel a few fewer blocks. That’s one of the main reasons why Pierce Transit’s ridership is so low, and its finances just don’t look like a major increase in frequency is likely. Even the 1, its flagship frequent route, drops to 20 minutes Saturdays and 30 minutes evenings and Sundays.

      3. But they’ll wait 12-20 minutes for a streetcar, to ride five times further but wind up only that same few blocks away?

        Again, that rail~tardation.

        This is why the FHSC will be mostly empty, and why the developments “attracted” by its presence will require thousands of parking spaces.

        Our genius planning knows no subarea bounds.

      4. That’s why I believe all streetcar lines should be 10 minutes minimum. Tacoma Link stretched it to 12 to add another station with the same service hours, and I think that was a bad idea.

      5. What part of “it’s a 12-minute walk total” is getting lost on you?

        And while you’re are it, please stop lying about FHSC headways, which are equally as revealing of proponents’ zero interest in usefulness.

      6. Funny thing is, 12-minute headways on the existing Tacoma dealie probably are right-sized to the demand and service purpose, since it is more of a commuter shuttle than an urban integrator, and since it seemingly (from the 2 times I’ve ever used it) has near-100% signal priority as it whipped along its straight-shot into the city.

        But none of that remotely applies to this dumb extension.

      7. I didn’t say anything about FHSC headways. I didn’t mention the First Hill Streetcar at all, because it’s independent of Tacoma Link and irrelevant to it.

        Those “just 12 blocks” are down a steep hill.

        This is a case where a “Madison-BRT” solution going east-west might be just the ticket. Why don’t you suggest it to ST, and why didn’t you do so last year? If enough people, especially Tacomans, do so, it might get their attention.

      8. You’re constantly claiming the FHSC has a guaranteed frequency. (Entirely untrue.) You’re almost as bad as Mark, with his “Vancouver leveraged a flawlessly located tunnel across its CBD.” (Also entirely untrue.)

        As for “suggesting it to ST”, what makes you think ST gives 1/8 of a shit about this location? ST wants to feed rail fetishism in Pierce. It hasn’t the slightest interest in where that rail goes, or whether it solves any problems whatsoever.

        How much more obvious could that be?

      9. Then why do you bother, if it’s going to happen anyway and you think it’s completely irrelevant. It’s not like you’re going to trip over it whenever you leave your nonexistent Tacoma apartment. I’m interested in the changes that can be made at the margins to make the transit network somewhat better than it would be otherwise. And of course my ideal would be a super-wonderful transit network that the majority of residents would use. But that’s not realistic given all the other factors that are influencing people in the present era. There’s a process to get things done, and you have to go with the process if you want anything good to be achieved. That process right now is Sound Transit’s decision-making. It asked Tacomans what they wanted and this was the top contender. That was the time to say “East-west BRT” but nobody did, at least not loud enough for me to hear it. But all hope is not lost for your cause. This is still an unscheduled and unbudgeted idea. It could be shelved/deprioritized/deferred on its way to ST#. Pierce desperately wants Central Link to Tacoma, so will it have enough money left over for this streetcar in ST3? (And I mean to go down to Tacoma soon to reevaluate my impression of how streetcar-like vs Link-like it is.)

        We need to work with other people to get things done, not perpetually protest and tear holes in plans and continually insist on radical departures. Because other people are continually insisting on other radical departures, and if we did all of them we’d be restarting every year and they’d be incompatible with each other.

    2. The route history here is a bit goofy. The most important streetcar route runs straight down Division and then along 6th Avenue. But for some reason it’s been deferred to *third* in Tacoma’s streetcar priorities… once it’s built, both of these routes will make sense. But the priorities are a bit whacked.

  3. So, I know nothing about this route. Other than the fact that it can carry more people, and costs a little less to operate, how is this any different than a regular bus route? Is it like Link on Rainier Valley where the lane is pretty much owned by the rail line, there are only a handful of intersections, and the train has signal priority?

    1. I’ve ridden through there a few times on the bus. The MLK / 19th station looks like it is close to where one of the busy core bus routes goes east-west. It might be useful for those coming from that busy bus route going north without having to divert to downtown Tacoma.

      1. Sorry, I should have more clear. I’m sure the route is good and the stops are good, I’m just wondering what the value added is for this versus a regular bus (or BRT for that matter). Will this travel much faster, and once it does, will the numbers justify rail (versus BRT)?

      2. The route is bad.

        The only reason it follows that meathook is because the choo-choo can’t handle the direct east-west grade. The route therefore follows from the mode obsession, rather than any kind of rational converse.

        Meanwhile, MLK is not a destination of any particular prominence. Best I can tell, even the street’s iconic moniker is a bit of happenstance: it sits right between “South J” and “South L”; when it crosses Division it simply switches to “North K “. It isn’t even a through street to anywhere.

        Major trunk transit has every reason to intersect with MLK, and zero reason to travel along it.

      3. MLK is about serving a traditionally low-income, redlined area, and encouraging development there, like the Rainier Valley segment was. If it were just transit/ridership factors, it would have gone west on 6th Avenue to the college and arts district, and intersected with many north-south routes across the city (like the 44 in Seattle does).

      4. Shame that none of those outcomes, whether they come to fruition or not, will have the slightest thing to so with a trolley line that takes half an hour to get your 3/4-mile down the hill.

      5. You mean the “only” line.

        No way that Tacoma’s “network” will ever grow past this debacle.

      6. I’m pretty sure Tacoma will get its third line built. Somehow it’s getting the first two built, despite their notoriously poor alignments. The third one is obviously better…

    2. I rode Tacoma Link a couple times over New Year’s. It’s somewhat like MLK for part of the line, though the train moves slower, there’re many more intersections, and the signal priority isn’t anywhere near as good. (Not as bad as Rapid Ride, though.) In other parts, though, it’s in a shared lane. There were only a few cars when I went through, though it wasn’t on a business day.

    3. If I’m doing the math right, it’s a $165m investment for 2.4 miles of street car. To put that in context, Pierce Transit’s entire budget is $161m, of which $32m is capital. So this is more than five years of PT capital budgets (recognizing that PT has been significantly degraded by budget reductions from what it was a few years back).

      From a parochial perspective, it helps that the City is kicking in at most $27m after grants. But, yeah, it would help to be confident that this is ‘good transit’.

      Chris Karnes noted in one of his articles that a lot of the future stops are parking lots zoned for dense development. So they seem to be leaning heavily on the economic development rationale for all of this. We’ve been suspicious of that argument for streetcars in the SLU context, but developers believe it. The usual claim is that streetcars are better than buses because the “permanence” of a streetcar spurs more economic development (whereas a bus which can be rerouted or eliminated). Pierce Transit’s funding has been so unstable that the “permanence” argument has to count for something.

      1. Literally no one is going to ride 3 miles to wind up 3/4 mile from their starting point — much less wait 12-20 minutes for the privilege. Portland has demonstrated well that the “manifest development destiny” once assumed to come bundled with the streetcar kit is, in the absence of a slew of other advantageous circumstances, quite simply a hoax.

        I suspect we’ll be ripping out more than a few of these “permanent” disasters in a few years’ time.

      2. Well, to Al’s point, it is two corridors. People will ride MLK, or the existing corridor, but you’re surely right that nobody will go the long way around the loop. Joining them up is an operational convenience, maybe also useful for a small subset of folks who get a ride that is slightly round-about, but not all the way around.

        To add to your cynicism, I’ll reluctantly point out that it’s just 0.6 miles from the proposed station at MLK/11th to the Commerce St station. So even closer than you think. There is an existing bus that makes that particular connection directly.

        But yeah, that return on investment is a steep hurdle. I see the rationale for the City (that it’s just so much free money), but it’ll take a LOT of private investment on MLK to justify this project.

        I think I’m correct in reading that the City hasn’t committed any of its own money to date. They have a $40 million required contribution, of which $13 million is grant-supported, and the rest is just an unfunded gap. Obviously, Tacoma is a poor city, but if they’re having such a hard time coming up with $27 million (just 16% of the total cost), do they really believe their own arguments for this?

      3. Excellent point, Dan. The U shaped design, while less than ideal, bothers me less than the cost. It just seems way out of whack for what it will get, especially given how much money Tacoma spends on transit. A grant to simply fund a bunch of extra bus service would provide a lot more value, in my opinion.

      4. Yes. Locally, this probably makes sense. The project that gets a boatload of Federal and ST dollars wins out over the one that has to be locally financed. If I’m the Mayor of Tacoma, I’d build this too.

        But globally, this can’t possibly be the best way for Tacoma to spend $165 million, even if the economic development benefits are real.

      5. d.p., you’re quite wrong. This really is a north-south distribution line for people arriving from the east or west; if Tacoma has any development (and it probably will), that will be used in preference to a terrible combination of the 102 and 57 buses.

        There is no way in which this is one corridor and nobody will ride it “around the corner”. The connection exists to get the trains to the yard, and as a starter on the 6th avenue line.

      6. Don’t know why I’m even bothering, because your refuses-to-fly ass has obviously never been to Tacoma and doesn’t have the slightest idea what it is talking about.

        The segment in question is barely over a mile. It basically looks like this end-to-end. The “destination” hospitals will forever be infinitely more accessible via the east-west transit that already exists today (though is being starved by bullshit misplaced priorities exactly like this).

        This “separate line” will never run often enough to do anything useful for people heading north or south along it. It will be nothing but the visible artifact of a pile of lit-on-fire money, in a city with zero extra money to light on fire.

        I promise you, the moment the streetcars or the infrastructure on this segment require any significant maintenance in the ensuing decades, it will be mothballed. And perhaps far sooner.


  4. Hate to have to repeat this so much, but there’s one enormous problem with comparing Vancouver Sky Train with any transit in Seattle:

    Vancouver started out with an existing freight tunnel exactly where a passenger line had to run, all the way across the CBD. Required ventilation height for steam locomotives also left the bore ideal for a tube arrangement like an “over-under” shotgun. One tube in each direction.

    Outside downtown, the line lucked into a fortune’s worth of existing rail right of way- wide enough for both transit pillars and moving freight trains and Amtrak-to run side by side. Next Cascades trip up, look out the window.

    Black side of the balance sheet: for urban transit construction, every pebble on the route counts as a gold nugget. Possible that second tunnel could strike gold- though horrible if it found oil instead. Bad for airport passengers to wait for a mile of tank cars to clear.


    1. You should try reading the responses to your windbaggery sometimes. You’ve been refuted on this repeatedly.

      The first Skytrain tunnel was inconveniently located, doesn’t remotely cross the CBD “all the way”, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the later and from-scratch Canada Line in Andrew’s comparison.

      At all stages, Vancouver turned lemons into lemonade, with complete-network results far superior to the substandard ingredients and relatively low budget with which they began.

      Sometimes you’re just wrong, Mark.

  5. There has been discussion in several threads about the indirect U-shaped routing of this extension, and how such a routing isn’t sensible. Does anyone have information on how such a project got approval for Federal funds? In other words, what are the FTA funding standards and how does this project pass the muster of those standards? Or alternatively is this just straight pork?

    1. It would be nice if one of the requirements was a “show your work” section. I’d like to see the calculations.

      At one time wasn’t the 2 supposed to be one of their frequent service routes? The schedule doesn’t show it as such now, but I was thinking that this might allow for a quicker west side bypass of downtown for passengers from the western side of town and headed to the north side of downtown.

      1. Was that directed at Pierce Transit, or at me?

        My work:

        1. The very minimum anticipated headway is 12 minutes.

        2. It’s a goddamned 12-minute walk from one streetcar leg to the other, hill be damned.

        3. The streetcar does not have a teleporter.

        Care to crunch the math?

        (4. The bus alternative, even with a maximum wait, offers a hillclimb as close to instantaneous as exists in this world. Because it’s only 0.6 miles!! Plus, the bus goes further, to other places that exist and have demand and are not 0.6 miles from downtown and are not reached by this exercise in rail~tardation.)

      2. I’m reminded, btw, of the time I was headed from near Powell’s to the Doug Fir.

        I hopped the streetcar for two reasons:

        1) I happened to see it coming before I even had a chance to pull out my phone (the only situation in which the Portland SC is ever a good idea).

        2) I was feeling cheap ( $1 versus $2.50).

        Holy cow, that thing took forever. West Burnside to East Burnside via literally everywhere else! It seriously took 25 minutes to go less than a mile.

        And it certainly doesn’t seem anyone is clamoring to “Llive at Lloyd” on account of its existence, either.

        I will never, ever do that again.

        Live and learn. Wish civic delusionists around these parts would consider doing the same.

    2. This is not one routing. This is two essentially separate lines. Heck, they may even operate them that way.

  6. “…the news therefore doesn’t really alter the status quo.”

    Gosh Martin, I don’t think that observation hits the mark. To get half the project funding proposed in a budget by the President of the United States (and FTA) is a huge development. FTA doesn’t do anything by accident or whim. It answers the speculation within Tacoma and Pierce County about “how real” the federal share for this project is, and therefore will galvanize action within the city to fill the rest of the funding gap. It’s a major development that moves the project beyond the status quo assertively.

  7. Glad to see Tacoma Link get a specific call-out in the President’s proposed budget. Hopefully the money survives the sausage factory known as Congress.

    I agree the routing for the Tacoma Link extension is rather dubious. It is probably best to think of it as 2 ‘L’ shaped lines that happen to connect to each other.

    I do wonder if the extension is due to get exclusive lanes. It is kind of worthless to build rail in mixed traffic unless you really need the capacity.

    Speaking of capacity, are there any corridors in Pierce County where transit demand and density justify rail for capacity reasons? Perhaps a better way to spend money would be by building some SWIFT type BRT corridors in areas of high demand. As others have pointed out PT ridership is very low as they run infrequent lifeline style service on most routes.

    1. It is probably best to think of it as 2 ‘L’ shaped lines…

      With the exception of a handful of students and teachers headed to the high school, the “left ‘L'” has no demand whatsoever.

      If anyone in Tacoma thought of it as you suggest, it wouldn’t be happening.

      Unfortunately, much like our SLUCCCFHSC defenders, the people responsible for this believe have drunk the Kool-aid from the ‘U’-shaped glass. Because rails are magic.

      1. Well there are a couple of hospitals on the MLK segment. But still this is a horrible alignment. Going out 6th would have made much more sense.

        At least with the SLU/CCC/FHSC there are station pairs that make some sense and will attract a rider or three.

      2. There were a hell of a lot of local businesspeople and advocates who specifically campaigned for the MLK route to be built before the more obvious 6th Avenue route.

        Frankly, I’m guessing that means someone’s gonna use it. Maybe it’s low-income workers headed to work at the hospitals.

  8. I don’t want to go all d.p. here, but I admit I hate the Tacoma Link MLK extension. If the feds weren’t chipping in so much, to me it’d be unconscionable to spend $160m to build a circuitous streetcar when your struggling transit agency’s entire annual budget is $140m, can’t even provide basic mobility in the form of half-hourly service or anything running past 7pm, and has so failed to inspire public confidence that it’s lost two consecutive tax votes. Tacoma Link is a parking shuttle hobbled by single-track and inadequate frequency. The 28 bus connects MLK to Downtown in 5 minutes, and no one will through ride it all the way. Connecting TDS to Stadium, Tacoma General, and 6th Ave might be worth it, but this alignment drives me crazy.

    1. I live in Seattle and visit the Tacoma museums frequently, usually getting on/off the 594 at Freighthouse Square and taking the free link train to my destination even though the bus goes there as well. As far as I recall, this link was originally built to promote and encourage tourism in the museum district, and it looks like it has succeeded in that regard. With the Amtrak station relocating to Freighthouse Square in a few years, it will be even busier. But it need not be free, charging at least a buck a ride seems like a fair price.
      (I read this blog periodically and wonder why it is necessary for some people to be so rude and discourteous to the opinions of other bloggers.)

  9. I think what Tacoma needs is JOBS. Downtown Tacoma is a ghost town these days… I think there’s a bright future ahead for the city but it will be several more years of struggle before it gets there. It’s a shame this streetcar won’t run down 6th instead, but clearly the development of Hilltop is a bigger priority. Honestly 6th would make a ton of sense and would probably be a successful line but this routing is obviously political.

    1. I like Tacoma. It has a lot of character, and there is a lot of potential in that regard. But I’m not sure where the jobs are going to come from. It is in a tough spot. It is a secondary city, it is neither the biggest in the region, nor very close to Seattle. It is possible that a software company, or some other booming company will locate there, but I doubt it. There is a trend away from that. Companies are moving to the big city (or at least the biggest city in the region). I would bet on Spokane growing, for example, before Tacoma. I think times will be tough, because it got a lot of financial support from the military nearby, and that is (hopefully) shrinking.

      I could easily see it becoming a nice “retirement/school” town, similar to Bellingham. But I don’t know how big you can get following that path. To get there might require a lot of financial investment. For Bellingham, projects to make it prettier were pretty easy — it is the center of everything, and there is nothing once you get out of town a little ways. Tacoma is a lot more sprawling. Lewis-McChord draws people south, while the shipping business (coming from the port of Tacoma) draws people towards Puyallup. Building 167 would only accelerate that. So it will be difficult politically for Tacoma to get the kind of “beautification” projects that could really attract retirees (and folks that would rather go to school there than at the main UW campus).

      I’m afraid this project won’t help that much. I think simply adding more transit would help a lot more. Given the size of Tacoma, it should have very good, fairly frequent and fast bus service. Once a city gets really big, it has trouble maintaining good bus service (it needs to compliment it with grade separated rail) but Tacoma isn’t that big, and could do wonders with a good bus system. But Tacoma won’t win any awards soon for good bus service, so it may be in for some tough times.

      1. UW Tacoma is planned to grow roughly as large as WWU. It’s already adding a lot of life to downtown and I think remains the best hope for continued growth. It’s actually a beautiful campus and between UWT and PLU the city could be a real college town.

        Being the major city between Seattle and Portland doesn’t hurt either. Right now obviously companies are choosing to locate north or south but eventually prices in those areas combined with Tacoma’s relatively robust infrastructure will be a valuable asset in the future. Exactly how far into the future, we will see…

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