DuPont Station (Atomic Taco – Flickr)
DuPont Station (Atomic Taco – Flickr)

Today we wrap up our roundup of institutional comment on ST3 projects by looking at Pierce County cities. Many Pierce County cities within Sound Transit’s taxing district did not submit letters, including Bonney Lake, DuPont, Ruston, Fircrest, Steilacoom, Milton, Edgewood, and believe it or not, Tacoma. ST did receive letters from Fife, Lakewood, Orting, Puyallup, Sumner, and University Place, and their responses are briefly detailed below.

Fife: Fife’s brief letter asked for an extension of Link from Federal Way to Tacoma along an SR 99 alignment, with a station in the vicinity of 15th Street E and 54th Avenue E, a block north of SR 99 in the heart of the planned Fife City Center. “Our preference for this alignment is for a light rail station to maximize ridership and benefit the City. (A light rail station located along the I-5 corridor would minimize the station’s ridership.)”

Lakewood: Lakewood began their letter by noting their opinion that, “The initial work of the Seattle and King County Corridor has been completed. It is now time to expand transportation projects elsewhere.” (I guess I missed the memo where we finished all of Seattle and King County’s transit needs?) Mayor Don Anderson then goes on to request 4 specific projects for Lakewood:

  • Sounder extension to Dupont, with an additional station in Tillicum.
  • Greater span of service on Sounder in Lakewood, which currently only operates unidirectionally with 4:41-6:46am departures to Seattle, and 5:25pm-7:25pm arrivals from Seattle.
  • BRT in lieu of Link from Tacoma to the Tillicum Sounder Station along South Tacoma Way and Pacific Highway South.
  • Use ST3 funds to transfer maintenance and security costs at Lakewood Station from the city to Sound Transit.

Orting: Orting’s one-paragraph letter asked for a Sounder spur line from either Puyallup or Sumner to the McMillin Industrial Park just north of Orting, along existing but abandoned trackage adjacent to the Foothills Trail.

Puyallup: Perhaps surprisingly, Puyallup’s letter never mentions the word ‘parking’, perhaps because so much of that work will have been completed under ST2 Station Access funds. Instead, Puyallup requested inclusion of 8-car Sounder trains, more Sounder service, and BRT from both Puyallup to Graham (via SR 161 and South Hill) and Orting to Sumner (via SR 162).

Sumner: Like Orting, Sumner asked for a Sounder spur to the McMillin area of Orting and for development of “satellite options to take the strain off Sumner.” The letter had a folksy, hyperbolic tone, “Families come here on a Saturday or Sunday, fall in love with the beautiful area, buy an affordable home, and intend to keep their jobs in Seattle…not realizing the traffic chokehold on SR 162 and all our highways… SR162 is already a parking lot with more houses being built off it every day…please include a plan to use existing…operational track to use train service. The highway is already so far beyond capacity that a bus would only get stuck.”

University Place: UP’s straightforward letter supported Link as far as Tacoma Dome (but not Tacoma Mall), as well as a Tacoma Link extension to Tacoma Community College.

For previous entries in this series, see our articles for Seattle, South King County, East King County, North King County (except Seattle), and Snohomish County.

59 Replies to “What Pierce County Cities Want in ST3”

    1. It is kind of amazing that Tacoma, which probably stands to benefit from ST3 more than any city other than Seattle was silent. Maybe Mayor Strickland figured that since she’s vice chair of the Sound Transit Board, Tacoma’s voice would be served directly and didn’t require public comment. She was already effective in getting the spines terminus moved from the Tacoma Dome to the Tacoma Mall in the long range plan.

  1. These Sounder spur requests. Would they have enough traffic to support DMU service? (Like NJ Transit River Line)

    1. The same River Line that is considered a total failure and boondoggle with daily boardings equivalent to the entire combined populations of Sumner and Orting?

      1. Perhaps they’re counting on people driving in all the way from Packwood and Eatonville to ride it. Or Orting magically tripling its population in the next 30 years. Either way, very wishful thinking.

    2. I don’t really want to endorse Orting rail. Because priorities. But the alternative is parking in Sumner.

      So the right question about Orting is whether the Sounder spur would demand a greater or lesser subsidy than building a parking garage in Sumner.

      (Or running a feeder bus to Sumner. They don’t think the feeder bus would have the necessary reliability, because Pierce County can’t or won’t manage the housing development creating all of the traffic on SR 162).

      1. The other alternative would be transit lanes for that feeder bus, at least peak-directional. How much would those cost?

      2. As long as people live in Orting, we should try to provide them with rail. Better that than them driving. Let’s start putting climate first, rather than cost efficiency (which does little to help us reduce CO2 emissions).

      3. Assuming infinite money, sure. But the point of cost efficiency is that we can provide more people with rail for less money if we build it elsewhere (say, in Seattle). That would do even more for the climate, since it would be replacing more car trips.

    3. A few summers ago I free-climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland, then paraglided from the peak down into the village of Zermatt. And I can tell you, the village of Zermatt only has a population of about 6000, and it has a spur line. So why not Orting?

  2. Well, at least Link will be heading the right direction at FWTC to get over to SR99 for Fife to get two rail stations. As they continue to grow to their full potential as an emerging Urban Center, I think extending the Spruce Goose fleet runs from SLU to Fife’s waterfront would be a good short term fix. Subsidy per rider may be close to Sounder North.

    1. I will say “Thank you, Fife, for endorsing SR99 routing for Link rather than I-5”. At least it’s better than what Federal Way is doing.

    1. I think Olympia was left out of the conversation because it’s out of ST’s taxing district. (the route 592 trips to Olympia only exist because of funding from Intercity Transit)

      1. Yup, sadly so. I really do see merit in Sounder going to Olympia… it’s safe, it’s to the state capitol and state government administrative offices, and it’s also a tourist destination even when the legislature is not in session.

      2. Olympia was left out because the mainline goes east where I5 goes west. The only reason to ever extend Sounder S. from Dupont would be to Centralia, at which point it would cease to be any semblance of a commuter rail line.

        Commuter rail actually makes more sense going further north to B’ham and Vancouver than to go to Olympia. And, perversely, it would likely be cheaper.

      3. Cascades goes south — Sounder should go west to Olympia. Along the existing railroad line which branches off the mainline at St. Clair, along the “Woodland Trail” which used to be the railroad route and is railbanked, and then on the existing railroad line which stops right by the capitol building.

        Yes, the tracks would need to be replaced and a platform or two would need to be built. It would cost money. It would also permanently improve the attitude of the state legislature towards passenger rail service.

    2. As someone with family in Olympia (Lacey to be specific), I would not mind being able to hop on Intercity Transit 62A/B to the Olympia Transit Center, and get on Sounder (is there a spur track or RoW available?).

      Centenial Station plus a ride on IT 64 or 94 would be asking too much.

      Maybe someday IT will join the ST district, or maybe another agreement (similar to today’s agreement extending the 592) will happen.

      I can dream, no?

      1. DuPont is as close as you can get on the existing Tacoma Rail line without getting back on the BNSF.

        Considering the current transportation plan is to add a lane each direction to I-5 through there, at the cost of quite a bit more than some rolling stock and station platforms, it seems to me that might be worth considering going at least that far.

      2. Glenn, for starters I would support terminating in Dupont with a station in Tillicum, leaving open the possibility that someday it would (hopefully?) be extended down to Olympia.

        If Sounder were ever extended to Olympia, I would *NOT* support Centennial Station being “the” Olympia station (have a look at how long the ride on IT 64 or 94 from Centennial to the Olympia Transit Center is), and would insist that – if the right of way was available – it somehow get to Downtown Olympia.

      3. “DuPont is as close as you can get on the existing Tacoma Rail line without getting back on the BNSF.”

        There’s a section from Nisqually to St. Clair where BNSF is currently the only option. From St. Clair, Olympia is on its own branch line. Now, BNSF is pretty darn friendly, but if you *had* to, you could build an overpass over BNSF and a Sounder-exclusive track along those 3 miles.

    3. The long-term process has already started. The 592 extension to Olympia is a pilot project to test the demand for more Seattle-Olympia service. If ST and IT determine that a Sounder extension is warranted, then IT would just have to come up with the money or get the state to pay for it. As if either of those are easy. Then there’s the issue of Olympia’s train station being on the outskirts of town. There would have to be a timed shuttle bus or people would have to drive to it. There have been suggestions to revive the track to downtown Olympia, but it sounds like that would require expensive renovations à la the Eastside Rail Corridor.

      1. Grrrrr. “expensive renovations”? It’s a railroad line on an existing right of way. You drop tracks on it, run the alignment machine up and down a few times, put in some signals.

        You’d have to build a bridge or tunnel across I-5 at Eastside St. / Henderson Blvd / Plum St., because someone ripped the route out in the past.

        The advantage it has over the Eastside Rail line is that the Olympia branch line *goes to the right places* for passenger service. It goes to downtown Lacey, then it parallels I-5, and then it goes straight to downtown Olympia.

        Your biggest risk is that trail fanatics will insist that the trail (which is supposed to be only temporary) stay in place instead of the restoration of the railroad.

    4. But just having a train to Olympia doesn’t guarantee that it would be useful for day trips to Olympia. The 592 is northbound AM, southbound PM, so it’s only good for Olympia residents. Sounder beyond Tacoma Dome is the same way, thus the Lakewood request above. If you want to go to Olympia for the day you have to take the “local” ST Express and IT 6xx, which is two hours each way and a possible 30-minute transfer wait. (Mark Dublin recommends laying over at Freighthouse Square next to Tacoma Dome Station, or timing it with Sounder at Tacoma Dome.) If you want reverse-commute or all-day trains to Olympia you have to advocate for it specifically, and not just assume that “Sounder to Olympia” will include it.

      1. It would make a ton of sense in my opinion if IT also had Sound Transit include reverse-peak service on route 592 trips that already go to Olympia, since the bus already goes there and it could replace some of the early morning 603/605/612 trips and allow IT to start running 6xx buses later in the morning.

      2. Since the deadheading 592 is coming from PT’s base anyways, I’m wondering aloud what it would take to at least offer trips from SR 512 Park & Ride and Lakewood Station to Olympia (possibly timed for the 594 arriving at 512)

      3. “It would make a ton of sense in my opinion if IT also had Sound Transit include reverse-peak service on route 592 trips that already go to Olympia, since the bus already goes there and it could replace some of the early morning 603/605/612 trips and allow IT to start running 6xx buses later in the morning.”

        That sounds good in theory, but, in practice, the schedule makes this quite difficult.

        With a 2-hour end-to-end travel time (including all the stops, plus the slog through downtown Seattle), Getting to Seattle by 9 means leaving Olympia by 7. Throw in a 30-45 minute layover (which would probably be necessary to ensure reliability after such a long trip), a reverse-direction bus would have to leave Seattle around 4:30 in the morning for a 6:15 AM arrival in Olympia. The number of reverse commuters willing to ride the bus at that hour is vanishing small, notwithstanding the fact that they would have to ride one of night-owl routes to make it downtown in time in the first place.

        On top of that, if the bus is operated by Piece Transit, it would still have to deadhead from Tacoma to Seattle (or operate in service at 3:30 in the morning, carrying approximately zero riders). Having King County Metro operate the bus would at least eliminate that, but their operating costs are higher than Pierce Transit, so it might be just as expensive.

        The bottom line is that as long as Seattle->Olympia service is peak-only, rather than all-day, it is simply not possible to use the same fleet for both peak-direction and reverse-direction commutes, while maintaining reasonable reliability and a reasonable schedule. The reverse-direction trips would have to be operated with a completely different set of buses and drivers, and, thus, would be just as expensive as more peak-direction trips.

        That, right there, is why reverse-direction runs on the 592 to Olympia are not happening anytime soon.

      4. About the 592 reverse commute ideas… Post-2017 this might very well happen. IT is getting ready to do a major study of the Pierce-Thurston commute market. If ST3 passes with a funding component to extend the 594 to Dupont, it WILL happen. If not, then you might see much of IT’s Olympia-Tacoma service truncated to Lakewood Station, with subsidy funding to operate an Olympia-Seattle spine. IT is getting ready to seek funds to expand their bus garage, and with it could incorporate funds to adapt for 45ft coach maintenance. As cheap as PT can bid ST routes, IT has an even lower cost-per-hour. Passengers in this market have been pushing for consolidation for a very very long time. As an aside, WashDOT directors ride this corridor regularly.

  3. Fun fact related to Orting’s letter: Pierce Transit actually had a route to Orting in 1998 (not the Orting loop it had until the huge service cuts). It connected to the Puyallup Transit center (this was before Sounder)

    Also, on the tax increase ballot measure in 2010 (which did not pass), Pierce Transit would have created a Sounder connector for Orting (to Sumner, not Puyallup) if the ballot measure were to pass. (select route 498*)

    1. The people of Orting actually have a very good alternative, today, to sitting on traffic along 162. It’s called hopping on a bike and riding the foothills trail. Travel time from the middle of Orting to the Sounder Station is about 30 minutes.

      1. True, but… until Sounder comes up with some real bike storage on-board instead of their amateurish 2-bike velcro straps, the additional bike capacity on Sounder is really quite limited. Caltrain has the right idea, no need to reinvent the wheel to put real bike racks on a double-decker coach.

  4. For a population of 60k, Lakewood sure expects a lot of goodies from Sound Transit.
    The “Seattle already got theirs, its our turn!” language concerns me. We were forced to build the spine under sub-area equity, and we should build the rest under sub-area equity as well.

  5. Not too long ago, for curiosity’s sake, I drove from SeaTac to Lakewood on 99. It is obviously the best place for high capacity transit, and I applaud Fife for recognizing that if Fife is going to be a “place,” 99 is where it needs to go.

      1. Comments from FW always sound like they are really trying to win that race to the bottom

    1. Maybe ST should partner with a tribe to have slot machines in the station and let the tribe cover the station costs. ST could get a share of the haul as well as increase its ridership! The Fife location looks close to Emerald Queen.

      Which reminds me: in all of these extension studies, are there Native American issues that might interfere with an alignment?

      1. Great Plan. What’s another jump across I-5 in the big scheme of things.
        Or perhaps a covered pedestrian bridge, lined with slot machines on each side. You’re broke by the time you get there.

    2. Just so everyone is clear what we’re talking about when we’re discussing Fife:

      Fife’s population is less than 10,000 people. Metro has several bus routes with a higher weekday ridership than Fife’s total population.

      Fife has been growing at about 1% a year this decade- about half Seattle’s rate, and in absolute terms, less than 100 new residents annually- a number which is dwarfed by the people moving into Capitol Hill, Ballard, the U-District, South Lake Union, and probably every other Seattle neighborhood with multifamily housing. Seattle has been adding about 15,000 new residents a year this decade- Seattle is growing by about a Fife-and-a-half annually.

      Seattle’s population density is now about 8,000 people per square mile- probably about the lower bound of where grade-separated rail makes sense. Fife’s is about 1,600 per square mile. Fife makes the Eastside look like San Francisco, and Seattle look like Brooklyn. If Seattle continues at it’s current 1% growth rate indefinitely, it will however catch up to Seattle’s current density in the second half of the 22nd century.

      Even if Fife develops a downtown, and it’s transit mode share miraculously approaches Seattle’s transit mode share in any relevant time frame, it will be a tiny, tiny, tiny sliver of Link ridership. Planning expensive transit infrastructure around Fife is insane.

  6. I think South Tacoma Way BRT in lieu of LINK is good. University Place also not in favor of extending Link beyond the dome. Can we (appropriately) put the final nail in the coffin for Link south of Tacoma?

    1. What? Are you telling me I’m not going to be able to ride Link from Bellevue to Chambers Bay for the 2035 US Open???


  7. No one asked for express Sounder trains from King St servicing say stations from Sumner south that could cut the travel time in half? Muppets.

    1. It might cut 15-20 minutes off. But not half. And the green river valley is where most boardings and deboardings happen.

      1. Moat boardings and deboardings in Seattle and Tacoma have a pair between Tukwila and Puyallup. People are more inclined to bus it from lakewood or Tacoma to seattle

  8. Fife: right on target, put it on 99. As for Fife’s viability, yes, it only has 10,000 residents. But Fife is essentially an industrial park of east Tacoma, alongside the adjacent Port of Tacoma. What this means is a large job center, with the employees being residents of surrounding Tacoma, Milton, Edgewood, and Federal Way. An upzoning of the 99 corridor alongside installation of a light rail could lead to a lot of people living, working, and shopping right next to the Port, which can’t, for obvious reasons, move to another location.

    As for the other cities, in my opinion, the proper solution to their traffic problems is land use regulations that have some teeth. Don’t complain about all the new residents (Sumner) while doing nothing to prevent them from overrunning the forests and farmland.

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