The Tacoma Dome Link Extension (TDLE) delivers rail from Federal Way to the Tacoma Dome, not to be confused with the “Tacoma Link” streetcar running today. It will offer a 35 minute ride from the Tacoma Dome to Seatac in 2030, compared to 37 to 74 minutes, less frequently and reliably, scheduled on ST 574 in 2020.

Last week’s board meeting provided a progress update (video, at the 2:00:00 mark). The last glimpse was a July 2019 motion to reduce the options under consideration. As the Draft EIS grinds on, ST has revised and refined these options.

The track is all elevated [1] except for a few sections along I-5. While track alignments are often what cities care about, because of “impacts,” I’ll focus on the station locations, as that’s what will affect riders most. Moving south from the Federal Way TC:

The track finds its way back to I-5 before reaching South Federal Way. The preferred alignment comes a block off the freeway and has a station just north of S 352nd St. A minor variant straddles the street instead, which would, of course, ease access for pedestrians from all directions. The area is currently a sea of big box parking, and to honor that heritage ST will provide 500 parking spaces on site.

An alternative alignment stays on I-5 and has a station slightly further south on the current site of Jet Chevrolet [2].

Then it’s back on I-5 to Fife. No decisions here; it will definitely be off both I-5 and SR-99, and indeed 15th St, in a spot currently occupied by small motels, a handful of single-family homes, and trucking yards. Once again, ST will provide 500 parking spaces. At least the land is cheap — and one would hope, upzonable. Not a bad spot for Fife to get a downtown!

They’re looking at both SR99 and I-5 to get to Portland Avenue, the other Emerald Queen Casino stop. There’s no way to describe this as anything but light industrial, unfortunately hemmed in by the Sounder tracks, the freeway, another set of tracks, and the Puyallup River. At least there’s no parking planned there!

The alternative that spans Portland Ave is clearly better here, as the only hope to get any riders is a great bus transfer for people heading south on Portland Ave. But hey, it’s a rail transit station on an Indian Reservation, which might make it and Fife unique in the world.

Note that the dark gray line is Sounder not I-5.

Roughly 1km west, we arrive at the Tacoma Dome. There are four options here: one directly over the Tacoma Link terminus (preferred), one built directly over Freighthouse Square (!), another further east, and one that straddles D St to the West.

The last one would bring it a bit closer to Pacific Avenue BRT, but probably not enough to make a difference. It also distances it from Tacoma Link, Sounder, Amtrak, and Greyhound, and pulls it closer to I-5, I-705, and the Tacoma Dome parking desert.

In what is becoming a theme with ST3, future riders would be best off if they just stuck with the preferred alternative, except where a minor tweak would allow riders to enter from either side of the street. There is nothing vaguely approaching density or a pedestrian-oriented landscape at any of these sites, but then neither are they fertile ground for NIMBYs. It will certainly be a test of what urban planners can deliver on greenfields that have transit infrastructure, but nothing else broadly recognized as an ingredient of a vibrant neighborhood.

[1] Elevated track might come in handy in Fife if the sea comes in a few decades. I hope those pylons don’t corrode easily.

[2] This would also put it about 1000 feet from Wild Waves, if the park could be persuaded to put another entrance on the opposite end from the parking lot.

80 Replies to “Tacoma Dome Link reduces the options”

  1. I wonder the feasibility of having central Link take over the Tacoma Link tracks, allowing one train to run all the way from downtown Tacoma to Ballard. It would solve a lot of problems with the awkward transfer at Tacoma Dome.

    1. It might be technically possible, but what’s the operating plan? That the Tacoma streetcar run along the Central Link alignment beyond Tacoma Dome? The 4-car train coming from Seattle cannot turn into downtown Tacoma without entirely new stations.

      Trying to decouple a Link train and send 1 car along the streetcar alignment is an operational nightmare, probably taking longer for riders than just designing a good walking transfer.

      1. I’m pretty sure a four car train would fit here: https://goo.gl/maps/2yhnwSWpXosfVncc6. That would be the only stop. I don’t think you would need to tear up the street at all. If you do, it would be minimal, towards the south, at worst shrinking the sidewalk and Don Pugnetti park (https://goo.gl/maps/DXs36jwtRTsgSw4s5). You would have to move the tracks a bit to enable a turnaround, but again, not that much work.

        I’m just eyeballing it here, how big are Link’s platforms again — 400 feet?

        Anyway, you would either get rid of the streetcar, or have it end at Tollefson Plaza. Ideally would want to lines to overlap, but that’s what you get with modal obsession. Of course, you could always just replace the poorly performing streetcar with a bus.

      2. 400′ sounds right. Hmm, that does look more doable than I thought, I didn’t realize the median was that long.

        If Central Link is going to terminate at Union Station, you could always have the streetcar serve one side of the platform and central Link use the other … the streetcar is already single track south of Union Station, so we already know we can have 6 minute frequency between Union Station and Tacoma Dome.

        You’d need put in a switch on both sides of the Union Station platform. The streetcar will still use the rails south of to get to their OMF, but otherwise terminate at Union Station when Central Link is running (I think you’d have to double track to allow both to run between Union Station and Tacoma Dome).

        I don’t think it will happen, but it is more interesting than I initially thought.

        Why stop at just Union Station? If you are going to serve Tacoma directly, might as well go to Commerce street, or at least the Convention Center, if the blocks are long enough.

      3. To me, the most important feature of Tacoma Dome Station Line 1 is the transfer ease to both Tacoma Link Line T and Pacific BRT. The basic problem here is that the planning process is not emphasizing this very fundamental objective. ST spends way to much energy and money worrying about adding parking garages or reducing visual impacts while seeming to ignore transfers. The mindless thing about that is that the 1500+ (2000? 4000?) transferring riders will be more than that 500-car garage can add to the train.

        These corny little diagrams don’t help with this either. We need to see a 3-D conceptual station layout here.

        We did beat this to death a few weeks ago. I’m hopeful as awareness and visualizing grows that the stakeholders and elected officials push harder for rethinking the transfers here.

        I dream of a Downtown Redmond station where the buses surround the station plaza. I dream of a cross-platform transfer so it only takes 20 steps to go from one to the other. I even dream of changing ST3 and moving the Portland Avenue station to Pacific Avenue as the end station. Regardless, I see ST put on its blinders about transfers — even to its other operations — and pressure from elected officials and stakeholders is the only apparent way to affect change on this.

        Every major rail transfer station with new platforms — Tacoma Dome, SODO, International District — Chinatown, Westlake, East Main and Wilburton — should have transfers portrayed, evaluated and discussed in detail even at the early stages. How many steps to walk? How many steps to climb? How many escalators and elevators? These simple evaluations take no time to do — yet they aren’t being done for the public or those named to help design the lines.

      4. “Every major rail transfer station with new platforms — Tacoma Dome, SODO, International District — Chinatown, Westlake, East Main and Wilburton — should have transfers portrayed, evaluated and discussed in detail even at the early stages.”

        I’ve been trying to get this done for stations with train-to-train transfers for years now (International District, Westlake, U-District for the 45th line). No luck yet. They’ll have to explain them in the final EISes for the new lines.

    2. I was thinking the same thing. It seems crazy to have a light rail line, capable of running on the street and making turns suddenly ending about a mile from downtown, especially since they’ve already laid the tracks. It wouldn’t have to run that far — certainly not as far as the streetcar. It would only need to go as Union Station (north of 21st). The streetcar could be replaced by bus service. This would be a much better value than say, the Portland Avenue Station.

      1. But what about service to Tacoma Mall? Do you route half the trains to downtown and half to Tacoma mall?

      2. Huh? I don’t run any trains to the Tacoma Mall. I just extend Tacoma Dome Link to downtown Tacoma. Of course there are other worthy locations (the hospital, university, etc.) but downtown is downtown. The Tacoma Dome is not.

      3. So throw out the long range plans and just serve the downtown. Got it

        Constraining myself to reality, I could see the Tacoma Mall extension get all day service, and downtown Tacoma get peak oriented Central Link, with the streetcar running to the Dome off-peak. This branching of Central Link should work well given the need for high frequency at peak (to ensure the trains aren’t over crowded coming through the RV), which results in adequate headways on the two short branches. Lower frequency the rest of the day would be too diluted with branching, so the streetcar steps in with with a vehicle length right-sized for demand with identical frequency.

      4. How will you convince the Pierce subarea to replace Tacoma Link (with two planned extensions) with a bus, and to route Central Link to anywhere not pointing toward Tacoma Mall. It was Pierce that pushed for these, and Pierce insists, insists, INSISTS, it needs them and these are its top priorities. I see the streetcar going only if that’s what Pierce sacrifices first in the budget cuts.

      5. I would stridently argue that the streetcar Phase III is the worst project is all of ST3 and would be much improved if it got Pacific BRT treatment instead. I will stridently argue for BRT over streetcar as long as I can.

        But Mike is right. Just abandoning it for a bus is a dead on arrival, particularly before seeing if the Phase II extension can support decent ridership.

      6. “before seeing if the Phase II extension can support decent ridership.”

        I’m curious about this as well, so I have to ask: do you foresee such “decent” ridership on the T-Link Streetcar extension as realistic? Or is this going to be another case of ST falling into the sunk cost fallacy trap a la Sounder North?

        From Dec 2019 ($, sorry)-
        https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2019/12/24/hilltop-tacoma-link-extension-likely-to-run-over.amp.html

        From this very blog from 2017-
        https://seattletransitblog.com/2017/10/10/expanded-scope-rising-costs-tacoma-link/

      7. There may be “tracks” there, but I very much doubt that they’re robust enough to support a Link train. Just like the DSTT tracks, they’d have to be torn up and replaced.

      8. I’m cautiously optimistic on T-Link phase II, which may not say much since I’m also cautiously optimistic on Sounder North, but the station areas between Tacoma and Sounder North couldn’t be more different

        I think the ‘fish hook’ design is interesting, it serves walkable neighborhoods, and adds the hospitals as all-day trip generators. Right now, unless you are going between downtown and the Dome, most trip pairs need to compete with walking … with the extension, there will be more trip pairs where waiting a few minutes for the streetcar will make good sense. So several good reasons why Phase I + II will be better than the sum of the parts. Add in continued infill development within Tacoma and continued investment in Sounder and Pacific BRT, and there’s a good case for the streetcar to preform well once the extension opens.

        Also, I think the extension may support higher frequencies with the added vehicles? That will also help.

      9. Thanks for the reply, AJ.
        I just took a look at the last FTA ratings assignment (2017) for the T-Link Streetcar Extension to refresh my memory. It lists the ridership as follows:

        Current Year Ridership Forecast (2014):
        4,000 Daily Linked Trips
        1,180,300 Annual Linked Trips
        Horizon Year Ridership Forecast (2035):
        7,000 Daily Linked Trips
        2,069,700 Annual Linked Trips

        Also, I think the fare policy for the streetcar changes when this segment opens in 2022, if I’m not mistaken. Do you happen to know what the fare structure will be then?

      10. The specifics of the fare policy hasn’t been sorted, but I’d imagine that FTA forecast would of had an assumption. Officially, T-streetcar will start collecting fares after the extension opens, but if I’m a betting man, it will remain fare free for awhile.

        Here, a good comparison might be KC’s streetcar, which is as much about place making and economic development as it is about moving people, and is fare free while generally regarded as a successful project. I’d wager KC and Tacoma have downtowns of similar density and size.

        KC on my mind after reading this: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2020/5/28/is-kansas-city-still-living-on-its-streetcar-era-inheritance

      11. The point is, the mall is nothing. It is like the Tacoma Dome — it will have next to no ridership. It is baffling how you could compare a real downtown, right next to a major university (https://goo.gl/maps/cXBXotSnPgLv7cir6) with a freaking mall, right next to the freeway (https://goo.gl/maps/zvQAGQ9xUqZJKBQx6). It is laughable. Extending the light rail all the way to Tacoma is tough enough. The least we can do is actually give it a chance to have even half-way decent ridership, and the only way that you can do that is to go downtown.

        How will you convince the Pierce subarea to replace Tacoma Link (with two planned extensions) with a bus, and to route Central Link to anywhere not pointing toward Tacoma Mall.

        Explain that it is the only way that they will get decent frequency on the main Link line. There is nothing at the Tacoma Mall. There is no one — it is not a worthy destination, let alone a terminus. The ridership of the buses that go downtown dwarf those going to the mall. When it comes to attracting riders from the airport, or Federal Way, or whatever you thought was worth the money in Tacoma Dome Link, this is essential. Go ahead, run a study — you will find that the only way you will even halfway decent ridership on the main line is if they extend it downtown Tacoma.

        The whole thing is just absurd. Here is Tacoma, making another desperate attempt at greatness, and they think the key is running a subway train … to a mall? Who does that? Who do they think they are Edmonton? Except even Edmonton runs their trains downtown, not bypassing the main corridor to serve a freakin’ mall. Oh sure, they serve the mall — but isn’t the focus. Why on earth would you skip your downtown to serve a mall — that makes no sense.

        As for the streetcar, as I wrote, it could end at the exact same place — or, some suggested, overlap. Ending at the same place (in the middle of downtown) is way better than ending in the middle of nowhere (the Tacoma Dome). Trying to make the Tacoma Dome the transit center of Tacoma is a terrible idea, and bound to fail.

        There may be “tracks” there, but I very much doubt that they’re robust enough to support a Link train. Just like the DSTT tracks, they’d have to be torn up and replaced.

        Whatever. That is worse case scenario, and it isn’t even that bad. It means replacing some tracks. That is a minor project — all the hard work has already been done. There is only one way to solve the last mile problem with Tacoma Dome Link — and that is extending it into downtown Tacoma.

      12. Northgate is going to be one of the best stations in the system.

        Tacoma’s vision is for the Mall to be another Northgate.

      13. Tacoma is planning an urban center at the mall. That’s both the motive and the justification for terminating Central Link there.

      14. I agree that the light tracks are not a reason to reject the idea of extending Link to downtown Tacoma. For all the reasons you mentioned, it makes sense. However, big Link trains almost certainly can’t run on the Tacoma Link tracks, so it’s not as cheap as you might imagine.

        And of course there are the issues of unreliability because of dense cross-traffic that would effect everything as far as Ballard.

      15. Northgate is going to be one of the best stations in the system.

        Tacoma’s vision is for the Mall to be another Northgate.

        Northgate is going to be one of the best stations *despite the mall*. Northgate will succeed because:

        1) It is in Seattle, relatively close to both the U-District and downtown (2 of the 3 big destinations in the state). By “close” I mean 5 and 15 minutes away (respectively).

        2) There is a major medical center there.

        3) There is a college college there.

        4) There is a reasonable amount of population density there, in part because of all of these factors. Demand is very high for Seattle housing, this is one of the places where they allow it, and it has all of these advantages.

        5) It evolved into a local transit hub long before Link got there.

        The Tacoma Mall doesn’t have the first one because, well, it is in Tacoma. I don’t believe there are plans for the second and third. They may add population, depending on the general fortunes of Tacoma. It may evolve into a sizable retirement community, but it looks like the Point Ruston development beat them to it.

        But all of this misses the point. No one in their right mind would have skipped downtown Seattle so that Link could serve Northgate. Yet you are saying Tacoma wants to do exactly that. That would mean people living there could easily get to … SeaTac? (Only 40 minutes, hurray!). Or so that people could commute from Federal Way to their minimum wage job at the mall, because they don’t have such things in the suburbs? Give me a break.

        Look, I’ve written several times that I think extending Link to Tacoma is stupid. It isn’t worth the money. But if you are going to do it, do it right. One of the goals of the Spine is to revitalize Tacoma. No one has ever rebuilt their city on the backs of a mall. But they have by investing in universities, and by fixing up their historic downtown. Serving one or the other with light rail is as good as you can get if you want to increase the financial fortunes of your city. As it turns out — they are right next to each other: https://goo.gl/maps/BL5rpLLNGeZ5Eova7. This is a dream location that hundreds of cities in the country would kill for. Yet Central Link will skip it, for a mall.

        So throw out the long range plans and just serve the downtown.

        If the long range plan means skipping downtown Tacoma for the Tacoma Mall, then absolutely. Good God, any city with any sense would do that. That should have raised eyebrows coast to coast.

        Besides, why on earth should anyone pay any attention to the long range plan for Pierce County, when Pierce County voters soundly rejected ST3? Maybe voters actually read the thing, and realized it was a very stupid idea. Between creating a detour with Pierce County’s most popular bus, an expensive streetcar that continues to underperform and this, I can understand why a Pierce County voter would have no faith at all in the regional transit planning department. Snohomish County may be overly ambitious, but at least their plans are sensible.

      16. “Maybe voters actually read the thing, and realized it was a very stupid idea.”

        Except they didn’t. Tacoma voted for ST3. The strongest No vote came from southeast Pierce. When they say they’re not getting anything out of ST3, they mean there’s no Link to Spanaway or Puyallup, DMU to Orting, or 3,000 car parking garage. That would be even worse than Link to Tacoma Mall. They voted against Pierce Transit and for $30 car tabs. They want high-capacity transit to their sprawl and they’re not interested in changing the sprawl. Because it’s the American way.

      17. I agree that the light tracks are not a reason to reject the idea of extending Link to downtown Tacoma. For all the reasons you mentioned, it makes sense. However, big Link trains almost certainly can’t run on the Tacoma Link tracks, so it’s not as cheap as you might imagine.

        Nothing is as cheap as I imagine. But if you consider how difficult it is to add a typical station, then going to Union Station (in downtown Tacoma) is a piece of cake. The land is already there. The space is already there in the street. At most you cut a few curbs. You may have to tear out rail and put in new rail. You will have to build a new (bigger) platform. But you have to do that sort of thing everywhere with a Link extension. Even if there was no existing track, the pathway is about as cheap as you can get (no major purchases, just ground level tracks and platforms). We don’t have to theorize about the grade — we know a train can handle it.

        My point is that serving Union Station (including the extra track) looks cheaper than serving any of these stations. That being the case, they should plan to extend the line into downtown Tacoma, and if they defer anything, it should be some at other station, like Portland Avenue. Otherwise, once this section is “done”, it adds little value compared to what existed before.

        And of course there are the issues of unreliability because of dense cross-traffic that would effect everything as far as Ballard.

        Yeah, but this line is used to it. Anyway, the problem would probably be solved by padding on the Tacoma end. At worse, the train leaves Union Station a minute earlier than necessary. It gets to the Tacoma Dome, and sits an extra minute. Going the other way, the train gets there when it gets there. That would still be a huge improvement over making a transfer (both directions).

        From what I can tell, the streetcar through this section is similar to Rainier Valley — drivers aren’t allowed to share the lane with the streetcar. But at the same time, the train is subject to more traffic lights. Still, with a relatively short distance and the train going with the flow most of the time, I think there would only be one significant traffic light — the turn at Pacific and 25th. You wouldn’t need much padding for that.

      18. How will you convince the Pierce subarea to replace Tacoma Link (with two planned extensions) with a bus

        I never said I would replace it with a bus. There are a number of things that could be done:

        1) Simply truncate the streetcar at Tolefson Plaza (a short distance from where Central Link would end).

        2) Send the streetcar south, via Jefferson on what I assume was the left over remnants of Commerce (what is now a back alley pathway through the UW campus). It could parallel the other line, on either C or Commerce.

        3) Do the above, and extend it even further, to the Tacoma Dome. At worse running in mixed traffic.

        4) Merge the two lines. Probably impossible, but worth researching.

        5) Replace it with a bus.

        Personally I would probably go with the first option. The streetcar does not provide an essential public transportation function. At best it occasionally replaces buses that perform just as well. But in enhances the charm of a charming downtown, and there is no need to rip it all out.

        At most I would extend it a little bit, but not all the way to the Tacoma Dome. Remember, the Tacoma Dome is not a destination. It is a means to an end. If Link is extended to downtown Tacoma, it has little value. It is left with Sounder, which is significant, but not worth spending a fortune trying to serve with the streetcar. But if Tacoma feels otherwise, be my guest.

        How will you convince the Pierce subarea to route Central Link to anywhere not pointing toward Tacoma Mall. It was Pierce that pushed for these, and Pierce insists, insists, INSISTS, it needs them and these are its top priorities.

        Explain that it is a bad idea. Not the streetcar precisely (I don’t really care) but having your main line end at a mall. It doesn’t even work well for the mall. The mall would not be connected to downtown Tacoma — it would be connected to practically nothing. The only significant destination within an hour would be SeaTac. You are saying that a mall has a stronger connection to SeaTac than downtown, the UW or other universities? Sorry, that’s ridiculous. If it went first through downtown and then ended at the mall it would be one thing. But it is terrible idea for Central Link to skip downtown Tacoma, and then pretend that a streetcar is a valid substitute.

        If you look at the big picture, it is a ridiculous argument. Supposedly Tacoma needs the extension of Central Link to tie it in with the rest of the region. It isn’t about folks from Tacoma getting to Seattle. It is about folks getting to Tacoma. Tacoma need fast, frequent feeder service from the suburbs, the airport and yes, Seattle. Except not to downtown. No, not that. Nor the university that is part of downtown. Nor any university, for that matter. Nope — people will come from all over the region to visit … a mall. It just doesn’t make any sense. It is unlikely to ever happen, and if it did, it would fail, miserably. In the meantime, Tacoma will be left with a subway terminus on the edge of town — where few live and visit — while just a mile away lies their downtown, anchored nicely with a major university and old, interesting architecture.

      19. RossB:

        Besides, why on earth should anyone pay any attention to the long range plan for Pierce County, when Pierce County voters soundly rejected ST3?

        This is a bizarre question. Sound Transit doesn’t use the electoral college; a vote in Pierce County is just as valuable as one in King County. I don’t pretend to have a great sense of what people in Pierce County will vote for, but the people who do are the Pierce County politicians that put this part of the package together.

        It would be cynical in the extreme to continue to collect Pierce County taxes while discarding the plan that a substantial minority of Pierce County voters voted for, in order to fulfill abstract notions of what is and isn’t a valuable use of tax dollars.

    3. Tacoma LINK cars, at least those today, seem to be a completely different design than Central LINK. The Tacoma LINK reminds me more closely of the SLU and First Hill streetcars in downtown Seattle. (And, as one of the other commenters said, the current stations don’t have a large enough footprint for anything other than the one-cars today. Even the NB Commerce station is barely squeezing in between the intersection and a parking garage driveway.

      1. Correct. The shared “Link” branding is just branding. It’s much more accurate to view Tacoma Link as a peer of the Seattle streetcar, similar in technology, cost, and alignment. Same advantages & disadvantages.

      2. Reason for that, Kristen, is that the Tacoma cars were made by the same company that did First Hill Streetcars and South Lake Union Trolley.

        Originally Czech, I think, while our Link Fleet is Japanese. New order are from Germany. Same kit, but different tools for different jobs. For what I dream about, you might want to look up “PCC”, for “Presidents’ Conference Committee” trainsets, streetcar and “Heavy Rail” both.

        St. Louis Car Company was particularly strong at this.

        In the 1930’s, the presidents of US streetcar companies knew their antique-looking cars had to change in the face of the automobile competition that eventually took their industry down in America. Beautiful, economical, comfortable, and above all TOUGH! The world probably still has more than one Model 1953 on the rails.

        If post COVID Seattle needs something to employ people to manufacture as well as for passengers, we could do a lot worse. Lake Washington Technical College could make a whole program of study out of one of them.

        Mark Dublin

      3. The “Link” brand should be reserved for light rail; using it also for the Tacoma streetcar just muddies the water. As I recall, this goes back to the original ST1 proposal~ it promised “light rail” in Tacoma but a streetcar (same as Portland’s at that time) was all that was warranted. So they branded it Tacoma Link so it would sound like Central Link, but I don’t think they fooled anyone into believing it was really light rail.

    4. Tacoma Link would have to be entirely rebuilt to support Central Link. The platforms are under 70 feet and the electrical system is 750 V DC, not Central Link’s 1500 V DC. I think there is also a turning radius issue at Pacific & 25th.

      1. Come on Bruce, try to keep up. I’m not suggesting that all of Tacoma Link be replaced by Central Link. I’m suggesting that Central Link add a station in downtown Tacoma. Of course that means different voltage, and different platforms (duh). It may even mean digging up the tracks and replacing them (which was done in downtown Seattle). I also doubt there is a turning radius issue — this is light rail.

        The point is, adding one more station — in the heart of Tacoma, clearly the biggest destination on Central Link south of Federal Way — is dirt cheap. It would cost about the same as adding the Portland Street Station, but be lot a more valuable. Without it, the Central Link extension south of Federal Way is largely useless.

      2. There are several issues with converting Tacoma Link to be compatible with Central Link.

        The biggest problem is the width of the cars. It’s really only a few inches, but structures and track appear to have been placed based on the very narrow Tacoma Link car design and never converting to anything wider. Platforms are easy, as concrete cutting can be done in a matter of hours. Entire buildings, line poles and track position are not so easy.

        Overhead wire voltage would be trivial to deal with. This voltage is already highly variable. Tacoma Link may say “750 volts” but in reality it wanders from about 500 to 900+. TriMet lines are “750 volts” but some of the substations have been re-tuned to provide closer to 900 volts, with no changes to the overhead wires or insulators.

        My own opinion is that it would probably be well worth the effort and expense to make the two compatible. That way, unique extra-narrow cars as used on Tacoma Link would no longer be necessary and the two systems could share common spare parts. Central Link trains terminating in Tacoma could have their overnight maintenance done at Tacoma Link shops. Tacoma Link could be extended to Fife if some day necessary with no added construction.

        Extra-narrow cars, as used on Tacoma Link, are really not that common even in Europe and are therefore really expensive to purchase due to the limited production runs. The latest round for Seattle cost more than what TriMet paid for each Orange Line light rail car.

      3. Entire buildings, line poles and track position are not so easy.

        I agree. But it doesn’t look like it would be a problem for the extension I’m talking about. The streetcar lines start out on the north side of the street (https://goo.gl/maps/WdhWcFK3bf75Gpf7A). At worst, you would move everything to the middle of the street, which means possibly shrinking the curbs and curb cuts on the other side (visible if you turn the view around). Actually, now that I look at it (https://goo.gl/maps/EW62N3uLKAVA5FKg9) it appears the platform actually extends outward from the sidewalk. This implies that they actually left extra room for a wider train (if it ever came to that). Either way, worse case scenario you adjust the curbs a bit.

        After that, the train mostly just runs down the middle. It does move to the south side of the street, right before the turn (to enable a wider radius) while going to the middle of Pacific. Again, worse case scenario, you maintain the exact same radius and everything moves north a few inches. If cars are backed up northbound on Pacific, then the train could be stuck behind them, but that is true today. I’m not sure if blocking the box is a problem, but at worse this could result in a bigger box. Proper enforcement as well as paint might be enough to solve the problem. There aren’t any signs, so maybe it isn’t a big issue. (Further north there are signs and paint, suggesting it is an issue there — https://goo.gl/maps/4XXLPRdRa5VZ2jtD9).

        Union Station is as far as I would send the light rail car. In an ideal world, I would go farther — hopefully to the hospital — but after Union Station, the streetcar soon mixes with traffic. I would not go farther until that problem is solved.

        I prefer your idea. I think there would be value in having both the streetcar and light rail run on the same lines. That is probably the best value, although other compromises would still be an improvement over the current plans.

  2. South Federal Way is one area where there is just no good option. The existing South Federal Way P&R would actually have worked OK for TOD, except they insist on keeping Link so close to I-5.

    One piece of feedback I saw a while ago that intrigued me was to build it at Wild Waves (specifically at Enchanted Pkwy and Milton Rd, east of I-5). Though it’s silly to make two crossings of I-5 to serve a water park, that would actually make bus transfers to Puyallup a little nicer on Link. The east side of I-5 here also seems better suited for TOD than the west, generally speaking.

    1. There’s no northbound exit to I5 on Kits Corner, right? Seems straightforward to just have good bus service along Kits Corner to serve east of I5, since you don’t have the big bottleneck that usually occurs at a major freeway access point.

      I don’t mind the general location, because the large commercial lots are far more ammendable to TOD than small lot residential. Between West Hylebos Wetlands on the west and the I5-18 interchange on the east, there really isn’t a clear spot to maximize the walkshed, but the general area between 336 and 356 is a very logical station area “on the way” to Tacoma. The proposed stations are all west of 16th, which I think is sufficient … getting closer to 99, anything you gain moving away from the freeway you lose by getting closer to the wetlands.

      I don’t see something similar on the east side of I5, unless you view Wild Waves as a giant TOD spot.

      I thought straddling 348th would do the best to bridge the widest street in the area, but perhaps its simply too wide? (10 lanes including the median, by my count). Perhaps station access can include a pedestrian bridge that extends from the north end of the platform across 348th (the shell station, more or less), which would avoid what I imagine is a difficult at-grade crossing of 348th.

      For parking, the best option I saw in an early option was to stick the structured parking where the current P&R is, which is nice and out of the way, but I’d imagine the garage will be closer to the station but then that P&R lot can hopefully be given away for another public use, such as housing or a school (like the Redondo Heights P&R)

  3. As for the uniqueness of a rail transit station on an Indian reservation with the Portland Avenue Station on the Tacoma Dome Link alignment, the Rail Runner commuter train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe includes stops at the Sandia Pueblo and Kewa Pueblo. (It’s been two years since I’ve been on the Rail Runner but there are onboard announcements before traveling through pueblo communities asking passengers to be respectful and refrain from taking photographs while traveling through those areas.)

  4. “pulls it closer to I-5, I-705, and the Tacoma Dome parking desert.” – two very different things. The parking desert could be future TOD. I5 and 705 aren’t going anywhere, that’s what sways me. The interstates are the immovable projects, so stay away to maximize the station walkshed, have good transfers with Amtrack & greyhound, and not worry about Pacific BRT connections.

    I think the transfers with Amtrack are important for the same reasons SeaTac needs a good transfer … rail will become more and more important regional/intercity travel, and having a strong transfer environment between our primary intercity and intracity systems is important.

    For Pacific BRT, we beat this to death in the prior post, but I think this is easily solved by having the primary BRT route simply skip the Dome (stay on Pacific) and have a different route serving the Dome directly that leverages the BRT investments but runs more peak oriented. For local trips, Tacoma downtown will remain the more important destination, so the streetcar and other routes can provide sufficient all day coverage between Pacific and Link.

    1. “I5 and 705 aren’t going anywhere, that’s what sways me.”

      Why? As someone 1 day hew to Tacoma, what is the deal with 705? I don’t understand its reason for existence. An expressway to a deadend, creating a massive wall between a city and its downtown, appears, to this recent transplant, absurd.

      1. Think of 705 as a long off-ramp from I5. The elevated viaduct might be unsightly, but it makes for a much more permeable barrier than a 6-lane boulevard. In other words, the typical solution of “replace the expressway with an at-grade boulevard” would be worse in this specific case.

        I think of the Spokane Street viaduct between 99 and I5 in SoDo as a similar situation. Lowering the road creates far more pedestrian & rail conflicts than it solves, and removing it would significantly impair the resiliency of our road network in a neighborhood where freight access is critical.

        The other option is to simply remove the exit facing downtown Tacoma. I realize it did not open until 1990, but I just don’t see that as politically possible in this time frame. I think the connection to 509 is too important regionally, and a straight up removal would likely overload Portland Ave and that access point in a way that is unacceptable the Port of Tacoma (and bad for East Tacoma, which is a less important Link station area than Tacoma Dome, but still a bit of robbing Peter’s TOD opportunity to pay for Paul’s TOD opportunity).

        I suppose you could turn exit 136 into the primary access point for the Port and insist that commuter demand to driving into downtown Tacoma will organically dissipate into the local street grid. I’m not trying to argue against activism to remove 705. I’m just saying that when determining the Tacoma Dome station location, 705 should be viewed as a fixed object.

      2. Yeah, I’m too new to Tacoma to understand yet what it’s really blocking. It may be that a working waterfront isn’t attractive enough that people were/will be using it. I’ll poke around down there to try and understand the area a bit more.

        I did dig up the number of cars that actually use it, and the daily numbers are really low for an expressway. Particularly the farther you get the from the port.

      3. As for the barrier to waterfront, that’s a completely different scenario. So now we are looking at 705 north of 509.

        Here again I don’t see how removing 705 accomplishes much, because there will still be a 5 lane freight corridor between downtown and the waterfront. Features like the bridge of glass and the Fireman’s park will still need to exist. Given the topography and the proximity to the rail line, I don’t see how 705’s footprint can be used for much more than green space, and at that point the improvement is much more about noise and aesthetics, which can be accomplished by modification rather than removal.

        What do you have in mind?

      4. “daily numbers are really low for an expressway.” Yeah, one idea I’ve had was to do a lane diet north of 509 to allow for space to put in trees and whatnot and lower the speed limit to 40. That would mitigate some of the visual and noise barrier as a fraction of the cost of removal, and it still provide a bypass for neighborhoods north of downtown

      5. That might be a good idea, and nice compromise, that might actually be politically feasible. Probably would need to be done before Ruston waterfront gets built up much more. A constituency that might complain about an extra 2 minutes in their car.

      6. Yeah, I-705 is weird. Apparently it is the last bit of the interstate highway system in Washington. Wikipedia also has the history behind its creation. It is strange that such a little piece of road is considered part of the interstate system, while the West Seattle freeway isn’t.

        Anyway, I think it is common for areas that have lots of truck traffic to try and build their way around it. The 167/509 project is by far the biggest boondoggle in current WSDOT planning (arguably the only bad project in the last budget) and it is centered around truck traffic.

        I doubt anything will happen with I-705 unless it starts falling apart, or an earthquake knocks it down. The main value in the freeway is dealing with 509. There are several approaches I could see, assuming it is extended that far. One is ending it there. Unfortunately, that intersection could get awfully busy. However, if the freeway isn’t going any further, then the freeway north of there could be repurposed to eliminate left turns (making the light cycle much faster). Northbound traffic headed west would be trivial — essentially a vehicle would do a U-Turn, and head south. With the freeway on the surface at that point, it wouldn’t cost much money to do that. To deal with trucks coming from the port headed to I-5 is trickier (it would need a new ramp) but still not that bad.

        Normally freeways end by becoming surface streets. I don’t see that working too well here. You could send everyone onto 15th, but then you have only gotten rid of half the mess — you still have the ramps which actually have a bigger impact on the street space (https://goo.gl/maps/HQMg6ccPv2cQkqS9A). That is a nice urban landscape ruined by freeway ramps. You could send it over to Dock Street, but that would require extra ramps, and probably end up taking out part of the park area under the 509 bridge, making things worse in one area to make it nicer in another. I would probably just end it at 509.

        Up by Schuster Parkway, I would replace the overpass (that ends the freeway) with a pedestrian bridge, expanding Fireman’s Park (https://goo.gl/maps/Sf9L8YavKnKZ4ZbU9). Other than that is would largely be a matter of tearing down the old freeway. Some of the land could be converted to a bike path, but a lot of it is build on a slope, as part of a viaduct, so I don’t know how practical that would be (https://goo.gl/maps/EnfZLyXCFR38rcGh6). Still, it would improve the landscape for much of Tacoma. The political dynamics surrounding it would be interesting. There are plenty of wealthy people in North Tacoma, and they would have a slower drive. On the other hand, there are plenty of wealthy people in downtown Tacoma, and this would make their lives much nicer and their property a lot more valuable. There would also be concern over the waterfront drive (Dock Street) having a lot more traffic. It all sounds quite similar to the old viaduct in Seattle — maybe they’ll build a tunnel :)

      7. Ironically, the 167-509 project might help support removal of 705 in the future by providing the Port of Tacoma with a strong freight connection to I5 & onward.

        I totally agree that removing 705 north of 509 will make downtown Tacoma and its waterfront nicer. Just not sure how to quantify that.

        Ross is totally right – the ramps are more problematic than the 705 viaduct; I’d point particularly to the huge footprint south of 26th. And you’re right to point to natural end of life. I5 in Tacoma has gone through a massive rebuild with the HOV/SR16 projects and the replacement of nearly all the bridges crossing I5, but I don’t believe 705 has had a major rehab. Perhaps the best outcome is to simply wait for 705 to have a natural death, when removal is simply the cheapest option for WSDOT.

      8. It looks like the last work done on the freeway was in 1993, in the area around the 509 interchange. Some of the work around there looks newer than that, which is why I was thinking they might decide to just end the bridge there.

      9. “It is strange that such a little piece of road is considered part of the interstate system, while the West Seattle freeway isn’t.”

        Downtown Tacoma is the third-largest city in western Washington, and historically the second-largest city. West Seattle is not as big and is not a separate city.

        Ruston just despairs me. I’ve been through the Schuster Parkway area a few times in a bus, car, or the foopath, and it’s horrible. Tacoma’s connection to its waterfront, the islands of mini-urbanism and isolated restaurants and Ruston is a narrow corridor filled entirely with the footpath, a multlane expressway and the railroad tracks, with the mini-urbanism isolated on the east side and the rest of Tacoma on the west. Nothing can make it good or walkable. The only workaround is mitigation. I wouldn’t spend much on that given that it would still be worse than anything in King County, and I would question building any more housing or retail there at all.

      10. Is Ruston that bad? I drove through it a few years ago when visiting Point Defiance and it seemed fine, though very much under construction when I was there. The new rail crossing at Baltimore street appears to be from 2012 … have you been to recently?

        Schuster Parkway is a freeway, but by the time it becomes Ruston Way it’s only 2 lanes. Seems like the new development is trying to make it more walkable and tie the waterfront to the historic street grid up the incline. It’s very “new urbanist” – walk-able for local trips, but jobs probably require driving. Given the regional housing shortage, I see no harm in random bits of well designed density.

  5. It is hard to tell when an agency has jumped the shark, but it is clear that once Link gets to Tacoma, the shark has been jumped. I can understand why folks want Link to run all the way to Federal Way. For some riders — including those in the introduction to this article — it will make a huge difference. The Federal Way station is close to the freeway, and connected to the interstate via HOV lanes, making it ideal as a terminus. If express buses to Seattle stop or terminate there, it should give riders much better frequency and often faster travel times to places like SeaTac or Rainier Valley.

    But then what? Extremely long travel distances would stifle ridership under the best of circumstances, and this is the worst. Every station south of Federal Way is terrible from a pedestrian standpoint. Not only is there nothing there, but because it is close to the freeway, there will be nothing there forever. Oh, there will be a handful of breadbox apartment buildings, and people will be all aflutter, with giddy cries of “TOD” but we are only talking about a very small number of people. The vast majority of people walking away from the station will be walking to their cars. And there won’t even be that many of those. Far be it from me to recommend bigger parking lots (you won’t need them) but we are talking about what — 1,000 parking spaces? Then you have transit feeders, or course. But these again should be weak. Each and every stop is close to the freeway — the bus might have just kept going to Federal Way (where it was likely headed). It really is striking. The buses that serve the stations also serve downtown Tacoma or Federal Way (or both). The 172 is the closest Metro bus to a station (the one by South Federal Way) and it goes to Federal Way TC. Pierce County runs one bus on Portland Avenue (the 41) and it runs by the Tacoma Dome and goes to downtown Tacoma. The 500 serves downtown Tacoma, goes by the Tacoma Dome, and then Federal Way TC. The 501 manages to do that *and* include Fife. There will be very few transferring riders in these stations, just because there are very few now, and this doesn’t add much to them.

    Consider how a trip *to* Tacoma occurs after Link gets to Federal Way. I’ll start with the ideal case: someone in Rainier Valley walks to the train, and quickly gets to Federal Way. They then take the bus from there right into downtown Tacoma. It runs fairly frequently, as it is the express from downtown Seattle (or the truncated express that replaces it). The bus runs in the HOV lane into Tacoma, then slogs through whatever traffic issues exist in Tacoma.

    Now consider what happens when the train is extended. It is still a bus and a train ride. The train doesn’t really add anything. You just stayed on the train longer (while it made several stops) instead of taking the express bus (that wouldn’t stop between Federal Way and the Tacoma Dome).

    What is true for someone headed to Tacoma is true for someone in downtown Tacoma headed to the airport. Either way they have to take a bus and a train. There is very little difference.

    Overall, it really is a terrible value, and it is a shame that Pierce County residents — people that could really use some money for transit, along with government services — are paying for what is clearly a huge waste.

    1. Metro is planning to replace the 577 when ST deletes it, so people could take Link from Tacoma Dome to Federal Way and transfer to an express bus to downtown. That would be faster on both segments than the 500 south of Federal Way and Link north of Federal Way.

    2. I agree that the TDLE project doesn’t serve the corridor well. It’s designed to meet a political objective but not an operational one. That objective came with one narrow objective — a single seat ride from Tacoma Dome to Seatac without a care on how fast it goes because the advocates are generally pretty naïve about transit user experience.

      To solve this, I would step back and have a Pierce County Transit Rapid Connectivity Plan for TDLE before this goes any further. I would suggest looking at conceiving and evaluating these elements:

      – A network like Stride for Pierce County. The Federal Way HOV access ramps are a brilliant investment! Why are there no plans to connect any of these new stations to the freeway HOV network? I could even see up to three Stride Lines — one to Puyallup on the planned SR 167 and then on SR 512 to Lakewood, one on I-5 and on on SR 16.

      – A plan to have faster transit. The speed of Link light rail along I-5 will be excruciatingly slow compared to buses that could be in the HOV lane. Even Pacific BRT will feel like a long ride for riders south of SR 512.

      – A plan to deal with the spread-out nature of Downtown Tacoma and how to tie it in better. Consider that Washington taxpayers have spent millions to create UWT but ST acts like serving it doesn’t deserve any consideration as an example. The region’s leaders oddly seem to think that Tacoma Dome is the only worthwhile destination — probably so their kids can take light rail to go to a future Billie Eilish performance more easily (who will be a middle-age has-been when it finally opens).

      1. I would possibly also add a feature that enables new high speed rail tracks. High speed rail would be powerfully transformative for Tacoma more than even Seattle. The attitude that “we shouldn’t design for it until it’s planned” is a self-defeating approach that will ensure that it will never happen.

      2. Speed in Pierce and South King is not an issue. Link will be 55 mph compared to I-5’s 65 mph, but the latter gets bogged down during the times that the most people need it. Also, buses have to detour off the freeway and through traffic lights to get to the stations. That adds several minutes of overhead right there. Link just swooshes in and stops on the track for 20 seconds. Link’s travel-time overhead is between TIB and Intl Dist. It’s caused by detouring east to Rainier Beach and west at Beacon Hill, and because the surface segments are limited to the same speed as adjacent cars — 35 mph. And if the city takes Vision Zero all the way it will lower MLK to 25 mph, which would either cause Link to slow down too or create a difference in speed that may be difficult to time traffic signals around. The difference between Link and I-5 in Pierce and South King is 10 mph; the difference in Seattle is 30 mph and may spread to 40 mph (i.e., the difference between a pre-Vision Zero residential street and a freeway). So don’t worry about Link’s speed in South King and Pierce.

      3. Good news Al – I think everything you suggested is already taken care of:

        Link runs through the middle of UWT, served by the existing Union Station stop.

        A network for Pierce County with 5 BRT corridors identified. Already exists.

        Link will be faster than buses in HOV. If you don’t believe me, you’ve never tried to carpool from Seattle to Tacoma at 3pm.

      4. I’d push back against saying Tacoma Link is adequate for UWT. It’s too infrequent to make that last mile a good connection.

        You make a good point about I-5 HOV congestion. However, the SB lane ends in Fife currently and that adds greatly to the slowdown.

        The proposed Pierce Transit BRT corridors only have one that goes to Tacoma Dome and connects to Link 1. The rest don’t. That’s not “rapid connectivity” when a rider has to do a double transfer (two others end within a mile of Tacoma Dome). I’d even note the BRT 3 parallels the Tacoma Link TCC extension and then turns north in Downtown Tacoma rather than connects to Link Line 1.

      5. Lowering the speed limit on MLK won’t cause the cars to drive any slower because the road is designed for 35 mph+ traffic. The only vehicles it would slow down would be Link trains because Sound Transit has to be scrupulous about following the rules even if the average driver isn’t. Consequently, I’m not really in favor of reducing the speed limit on MLK, especially since there are no unsignalized street crossings anyway.

        I would instead keep MLK at 35mph, but up ramp up the ticketing of drivers that go 50 and, instead, make nearby Rainier Ave. the candidate for the 25 mph speed limit. Rainier has much more in the way of streetfront businesses and pedestrian activity, and a lower speed limit does not impact Link. The #7 bus will barely notice, since it’s stopping all the time at bus stops, anyway.

    3. Again, having a bunch of stops is a feature, not a bug, of the system. If there is a market for express routes, those can still exist. The point of Link to collapse the various major destinations – the airport, downtown, UW, etc. – into a single service with strong all day frequency and reliability. To provide the same level of service, you end up running a dozen different express routes … which is a the current setup we are trying to upgrade from, because the buses get stuck in traffic when they are most needed.

      Could you have replicated TDLE with bus-only lanes and 4 new freeway stations (basically 405 stride on I5) … yes, I suppose so. But those bus-only lanes don’t exist, so you are either magicking up some political will or spending billions to widen I5 … and creating new dedicated ROW cost roughly the same as rail or bus, so might as well build the train to connect the existing system.

      I’m not besmirching your transit bonafides, but when you argue that TDLE should just be like Stride, and then also argue Stride should just give up on the 85th street interchange and run express buses, it feels like you argues for BRT only when needed to argue against rail. Your argument ultimately devolves into, “we should not invest in this corridor, existing bus service is good enough”

      1. when you argue that TDLE should just be like Stride,

        I’m not sure who you are referring to at this point. I didn’t mention Stride — I assume you are referring to Al’s comment. (The comments don’t always nest right — I think that is why it is best to quote).

        My point is may more straightforward and has nothing to do with Stride: Rail from Federal Way to the Tacoma is practically useless. It is a pretty straightforward argument:

        1) Federal Way is a good terminus, because it is close to the freeway, and has an HOV connection (similar to Lynnwood).

        2) None of the other stations have any chance of having a considerable amount of walk-up riders (coming or going).

        3) None of the other stations offer anything from a bus connection standpoint. By the time you get to, say, the South Federal Way Station, you might as well go to the main Federal Way Station. That is what a lot of these buses do anyway.

        As to what Pierce County should spend its money on instead, I have no idea. Health care, food, shelter. If nothing else they could simply improve service on the existing bus routes. My main point is that this is a terrible waste of money that won’t do squat for the area, despite spending a fortune.

      2. My comments on the TDLE being a Stride candidate is based on ridership forecasts. That info for 2040 was presented in this prior STB post:

        https://seattletransitblog.com/2020/01/27/sound-transits-station-ridership-in-2040/

        For starters, the Portland Avenue East Tacoma station is 1500 daily boardings. South Federal Way and Fife are higher at 2600 and 2800 boardings, but keep in mind these two stations will have 500-car parking garages — so without these garages, the boardings would be much lower. That’s 6900 boardings for all three stations combined.

        Those boarding totals are quite comparable to the 405 BRT/Stride stations. Keep in mind that 405 Stride/BRT (10 minutes peak and 15 minutes off-peak) won’t have the frequency that the TDLE will have (6 minutes peak and 10 minutes off-peak). If the TDLE had the 405 frequencies, the demand would be lower than many of the 405 BRT stops. Already, South Renton (3000 boardings) is forecast to be higher than any of these three stations — and that stop has no HOV access because East King would rather pay for a link line to South Kirkland (at 1100 boardings, it’s a whole other value issue)!

        At 12400 boardings at Tacoma Dome, there are forecasted to be 80 percent more boardings here than the other three TDLE stations combined! (Note that Graham Street at 6000 boardings is almost as high as these three stations combined.)

        ******

        Let’s say that TDLE is built. Another option is to augment the TDLE’s utility to feeding more BRT buses to it. As I mentioned elsewhere, the only BRT line proposed by Pierce Transit that feeds the TDLE is the Pacific Avenue one. The other BRT lines skip it! It’s a pretty significant indictment of a project when a local transit operator doesn’t see the need to serve a six-minute light rail service offered by a regional operator. Why is that? Either it’s a low-benefit project to travel needs or there is no interest in integrating it into the local transit network.

        In other words, TDLE has dubious value as a high-cost light rail project as it is now presented. There are myriads of ways to make it more productive or to reduce costs to ensure that the predominant connection between Tacoma Dome and Link is made.

        One example: It could easily be the “starter segment” for a 120-mph (or faster) higher-speed train that connects the two locations and it would take six or seven minutes to make the connection so it could be run as a single-track line for now, with two tracks at each station — and that would set the stage for high-speed rail further north or south.

        I’ve often felt that ST needs to have some station boarding minimums that need to be met before they would go ahead with a Link station. Honestly, it’s common opinion that many Pierce voters don’t believe that ST3 benefits them, and no wonder!

      3. If your argument is to not spend transit dollars in Pierce county in general, then arguing for TDLE specifically is beside the point.

        But I’ll try:
        1) Yes, Federal Way is a great terminus. That’s why it’s opening a decade before TDLE. Outside of the LQA/SLU stations, everything in ST3 is less valuable than ST2 by design … each subarea moves to less valuable projects as they progress from ST1 to ST3.
        2) Fife and Tacoma strongly disagree. Large transportation projects are often about place-making and creating new neighborhoods. You are basically telling the Puyallup tribe, “that’s cute, but I’m going to just bypass your economic development plan”
        3) Use your imagination. There’s not an existing bus network because there’s no there there now to anchor north/south routes … everything now would bend toward T-Dome. A local route running the length of Portland Ave seems like a good value. Providing transit to the large industrial parks in Fife be much easier with a Link station nearby. Etc.

        As for Al, thanks for the link back, I think that’s what I was remembering. I’m open to a Stride treatment for the TDLE corridor … but if you serve all 4 stations and create a dedicated ROW buses, it’s not going to be much cheaper. Most of the cost savings of Stride vs Link will degrade service by allow the ROW to be shared with HOV traffic and moving the stations within the freeway envelope. Perhaps you can deliver the project for half the budget, but you may end up with a project that’s half as good.

        And again, you are using ridership as your sole metric, which is important excludes other key reasons to invest in infrastructure. TDLE is seen as critical to Tacoma and Fife’s development plans for many of the same reasons as Paine Field. If your sole goal is maximizing ridership, you can discount this, but then you are not recognizing what is actually valued by the communities making the investments.

    4. Ross, whatever development goes on track-side, doubt you could find me any thriving neighborhoods that light rail has killed. Let alone compare anything rubber-tired with Link in any kind of traffic or weather whatsoever.

      Side by side along I-5, the cars that kids on my train are waving to are what’s stuck, not their train. No denigration of buses as vehicles. Rugged and versatile tool, especially for developing and “pioneering” routes. Different phases, different tools.

      When Transit can finally get into the brand new Olympia Transit Center there’ll likely be a zone by the new office building that’s just perfect for ST 574’s Downtown Stop, before it swings out onto the diagonal busway through Downtown to I-5 at Plum, that existing Port freight tracks can easily turn into.

      Or if the Chase has got to be Cut-To faster, stage the 574 by the Capitol’s John L. O’Brien Building, with Special Needs fares and boarding help for Legislators. In Turkey, cross-country express often carries an attractive attendant who also sells merchandise.

      One stop in Tacoma- where routing changes now in progress by the developing new station will speed it up a lot- and screaming diesel streak for Sea-Tac, where an SR518 approach uphill will save a lot over present routing. Certain elevator can also help the budget by finally being sold for scrap.

      Given personal age and health habits of its chief malefactor, my present problem tenant in DC won’t ever match Franklin Pierce for damage to the Republic.

      The British and the French doubtless learned their Confederate Assistance lesson by 1865. And “The Brothers Karamazov” proved what happens to Russians who try to be French, like Dostoyevski’s whole upper class did.

      BTW, somebody in Secret Service by way of the Vice Squad needs to pass along that Dominance means they’ll have to find him a thong, a lace-up leather girdle in his size, and a little black whip to be formally dressed.

      But the fingers waving from the train windows every traffic-packed afternoon will before long mail the ballots that decide the desirability of a ride on rail. Never saw a kid Complain Aboard a Train. Buses, top that!

      Mark Dublin

    5. Your vision of a rapid bus zooming between cities is disconnected from reality. The 574 is at some times *scheduled* to be a 74-minute ride to SeaTac.

      As others have said, the ways to fix that have either no political support or cost as much as the train. And 2030 times are supposed to be worse.

      1. Martin, just using this particular bus as an example of something that we could do tomorrow and start to get results. Certainly not as something to be substituted for the electric rail we most certainly need.

        Though where’s the 74 minutes written in stone? I’m talking a one-stop ride. What’s “got my goat” is the spectrum-wide epidemic of futility-addiction that’s “got” both our politics and our transit planning.

        Reason so much of my thinking centers on potential voting-age riders. “No political support”‘s got a swift and certain cure: “Go Find Some!”

        And how many votes are we missing simply BECAUSE of who-all hasn’t turned 18 yet?

        Also reason I won’t lay off the fact that at that age, they can not only vote, but also vote in legislation in a big room not far from where I live. But:

        “2030 times are supposed to be worse?” Supposed By WHOM?????! If you think I’ve got an adversary I can’t handle, Martin, kindly do me a favor and name them. Good bet their whole careers are a litany of what THEY were supposed to do and were either too scared or lazy.

        Since majority of them are either retired or otherwise elsewhere, why do I have to defer to a single one of them now?

        Mark Dublin

      2. Your vision of a rapid bus zooming between cities is disconnected from reality.

        You obviously have never heard of the 590, 592 or 594. Anyway, that is irrelevant, and has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote.

        The 574 is at some times *scheduled* to be a 74-minute ride to SeaTac.

        Who cares? Did you even read what I wrote? Once Link gets to Federal Way, the main cause of the slowness goes away. The 574 is not slow from Tacoma to Federal Way. It is slow from Federal Way to SeaTac. It takes 17-20 minutes from the Tacoma Dome to Federal Way. Link will take 15 minutes from Federal Way to SeaTac. That means extending Link to the Tacoma Dome will save a rider … nothing. It will take about 35 minutes either way! Of course it will. Holy cow man, look at a map. Unlike SeaTac, Federal Way is right next to the freeway, and it has an HOV ramp connected right to it. Maybe I didn’t point that out. Oh wait, yes I did:

        The Federal Way station is close to the freeway, and connected to the interstate via HOV lanes, making it ideal as a terminus. If express buses to Seattle stop or terminate there, it should give riders much better frequency and often faster travel times to places like SeaTac or Rainier Valley.

        But rather than actually read what I wrote, you starting making rude comments which I’m pretty sure is against the policies of this blog. I don’t have “visions” of anything. I’m simply pointing out what will obviously happen once Link get to Federal Way:

        1) The 574 will be truncated at Federal Way (if it even exists).
        2) The 590, 592, 594, and 595 stop at Federal Way on their way to Seattle, or terminate at Federal Way.

        This won’t solve the problem you think you are solving. Someone trying to get from the Tacoma Dome to SeaTac will save no time from the extension beyond Federal Way. Someone from downtown Tacoma, Lakewood or Gig Harbor won’t even save a transfer.

      3. “Once Link gets to Federal Way, the main cause of the slowness goes away.” Oy vey! You think there’s only gridlock in Seattle? I5 in Tacoma often clogs up well before Seattle (partially due to the SR16 rebuild, but still, I can’t believe you think there’s no traffic south of Federal Way).

        Outside of Seattle, Link exists as an alternative to freeway bus lanes. If your baseline is a free-flowing I5 HOV lane, then Link never makes sense. If you think I5 will be free-flowing in 2030, I’ve got nothing for you.

        “Someone from downtown Tacoma, Lakewood or Gig Harbor won’t even save a transfer.” Note how those are in 3 different direction. Rather than running 3 routes in parallel between Tacoma Dome and SeaTac, you truncate at TDome to consolidate ridership to support higher all-day frequency and significantly reduce deadhead. Moving the transfer point farther south for myriad Pierce county routes is a key feature of TDLE.

      4. “Someone from downtown Tacoma, Lakewood or Gig Harbor won’t even save a transfer.” Note how those are in 3 different direction. Rather than running 3 routes in parallel between Tacoma Dome and SeaTac, you truncate at TDome to consolidate ridership to support higher all-day frequency and significantly reduce deadhead. Moving the transfer point farther south for myriad Pierce county routes is a key feature of TDLE.

        First of all, you are assuming that frequency to the Tacoma Dome will be the same as frequency to Federal Way. Given the obvious weaknesses and low ridership south of Federal Way, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the train runs at half frequency (e. g. every 12 minutes instead of 6).

        Second, the savings from going to the Tacoma Dome are minimal, and often non-existent. It saves about 8 minutes on the freeway if there is no traffic. If there is traffic, then getting to Federal Way avoids it, because you never leave the HOV lane. Google puts the traffic variance at about 3 minutes. So that means somewhere between a 5 to 8 minutes savings for buses that are already on the freeway (for Lakewood and Gig Harbor). The only significant savings is from the 590, 594 and 574, and that is because they serve the Tacoma Dome anyway. Even then it isn’t huge (17-20 minutes).

        That is minimal compared to truncating anywhere along the existing line, let alone Federal Way. It wouldn’t take much for a bus to exit the freeway and serve Angle Lake, then turn around. It isn’t a great terminus (no HOV lanes, some general purpose traffic, etc.) but it isn’t that bad (https://goo.gl/maps/1CkPX7mNAeyXrDb3A). In the morning, peak commuters would be going against the flow by exiting. In the evening, commuters would at least have an HOV ramp in their favor (I can’t tell for sure, though — it may be a dual metered ramp, or have an HOV lane — it was just repaved when this was taken: https://goo.gl/maps/KyedMBDPcm6aTPL97). In any event, the savings would be enormous, and the cost to riders would be similar to truncating in Tacoma.

        But ST hasn’t been willing to do that, probably because it would be unpopular. If ST truncates the midday 594 in Federal Way, getting to Seattle will be much slower. As a result, ridership on a bus that carries between 20 and 40 all day will drop even lower. Not only because of the extra transfer, but because getting to downtown Seattle would be a lot slower. But if they did truncate, you are right, the savings would be significant, and they could add more buses. The problem is, lots of empty buses connecting to empty trains is not good for the frequency of either. If only 30 people an hour are willing to ride from Tacoma to Seattle in the middle of the day (because it is so slow) you can’t expect them to run that often.

        That is all a problem that ST has to deal with once Federal Way Link is complete. Do they truncate everything, or keep midday service, but stop the buses along the way, at Federal Way. The point is, further truncation gains very little (mainly just for Tacoma) and is nothing compared to the truncation at Federal Way. It would result in minimal savings — if they even do it.

        You would be far better off just spending the money on bus and train service. I’m not talking about anything fancy, but just decent frequency for the South Sound Sound Transit buses (something that is missing right now). Obviously I don’t think that would happen, although frankly, if ST can try and pawn off a silly streetcar as a substitute for a First Hill station, maybe they can do the opposite. Replace an obvious waste with someone of good value. For half the cost of Tacoma Dome Link, they could have way more frequent buses to Federal Way, way sooner, along with all sorts of other regional service (e. g. all day Tacoma/Auburn/Kent/Renton service with a tie in to 405 BRT).

  6. For what it’s worth, a week ago last Saturday, with future participation a certainty COVIDIA-Permitting, the information office at Tacoma Dome confirmed the Essentiality of my motor trip by adding a June Monthly Pass to my ORCA card.

    In order to fulfill the terms of my self-assignment, did some rolling on-site transit imitation by LAWFULLY (they let CARS in there!) following the pavement containing Tacoma Link’s tracks from Tenth and Commerce to Convention Center Station. The diagonal across from the Art Museum not being paved, had to divert a corner or two.

    But can now verify under oath that from Downtown Tacoma to Pacific and 25th where the carline swings a couple blocks left to the Dome, given the lane-possession and signal priority already enjoyed by streetcars, no Route 1 will have any trouble connecting Theater District with Parkland Without Streetcar Delay#1.

    From the main stop and the Museums to Tacoma Dome Station, it’s long been a six minute street car ride on a twelve minute headway. India Bistro lunch at Freighthouse Square, espresso at the Anthem three minutes later, Route 1 across the track, Pacific Lutheran at Parkland….depends on Strength of Priority.

    Somebody who knows transit vehicles, confirm or deny that the technology that gave us the Airstream can already put at least one potty per train on Link. And for scenic shoreline or I-5 corridor, those purple Swedish streamliners are worth an Icelandair field trip to Gothenburg to check out.

    Just please let Swedish Rail train your engineers.

    Mark Dublin

  7. It’s politically difficult to legalize apartments in most of the city of Seattle, so the compromise was building a very expensive train to the suburbs where it is legal to build new (though usually not dense) housing.

    Regarding the South Federal Way Parking Crater pictured in this article, I did a little bit of GIS analysis:

    All of the parcels (n=68, 8 already publicly owned) in the area contained within I-5, S 359th St, Pacific Hwy S, and S 348th St/SR 18 have a current appraisal value of $231 million. If we subtract the existing multifamily parcels (containing 130 and 293 units), that brings it to $154 million. I know appraisal value isn’t completely in line with actual market value, but it’s a number worth looking at.

    This is only $35m more than STB reported the 675 stall parking garage at Auburn Station is going to cost. What if ST or some public/private partnership bought all of this land and made it some nice dense housing/walkable shopping, anchored by this new piece of transportation infrastructure.

    It’s still a 45 minute train ride to Westlake. It could be more of a Tacoma-centric community. This station area was chosen just because it’s on the way to Tacoma. We could make the best of it and make it the Spring District of the the south end.

    1. If I’m understanding your “proposal”, you’re talking about a taking of these ~60 parcels for other purposes, correct? Under what condemnation authority exactly? Are you advocating for a further extension of the Kelo model?

      Btw, those assessment numbers go out with the window once the “best use” on which they are based changes.

      1. I didn’t say it would be condemned, I said it would bought. You’re right, that once the zoning is changed, the values would go way up based on the “best use.” I should have factored that into the equation.

        Interestingly, the Crosspointe Apartments (130 units) occupy 216,307 sq ft of land that is zoned for multifamily, and the 2020 land assessment is $1,297,800 ($6/sq ft). However, Jet Chevrolet occupies 271,896 sq ft of Commercial Enterprise zoned land (no residential allowed) just across the road from the apartments (and abutting I-5), and their 2020 land assessment is $3,262,700 ($12/sq ft).

        I think this would be best handled by a private developer (or several). ST is controversial enough among suburbanites that “Sound Transit Agenda 21 Master Planned Community – and they want to take our Costco!” would not be a good proposal to put forward. The first step would be a zoning change once the station location is confirmed, then some nudging from municipalities to get a good grid going for walkability. Looking at the Spring District is useful to see what I’m dreaming about.

        This is all a ridiculous pipe dream of course, but I appreciate you responding!

    2. Did you exclude the parcels that will already have to be taken for the station — parking or not?

      I’d agree with the notion that it’s not what is there today but what could be there in the future that matters. It’s one reason why I’m not as invested about seeing ST build expensive subway tunnels to some of the “historic” but less dense commercial centers (West Seattle Junction and Ballard) that will never be as dense as a cleared site with less restrictive height limits and other regulations. Given visions by Bellevue, Montlake Terrace, Lynnwood and other cities, Seattle could even be considered as a city that’s holding back.

      1. No, it’s just all the parcels in the bounding box I described. My point was just to compare the value of all that land to the amount that we are okay with spending on a parking garage.

    3. It’s politically difficult to legalize apartments in most of the city of Seattle, so the compromise was building a very expensive train to the suburbs where it is legal to build new (though usually not dense) housing.

      Right, except that even with the poorly constructed laws, Seattle will build far more housing, except that much of that land won’t be accessible by train. Lake City, West Ballard, Greenwood, Fremont, First Hill, Central Area and Belltown will all have way more housing than these areas, and none will have a station near them. The “Spine” has nothing to do with zoning or development issues in Seattle or the region. It seems to be completely ignoring them.

  8. And asdf2, answer on MLK is to undercut every major cross-street, and let the minor ones all turn onto MLK and not cross the tracks at all.

    Hell if it’s acceptable to come out of year 2020 and still putting miles of regional track and tunnel at the mercy of a Rainier Valley fender-bender. And for necessary rail-building expertise for the work, no need to put out bids any closer to China than Chinatown.

    What we don’t know about undercuts, I seem to remember evidence that Portland can tell us. Am I wrong?

    Mark Dublin

  9. And one thing that needs to be mentioned regarding putting a LINK terminal at the main stop on Pacific Avenue, which also features the bridge to the Glass Museum:

    A terminal generally involves turn-back and storage tracks, and perhaps some things to do with maintenance. The Tollefson block looks like it might have enough room.

    But I think the curve at Pacific and 25th probably would need to be enlarged. However, one thing that’s been puzzling me about Downtown Tacoma since the first time I saw it in 1974:

    Where’s the People? That year featured a movie called “Alphaville”, which was a French satire that narrated a perfectly normal urban day as if it was science fiction. And there was-and is-Tacoma.

    A full Downtown, modern buildings in excellent condition, a priceless view of Mt. Rainier, a major freeway extending into town from I-5. All STILL still-there and waiting. So since the French obviously are still exploiting a helpless American city, I’m thinking that the most natural thing is a sequel where Downtown Tacoma awakens to discover it’s 2020 and go from there.

    When the place gets re-infilled with people and their activities, reserved bus and also streetcar routes will serve pretty much for escalators and elevators. Tacoma Dome’s six minutes from the museums on a transitway aready lane-reserved and signal-pre-empted.

    Which can also serve, for instance, Route 1 express buses. Once private cars are politely asked to leave. Putting the future quite a “Way” along. When the French run their final credits, like I’m hoping for Kirkland, two or three generations of new voters can certainly deliver the “Will.”

    Though “Arrivee Alphaville” will be a great name for Anthem’s incorporation into truly World-Class espresso stop.

    Mark Dublin

  10. This definitely continues to be a transit system designed primarily by, and for, people who have no intention of ever personally using it.

  11. As I read these comments I’m pretty sure none of you have been to Tacoma. I believe the track gauge is different between Tacoma Link and Central Link. Also it would be pretty clunky to have 4 car trains running in traffic up to Stadium and Hilltop. Downtown Tacoma is out of the way and any future extensions south to South Tacoma and Lakewood would make the routing infeasible if it went to Downtown Tacoma. It makes more sense to have Big Link continue South and have branch services operated with Streetcar to Downtown, Stadium, Hilltop and Eventually TCC. Where they should build the New Light rail Station is here (https://www.google.com/maps/@47.2403548,-122.4251116,33a,84.3y,58.48h,46.75t/data=!3m1!1e3) and relocate Bus and Tacoma Link boarding locations below the new Lightrail Staion

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