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.