SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

After a few years of steady but slow progress for Pierce Transit (PT), things are beginning to accelerate in a positive direction. After hemorrhaging service hours in the recession – with most routes cut to hourly service and span of service barely extending past dinnertime – PT is back with a bold new service proposal that restores a basic functioning grid of half-hourly service for most of Tacoma. It does so on the back of some route consolidation, reducing overall coverage, but while making remaining services far more useful. For a comprehensive review of the restructure proposal, check out Chris Karnes’ blog Tacoma Transit. 

The two alternatives would use newly available service hours in one of two ways. Alternative 1 would bring the current network up to peak 30-minute headways while retaining hourly off-peak frequency and dismal span of service. Alternative 2 would bring most routes back up to 30-minute all day service, and extend span of service to 10pm. Route consolidation would be most strongly felt in Tacoma’s posh north end, including the Proctor District, where a spaghetti of hourly routes (10, 11, 13, 14, 16) would be consolidated into a half-hourly grid of Routes 10, 11, and 16. Service would also be rationalized in East Tacoma and along South Tacoma Way, straightening routes and better coordinating their schedules. If you are PT rider, you have 3 upcoming open houses to attend and make your voice heard.

In addition, PT recently announced a small $200k grant to partner with Uber, Lyft, and/or taxi companies to extend the reach of transit. The “Mobility on Demand Sandbox” grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will allow Pierce Transit to:

Coordinate with Transportation Networking Companies and/or taxi companies to coordinate on-demand rides within certain areas though the use of app-based technology. The rides, funded by this grant, will get people to bus stops, select transit centers or Park & Rides, or – from select locations – to a rider’s final destination after Pierce Transit’s service hours.

In low-demand areas, fixed route transit sometimes just isn’t viable. This was shown with painful clarity by PT’s short-lived “Community Connector” program in Fife, Milton, and Edgewood, where Routes 503 and 504 averaged less than 1 rider per hour and costs per rider ranged from $100-$140 (page 24-25)If this new partnership succeeds, it would represent one of the better ways for transit and Uber-like services to partner for the common good. A partial or full subsidy of these rides would be an order of magnitude cheaper than the low frequency shuttles, and offer more convenient point-to-point service as well.

So things are looking up in Pierce County. By this time next year, let’s hope that they have a solid local bus network, an innovative on-demand partnership, and a successful Sound Transit 3 coming their way.

68 Replies to “Things Are Looking Up for Pierce County Transit Riders”

  1. I often go through Tacoma on my way between Olympia and Seattle. I’m discovering a pretty town, with some rebuilt areas I really like. Sixth Street. Wright Park. The drive along the water past Point Defiance. But these places I’m getting to like would worry me if I thought about living there.

    Whatever the exact routing, I like the idea of the streetcar extension very much.

    My question, for someone who knows: What is the economy behind that prosperity I’m seeing? Because I’m reminded of Columbia City. A nice community with some good places to eat and drink coffee. And where none of my young black passengers from twenty years ago could afford to live in their dreams.

    Pretty much same as for me and Ballard. Lately the more I see of what Seattle is turning into, every trip the gladder I am that I got out of there, and the less I can stand coming back even for a day . So somebody who knows Tacoma, or better yet both cities….give me a read on my assessment.

    Many thanks.


    1. + a fair number of office buildings in downtown Tacoma

      + a fair amount of industry in the Port of Tacoma area

      + a fair amount of economic activity around JBLM

      There’s quite a number of small industries just sort of scattered about.

      It’s a bit further out of your way, depending on what route you take to avoid I-5, but you might want to take a look at some of the stuff around Steilacoom as well. I’ve (and a few others) have written some stuff about it.

      1. Thanks for getting me to do ten seconds’ research, though I’d already found out about this my first time through Steilacoom, from some pictures in the bathroom at the Bair Drugstore- which is now a really great cafe. Whose status will be restored by once again being a streetcar stop.

        Lightning flash of insight! We’ve now got the whole route for the extension of Tacoma LINK! But best of all is chance to renovate its most deserving stop. Western State Hospital. Also solving Chambers Bay traffic problem every time there’s a golf tournament.

        Will be worth it even if we have to couple on a trailer with a diesel generator ’til the catenary gets put back up even if it does block views on Grandview Drive. Does that museum streetcar still run down the river?


    2. Honestly? The prosperity you’re seeing is demand from Seattle heading south. People are starting to view Tacoma is an affordable urban alternative to Seattle that happens to have robust transit connections with it. Granted, we have three great universities that employ a good deal of people, Tacoma General, Mary Bridge, and St Joes insofar as hospitals, and a small professional, traditionally white collar concentration of jobs that exist in the small highrise area downtown.

      I’d love nothing more than to see Tacoma really grow into its own. It certainly has the bones and infrastructure to support it. The Mayor, Marilyn Strickland has been pushing real real hard to see Tacoma begin to foster some sort tech startup culture that I personally would think suit the city very well.

      1. But that tech startup will never happen if these guys can’t get to Seattle and Redmond reliably, which is where the big guys are. So go ST3.

      2. @Donde — Right. Because three hour round trip meetings to Seattle, or four hour round trip meetings to Redmond are key to Tacoma’s economic future.

      3. I agree Tacoma is far from the big dogs, but in Silicon Valley there are tech jobs in East Bay more than an hour from Palo Alto, etc. GE’s tech center is in San Ramon, CA

        I don’t blame them for trying. They are competing with Salt Lake, Austin, Portland for tech jobs. Not Mountain View and Redmond

      4. @AJ — Yeah, the weird thing about most of those California places is that they aren’t cheap. Most of the Bay Area is ridiculously expensive — if there are jobs, rent costs a fortune. No one has ever heard of San Ramon, but go ahead and search for apartments there (not exactly Federal Way). There really isn’t any sort of “let’s move there, because it is cheaper” anymore. It is more like “let’s move there, there are a bunch of smart people there”.

      5. Silicon Valley started in the “suburbs”. San Jose and Santa Clara originated as streetcar cities, but by the 1960s they had become extremely postmodern, by which I mean decentralized and anti-density. It was called the “town-and-country look” or, “We don’t want to be like San Francisco”. Stanford was a major research university that got into computers early, and in its shadow the tech companies formed. The environment was like our Eastside but thirty miles from San Francisco and more decentralized and sprawled out. The first generation of tekkies presumably liked that environment because they lived there. After the recession in 1990 San Francisco started infilling South of Market and relaxed the housing laws to allow cheap live+work lofts. These were intended for artists, but computer tekkies found them convenient and nicely urbanist, and dotcom startups outbid the artists. By the late 90s the urbanist rebellion had grown strong enough that the tech companies had to send shuttles to San Francisco or move the office there to attract employees. But the majority of the movement remained in Silicon Valley. The entire Bay Area got extremely expensive, both because of the number of well-paid people, and the extreme refusal to allow infill housing for the population, which doubled between 1960 and 1980, and then doubled again.

        Tacoma is not likely to become a tech hub, but it is likely to attract a wider variety of companies, mostly in between the poles of industrial and tech. As Seattle and Bellevue get more expensive and the potential office lots fill up, companies will gradually look outward and eventually discover Tacoma. And the influx of residents will make Tacoma into a “new Oakland”, with a culture not equal to Seattle’s but “good enough”. Then companies will come and find workers already there and wanting to work locally. And if the city of Tacoma is right about Link reverse commuting, then workers from south King County will come too.

    3. Tacoma seems to be really trying to make themselves a place and not just an urban bedroom community of Seattle. It has good bones and the leadership is making the right moves.

      Which is why it is mind boggling to me that the County, one of the largest employers is pulling all of their workers out of downtown and into a new, inaccessible office park. Talk about the right hand shooting the left hand!


      1. You know, I’ve always like the term “Good Bones” to describe city things originally designed with a life expectancy of ’til the Galaxy blows up.

        Because that’s structure’s own guarantee that everybody from the plumbers, stone masons, and bricklayers right to company headquarters will do their own jobs right.

        And that result will keep on writing black ink on the balance sheet as it goes from sheep hide to parchment to paper to terabytes.

        Need unpleasant medical reference for comparison here. What’s a congenital and aggressive wasting skeletal disease? No, you can’t just use the Latin translation for name of any contemporary bank or corporation.

        And Donde, whether or not these professionals pass ST-3, which I hope they do, they’ll be the ones who push for the very high speed regional trains for which LINK will become an important supplement. And who I also hope will help de-Post- the Industrial enough that people who don’t think ORCA is a product will stop voting for their own enemies out of spite.


      2. I don’t know anyone in Tacoma (and I know quite a few of all ages) that has ever considered Tacoma a bedroom community of Seattle. Bellevue, sure, but not Tacoma. It has always been an independent city, sinking or swimming on its own.

        I don’t mean to jump on that statement — your other points are great, and it is does make sense to push for Tacoma as a destination.

      3. Tacoma is not a bedroom community. Most people work in Pierce County or south King County, and a lot of people commute from the Olympic Penninsula to Tacoma. The Tacoma job market was separate from Seattle until the 1990s when they essentially fused. But even now still it’s probably a minority of Tacomans that commute to Seattle.

      4. I would say that the two job markets are still separate to this day.

        Software development is basically completely irrelevant to Tacoma’s economy, just like the military is completely irrelevant to Seattle’s.

    4. Tacoma has its ups and downs, but mostly what you are seeing is what you would see in most of the country — a slow pull out of the worst economic downturn to hit the country in over 60 years. So Tacoma doesn’t look that much different than, say, Modesto California.

      Glenn gave a pretty good summary. Tacoma, as has been the case for a long time, has a bit of industry, shipping and office work, but none of those look like big growth generators. It is obvious that most of the new money coming in is from the government ( Those stats don’t include Social Security, because it isn’t considered an employer. But my guess is if it was, it would be way up there. Tacoma is a decent place to settle down, and that may be responsible for some growth (similar to other Northwest towns and cities).

      1. My real estate friends in Tacoma would disagree that Tacoma isn’t becoming a bedroom community of Seattle. They’re seeing quite a few young professionals move here to buy an affordable home. And unless you work for the city or a couple nonprofits around Tacoma, seems like most professionals commute to Seattle, or north of Tacoma anyway, or Olympia. Obviously this is just my observation, FWIW.

      2. Oh, I’ve met some too (folks who live in Tacoma but work in Seattle). But I also knew a guy who lived in Cle Elum and worked in Bellevue. I’m just saying folks like that are rare around these parts. Professionals who telecommute or fly out of SeaTac every day are probably more common. Seattle is not New York, and Tacoma is not New Jersey. Almost all of Tacoma lives and deals with greater Tacoma — if they go up to Seattle, chances are they are visiting the main V. A. (which Link doesn’t serve very well) instead of going to American Lake.

      3. Well, the ridership numbers on Sounder and the 59X buses indicate that there are plenty of people who live in Tacoma and commute to Seattle. And for every such person that rides the bus, there are probably many more that drive their cars, especially those commuting to places like Bellevue, rather than Seattle itself. Majority of the Tacoma population, probably not. But, significant, nonetheless, and much more numerous than people who commute to Seattle from Cle Elem.

      4. Heading north, South Sounder picks up about 200 people from Lakewood, then another 100 from South Tacoma and then 600 from from the Tacoma Dome. About a 1,100 get off the train after Tacoma, but before Seattle. So less than a thousand ride the train from Lakewood/Tacoma to Seattle, and chances are, a lot less.

        The buses do better:

        596 (Tacoma to UW) 300
        590 (Tacoma to downtown Seattle) 1,500
        594 (Lakewood to downtown Seattle) 600 people
        595 (Gig Harbor) 80 people

        So close to 2,500 people. Of course it is possible that a large number of the riders aren’t commuters. The 590 runs all day, and carries most of the people. It stands to reason that a lot of people are just headed to Seattle for the day (or the opposite, headed back to Seattle after visiting in Tacoma). But even if all these people are commuting to Seattle, that is about 3,000 people a day, which is not a lot (for a city of 200,000).

        You can bet that a lot more people are commuting by car as well. But still not that many. My point is that very few are likely making a traditional commute into downtown. There are probably a few thousand that go to Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Renton as well as parts of Seattle. Way more than Cle Elum, but still not very big when you consider there is very good train and express bus service. An hour commute doesn’t seem that bad if you live in New Jersey, but in Seattle it is fairly rare (folks find other places to live or work).

      5. The 590 is peak only. It may look like all day because it’s on the same schedule page as the 594, but the midday runs are the 594.

    5. It is like Columbia City in ways, but on a citywide scale so there are many districts that have different starting points and different levels of potential. Downtown Tacoma has made a good start with UW and the museums, and it has capacity for more offices whenever they come. Sixth Avenue has a bit of artsy stuff, a couple music pubs. I did a walking tour of the Tacoma Link route a month or two ago (north Commerce, Stadium, MLK to 19th; I didn’t go west on 19th). The Stadium area on Broadway has several expensive-looking lowrise condos and office spaces both in converted old buildings and new buildings. MLK felt like First Hill with a lot of medical activity, but the black population is still substantially there like the CD was in the 80s or early 90s. There’s a park that reminded me of Berkeley’s Peope’s Park; I think I’d heard about it earlier but never seen it. It’s an open question how much redevelopment will take place in the Hilltop, how much rents will rise, and how much displacement there will be. I assume it will proceed gradually but not be a mad gold rush, as the number of people willing to locate in Tacoma will remain limited. Bridgeport Way has gotten several large garden apartments since the 80s so there’s some density there, but the street is wide and it’s a car-based area, so not much more can be expected. South Tacoma Way from my last look had lots of run-down buildings and car dealerships, so vast theoretical potential for density, but I imagine it would be as politically unpopular as densifying Aurora and Pacific Highway, and the development demand is not enough to extend that far yet. The Tacoma Mall area I don’t know much about; the city wants to see it become like the Spring District, and I gather there’s a lot of transit-riding people in the vicinity now, similar to the Renton-Southcenter-Burien corridor, but that’s just a guess.

      I’ve been thinking about where I might live if I get priced out of Seattle in the future, especially when I get into my 60s and may have less income. So I may be heading toward Tacoma or Lynnwood or Everett or Kent. I like Tacoma’s urban bones, although the wide streets limit its potential. But the long trek to Seattle leaves questions, since I’ll presumably still be going to Seattle or Bellevue at least every week or two plus wherever I work. And the distance from Tacoma Dome to wherever I would live also raises questions, and how fast Tacoma Link will be. There has been talk about TOD around Tacoma Dome and Fife, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Lynnwood and south Everett will have two-line Link so that’s a substantial factor in their favor, but they’re very suburban in nature. Yet they’re much closer to north Seattle where I’d likely be going to. So most likely I’d go for the 5-minute transit and being closer-in rather than the great Tacoma urbanity, and just suffer the suburbanness, but we’ll see what happens in the next 10-20 years. Or maybe Kent will be the savior, which at least has Metro service until midnight and the expectation of two more RapidRide lines and an Express to KDM station, and I hope the downtown density plan happens and East Hill densifies someday.

      By the way, I’ve never understood how you “had to” move all the way to Olympia. Surely there must be something in all of Burien, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, or Tacoma that you could afford?

      1. The trip to the Dome from any of the neighborhoods is definitely a challenge. From my place in central Tacoma, near 6th Ave, I’d have to take a bus and the then Link to get there to get on Sounder. And the buses are so slow- they stop every block. The snaking pattern of Link isn’t going to help that at all.

      2. I definitely think it was a mistake to snake Tacoma Link down MLK through hilltop. It makes more sense for it to run down the median on 6th ave and replace the western portion of route 1.

      3. As for trips to Seattle, I do the daily commute from Federal Way on the bus. For me, it’s one bus to the Federal Way TC, and then the 577 or 578 (and during peak there is a rich selection of commuter routes like the 177, 178, and 179 to downtown, and the 193 and 197 to other parts of Seattle, in addition to the 577 running every 12 mins). To get downtown is around 75 minutes off-peak, and probably 90-120 mins peak.

        From Tacoma would probably be less time than mine from Tacoma Dome (and during peak you have Sounder, which is very fast compared to peak traffic, and about the same as off-peak buses). From other parts of Tacoma would probably be quite doable (as long it’s one bus from Tacoma Done). 594 to a local bus would work just fine, it would just take some patience. If PT moves forward with the “transit until 10 PM everywhere” aspect of Alternative 2, then that will certainly make that work better.

        Of course, if ST3 passes, you will get Link to Seattle instead of ST express, which will take about twice as long (this is my biggest objection to ST3 in fact, but not a deal breaker). In return for the longer trip, you get a number of benefits, like 10 minute frequency off-peak (compared to 30 mins on STX), more flexibility (you can get off at any station on the way, unlike STX which just goes from Tacoma to SODO with no intermediate stops), a 1-seat ride to Ballard (where you can make a connection to north Seattle), or a very easy train-to-train transfer for destinations on the red or blue lines.

      4. Thanks Sarah. I really hope people understand this. If we were building high speed rail to Tacoma, then I would be all over it. Imagine if Sounder took the same stops but ended up at the Tacoma Dome in 25 minutes. That isn’t crazy — it is barely high speed — but it is a game changer.

        But 75 minutes really doesn’t change anything. This is why no major city extends its subway out this long. It just doesn’t make sense.

  2. “This was shown with painful clarity by PT’s short-lived “Community Connector” program in Fife, Milton, and Edgewood, where Routes 503 and 504 averaged less than 1 rider per hour.”

    One important thing to note is that the 504’s last trip of the “night” left at 1:12 pm, so it clearly wasn’t meant to be used. I honestly think it was more of a political move to prevent the eastern part of the county from withdrawing and forming their own transit (which was a threat at the time).

    One thing that PT really doesn’t get right in Lakewood with Alternative 2 is that they orient everything around Lakewood TC, while all ST service to Seattle is from Lakewood Sounder and SR 512 P&R. This is the kind of abysmal inter-agency failure that should be relegated to the dustbin of history, but isn’t because apparently PT doesn’t think any residents of Lakewood ever go to Seattle.

    1. The failure started with Sound Transit locating the station away from any major intersections, existing transit centers or even railroad crossings, which makes it hard for transit to get there. If there was at least a railroad crossing, a PT route could stop there and head north or west back to the Bridgeport corridor. And had they built it a mere 1000 ft south, it would have been right at Bridgeport, and 206 would serve it.

      1. 1000 feet is probably passable for most people in terms of walking distance. I think an absolute must is extending route 3 from Lakewood TC down Bridgeport, then up Pacific Highway to Lakewood station and terminating at SR 512 P&R, otherwise it’s hard to call this a serious replacement for route 300. Same thing with the 2 as well. The 202, 212, and 214 should be extend to SR 512 P&R along 108th and the 48 should be moved off Steilacoom boulevard and onto S. Tacoma Way to 108th (passing SR 512 P&R), giving the option to transfer to the 594/592.

        That way, all local lakewood routes would connect to a Seattle bus, and the 2 & 3 would also connect to the Seattle train. There would be some extra service hour cost to adding these tails, but I think it’s a proposition that’s worth it.

      2. My crazy idea – Lakewood extends the dead-end 123rd St SW from Bridgeport Way east to 47th Ave SW, a minor road that has a bridge over I-5, and meets Tacoma Way right at Lakewood station. The 206 could then make this slight diversion and serve it.

        Of course, by the time your that far down in Lakewood, Seattle is not very relevant to people’s lives. This is JBLM country, and 206 passes close to a lot of the gates.

  3. “Tacoma’s posh north end”… Nice editorialization! Want me to start with what can be said about people who can afford Seattle real estate?

    1. I once was in the north end of Tacoma, and I mentioned what street I lived on – and then clarified that the street had a South in front, instead of a North. I could see that their opinion of me dropped some 30% just hearing the south in my address.

      So, yeah, posh, and also stuck up often.

    2. I already said it, Engineer. That’s why my streetcar stop is now at Western State Hospital.


    3. In terms of relative wealth, demographics, and social expectations that have built up since the mid 20th century, north Tacoma is like Wallingford, Hilltop is like the Central District circa the late 1990s, and west and southwest Tacoma and Lakewood are more like Lynnwood (i.e., not as problematic as Hilltop but not as desirable as north Tacoma either). Although there are some rich enclaves in west and southwest Tacoma like Fircrest. South Tacoma Way is less dense than Aurora but run down like Rainier Valley was in the 80s.

      1. By Southwest Tacoma, I assume you mean Fircrest and University Place? But don’t ever say that to their faces :)

        Fircrest is not rich. It’s very much a middle-class suburb, and it’s an old suburb, not much younger than Tacoma itself. The rich areas are parts North and West Tacoma and UP that have waterfront views – the Wedge, Old Town, Waterview Dr, Chambers Bay area – and with Tacoma mostly on a peninsula, there are lots of waterfront views, and so quite a bit of these areas aren’t that rich. Fircrest is 100% inland and has no waterfront or views, nor any rich housing in any form.

      2. I meant everything south of 6th Avenue south to I-5, but short of South Tacoma Way.

        I may have mistaken the Fircrest Golf Club for an entirely wealthy suburb.

  4. I fully support PT’s alternative 2 and consider it long overdue. I suggested some minor changes to it (have 16 serve Old Town, for example), but largely it’s a good proposal.

  5. Perhaps when PT remembers how to serve Tacoma and immediate surroundings well they can successfully pitch more of the county. Sumner has Sounder and two ST routes but nothing further up the Puyallup Valley has any service at all.

    The mayor of Orting, all hot for ST funded rail service, lives in a community that doesn’t have any transit service at all. Bonney Lake has a few trips each day from it’s P&R to/from Sounder.

    1. All those areas voted to leave the Pierce Transit district around seven years ago. Before they had infrequent milk runs to downtown Tacoma. I don’t know if Orting in particular did but it went all the way out to Buckley. Sumner’s mayor was in favor of leaving, and then was shocked, shocked when it lost service, so it was like Brexit. The leaving areas then begged Sound Transit to set up ST Express routes to replace the PT shuttles to Sounder, which ST did because Sounder’s ridership was at stake.

      1. When I lived in Pierce County, right before the gutting of PT:
        * Orting had a dial a ride to South Hill Mall that was really difficult to comprehend
        * Bonney Lake, Prarie Ridge, and Buckley were served by an every other hour 406/407 which was isolated from the rest of the County except during peak hours on the 582 Tacoma / Sumner / Bonney Lake

  6. As someone who lived in Tacoma for all his life up until a week or so ago when I moved to Auburn for college. I can say that the city has changed and flourished after it’s low period though the 80s and 90s, which my parents said was definitely not a place people sought after unless you were looking for an affordable house to live in. But the city has slowly has become it’s own city instead of being completely in Seattle’s shadow. It has a decent downtown area that has grown over the years. Some nice parks, a few interesting museums/attractions, and a decent retail center(Tacoma Mall). What will determine how Tacoma will be shaped and changed in the coming decades is ST3 in my opinion.

    1. That’s what I’m seeing, Zachary, and I really like it. And like a lot of other places now, the thing that gives me solid hope for our country is the number of really nice people around age 20 I’m meeting now.

      I love stopping in at the Metronome on Sixth, open ’til ten, a literal lifesaver when my 574 comes into Tacoma Dome at 9:15 and I’ve got 30 miles to drive in the dark. Aand the elegant cafe in the Art Center just up a staircase from the 10th and Commerce LINK stop.

      But I do wonder how deep the good life (not being sarcastic) goes. Is the real truth that, like with the Route 7, the people who couldn’t afford a better life have simply been re- and dis-placed by the people that can.

      Whose younger members certainly don’t deserve the likely results of our country’s bone-deep financial and social inequality. Which itself has four hundred years of racism seeped into its very DNA.

      Mark Dublin

    2. How ill ST3 make a difference to the future of Tacoma? Holy cow, let me run through what has happened in the last few years. A major university (one of the greatest in the world) puts a satellite campus right in the center of town. One of the most famous living artists in the world helps launch a museum in your city dedicated to his craft (and it is an excellent museum by the way). But you think a 75 minute ride to Seattle will make much difference? Tacoma is what it is. Like many northwest cities, it is underrated. But hell, a feature in Sunset magazine will probably have more effect on Tacoma than ST3 (I can’t wait until it makes the top ten places to retire list).

      1. Except the link line isn’t really meant for the Tacoma-Seattle crowd, but more for the shorter local trips. Another way to put it, it would replace the 574, not the 590.

        Hopefully ST gets a good deal with BNSF and gets hourly sounder trains. The Sounder absolutely is better than express buses to Seattle.

        It’s two different services that serve two different purposes.

      2. ST3 also includes Sounder improvements.

        The trip from Seattle will be slow on light rail, but there’s a lot of stuff between Tacoma and Seattle. Those intermediate stations could be useful to a number of people.

      3. The 574 carries a little over 400 people per day to or from Tacoma. I don’t think the train will make much difference.

        Sounder carries more, but the Tacoma Dome carries far less than either Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn or Kent. About 600 people a day board at the Tacoma Dome (as opposed to over 1,000 for those other stations).

        Part of the problem is that it doesn’t serve downtown Tacoma, or even a relatively populated part of Tacoma. The other problem is that even the express train takes too long. Things might bet interesting if we were talking about a high speed connection to Seattle. But we aren’t. Even if we were, Baltimore has a fairly high speed connection to the booming Washington DC market, but it is largely irrelevant.

        I really can’t think of any city, anywhere that has that many people (around 200,000) and that kind of density (not a lot) that has seen a major economic boost because they ran a very slow subway to a bigger city, a subway line to the airport, or added a bunch of trips to a commuter line network that takes about an hour to get to its most popular destination. Like Baltimore it is highly dependent on the government, and its own internal advantages.

      4. 574 runs every half hour. It works but isn’t great if you are trying to get between places.

        Metra Electric (former Illinois Central) runs 31 miles to the south of Chicago, and University Park is hardly Tacoma. It’s not a subway, but the speeds aren’t that great either on most of the line.

        Today, it would cost a bundle to build that as a new electric line. The trains are heavy and expensive to operate. So, if it were built today there is a good chance it would look like Link to Tacoma. It costs a lot of money to put down new mainline track and operate current North American commuter trains.

        I agree that it would be best if the line actually went to downtown Tacoma.

        The spine might not be the best option for system expansion. In fact it looks an awful lot like the TriMet Orange Line in terms of being next to difficult to access highway stations. However, it seems like that is what the sausage making process produced as the next priority.

  7. As for PT, I hope this will make public transportation in Tacoma a lot less of pain. As PT was my main reason for leaving Tacoma to move to Auburn, I hated using PT while living there as the frequency was awful on many routes I used and was basically useless in many situations for me since service for many routes ended so early that it made anytime I wanted to hang out with friends till later at night not possible. KCM has it’s issues, but at least most routes go later than 7-9 PM which I appreciate

    1. I don’t live in Pierce County, but looking at the schedules, service span is their number one problem. They will look at a route that ends at 6-7pm, and suggest adding 30 minute peak headways. Expanding span is a priority, but it’s down the list. And I don’t get it. Expanding span is cheaper than increasing frequency (because you don’t need to hire a new driver), and it makes transit usage more possible, not just more convenient. On that note, I like their new 10 PM standard of service span in Alternative 2.

  8. Why is this happening just now? Shouldn’t a restructure to be more efficient with fewer service hours be made on the way down, not the way up? If you look at internet archives, you can see that in the original service cut proposal for 2011, there was a very aggressive restructure (, which preserved service to areas like NE Tacoma and Buckley, which were cut entirely in the actual cuts (I liken the proposed vs. actual cuts as the exactoknife cuts vs. the chainsaw cuts). Some highlights:

    406 and 407 (and I think the 408) were combined into a single route to Buckley every two hours, preserving both most of the coverage and frequency of the 407 and 408. In the eventual plan, these ended up being cut, leaving Buckley and Prairie Ridge with no service whatsoever, despite paying into the system.

    The 61 was truncated in NE Tacoma, but was preserved.

    The 490 (similar to the 400) and 402 were combined. 402 would to to Tacoma instead of FW, and the entire northern portion of 402 along Meridian/Enchanted was replaced with a piecewise assembly of route 501 and a new route 503 (which duplicated the 501 along 20th including the Valley ave deviation, and headed south along Meridian to Puyallup).

    I think it was a much more sensible plan that gave East Pierce a fair deal. The current plan is decidedly more Tacoma-oriented, which isn’t bad, but (as usual) East Pierce is pretty much left out of the party. There is still no proposed weekend service on route 400, meaning that Puyallup and Tacoma will still not have a 7-day connection, and the last southbound 402 still leaves at just 6:15 PM.

    1. I would like PT to look at better routes on their East Pierce lines. 425 is just ridiculous, having all the problems that the current North Tacoma routes have. 400 should use Meridian, combining with 402 to give more frequent service in the heart of Puyallup.

  9. Like the restructure plan. Love how this kind of straightening-out and rationalization is becoming more common throughout American transit systems.

    1. I agree. I also like the grant for the on-demand service and think the two complement each other really well. It is tough to tell someone living in a trailer park that he needs to walk an extra mile because it is for the greater good. But if you tell them that his area will have the other type of service, then I think everyone comes out ahead.

  10. There is a fair amount of traffic on Ruston Way due to it being a good intermediate speed road from the north to south end of the peninsula.

    I’m wondering if, now that the tunnel at the smelter is gone, it would be a good idea to also have a route there that would help link the north and south ends of the peninsula without some many local stops.

    Say, have a route serving Old Tacoma cross the tracks and head to downtown from there along the water so that half the local stops are skipped?

    1. Pierce Transit’s page on the alternative 2 service changes mentions a Ruston Way trolley proposed for sometime in 2017, but I could not find any details (or anything besides that passing mention).

      The exact wording (context is lack of service to Old Town under Alt 2) “A potential mitigation would be to extend the proposed Ruston-Downtown Tacoma Trolley (Summer 2017) through Old Town.” I’m unclear how you would run a trolley from Ruston to Downtown Tacoma without passing thru Old Town.

      The Link with the mention:

      1. Except that such a bus would stop within one block of the heart of Old Town. It’s that close. Skipping Old Town on a Ruston-Tacoma bus would be pure insanity.

    2. Glenn, since I sometimes drive Ruston way on my “Shoreline Route” home, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly where to put streetcar tracks. I’m not sure I’d want to use any of the BN right of way. Too many moving freights.

      And beach across the road looks fairly narrow. And Old Town is a couple of steep blocks uphill from the beach. And arterials in all directions out of Old Town look very steep. Would be great to have the car-line to Point Defiance, but how do we civil-engineer its track?


  11. The rare occasions I’ve visited Pierce County, I have mostly managed to avoid riding the Pierce Transit buses. My most common destination has been Point Defiance State Park. 594 to PT11 is about 2 hours, including a 29-minute wait between buses in downtown Tacoma. Sometimes, I’ll do a big loop with my bike, taking the 594 to downtown Tacoma and riding my bike to Point Defiance Park one direction, then riding two ferries and taking my bike across Vashon Island in the other direction.

    I’ve wanted to do this as a group ride for some time, but, unfortunately, the limited bike capacity on the 594 makes an adventure like something that is only possible alone (or with one other person if you are really willing to roll the dice). The extra bike capacity between Seattle and Tacoma, provided by Link and Sounder, finally making doing this loop with a small group possible.

  12. Two ideas that I think would encourage more people to take the bus are

    1. The time it takes to get to one transit station to another takes too long. Most of the transit stations don’t connect to Sound Transit. I think it would wonderful if there were direct buses or limited stop buses that went from one transit center to another.

    2. PT really needs to expand service hours for at least the major routes. The bus isn’t useful for people who work jobs that start at 6AM or end after 9PM. The work schedule for many lower income people is for example, 6AM-3PM or 3PM -11PM. For warehouse workers, retail, food service this is quite common.

  13. I don’t know about the loss of service to Old Town. Tacoma Ave is down quite a steep hill below I St. And no service on 30th? Has anyone ever walked up 30th??? I have. Not fun.

    1. That said, this won’t affect me personally at all, because I live in Seattle now, and have since 2013, mainly due to Pierce Transit.

    2. I work in Old Town and I ride my bike up 30th every day. I’m getting some leg muscles, I can tell you that.

      The lack of Old Town and 30th service is the biggest drawback to alt 2. I sent my comment to Pierce Transit suggesting that they adjust the proposed route 16 to cover it. My suggesting was, in the wedge, run on Tacoma Ave (rather than I St as proposed), then take McCarver down to Old Town, then 30th back up, then Alder to go back to the proposed 16 routing.

      1. Too much multifamily on and near I St to not serve it, versus the very small business district that is Old Town. I St is your cross-town arterial that will get buses back and forth quickly and efficiently. The short dog leg over to 26th allows it to hit up Proctor and continue speedily west to Pearl.

        Maybe PT needs a a more thorough restructure (blow up the entire system) and go to a grid.

      2. Maybe they can “easily” until about 8th St. I St goes up while Tacoma Ave goes down. By the time you reach McCarver, there is a huuuuuge hill, similar to 30th, but not as bad. IMO There’s not a way to do this without the 13 (or whatever they call it now).

      1. Where the Ruston Way crosses over the railroad tracks – corner of N 30th St and McCarver St, by the water. Old Town is also about 300 feet lower than most of the city.

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