ST Link 1003 near Convention Center Station
Tacoma Link at Convention Center Station

Sound Transit is asking the public for input on designs and names for seven new light rail stations on Tacoma Link’s Hilltop extension, via this survey. The project is expected to begin construction in 2018 and open for service in 2022, bringing trains every 10 minutes to the MLK Way corridor west of downtown Tacoma.

The survey has two basic canopy styles, developed by project architects Waterleaf (who have experience in streetcar maintenance facilities, including First Hill’s in Chinatown). “Option A” is a simple glass canopy with a separate column for a sign with the station’s name, while “Option B” tacks on the sign on the end of the canopy structure. The final option will have two variants for 60-foot and 100-foot platforms, as seen in the layout documents posted by Sound Transit.

Design Option A (above) and Option B (below) — Waterleaf Architecture / Sound Transit

The extension will also require the construction of four traction power substations, which will be enclosed by a decorated fence and shrubbery, as seen during this December presentation. The survey also includes a comment field for the design of the substations, which will be located at Stadium Way & S. 2nd Street, N. I Street & N. 2nd Street, S. 5th Street & MLK Way, and MLK Way & S. 15th Street.

As always, the station naming policy set by Sound Transit in 2012 includes requirements to be brief, avoid commercial references and similarities to existing names, and a reflection of the local environment. There are seven stations that will be part of the Hilltop extension:

  • The relocated Theater District/S. 9th station (currently the line’s terminus)
  • Stadium Way and S. 4th Street
  • Stadium District (N. 1st Street & N. Tacoma Avenue)
  • MLK Way & S. 3rd Street
  • MLK Way & S. 6th Avenue
  • MLK Way & S. 11th Street
  • MLK Way & S. 19th Street

Tacoma Weekly also reports that the project has $175 million in FTA grants that are still in limbo following recent developments, but says that Sound Transit is working in the other Washington to keep those grants alive.

21 Replies to “Suggest Names and Designs For Tacoma Link’s Newest Stations”

  1. I had a lengthy email exchange spanning a number of months with several people at the City of Tacoma and Sound Transit trying to find out if Tacoma Link will have pictograms. No one had the answer.

    I asked them why the newly built Commerce Street station didn’t have a pictogram according to Washington State law and again, no one had the answer. The guy at ST actually seemed annoyed by my persistence. Mainly I want to figure out why such a ridiculous law exists in the first place. “Light rail” isn’t even defined in the law, should the Seattle Streetcar have pictograms?

    1. We don’t need pictograms. We need better transit. We can install pictograms after we’ve built a system that truly serves our population. At this rate, that will never happen.

  2. Tacoma Link now has a branding identity problem. Is it to be branded another Link line or a streetcar? With ST3, it will connect to the larger Link system so treating it with a separate line identity no longer makes sense.

    If it is Link, it probably needs a line color and single station names representing cross streets or neighborhood.

    If it’s a streetcar, using intersection names and not having an assigned color would probably be fine.

    1. It’s funny, on the surface (seriously, no pun intended) Tacoma Link seems more streetcar than Link, but it’s almost functionally as good as Portland’s MAX (at least through downtown PDX). It’s definitely a huge improvement over Seattle’s streetcar (either one), and using that as a bookend, it’s much closer to LR quality. If the new section is as good as the current one, it should be honored with a line designation.

    2. Not sure I agree – Tacoma Link is really a better version of the Seattle streetcar network, though they’ll be more on par once the Center City streetcar is built on 1st Ave. And in turn, “big boy” Link is really evolving into a “Light Metro” system, rather than light rail.

      From a branding perspective, I think it’s important to continue to refer to it as “Link” so people understand it’s a Sound Transit service – that’s important to maintain political support.

      Simply calling it “Tacoma Link” while the other lines have color names might be enough to distinguish? Even though it runs on 1-car sets, it’s still high frequency and generally exclusive ROW, so I think for an out-of-town guest it’s really not that misleading to call it “Link.” But if in the future it gets rebranded “Tacoma Streetcar” or something, I’d support that.

    3. It really seems to be a gray area.

      I just think ST needs to decide one way or the other. When U-Link opened, the ridership reports went firm ‘Central Link’ to ‘Link’ – yet ‘Tacoma Link’ remained listed separately. The marketing ambiguity is going to be a problem in branding and graphics until the term ‘Link’ is removed from the Tacoma service completely or the line is shown as part of ‘Link’. I would also note that ST operates ‘Express’ and ‘Sounder’ so using a different term other than ‘Link’ would be ok even as ST claims the service.

      I’m a systems marketing advocate for services with similar frequencies and feel, so I would gently lean towards branding it as Link with its own line color, pictograms and consistent names. Still, it’s a deliberate decision that needs to be deliberated before the design goes any further.

      1. “I just think ST needs to decide one way or the other.”

        Yes, but its slow timeline isn’t hurting operations. It won’t matter until 2030 when Central Link comes within fifteen miles of Tacoma Link.

      2. Have you not been reading about the Pierce disenchantment with ST, Mike? ST should be promoting upcoming investments as much as possible

        It’s a common practice for transit agencies building rail to brand the lines many years before they open. It builds goodwill with taxpayers and gives riders hope for a better future. Politically, it helps to solidify the promise of rail extensions and lines. WMATA, BART and other rail transit operators do this for strategic value.

    4. The issue is what Piercians are used to and what they want. It has been called Tacoma Link since the beginning, and during the expansion debates I heard a lot about alignments and nothing against the Tacoma Link name. If it’s simply called another color, it doesn’t really matter that it’s a different level of service, it can just be “The Brown Line is slower than the others. But that only affects you if you’re in Tacoma, which most people aren’t.” (Brown to connote smog, the former Tacoma Aroma.) Although the long-term plan is for several Tacoma lines, so what will ST do about global colors then, or will it use letters or numbers on Tacoma Link? One-digit numbers could be the successors of the “BRT” lines, although only some of them might never be converted. Letters could be used because nothing else in Pierce has them.

      Re worldwide standards, Tacoma Link is more like light rail while Central Link is more like light metro. So if the word “streetcar” hasn’t caught on in Tacoma yet, maybe we should just let it fade, and use it just for Seattle’s and Portland’s seriously substandard systems.

      Nothing like Tacoma Link has been proposed in King or Snohomish Counties. Some have speculated it could work in Lynnwood, Everett, or the Eastside, but nobody has made any concrete proposals or alignment suggestions for it. So it’s solely a Tacoma/Pierce issue for the foreseeable future.

      Don’t hold your breath for exclusive lanes. I walked the route last summer (watching it from Broadway, Division, and MLK), and parts of it look too narrow for exclusive lanes. Between Theater and Stadium would be a bottleneck. MLK would require eliminating street parking so the train could run in the center and cars in the side lanes. I don’t know whether Hilltop is ready for that since it’s a smaller and more car-centric city. ST’s statements don’t seem particularly aggressive.

    5. Branding… we are worried about branding? Tacoma doesn’t ever have a decent level of bus service and we are worried about how we “brand” out tiny little rail line. Give me a break. Let’s focus on how we can get more grants to build better transit, not how we should best name the little line.

      1. Tacoma Link is a pure ST project. ST fully funds Tacoma Link, and it operates it (which is unusual because it doesn’t operate anything else). The First Hill Streetcar is an SDOT project that ST contributed capital funding to. Metro operates Seattle’s streetcars (and Central Link). So ST’s relationship to the First Hill Streetcar is the same as to RapidRide G (Madison).

  3. I chose option B because the continuous horizontal line looks better for a train station. And if the windows/art panels look like vertical rectangles as in the concept, then that will evoke the storefront layout in a streetcar suburb. I didn’t have much opinion on the roofs. If they save money with a plain flat roof, hopefully it will leave more money for the rest of the design. I also put in a plug for bioswales regardless of the option: living plants are better for the environment and people’s health than dead artwork.

  4. Worst survey ever. What is the sensory experience of your neighborhood? How do you know when you’ve arrived home? Are you ****ing kidding me??? This is what we pay these people for. I’m all for public outreach, but we don’t need to sing kumbayah and discuss our feelings. We need to build transit. Solicit our input on the station design, request station names, and be done with it.

    1. Engineer, you’re definitely right about the consulting and opinion surveying industry. Best evidence for its unfitness is that it has never spawned a single work song. Or maybe that’s a good thing.

      But please think twice about outlawing “Kumbaya.” Because it conveys most common sentiment you’ll hear at any streetcar station: “Lord, when’s that train ever gonna Come By Here?”

      Also true, however, that through most of our country’s transportation history, both on giant sailing freighters and railroad track-laying crews, it wouldn’t have been possible for groups of a hundred workers to keep their motion coordinated without songs with the same rhythm of the work.

      Only problem with this particular song in regard to Tacoma LINK is that I’m not sure spike hammers ever worked on grooved rail. You don’t see them much around busway construction either.

      Maybe because with Twitter, everybody in the world knows exactly why Della Mae is treating her girl-friend whatever way “This” is. Maybe like teasing her because her nickname at work is “Big Bill Johnson.”


  5. Wonder if there’s ones stop missing. First and Tacoma to MLK and Third seems like a long way between stops for a neighborhood streetcar. Considering the stately presence of Wright Park, I wonder if there isn’t one planned for Y-junction at First and Division.

    Charles B. Wright donated the land. But would be great to name the stop after Edward O. Schwagerl, who was commissioned to design Wright Park in 1886. Or maybe the stop should be named for both of them. So pictogram of the white lions at the 6th Avenue gate across the park could give each lion the name of one of these founders.

    For all the other stops, have a contest.


  6. Except for the MLK and 19th stop, which already has ideal passenger amenity built into it. If it doesn’t get named “The Hula Girls Terminal”, the angry spirits of a formidable Pacific culture will make every espresso machine along the whole route pour only stale decaf Nescafe until the insult is avenged.

    The late, great Hunter S. Thompson wrote a book called “The Curse of Lono”, which ended with the author taking refuge in a holy Hawaiian sanctuary city because he screwed up just exactly like that. Read it and to avoid a lot of weeping, just name the stop after The Girls.


  7. Station naming should be something like this:
    Wright Park
    Stadium District
    Mary Bridge/Tacoma General
    6th Ave
    11th Ave
    St. Joseph Medical Center
    I know they say to avoid commercial names, but in my opinion if it’s a hospital it’s a bit more fair game to use.

  8. Continue calling it Tacoma Link if we must, but don’t call it light rail — because it’s not, it’s a streetcar. It has everything in common with Portland and Seattle streetcars, and much less in common with Link light rail.

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