Light blue line shows Tacoma Link Expansion Image: Sound Transit

The Capital Committee is expected to discuss the proposed names for the six new stations in the Tacoma Link Expansion during its September 14 meeting. If approved by the Capital Committee the recommendations, which also includes the renaming of the existing Commerce Street Station, will then go before the full board.

The proposed new station names are:  

  • Old City Hall – 7th and Commerce
  • Stadium Way/S 4th – Stadium Way and S 4th S
  • Stadium District – N 1st St and N Tacoma Ave
  • Medical Center North – MLK Way and Division Ave
  • 6th Avenue – MLK Way and 6th Ave
  • Hilltop District – MLK Way and S 11th St
  • Medical Center South – MLK Way and S 19th St

The Tacoma Link Expansion project will move the existing Theater District Station a few blocks north to 7th St and Commerical, where it will become Old City Hall Station. With the relocation of the Theater District Station, Sound Transit said residents requested the existing Commerce Street Station, located at 11th and Commerce Street, be renamed the Theater District Station.

While light rail usage soars in Seattle, ridership on the Tacoma Light Rail drags behind. Although a $29,000 annual subsidy from Tacoma’s Business Improvement Area covers the $1 ticket cost, annual boardings have dropped 8% after peaking in 2012.

Sound Transit says the 2.4-mile future extension to the Hilltop neighborhood and St Joseph’s Hospital, which adds six stations and relocated another, will boost ridership.

Already seeing home prices rise along planned link extension, Kristina Walker, director of the transit advocacy agency Downtown on the Go, says the extension will have a big impact on ridership.

“It opens up the commuter possibility in a huge, huge way. It will connect the Sounder Train to a major hospital,” Walker said.

The current system, a 1.6-mile line with just six stations, is basically a downtown circulator, she said.

“It’s a downtown connector, for the most part, I use the Link as circular in downtown,” Walker said. “It’s not my primary mode of transportation because it’s just not a lot.”

The extended reach the expansion provides will make light rail an option for commuters, Walker said, with riders arriving at the Tacoma Dome no longer having to take multiple buses to reach their destination.

She believes the light rail expansion will also “open up huge swaths of neighborhoods,” connecting areas not connected before.

The Tacoma Link Expansion is anticipated to begin service in 2022. According to Sound Transit trains once the expansion is finished trains will run every 10 minutes between 5 am and 10 pm, up from the current frequency of every 12 minutes. Assuming predicted future growth in residential and employment categories, the transit agency estimated by 2035 daily boardings will hit 10,200.

In June of this year, the system average 3,086 boarding per day during the week, up almost 5.5 percent from the same month last year, but down from May 2017, which had an average of 3,570-weekday boardings. However, boardings are up 2.9 percent so far this year compared to the same time period in 2016.

35 Replies to “Sound Transit Reveals New Tacoma Station Names”

  1. I like the names, except 6th Avenue. Most people recognize “6th Ave” as the stretch of 6th Ave (NOT S 6th Ave) from Sprague to Proctor – a Tacoma neighborhood, admittedly, with one of the most unimaginative names. That being said, this doesn’t drop you anywhere near the 6th Ave Business District, so I fear that a fair number of uninformed riders will get off here thinking they can easily walk to their destination, which they can’t. “Chelsea Heights” or “Wright Park” would have been more fitting.

    That being said, I shouldn’t complain too much. This will be a good shot in the arm for Hilltop and Stadium and will help develop the opportunity for a large portion of Tacoma’s workforce to use transit, and build the market for more dense less car-dependent housing.

      1. I read it the long way. Well, get that word “District” out. That’s like putting “Station” in the name. Of course the Hilltop station is for the Hilltop district.

  2. Tacoma Link boardings mirror local transit ridership. Pierce Transit had to implement service reductions that affected weekday frequency and span. Now that local transit service has been generally restored with a route restructure, ridership is climbing again. Development along the current and planned corridor is increasing as well.

    It’s strange to me that this story isn’t a bit more critical of ST’s schedule performance for this 2.4 mile streetcar extension. It is an ST2 project that is scheduled to be delivered only a year before East Link. There’s something profoundly wrong about that.

    Station names look good though.

    1. Pierce in ST2 is also putting money into Sounder and saving up for Central Link. The timeline may have been put late because it’s small and low priority. The ST3 extension west on 19th is also put late.

    2. Also the ridership seems to drop around the time the goofy commerce street infill station was opened. This reduced headways to every 12 minutes from 10, and without printed timetables or information displays at the stations made the system that much harder to use. The station itself is just odd, with those tall custom built shelters that really do not look anywhere near right. Typical bus stop type shelters would have worked just as well, if not better and been cheaper.

  3. This alignment is a joke. There is no way that this is a more practical or useful alignment than the proposed 6th Ave./TCC option.

    1. +1. Every time I see this project mentioned, I’m like: “Nice streetcar, shame it’s shaped like a U.”

      1. Bruce, isn’t your real objection that the length of MLK between Division and 19th will never be a busy-enough district to need a streetcar?

        To me, present renovation of Hilltop and large amount of vacant property around MLK/Ernest Brazil intersection plus the medical center, add up to prime streetcar destination territory short-term. While car-line out Sixth Avenue is under construction, which will take awhile.

        Rankler, when 6th Avenue line is ready, even temporary terminal at 19th, a dense busy district can become a spur line enabling shorter headways between Wright Park and Downtown. No question time will come when even an electrified Route 1 will have to go to rail. But track space and intersections will need a girl dog for a carline mascot.

        But both alignments share a technical problem I’m surprised hasn’t killed the project. Too bad the Google Map 3D “satellite” mode isn’t either 3D or traffic-realistic enough to pretend you’ve got your hand on the controller. Looking at a momentum-deprived vertical block of stopped tail-lights between you and the dotted circle called “Stadium.”

        Nobody’d dare not call that a 90 degree curve. It’s a filed-off steeply uphill T-junction! So let’s divert arguing time over 6th/TCC vs. MLK/19th to how we either make that climb transit only, or hold general traffic at the last signal on Stadium until the car is across Tacoma Avenue. 2D map, sort of a “J”. Which by all the rules comes before “U” and is therefore worse.

        Any chance we can get a posting from a LINK project engineer to tell us whether we need a negative wire and some tires, or if we can get a cogwheel track like Stuttgart, or a detachable cable grip like Trieste?

        At foot of grade, motorman couples into a “trailer” with a cable grip.

        View from Stadium Station with correct amount of general purpose traffic.

        Or I’m wrong, which won’t matter because both options will go to Tacoma Dome for ST Express Sounder, or lunch.

        Mark Dublin

      2. gee Bruce, if we build the Center City Connector Streetcar between the SLU and First Hill lines of Seattle, it can be U-shaped line too. Who is in on the joke?

    2. Randomly placing the track in a straight line in any other non-water/cliff direction from Stadium would have been more useful.

    3. I don’t know about other options but I can’t believe anyone would build a rail alignment like this, simply looking at the map.

  4. The extension to the Stadium District makes a lot of sense….but that looping back seems redundant and ridiculous. It would have been better to at least get somewhere (6th District, UPS, Old Tacoma, TCC, Pt. Defiance…), instead of that unceremonious end in a very uninteresting part of the city. Why would someone even ride to the Tacoma Dome from there when you could just walk down the hill in a fraction of the time?

    1. Because walking up a steep hill is a different matter. The unceremonious end will no longer be an end when ST3 extends it west to Tacoma Community College.

      1. No one is arguing against the line going up the hill. It’s the sudden left turn into a U-shape that’s the problem.

  5. You could have just linked the 6th Ave. District, UPS, and TCC from Stadium and been done with it in a single phase, which would have been better than the ST2 + ST3 components combined. Is this a case of planning for what they wish things to be in the future rather than how things actually are today? I seriously don’t get the point of the ST2 and most of the ST3 alignments.

    1. The point is to connect to the hospital jobs in Tacoma’s First Hill, to encourage development in a city that doesn’t have much of it, and to serve a lower-income, high-minority area. Tacoma General hospital is at the north end, and St Joseph’s hospital is at the south end.

      1. And that’s precisely the problem. When you start enumerating destinations that government officials believe to be important, without looking at a map or caring how long it’s going to take to get places, a U-shaped route that isn’t worth anybody’s time to actually take, is what you get.

        If the purpose of the route is simply a handicapped-friendly way to access the hospitals, why bother with a streetcar at all? Just build an elevator or escalator up the hill and call it a day.

      2. *serve as in hopefully gentrify a once troubled area that gave Tacoma a bad name for many years. Research Tacoma’s hilltop and the Ash Street shootout for more information.

  6. Do the Sound Transit Board and staff care at all about the “no similar names” policy?

      1. Its actually very descriptive for the area since its Tacoma Stadium District named after Stadium High school. Stadium Way/4th is the name of the intersection, I don’t know how you could change that. Yo may be able to change Stadium District for Wright Park or something of the like, but it would be confusing for people.

  7. I wonder sometimes why certain agencies list their ridership numbers by year, not by day. My theory is that when they use year, they are basically trying to make the number sound impressive. So, just to do a little math: Assume ridership is 1 million a year. There are at least 260 weekdays in a year. So that means even if all these rides happened during the week, weekday ridership is under 4,000 a day. That makes ridership on this light rail line smaller than every bus on this page (and then some): Yep, I think my theory is correct. Very few people ride this thing, and ST is embarrassed to admit it.

    Oh, but I’m sure that ridership will soar as the line doubles back on itself. Because folks on Hilltop are all about the charm and ambiance of rail, as opposed to just getting to where they want to go. Sorry for the snark, but the whole thing just sounds like a joke. Tacoma — like every city its size and demographic — struggles to build good transit because it is relatively expensive. Wasting time on projects like this is a disgrace, and folks in charge should be ashamed.

  8. Long past time to stop calling Tacoma Link a light rail line. As everyone can plainly see, if it’s a streetcar.

    1. City of Tacoma marketing. When it opened, Tacoma was running ad campaigns/billboards trying to draw businesses from Seattle in which they proudly touted “we have the only light rail line in the state!”. It was a streetcar then and it is a streetcar now.

      1. Furthermore, Sound Transit has always called it light rail, also I suspect for marketing purposes. Time for all to acknowledge and respect the differences between the two modes.

      2. There will be a collision as Central Link switches to colors and Tacoma Link adds more lines. Will they all use a common color scheme even though they’re two different levels of service? ST has defined light rail for Central Link as r”primarily unning in its own lane or grade separated” but this doesn’t apply to Tacoma Link, and it’s what we were very concerned about for Ballard when ST suggested a streetcar to save money. I wrote to ST during the previous Tacoma Link design round and mentioned this in my questions; the reply I got was that ST hadn’t decided on Tacoma Link’s ST3 branding yet.

      3. Tacoma link will be one single line in operation as it expects thus far. I’m sure in due time sometime after 2030 when Central LINK connects to Tacoma it will proudly wear a color like the rest of the LINK system, although it will certainly almost always be a totally independent and exclusive operation, only referred to as Tacoma LINK by us old timers.

  9. In Sweden, both the Kinki Sharyo and Skoda trains would class as ” spårvagn”. Capable of operating on tracks in the street.

    But good habit in transit discussions: drive, bicycle, ride other transit, or walk along every proposed right of way, and think what it would look like viewed through a bus or train windshield.

    Also, instead of thinking only of service area in general, and present tense, try to imagine what surroundings will look like, or what you’d want them to look like, in twenty years.

    My own guess is that the Tacoma car-line and its service area will pretty much grow up together. My own “take” on main problem won’t be having enough passengers. LINK also wasn’t supposed to have enough. ‘Til UW Station opened, whereupon grievance changed to no place to sit.

    But “Gentrification” isn’t cosmetic. It’s a symptom of something increasingly unhealthy, and not just for transit. Given present trends, Hilltop itself will definitely become home to many more people. All of whom will have incomes to let them buy or rent homes, dine, and relax over coffee there. Or work on their computers.

    While the majority of the population who can’t afford it will far from love the cars they’ll now have to live in. And think themselves lucky and few by comparison with majority of those who can’t afford either Hilltop or a freeway overpass.

    By all History, every civilization dies from snowballing mis-division of wealth. At our own stage of the illness, we can still get beyond survival to health. But we need, and very fast, a very larger number of working incomes that don’t take a lifetime of debt to earn.

    The condition of the United States of America, including and especially transportation, has enough deferred maintenance to fix that we shouldn’t need a (what’s unit called?) of stimulus. I know present beneficiaries have to pay for it.

    Which at least needs at least one political party to at least try to make them,


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