This is part of a series of posts looking at Sound Transit’s candidate projects for ST3.

Tacoma Link.png

At every opportunity, STB has pushed to run Link on SR 99 instead of I-5.   SR 99 offers a better walkshed from the station, more transit-oriented development (TOD) potential, and better interfaces with local bus routes.  All of the things that are associated with all-day frequent service.

Alas, we lost all those battles in Shoreline, Lynnwood, and Des Moines, where local politicians and business interests were determined to keep light rail away from as many existing business as possible.

Once again I-5 and SR 99 are pitted against one another in Sound Transit’s proposal for light rail along the Southern section of the spine from Federal Way to Tacoma.  Unlike the situation further North, however, SR 99 and I-5 are very close to one another, and as you approach Tacoma they essentially become the same road.  As a result the tradeoff is not nearly as stark as in Snohomish County or even South King, and the I-5 alignment may actually be superior.  Here’s why.

Costs and Ridership

Two options have advanced from the last round. Both have similar ridership numbers (49,000 to 69,000), but SR 99 comes in at a slightly higher $4.2B price tag (vs. $3.7B for I-5).  Sound Transit assumes that SR 99 would need to be rebuilt, even with an elevated alignment, so the price tag includes the cost of a new road.  Both options could involve constructing multiple parking garages along the route with a total of over 2,500 stalls (though ST notes that garage construction money could be put to other uses as local needs dictate).

Link Stations

Both alternatives include stations at Star Lake (S 272nd St), Federal Way Transit Center (320th St), South Federal Way, Fife and the Tacoma Dome. The I-99 alignment adds a sixth station in Milton, WA, while the I-5 alignment skips Milton for a station at Portland Avenue on Tacoma’s East side, providing closer access to the Port of Tacoma.  Hard to say how many port workers would actually use Link, but I’d guess that our regional powerbroker-types are downright giddy at the prospect of a PowerPoint slide showing a Port of Tacoma Station on their next economic development junket.

All in all, it surprises me to say that the I-5 alignment is superior.  In addition to the Port of Tacoma, a station at Portland Avenue would serve a seemingly walkable neighborhood on Tacoma’s East side and could connect to existing Pierce Transit bus service (PT Route 41), while the SR 99 station at Milton would need a parking garage and has a much poorer walkshed.  (Not to mention that the I-5 alignment could provide the long-awaited frequent rail link between the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma and the EQC in Fife!)  All for $500M less than SR 99.

So, in a cruel twist of fate, in the one section of the spine where there’s some local support for a 99 alignment (bless you, Fife), I-5 may actually be preferable.

Past Tacoma

ST also looked at an extension of the Link spine to the Tacoma Mall. It would generate 12,000 – 16,000 riders and cost about $1B, making it one of the more cost-effective light rail projects outside of Seattle.  An extension of the Tacoma Link streetcar (not to be confused with the Link spine, which is a different system) to Tacoma Community College fares even better, costing about $680M for an additional 10,000 – 14,000 riders.

Sounder Improvements

ST is considering a whole host of South Sounder improvements as well, from all-day trains, to 8-car platforms, to general station access improvements.  The cost is TBD pending negotiations with BNSF. Extensions to Orting and DuPont were also evaluated.  Orting seems to be quite expensive for the ridership. DuPont fared a bit better, netting 2,000 to 4,000 riders for $300M.

Bus Capital Projects

Finally, several bus improvements in the South Sound area are also being evaluated, along Pacific Avenue and SR 161. Given that Pierce County is likely to have money to spend in ST3, these projects could end up in the grab bag as well.

94 Replies to “ST3: Link to Tacoma”

  1. “not to be confused with the Link spine, which is a different system”
    So the spine will not connect to the already running light rail in Tacoma? The map seems to imply otherwise… Do you have more info on that?

    1. Tacoma Link is a glorified streetcar. Half of the alignment is single-tracked, and the stations are streetcar-sized (~65-95 feet), not Link-sized (380 feet). You’d need to rebuild almost the entire thing to have it directly connect to Link.

      I’m assuming there would be a transfer at Tacoma Dome station.

      1. Originally the intention was to have it connect into central link, which is why the OCS is heavy duty, the platforms are built more heavy duty, etc. Now the plan is to leave it as a streetcar line which connects with but does not carry on through to what we know today as Central LINK. Now, I understand if the extension to TCC goes through they may have to use some larger vehicles on the line, but I don’t know of any details. I’m under the impression the MLK Extension is planned for Skoda sized cars.

    2. There are two reasons why you can’t intermix Tacoma Link and Central Link:

      1. Overhead voltage. Everyone else uses 750v DC overhead on newly built light rail and streetcar lines. Central Link is 1,500 volts. There are ways to deal with this issue (both voltages include quite a range of +/- tolerance, and dual voltage sections of overhead have been built in some places) but it isn’t a matter of just putting one type of car on the other line. At the very least the line voltage would have to be very carefully controlled to be at the high end of Tacoma Link range and at the low end of the Central Link range.

      2. The width of the cars. Link trains are 8.7 feet / 2654 mm wide. The Tacoma Link cars are about 8 feet wide. This doesn’t sound like much, but it is enough that you either have to carve away parts of the Tacoma Link platform and bridge the gap somehow. There is some +/- tolerance on car width (Portland’s MAX fleet has several different widths) but a 4 1/4 inch gap is at the very far end of what is regarded workable and still allow wheelchair access and safe boarding. You might be able to make it work, but it would require a bit of work.

      Most places just build lines compatible with each other if they intend to interchange equipment.

    3. Why doesn’t ST study and report the details of using Federal Way as the transfer point between Tacoma Link and Link? Would it be cheaper to build and operate?

      1. Depends on ridership. Tacoma Link only allows for a single car train.

        Also depends on the desired speed. Tacoma Link cars are only good to about 43-45 mph and are rarely operated that fast by any city that has them.

      2. Riders going from Seattle to Tacoma would have to get off four-car trains in Federal Way, and transfer to a streetcar with 1/8 the capacity.

        In practice, frequent riders would just time their trips around all-day hourly Sounder (if BNSF is reasonable during negotiations leading up to setting the package) or take route 594. Heck, they might do that even if they could take Link the whole way.

        If BNSF and ST are not able to come to terms before finalizing the package, though, I can’t see ST guaranteeing any additional Sounder service in the package.

    4. I can’t imagine Central Link connecting to Tacoma Link ever being a good thing.

      Why would we want Central Link to run in a curly loop at the end in addition to all of the weird zig-zags its already doing?

      Also, full Link LRV’s running through downtown Tacoma would be pretty intimidating for people on foot….

      1. It’s hugely expensive to maintain a specialized small fleet. You would never need four car trains, but extending the platforms to allow a single Link car to serve Tacoma Link would give you some operational efficiency. There would be some added flexibility too as Tacoma Link shops could be used for the day end maintenance shop for cars ending in Tacoma. You wouldn’t have to run empty trains back to SoDo.

        Operational flexibility might come in handy, like being able to run a downtown Tacoma to Federal Way car if that segment proves popular enough to warrant more local frequency than Federal Way to SeaTac.

  2. 3 stops after FWTC in 15 miles, or 5 miles apart sounds about right for Light Rail, and $4 B price tag seems really cheap to go from Tacoma Dome to FW in only 28 minutes.

    1. I think I got my endpoints wrong. This post includes Seg. 1 & 2 getting to FWTC, so this just keeps getting better and better.

    2. Clarification: 28 minutes SR 516 to Tacoma Dome. That’s actually kinda slow. It is 20 minutes by car, and that includes getting on and off the freeway at both ends. (I’m a reverse commute carpool driver, and traffic just isn’t that bad down here, so I rarely encounter traffic jams.) Why aren’t the trains operating at higher speeds?

      1. The Short answer is “Light Rail” legally tops out at 55 MPH. Add to that the time need to speed up and stop for each station and idle time while the train sits at the platform to load and unload.

        Let’s assume the train spends 45 seconds on average at each station. That means the train spends full 2.5 minutes in stations alone. (Granted my numbers could be off.)

        What Light Rail has going going for it is ease of use and reliability. Regardless of the mess I-5 is at the fife bent, the train will be in Tacoma in 28 minutes. It allows people to plan and reduce stress by doing so.

      2. I’d like to know where that legal requirement is. The Siemens S70 car design has been built for some cities with a maximum speed of 65 mph. 5 miles between stations is getting into the range where that higher speed could make a few minutes difference.

  3. As I understand it, the equipment on Central Link and Tacoma Link are not compatible. What moron decided on incompatible equipment is beyond me, but ultimately, they could still be combined and retrofitted together, of course, for an added cost. Personally, I think it is worth the cost, but there are so many projects to be built that it is probably a lower priority.

    Correction on street names: Portland Avenue.

    Let’s face something regarding the 99 vs I-5 alignments. In Fife, they are literally almost the same. Further north in Federal Way and Milton, there is a ton of developable land adjacent to the 99 corridor. Hate to say it, but you are dead wrong on I-5 being superior. Pull up Google Maps to see the difference. Also, linking the two casinos is not a priority for anybody except, perhaps, the people who own the casinos.

    As much as the transit supporters like myself dislike garages and park and rides, a park and ride at Milton station would actually be a very good thing. It could spur development adjacent to the station, and it will attract riders from the well-established neighborhoods in Milton and Edgewood that are somehow stuck in this “we are still rural” development pattern of disorganized short plats, large lots, low densities, and a poorly-connected street grid, despite their proximity to multiple freeways downtown Tacoma, and the Port of Tacoma. Let’s keep in mind that development in the south sound is a lot different than in Seattle. Return on investment just isn’t that high down here (you can get a 4-bedroom home with a yard in a very desirable neighborhood for under $500,000, run-down or far-flung neighborhoods are more in the $200,000 to $300,000 range). To make a development pencil out, often you need a blank slate. The area around the station in Milton is exactly that – a very low-density single family residential neighborhood adjacent to a freeway that is ripe for redevelopment. A great place to drop a station, increase the zoning, and allow the development community to take care of the rest.

    I doubt that any Port of Tacoma employees would use a Port of Tacoma station unless a shuttle was offered from the station to the various employment centers – which may be a good idea. Assuming Port workers could walk from there would be like suggesting that Boeing workers might walk from the Community Transit base on Hardeson Road to Boeing. Way too far, and no good walkways. Perhaps the clerks at the adjacent Shell and Love’s Travel Stop might use it, but beyond that it is a really long and really inhospitable walk to the nearest Port employer, of which there are many, and they are very spread out. The Port itself is about 2 miles wide and varies from 1 to 2 miles deep; the station is outside of the Port.

    1. Tacoma Link runs on the surface in downtown Tacoma like MAX. Central Link has 4-car trains, so platforms for it would require blocking off intersections. That’s feasable in a narrow residential valley like MLK but it’s not feasable in a downtown. And Pierce has not asked for Central Link in downtown Tacoma.

    2. Interesting feedback on Milton, thanks. As for the casinos, I hope it was clear that I was joking.

      1. A Milton light rail station on the I-5 alignment has the most potential, because the town lacks direct freeway access. There is no interchange at the Porter Way overpass. Despite a (meager) historic town center not too far from I-5, Milton is still a small rural town due to lack of I-5 access. A light rail stop would make Milton more accessible by rail than by road, creating an opportunity for real transit oriented development. The key is to get the station as close to the historic town center as possible, which means located at the east side of I-5, not at 99.

        A separated bikeway from the station up into town would be wonders, although a parking garage would also be needed to draw from further away.

      2. Is Milton willing to upzone or is it “No changes, ever”. When I walked through Pacific it was all single-family houses except a tiny smidgen around City Hall, then you cross the Auburn border at A Street and it suddenly turns into large-scale industrial. I recall Pacific’s comments to ST3 being that it would remain a single-family town pretty much as-is. There was a general difference in attitude between the small cities and the next larger size like Des Moines, with medium-sized cities tolerant of some growth but small cities not interested at all. So Milton may be similar to Pacific in that regard.

    3. I agree with all of the above to support the 99 alignment. Also, the Puyallup tribe seriously mused about giving financial support to Tacoma Link if the city chose to recommend a Salishan route for the next expansion since that would serve a casino (the city went with a MLK route instead, which is a pity, since Salishan has more low income people and more land available for TOD), so the casino shuttle suggestions isn’t as far fetched as it seems to be on first glance, actually.

      1. lest we forget the other drivers of ridership:
        COD : Casino Oriented Development
        SSOD : Smoke Shop Oriented Development
        RVOD : ‘Next Stop – Camping World”

    1. Both alignments include a station near 54th. I believe the I-5 alignment puts it above the southbound exit ramp, I forget where the 99 alignment puts it.

  4. The only train I want to be aboard “leaving the station” is the first “high-speed” one headed for Spokane.

    The only ship I can stand to watch “already sailed” is the one clearing the harbor at full sail into the wind- with a helmsman who can “bring it about” when conditions demand.

    And the only “lost battle”? The one where the official or officer across the table signs the “terms of surrender.”

    The results of our current President’s attempted “compromises” with an enemy sworn to, verbatim, “destroy his Presidency started with his “loss of Congress” two years into his term.

    So I’d as soon not concede anything vital to officials who’ll “cripple a transit system” for which more sensible people are “paying the bill.”

    Definitely better to “build out to the borders of their constituencies” until Nature’s term limits clear the blockage…than to vote or work for an ST3 that these people have already begun to “damage.”

    Mark Dublin

  5. 1. The streetcar running downtown from Tacoma Dome Station should never have been called “Tacoma LINK.

    Anymore than the South Lake Union Streetcar would ever be classed as part of Cental- or U-LINK. Or that same LRV’s would ever interline between the two sets of tracks.

    2. Reason the Interstate Highway System was built through so much desert and cow-pasture was because built-up areas would slow down weapons and supplies racing west to keep surfboards from joining the Battleship Arizona.

    The Japanese air force could not have destroyed our public transit system as horribly as Interstat- whatever did. But the never-intended results of the Military Budget, I mean Free-ways do prove that no major transportation corridor stays unpopulated.

    3. Downtown Tacoma itself is as weird as those ’50s’ movies where everybody died of radiation or got kidnapped by aliens, leaving whole modern buildings and freeways untouched.

    Scenic location, plenty of infrastructure. Reasonable rents. Until LINK arrives. Best bet is streetcar much extended, and likely double-tracked. Though quietly called Tacoma-Something Else.

    Mark Dublin

  6. It’s curious that the discussion combines north and south of Federal Way together. Is this a referendum strategy?

    Isn’t the segment north of Federal Way more than half the riders and well less than half the cost?

  7. The choice of corridors south of Federal Way is like painting on a canvas with just a little paint already on it. Since it seems politically impossible to deny that this corridor will have to included in ST3, its value is in what happens at the stations. I would want to know how viable dense development around the stations would be rather than the land uses assumed in the base PSRC forecasts.

    1. After ST3, we need to turn our attention towards the state which should mandate minimum building heights around light rail stations.

      1. The state would say, “What is light rail?” and then, “Oh, that service that covers only 5% of the state and is wholly within the Puget Sound regional transit district. Let Sound Transit take care of that… and no state money for it either.

  8. No one’s called it out, but Federal Way has been consolidating parcels to extend/expand the Hybelos Wetlands footprint. And you’ve got Tribal land along 99. And then the 167 extension. That’s gonna be a mess.

    Shame the cliffs are so steep, an alignment along BPA through Federal Way would add a lot of car-less riding potential.

  9. I know everyone is obsessed with “completing the spine” but is it possible that we are doing it with the wrong technology?

    Specifically, it looks like Link to Tacoma will be much slower than existing options (ST express busses). I would suggest that extending Light rail to Tacoma isn’t worth the expense.

    On the other hand, we do have a technology option that I think would be more “spine appropriate”: DMUs on the Sounder corridor. Sounder is much more time competitive for Tacoma to Seattle, and as a heavy rail option it could be faster than 55mph.

    I would like to know the cost estimate for triple-tracking the existing corridor and reserving time slots for 15-minute all-day DMU service. I assume at the going rates per time slot it would be way too expensive, but if instead of spending Billions on light rail, we spend it on heavy rail, maybe we can cut a deal where we get the time slots much cheaper.

    This would also be instead of 8-car trains. I think longer trains are actually *bad*, I would much rather have 2 four car trains because that means 2x the frequency. Yes, operating costs would be higher but think of all of the 59x we could take off the road if we had all-day frequent-ish DMU service Tacoma to Seattle.

    1. I agree that DMU/EMU should be studied, but I don’t think that adding a track to Sounder isn’t the answer. A few reasons:

      1. Tacoma interests want to get to SeaTac, and Sounder doesn’t do that!
      2. I-5 ROW and track construction from only Federal Way is going to be much cheaper than paying for BNSF ROW usage and track construction for a much longer distance.

      For comparison, take a look at the E-BART history in Contra Costa County, California! After initially proposing to use UP tracks, they figured out that it was simply cheaper and cleaner to build their own DMU track in the SR 4 freeway median. I’d see the same outcome here for a DMU/EMU option.

      Of course, ST doesn’t want to consider the technology period! They are hell-bent on light rail and outside of intervention by a powerful elected official, ST won’t even put DMU/EMU on the radar screen.

      1. Yeah, I know you’d miss out on rail for Tacoma -> SeaTac (at least in ST3), but the 574 is much less of a ridership generator than the 59x. The 574 basically runs every 30 minutes, whereas the 59x is like every 5 minutes at peak.

        My primary fear is we are trying a “light-rail fits all” strategy here. If the tradeoff we presented to Tacoma is fast, frequent service to Seattle, or, fast, frequent service to SeaTac (and slow service to Seattle), I’d bet they’d choose the former. At the very least the option should be studied the and comparison made.

        Maybe it doesn’t pencil out, my concern is I don’t even see it considered.

      2. You are correct, there is a “Light Rail Fits all” motive here. Personally I think a high speed subway like BART should have been built connecting the “Spine” offering frequent10-15 min service with an overall travel time of 30-45 minutes. But its too late now!

    2. You’re assuming that it’s all about getting people into Seattle. Tacoma doesn’t see it that way. They want their own light rail system and their own connection to the airport. Sounder doesn’t help with that.

      1. Access to Seatac was actually a major factor in why Russell Investments moved from Tacoma to Seattle, so we Tacomans definitely want Link in addition to Sounder to help fill up all that office space in our downtown.

      2. Tacoma seems to understand that Link would take over an hour to get to Seattle, or longer than Sounder or ST Express. (There’s still no word on whether the ST Express buses would be deleted, retained, or partially retained.) Tacoma wants Link in spite of that to attract businesses to Tacoma, workers and shoppers from southwest King County to Tacoma, and a line to the airport (for Tacoma residents and to impress visiting business leaders). Freeway travel times will rise about half an hour over the next twenty years, so Link’s 70-80 minutes from Tacoma to Seattle will gradually get more competitive, and Link gives access to the Eastside, and runs when Sounder doesn’t.

      3. I think Tacoma is more interested in light rail to the airport than light rail to downtown Seattle.

        We’ll have to see if Federal Way, Fife and Milton follow the precedent set by Des Moines and Highline and insist that Link twist and deviate its alignment around existing the business districts. More deviations equal slower speed, more squealing flanges, longer running times and lower ridership for Link. If local governments in south King County and Pierce County continue to insist on ridiculously slow deviations for Link, it might be best to forget about building Link to Tacoma. If all day Sounder service is available, it might be faster for Tacoma riders to take Sounder + Metro F for airport service. I know that isn’t politically possible, but ST has set a terrible precedent with the Des Moines/Highline alignment.

      4. Access to Seatac was actually a major factor in why Russell Investments moved from Tacoma to Seattle

        Russell moved to Seattle because they got a DT Seattle building for pennies on the dollar. That’s really all there is to it. If any of their employees need to get to KSEA I’d put money on them driving their own car from home or the company paying for a limo. They displaced their entire work force and you’re going to claim it was a major factor that they didn’t have good transit options to the airport. Need to lay off the ST Kool-Aid.
        FWIW, the new occupant of the former Russell HQ is State Farm. With their regional HQ in Dupont I’d expect they’re a lot more concerned with I-5 south than access to the airport.

      5. Judging from what I saw in the News Tribune and Tacoma Weekly, transit access was a major issue, although not at the top of the list. And the subsidies offered by the city of Tacoma would had made staying in Tacoma pretty cheap, too.

      6. Frank, spot on. I love Seattle. Love visiting Seattle. Love the arts and dining options there. But……. Seattle is not a regular destination for Tacoma. Ever since my spouse and I got jobs in Tacoma, we find ourselves visiting Tacoma a lot more and Seattle a lot less. The dining and entertainment is certainly not up to par with Seattle, and probably never will be, but often it beats a drive that is twice as long and parking that is four times as expensive. Frequently I get “stuck” going to meetings in Seattle. I say stuck because the transit options are not efficient or don’t take me to my destination, I have to find parking, fight traffic, etc. and often get forced working “early” or “late” because I’ve now doubled my commute time either in the morning, the afternoon, or both. I can honestly say, I’ve gone to the airport as often as I’ve gone to Seattle in the past year, AND, I can’t legally park my car for less than $100 or $200 when I go to the airport. SO, the airport is a much bigger priority for many people in Tacoma.

        All that being said, down here in the south sound, we have two independent “city corridors”, 167 and I-5 with two independent mass transit options, Link and Sounder. They both operate VERY differently, but they also link together different cities. It is very inconvenient for me to get from Auburn over to Federal Way to take a bus (or light rail) to Seattle or Tacoma. But to get to downtown Auburn to take the Sounder is a piece of cake (and connected by local bus). The reverse holds true for people over in Federal Way. So, by investing in both Sounder and Link, we’re creating a transit network that serves separate but also very large populations in the south sound. Let’s look at populations:

        Tacoma (Link & Sounder): 205,000
        Kent (Sounder only): 125,000
        Federal Way (Link only): 93,000
        Auburn (Sounder only): 76,000
        Puyallup (Sounder only): 39,000
        Des Moines (Link only): 31,000
        SeaTac (Link only): 28,000
        Tukwila (Link and Sounder): 20,000
        Sumner (Sounder only): 10,000
        Not mentioned, but near the stations: Renton (Tukwila), Pacific (Auburn or Sumner), Algona (Auburn), Milton (its own/Fife/Tacoma), Edgewood (Auburn/Federal Way), Bonney Lake (Sumner), Covington (Kent), Burien (Tukwila/SeaTac), and unincorporated areas.

        Admittedly, many of the people who ride transit in these cities will initially be driving to a station and parking a car. But look at it this way. It took 9 years for Auburn to get a shuttle bus to the Sounder for its largest and fastest-growing neighborhood, from the time the Sounder initiated service to when it figured out that expanding parking to meet demand wasn’t sustainable. Now that that little shuttle line has been running for 6 years, the bus is always full or nearly full. Yes, it’s true, many of these stations will need to initiate service with a park & ride, which will eventually fill to capacity. That is inevitable. At that point voters will demand bus routes to get them to their station. That, in combination with strong TOD will make both lines, Sounder and Link, ultimately very successful. Heck, the Sounder south line is already a success. Continued investment in both is a necessity for the south Sound, just as much as investment in a subway or light rail system is a necessity for Seattle.

    3. You build light rail to Tacoma because if you don’t no one in Tacoma will vote for it. We’re sick of being last in line for everything.

      1. But other than the first ST Express route, the first ST train line, the first ST streetcar, the only free ST service, a huge parking garage, low-income fares that you can’t get on Pierce Transit, the only frequent route to Lakewood Mall, and the only train station with soft-serve ice cream and Mexican food on-site, WHAT ELSE BROTHERS (and sisters) AND SISTERS, HAS ST DONE FOR TACOMA?

      2. Who said I was talking exclusively about Sound Transit? For example, of the four major cities in the metro area, which one does not have HOV lanes on its core freeway? Why did half-the-size Everett beat us by ten years? And where are our direct-access HOV ramps?

    4. The problem isn’t the trains, it’s the tracks. The only tracks between Seattle and Tacoma that can handle every-10-minute passenger service are the light rail tracks. Upgrading the South Sounder so it could handle 10-minute headways would mean at least one and probably two tracks dedicated to nothing but Sound Transit, at a cost probably higher than the current light rail proposal.

  10. Are further extensions to Tacoma Link beyond what’s planned now l being considered for ST3 (didn’t see anything in the original documents ST released beyond downtown to TCC via South 19th Street- personally, I think 6th Avenue is a better corridor)? And a good idea might be to continue the Tacoma Mall Link route to the South Tacoma Sounder station for better all day service there and in that neighborhood (there’s a pretty built up commercial area nearby, and destiny could go higher for more TOD).

    1. Since the currently funded extension ends at MLK @ 19th, continuing down 19th makes more sense. Also, 6th would be an incredibly difficult corridor to build in since the street is narrow and crowded over its entire length. For an out-of-the-box idea, North 11th is a minor street running from the Wedge all the way to Pearl, and smack dab thru the middle of UPS.

    2. “Also, 6th would be an incredibly difficult corridor to build in since the street is narrow and crowded over its entire length.”

      That’s what makes it a better transit corridor though. Crowded means people and people means passengers. It’s also the part of Tacoma that people from outside the city come to, to the music and arts events.

      On the other hand, “narrow and crowded” sounds like Rainier, and ST decided Rainier was too narrow for Link and went to MLK instead. It could be a similar situation with 6th and 19th (although Tacoma Link can fit into small spaces better than Central Link can). But 6th and 19th is further apart than MLK and Rainier at Columbia City (although it may be the same as Rainier Beach), so if you build Tacoma Link at 19th you’d still need the 6th Avenue bus.

      1. Besides, it’s not like 19th is exactly a wasteland. It’s got Allenmore Hospital, Cheney Stadium and Tacoma Community College, among other landmarks. Plus, a good chunk of it is the boundary between Tacoma and Fircrest/UP, helping get those communities on board, both with light rail and dense development. A TCC station is also well-positioned for a future extension to UP and Lakewood along Bridgeport.

  11. So somewhere around 4 billion dollars for light rail to be used by a handful of people in an area that still struggles with basic transit. I’m not sure how well that will over with folks.

    1. Probally not well in Pierce County, however if Snohomish and King (seattle) give it a positive vote, Pierce county is along for the ride at that point!

  12. What is the fare structure going to be? I could see in-Seattle fares being prohibitive with such unproductive extensions. Id need to get some reassurance this will be as affordable as bus for use daily for in city trips before voting for it. With all that extra track I worry it will be like urban commuter rail stops on suburban lines in many northeast cities: expensive and used by few

    1. Link fares are $2.25 for the first five miles plus 25c for each five miles after that, although the boundary between increments is a bit more complex: “5c per mile rounded to the nearest 25c”. Tacoma is thirty miles from Seattle so the fare would be around $3.75. The existing fare from Westlake to SeaTac is $3. Sounder to Tacoma Dome is $4.75; ST Express is $3.50. Link’s base fare may be 25c or 50c higher by the time it opens. ST Express fares will definitely be higher because they haven’t been raised for a long time and have fallen behind peer fares, so they’re due for an increase soon.

    2. Consider that the discount fares are flat. The RRFP fares can’t be more than half the lowest regular fare without making them distance-based.

      I understand the desire to make those living in the suburbs bear more of the burden of paying for their long commute (when, really, they are victims of Seattle NIMBYism, that has fought hard against the construction of new housing for far too long, to preserve single-family housing patterns that were originally created by organized segregation). But if ST Express fares end up substantially cheaper than Sounder or Link, the fare system is just driving up costs further by pushing the continued use of express buses.

      Moreover, using the threat of higher fares to dissuade longer train lines works against passing ST3.

      Distance-based fares on frequent all-day trains may work in some dense Asian cities where they are the fastest option. But the drawbacks to distance-based fares on Link are numerous, starting with rather perverse incentives. Nor are distance-based fares used much on all-day frequent trains in US cities, outside of BART.

      Consider that Link already costs 50 cents more to ride downtown from Tukwila than Metro route 124 does, off-peak. Riding route 150 all the way downtown is 50 cents cheaper than taking route 180 to Airport Station and transferring.

      1. Brent,

        Most of those suburban commuters basically hate Seattle with its “urbanists”, gays and brown people. They only come to work and occasionally for professional sports events to which they’d much prefer to drive and park onsite.

      2. Have you compared Seattle’s demographics, including per capita car ownership, to its suburbs?

        Have you looked at maps of how the suburbs voted on marriage equality?

      3. “those living in the suburbs bear more of the burden of paying for their long commute (when, really, they are victims of Seattle NIMBYism, that has fought hard against the construction of new housing for far too long, to preserve single-family housing patterns that were originally created by organized segregation).”

        This may be a turning point in transit fans’ attitudes toward the suburbs because I think this view is gaining more traction. Imagine if Seattle had the density of Chicago or Boston, at least from 85th to Columbia City. There would be a larger urban population, it would be a larger percent of the region’s population, and anyone who wants to live in it would be able to find a place even on minimum wage.

        One interesting fact is that Seattle has less people than San Francisco but twice the land, so we really can solve the housing problem if we can break the single-family stranglehold on 70% of the land. And we wouldn’t even need more than 65′ zoning if it’s over a large enough area. Everything inside the ring of urban villages and quasi-villages should be upzoned (Ballard-Greenwood-Northgate-Pinehurst-Roosevelt-UDistrict-Madison Valley-Columbia City-Othello-Delridge-Morgan Junction-Alaska Junction-downtown-Uptown, and the part outside it can remain as-is. Lake City is further away so maybe it could be an urban island, and I’m not sure what to do about northeast Seattle. The industrial zones should remain to keep a balanced production capacity and as insurance for an unknown future.

        “The suburbs” is also not monolithic. The Eastside is similar to the 45th and 85th corridors and northeast Seattle, while southeast Seattle is similar to Renton, Tukwila, and Kent. A lot of people have moved back and forth within those areas, or shop within them, or feel “at home” visiting them.

      4. Sure the folks in the Puget Sound ‘burbs voted for marriage equality, or it wouldn’t have passed. And thank them for it. But they’re thinking about “good” family centered Republican same-sex partnerships, of which many certainly are. Same-sex couples have a considerably higher average family income and accumulated wealth than average Americans. Hence they follow the Laughable Curve which plots wealth and Republican sympathies with a correlation in the seventies.

        Now that’s likely the result of society forbidding them from rearing kids for decades. No kids; more money.

        But all you need to see the seething Id of the ring around Seattle is to spend some time on The Seattle Times website. I personally very much appreciate the posters from the suburbs who are genuinely interested in better transit. But I have no illusions that the King County Prop 1 vote and public comments were anything other than an accurate canvas.

        It wasn’t “off-year elections”.

        That said, Mike’s observation that not all suburbs are created equal is of course true. There’s a range fron about 5% to 45% of people who actually approve of transit and its riders. Then there are about 10% on the Eastside who work in the financial district and essentially have no other reliable option for getting to work.

  13. Both have similar ridership numbers (49,000 to 69,000)

    That’s very confusing wording. 49k to 69k is more than a 40% difference. I’m pretty sure it means that “station boarding” guestimates are in this range for both routes. But how did you concoct these numbers and which one is more like 49k vs 69k? It strikes me as bordering on the absurd to think this LRT by 2040 will have boardings equal to what it’s taken Central Link years to achieve.

    Of course it’s all just political hot air since Pierce County will never be able to fund this. Sound Follies sucking up tax revenue for studies, political pork and bureaucracy is really making it hard to ever improve transportation in the Puget Sound area with all the misdirects, miscues and disconnects. ST == Silly Tales. It’s taken years and bonfires of cash to get Sounder South to the point where it’s almost viable. Any agency that was actually serious about transit and regional mobility would be doubling down on that investment. ST, nah, let’s “study” choo choo trains over here instead. Buses? We don’t need no stinking diesel buses.

  14. I have trouble believing this light rail extension thru the suburbs will manage 50 to 70k riders per day with only 6 new stations. That’s over 10,000 boardings/deboardings per station per day, or 5000 round trips. There are not enough people within walking distance to make that work, and the connecting bus service is weak. The numbers don’t add up.
    And even with the projected numbers, at a 4 billion dollar cost this is quite expensive per new rider, especially when improving Sounder could be more cost-effective and useful.

    1. One of the Federal Way stops is the Federal Way Transit Center and they had been asking for the south Federal Way stop to be the 348th. P&R. Your more suburban (almost rural and I’ll admit it, owning a SFH here) stops are going to be people who are driving to the stations. It would be nice if some TOD shows up and you get walkers who don’t need a place to store a car a few miles from where they store it at night, but in FW, Milton, Fife, light rail is ahead of the curve.

      1. If it is presumed that most suburban riders will be driving to the stations, then the station placement along a freeway, filling the walkshed with parking, and walling/fencing the station off from pedestrian access (ala Federal Way TC) will make it a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    2. I’d agree Joseph. ST appears to count “trip ends” as “riders”. Today on Link we are approaching 80K trip ends for 13 stations and the corridor serves areas with high parking costs, high-density employment in skyscrapers, high frequency transit service and many more residents without cars available within walking distance of residential stations — in addition to a major airport.

      1. Question: If a Link rider gets on in Tacoma and gets off at Highline College in the morning, and makes a return trip in the afternoon, are they presented as four riders in this ST chart? It appears that this is probably the case.

  15. What is stopping ST from adding a station on 99 Link at Portland Avenue? Are they afraid that the enormous expansion in cost from $4.175 billion to $4.375 (4.8%) will frighten away voters?

    Surely they can add one of their above-ground Crystal Cathedrals for $200 million? The area around PHS and Portland Avenue is dead flat and all industrial all the time. Grant that there is a little more “there” south of I-5, supposedly the point of this station would be to link to bus shuttles into the Port. Better to be north of the I-5 interchange for that.

    1. “The area around PHS and Portland Avenue is dead flat and all industrial all the time.”

      I think you answered your own question.

      1. Well, the I-5 option has one there. I compared them in the OP; that was the reason for the rhetorical question.

        You appear not to like me, but that just warps your posts. I expect I’m too old to be respected by the younger set. But, like FDR, I embrace [your] hatred.

  16. Those of you who think this costs too much money should send messages to WSDOT telling them NOT to tear down the old I-5 Puyallup River bridge and instead to save it for Sound Transit light rail. That alone could save over 100 million bucks.

    1. Good thought. If this really poor light rail route is going to be built, best to reuse as much infrastructure as possible — save money.

  17. You can’t say it this is too expensive or not without good ridership numbers, and you can’t get good ridership numbers without a good plan for integrating the bus feeders into the system.

    The tangle that happened for the Capitol Hill bus reorganization speaks volumes on the state of that type of planning.

    If anyone disagrees with this, then please visit Portland sometime and watch what happens every hour at NE 82nd and I-84 during the typical weekday.

    1. There is no place in the region with the same geography, density, travel patterns, existing transit, and leftist nimbys as Capitol Hill/Madison, so its reorganization result means exactly nothing for other areas. Part of the opposition was the usual nimbys and never-change-anything reactionaries, but part of it was because the existing bus service is so good compared to other neighborhoods, so it was hard to say any individual route change was immensely better when it helped about the same number of people as it hindered. In contrast, almost everybody agreed the northeast Seattle restructure was significantly better than the status quo; the disagreements were just adjusting some details slightly. And part of it is the density of the hill: if you move a bus five blocks on Roosevelt it serves the same people, but if you move it five blocks on Capitol Hill it serves a different busful of people and the original busful is left out.

      1. I certainly understand that they had political problems there. However, that doesn’t explain how they can predict the ridership at the station when they haven’t completed a plan for how the buses will interact with that station.

        During several posts on this blog about the ridership projections on the line to Lynnwood, there were statements about how some of the ridership projections don’t really work that well because SoundTransit doesn’t have any control over what KCM does, and thus they can’t really do a very good job of predicting how many passengers are coming from the buses.

        Pierce Transit is a much smaller organization. They should be able to be easier to work with. If this is the direction the light rail line is going to go, then every effort needs to be made to model this thing as a network rather than a single line.

        That means showing not just the potential light rail line, but potential bus route restructures that would help feed this new line.

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