Sound Transit 2012 Gillig BRT 9123P
This bus is set to get slower in 2022 with added stops in Tacoma and SODO (photo: Zack Heistand)

As part of an overall improvement in ST Express service Sound Transit is planning to roll out in 2022, Sound Transit is expanding all-day service from Seattle to Tacoma, improving midday and weekend headways from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. But there are also plans to make changes to peak-only route 592, which runs from DuPont Station to Seattle, with intermediate stops in Lakewood. This route is the only peak-direction service other than Sounder to run from Lakewood to Seattle (route 594 only runs off-peak and in the reverse-peak direction). One important feature of route 592 is its non-stop service from Lakewood to Seattle. Off-peak, people riding to Seattle also need to ride through downtown Tacoma (as both Tacoma and Lakewood are served by route 594 off-peak), but express service to Seattle from SR 512 P&R is a big time saver when it is available. However, Sound Transit is proposing to add additional stops to this route in 2022, slowing it down and making it less of an express bus. And for route 594, Sound Transit is passing up an opportunity to speed up service, something which is made easier with the additional service hours that is likely coming to Tacoma in 2022.

Route 592

The proposal is to add a stop at Tacoma Dome Station, for which the stated reason is “to better connect with the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension and other Pierce Transit routes and improve local connections within Pierce County.” It is also noted that this would introduce a direct connection from DuPont to Tacoma, a trip which currently requires a transfer in Lakewood. What’s more, Sound Transit also would add stops on the Seattle side, moving the route off of the Seneca Street off-ramp (which takes passengers to the middle of downtown Seattle quickly) and onto the SODO busway, just like with routes 590 and 594. The reason for this change is to be consistent with other Tacoma service, allowing passengers to rely on either route 590 or route 592 (whichever comes first) to reach Tacoma Dome Station without having to think about potential differences in travel time.

Additional stops are proposed for route 592 (Images from Sound Transit, modified to focus on affected areas)

While expanding transit service to enable new use cases is a laudable goal, it may not make sense to make this change at the cost of travel time to such an established service serving some of the longest commutes in the region, and has (or at least did have) the ridership to justify as direct service as it has. Indeed, these commuters do a great deal of good by not taking their car for the 40-50 mile commute each way. Some trips on route 592 even exceed two hours from end-to-end, and with that kind of commute, any kind of additional travel time can massively dissuade riders from transit altogether. And while ST makes a great case for hypothetical trips connecting to Tacoma Link from DuPont, it’s not clear (nor do they make the case) that these trips are in demand. Furthermore, WSDOT is working on HOV lanes on I-5 through downtown Tacoma. While primarily used by carpools, these lanes would speed up route 592 (and only 592) dramatically. So it would be a shame if Sound Transit moved the 592 over to the right lanes just as new HOV lanes are opening.

Route 594

Routes 590 and 594 off-peak (image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is also proposing an increase of midday and weekend service between Seattle and Tacoma by having service run every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes like it is today. They way they want to do this is very straightforward: introduce service on route 590 during off-peak hours (currently peak-only), and stick route 590 trips in between every route 594 trip, which would double service frequency from downtown Tacoma to downtown Seattle. While it is a simple change that will bring dramatic improvement in service to Tacoma – Seattle passengers, it also misses an opportunity to speed up service to Lakewood.

Currently, riders from Lakewood to Seattle during off-peak hours need to detour into downtown Tacoma, looping up I-705 and down Pacific Ave. They then stop at Tacoma Dome Station, then continue non-stop to SODO. The loop through downtown Tacoma adds 15 minutes or more when compared to just a stop at Tacoma Dome Station like route 574 does (and like what is proposed for route 592). This does make some sense when Sound Transit is only sending one bus from Seattle to Pierce County every half hour, and wants to offer service from both downtown Tacoma and Lakewood to downtown Seattle. However, with twice as many buses going to Tacoma, Sound Transit can serve Tacoma Dome Station with both routes, but send the 590 up Pacific Ave to downtown Tacoma and send the 594 directly to Lakewood from there, without going up Pacific Ave and down I-705.

Route 574

No changes are proposed to route 574 except for expanding its span of service. However, if various stops are removed in Tacoma from other Lakewood service, this presents an opportunity for route 574. While moving the 594 out of downtown Tacoma, it will certainly inconvenience many riders who ride to Tacoma, and not adding a stop at Tacoma Dome Station to the 590 may dissuade some DuPont to Tacoma commuters from riding. Route 574, which runs from SeaTac Airport to Lakewood Transit Center via Federal Way TC, Tacoma Dome Station, and SR 512 P&R, could take over the I-705 loop from route 594. Such a configuration would look like this:

Downtown Tacoma service with my suggested changes to routes 574 and 594

Making this change to route 574 would actually make quite a bit of sense, because route 574 has more frequent stops along the I-5 corridor than every other express route. These are stops where there is some demand worth serving, but probably not at the cost of travel speed to the vast majority of riders. This makes route 574 perfect for taking the I-705 loop, because it would allow Lakewood passengers to keep their direct express route to downtown Tacoma. The fact that it doesn’t go to Seattle doesn’t really matter to riders who are heading to Tacoma.

Also, unlike route 594, this route operates during peak hours as well as off-peak. with a new loop through downtown Tacoma, this would allow riders of route 592 to make the trip to downtown Tacoma even without the stop at Tacoma Dome Station. The difference is that instead of making riders transfer at TDS, riders would transfer at SR 512 P&R, where all three Lakewood routes stop. While route 574 currently doesn’t have any frequent service (operating every 30 minutes, with a brief bump to 20 minutes southbound at around noon), this of course could be changed at peak. Whether peak frequency is increased or not, route 574 could still have a connection (or even a waiting connection) at SR 512 P&R for route 592, making a DuPont to downtown Tacoma transfer quick and reliable.

If this seems like a good idea to you, then there is still a chance to leave feedback on the Sound Transit 2022 service plan. Feedback is open until August 22, and is available on the page itself as well as via email and phone.

420 Replies to “Sound Transit could make Lakewood to Seattle bus service faster instead of slower”

  1. Tacoma Link gets its own lane through downtown Tacoma. Instead of spending all the money building the train, then being too cheap to run it frequently enough and having buses sit in traffic, duplicating the train to avoid the transfer penalty, ST should just run Tacoma Link every 5 minutes and route all buses to Tacoma Dome. To go to downtown Tacoma, switch to the train.

    With the improved bus frequency, the service hours of buses crawling in downtown Tacoma traffic could easily pay for better service on the train that bypasses the traffic.

      1. Current frequency is 12 minutes, which is high enough to be impossible without double tracking, but not good enough to make a forced last mile transfer acceptable. It’s possible they don’t have enough trains to do better than that, but that seems like a solvable problem.

      2. Tacoma Streetcar is designed for 6 minute headways. Current limiting factor is fleet size; the expanded OMF and additional vehicles included in the Hilltop project hopefully will result in 6 minute headways, at least during peak hours.

      3. The single track section at Tacoma Dome Station is the real capacity impairment of the line. Still, current service headways can be substantially reduced on the existing line, if necessary, and any further reductions are probably not going to be necessary in our lifetimes—if ever.

      4. At the T Dome it’s double track. The issue I see here is it looks so much like a street people are going to turn on to it! Everything should be in place since they did (with awful consequences) open this route. What’s the single track segment you’re so concerned about? Seems like a non-issue.

      5. I thought we were talking about the bypass track again and how part of that is single track. The segment the streetcar is on single track is only 4 minutes. The other tram is at the opposite end of the route so single track here isn’t an issue and won’t be when they add rolling stock to increase headway to 10 minutes. They can still get to 6 minutes with the single track section if they ever have enough money and demand to run more trains.

        The streetcar is a better people mover for DT than a bus. Dwell times are less because of multiple wide doors, level boarding (roll your bike, wheelchair, stroller right on) and it doesn’t have to pull back into traffic. It has higher capacity (granted, to date isn’t needed) and is much easier to give signal priority. It’s all around a higher level of service that attracts a group of riders that would never use a bus.

    1. This. The fact that ST hasn’t already eliminated the time wasting downtown bus loop shows that they consider the Tacoma Link nothing more than a cute little toy and not a serious part of our transit system.

      ST is planning on truncating buses from the north when Northgate Link opens, why hasn’t this already happened in Tacoma?

      1. Truncating at Northgate saves at least a 1/2 hour of platform time and Northgate is a freeway station. T Link is a streetcar not light rail. When(if) it gets to Tacoma truncating routes might be something to talk about.

        As for Pierce Transit some routes like the 1 have tails on both sides of DT. But the 2 does truncate at the north end of the streetcar route. The 3 could terminate at UW Tacoma but that cuts less than a mile off the route; not enough to increase frequency. I don’t know what other coverage it could provide that wouldn’t be duplicating other bus service. Maybe at the Lakewood end.

    2. The T line has exclusive lanes between S 24th Street and S 16th Street. Most of downtown is north of that in mixed traffic. The MLK extension will be mixed traffic too.

    3. Sadly, this is not the case, Tacoma link mixes with traffic once it pulls into Commerce Street, and the ST buses are always much faster getting through downtown. The TDS T link station is also a good 5-7 minute walk up two flights of stairs from the bus station, and that’s for someone in good health. T Link only connects directly with the Sounder. If Sounder frequency were to increase, I can guarantee that T Link ridership would, too.

      The TDS Station and S 25th St station are also single track, meaning it wouldn’t be possible to increase service too much more without further system upgrades.

      1. I see. So, Tacoma Link is just in the same category of toy transit as the SLUT, so the serious transit network must ignore it.

        In the case, replace the tracks with bus only lanes, and run circulator buses every 5 minutes. The money to pay for it can come from not extending the toy transit further, in a U-shaped route that is no faster than walking.

      2. ST buses are always much faster getting through downtown.

        And why would Pierce County want to focus funds on getting people to Seattle? Tacoma/Pierce County has made a bunch of mistakes but the goal is to push the ST transit dollars into jobs in Pierce County; not make it a bedroom community of King County.

      3. Bernie: > “Tacoma/Pierce County has made a bunch of mistakes but the goal is to push the ST transit dollars into jobs in Pierce County; not make it a bedroom community of King County.”

        Well, yes, I understand that, but I can’t just not work until there exists jobs for me here. Besides where the jobs are, The current design of the ST system does not really do much for connections to other parts of Pierce County, and even in the use-case of using what limited inter-county ST service exists, the ST buses are still faster through downtown than the train. It seems to me like T Link in ST3 is transitioning to that of an inter-county connection with a convenient connection to the TDS, which I think will suit it better. (It will run half the length of one of PT’s highest ridership routes. I could see another frequent transit service running the other half someday.)

      4. ST should just invest in making Route 2 a better bus route, exactly like they are doing with Route 1, rather than covert half of it into a streetcar that will be less reliable than the bus.

    4. Tacoma is fundamentally geographically challenged. Downtown is in a penninsula or cul-de-sac so it’s not on the way to the south. Tacome Dome Station is the funnel point but it’s in the middle of nowhere. The main driver of Tacoma Dome Station is so that people all over Tacoma and Pierce County can drive to it and take Sounder or Link or ST Express.

      Tacoma Link is in many ways a solution looking for a problem. Its original benefit was for people transferring from Sounder. The 590/594 can go directly to downtown Tacoma but Sounder can’t, so TLink created a nice train-to-train transfer. Bus riders aren’t going to take it as long as the 509/594 continue to downtown Tacoma, because it adds several minutes to wait for it and transfer, potentially 12 minutes to wait for TLink and 30 minutes if you just miss the 594 transfer. You could theoretically take TLink to the 574; I don’t know how many do. I think people try to avoid the 574 because of its more stops and not going to downtown Seattle. Although the 574 is useful for bypassing downtown Tacoma or going to the airport. I don’t know if anybody except Mark Dublin takes the 574 and transfers to Link at the airport, because that’s longer than the 594. Although it does avoid downtown Tacoma if you’re coming from Lakewood. But Mark seems to transfer at Tacoma Dome Station anyway (574 to 574) for a restroom and coffee, so that negates the advantage. Why doesn’t he take the 594 from Tacoma Dome then? It seems to be a preference for trains. Which I understand since I have a preference for trains too. But I usually take the 594 because travel time means more to me, and I can take Link for non-Tacoma trips.

      1. Yeah, exactly. Tacoma Link is a downtown circulator. Sending buses to the outskirts of downtown, in the middle of nowhere (i. e. the Tacoma Dome) and telling riders to transfer is a really bad idea. Even if you have excellent transit within downtown it is a bad idea. Metro could save a fortune by just sending all the West Seattle buses to SoDo, and having them turn around. But West Seattle riders would be pissed (for good reason). Telling people headed to or from downtown Tacoma that they have to transfer would be similar.

      2. Yes, Tacoma Link is a DT circulator. And it works really well. DT Seattle is spread out compared to DT Tacoma. And honestly there’s very little in DT Tacoma compared to Seattle (or Bellevue). They do have several museum exhibits and UW Tacoma. A vibrant DT is what they want to build. DT Tacoma is not geographically challenged. It’s much more walkable that DT Seattle. You just need to go there.

  2. Just imagine if WSDOT had the foresight to include an HOV exit to the Tacoma Dome. Adding a Tacoma Dome stop to 592 would be no big deal if they had.

    1. What’s the point of having the 592 in the first place if it only runs during the same limited hours that Sounder does? Can we just have a timed Lakewood->DuPont connector shuttle, like we do for Bonnet Lake, and call it good? Bonney Lake doesn’t get a bus that bypasses Sounder and goes all the way to Seattle. Why does DuPont? And, how many of the 592 riders even pay taxes to Sound Transit anyway vs. drive in from Olympia?

      1. The combination of the bus and train gives riders additional frequency. The 592 also serves more of downtown Seattle, and is no doubt popular with many riders. The other two stops (Dupont and SR-512) get additional riders.

        ST has a mandate to build routes like this, and will try and hold onto them, even when they are clearly a poor value. Yes, can make the case that there should be a shuttle to the Tacoma Dome (so that riders can take Sounder, or a bus to downtown Seattle) but this proposal is much better. Riders still have their one-seat ride to downtown — with only a minor delay for rush-hour riders — while the bus will fill up with Tacoma Dome riders. It probably doesn’t cost ST anything. If they ran the shuttle, than a significant number of riders would crowd onto buses from the Tacoma Dome to Seattle, which means you would have to add additional runs. ST could run the 590 more often (which in turn would improve downtown Tacoma to Seattle service) but when riders from Lakewood are using the buses, the 590 is running frequently (5:05, 5:09, 5:11, etc.) which means that frequency is based on crowding, not added value for the rider. At some point — especially early in the morning, when most of the riders from south of Tacoma ride the bus — you would likely be adding a new bus just from the Tacoma Dome to downtown Seattle, merely to deal with the crowding. This is just a combination of those buses and the shuttle.

    2. I sometimes wonder about moving the joint Sounder/ Amtrak station to East Tacoma (new joint station with tracks and platforms built from scratch) and dropping a new Sounder platform in closer to Pacific Ave and UWT. Then, maybe extending Tacoma Link to this new station. If that was done, the eventual Tacoma Dome Link end station could then be sited further west closer to Downtown Tacoma and UWT. That would allow very easy access for I-5 buses and there seems to be plenty of room for exclusive bus lanes and signals there.

      A second but costlier option would be to replace Freighthouse Square with something closer to UWT and Pacific Ave (to the west). That however may make I-5 express bus service hard — but since ST would own the tracks there, a frequent two-way all-day DMU would be seemingly possible so that no ST Lakewood bus would be needed.

      I realize that project ideas would have complications and maybe some fatal flaws. Still, why build a $4B TDLE with three stations in Pierce that only have either casinos, a lightly used arena or a car museum to walk to? It seems like outside-of-the-box systems alternatives of some sort could have optimized the public investment better had they been studied.

      There was a good reason that the original Tacoma Union Station (now the Washington State History Museum) was built where it was.

      1. All of these are good ideas. Expanding to Tacoma Dome Station as it is now really only favors people that drive to park and commute. Local bus route service between downtown/Puyallup/ other parts of the county is not nearly as frequent as it needs to be, and the walk shed around TDS is, honestly, terrible. Meanwhile, the area around Pac ave/25th is a designated UGA, and would be future proofing the system for a more grown Tacoma. Centering transit to make connections around Pac Ave would allow way more accessible service, direct connections to much of the new BRT (I know it will serve TDS, but removing TDS from the equation would benefit service here, too), and be the best balance of access to wide-spread local service and route mobility.

        It would also be easy to reconfigure the T Link to serve this area, and be designed to connect more directly with local service. The T link can then serve as the connection to get from Pac Ave to TDS, then service between Pac Ave and MLK Way could run more frequently, and service to TDS can continue at 10-12 minutes as it is now.

      2. I sometimes wonder about moving the joint Sounder/ Amtrak station to East Tacoma
        This makes me think you haven’t actually ridden Tacoma Link. UW Tacoma is one stop away. Tacoma Dome is the transit center with a whopping huge garage(s) capacity. Freighthouse Square is a “thing”. Access from the north is great. When I’m taking Amtrak south next time for a weekend trip I’ll drive to Tacoma from Bellevue rather than use an eastside P&R and ST bus service. I’m not a fan boy for ST but this one they got right.

      3. “ I’m not a fan boy for ST but this one they got right.”

        This isn’t something that is wrong or right. It’s something that should be the “best” and the most cost-effective once Link opens. I hasn’t been studied and I think a good case could be made to study it. A rational study would be needed.

        While there is commercial activity at Freighthouse Square, is it coming from rail riders and bus riders or by people who drive there? Haven’t some of those businesses struggled because of limited foot traffic?

        I admit it’s only my pondering. It may be less cost-effective that what is currently planned. I still don’t think I’m being unreasonable to note that the building’s draw is not particularly powerful (probably less commerce than even at Graham/ MLK) and that the location poses both access challenges from buses and pedestrians and has a lower level of walkable attractions than I would expect from a major transit hub that we are spending billions to reach.

      4. Yeah, this would be the Tacoma version of the RER. Build an underground station in the heart of downtown Tacoma, while leveraging the miles and miles of existing tracks. You might even be able to have two stops, but with big trains, you could accomplish the same thing with entrances on both ends. This would be extremely expensive, but not nearly as much as the Link extension to Tacoma.

        You complement the thing with all-day bus service (which they are adding with this change). Link ends at some freeway station somewhere, and the buses connect to it via HOV lanes. Federal Way is overkill, but would work just fine for that. Add HOV lanes for the Tacoma Dome (both directions) and that would do it.

        This would cost a bundle, and is not really what Pierce County should be spending its transit money on (it needs more frequent bus service). But it would be significantly cheaper and more useful than Link.

      5. I think one additional difficulty (not major but notable) is that the express bus platforms are not next to Tacoma Link at Tacoma Dome. It’s a bit of a walk.

        In contrast, the proposed 590/ 594 Downtown Tacoma stops will be positioned in such a way to make transfers from Tacoma Link much easier. Drivers will even be able to see when people transfer if it happens in Downtown Tacoma.

        Until Link opens to Tacoma Dome, it makes lots of sense for ST to have Downtown Tacoma stops for 590/ 594 given where the exit ramps are as well as both Tacoma Link and most PT buses board.

      6. The existing Freighthouse Square Station is perfectly situated to serve the Point Defiance Bypass line, which is crucial publicly-owned and largely arrow straight rail infrastructure. With key improvements, it can easily host high-speed urban rail and become a backbone section of a high-speed line into Seattle (via SPIRE Regional Rail).

        This heavy rail line does not need to deviate from it’s existing alignment. The orientation of its station relative to Downtown Tacoma is not that far removed from that of Union Station to Downtown, which was (and remains) intelligent Golden Age rail planning supported by the city’s incredible streetcar network. That is effectively what we have today at Freighthouse, albeit with reduced streetcar coverage.

        What *is* inexcusable is that the Link Extension not traveling into Central Tacoma, a fatal flaw that is resolved by the sensible extension proposed in the following link:

      7. a lightly used arena

        Sure, it’s lightly used during the pandemic. It took a while to find info from 2019. There were 43 concerts; an all time high likely because the Seattle Arena was under destruction. This isn’t counting all the specialty shows, HS tournaments and other events like rodeos and monster trucks. It would get more use if it were once again home to a professional sports team. I expect a good number of people will take Link to the Dome and these will mostly be off peak ridership. Of course the same will be true for Tacoma fans attending events in Seattle which will generate more ridership than too the Dome. But Tacoma may still see some benefit with people choosing to get together with friends in Tacoma before or after an event.

    3. I agree, Donde. There really should be a bidirectional HOV exit to the Tacoma Dome (similar to what Lynnwood and Federal Way have). This would make the stop along the way trivial.

      That wouldn’t solve the biggest problems though. Relatively few people take the bus south of Tacoma (to Lakewood and similar places), and the Tacoma Dome is nowhere near downtown Tacoma. This is the big issue. You can serve both downtown Tacoma and Lakewood with separate buses, but that gets expensive, which in turn makes for poor frequency. You can send a bus to downtown Tacoma and then around to Lakewood, but that delays riders through-routing (e. g. riders going from Seattle to Lakewood). Every city has this problem, and the only way to solve it is to spend lots of money. We are spending lots of money, but not on that. Eventually there will be a subway train to Tacoma, and yet it will do nothing to solve this problem, while also doing nothing to make the trip to the train any easier.

      1. the Tacoma Dome is nowhere near downtown Tacoma.

        WTF? have you ever been to Tacoma? I grew up in Lakewood and have been to DT Tacoma many times over the decades since I lived there. TDS is yes a bit of a hike from DT but the FREE streetcar gets you there in one or two stops. What’s the fixation on bypassing Tacoma to get people to Seattle? I love Tacoma and from Bellevue TDS is a much more transit friendly option that DT Seattle. Tacoma wants people to commute TO Tacoma ; not think of it as a transfer to Seattle… and it’s their money, not North King.

      2. Of course I’ve been to Tacoma. My point is that if you just dump people off in the Tacoma Dome, the vast majority will have to transfer. For example, here is what the walk is like from the Tacoma Dome station to the tallest building in Tacoma: Again, the similarities with letting people off at SoDo are striking. It is a long walk to the heart of the business district, and for much of the way, it is an unpleasant, industrial walk. ST does a better job by letting people off at 25th, but that is still a long walk ( Of course there are other trips that aren’t so far, but even UW Tacoma is a ten minute walk from there (and again, this isn’t the Tacoma Dome).

        the FREE streetcar gets you there in one or two stop

        Exactly! If it was an easy walk, you wouldn’t need to make the transfer. Again, you could say the same thing about SoDo (Link will get you there in one or two stops). But it is still a transfer and people don’t like transfers when they are extremely close to their destination.

        This is why this proposal makes so much sense. It isn’t enough to just drop people off at the Tacoma Dome. This will be much better. If you are coming from Seattle — or even Lakewood — the bus will get you from one end of downtown Tacoma to the other. Yes, it is a detour for folks who are through-routing from Lakewood to Seattle, but as I wrote elsewhere, there just aren’t that many people doing that.

        Tacoma wants people to commute TO Tacoma

        Exactly, which it is important to connect to more of Tacoma than what is essentially a giant parking lot most of the time (the Tacoma Dome).

        What’s the fixation on bypassing Tacoma to get people to Seattle?

        Who are you arguing with? I’m the one saying this is a good change. All I’m saying is that while a bidirectional HOV lane to serve the Tacoma Dome would be nice, it doesn’t do much for people coming and going to Tacoma. You want the buses to actually serve downtown Tacoma. That is what this change will do, which is why I think it is very good. Pretty soon, downtown Tacoma will have 15 minute frequency to Seattle (and half hour frequency from Lakewood, etc.). The fact that some Lakewood riders will also get additional trips to the Tacoma Dome is really a side thing, and more about getting some additional riders (from the Tacoma Dome) on what are otherwise largely empty buses. Very few people will make the trip from Lakewood to the Tacoma Dome, but that doesn’t matter. The big change is with the other buses, that serve downtown Tacoma.

      3. people don’t like transfers when they are extremely close to their destination.

        But not everyone is going to the tallest building in Tacoma. People are trying to go everywhere so it makes sense to stop where you have a transit hub. And a transfer to the streetcar is about as painless as it gets; about as annoying as having to take two elevators when you use underground parking. The reason for buses to dump people at SoDo is because they kicked buses out of the tunnel and now it’s a painful crawl through DT. Bellevue TC is a little better located but that’s simply because DT Bellevue is right on the freeway. What Tacoma has that Seattle & Bellevue don’t is huge parking capacity at their transit center. And that’s because Pierce County has never had the extensive transit coverage that King County does. There’s actually quite a bit in Freighthouse Square and there are surrounding dining establishments and retail. It’s also an easy walk to the Tacoma Dome where you do have a lot of people all trying to go to the same place.

      4. The reason for buses to dump people at SoDo is because they kicked buses out of the tunnel and now it’s a painful crawl through DT

        But they don’t, Bernie! They don’t kick people out at SoDo, and ask them to take the train. The buses go through downtown. None of the buses stop outside downtown, and ask people to transfer. That would be weird — it is rare for buses in a big city to stop at the outskirts, and expect people to transfer.

        But not everyone is going to the tallest building in Tacoma.

        No, of course not, but that is clearly downtown, and it is clearly an extremely long walk from the Tacoma Dome. Other parts of downtown Tacoma are also a long walk. Way more people are headed to downtown than are headed to the Tacoma Dome.

        People are trying to go everywhere so it makes sense to stop where you have a transit hub.

        Which again, is downtown Tacoma, not the Tacoma Dome! Look at the transit map for Pierce County: Way more buses go downtown than go to the Tacoma Dome. For example, look at the 2. It is the second most popular bus route within the Pierce Transit system. Yet it takes over 20 minutes to walk to the nearest bus stop from the Tacoma Dome. Yes, you can take the streetcar, but that only runs every 12 minutes. It is nothing like in downtown Seattle, where there are so many buses that you never have to wait to get from one end of downtown to the other. To be fair, there are a few buses that go from downtown Tacoma to the Tacoma Dome, but they manage to go on different streets, which means that getting from just about anywhere in downtown Tacoma to the Dome is bound to take a while.

        Oh, and the 2 is not unique. There are way more buses that go to downtown Tacoma than go to the Tacoma Dome. Every Pierce County bus that goes to the Tacoma Dome goes to downtown, but not vice-versa. Because the Tacoma Dome is *not* downtown, it is not a short walk between them, and serving downtown Tacoma is a lot more important.

        So not only do you have an extra transfer (which people don’t like) but it can take a while. This is why it makes sense for the buses to go to downtown Tacoma, and not just end in the middle of nowhere, next to a big parking lot.

        Speaking of which, running buses there (and only there) treats Tacoma as a bedroom community, rather than a destination. For an express to Seattle, running peak direction, this makes sense (which is why it is fine to have the 592 stop off at the Tacoma Dome parking lot). But for reverse peak, or service the rest of the day, you want to go to the biggest destination in the area — downtown Tacoma. Increasing frequency to there every 15 minutes is a huge improvement.

        That leaves the 574. It doesn’t serve downtown Tacoma, which means that people who commute to Tacoma (or just want to visit Tacoma) from Federal Way have to transfer. It is likely these are a considerable portion of the riders, as about 20% of the northbound riders get off at Federal Way (it is possible those riders are going to and from Lakewood, but that seems unlikely). This is a problem, but ST simply doesn’t have the money to solve it. They can’t seem to afford to run the buses every 15 minutes. The good news is that at least many of those riders can take the 500 (which is a slower bus, but doesn’t require a transfer to get to downtown Tacoma). The 500 has more riders than the 574, but it is impossible to tell which bus people prefer for getting from Federal Way to Tacoma (Pierce Transit doesn’t have stop data).

        It really isn’t that complicated. The Tacoma Dome is a parking lot — it only makes sense to stop there if you are running peak service from Tacoma to Seattle (e. g. the 592). Otherwise, it makes way more sense to go directly to downtown Tacoma. But doing that while also serving Lakewood costs extra (and delays through-riders). That is the main issue — not the fact that the Tacoma Dome lacks HOV ramps.

      5. an extremely long walk from the Tacoma Dome.

        But it’s not a walk. It’s quality ride in an air conditioned (or heated in the winter) streetcar. When people visit Tacoma they are likely going to see more than one thing. The streetcar serves all of DT. It even has a stop right in front of the tallest building. The DT buses don’t have to go to Freighthouse Square because once you’re DT you can ride the streetcar. Very soon Amtrak and Sounder will be using the new station at Freighthouse Square. Eventually it will also be served by Link. The buses DT are mostly serving Tacoma neighborhoods and for the most part would have to go through DT to get to Freighthouse Square so of course it makes sense for them to be DT. But for buses that are using I-5 it makes perfect sense to detour no farther than where they can use the very fine streetcar.

        The 255 doesn’t go through DT Seattle anymore. Do you know how long it takes to walk from UW to the Columbia Center! That was my main connection to that side of the Lake. If I’m going to UW it’s OK (when the bridge is not closed… and the ramp isn’t backed up… which is never). If I’m trying to go anywhere else I probably need to go DT to transfer. This wouldn’t be bad if there was a Link station where the old flyer stop was. But the Montlake Muddle and then the decent to below sea level is a PITA. The other main route I’d use to DT is the 550. I’d much rather it served Rainier like the 554 and dumped off passengers at the ID Station. Until East Link opens transit is 100% useless to me. The even took away the 249 which was the only bus within walking distance. Oh, and now they’re building a residential tower right where it used to stop.

      6. I don’t know Bernie, at least for commuters on the 550.

        First they had to get to the 550 (or did when people rode the 550). Then these people are going to an office, not to sight see. Asking them to get off the bus at ID a few blocks from their destination when 4th is one way north to cross the street, descend to the station platform, catch a packed train for one, two or three stops, get off the train, ascend to the street with the mob, and then the office would be very aggravating. Commuters don’t like transfers.

        It would be like terminating East Link at ID, and forcing commuters from the Eastside to transfer to another train for the last three stops.

        I don’t know enough about Tacoma to comment about terminating buses at the Dome.

      7. Sure getting off at the ID isn’t as slick as getting dropped off DT (assuming that’s where you’re going, which I’m usually not). But the inconvenience to the 550 riders to get DT is far less that the inconvenience to the 255 riders that were trying to go DT. And with both routes I think there’s about the same number going each way (east vs west). I know from driving it that the so called reverse commute is heavier on I-90 and 520. I’d use transit if the 550 took Rainier but since Judkins Park is closed it’s now useless to me. I’d have to go DT and then transfer to the 7. And since the 249 is gone I can’t really do that unless the wife returns to the office (not likely) and can drop me near BTC. Meh, it’s a 15 minute drive in the AM and ~20 in the PM.

        Having visited Tacoma and Portlandia this summer I can say even knowing Seattle transit better both of those cities are much more user friendly. Day pass in Portland using my credit card. Free (on the streetcar for now) in Tacoma. And free parking for the foreseeable future in Tacoma which is a 40 minute drive on a Saturday morning. Yes sir, when I ride the new Amtrak bypass I’ll be driving there instead of Mercer Island which with the transfer is 40+ minutes to DT I don’t have to worry about missing the last bus on the return and even if everything is on schedule I’ll still get home about an hour earlier.

        But neither of these drop off points is anywhere near as elegant as Tacoma Link which is surface running on congestion free ROW. Tacoma has no traffic and didn’t even pre-Covid. If the CCC gets built and has signal priority (which T Link seems to have) it would be close. Link has huge underground stations often with mezzanine levels where as T Link literally takes you door to door. I loves me my Rolling Rock and my T Dome Station ;-)

      8. it is an extremely long walk from the Tacoma Dome.

        But it’s not a walk. It’s quality ride in an air conditioned (or heated in the winter) streetcar.

        Yes! That’s my point. It is not a walk, it is a transfer. A transfer to an infrequent streetcar or bus. Letting people off at the Tacoma Dome is not adequate for the vast majority of trips that people take to Tacoma. Tacoma has a downtown (which also contains a major university) — and the Tacoma Dome is not within walking distance to it.

        This creates trade-offs. If you want to connect Lakewood with Seattle (or Federal Way) you have three choices:

        1) Skip Tacoma completely.
        2) Serve only the Tacoma Dome.
        3) Serve Downtown Tacoma.

        Each one of these has their advantages and disadvantages in terms of costs and convenience to riders (which in turn effect ridership). HOV lanes to the Tacoma Dome would eliminate the first option — it would be silly to skip Tacoma if serving it is so cheap. But there will always be a trade-off with the second and third options. To pretend that the Tacoma Dome is just as convenient to riders as downtown Tacoma is to ignore geography. If the Tacoma Dome was smack dab in the middle of downtown, then the trade-off would be tiny, and the situation would be similar to downtown Bellevue. But its not.

        It is this trade-off that explains why ST is so inconsistent. The 574 and 594 run to Lakewood. The 594 serves downtown Tacoma, while the 574 doesn’t. There is no right answer. Each has its trade-off. That is the inherit issue with the Tacoma Dome bus stop, not its lack of HOV freeway access.

      9. We are straying quite a ways from the original argument (that the only thing the Tacoma Dome needs is HOV ramps). But I’ll bite on the whole 255 situation.

        The UW is a major destination (unlike the Tacoma Dome), and connected to a light rail line that not only connects to downtown, but to other major destinations, like Capitol Hill. The UW is also a major transit connection point, with buses going to plenty of other places. But mainly, it saves Metro quite a bit of money by not going downtown. This allows them to run the bus every 15 minutes, instead of every 30. Whether it is worth it or not is a judgement call. You seem to hate it; others probably like it. Personally, I would have waited until more of the 520 work was done; that would have also added Northgate Link to the mix. But again, those are trade-offs.

        The 255 is yet another example of the trade-offs that transit agencies face. The same situation exists in Tacoma. Truncate the bus at the Tacoma Dome, and you save money, but lose riders. Extend it to downtown Tacoma, and you get them back. Downtown Tacoma is by far the biggest destination in Tacoma, with plenty of employment (and students going to UW Tacoma). To pretend that the trade-off doesn’t exist requires ignoring all the studies, and all the transit experience of planners and riders alike. It exists everywhere. Even in Seattle, which can make that transfer way better than Tacoma, it exists. In Seattle, you can get on a bus without waiting, and it can get you to the other end of downtown without encountering traffic. But you can bet your ass that lots of riders would much rather the Sounder Train have a couple more stops in downtown. The situation in Tacoma is worse. The existence of an infrequent streetcar doesn’t help much.

        Oh, and you keep pointing out that the streetcar is free. What difference does that make? Transfers are automatic between Pierce and Sound Transit, which means that it would be free anyway. Oh, wait a second …

        And free parking for the foreseeable future in Tacoma which is a 40 minute drive on a Saturday morning.

        Sorry dude, but that is not a good transit use case. It really is the opposite. You are making the case that Tacoma is car friendly (with easy, free parking) not that it is easy to catch a bus to Tacoma, which will get you right to the heart of things. Fortunately, with this change, that will be the case (as buses go from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma every 15 minutes). With this change, getting to Tacoma by transit will be better than ever — whether you are there for fun, work or study.

      10. Yes “Tacoma is car friendly (with easy, free parking)”. And the point is you can park for free and ride transit for free. So there’s no need to drive your car from destination to destination. Or drive around DT hunting for a parking space (although they are currently plentiful). The vast majority of Pierce County doesn’t live within walking distance of decent transit. If you can drive and the catch a frequent streetcar (every 12 minutes and it follows a schedule) it’s much more attractive to go Tacoma than Seattle. Drive to a P&R, wait for a bus and then hope you don’t miss your last bus back to said P&R. We simply disagree about how convenient the streetcar is to access Tacoma. It’s only a 15 minute walk to the center of UW Tacoma; less than a mile. And there’s also the ST 594 that will get you there.

        As for the HOV ramps I don’t know. That section of I-5 is almost always congested. A part of that is because they’ve been working on the HOV lanes for what seems like decades. Part of it is because of the interchange with Hwy 16. HOV ramps would certainly help with events at the Tacoma Dome. Don’t know about people going to DT Tacoma. I think most are still going to use 705/Schuster Pkwy. HOV ramps to there and or 16 would be more useful. If there are HOV ramps from 705 then just use that and drop off/pick up Tacoma riders at UW. Even w/o HOV ramps that might be time neutral and make more sense than Freighthouse Square.

      11. UW is also three miles from downtown, which is about the right minimum distance for a transfer. Tacoma Dome is less than a mile from most of downtown; that creates the “Can’t you go just one mile more?” feeling. That’s why we’re truncating buses at Northgate and Mercer Island but not at SODO, and why I think the WSJ-SODO Link stub is a bad idea.

        The U-District is the third-biggest downtown in the region, and would be recognized as such if North Seattle were a separate city, and people go to it from the entire region. So it’s a good place to transfer because a large percent of riders are going there anyway. That’s what makes downtown Bellevue such a good transfer point too.

        RossB’s concern that it’s hard to serve both downtown Tacoma and Tacoma Dome efficiently because of their locations is the same as my observation that downtown Tacoma is in a penninsula or cul-de-sac. Downtown Tacoma is just in a bad location. When it was created, Tacoma Dome, Lakewood, the Tacoma Mall area, Parkland, and Puayllup were all rural. The founders probably didn’t foresee the transit challenges of having half a million people living in the south/southeast, more than the penninsula’s population.

        My dad grew up in Lakewood so I know it transitioned from rural in the 1960s, and the first wave of development was low density, so they didn’t foresee it as having such a large population, and of course they were oblivious to transit in that era. So Lakewood and south Tacoma and Spanaway and Puyallup just grew and grew, without much thought by the planners of the practical consequences, until suddenly you had half a million people there who need to travel, and downtown Tacoma is not on the way to anywhere except the mostly-residential penninsula.

      12. … downtown Tacoma is in a penninsula or cul-de-sac. Downtown Tacoma is just in a bad location.

        Not really. It just isn’t “on the way”. Tacoma is a real city, not a suburb. It grew up before the freeway. The freeway was added, and actually manages to slice right through it. From a pedestrian or development standpoint, this is bad. But from a mobility standpoint, it is good. It isn’t that hard to get to downtown Tacoma from the freeway. It just isn’t that easy to keep going, and continue north or south.

        But so what? Lakewood is not a suburb of Seattle, it is a suburb of Tacoma. This is clear when you look at the transit data. Lakewood has exactly the same level of service as every other Sounder stop, yet it has way fewer riders. Tacoma has 1,200. Puyallup and Kent have over 1,500. Lakewood has 400. Not 1,400, but just 400. The 474, 492 and 494 stops for Lakewood have a *combined* ridership of only 500. The SR-512 stop adds some more riders, but DuPont adds very little. There just aren’t that many people from Lakewood headed to Seattle.

        In contrast, the Pierce County 2 and 3 connect Lakewood to downtown Seattle, and get 4,000 riders a day. That is way more than all the Sound Transit stops (on Sounder and the buses) combined. The 4 doesn’t even go to downtown Tacoma. It just connects Lakewood with Parkland and South Hill (and the 1 bus). It gets a respectable 1,300.

        You can continue to run the express to Lakewood, with no stops in Tacoma. You can keep running Sounder. No matter what you do — no matter how much you spend — you just aren’t going to get that many riders headed from south of Tacoma to downtown Seattle. The fact that Tacoma isn’t convenient for through-riders doesn’t matter much, since there aren’t that many people making that trip.

      13. Specifically, DT Tacoma isn’t On The Way if you are coming from south or southwest of downtown. If you are west or north of DT Tacoma, it’s straightforward to have a route that passes through downtown and then terminates at the Dome.

      14. I can see the argument here. Essentially, people from Lakewood are not riding the bus, and the real market here is downtown Tacoma to downtown Seattle. When you travel by transit and make a trip that other people don’t make (or, other people do make, but only by car), you’re going to have to suck it up and detour out of your way to allow the bus to pick up enough other riders to make the bus worth running. Which favors essentially the service configuration that ST chose and that RossB is advocating.

        This still begs the question though of what the point of Tacoma Link actually is. Anytime I here arguments about how people traveling from B->C need an entirely separate service from people traveling A->B->C, I ask why? It’s a glaring inefficiency that a budget-starved transit region really cannot afford to have.

        If the intention is that the ST buses and PT buses need to travel from TDS to downtown Tacoma, why did they sink all that money into a streetcar when all they really needed was just some bus lanes? If the streetcar isn’t good enough and never will be good enough for a forced transfer, why did they spend all that money building it in the first place?

      15. “If the intention is that the ST buses and PT buses need to travel from TDS to downtown Tacoma, why did they sink all that money into a streetcar when all they really needed was just some bus lanes? If the streetcar isn’t good enough and never will be good enough for a forced transfer, why did they spend all that money building it in the first place?”

        The streetcar is part of a planned half-dozen streetcar lines that would cover larger parts of Tacoma. The initial segment was mostly to get people from Sounder to UW Tacoma and downtown Tacoma, and to have an early deliverable. The 1 was probably anticipated to be a streetcar then.

        As to why ST chose Tacoma Dome as the intercept for Link, it’s similar to the reason it chose Northgate’s and 145th Station’s locations. In the 1990s it was assumed that existing P&Rs where the best place for stations, because the land iss already public and there’s an existing P&R there. Later ST got persuaded to move them closer to the pedestrian centers at Roosevelt and Capitol Hill and Rainier Valley, but that didn’t happen with Tacoma Dome. And Pierce County is such a car-dependent basket case and with downtown in a cul-de-sac, that there’s only so much ST could do about it. Much of the blame goes to Pierce County’s decisions throughout the 20th century, and its unwillingness to make the area more transit-accessible in the run-up to ST1/2/3, or to advocate for things in ST3 that would make transit substantially more accessible to a majority of Pierce residents. Instead we have everybody transferring at Tacoma Dome in the middle of nowhere, and probably driving to it, and the Dome District urban village will probably not be that big.

      16. Specifically, DT Tacoma isn’t On The Way if you are coming from south or southwest of downtown. If you are west or north of DT Tacoma, it’s straightforward to have a route that passes through downtown and then terminates at the Dome.

        Yes, exactly. I was thinking of it only in terms of the buses that are the subject of this post (the 592 and 594). To put it another way, downtown Tacoma is not “on the way” of a bus traveling along I-5. To which I say, again, “So What”? That’s not a big loss. I think I would magically move the Seattle V. A. before I magically moved downtown Tacoma.

        If the streetcar isn’t good enough and never will be good enough for a forced transfer, why did they spend all that money building it in the first place?”

        Um, because it is a streetcar? Seriously though, I doubt anyone thought the streetcar solved the last mile problem with Sounder, let alone the buses. It helps, but it doesn’t solve it.

        The streetcar is a streetcar. Like all American streetcars, it isn’t needed. It is a waste of money in terms of moving people, since they don’t replace heavily used buses. For that you need … light rail. Which is another form of a streetcar, but with really big trains, and routes that really can carry lots of riders even when running frequently. There are no streetcars in America that do that. They are basically just very expensive buses.

        The strongest argument for a streetcar is that it changes the dynamic of the city. Go read Bernie’s posts if you want an example. He doesn’t mention working in Tacoma, or visiting friends or relatives in Tacoma. He mentions visiting Tacoma as entertainment. For this, a streetcar *can* help. This is why city after city keeps adding streetcars, thinking it is the magic elixir that will transform them into the next Austin (which doesn’t actually have a streetcar). Fair enough. I don’t blame Tacoma for giving it a go, really. Tacoma really is and attractive city. It has good bones, as they say. It isn’t hard to make the case that it should have a lot of tourists, and the addition of a streetcar does help.

        Is it worth it? Probably not. Tacoma is slowly but surely living up to its moniker (the city of destiny). The bones, if you will, keep getting better. It now has a major university right in the middle of downtown, which definitely helps (hey, Austin has that too — go figure). If they had put the money into more frequent bus service (which would help both tourist and local alike) I think they would have gotten a lot more out it. But I don’t blame them for following the herd, and just building a downtown streetcar circulator, especially since the feds are more eager to grant them money for that, instead of just boring stuff like running the buses more often.

      17. I generally agree that streetcars are a waste of money in the US. Why then are they better in Europe? And why were they so great back in “the good old days”?

        T Link was a starter line. Yes, with just the limited distance it does tend to gear toward tourists. FYI I have used it with relatives for business not sight seeing. But street parking is so easy in DT Tacoma it’s not worth parking at the garage and using the streetcar even though it’s free. If the parking situation was DT Seattle then hell yah I’d park at the garage and take the streetcar. There is a preference for streetcars/trains. That’s even more pronounced with people who don’t usually use transit. When my mom still lived in Lakewood I could get her to take the streetcar; a bus, NFW.

        But back to the starter line. T Link has always been WAY better than the SLUT and I think more useful than the new Seattle streetcar (motto, I’m not as bad as the SLUT). With the addition of serving two out of three of Tacoma’s hospitals and simultaneously getting a boost in frequency I think it’s got nowhere to go but up.

      18. “The streetcar is part of a planned half-dozen streetcar lines that would cover larger parts of Tacoma.” No, that is incorrect. Pierce Transit’s Stream network is all BRT.
        Not sure if there was an original streetcar vision that evolved into a BRT vision like McGinn’s streetcar network evolved into RapidRide, but that doesn’t sound familiar.

        And DT Tacoma isn’t a cul-de-sac. It’s just difficult to serve with freeway express buses (as Ross points out). This is actually a good thing – it’s great that I5 avoids the heart of downtown, and difficulty in serving Tacoma with Seattle-bound express buses is a more than acceptable tradeoff.

        I think I agree with both Ross and Bernie. The streetcar is fine. It was important politically that Tacoma got some rail early (I don’t think people realized how successful Sounder South would be), and it doe have value over a bus (economic development and place-making, cultural acceptance and ease of navigability for infrequent riders, etc.). Additionally, I think with the phase II expansion and higher frequency I do think it will be a useful part of the Tacoma transit ecosystem as both downtown circulator and a last-mile connection to Sounder/Amtrak/Express buses, and the funky buttonhook design should complement the more orthogonal local bus network. With the capital costs all sunk, Tacoma and PT should aspire for the streetcar to preform as an above average bus line.

        At the same time, Phase III would be a disaster. After Streetcar Phase II opens, Pierce should be solely devoted to building out the Stream network.

      19. “And why were they so great back in “the good old days””

        Um, because they were not that good. They were a great upgrade over walking and horses, but there’s a good reason the streetcar era was short lived and replaced by rubber tired technology or grade-separated rail.

      20. AJ, RossB is referring to the Tacoma Transportation Master Plan, in which they outlined a half dozen potential streetcar corridors, not the more recent Stream Network plan, which plans to convert Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 402 partially/fully into BRT routes.

        I’ve linked the graphic in question:

      21. Interesting, I didn’t know that existed. Well, hopefully Tacoma follows (leapfrogs?) Seattle in pivoting to BRT.

        Seems like cities like streetcars but bus agencies stick with buses. Thankfully T-Link is owned/operated by ST and not the city of Tacoma, so unlike Seattle, Tacoma doesn’t have a vested interested in growing the streetcar over another mode.

      22. I generally agree that streetcars are a waste of money in the US. Why then are they better in Europe?

        Capacity. Simply put, Europe has the density to support them, while few cities in America do. Seattle doesn’t, and Tacoma definitely doesn’t.

        European streetcars are much bigger than buses. If a streetcar can handle the load of 2 or 3 buses — and there is the demand for them — then it is cheaper to operate. Once you get to the point where you are running buses to deal with capacity — not to reduce the wait time for users — then it is worth considering a streetcar. There are very few corridors in America where they make sense. Either the corridor already has a subway, or it is part of a “spine” where buses converge. Seattle, of course, has both. Tacoma has neither, but could develop a spine if they manage to improve the bus system.

        But if the streetcar is running infrequently, or if the streetcar never comes close to being full (or the streetcar isn’t much bigger than a bus, which is also common in the U. S.) then you’ve gained nothing. You might as well run a bus. That is the case with the streetcars in Seattle and Tacoma (and most of North America). (As mentioned, there is the argument that a streetcar can revitalize a city — this is debatable.) Oh, and another — very rarely used reason — for building a streetcar is to take advantage of existing rail.

        Some references:

        Thankfully T-Link is owned/operated by ST and not the city of Tacoma, so unlike Seattle, Tacoma doesn’t have a vested interested in growing the streetcar over another mode.

        Are you saying that ST is modal neutral? Seriously? Given ST’s infatuation with rail, I think it is far more likely that the streetcar line expands, while Pierce Transit will put their money into more cost effective bus service.

      23. I was referring to ST’s Tacoma Link studies. There was a vision of a half-dozen lines, similar to the Seattle Monorail’s vision of a half-dozen lines. It may have come from the Tacoma Transportation Master Plan; I don’t know. But there was some expectation that TLink was just the first line and others might follow in later ST phases. That has all been put on hold until Tacoma Dome Link and the ST3 Sounder runs are completed, because those are Pierce’s top priorities. The additions to TLink in ST2 and ST3 (MLK and S 19th Street) have been extensions to the initial line rather than additional lines. That fulfills some of the lines envisioned, but there were also other separate lines or at least branches. I don’t remember them all, just Portland Ave because it had the lowest ridership. Pacific Ave was probably one of the lines.

        Other countries kept and modernized their streetcars, like they did with their commuter rail and regional rail. Sometimes they upgraded a surface line to add a downtown tunnel. Other times they eliminated a level crossing or gave it a bypass route so that it wouldn’t get caught in traffic. Usually they modernized the cars and payment systems. Some countries kept their streetcars and commuter rail going strong after WWII; other times they neglected it for a few decades but then revitalized it after the 1970s oil-price shocks and safety/climate concerns. The US was starting to revitalize its rail systems in the 1970s (the era of BART, MAX, Forward Thrust, MARTA, SF’s cable car and MUNI Metro renovations) but abandoned it under Reagan. We could have continued going in a rail direction like those other countries, and then we’d have a lot better transit networks now.

        “I generally agree that streetcars are a waste of money in the US. Why then are they better in Europe?”

        Because our new streetcar networks are the kind Europe stopped building a century ago! The First Hill, Tacoma, and Portland streetcars all would be rejected as old-fashioned and not sufficiently better than a bus. Newer European streetcars are more like Link on MLK, or Tacoma Link on Pacific Ave. Exclusive lanes, fewer level crossings, more signal priority, longer trains. They don’t say, “Let’s put a bus on rails in congested mixed traffic and call it an improvement, look at the red train color.” They make it mostly exclusive-lane, and any mixed-traffic segments are short and only where it’s absolutely unavoidable or the corridor is too narrow or historical to allow anything else. And they take parking lanes and GP lanes to free up space for streetcar/BRT/bike lanes. And the trains are longer so they can handle high capacity better. Naturally they’d only do it in the most important corridors, those that need a level in between metro trains and local buses. So they wouldn’t do it on Jackson-Broadway but more like routes 7, 70/67, 40, that kind of thing.

      24. I have a theory that part of the motivation for streetcars is as a way to offer service to middle class people who don’t want to share a ride with poor people. Since the streetcar offers no use as functional transit, poor people won’t ride it. Only people with cars who drive to the streetcar for the ride itself will ride.

        Yes, that line of thought is disgusting, but I’m sure there are people who think that way, and would not be surprised the least if politicians who think that way are the ones pushing for it.

      25. No, I was saying PT would be biased towards buses and City of Tacoma would be modal neutral, both of which hopefully mean they view T-Link as a sunk cost and not something that need to be resuscitated with a Phase III expansion. ST has a bias towards light rail, not rail, which in Pierce likely means prioritizing the Tacoma Mall extension over anything to do with the streetcar.

      26. Interestingly, PT came to the same conclusion when it came to expanding Pacific ave’s transit capacity. (a streetcar that followed T Links design would not be very wise financially, or design wise, and a street car in the style of grade separated rail would be too high of a cost to justify the actual needs of the corridor. BRT provided the right flexibility and total cost, and just makes more sense than hopping on the rail building craze.

      27. Newer European streetcars are more like Link on MLK, or Tacoma Link on Pacific Ave.

        So you’re saying T Link is an example of a streetcar done right? The only stop that doesn’t serve Pacific/Commencement is the P&R which is only a few blocks of extra track and allows for a layover to let the driver change stations and keep to a schedule. I don’t think streetcars in Europe would have anything close to the stop spacing distance as Link on MLK. The extension will increase frequency and serve two major hospitals. The only thing killing T Link ridership will be cheap free parking everywhere and a lack of gridlock. Tacoma could do something about the parking by raising meter rates, making the max time short and leveling a parking tax on private lots. The other thing to keep in mind with T Link vs buses is Tacoma doesn’t have a trolley wire network and those are extremely expensive to build and operate. So T Link is the only option for zero point source emissions.

      28. ST has a bias towards light rail, not rail, which in Pierce likely means prioritizing the Tacoma Mall extension over anything to do with the streetcar.

        ST has a mission to build capital improvements; not to operate transit. There’s very little in the way of bus infrastructure that qualifies as capital improvements. This makes sense when you look at the funding mechanism. You don’t finance operations with long term bonds. This means Link light rail or an expansion of the T Link streetcar are on equal standing with ST. The advantage to the Mall has is it serves more of the Pierce sub area than a DT streetcar expansion. There was talk of running the streetcar out to the Mall via Lincoln HS but more recent plans were TCC. The Mall seems to make more sense via streetcar than Link light rail and more sense than TCC which has really no great stops along a fairly long run. That might be a better Link extension with the long term goal of providing a Narrows bus truncation point. In fact the original Narrow Bridge was designed to have a lower deck added. They opted not to use that in lieu of the 2nd car/toll bridge but that leaves open the possibility of running rail out to Gig Harbor(ish) decades from now.

      29. T Link is the only option for zero point source emissions.
        OK, there is the battery bus option. That hasn’t really worked out very well. The buses are expensive and you drag around a ton (many tons?) of extra weight. Then you have to build the charging stations and operation costs are high if you have to pay drivers while their bus is sitting recharging batteries. And they you have the very real environmental cost of mining rare earth metals and disposing of them. It’s great for short term off wire operation but I don’t see battery only buses being a cost effective or environmentally effective solution.

        Another thought, the ability to automate a streetcar seems an order of magnitude easier than autonomous buses running in mixed traffic.

      30. “ST has a mission to build capital improvements; not to operate transit. There’s very little in the way of bus infrastructure that qualifies as capital improvements. This makes sense when you look at the funding mechanism. You don’t finance operations with long term bonds.”

        Strongly disagree with everything there. ST’s mission has included permanent funding of transit operations since the beginning. ST’s financial policies and bond covenants clearly prohibit funding operations with debt; ST can fund capital expansion only after operations and SOGR are fully funded.

        And there is plenty to spend on bus infrastructure! WSDOT has spent billions on HOT lanes to enable Stride; no reason ST can’t spend massive sums creating dedicated bus lanes, ramps, and stations. In ST4 there’s a $350MM bus station in Kirkland. More importantly, operations spend carries equal weight as capital spend in subarea accounting. After the Tacoma Mall extension, the easiest way for ST to spend big money in Pierce to match the next Seattle mega-projects is for ST to replace the 5 line Stream network with a 5 line Stride network. The capital cost will be modest (approaching $1b with fleet and a new OMF, as Rapid Ride lines appear to be ~$100m/each for ROW & stations improvements), but the O&M tail will be a decent outlay. PT would benefit by reallocating its bus hours elsewhere, with a massive increase in overall bus hours deployed in Pierce.

  3. Long-distance regional bus routes are tough to plan. With Federal Way Link opening in 2024, it is probably a good time to try a few things to gauge how to design feeder or parallel services when it opens. However, it should be a unified PT/ ST integrated design.

    That said, it’s often baffled me how Downtown Tacoma transit service is made so problematic by the awkward siting of Tacoma Dome for bus service. It seems to add time delays making it harder to have any through routes breeze through — yet there doesn’t seem to be an obvious fix. Am I missing an obvious solution?

    1. That said, it’s often baffled me how Downtown Tacoma transit service is made so problematic by the awkward siting of Tacoma Dome for bus service. It seems to add time delays making it harder to have any through routes breeze through

      By thru routes I assume you’re talking about routes that go to Seattle in the AM and back in the PM. I think the idea is these routes will terminate at TDS once Link is operational. You want a faster(ish) ride you get there early and ride Sounder or else you’re stuck on the slow train (Link) which may/probably will be faster and a lot less stressful than driving (and paying to park).

      Not a Pierce County resident anymore but grew up in Lakewood. The Freighthouse Square combined Sounder & Amtrak station looks good to me. Tacoma wants to bring business to Tacoma, not just make getting to Seattle easier. I can totally understand that and given the cost differential of Seattle vs Tacoma seems to make sense.

    2. The ST2 planning scenarios had all ST Express routes terminating at Kent-Des Moines.Now that Federal Way is opening ca 2024, it’s unclear whether they will be truncated at Federal Way or if some routes may continue to downtown Seattle.

      ST is also considering extending the 574 to Westwood Village to replace the part of the 560 that won’t be served by Stride South.

      1. I saw an ST bus today with a W added to the route number. I don’t recall the route number but when I got a glance at the front reader board it said Westwood. This must be the one. Where is Westwood? And since it was added to the bus route number I assume that some of the 574 routes don’t go to Westwood. That’s just confusing as hell. Numbers are cheap.

      2. Bernie, “Westwood” almost certainly would mean “Westwood Village” in West Seattle. Ross mentioned that ST was considering extending the 574 up there in order to replace the 560 when it’s replaced by STRide South. Perhaps this is a “shakedown” test.

      3. Yes, I remember seeing Westwood Village on the front. I had never heard of it; sounds like somewhere in LA. What it was doing on Rainer Ave S I have no clue. Maybe returning to base and the driver forgot to change the sign? It would have been a 560 I believe though I don’t remember the route number which is the Bellevue bus to the airport. Do they append the “W” to only some of the routes meaning some Bellevue buses stop at SEA and only a few continue to W Seattle? Assuming Link goes to Paine Field I wonder what the travel time will be to there vs SEA from Bellevue on Link with Everett having the one seat ride advantage?

      4. The 560 is a descendant of the 340, which went from Burien to Bellevue and then à la the 535 to Bothell and then west to Aurora Village and Shoreline P&R. The 540 does the southern half of this, and originally continued north to Alaska Junction. That was to give North King some ST Express benefit.

        Westwood Village is at the southern edge of West Seattle, and the south end of 35th Ave SE, next to White Center. There’s a shopping center there which is slated to become a hub urban village like Mt Baker (which is supposed to have a couple office buildings someday).

        After a few years the 540 was truncated at Westwood Village due to low ridership in West Seattle. Not a lot of people were taking it from the Junction to the airport. Now it terminates at Westwood Village.

        Seattle has Westwood without a west wood, and Westlake without a west lake. And the central downtown station is called Westlake instead of Center or Midtown or something, as if there’s an equally-important Eastlake station somewhere.

      5. @Bernie, the 560 has E and W appended to it depending on if its going East or West, since they both take the exact same route through the airport.

      6. Aha, I may have seen 560 “W” at Bellevue Transit Center although I’m not sure, but that explains it. It seemed like one of those mysterious things like why a few Metro express routes have an “X” after the route number on the bus sign and others don’t.

      7. @Ness, Thanks, that makes sense as I’m guessing at the airport the bus has to make a loop and both East & West bound buses are going in the same direction. It’s one of those things that’s not obvious and I’m sure many out of town visitors have gotten on the wrong bus based on running to what they thought was their route.

        Seems more likely that the driver was headed back to base and forgot to change the sign. That’s a reason to not have SEA to W Seattle vs SEA to Bellevue have separate route numbers but overall I think there would be less confusion if they did use separate route numbers…. confused? I am ;-/

      8. If it was on Rainier then it might be going to a base, or from one STEX route to another, perhaps via the Rainier freeway exit (if it’s open during Link construction). Yes, the driver must have forgotten to change the sign, as they sometimes do.

        The 574 goes from Lakewood to SeaTac. ST has mused around maybe extending it to Westwood Village when the 560 is retired. That was a few years ago and ST hasn’t said anything about it since, so it’s unclear whether ST is still considering it or how popular the idea was with the public. Stride South will terminate in Burien and will not serve the airport or Westwood Village, so that segment will be abandoned unless ST does something like extending the 574.

      9. why a few Metro express routes have an “X” after the route number on the bus sign and others don’t.

        I thought the reason for that was the “X” routes skipped certain stops. Again, it’s a tradeoff in complexity given these “local” routes serve a different number of stops.

        Why does ST use 5## for everything. I know Metro has route numbers in the 300 range and 900 range but isn’t everything else open. Being on the eastside and thinking I’m the only people that exist I thought 5## was an eastside route ;-}

      10. By the way, I keep getting 560 and 540 confused because of the precedents of the 340 and 240 and 140, so if I say 540 for the southern 405 route I mean 560. The 540 is the Kirkland-UW route.

        In the 80s the 340 was the 405 express between Shoreline/Bothell and Burien. The 240 was the local between Bellevue and Burien, and served the northern SeaTac residential neighborhoods. Then the 240 got repeatedly truncated, I think first at SeaTac and then at Renton, and the 340 took on the local neighborhoods in northern SeaTac. With ST Express, the 340 was split into the 560 and 535, and the 240 was split into the current Bellevue-Renton route and a 140 Renton-Burien route. (The 140 may have started a bit before or after that?) Then RapidRide F replaced the 140.

      11. Metro’s definition of express is “skipping at least one bus stop”. Express routes usually say “# EXPRESS” on the bus signs, not “#X”. But a few routes have #X for some reason, like 26X and 28X, and maybe 41X and 21X. In 2016 the 67 was deleted and the 372 became the only route on 25th Ave NE, and the 67-only stops were closed. The 372 had “372X” on the bus sign; I’m not sure if that was new or had already been there. It remained 372X for several years, and then a couple years ago Metro made an announcement saying it was removing the X suffix from the 372.

        The 150 and 101 look like expresses but have never been called that. I don’t know why the 41 is considered express and the 150 isn’t, when they both go on I-5.

        The 72 used to have two express routes, the 72X in the I-5 express lanes peak hours and the 72 E on Eastlake middays and reverse-peak. That was just on the schedule, never on the bus signs. The bus signs said “72 EXPRESS” and something like “72 EASTLAKE EXPRESS”.

      12. ST chooses the 500’s range for its buses to avoid confusion:

        – 0-99 are KCM Seattle routes
        – 100’s are for KCM routes south of Seattle
        – 200’s are for KCM routes east of Seattle
        – 300’s are for KCM routes north of Seattle
        – 400’s are used by Community Transit routes that go to downtown Seattle. Since Sound Transit buses serve downtown Seattle also, that range is taken.
        – 600’s used to be used for various special KCM routes that, as far as I know aren’t operating anymore. But, at the time ST was created, that range was token. Today, the 600’s is still used as internal numbering for some services that are branded without numbering, such as RapidRide and Trailhead Direct.
        – 700’s is reserved for the West Seattle Water taxi (and water taxi shuttle buses)
        – 800’s is used for KCM school bus routes, and also by Community Transit routes to University of Washington
        – 900’s is used by various suburban milk run routes all over the county, many of which allow (or used to allow) off-route deviations with a phone call.

        That leaves only the 500’s range left for Sound Transit buses.

      13. 5xx is the lowest hundred that doesn’t overlap with other agencies, except PT 500 and 501 which were grandfathered. Youi’ll note that ST has nothing between 500 and 509. I’m sure if ST wanted 600, 700, or 800, Metro would have renumbered its school routes and hidden routes, where the numbers aren’t much known by the general public anyway. CT could renumber its five 700 routes, which are a small number and the range isn’t particularly significant; it could use 600 which is vacant. I suppose 7xx derives from the 7 and 71/72/73, but Snohomish riders probably don’t even notice this, and I think the UW routes used to be in the 800 series. The 101 was 6xx something in the 80s; CT used to use a wide range but later contracted. The significant ones that can’t be changed are Metro’s geographical quadrants: 0xx Seatte, 1xx South King, 2xx Eastside, 3xx Shoreline/Northshore. It would be silly to remove those from the first four hundreds. And the 4xx are kind of an extension of the 3xx and go back to the 70s and were the only inter-county routes before ST Express (besides the aforementioned 8xx to the U-District), so ST Express is kind of imitating them. So it would be a shame to take that range too. That leaves 5xx as the lowest hundred not used by a well-established pattern.

  4. Donde: most center access ramps have been paid for by ST; the WSDOT budget comes from the Legislature; Sound Move paid for center ramps in Lynnwood, NE 128th Street, 142nd Place SE, South 317th Street, and the Mountlake Terrace station. In the 90s, WSDOT studied many center access ramps; the Legislature did not fund them; we get Link bye and bye. (NYC Alki).

    Alex: ST is changing Route 592 to be more like routes 594 and 590; another approach would be the opposite; to convert routes 594 and 590 to the Seneca Street pattern and provide less distribution through downtown Seattle. This was suggested when the South 317th Street ramp opened years ago. Link has served SODO since 2009. Route 594 could have been streamlined in Seattle and served Federal Way on the way; it could be more of a long haul point-to-point service. (Note the long dwell times of the over the road coaches, MCI). Yes, the Tacoma service pattern is slow and transfer adverse. Another approach would differentiate routes 574 and 594 in Pierce County and have both serve FWTC; for example: Route 594 could serve Lakewood and the TDS; Route 574 could serve downtown Tacoma and TDS. Why are ST headways so long? If the corridor needs Link, why not run both routes 574 and 594 every 15 minutes?

    re the Tacoma streetcar, they plan on 10-minute headway in 2022, so the single track section must allow at least that much.

    What are the reliability impacts of Route 574 serving the airport access road?

  5. Remember the old Route 591? It might be OT, but it used to serve between SR 512/Lakewood and Seattle with one stop at the Tacoma Dome. So what I’m thinking is that the revised 594 is like old route 591 and possible proposal that 592 is going to act like route 591 as well. Does it make sense? Just an old history buff as I used to ride the old 591 from Tacoma Dome about 20 years ago around 4:45 AM towards seattle.

  6. Have you guys stopped taking transit recently. My employer extended our back to office date until May 2022, and is requesting that people don’t take transit. They’ve stoped the free orca pass program and are providing us with a parking subsidy for when we return in May.

    1. I take transit sometimes. I feel safe on transit. However, ridership on the eastside is very low. I wouldn’t feel safe on a full bus, and I wouldn’t be riding if buses were full.

      1. Ridership on the Seattle – Tacoma Commute is pretty high. I try to board the bus at Downtown Tacoma, as there’s often a long line at TDS waiting for the next bus, which discourages me from waiting for a bus to pull up just to fill up and be forced to wait another 10-20 minutes for one with enough seats that I don’t have to be stuck next to the last available seat that no one takes because the person one row away is coughing their lungs out. Sounder commutes often have the same issue, when I can manage to catch the few trains that run, I struggle to find a socially-distant place to sit, and end up standing the entire time.

      2. The Wall St. Journal recently had a story about a major broker with over a thousand employees leave their two buildings in downtown Manhattan and go partially virtual, and move some staff to Palm Beach. Part of this was the high tax rates in New York City, but I think the motivation was the pandemic.

        I don’t see how an employer can mandate a return to work without mandating vaccinations. I hope Gov. Inslee’s mandates for state workers, teachers, and nursing home staff to get vaccinated, along with Microsoft’s mandate for staff to get vaccinated, serves as the motivation and legal cover for other companies, although the public service union is balking.

        It looks like with the Delta variant a mandated return to offices won’t be until well into 2022. It may also have to wait until those under 12 have a vaccine, and an opportunity to get fully vaccinated. Right now that looks like spring 2022 at the very earliest.

        Two years of working from home will make WFH very ingrained, and difficult to reverse. Habits are hard to break, and even socially I know so many people who are fully vaccinated but still have not returned to their pre-pandemic socialization or going out. The pandemic has just permanently changed how people live.

        At the same time I do know there are loads of office space for sublease in downtown Seattle, and as the underlying leases expire I expect much of the space to remain unleased. I doubt Seattle is alone in this. I don’t know if these businesses are going home, or to other cities, but my guess is to home.

        Getting to work is a whole other issue. Eastside transit riders are primarily commuters, so riding transit up until now has not been a big issue, since no one rides it. The 550 is virtually empty whenever I see it, but ridership had declined 1/3 pre-pandemic when the 550 was moved to the surface streets in Seattle and out of DSTT1. East Link, if you can get to it, would solve that problem, if the commute does not add one or two seats and a bunch of time. But until transit is seen as safe that won’t happen on the eastside IMO.

        I don’t see eastside riders getting on a bus to commute to work until infection rates are way, way lower, worksites are fully vaccinated, and until then will either demand to work from home or for subsidized parking. The good news is there is very little peak hour traffic, and plenty of parking in downtown Seattle right now. My garage that once was valet because the stalls are small and it was so packed is now park your own, and at best 1/2 filled.

        Another factor is the paucity of qualified employees. I don’t know where they all went. Maybe unemployment benefits, or federal stimulus, or the fear of going to an office, but it is really hard to find qualified employees to hire. I do think a lot of folks who do the grunt office work and commute by transit decided they were tired of that shit, and want a new life, and this is what finally pushed them to pursue that new life. Good for them, not so good for employers, although I regularly wonder about a new life too.

    2. I stopped taking transit the first six weeks of the pandemic; luckily I can walk to several supermarkets and other stores. Since then I’ve been taking it once or twice a week. My office was going to open in October but now that’s been pushed back indefinitely. The only companies I know of that prohibited transit to work are Wall Street firms in New York. Your case is the first I’ve heard in Seattle, and the opening date is also very late. I’d expect companies to say, “We might reopen in January but we’ll reevaluate it then”, not put a definite date all the way in May. So your company may be an outlier. Is anyone else having companies that are discouraging or prohibiting transit?

      Other countries have much higher transit ridership but haven’t had major transit-related covid outbreaks, probably because they’re more universal about mask wearing. It depends on how long you’re in a single vehicle, how good the HVAC is and whether the windows are open, and whether it’s one person per double seat, two people per double seat, or full of standees too. So far it’s been mostly easy to avoid sharing a double seat; I’ve only had to three or so times. And two of those were taking the 50 to Alki.

      1. It’s much more critical in the office building itself. The HVAC system can quickly spread infectious particles around. They’ve run simulations of rooms and within 3-4 hours one person can make an entire room infectious. The 6 foot distance thing really doesn’t make that big a difference over long periods in enclosed spaces.

        Most people don’t spend 3-4 hours on their commute, but they do on airplanes and in their office buildings.

        So I can’t help but wonder if this particular employer has bothered following the science enough to require masks on their workplace, improved the filtration and air cleaning in their HVAC system, or otherwise taken measures to reduce the risk they themselves present to their employees?

      2. Most employers don’t own and so don’t control the HVAC systems for the buildings they work in. Modifying an HVAC system for an entire office building would be very expensive, and I am not really sure what you would do to eradicate the Coronavirus in the filtration. Viruses are very, very small.

        The CDC is not recommending new filtration systems. There is a list of suggestions from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic pdf icon[78 KB, 3 pages]external icon. Mostly increasing airflow. I think to kill viruses you would need some kind of ultraviolet light system, or what the ASHRAC calls “ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)”.

        I have worked in The Smith Tower throughout the pandemic. The HVAC system is pretty basic, especially filtration, although our windows open.

        Our biggest risks or concerns have been clients (not allowed unless fully vaccinated and masked), fellow workers (now fully vaccinated), other people in the building especially in an elevator (masks), people outside who come right up to ask for money unmasked (stay in the office), and getting to work which we do by car.

        I am not really worried about a person on another floor infecting the rest of the building through the HVAC system, and the reality is as a fully vaccinated person I have around a 0.1% chance of infection and hospitalization compared to total infection rates, and as someone without comorbidities like heart disease, Type II diabetes, or COPD I have 10 times less chance of dying if hospitalized. Those are some pretty remote odds of hospitalization or death, except there is so much hysteria around Covid, and employees don’t want to return to the office or transit.

      3. and I am not really sure what you would do to eradicate the Coronavirus in the filtration. Viruses are very, very small.

        Apparently having people vaccinated wasn’t enough for the particular employer mentioned above.

        As proven by people wearing masks and the corresponding fall in infections when people wear masks, it isn’t difficult at all. Viruses are small, but the clusters that ride in the air are larger than a single virus particle.

        Do you really think this hasn’t been given decades of study in hospital construction?

        Changing filters from MERV11 to MERV13 or better is one thing that is commonly done.

        Ultraviolet light is something that can be done, but it has to be done in a location where the air is slow in the duct. If I remember right it needs 30 seconds or so of exposure.

  7. A careful analysis of the route 574 ridership should precede any changes that would divert this bus through Tacoma, adding 15 minutes or so to the transit time. I observe the majority of 574 riders to be airport employees or travelers destined to or from the airport. A diversion to downtown Tacoma as the author suggests would impose a frustrating delay for workers and airport travelers. This delay would discourage ridership rather than promote it. In lieu of diverting express buses into downtown Tacoma, a reliable and frequent link between downtown Tacoma and the TDS would speed up commute time for all long distance bus commuters. When the bus gets you there faster than personal vehicles, more travelers will choose this option. Adding to commute time will have the opposite effect and likely result in more cars back on our increasingly congested roadways.

  8. With the proposed 592 changes ST is just admitting operationally what they won’t say publically; that Buses Stuck in Traffic (BST) will never be fast nor reliable. No matter how you brand it (STExpress! RapidRide! STRide! Metro Express!), the advantages of buses aren’t speed, efficiency, or reliability, but rather coverage, adaptability, and low upfront capital costs.

    More specifically regarding the 592, anyone who will spend 2 hours each way going the 50 short miles from DuPont to Seattle isn’t riding the bus because it is “fast”, they are in fact riding it for other reasons. So it is a bit of a streatch to claim that adding a stop in Tacoma will destroy the utility of the 592 and suppress ridership, because the utility of the 592 isn’t speed. It doesn’t have speed today, and won’t have speed after this change.

    What this change does is add utility by adding a stop, and by standardizing the routes to give riders more choices. That has the potential to substantially incease ridership beyond current levels.

    And don’t forget, the change in frequency should give the ridership about 7.5 mins back on the basis of a random arrival at the station. Plus the reconstructed I-5/SR16 interchange (when complete) should improve transit speeds over the status quo for all vehicles traveling I-5. So again, more time back.

    So ST got this one right. Now let’s see how it works in real world conditions.

    Also, anyone who whines about the slow pace of ST LR construction should take a long hard look at the I-5/SR16 interchange project. This project has been under construction for 20 years! Not planning AND construction, just 20 years of CONTINUOUS construction! That makes NG Link construction look like a blink of an eye.

    1. With the proposed 592 changes ST is just admitting operationally what they won’t say publicly; that Buses Stuck in Traffic (BST) will never be fast nor reliable.

      What??? I’m afraid you completely misses the point of this change. ST is making a major improvement in frequency from downtown Tacoma to downtown Seattle. On the bus. Not the train, but the bus. It is doing so because the train is not especially fast. The bus encounters traffic, but Sounder has a major detour, and several stops before going from Tacoma to Seattle. Yes, I know this will blow your mind, but often times, the bus is faster than the train. This explains why way more people ride the bus from Tacoma to Seattle than the train. Even just the 590 (which only runs during rush-hour) exceeds the Tacoma Dome ridership for Sounder.

      But get this: the light rail train will be slower than Sounder. Thus taking Link, from Tacoma to Seattle, will never be the fast option. If you are in a hurry, you are better off taking Sounder or a bus, not Link.

      This change has everything to do with improving service to downtown Tacoma (which, by the way, will never be served by Link). Unfortunately, folks in Lakewood pay the price. But not that many people rode from there, which is why the trade-off is reasonable. This is ST doing the right thing, and focusing on express bus service that is reasonably cost effective, even though it means some riders encounter a delay. If they took that approach on a broader scale, they wouldn’t spend a fortune building Tacoma Dome Link (or Tacoma Link for that matter) and run more buses.

      1. RossB is correct again. Between the TDS and Seattle CBD, the travel times in minutes are forecast to be: bus, 50; Sounder, 60; and, Link, 72. Of course, the bus has more variation, as I-5 can break down. Sounder is reliable. It provides a greater speed advantage over bus in the other cities (e.g., Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila). It is about 20 minutes between KSS and Tukwila with padding. If we want to avoid buses stuck in traffic, we need to address the gap in the HOV lane network between the TDS and Federal Way or toll all the lanes. In both I-5 north and south, two-plus does not provide much reliability any longer.

      2. You guys are way too defensive for your own good, and you need to read what is being said a bit more closely before responding.

        I never mentioned Sounder, never mentioned LR (except for construction) and never once compared the speed of BST (Buses Stuck in Traffic) to the speed of any other mode.

        The knock that the author attempted to put on the 592 service change was that it would slow down the commute from DuPont and Lakewood because of the extra stop. My assertion is that this is a complete fallacy.

        From DuPont to DT Seattle during the morning peak is now scheduled to take 2 hours on the 592. That is not “fast”, that is not “express”, and therefore speed is certainly not the reason people take the 592 today.

        So if people are still taking the 592 today despite its slow and unreliable performance, my assertion is that adding a stop and a little more travel time is unlikely to reduce ridership, because speed is not why people ride the 592 in the first place. Speed is something it just doesn’t have, people ride for other reasons.

        Additionally, the added stop and added utility is likely to actually increase ridership.

        Bottom line: ST got this change right.

      3. Omission.

        I typed in the 3rd paragraph: “ was that it would slow down the commute from DuPont and Lakewood because of the extra stop.”

        My intent was to say: “ was that it would slow down the commute from DuPont and Lakewood because of the extra stop and thus hurt ridership.”

        My bad. The focus was meant to be on the ridership impacts.

      4. Sounder doesn’t have capacity for all the people on Tacoma-Seattle express buses. It only has a limited number of runs, and it has to reserve half its capacity for South King County riders, and it doesn’t want standees. Why do you think ST would run buses every five minutes from Tacoma Dome peak hours if they weren’t full (at least pre-pandemic)?

      5. I never mentioned Sounder, never mentioned LR (except for construction) and never once compared the speed of BST (Buses Stuck in Traffic) to the speed of any other mode.

        If you write that something is slow — which you most definitely did — you are implying it is slower than the alternatives. Otherwise your comment is meaningless. Forgive us for assuming your comment had meaning. Apparently you were striving for ambiguity. That begs the question — the bus is slow compared to what?

        The only obvious implication is other modes. Driving, walking, taking a bike, and yes, other transit alternatives. Is it slower than taking a helicopter? Yes — was that your point?

        The bus is faster than all the alternatives that are available to most people. By traveling in the carpool lanes, it goes faster than a typical driver. That is what the author is getting at. Furthermore, as the author mentioned, additional HOV lanes will be added in the future, which will make it faster. Faster than driving, and faster than it is now. The author is correct — this change will make it slower. If more people rode the bus, this would be an issue (but very few people do).

        Your time estimates are also way off. Yes, agencies pad their numbers, and suggest that trips will take forever, when they don’t. But Google puts the time at around 45 minutes to an hour — for driving. But the bus, traveling in the HOV lanes, will be faster.

        Is that fast? Again, compared to what?

      6. @RB,

        I stick to the facts, I don’t imply anything. Your attempts claims otherwise are just an attempt to avoid the crux of my argument.

        One more time here, and try to follow along:

        The post author was arguing against the 592 stop at TDS on the basis that the stop will slow down the 592 trip from DuPont and Lakewood to DT Seattle and therefore hurt ridership.

        I assert that this is fallacious. The trip from DuPont to Seattle is already painfully slow. A 2hour scheduled trip to go 50 miles is not fast. It is not quick. It is not rapid.

        So I assert that people who ride the 592 are riding for reasons other than speed. So adding a couple of more minutes to the trip won’t matter and won’t hurt ridership, because people aren’t riding because of speed.

        I also assert that some of the other changes will gain back some of this additional time.

        Those are solid arguments based on the facts, and they have nothing to do with how fast or slow the other modes are.

        The argument I’m making is independent of other modes.

        And that folks is the sound of RossB munching headgear.

      7. I stick to the facts, I don’t imply anything.

        Yes you do! If you say something is “fast” without an explicit comparison, that is an implication! Come on man, this is just basic stuff they teach you in school. The word “fast” is meaningless without context. Otherwise you can say that about anything and everything that moves (e. g. a snail is fast). This is just basic logical writing and speaking. This is stuff you learn at the first week of a high school debate class, and you haven’t learned it by now, you shouldn’t be making arguments, like the following:

        The trip from DuPont to Seattle is already painfully slow.

        Again, compared to what?

        Compared to every other mode easily available to an ordinary person, it is faster. How in the world can it be the fastest mode, yet not fast? You seem to think that the bus is slow compared to some unwritten standard you have in your head. No one knows what that is, or even what the mode is. Nothing is stated explicitly, yet somehow you aren’t implying anything either.

        Your premise — if you have one — is that the bus is so slow, that being slower doesn’t matter. That too is ludicrous. Muni Metro is slow. Based on several studies, it is the slowest transit system in the United States*. Does that mean we should allow it to get slower? Of course not. If possible, we should make it faster. That shouldn’t be our only goal, but it we shouldn’t ignore speed, just because it is already slow.

        This is a simple trade-off. Those from Lakeview *will* have it worse. But there are so few riders from there, and so many from Tacoma, that the trade-off is worth it. Your interpretation of this change is nonsensical, while your statements to support them are incorrect or meaningless.

        * Notice what I did there? I said something was “slow”, then I made clear what I meant by that. I made an explicit comparison (Muni Metro is slower than other transit systems) as opposed to an implicit one (Muni Metro is slower than something).

      8. Putting aside the Wittgensteinian semantics, I assumed the comparison was to a car since there is no light rail yet in this area to Seattle. 50 miles at 60 mph in a car is 70 minutes faster than this bus.

        I guess my question is why continue a bus to Seattle that takes two hours? Maybe that is why it has few riders. I would imagine most folks in the Lakewood/DuPont area have a car and would drive to Seattle rather than spend two hours on a bus, whether an extra stop is added or not.

        I get the argument that an extra stop on a bus that takes two hours to Seattle won’t be a deal breaker for riders, but why is there a bus that takes two hours to Seattle, and is anyone actually riding it to Seattle. It sounds like the answer is no based on ridership.

        The time comparison with a car is always the baseline because in these less dense areas nearly everyone has a car in the garage with no first/last mile delay and probably the only form of first/last mile access, and transit must always compete with the car, and rarely will be faster.

        But at an EXTRA 140 minutes round trip to and from Seattle I can’t think of any benefit the bus could offer to offset the time difference, unless you have no other way to get to Seattle, which means ST needs to figure out a faster bus route to Seattle if that is where the riders want to go.

      9. Putting aside the Wittgensteinian semantics, I assumed the comparison was to a car …

        Right, but that would mean an implicit comparison, and Lazarus has made it clear — he is making no such comparison. Oh, and the fact of the matter is that a car would be slower than a bus, since a car goes in the slower lane. So nice guess, but clearly that wasn’t what Lazarus meant. His statements remain clouded in mystery — an enigma. The bus is both slow and not slow. An express is not an express. Perhaps it is simply a koan.

      10. You are assuming it is peak hour congestion, there is only one person in the car, and the express lane on I-5 runs from Lakewood/DuPont to Seattle and also is not congested. Even then I doubt the time difference from Lakewood to Seattle in the HOV lane would equal 70 minutes.

        Does anyone have any ridership data on how many take this bus from Lakewood all the way to Seattle? I can’t believe anyone takes this bus because it is faster than driving.

      11. the matter is that a car would be slower than a bus, since a car goes in the slower lane.</blockquote.
        Virtually never if you figure all the time to get to a bus stop and transfers. Way back in the 70's when I was going in to the UW and you needed three to use the 520 HOV lanes we'd poach a transit rider from Redmond P&R. Sucked that when I used my motorcycle with a passenger we couldn't use the HOV lane. I think they've fixed that now.

      12. @DT,

        I think we basically agree. Anyone who is making a 4 hr RT trip on the 592 to go just 50 miles isn’t picking it because it is fast, they are picking it because they have no other options.

        And, if they have no other options, then adding 10 mims to the trip just isn’t going to change things. Because no other options pretty much means no other options.

        Stated starkly, the key word in the phrase “captive audience” is “captive”.

        ST has made a good call with the changes t9 the 592. I am sure ridership will g9 up.

      13. I wrote: The bus is faster than all the alternatives that are available to most people. By traveling in the carpool lanes, it goes faster than a typical driver.

        You are assuming it is peak hour congestion, there is only one person in the car, and the express lane on I-5 runs from Lakewood/DuPont to Seattle and also is not congested.

        I specifically mentioned “a typical driver” which means a driver with no one else in the car. I never said there was no congestion — only that the congestion would be worse for a typical driver (i. e. someone driving in a regular lane). The 592 only runs during peak and only peak direction, which means that there will be congestion on the main roadway way more often than not. It makes no stops between downtown Seattle and SR 512. It is an express, and between those destinations, it will be faster — or at worst, the same as — driving a single occupancy car. A carpool would offer the same speed advantages, but a typical driver doesn’t use it.

        Does anyone have any ridership data on how many take this bus from Lakewood all the way to Seattle? I can’t believe anyone takes this bus because it is faster than driving.

        Sure, about 400 a day. Only about 15 riders get off before downtown. Of course this is faster than driving alone. There are literally dozens of miles of HOV lanes. The stations are close to the freeway, which means that unless you are north of SR 512, there is little penalty to using the bus. You have to park and wait for it, of course, but you don’t have to detour to get to it. In terms of actually getting you to your destination, it is as fast, or faster than driving alone.

        Keep in mind, these are trips from Lakewood to downtown Seattle. This is a very long distance — it would take days to walk it. This isn’t like the Central Area, or even Bellevue, where you would expect quite a few people traveling that distance for work. This is long distance commuting. To get as many people as it does is quite good — it just isn’t enough to justify skipping Tacoma (which has way more people headed to Seattle).

        Keep in mind, the Lakewood Sounder station gets about 400 riders a day. This is way less than every other station. There just aren’t that many people going all the way from Lakewood to downtown Seattle.

        Anyone who is making a 4 hr RT trip on the 592 to go just 50 miles isn’t picking it because it is fast, they are picking it because they have no other options.

        First of all — It doesn’t take two hours! Stop ignoring the data that is right in front of you. Check Google — it doesn’t take that long to drive in the regular lanes, it sure as hell doesn’t take that long in the HOV lanes. Yes, Sound Transit allows a huge amount of cushion with their estimates. So do airlines. They want you to get off the plane and think “Wow, faster than I expected” even though it gets there at that time 99% of the time. Same here. ST figures it is better to under promise and over deliver.

        Of course riders have other options. They can drive — but that is always slower. They can take the train. If the bus really was as bad as you suggest, it would be a faster option for many. But since the train takes about an hour and 15 minutes, the bus is often faster. How can you explain that as many people ride the bus as take the train, given that the train is never stuck in traffic? You can’t, because your whole sloppily presented argument is based on faulty data, and unwritten assumptions.

        Oh, and in what world is 50 miles not a long distance? Of course it takes a while — it is 50 miles!

        The idea that we should screw over people who make long trips in transit — or slow ones for that matter — is messed up. The 44 is much slower than this bus — might as well make it slower, since obviously these people don’t care. While we are at it, do the same with the 8 — they have no other choice. Oh, and how about Amtrak? The trip down to Portland seems to take forever. Might as well make it slower. This argument is ridiculous, and you do ST a great disservice when making it.

        It is quite possible you *will* lose a significant number of riders from Lakewood with this change. The only reason this change is justified is that you will gain back a bunch from Tacoma. I doubt very many people will take this bus from Lakewood to the Tacoma Dome — but plenty will take it from the Tacoma Dome to downtown Seattle. Because even though you find it hard to imagine, taking the bus is faster than the alternatives available to most people at that hour.

  9. ST has a wonderful opportunity to make bus service faster throughout the region to assuage the taxpaying public over the next 20 years, for those who are getting Link service postponed. Up north, they could finish the north side of the 164th direct access lanes to keep their buses in the HOV lanes for much faster trips, they could route the 513 to serve the popular 112th/SE Everett Park & Ride to connect to and from the Eastside there. On the Eastside, they could offer an express version of the 535 that skips right-side stops and a local version that doesn’t. And in the south end, as this author suggests. ST should be looking for “out of the box” and “in the box” ways to may transit service faster, not slower!

  10. While expanding transit service to enable new use cases is a laudable goal, it may not make sense to make this change at the cost of travel time to such an established service [the 592] serving some of the longest commutes in the region, and has (or at least did have) the ridership to justify as direct service as it has.

    Ah, but that’s the problem. It does not have the ridership to justify the express service. That is why this is being done in the first place. If the buses were full, it would be crazy to stop somewhere along the way, so that more riders can squeeze on. But that’s not the case — not that many riders use the 592. In terms of boardings per revenue hour, it is the worst. In terms of subsidy per rider, it is the worst (see page 33 of As of the last report, it was over $14 per rider! This is simply Sound Transit’s attempt to make the most out of a failing bus route. The only other sensible alternative is to simply end it. This really has little to do with trying to connect Lakewood (and the other south end stops) with downtown Tacoma. That is just a bonus. This is about trying to save one of the worst routes in the system.

    As for the 594, it performs a lot better, but mainly because of riders to Tacoma. This is where the riders are coming from, not further south. More people use the stops in Downtown Tacoma then use the ones south of there. Your proposal would leave downtown Tacoma with far less frequent service, defeating the purpose of this restructure, all so you can serve a handful of riders who ride the bus further south.

    Rearranging the service so that the 574 serves downtown Tacoma while the 590 doesn’t seems like it robbing Peter to pay Paul. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem revenue neutral. You save some money by having the 594 skip downtown Tacoma, but the bus is still going to Lakewood. That is a lot of additional service to Lakewood, and it isn’t clear where ST (an agency struggling for funding) is supposed to get the money.

    Sorry, but this just doesn’t make sense. This assumes that there are a lot more Lakewood riders than there are. Of course they want an express (everyone wants an express) but that doesn’t mean that one is justified. Sound Transit deserves a lot of credit for coming up with a plan that is a solid improvement, and a good use of funds. It would be great if they put their money into express routes like the existing 592 (even though they cost a fortune) but instead they are putting their money into building a choo-choo.

    Speaking of which, when Link gets to Federal Way, that is when things get really interesting. Do you keep running express buses to downtown (with a stop at the Federal Way freeway station), or do you truncate the buses there. If you do the latter, then my guess is things get dramatically simplified, as you have express buses from Dupont to Federal Way, downtown Tacoma to Federal Way, and maybe a combination (like today’s 594). That could give you frequent service to downtown Tacoma and Dupont. Riders to Dupont would have half their buses express to Federal Way, and half their buses go via downtown.

    1. Many ride transit between Tacoma and Seattle to avoid paid parking. While riding transit, they may read or use electronic devices. The auto time is less relevant , unless one can afford downtown Seattle parking.

      It is probably sound for routes 590-594 and 592 to have the same pathway in Seattle. A question is: ST has proposed that route 592 be changed; instead, should routes 590-594 be changed to Seneca and the all-day Route 594 serve federal way?

      1. ST has proposed that route 592 be changed; instead, should routes 590-594 be changed to Seneca?

        Once again I think ST has it right. I don’t think Seneca saves you much time, while inconveniencing a fair number of riders. The northbound 592 skips the south part of downtown. The 594 gets quite a few riders in that part of town. Of the riders who get off the bus after Tacoma, almost a quarter get off on the SoDo busway. More than that get off downtown, before Seneca. So about half the riders prefer stops that the 592 simply doesn’t cover. The numbers are similar for the 590. The relative time savings are minimal for buses that spend 90% of their time on the freeway. Might as well milk as much ridership as possible, and using the busway does that.

        Should the all-day Route 594 serve Federal Way?

        Great question. In my opinion, Yes. Frankly, I don’t understand this. The plan for Federal Way is to run the 577 and 578 every half hour, opposite each other. The 578 keeps going after serving Federal Way, but the 577 ends there. Given the relatively short time it takes to serve Federal Way, I’m surprised they don’t get rid of the 577, and replace it with a new 594 that stops in Federal Way. There would be several big advantages to that:

        1) ST would save a considerable amount of money, which could be put into all sorts of improvements (e. g. running the 574 more often, extending half-hour service longer into the evening).

        2) Federal Way to Tacoma would get 15 minute all-day service.

        I can only speculate as to why they won’t do that. Some theories:

        1) The 594 is not as reliable as the 578. I doubt it. The 578 goes to Auburn and Puyallup. Puyallup especially involves a fair amount of surface street driving. They seem about the same in terms of reliability.

        2) It takes longer than expected to serve Federal Way. Again, I doubt it. There is one traffic light that the bus has to deal with (which should probably be replaced with a roundabout in my opinion). So while it isn’t like Mountlake Terrace, it seems pretty quick.

        3) The 577 will be full, as will the 594. Again, I doubt it … but I wouldn’t bet on it (unless you gave me good odds). The 577 and 594 are running close to seated capacity, and while I expect ridership to improve when they run the buses twice as often, it won’t double. This is a suburban route, which tends to be less elastic. But I could actually see this as an issue, and maybe ST is being especially cautious. You can always solve this “problem” by running more buses, but you have at least three buses that are tied together (the 578, 594 and 590). So while running them all 20 minutes — and giving riders 10 minute frequency to Tacoma and Federal Way — would be a big improvement, it might actually cost ST money (and I’m too lazy to do the math).

        My guess is, given the risks involved with issue number 3, they decided to play it safe right now. It is unfortunate, since they could benefit quite a bit by doing that. But I also wouldn’t rule it out in the future. Maybe they will make another change in a year or two, before Federal Way Link opens.

        As I wrote above, when Federal Way Link open, ST has a couple choices. They can continue to run express buses to downtown (but have them stop at the Federal Way TC) or just truncate all the buses in Federal Way. Either way, I really doubt that they keep the 577. Either they implement something very similar to what you suggested, or they just truncate all the buses in Federal Way.

  11. I don’t understand why route ST 592 exists at all. It duplicates Sounder Service at a higher cost per rider. Yet its discounted pricing seeks to divert riders from Sounder to the bus. All over the system we truncate routes and expect riders to transfer – why would that principle not apply to Dupont during the hours that Sounder runs?

    1. I think this is a compromise that addresses that issue. The 592 is a very expensive bus. It has by far the biggest subsidy of any route within ST’s system. Killing it off would be justified.

      At the same time, the 590 is a much better value. ST also runs plenty of those buses during rush hour, just to deal with the crowding. Most of those riders get on at the Tacoma Dome. Thus it is quite reasonable for ST to just run a version of the 590 that ends at the Tacoma Dome, just to deal with the crowding. In a sense, this is what they are doing, and calling it a 592.

      Except the bus will keep going, to Lakewood. Thus the added cost is only for the section between the Tacoma Dome and DuPont, which makes it a much better value.

      You could get rid of all peak hour express service (both the 590 and 592) and just ask Tacoma and Lakewood riders to take Sounder. But there are plenty of problems with that. As Mike mentioned, this would increase crowding on the train. The buses are more frequent, and go through downtown Seattle. They also serve other places to the south (downtown Tacoma, SR 512, etc.). For some, this would mean a three-seat ride compared to one-seat. You also complicate things, as riders would have to check the schedule to see if their bus is running, or they need to take the train. This is likely less of an issue if you funnel everyone to the train stations (Tacoma Dome and Lakewood) but it would be a pain for someone in downtown Seattle.

      It is a trade-off, but ST feels like the added convenience for these riders is worth it. Personally, I think it is a good compromise. The time penalty to serve the Tacoma Dome for Lakewood riders won’t be huge, and they retain their one-seat ride. Yet it doesn’t cost ST that much — they get some savings by running fewer 590 buses.

      In the long run, it will be interesting to see what ST does as Link gets further south. If they terminate the buses at Federal Way, then a lot of people will switch to Sounder. My guess is, the same thing will happen if they wait until the train gets to the Tacoma Dome and they terminate there. Sounder will be significantly faster and more comfortable than Link (although often slower than the buses). How that all plays out will be interesting.

      1. When I looked at the WSDOT project pages there was no mention of any direct access ramps anywhere through Tacoma. If they were to add a project I think access to 705 would be a greater value. I also checked Google drive times from Bellevue to Tacoma Dome and Bellevue to UW Tacoma. They are identical now. This leads me to believe an I-5 diversion to UW Tacoma would be the same time penalty as the T Dome. I have to believe more people are headed to UW than anything at the T Dome (connection to Amtrak?). For those that do need to get to the Dome it’s a short jaunt on a mighty fine streetcar. For those going DT and points beyond they are two SC stops closer and have more direct to bus options on Pacific (Bates, TCC?) . There is a turn around time penalty to get back on 705 unless … Oh wait, looking at the ST map there is already a one-way loop with Commencement & C St.

      2. My original post had some errors, sorry about that. I understand the Dupont leg. But during the hours that Sounder runs it is entirely reasonable that this bus simply connect Dupont to the Lakewood station and let riders use Sounder between Lakewood and Seattle. Sounder trains have tremendous capacity and I have never heard that lack of capacity is an issue. Frankly Link light rail trains are often more crowded than Sounder trains and yet we terminated lots of buses at UW. Why do Lakewood or Tacoma riders get a 1-seat ride, at hugely subsidized prices, while King County riders are expected to transfer?

      3. Link has an expectation of standees because many people are riding less than twenty minutes and getting on and off at all the minor stations every minute or two. Sounder is not expected to have standees and I think ST considers it a safety issue. Most people are riding more than twenty minutes and it doesn’t stop at the minor stations. While express buses have people standing for thirty or sixty minutes, that’s less than ideal and ST would add more buses if it could.

      4. I’m sure the utility of streetcars in traffic can be debated. Certainly, their advantages have been erased over time. Some specifics:

        1. Streetcars could be located using wires before there was GPS so signals could be more easily favored for streetcars than buses.

        2. They used to hold more people. Now we have articulated buses that match the streetcar capacity of some of these new lines. More people per car means more people can be carried by one driver. Of course, Seattle purchased teeny streetcars.

        3. Streetcars are quieter and supposedly better for the environment than Diesel engines are — but all-electric battery buses are a reality now. Trolley buses were never expected to move fast enough to stay on wires in places like expressways and freeways.

        4. Streetcars need only one wire but trolley buses need two. That’s a visual benefit.

        Are there other major benefits?

        Of course, the big drawback of streetcars is that tracks and wires are fixed. They can’t maneuver around accidents or other blockages and it costs money to lay tracks and strong wires.

        So I only see streetcars being built in limited instances in the near future.

      5. Another legitimate other benefit of streetcars over buses is better accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers, since they allow such devices to roll on and off without needing ramps or lifts. Buses cannot do this because rubber tires are not as good as rails for precise positioning against the curb at stations.

        Hardly enough to justify streetcars’ insane cost relative to the service they provide. But, it does exist.

      6. Buses cannot do this because rubber tires are not as good as rails for precise positioning against the curb at stations.

        This can be automated with modern buses, just as cars can parallel park with the push of a button. In comparison, it is much easier.

  12. What they should do is leave the 590 and 592 as peak service only. And increase the service on the 574 and 594 to every 15 to 20 minutes all day. while simultaneously extending select 594 trips to dupont allowing all day connections for dupont and a direct connection to downtown tacoma and downtown Seattle. Slowing service to Seattle won’t really serve any purpose

    1. That would be great, but they don’t have the money. The 594 is a lot more expensive to run than the 590, so that would cost extra. So would running the 574 every 15 minutes (I’m sure if they had the money, they would do that).

      It is worth noting that having the 592 serve the Tacoma Dome is a cost saving move — you don’t have to run as many 590 buses to deal with the crowding at the Tacoma Dome. You also save some by dropping the 586. Meanwhile, they spend a little by running the 590 in the middle of the day. It still costs money, but not as much as what you propose.

      I don’t often give credit to ST, but I think in this case, they nailed it. This is a very good change, even though not everyone will benefit.

  13. Well there is a simple fix to that. Only run every other 594 trips all the way to Lakewood and then every other one of those trips to dupont. You could reduce the number morning trips to Seattle from tacoma/Lakewood in the morning and the opposite in the afternoon, and leave the 590 and 592 alone during the peak hours. You would also achieve savings in not needing as many buses deadheading back to tacoma if you coordinate the schedules properly.
    The 574 wouldn’t need nearly as many to run all the way to Lakewood everytrip since most riders board it at the tacoma Dome and federal way. I think these changes would make more sense if pierce transit would move there Lakewood connections to the Lakewood station.

    1. Only run every other 594 trips all the way to Lakewood and then every other one of those trips to dupont.

      So you are saying you want hourly service to Lakewood and service every two hours to DuPont? That would pretty much kill all ridership south of Tacoma.

      Or are you saying that the 594 runs every 15 minutes to Tacoma, but half of those trips go to Lakewood? If so, that is exactly what ST is doing. The 590 is a truncated version of the 594. The plan is to continue to run the 594 every half hour, but run the 590 opposite it.

      Everything else you suggested would cost money — money they don’t have. Having the 592 skip the Tacoma Dome costs money. Running the 574 more often — even just to Tacoma — costs money. They would be great, but they don’t have the money for it.

  14. It takes 14 minutes to get from Lakewood to Tacoma on Sounder.

    It takes 25 minutes on the 574 at 7:30 in the morning.

    Maybe the solution to making Lakewood-Tacoma buses faster is to make that part not a bus? Unlike the Tacoma – Seattle section, that part of the line is owned by SoundTransit. Get two low floor DMUs compatible with the platforms, and you can run it as an off-peak shuttle service.

    1. I like the idea of DMUs. Run them to Dupont and get JBLM to provide shuttle service on base. And hasn’t State Farm moved back to Dupont? I also like the idea of sticking a fork in Sounder North and using the rolling stock on the Puyallup to Seattle run. Maybe extend that up to the Edmonds ferry. Although that would get complicated with freight traffic it would avoid I believe the worst of the mudslide closures. How many walk on passengers are there from the ferry?

      1. Mmm, well they did move back but I found this from last November,

        One of Pierce County’s largest employers is giving up a large chunk of office space as a result of new work habits in the pandemic.

        State Farm announced this week that it is leaving its DuPont operations center, 1000 Wilmington Drive, making work from home permanent for its employees.

        I think one of the reasons they moved back from DT Tacoma was nobody was interested in buying or leasing the space. And that was before the pandemic. Perhaps rail service might entice someone to locate there?

      2. Yeah I sometimes wonder if ST should have an all-day DMU shuttling back and forth on the tracks that I think it owns between Tacoma Dome and JBLM

      3. ST could cancel the T line to raise money for DMUs. Buses do a better job between downtown Tacoma and the Dome because they can continue to neighborhoods where people live. Except we voted for the T line and we didn’t vote for DMUs. Still, if there’s a track that ST owns and doesn’t have to pay millions of dollars to BNSF for track leases, then it should make the most out of that track and run frequent trains on it. That’s just one more of the many better things Pierce could have spent its ST3 money on.

      4. It doesn’t need any more track than what it already has.

        The line already has storage tracks and passing sidings that were built for much longer Sounder trains, which aren’t there during the day as they layover in Seattle. South Tacoma to Lakewood already is double track, with significant pieces having three tracks.

        If more is needed, there’s plenty of space for more track. Look at the satellite view of the line. There’s maybe 300 feet where it would be vaguely difficult to add another track. Everywhere else is more than wide enough, and near north of South Tacoma station you could add three in places.

        We’re not talking long trains here. Really, if you wanted to be absolutely cheap in construction, you get three or so Nippon-Sharyo DMU as used by SMART in California. 700 horsepower is enough to pull a single Bombardier Sounder cab car.

        How frequently does it need to run? I was thinking half-hourly. A train can get down and back in half an hour (15 minutes each way on the current schedule), but you need schedule padding and turn around time. So, two trains could do half hourly service with a lot of padding, with a third DMU as backup.

        I think those Nippon-Sharyo cars are $3 million each. Training for use and repair of the cars plus spare parts? Maybe $15 million.

        As far as Tacoma Link goes, it’s expansion is fine for whatever it is, but it doesn’t solve the buses stuck in traffic problem south of Tacoma.

        Operating expenses will be higher per hour due to the USA staffing requirements, but you can make almost twice as many trips per hour. You should be able to attract more riders from the local feeder buses too.

    2. Get two low floor DMUs compatible with the platforms, and you can run it as an off-peak shuttle service.

      Yeah, but off-peak the bus is faster, and probably cheaper. There aren’t that many Lakewood-Seattle or Lakewood-Tacoma transit riders on Sounder or the buses. It gets even worse in the middle of the day. On the 594, Lakewood gets around 80, SR-512 gets 140, while downtown Tacoma and the Tacoma Dome get around 400 a piece.

      Thus a midday DMU probably wouldn’t get that many riders (making it expensive) and you still have to cover SR-512 somehow.

  15. The thing you are all forgetting about is most of that track is a single tracking through tacoma and there really isn’t the write of way for it to have a 2nd track. Also the T line restores service along the old PT 26. And everyone keeps talking about the t line not have frequent service but it runs ever 12 minutes and is supposed to be bumped up to 10 minute service when the hilltop segment opens

    1. there really isn’t the write of way for it to have a 2nd track

      I doubt that since when you look at the actual ROW it’s typically never less than 100′. There may be encroachments. For example Bellevue PUD building parking encroaches on the RR ROW between the new Maintenance facility and S. Kirkland P&R but they know they have to give that up if ST wants it back. But with just two DMUs running all you need is a passing track. There’s single track along the current waterfront route in the tunnel by Pt Defiance but LOTS of trains use that track. We’re not ever trying to reach headway’s here better than every 20 minutes.

  16. ST would be replacing expensive bus service with the DMUs. Cancelling T Link wouldn’t save much money since the capital cost, including most of the Hilltop extension are already spent. T Link is not the SLUT. It actually moves people quickly through DT. And unless I’ve just had incredible traffic light karma it has signal priority. You can’t do that for every single bus on Pacific Ave. T Link has pretty peppy acceleration but really crawls through 90 degree corners. The Hilltop extension will serve both Tacoma General and St Joe’s which will boost all day ridership significantly.

    RE: DMUs to Dupont – Yes, civilian employment at JBLM is close to the numbers for the Redmond Microsoft campus. And then there’s active duty and a large retired population that like to take advantage of shopping tax free on base.

    I wonder if there has been any consideration of supplying freight to JBLM. It would fill in time tracks aren’t in use for passenger service. That line used to be used by Fort Lewis to move tanks and other heavy equipment over to the Yakima firing range. Last time I was on McChord they still had a rail line running to the commissary. Looking at Google maps the spur from the mainline to JBLM crosses under I-5 just north of Dupont. The military likes to move BIG stuff. A C-17 can carry bigger/heavier things than can go by truck.

    1. ST would be replacing expensive bus service with the DMUs.

      Why would the DMU be cheaper to operate than a bus? You save money with trains because you run fewer of them, not because they are cheaper to operate. The buses south of Tacoma are infrequent, and half full, at best. That means that the DMU would have to make the same number of trips that the bus makes. I don’t see this saving any money. If there were a lot more riders, it would — there just aren’t.

      1. I think the idea is the DMUs have a dedicated ROW, so while they may be more expensive to operate per platform hour, they are cheaper to operate at a given frequency.

      2. The buses are stuck in traffic, and during peak period, the DMUs would take about half the time to cover the distance.

        This higher speed should also lead to higher ridership, especially if Pierce Transit is able to figure out how to do timed transfers.

        Depending on what City of Tacoma owned TacomaRail charges for its crew (they are the freight operator there) it should be about the same price for many trips.

      3. The buses are stuck in traffic, and during peak period, the DMUs would take about half the time to cover the distance.

        But wait, you said the DMUs would run off peak. Are you saying you would run Sounder AND DMUs to Tacoma during peak? Yeah, OK, as AJ suggested, maybe it would complete its run faster, but you are still left with about half your riders (at SR 512) wondering where their bus is. Meanwhile, instead of the Lakewood to Seattle 592 riders getting an express to downtown, they have to transfer to a bus in Tacoma.

        Sorry, I just don’t see it. I think between service to the SR-512 stop and the DMU, you aren’t saving any money. Meanwhile, folks in Lakewood have to transfer. There is no strong preference for Sounder, suggesting that the bus situation isn’t nearly as bad as folks here are suggesting. This sort of option you describe is available, right now. It would be quite reasonable to take Sounder to Tacoma, then switch to a bus — or just go to Tacoma. Except less than 50 people a day do that. It would be easier if the DMU made it more frequent, but my guess is, folks there would much prefer the express bus to Seattle, even it is sometimes slow.

      4. I think the key to DMU service is getting JBLM “on board” (to use a navy term). JBLM is far and away Pierce County’s largest employer. Wait times to get through security at the gates and freeway congestion are epic. It would also help if Dupont got back on track as far as jobs and didn’t use 2/3rds of the acreage for parking. That’s pretty easy to fix. You just start charging market rate taxes for surface water management. I know nothing of Dupont city politics but clearly they need to try something new.

      5. I think the key to DMU service is getting JBLM “on board” (to use a navy term). JBLM is far and away Pierce County’s largest employer.

        Yeah, OK, I can see that, but you would be going from basically nothing to running a train. The 206 barely gets into JBLM, but at least covers Madigan (medical center), likely the highest concentration of civilian employment. But it only gets about 1,000 riders a day. In short, I see several issues with this:

        1) My guess is, employment in the base is spread out, and not concentrated anywhere near the rail line. There are shuttles on the base, but it isn’t clear how handy they are.

        2) People who do work there are also spread out. They come from all directions, and a relative small number would take advantage of a train from Tacoma/Lakewood.

        I wouldn’t rule it out — and the military definitely is interested in improving transit options — but I don’t know if it would actually work. It probably isn’t worth the money.

      6. RossB, it’s hard to tell what the future has in store because of years of construction, but I-5 traffic congestion between Fife and JBLM seems to be almost a long-time all-day challenge (including weekends) rather than merely at peak times. Even the discontinus HOV lanes (that ST Express may use) get slow with heavy congestion.

      7. I’ve been stuck in traffic on that Nisqually to Fife section of I-5 on Saturday mornings, when every other Highway in the state is showing up as all clear. There’s just a hell of a lot of traffic, a huge amount of sprawl making transit difficult to use for many trips, and many not great alternatives. Buses from south of Tacoma have no good options for avoiding traffic, and the continuing construction and sprawl around Lacy, Boston Harbor, etc is just going to make stuff much worse really quickly.

      8. JBLM used to have two bus routes onto the base. One for McChord (The 300) and One for Madigan (the Current 206). The 300 was cut due low ridership but it more or less merged for the non JBLM segment to become the 3 to Lakewood-Dwtn Tacoma. The reason why ridership on the 206 is likely low is due to it being a milk run of a route where it meanders through 3 neighborhoods before reaching the Hospital. Which is not a great option for a lot of workers when takes an hour to get where they’re going instead of a 15 minutes.

    2. I’ve had mixed experience with signal priority where the T is in mixed traffic. South of 16th Street there’s no problem.

      1. I’ve only gone as far as 19th, the history museum. Never looked like there was any big choke points north of there.

  17. I think you are all misjudged the purpose of the T line. It isn’t to move people from downtown to the dome. Its meant to move people from UW Tacoma and Commerce and the new line is meant to connect commerce with hilltop, a connection pierce transit was forced to sacrifice due to budget issues. ST sadly misjudged the tacoma domes potential and importance when they built it pierce transit could route their buses from commerce to the dome to facilitate connections but the dome doesn’t have the boarding or layover capacity even if they interlined services you’d have a massive number of buses at the dome. As for connections in Lakewood. I think it’s time to look at closing the Lakewood transit center and SR 512 P&R (atleast as a local service connector) and move those connections to Lakewood station. It would boost possible destinations for people coming from Olympia and dupont and boost ridership to downtown tacoma and downtown seattle

    1. I tend to agree with your points. I would add that some leaders view rail transit as a fixed investment akin to a highway, where the reality is much different.

      Ideally, each station and stop would have specific accessibility objectives — important destinations or transfer points with desired walk times and effort. Part of the “simplistic planning” that goes on is because this step is generally skipped by ST leaders in favor of only showing little bars or dots.

      The results from these upcoming service changes here should hopefully inform how expected ST3 projects get tweaked — but I doubt it.

      1. I don’t think we’ll get much visibility to the ST3 vision for Pierce until the Federal Way restructure.

    2. I don’t think ST misjudged Tacoma Dome’s potential; rather, its potential has yet to be realize. If/when Tacoma Dome neighborhood (and the Brewery district on the other side of 705) gets built out as envisioned, there will be a lot more trips starting/ending in TD, rather than simply passing through.

      1. You could say that ST misjudged the *relative* potential of the Tacoma Dome. The rest of Tacoma has grown. The Tacoma Dome, not so much. Eventually it will, of course, but so will the rest of Tacoma. If downtown Tacoma adds a few more big buildings, or UW Tacoma expands, focusing on a slowly growing brewery district will look even sillier.

      2. The rest of Tacoma has grown

        Some examples? I haven’t seen it. Russel left and State Farm moved in… and then left. I’ve been there on business and it’s like parking in DT Enumclaw. Tacoma doesn’t have ridership because it doesn’t have jobs. I think it was Summer that brought this up. Seattle doesn’t need TOD. Tacoma… maybe it makes more sense. In the long game the T Link line makes a ton of sense.

      3. The streetcar started in Tacoma Dome because that was the best spot for the OMF. I agreed with Johnathan the highest ridership of the streetcar should be between the hospitals, Hilltop, downtown, and UWT as there is much more ‘there’ there today, with only a minority of riders using it for ‘last mile’ to/from the Dome. It would have been better if Phase II would have followed Phase I more quickly, but I think it’s very defensible the Tacoma Dome section was built first.

        Good call on ‘relative,’ but I think I still stand by my original point – the vision is for Tacoma Dome to fill up with 10~20 story buildings, and I think it’s still very plausible for that to occur within the next 20 years. Given the difficulty of serving DT Tacoma with freeway express buses (see thread above), Sounder, and Amtrak, I think it makes sense to have Tacoma Dome as a transfer hub, in addition to the Commerce St Transfer Area, and eventually the presence of a major regional transit hub will induce TOD and job growth.

        Brewery district has an emerging pipeline of midrise now that rents are high enough to justify wood stick apartments and 2+5 buildings, so I’m bullish on that neighborhood also.

      4. The rest of Tacoma has grown

        Some examples?

        Tacoma added 20,000 people in the last decade. That is the biggest increase since World War II. The addition of UW Tacoma downtown has been a solid contributor to economic growth (as any economist would predict). The hospitals in the area have grown. MultiCare Health Systems — the largest non-governmental employer — is headquartered in downtown Tacoma. They also operate the biggest hospital in the area — Tacoma General — which is adjacent to downtown.

        Tacoma was historically an industrial town, so the transition to white and pink collar jobs has compensated for the loss of industrial jobs. To be clear, Tacoma is doing OK in that regard — the port is still strong. Many of those port jobs pay really well. It is just that there are a lot less of them than in the past. The fact that Tacoma has been able to grow despite the loss of industrial jobs shows the strength of those other sectors. They’ve managed to avoid the fate of so many cities, from Detroit to Buffalo.

        You can also see this on the census employment data. The best source of information I’ve found is this site: It doesn’t create links to the data, though, so try this:

        1) Search for “Pierce County”, and pick the right one.
        2) Click the link to “Perform Analysis on Selection Area”.
        3) Select “All Jobs” under job type, and otherwise leave everything as is.
        4) Hit “Go!”
        5) Deselect “Point Overlay”, so that “Thermal Overlay” is easier to read.

        This gives you a look at job concentration — the deeper the blue, the more jobs there are. As you can see, the biggest concentration of jobs are in downtown Tacoma (extending out to the hospital), and nothing else comes close.

      5. The fact that Tacoma has been able to grow despite the loss of industrial jobs shows the strength of those other sectors.
        No, it shows the bedroom commute to Seattle. Tacoma has the space and opportunity to replace many of those blue collar jobs but has fought it. A NG plant that would have exported raw material for plastic productions was on. There was another high profile proposal for the tide flats that got run out of town on the rails. Tacoma politicians are making it hard to locate any blue collar jobs where they used to exist.

      6. @Bernie — You are ignoring the data. Tacoma employment has grown substantially over the years, and you can see that by looking at the census data. From 2002 to 2018 (the range they provide) Tacoma went from 84,000 to 114,000 jobs. This growth in Tacoma employment has mirrored the population growth. Do you think that the government data is wrong? Come on man.

        You can also look at the employment inflow/outflow. Most of the people who live in Pierce County work in Pierce County. There are some people who live outside and commute in (and vice-versa) but it is hardly a bedroom community.

        You can also see this in the transit data. As you yourself noted, it is very easy to drive to Tacoma. Many employers have free parking. At worse, you can park by the dome, and take the *free* streetcar. Seattle is the opposite. There is no free parking — driving is a huge pain. Transit *to* downtown Seattle is also much better. From Tacoma you can take express buses to downtown Seattle, or ride a very comfortable commuter train. If I had the misfortune of working in Seattle and living in Tacoma I would definitely take transit. If I lived and worked in Tacoma, I might not.

        Thus if Tacoma really was a bedroom community of Seattle, you would expect lots of people riding the buses and taking Sounder to work every morning, and Pierce County buses to be empty. But it is the opposite. Sounder ridership from the Tacoma Dome is substantially below Puyallup, Auburn and Kent. Overall (counting bus buses and Sounder), only about 4,000 riders ride from Tacoma to Seattle every weekday. Just the Pierce County 1 gets more riders than that.

        There just aren’t that many people commuting from Tacoma to Seattle. Tacoma is far more self-contained, and Pierce County definitely is.

        The obvious reason is because it is a very long way from Tacoma to Seattle. Any 9-5 commute would be terrible. No matter how you do it, you are probably spending at least an hour each way. Driving sounds miserable, and taking transit still means spending a huge amount of time away from work or your loved ones. Even the most pleasant commute in the world will only get so many riders if it takes that long. Just look at Bremerton. It is a bedroom community. Over 80% of the people who live there work outside the city. But Bremerton is not booming. In the last 20 years it added about 4,000 people. It just takes too long to commute.

        Tacoma is growing as a retirement community. But again, this leads to jobs in both the construction industry, as well as service jobs once the housing has been constructed. Just in health care, Tacoma has seen a substantial increase, from about 12,000 jobs, to over 28,000 fifteen years later. This also accounts for some of the increase in white collar jobs, as some of the medical establishments are headquartered in downtown Tacoma.

  18. How many taking transit from Tacoma and areas south to Seattle drive to the Tacoma Dome for the free parking?

    Also when Federal Way Link opens will all buses from Tacoma/Lakewood truncate at Federal Way, even though as Ross notes Link is slower than buses, probably cars, and Sounder, and will now include an extra transfer? Or like Northgate Link (and probably East Link for areas around Issaquah) will peak hour express buses continue to run after Link opens, certainly to SLU?

    1. “How many taking transit from Tacoma and areas south to Seattle drive to the Tacoma Dome for the free parking?”

      Only those that don’t pay attention to the cost of gas to drive 35+ miles each way. Link is also immune to traffic bottlenecks, which can make an hour trip stretch to an hour and a half or two hours.

      “Also when Federal Way Link opens will all buses from Tacoma/Lakewood truncate at Federal Way, even though as Ross notes Link is slower than buses, probably cars, and Sounder, and will now include an extra transfer?”

      The planning scenarios from 2016 say all ST Express buses will be truncated at Federal Way in 2024 (or as it was then, KDM in 2023). ST hasn’t said anything definitive since then, unless you see anything implied in the 2022 operations plan. Does increasing frequency in 2022 imply it will continue running buses to Seattle in 2024? We don’t know. There are two possibilities in its favor. One, complaints about Link’s FW-downtown travel time. Two, equity arguments and the suburbanization of poverty. But the planning scenarios suggest it won’t. We may not hear anything more definitive until a year before Link’s opening, in 2023. Absent that, it’s useless to speculate or to ask STB what will happen, because we don’t know what ST will decide in the future.

      Link’s FW-downtown and Tacoma-downtown travel times have been an issue since before the ST3 vote. There have always been some people saying we need to keep STEX from downtown because Link is 75 minutes, and others who say it doesn’t matter because Link is more efficient and has more all-day frequency and shorter trips to the airport and to/from South King County are more important than trips to downtown. None of these have changed; it’s simply a question of whether the ST board might be getting more receptive to these arguments. We don’t know. What we do know is that the planning scenarios didn’t include it, and the ST Express budget in ST3 assumes no overlapping buses to downtown. The 522 and 512 are being truncated in two months.

      “Or like Northgate Link (and probably East Link for areas around Issaquah) will peak hour express buses continue to run after Link opens, certainly to SLU?”

      Again, the planning scenarios and ST3’s budget say no, and we don’t know anything beyond that. SLU buses are all Metro, so ST has nothing to do with that decision. Metro’s long-range plan has Federal Way-downtown express buses, nominally all day (like the 577) but maybe peak only. It doesn’t have I-90 express buses from the Eastside to downtown. We’ll know more when Metro’s first East Link restructure proposal comes out, supposedly this summer, although it’s getting late in the summer. That will include ST’s plans, since ST piggybacks on Metro’s Link restructure cycles.

      1. Um, er, ah, those “Express buses” from Northgate to SLU are Metro funded and operated. So don’t get your nose out of joint about ST somehow discriminating against the MOTU’s.

    2. “How many taking transit from Tacoma and areas south to Seattle drive to the Tacoma Dome for the free parking?”

      I’m sure plenty of airport workers do it. When you get paid minimum wage, even $10/day to park your car at the airport is prohibitive.

      If overnight parking at Link stations were allowed, I’m sure quite a few travelers would do it too. If Angle Lake Station ends up becoming mostly empty once Federal Way station opens, opening up the Angle Lake Station garage to paid long-term airport parking would be a great revenue-generating way to fill it up.

      1. I’m sure plenty of airport workers [park by the Tacoma Dome]

        Yeah, but if you live south of SR-512, why not park there? I suppose early in the morning it might be faster to drive farther up the line, but if you are going to do that, why stop in Tacoma? Why not go all the way to the park and rides at Star Lake, or Kent/Des Moines? Better yet, drive all the way to Angle Lake, and take the train or the A to work. Both are a lot more frequent than the 574.

        Same goes for trips to Seattle. If you are taking Sounder, there is no point in driving past the Lakewood Station to get to the Tacoma Dome Station. If you want to take the bus, then why stop in Tacoma — might as well go all the way to Federal Way, if not farther.

        My guess is the Tacoma Dome parking is like most park and ride lots, in that it attracts people who would have to backtrack or drive farther to a different park and ride lot.

      2. “My guess is the Tacoma Dome parking is like most park and ride lots”

        Well, yes, nobody goes to Tacoma Dome Station because they want to; they go because they have to. That’s what happens when you turn a place into a godawful car sewer.Since the 594 and 574 stop away from the station, people get on it there if they can. Drivers have to go where the P&R is, so they go there.

      3. That’s what happens when you turn a place into a godawful car sewer

        What? people use it. This comment is a prime example of ideology over reality. There’s no traffic in DT Tacoma. It’s not a car sewer. But you want to make it to fit an alternate reality where someone from anywhere can ride transit to anywhere and it will be their best option.

      4. It’s not a car sewer, it is a train sewer :). Seriously though, it is an industrial area, which has its charms, but it generally less appealing than a commercial or residential area. It is like SoDo. The existence of big parking lots doesn’t “ruin it” — it really makes no difference. If you are going to add a giant parking lot, this is where to add it.

        I suppose you could make the case that at the area gentrifies, the giant parking lot will drag down the community. Sorry, I don’t buy it. The building itself is not bad looking. The area is industrial, so while an auto-repair store may be replaced with retail, you are still going to have big trucks and everything you would expect next to a major industrial area. The same can be said for the wide streets. The layout is not that different than Georgetown in Seattle; whether it develops that level of retail (or is more like SoDo) will have little to do with the big parking lot. Given the (relatively) low density of Tacoma, my guess is is more likely to help the area develop more retail than hurt it. Its not how I would spend my money, but it is where I would spend that money.

      5. Do you find it pleasant to wait at Tacoma Dome for the 594 or 4xx or 5xx or other routes that stop there? I don’t. I bet many P&R drivers don’t either, they just tolerate it; and it’s their cars that necessitate the big garage and access lanes in the first place. It’s not a “train sewer”; Sounder is invisible on the other side of Freighthouse Square, and TLink has a typical streetcar surface station, no better or worse than other streetcar stations in areas without housing or street life.

        Freighthouse Square is a nice mitigation, and Mark Dublin has coffee there on his way from Olympia to Seattle, and its eastern half is like the lower floors of Pike Place Market. The bus bays and pedestrian bridges may be OK architecturally, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that you’re right next to a big parkade in a concrete jungle. (And I do like the Canadian word parkade better than parking garage.)

      6. it’s their cars that necessitate the big garage and access lanes in the first place.

        No, its not. The reason the streets are so wide there is because it is an industrial area. Just look at it from the air ( The first think you notice is how much space is taken up by the railroad tracks. This isn’t just a stop along the way for the train, this is a major depot. You also have the port nearby, and a ton of industrial plants nearby. These places have big trucks serving them, and you aren’t going to have skinny streets and big trucks. That is why Puyallup Avenue is so wide. 25th is actually remarkably skinny, and the streetcar makes it look skinnier.

        The wide streets were made for the trucks, and this was all done years before anyone thought about building anything for cars — let alone a parking garage. The parking garage doesn’t “ruin” the area, and this is clear if you go a block or two north or south. It would be different if the garage was in downtown Tacoma. Likewise, the only big automotive abomination in the area is I-705.

      7. I’m not talking about the width of the streets or the cars on them. I’m taking about the parking garage you have to look at and walk through from the bus bays, and I-5 and its exit ramps. The mainline rail stuff is all behind Freighthouse Square so it might as well not exist from the perspective of a pedestrian at or around the bus station or TLink station. I’m not sure where the Central Link station will be or how high it will be, so I can’t evaluate it from that perspective.

      8. So my complaint is about the large P&R and its car infrastructure, I-5 and its exits and the land it takes up, and the lack of pedestrian destinations or pedestrians besides Freighthouse Square. The width of Puyallup Ave and the cars on it are much less important. Puyallup Ave is part of former federal highway 99 like Aurora so of course it’s wide. I’ve never seen more than a few cars on it at a time so they’re not excessive. A four- or six-lane boulevard with regular sidewalks and intersections is better than an eight-lane freeway and its exit ramps and interchanges and the dead no-man’s land its right-of-way is.

      9. And all the concrete implied by the freeway and P&R and stroad and industrial facilities: just grey concrete and grayish buildings everywhere. Some of that is essential to allow the industrial businesses to be viable. Others of it is the distortions of American car supremacy and bad design aesthetics.

      10. Freighthouse Square is a nice mitigation

        Actually the T-Dome P&R and the new Sounder/Amtrak station have saved Freighthouse Square. Without it it would probably have become a boarded up nuisance waiting to be bulldozed. That would be a shame since even though it’s not a neoclassical brick building it’s still a piece of Tacoma history; better than a gas station, fast food restaurant and convenience store that would have replaced it.

    3. The Federal Way Link Extension opening restructure will be interesting. It puts Link close enough to possibly have a separate Lakewood and South Tacoma express service without stopping at all in Downtown Tacoma (which would get a different service). I could also possibly see ST Express using the upcoming 167 highway (2028) to serve Puyallup and use 512 to reach Lakewood or JBLM.

      There will be a trade-off question about what’s better — a less frequent bus to Seattle or more frequent bus to Federal Way. Since Sounder also runs nearby, I’m thinking the latter approach will win out. But who knows?

      1. Yes, Daniel framed it well. I expect 100% truncation, as the SLU/First Hill expresses that will exist post-Northgate are all KCM, whereas CT has indicated they will completely abandon service into Seattle. Post FW Link, I could see KCM still run expresses from, say, Kent, but neither PT or ST will run service from Pierce all the way into Seattle.

        Also, all service from Pierce to UW disappeared with U-Link, so I believe all Pierce-Seattle routes now only serve downtown?

        I could see the Gig Harbor route still serve Seattle directly, since that is paid for by the city. The most difficult to predict are the Lakewood routes that are the original point of this post. I think if ST staff is suggesting those routes loop through Tacoma, then they will certainly suggest these same route end at Federal Way because staff is prioritizing connections and transfers over endpoint-to-endpoint speed.

      2. I seriously doubt that ST will run expresses to SLU or First Hill. My guess is they will truncate everything, although there is a remote chance that based on pressure from the public, they will keep express service. As much as I would like to see it, I think it would be very difficult to pull off.

        There are four alternatives. The first is to keep only the peak-hour expresses. This sort of thing is common, but doesn’t save you that much. Outside of peak is also when riders would benefit the most from the bus service. Link doesn’t run that often in the middle of the day — making a transfer a pain — and Sounder doesn’t run at all. It is also when the bus is much faster than both Sounder and Link.

        Then there is the opposite. In the middle of the day they would run express buses to downtown. During peak they can take Sounder (from the Tacoma Dome or Lakewood) while folks in Federal Way don’t lose that much time taking Link. Outside of peak, the 594 would stop in Federal Way, but then get back on the freeway to quickly get riders to downtown. The 578 could do the same sort of thing (if they can afford it). It wouldn’t be cheap, even though running buses in the middle of the day is much cheaper than running them during rush-hour (when it not only takes longer to get to your destination, but they deadhead back).

        You could also just ignore the Link expansion. Not completely, of course. You would still cancel the 577 and 574 and have the 590, 592 and 594 stop in Federal Way. This would be ideal from a rider standpoint, but still expensive. I would be tempted to start with it, just to gauge public opinion. Will they vote with their feet, and start transferring to Link? Or will people prefer the same buses they did before. My guess is a little of both. This would probably maximize ridership, but at least initially it wouldn’t be cheap. I think some people will prefer Link, and you could truncate some of the buses (especially the ones during rush hour). If not — if people still prefer the express buses — then this would be an expensive way to provide good service.

        The last alternative is to truncate everything. This is simple to implement. You would probably lose a significant number of riders (who now have to transfer, and take the slower way to downtown). You would gain a few (people going from say, Tacoma to Rainier Valley) but my guess more will just abandon transit, especially in the middle of the day (when the buses used to be fast, and will soon be relatively frequent). But it is the cheapest option.

      3. It all depends on whether ST is bold enough to truncate all the Seattle routes. There are arguments both ways on whether the travel-time hit is sufficient to justify an exception, but regardless of whether it’s good or bad, it’s clearly bold because it has to overcome the status-quo advocates and one-seat riders. On paper it looks logical to have express buses terminate at a 6-10 minute trunk line. That’s why we’re building the trunk line, so that high-capacity transit can take over the mass of north-south trips, both between Tacoma and Seattle and between Tacoma and South King County. It would be silly to build it and not use it to its fullest.

        Link has a travel-time disadvantage off-peak, with the 577 taking 39 minutes Westlake-FW at noon, and the 594 taking 63 minutes Westlake-TD. Link takes the same 39 minutes just to get to SeaTac, and its time estimates for FW are around 55 minutes and TD 75 minutes. But we (and I) may be overestimating the time disadvantage peak hours, because bus times are highly variable, and a traffic jam can add 30-60 minutes to the trip. From the news reports traffic jams occur at least once a week. The 590 is scheduled for 67 minutes Westlake-TD at 3pm, and that’s just the very beginning of peak hours. 67 is not that much different from 75; I consider 9 minutes competitive for a 10+ mile trip. (Chosen as the difference between Link and the former 194 to SeaTac off-peak.)

        Link would clearly be faster if it were grade-separated in Rainier Valley and SODO (good) or bypassed Rainier Valley (bad), or if South King/Pierce cities were closer (impossible). People think Tacoma and Everett are equidistant, and Federal Way and Lynnwood. But Lynnwood is the distance of north Kent, and Everett is just a bit further than Federal Way. Longer distances make travel time longer, and make it more likely to exceed the psychological 30-minute and 60-minute travel-time thresholds that people consider a “long time”. These is South King’s/Pierce’s fundamental problems. Some are unchangeable (the distance); others could be changed if Link had been designed differently.

      4. It seems like they could have built, or planned for, passing tracks, or a third track, to allow an express train to run a limited stop schedule from Tacoma. Maybe they’ll get around to it in a future ST vote.

        In the meantime ST will have built the intra-regional rail connection that is their reason for being, so yes, I fully expect any ST buses from the south to terminate at a Link station no matter how much time it would save riders to keep an express bus on I-5.

      5. If South King fills in with greater density, there will be enough demand for an inexpensive bypass of the RV. There are five stations between BAR (the roadway, not a possible future station) and SoDo. A direct cut-off along Airport Way would be about a mile shorter. Assuming an operating speed of 55 instead of 35, a cutoff would save at least ten minutes between TIBS or farther south and SoDo.

        That puts the train within reliable bus times. There aren’t that many stations on the Tacoma extension south of Angle Lake to slow it down. The time sink is in the RV. Trains going that route could turn back at Angle Lake, leaving northbound just after and arriving southbound just before the long-distance trains at the airport.

      6. Passing tacks and 3rd rail would be the domain of WSDOT and Cascades (unless you were talking about triple tracking Link?). As Ross pointed out elsewhere, Sounder gets more ridership as it gets closer to Seattle, so I don’t ever see there being a limited stop Sounder. If Tacoma/western Pierce want a more frequent express to Seattle, they should agitate for more Cascade trips.

        Mike makes an important point on perceived time advantage – the bus might be consistently 5~10 minutes faster, but if it’s occasionally 30 minute late, most people will take the train even if the bus, on average, is faster. This is why as soon as a bus leaves I5 to serve a Link station, it shouldn’t get back onto the freeway and travel parallel to Link (I’m OK with a bus bypassing a few Link stations until it gets to a ‘good’ transfer environment like FW or Lynnwood) simply because it provides a faster end-to-end travel time than Link.

        Also, west Pierce’s distance to Seattle isn’t a ‘problem’ (unless your sole judge of value is gross ridership), it’s just the reality and underscores that transit decisions should prioritize connections within Pierce or nearby activity centers (SeaTac, Highline CC, Southcenter Mall, etc.) over connections further north. Seattle & East King are the most important regional connections and deserve to have a reliable and (moderately) frequent connections to Pierce, but fretting about travel time misses the point that those trips (Tacoma-Seattle, Tacoma-Bellevue, etc.) are structurally long trips.

      7. “If South King fills in with greater density, there will be enough demand for an inexpensive bypass of the RV.”

        If South King gets the density of Rainier Valley, maybe. South King cities have fiercely resisted this. They’ll build a few seven-story buildings in their downtowns or The Landing and call it quits. North Kent at James Street/240th has small-lot houses like Mt Baker so that’s a starting point, but the cities won’t expand urban villages or small-lot houses to cover entire neighborhoods like Seattle has. And any new small-lot houses in this day and age would have to be at least duplexes or row houses to meaningfully reflect the population size.

        A Georgetown bypass may be a theoretical ideal but the beneficiaries of it — South King and Pierce — would have to prioritize it and pay for it. They have done neither one. It was in ST’s long-range plan as of ST2 but in 2014 it was deleted in the run-up to ST3. Not one boardmember raised a finger to save it. Tukwila and South King were busy advocating for Federal Way and BAR station and the Burien-Renton line and more Sounder service. Pierce was busy arguing for finishing the Tacoma Dome extension and more Sounder service. North King wouldn’t prioritize the bypass because the population there is small and North King has many higher priorities.

      8. Mike, I understand that it’s not a priority at this time, nor am I saying it should be. However it would be very wise for ST to secure development liens on the east side of Airport Way south of Albro Place and along the east side spur north of the Michigan ramps, to preserve the alignment for future use. It is so cheap to build that it would be a crime to let it slip away from negligence.

        People are not comprehending the enormous migration out of the Southwest that climate change will drive. A good portion will come to Puget Sound because it’s as close to Californian a climate as will remain where there is a large buildable area.

      9. You can build a bypass, or add passing lanes so that it acts like an express, but you can’t move Tacoma. Unfortunately, it is simply too far away. At 3:00 AM, a cab ride from Tacoma to downtown Seattle still takes about 40 minutes. You just aren’t going to get many riders with that kind of trip. It is also extremely expensive*. You can compensate by adding some stops, but then you are back to where you started.

        This is the issue with more distant cities. It is always the issue. It is why it is rare for cities to build mass transit systems this far, and they always get relatively small numbers of riders when they do. BART is a classic example. The trains are extremely fast, capable of going 70 MPH. They run in a direct fashion, going miles between stops. The Bay Area has way more people in its core, and the surrounding cities are much bigger and denser than Tacoma. Yet despite all of that, BART doesn’t get that many riders from far away. The farther out you go, the fewer riders you get.

        You could build high speed rail, but even that won’t get you huge numbers of riders. Look at how many people go from Baltimore to DC every day. This is one of the few high speed rail lines in the country. Baltimore is twice as big as Tacoma, and way more dense. DC dwarfs Seattle. MARC trains have express runs that skip the suburbs, or other runs that get riders from it. Yet despite all that, it only carries 40,000 a day. Way more people ride the DC Metro. Hell, way more people ride the woefully underfunded Baltimore bus system (270,000).

        Baltimore is not a bedroom community of DC. Tacoma is not a bedroom community of Seattle. In both cases, it is simply too far to take a spontaneous trip. It would be great if there was high speed rail connecting Seattle and Tacoma, with trains running frequently. But you still wouldn’t get that many riders.

        Anyway, none of that is going to happen. We aren’t building high speed rail, and we aren’t building a bypass. A bypass wouldn’t speed things up much, and the type of high speed rail that would make a downtown to downtown trip fast is way too expensive. We might add moderately fast high speed rail, which would speed things up a bit, but you still aren’t going to get more riders than a typical Metro bus.

        * It is easy to assume that a full bus or train is extremely cost effective, but it is ridership per hour of service that is important. A slow bus like the 44, for example, will carry way more riders per hour, even if it never comes close to being full. That’s because riders are constantly getting on and off. If a bus can carry 50 (standing) than an express will carry that, at best. But the 44 will carry three times that in the same amount of time, even though it never comes close to being full.

        This is the basic conundrum that ST faces. The express buses are popular, but very expensive. The could just live with that, as similar agencies have across the country. But they are also spending a fortune building an alternative. But the alternative is probably not as popular for a lot of riders. They can provide their riders with the same (very expensive) level of service they are used to, but that would mean the costs per rider would skyrocket (with relatively empty Link trains, along with the same long distance buses). Or they can truncate the buses, and have a more cost effective system, but with fewer transit riders overall. That’s the conundrum.

      10. As I’ve mentioned before, the bypass may be needed for overcrowding if it develops. Most major Metro systems in the world develop overcrowding challenges over time.

        It may take that additional consideration to build enough momentum to secure funding for it. Not being able to predictably board a crowded train is a powerful motivator.

      11. Tacoma is not a bedroom community of Seattle.

        More and more it is. The recent surge in real estate prices have extended to Pierce County not because Tacoma has added huge numbers of jobs but because people who work in King County are willing to make the commute because of how much more home they can buy down south. The WFH has accelerated this. If you only have to come in to the “office” 1-3 days a week (or never) it’s a lot more attractive. And you couple that with huge drop in traffic and… Tacoma/Lakewood is a bedroom/home office community to Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond.

      12. Ross, there is a large amount of buildable land west of I-5 south of 212th [e.g. “where airplanes are high enough”] all the way south to Federal Way. Yes, yes, Des Moines doesn’t want the hoi polloi living among them, but reality is going to overwhelm everyone’s desire to keep high rises completely out. If the states doesn’t force SFH suburbs in northern tier states to upzone the Federal Government will.

        The climate crisis is going to mean that the “savior of the South” — air conditioning — will only be acceptable if it is solar and/or wind powered very soon. I expect that people will still live there from October through April because climate change may actually bring a worsening of winters up north as well as a worsening of summers everywhere. But millions of people are going to be knocking on Washington’s door in the next decade and a half for warm-season homes, and those who can afford it will be looking to Puget Sound.

        Indeed, they will “Californicate Washington”.

        So Sound Transit will have to choose one of these options:

        1) Elevate or cut-and-cover Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between the step down south of Mt. Baker and the step up at BAR. This is big money and almost impossible to do elevated. Cut-and-cover would be a reasonable cost for tunneling because there probably aren’t a LOT of utilities, but would require frequent interruptions of service when the decking is changed;

        2) Build overpasses for Alaska, Orcas, Graham, Othello, Cloverdale and Henderson and at least a couple of pedestrian over- or under-passes in between each pair of stations. Fence the right-of-way assertively. This is much cheaper but it’s a barrier like a freeway through the community;

        3) Build the Airport Way bypass as I’ve described it. This would certainly be more expensive than #2 but definitely cheaper than #1 and provide more total capacity; or

        4) Build the Duwamish Line as described by Seattle Subway. This is obviously the most expensive of all because of the tunnels or elevated structures through Georgetown, South Park and Tukwila. It does have the advantage of requiring no action at this time. Call it the “KTC — [Kick The Can] Option”.

      13. Bernie, I don’t think you are using the term ‘bedroom community’ correctly. Yes, the number of Tacoma residents who commute into Seattle is steadily growing and likely will continue, but because the modern economy is more about services, Tacoma can pick up thousand commuters (or semi-remote works) from the Seattle/East King job market and also have robust growth in local employment in healthcare, education, and government, in addition to nurturing its remaining industrial base in & around the port.

        Issaquah, which I’m very familiar with, is the same story on a smaller scale (and to a lesser degree). Many in Seattle consider it just a ‘bedroom community’ in which the only purpose of transit is to bring people from Issaquah in to Seattle (or Bellevue), but they don’t realize that the daytime population of Issaquah is higher than the nighttime. Yes thousands of people commute from Issaquah into Seattle, but even more people commute into Issaquah to work at the hospital, schools, multiple retail centers, and major employers (such as Costco’s world HQ), and therefore local leaders want to ensure there is improved transit access into Issaquah and are not myopically focused on improving the travel time into Seattle.

        Tacoma politicians agree with Ross. Like Baltimore, they consider themselves an independent city with its own gravity, and while they value an improved connection to Seattle for both occasional (but non-spontaneous) trips and long haul commuters, they are more keen on using Link to bring riders into, not out of, Tacoma. If the train is really crowded in Columbia City, they will consider that Seattle’s problem because everyone that got on the train in Tacoma has a seat.

      14. Overcrowding happens both ways, AJ. It may be that Pierce residents wanting to board trains headed home from Pioneer Square will face overcrowding like unable to squeeze on a train or unable get a seat until the train gets to TIBS or Seatac.

      15. Tacoma is not a bedroom community of Seattle.

        More and more it is.

        Where is your evidence to support that idea? I’ve provided ample evidence to the contrary. Just look it up. On The Map is not that hard to use. It even has dates on there. You can focus in on an area (e. g. Tacoma) and then see how far people travel to work. Twenty years ago is very similar to now: Very few go more than 25 miles. The big change is that way more work in places like Puyallup, Auburn, Federal Way and Lakewood. There are some long distance workers, not that many people go to Bellevue, and hardly anyone goes to Redmond (the numbers are similar to those going to Olympia or Kitsap County, respectively). Seattle has more, but the numbers are remarkably similar to what they were 20 years ago, and still tiny. The biggest concentration of employment — by a very wide margin — is right in the middle of Tacoma.

        This explains why transit ridership is so small, yet traffic is so bad. People from south of Tacoma use the freeway to get to Tacoma. People in Tacoma use it to get to Federal Way. People from Federal Way use it to get to SeaTac or Southcenter. On and on it goes. Of course there are people making longer trips, as well as trips of various types. But there isn’t a gigantic morning migration from Tacoma to Seattle — if there was, ridership on both Sounder and the buses would be much higher.

        @Tom — You’ve offered up your ridiculous Nostradamus theories about mass migration, ignoring the fact that people have moved to, or tolerated far hotter places in the past. If people really hated the heat, they would stay in the Midwest, and not move to Arizona. Global Warming isn’t going to make things a little less pleasant in various parts of the country, it will create economic and geopolitical turmoil — Seattle will not be immune to it. We will not have millions of “climate refugees”, from other parts of the country. There will be climate refugees from places like Bangladesh, but that is another story. Seattle is not uniquely suited to handle a changing climate — the industrial Midwest is. It has the resources and infrastructure to handle huge numbers of people. If people really move based on the climate, that is where they’ll move.

        As for the bypass, it is ridiculous idea, even *if* there were huge numbers of people trying to go north every day. First, it won’t save much time. Second, it will cost a huge amount of money. Third, for many, longer Sounder trains is a better option — this includes the area that is the focus of this post: Tacoma and Lakewood. Fourth: Express buses are the obvious alternative.

        This is what cities do: they run express buses or improve their commuter rail. This happens everywhere. Even in New York City, which has very crowded trains, big transit holes, and extremely long transit trips. This is how they muddle along. They run more buses.

        Holy cow, the debate here is whether ST will continue to run the extremely popular, but very expensive buses, or truncate them to save money. If the light rail ever got crowded, the obvious answer is to just keep running the buses.

      16. Additional options for ST

        5) Grown Sounder’s share of peak ridership. Adding peak capacity to Sounder will be much cheaper than more peak Link capacity (post ST3 build-out)

        6) Work with SDOT to run Link at sub-6 minutes headways during peak of peak.

        7) Shift SE Seattle ridership away from RV Link, such as with improvements in direct bus connections to First Hill, Judkins station, and UW, to reduce the ‘through’ traffic on Link between the RV and downtown.

      17. I certainly think that any RV bypass will take at least 2 or 3 decades to happen. In the meantime, there are many strategies to accommodate the demand in a cheaper and faster way.

        My main contributions are:

        1. Overcrowding is probably the issue more likely to incentivize building anything for this segment that has a high cost. A slight decrease in long distance travel time alone seemingly won’t be enough.

        2. We probably won’t have a good understanding of this until Tacoma Link opens. By then, the South King stations may also have TOD demand.

        3. Given how only about 25 percent of riders under Beacon Hill will be on Link south of South Federal Way (about a 20-25 minute segment), an additional operations solution to overcrowding could be to simply have more frequent trains north of Federal Way or Seatac than south of there. This could be done in several ways including keeping the base service at 6 trains an hour and having the additional peak 4 trains an hour turn around at an interim point somewhere in South King.

        Here is the hyperlink to midpoint 2040 volumes:

      18. “I certainly think that any RV bypass will take at least 2 or 3 decades to happen. In the meantime, there are many strategies to accommodate the demand in a cheaper and faster way.”

        I don’t think we know what post-pandemic light rail ridership demand will be (or Metro). It will certainly be less than what ST estimated in ST 2 and 3, because ridership on ST 1 and 2 is much lower than estimated, even pre-pandemic. I know some on this blog think commuters and riders will take their transfers and truncation, and slower commute times, and like it, but I somehow doubt it, especially post-pandemic.

        Despite the claim of “climate refugees”, Phoenix and San Diego are the two fastest growing cities in the U.S., and the PSRC’s future population estimates look high, which is reflected in the GMPC’s housing growth target allocations through 2044 issued a few months ago.

        How are these for housing growth targets through 2044:

        Mercer Island 1239

        Clyde Hill 1

        Beaux Arts 1

        Medina 19

        Yarrow Point 10

        Sammamish 700 ( with a population of 70,000)

        Issaquah 3500

        [Mercer Island actually received a zero net increase through 2044 except we are still working our way through some very unwise housing targets our past council agreed to for ideological reasons, and have 1239 left which can be accommodated within our existing zoning (and actually may require a downzone). Meanwhile, for the first time, a major city, Sammamish, claimed they were “built out”, which I think other eastside cities like Mercer Island will claim in the upcoming 8 year cycle rewrites of their comp. plans.]

        I think we may find out there is more than enough capacity on Link, and there is not the revenue due to lower farebox recovery, for additional projects, or even completing ST 3 unless DSTT2 and WSBLE are are reconfigured. At the very least let’s wait until ST 2 and 3 are completed to determine “demand”.

      19. Second, it will cost a huge amount of money.

        No, it wouldn’t. Again, I’m sure you have never read the whole idea the two or three times I’ve written it here on the blog. So, I’ll repeat it, here, for you and others who can’t find it.

        It would take the two easternmost lanes of Airport Way from the jog just north of the Albro Place bridge to Boeing Access Road (hereinafter “BAR”). Yes, this is somewhat dramatic, but Airport Way this far south is very lightly used, and we are, after all, taking the lanes for regional transit.

        It would be on the ground for the entire distance between the jog north of Albro Place where it gains its own right-of-way and just north of BAR where it has to split to make the junction with the existing track structure. The northbound leg would mimic the west-to-north ramp of the road interchange, dropping down from the structure to the ground and then underpassing BAR next to the road ramp. The southbound leg would simply rise to the elevation of the Link structure and pass over BAR to the merge switch.

        An at-grade station for Georgetown could be placed a couple of blocks north of Albro under the Michigan on-ramp, but it wouldn’t have much of a walkshed so it might not be worth the time to serve it. At any rate, the alignment rises onto structure here and when high enough diagonals across the adjacent railroad tracks. The Michigan off-ramp is plenty high enough for the structure to pass under its eastern end. The structure then descends to grade as soon as possible, swings behind Olympic Foundry — digging and a retaining wall is needed here — and then continues north in the two-track junk spur east of Airport Way.

        At about Snoqualmie Street it has to resume an elevated structure again, to allow access to the Seattle Traffic Signal maintenance yard and businesses to the north. The structured section would continue north to Bradford Street. It then would descend to grade again, closing Charleston Street and pass under the West Seattle Freeway viaducts at grade. There is ample headroom for the catenary.

        To continue north and connect with the main line it would diagonal across the Airport Way ROW which would have to underpass it because it could not rise to overpass; it has just underpassed the West Seattle Freeway a few dozen yards to the south. There’s no room for an approach gradient.

        The bypass trackage would connect to the outer loop track of the Forest Street Maintenance Facility which has a flying junction to enter and exit to and from the north.

        That’s it.

        This is NOT expensive by any stretch of the imagination. It is entirely “at-grade” with no pedestrian conflicts, except for the overcrossing of the railroad tracks and the five blocks next to Airport Way by the Traffic Signal center. It does remove two lanes of traffic from Airport Way which would probably give rise to the biggest objections.

        Also, if a BAR station as now planned is built, only trains taking the existing Rainier Valley route would serve the new station. The South King/Pierce trains would turn away just short of the station. But, the main reason for having it would be for West Valley residents to transfer to buses serving North Burien and southern sections of Seattle and the RV-Airport trains on Link. They would still run to the airport or perhaps Angle Lake. Someone in Auburn wanting to go to Highline College would probably be happier taking a bus to FWTC and Link to Highline than going all the way to BAR and backtracking. Maybe Metro will someday run a quick bus from Highline to downtown Kent then Auburn.

        So far as my “ridiculous Nostradamus theories” on climate change, yes, the Pacific Northwest is “uniquely suited” to deal with it, at least, west of the mountains. We have the great moderator of climate, the Pacific Ocean seventy miles to the west of the I-5 corridor and the cold waters of Puget Sound itself. To the north the Cascades and their Canadian extension block continental air from making it as cold as it otherwise would be at this latitude in the winter and as hot as it gets in Central Alberta in the summertime.

        No, our defenses aren’t foolproof; one-fifteen in Portland and one-thirteen in Seattle proved that. But it doesn’t need to get nearly that hot in the Midwest to be miserable; the humidity is much higher there when it is hot.

        In any case, the big problem the Southwest faces is not so much extreme heat, though that is a major danger to folks caught outside in it, as it is water. The Colorado is dying, and with it will die Central Arizona and large parts of Southern California. The energy needed to desalinate enough water to support the LA basin is enormous but perhaps people will love it enough there to pay the price.

        Central Arizona has no adjacent ocean to desalinate, except the Gulf of California. Grant, there’s plenty of solar energy to power the plants there, but if Arizonans want to get water from there, they’d better start making nicer with Mexico.

        You can scorn me all you want, but the effects are likely to be worse than even I expect. Climate Change has consistently flabbergasted the very scientists who prophesy it by grossly exceeding their predictions for predicted date after predicted date.

        I do agree that the old cities of the Northern Midwest are uniquely suited to provide summer homes for people living in the humid Sunbelt, especially those on the Great Lakes. But those won’t attract Arizonans and Southern Californians; they’ve proven that they prefer the West Coast environment. Puget Sound will be the nearest place livable outdoors in the summer.

        Many of them may keep their Southwestern homes for wintertime use, so they may not want such large houses as those currently being built in the Northwest. They might be fine with condos for a few months a year like millions of Snowbirds do there today.

        But they will come. They will come.

      20. Airport Way is underused. Old-time Seattlites in the south end use it to avoid I-5 congestion. The city recognizes it as spare capacity but has never come up with a use for it. A few days ago I took the 124 down to Industrial Way to get to Costco rather than waiting for the 131/132, and I went right past the east side of the Link barn, and I thought about putting a train or express bus on it.

        So it is a physical possibility, and it would be a good place to preacquire land if ST were interested in going that direction or if some other entity (like the city) wanted to buy it in trust for future transit. But it’s no use banging our heads against the wall when the politicians aren’t interested in it, and it’s not essential like the downtown-UDistrict-Northgate axis or the downtown-Rainier Valley axis, which allow the bulk of residents to get around easier.

        Re climate, we can’t go making such deep elaborate plans piecemeal, with ST spending money to acquire land or building a line here or there and nobody else doing anything about the rest of TT’s vision. And why should people pay taxes for that piece in isolation? You have to first get politicians and the PSRC convinced of the whole vision, then it could be implemented wholistically.

        It’s very uncertain what future migration patterns will be like if the Southwest becomes hotter and drier and the eastern shore gets submerged. People will move to all different places and they won’t all necessarily come to the northwest. The climate is getting worse here too. This year it was hotter in Seattle than the southwest or southeast or all except two places on Earth. Washington has started to reach the edges of its water supply over the past two decades. A town in British Columbia burned to the ground in wildfires, and the smoke reached Western Washington and is still a problem in Eastern Washington.

        The Amazon boom squeezed out all the vacancy slack in Seattle’s housing market that had accumulated in the 1960s and sent housing prices to record levels. If we get another Amazon-sized boom they’ll go up even faster, and no incomer earning less than three hundred thousand would be able to afford to live here. Most Americans earn less than people here do and are used to lower housing costs. Would all the incomers live in massive Hooverville tent cities? Daniel would have fits.

        A rising population should lead to proportionally higher density and more housing and more transit, like how pre-WWII cities grew or cities in the rest of the industrialized world do, but that hasn’t happened in Pugetopolis and it looks unlikely to do so unless the politicians change their mind and stop trying to squeeze everybody into a few small urban villages.

    4. “How many taking transit from Tacoma and areas south to Seattle drive to the Tacoma Dome for the free parking?”

      About two thousand, since that’s the size of the parking around Tacoma Dome, and the ridership on the streetcar is anemic while Sounder & STX were robust pre-COVID, so it appears most people park and head to Seattle rather than Tacoma.

  19. The 586 is still running it didn’t disappear with U link. I think we will see the 590 and 594 disappear but I suspect the 592 and 595 won’t go anywhere for a while

    1. For some reason, I thought this change included getting rid of the 586. But I can’t find that anywhere, which means I probably imagined it. That itself is bizarre. Maybe they kept it, simply because they couldn’t add much service with the savings.

      It doesn’t make sense until you look at the existing schedules ( Notice that during peak there are a lot of 590 buses that don’t go farther than the Tacoma Dome. These are buses that will be extended to Lakewood (becoming 592s). These will replace the existing 592s, which will be a huge savings. Instead of one bus carrying riders from Lakewood to Seattle, and another bus carrying riders from the Tacoma Dome to Seattle, they are combined. Since Lakewood riders don’t fill up the bus, this is a significant savings (you might need to add a few Tacoma-Dome-to-Seattle buses, but not as many as the Lakewood-to-Seattle express buses as you are replacing).

      You could save money by canceling the 586, but it wouldn’t pay for having the Lakewood buses skip the Tacoma Dome. It probably wouldn’t pay for much of anything. There are only 7 runs a day, and while they are expensive, that isn’t that much. Ultimately you would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. For example, you could run the 594 during peak. This would essentially mean extending some of the 590 buses that end in downtown Tacoma. This would be a much bigger benefit for Lakewood riders than getting to the Tacoma Dome. But it isn’t clear how many riders would ride that bus, while Tacoma Dome to UW riders have to transfer.

      Getting back to your original point, it does show that Sound Transit is not wedded to truncations, even to Link. The same is true with the Northgate Link extension. The 510 will continue to go from Everett to downtown Seattle — it won’t stop at Northgate. They will probably truncate everything at Lynnwood when the train gets that far, but who knows.

      1. All these remaining one-seat rides like the 510 and SLU/First Hill routes are probably experiments to see how much ridership changes with Link, and as fallback insurance in case Link takes too unreasonably long. (This gets in to the psychological issue of what is reasonable, which is related to people’s perceptions of a 30-minute or 60-minute travel-time threshold. Different people value these differently, but there are widespread average commonalities.) If they end up getting fewer rides than the current service, the routes may last only a few years. In the next recession, they may be the first to be cut. This has happened before in Metro restructures.

        It’s possible that a lot of people will switch to Link transfers at Northgate, Lynnwood, or Federal Way even if they could take the 510 or the SLU/First Hill routes or comparable Pierce County routes. Especially with Link being immune to traffic jams and SOV-caused lane closures for fifteen miles of their trip and a fast tunnel experience downtown. You can say, “But they’re choosing one-seat bus rides now”. But there never was the possibility of taking light rail at Lynnwood or Federal Way before, so we don’t know what people will choose. They may not even know themselves. They may take Link a few times and see if they’re satisfied with it. And all these people don’t live exactly at Everett Station or Tacoma Dome Station; they’re scattered in a lot of places east and west and north and south of it. Riding the 510 may be just an OK choice rather than a great choice now, and a feeder to Lynnwood may be just as good. Especially if there are more feeders after Link, either from more places and more frequent. Community Transit will also overhaul its network when Northgate and Lynnwood open, and it has more Swift lines planned, so those routes will serve as de facto feeders that don’t exist as good options now.

        We should look at the glass half full and be glad ST is truncating the 522, 512, and 51x (x != 0). That’s a good start, and more than I would have expected as recently as 2019.

      2. I think a good argument could be made for First Hill ST Express service to be replaced by a frequent ST-funded shuttle between Mt Baker, Judkins Park and First Hill once Link extensions to Redmond and Federal Way open. Of course that is what the FHSC is supposed to be — if it wasn’t designed to crawl so slowly.

        An added bonus would be direct First Hill service from SE Seattle.

      3. All these remaining one-seat rides like the 510 and SLU/First Hill routes are probably experiments to see how much ridership changes with Link, and as fallback insurance in case Link takes too unreasonably long.

        There is some important data being gathered, but I don’t think it fuels many of the decisions. In general the agencies are just being risk adverse. Metro was worried about upsetting riders of the 309, and similar buses. They were afraid they wouldn’t tolerate 3-seat rides, so they screwed over midday riders instead. CT had an elegant solution that was easy to implement: Send the UW express buses to Northgate, but keep the downtown expresses. The trip to the UW might be a little slower, but it was never great, as the buses couldn’t use the express lanes, and had to slog their way to (and through) the U-District. So CT saves a substantial amount of money, without upsetting many riders. ST leveraged that decision. South of Everett, the peak-hour service is truncated (knowing that CT could provide the express to downtown). CT doesn’t run express buses from Everett, so ST kept theirs. In the middle of the day, CT doesn’t run buses to Seattle, and ST decided to truncate theirs.

        At first glance, this looks like an inconsistent decision. Peak-rider from Everett get an express to downtown, but midday riders from Everett (and Lynnwood, etc.) have to transfer. But it is really about providing both (like CT does during peak). During peak, riders from Everett will have a fairly quick and convenient two-seat connection to Link if they want it (with a transfer at Mountlake Terrace to the 511/512/513). In contrast, if ST kept running the all-day 512 to downtown Seattle, there would be no easy connection to Northgate. I suppose ST could have provided both by having the express to downtown stop at Northgate, but decided to favor the connection to Link. The savings are huge, as traffic in reverse-peak direction is much worse than peak.

        As for these changes, they are geared more towards reverse commuters, and all-day riders. This is a huge improvement for those in Seattle who commute to Tacoma, and it is a huge improvement for those who want to go between the two cities in the middle of the day. The same goes for Federal Way. As for the change to the 592, that is all about saving money. ST will be able to run fewer buses from the South Sound to Seattle during rush hour, by simply extending some of the 590s that start at the Tacoma Dome out to Lakewood.

        I think they will gather some important data from all of these changes, but most of that will be in the hands of Community Transit. They are the ones running almost identical buses from Snohomish County to downtown Seattle and Northgate. ST will get an idea if very many people want to get from Lakewood to Tacoma during rush-hour, but that data will be a bit skewed, given the only stop in Tacoma is by the dome. This will not be the same as if they ran peak-hour 594s (which have several stops in downtown Tacoma).

      4. I think a good argument could be made for First Hill ST Express service to be replaced by a frequent ST-funded shuttle between Mt Baker, Judkins Park and First Hill once Link extensions to Redmond and Federal Way open.

        That would be great, although not the type of bus that ST runs. I wouldn’t call it a shuttle, but just a normal bus route — the type Metro could easily add. If ST funded it, then that would be great. But it would make sense for that route to keep going, and replace the northern part of the 49. Then the 60 could turn on Boren, and go to South Lake Union. Run those buses every ten minutes, all-day long, and you’ve got a very nice network. The streetcar could run every ten minutes, providing five minute combined service along Broadway.

        Won’t the Madison Rapid Ride fill the niche that First Hill streetcar was supposed to?

        I suppose. But to backup here, the streetcar was supposed to be a substitute for the lack of a Link station on First Hill. It doesn’t do that, and frankly, neither will the BRT. But the G will make it much easier to travel along Madison. The G will connect really well with the bus system. It will speed up Link trips coming from the south end of Link to First Hill, even if it doesn’t make a great connection. Even if it did, many would prefer the type of bus Al suggested (e. g. Harborview is a ways from Madison). From the north, it would make more sense to get off at Capitol Hill and take the streetcar or a bus headed south. In general, the best way to connect an area with Link is with a network, and the Madison RapidRide will be an important part of it.

        The basic problem is that agencies are funding somewhat distant one-seat rides to First Hill, instead of funding better local service. The bus Al suggested would get more riders than all of those express runs combined, at a far lower cost. Metro (and to a lesser extent ST) should stop trying to fix the problem with these peak-hour expresses to First Hill (or South Lake Union) and instead improve local service for those areas. Yes, that means that riders have to transfer, but if a bus runs every five minutes (or better) it isn’t that bad.

        The other problem (discussed a lot here) is that the streetcar route is flawed, and not easy to fix. Running a second bus on Broadway definitely has its advantages (as mentioned, you get five minute combined frequency) but the route is stupid. There are a bunch of better ways to provide that frequency, but we are stuck with it the way it is (unless, of course, we abandon the thing — which we really should be discussing since we would get some cash from the streetcars as well as the property that holds them).

      5. The streetcar was supposed to get people from Sounder to First Hill. RapidRide G doesn’t go near Sounder.

      6. That would be great, although not the type of bus that ST runs.

        Exactly! ST was set up for building regional infrastructure (i.e. capital improvement spending). Running buses is a stop gap measure. Very much like Washington State started running ferries where they were planning to eventually build bridges (that’s why they are “marine highways”). That didn’t work out so well and left WSDOT in the boat business. ST is supposed to build it; it being what the subareas want. Funding and ongoing operations are supposed to be local. Otherwise you get no new things… or the timelines are stretched out so far as to be not while anyone paying for it will be alive.

      7. Some of ST’s buses are temporary, but I wouldn’t call the bus system temporary. The Stride buses definitely aren’t.

        My point is that ST is designed as a regional agency. They run buses to fill in the gaps — to provide service that overlaps counties. There are exceptions, but they fall into two broad categories. The first are buses that could easily be replaced by Metro. But again, they are more focused on distance — connecting cities, not serving neighborhoods. They tend to make very few stops, and cover big distances. Some of these might have a tail that serves a neighborhood, but in general they have very wide stop spacing (in several cases, like the ones mentioned here, over twenty miles between stops). The other type of bus route are shuttles to Sounder.

        The bus Al mentioned could be thought of a shuttle to Link, but that’s a stretch. Even if Link wasn’t there, it would be a very good bus route. More to the point, you want plenty of stops. Standard stop spacing would make sense for a route like that, and anything less would be a waste. ST just doesn’t run buses like that.

        There are bus routes in the future I would like to see from ST that would be in keeping with their approach. For example, an express from Mukilteo to Lynnwood (taking a direct approach using the speedway and 405/I-5). It wouldn’t get a lot of riders, but it would get those riders a long distance (consistent with most of ST Express service). It would be nice to see them offer Olympia service again — in some form. The bus I would really like to see them add is one from UW to Woodinville. It would go via 520 and 405, stopping at all of the freeway stations. It would serve the stop close to UW-Bothell, which would dramatically speed up the travel time between the two campuses. For that matter, it could just end at the campus instead of Woodinville (although for political reasons it would make sense to serve Woodinville). This would be within King County, and thus could be run by Metro, but it would be very much in keeping with the ST approach.

        There is another reason why it makes sense for ST to run these types of routes, even if they overlap Metro (or another agency). They have double-decker buses, which are better suited for long distance trips. These buses add a lot of sitting room, but take away standing room. Thus they make sense for express buses, and not something like the bus Al described, which would have riders getting on and off every couple minutes.

        Unfortunately, while it would make sense for ST to spend a fair amount of money on bus service, they don’t have the money. Its crazy given the enormous sums that are being spent (or will be spent) on more dubious projects, but unfortunately, that’s the situation.

      8. RossB, the bigger issue to me is the changing role of ST in the region. Prior to 2016, ST was seemingly viewed as some idealized utopian future starting as a supplemental extra or overlay regional service. By 2025, it will be supposedly carrying about 1/3 of all regional transit boardings and taking rider-miles from the other operators. This role change will create the inevitable and often repeated debate of what agency should operate what service. This battle will probably go on for years until the Legislature steps in or maybe permanent structural reform is put on the ballot.

        I don’t know what form it will or should take. Other regions have created joint powers to cross county lines (Bay Area), created large regional or statewide transit operators (Boston and Baltimore and New Jersey), and more separated capital building from transit operations (San Diego and Portland). I’m sure there are many other structures out there — and none is perfect.

        However, I do think ST abdicated it’s original commitment to having First Hill on Link. It was one of the densest residential and densest activity areas when ST was created (one of the few with paid parking), and is by far the densest area not connected to Link. I see it as convenient and outrageous neglect on the part of ST and its board — and frankly has major equity implications related to Harborview that could be a strong basis for a Title VI lawsuit. All the lip service about equity and diversity by ST rings very hollow to me (more frankly it makes me want to barf) until ST steps up to the neglect of Harborview issue. The WSBLE equity work is focused on construction impacts rather than future transit accessibility — which seems screwed up and offensive to me!

      9. ST was created out of the frustration with the lack of inter-county express service and the inability of the county-based agencies to address it: they kept prioritizing it last behind neighborhoods and squeaky wheels. Before ST the 4xx buses were the only ones, and they ran only peak hours in the peak direction. To get from Seattle to Lynnwood or Everett at other times you had to take the ancestors of the E+101+7, and to get from Seattle to Tacoma you had to take the ancestors of the 124+A+500. That’s two hours each way. Within King County the ancestor of the 545 was peak only, the 554 was a 90-120 minute milk run, and the 578 was the 150+160. ST brought the first all-day 7-days-a-week express service to most of these areas.

        Following from that was a commitment to connect the largest cities in the three counties, defined as Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue, and second tier Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Redmond. And to connect all the PSRC growth centers, which include the U-District, Northgate, Bothell, Renton, Totem Lake, Issaquah, Spring District, etc. (Left out of PSRC growth centers were Ballard-Fremont, Lake City, etc, because they had more of a balance between jobs and housing instead of a minimum zoned job capacity. And First Hill was part of the downtown urban growth center which was already served by the Third Avenue stations. Later Ballard got in, but because of the industrial area in southern Ballard, not the urban village north of it.)

        So prioritizing the Spine and those five cities was not an abdication of ST’s mandate but the reason ST got legislative authorization and voter approval. First Hill was never must-serve as I said, only downtown, the U-District, Northgate, and Lynnwood were. So it was easy to jettison when ST got spooked about potential cost overruns due to soil conditions. The Madison corridor was still on ST’s long-range plan, so that would have served First Hill another way. In 2014 when ST updated the long-range plan, the board asked whether Madison needed anything more than RapidRide G, and it wasn’t sure.

        The subareas’ interests will inevitably diverge after Everett Station and Tacoma Dome get baked in as they are now. It will no longer be, “Spend a lot of money to get to Everett and Tacoma and Redmond, and oh yes, that gives North King more money for its other projects.” it may be, “North King still wants more lines but the other subareas want little.” That remains to be seen, because Snohomish has stated it wants an extension to Everett Community College, Pierce wants an extension to Tacoma Mall, South King wants the Burien-Renton line (an extension of West Seattle Link), and East King wants something TBD for downtown Kirkland. Will they still remain strong on these, or will they prefer lower taxes instead?

        Up till now all subareas’ governments have been unified in wanting high taxes and lots of projects, while some dissident constituents have wanted lower taxes instead. After ST3, some subareas might want lots more projects and other subareas hardly anything. That would break the consensus that makes ST capital funding possible, because it’s a single tax district and must have a uniform tax rate across all of it. So it may be necessary to split the tax district so that each subarea can go its own way on its own timeline. Neither the legislature nor ST have made any sign they’re willing to consider this, or to eliminate subarea equity which would be a lite version of it. Maybe they will in the future, but we don’t know.

        I think it’s premature to plan or predict ST4 because we’ve got so many unfinished projects to digest for decades first. ST has never had even half this number of unfinished projects at one time. ST3 was 2/5 larger than ST1 or 2, and several ST2 projects are still not finished.

        I think it would be wise for Snohomish to give up on the extension north of 128th, and East King to give up on the Issaquah-South Kirkland line, and to work on alternate solutions for those areas instead. But ST has shown no sign of considering this; it’s doubling down on all of ST3 until it’s completed. Snohomish is adamant about not truncating Link, and Pierce is too. One Pierce boardmember said in 2020 that if the Tacoma Dome extension can’t be completed on time, Pierce might look at seceding from ST. I’m assuming the few year’s slippage in the current timeline is close enough to “on time” to not trigger this rebellion. But that’s the only thing any ST official has said that suggests anything different than the full ST3.

        Of course, ST can complete ST3 because it can extend the taxes indefinitely, as it did with the initial segment and U-Link and 240th.

        Fun question: What was the original opening date for SeaTac to 45th supposed to be? TIB opened in 2009, SeaTac in 2009 or 2010, UW in 2016, and 45th is expected in 2021.

      10. “ So prioritizing the Spine and those five cities was not an abdication of ST’s mandate but the reason ST got legislative authorization and voter approval. First Hill was never must-serve as I said, ”

        I must disagree. Sound Moves had a First Hill station. ST2 had an ultimately badly implemented FHSC. Those are clearly commitments to First Hill that voters approved.

        As to equity, it’s dimension is very different. After all, segregation and discrimination in hiring and housing 100 years ago was essentially “voter approved” or “legislature approved”. Plus, destination needs change. So here in 2021 it’s more than appropriate to point out how current funding referendums creating projects built avoiding low-income areas and destinations often work against equity.

      11. Having a statewide transit authority supplement local transit operations (that are largely run by the counties) is a great idea, and quite sensible. To this day it is crazy that there is no overlap of the E and Swift. The agency could be responsible for a ton of projects (with their own buses) or simply fund them, as appropriate (e. g. pay Metro to send the RapidRide E to Edmonds College). There are a ton of similar services that could be offered, extending beyond what ST currently provides. The state funds the freeways based on the assumption that people from all over benefit from them. It is quite reasonable for them to fund city-to-city transit.

        What was crazy was to expect them to fund a subway for the area. At first the promise was that they could do it cheaply. This was why they chose light rail. But of course, it was clear from the very beginning that it wouldn’t be cheap. You can’t build a subway system (with miles of underground and above ground rail) on the cheap. But that wasn’t the biggest problem. The focus was on long distance lines, without any reasoning to support them. So when they ran into soil questions around First Hill, Sound Transit abandoned the stop. It just wasn’t a priority. In contrast, an agency asked to serve Seattle or King County — or an agency focused on getting the most cost-effective subway system (based on any sensible metrics) — would never do that. They would find a way to add First Hill, or immediately work on a secondary line. You don’t skip a station with that many riders. That wasn’t the only flaw, of course. The system has always been geared towards long-distance riders, while skipping over those in the city. If you wonder why there aren’t that many stops between Northgate and Capitol Hill, this is why. It would be one thing if this was more cost effective, but it isn’t. In terms of overall ridership per dollar, or rider time saved per dollar, these are bad decisions. It makes a lot more sense to just serve the riders in more distant areas with express buses that connect to the subway line (along with Commuter Rail where appropriate). Commuter Rail, of course would be part of this statewide agency, as would higher speed rail (since they overlap).

        King County should have been given the right to build the subway system instead of Sound Transit. Of course they would have been interested in accommodating riders from the northern and southern suburbs outside the county, but that is pretty easy to do. After serving the high density, urban areas, you just head for the freeway, and connect it with HOV lanes. You get very few walk-up riders, but you get plenty of bus-to-rail riders. Ironically they are actually doing that, and then going miles and miles next to the freeway, with little benefit for either type of rider. Oh, I suppose someone can easily get from Ash Way to Mountlake Terrace (just as someone can easily get from Roosevelt to Capitol Hill) but you are delusional if you think those are even close in terms of ridership.

        To almost all of the riders in Lynnwood, it doesn’t make much difference if they ride a bus to the Lynnwood Station, or that bus just keeps going to a station at 145th (in HOV lanes the entire way). Quite often, the second option — literally billions of dollars cheaper — would actually save them time. Meanwhile, you use those billions to provide other, more cost effective transit for Lynnwood (and similar areas). What is true of Lynnwood is even more the case for more distant cities like Everett and Tacoma. In other words Lynnwood is a stretch as the terminus of the subway, but Everett and Tacoma are ridiculous.

        I really think the big failure with ST — why Seattle (or the region) will never have a transit system as good as Vancouver, let alone DC (despite spending way more money) is because of the way they formed the agency. Or rather, expecting that agency (and not the county) to build the subway line. Yeah, theoretically they could have figured all of this out from the beginning, looked at what works and doesn’t work in other cities (or hired consultants to tell them that) and built a more centric, traditional system. But given the power — and little knowledge of transit — the agency prioritized the wrong things.

      12. “the big failure with ST … is because of the way they formed the agency.”

        Yes. If you look at why Vancouver and Germany succeeded, it’s because their politicians prioritized transit, the agencies hired experts who followed transit best practices, and the agencies had full authority and funding to implement it. So Germany puts commuter/regional rail in the highest-volume corridors (lucky it had legacy tracks it didn’t abandon), trams with downtown tunnels in the medium-level corridors, and buses everywhere else. It has trains to all parts of the country and cities both large and small, trams in cities with just 200,000 people, and Dueseldorf’s airport at least is on an S-Bahn line. And it requires new industrial centers to have a high-capacity transit plan for workers. This baseline of transit gets priority over SOV drivers, and cities will take away GP lanes and parking lanes if it’s needed for transit. In Vancouver the transit agency has full authority to build what it judges is needed, without cities or nimby neighborhoods vetoing the alignment or holding the building permits hostage. And it’s committed to urban density as appropriate for a metro of 2 million, not trying to pretend it’s still a small town, or forbidding apartments because they might attract brown people and troublemakers. If Pugetopolis and the state did things like these other cities do, we could have transit like them.

        “You can’t build a subway system (with miles of underground and above ground rail) on the cheap.”

        ST originally intended a lot more surface track, with a tunnel just from downtown to Ravenna Blvd and wherever required for hill/water barriers. It would have gone around Beacon Hill and been surface from Intl Dist to Tacoma, on MLK, 154th, and Pacific Highway. North of Ravenna Blvd it would have gone along I-5, which is still mostly unchanged. Surface segments were $20 million/mile in 1990s dollars, so it would have been cheap in the sense of being comparable to other American light rails. The DSTT was already built by the previous generation, so ST didn’t have the Portland dilemma of running it surface through downtown. We were lucky that way.

        The choice of light rail for Everett to Tacoma was silly of course. ST chose light rail because it could do all three — surface, elevated, underground — unlike other technologies that are street-incompatible. It wanted surface for most of it to keep capital costs down. That was the precedent of previous American light rails, which were 90+% surface. But as each segment went through design one by one, more and more cities and neighborhoods objected to surface, and said they’d gladly pay the cost difference to get it grade separated. So ST backed into the current alignments. If it had really wanted light rail for Everett to Tacoma, it should have designed the minimum specs for 70+ mph instead of 55. It could have done that with looser curves and higher-quality trains. When a train at 55 mph runs next to a freeway at 65 mph, it’s clearly visible that the train is going slower than the cars, and that if it takes 30 minutes to get to Tacoma in a car, it will take longer on Link, and not just because of the stations!

      13. $131 billion through 2044, plus the budgets for Metro, PT and CT should be more than enough money to provide the transit the region needs. The state should not be supplementing this regional funding.

        In the long run the key will be ridership on Link because that will determine success or failure, which will depend on fare costs, convenience (including transfers and first/last access), time of trip, and peak congestion with working from home. People will compare driving, or the bus they used to take, to Link. ST is a very, very arrogant agency, and ST is very hard to change or fight, but most people will just use a different mode if Link is not as good as another mode. ST has never understood how fickle the customer is. Riders are not prisoners. ST should not have put all its eggs in the commuter basket, because commuters have options.

        We know ridership won’t match ST’s estimates in ST 1, 2 and 3, even pre-pandemic. With a 40% farebox recovery goal baked into ST’s financial assumptions, ridership will be key, including whether the region has any appetite for more transit funding.

        If the work commuter returns Northgate Link should be a success, depending of course on first/last mile access, and the fact buses from the north may truncate at Northgate. I think ridership on East Link, especially cross lake, will be disappointing, and off peak ridership will be very low.

        I have always agreed with Ross that Link spent too much trying to tie together “dense” population centers like Everett, Tacoma, Redmond and Seattle (which really hurt N. King Co. under the lines drawn for subareas), but ended up with poor coverage once you get to those cities. Downtown Seattle has a total of four stops, five I guess if you include Sodo.

        ST never really understood the region once you get out of downtown Seattle, and the sheer size and lack of density for most of it. TOD and regional population gains will never change that, and in fact the pandemic is making our housing choices less dense. 80 minutes from Capitol Hill to the Tacoma Dome with a lot of stops along the way and a $10 round trip fare is not a competitive mode IMO.

        Forget about more rail lines. The Seattle Times has an article today trumpeting the fact ST is spending $4.2 million to look for more cuts, after increasing funding by $35 billion. What is wrong with that picture? The DEIS for WSBLE including DSTT2 will be a shit show, because every dishonest cost estimation has an end point: when the RFP is put out for bids to build the project. ST2 followed by ST 3 was just a Ponzi scheme, hoping for ST 4. If ridership numbers are way lower than ST estimated then ST has to start thinking about preserving its operations fund.

        ST has always known its ridership estimates were unrealistic, along with a 40% farebox recovery, but had to keep general fund tax increases low to sell levies. I think in the end the most disappointing part of Link will be its low ridership, in part because of the slow trip times, lack of decent first/last mile access which ST never thought was its problem after sucking out $131 billion from the regional transit pie, and part because it failed to build where the people and riders are, and zoning and TOD along I-5 will not manufacture that ridership. WFH won’t help.

        Really when you look at it regionally, without subarea equity, the only area with the density and commerce to support expensive light rail and tunnels is Seattle. Real truncation should have been buses to Northgate Link and the airport, and huge park and rides on the perimeter, with a more comprehensive rail coverage in Seattle. Although the subarea has the money, extending light rail to Redmond makes about as much sense as running rail from Issaquah to S. Kirkland.

        Transit advocates, including many on this blog, fundamentally do not understand suburbia, probably because they reflexively hate suburbia so much, and the car culture. If they did understand suburbia, and the whole point of suburbia (which is why the median price for a SFH on the eastside is $500,000 more than in Seattle) they would have never built rail to suburbia.

        Sure Bellevue is trying to be urban, but really it is still suburbia, with huge underground parking lots and light rail along 112th. So are Tacoma and Everett, and really much of Seattle. Tonight my wife and I are going to Lincoln Square for a movie and to see our daughter at the restaurant she is working at. Do you think my wife will be taking the bus?

      14. @Mike Orr
        “Fun question: What was the original opening date for SeaTac to 45th supposed to be?”

        U-District Station will end up going online 15 years later than promised under Sound Move.

        @Al S.
        I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about the missing Link station on First Hill. This is an egregious unforced error on ST’s part and transit users will continue to pay the consequences for decades.

      15. To almost all of the riders in Lynnwood, it doesn’t make much difference if they ride a bus to the Lynnwood Station, or that bus just keeps going to a station at 145th (in HOV lanes the entire way).

        Actually, while this appears reasonable generally, it’s not true in this specific location. The thing is that north of Lynnwood the HOV lanes are separated from the GP lanes frequently, and therefore are less prone to be used as “refuges” by SOV’s when congestion builds. Few people risk a three-digit ticket except when congestion is bad, but they will try go for any advantage when traffic is crawling.

        The HOV lanes are frequently little better than the GP’s between Montlake Terrace and Northgate, so extending the express buses to 145th would be a big ridership limiter. It would be very hard to put a direct-to-HOV interchange there. There isn’t much of a median.

      16. It would be very hard to put a direct-to-HOV interchange there.

        Sure, but it is a lot easier than building a rail line from 145th to Lynnwood.

      17. Some of ST’s buses are temporary, but I wouldn’t call the bus system temporary. The Stride buses definitely aren’t.

        Stride and the other station + HOV access are capital improvement projects. I don’t think ST will be funding operations with bond money. They contract out operations but continue to supply the buses with capital money. It’s a bit like the marine highway trap WSDOT got sucked into. Really, if you don’t want to pay then everyone, including mother earth, is better off if it just doesn’t happen. Live close in or just don’t move here!

      18. (despite spending way more money) is because of the way they formed the agency

        ST was formed in a way to get votes. suburban voters need to vote yes and the “promise/idea” was if other people ride transit I can drive congestion free. A lie but people bought it. Then the reality of selecting a route and getting contracts set in. Absolutely no expertise existed in this brand new agency that had to answer to people trying to get re-elected. No surprise it’s a cluster…

  20. It’s like that a 574 driver forgot to change the sign on his way do a 560 trip

    1. Maybe but I don’t see Ranier S being any route they would take. Maybe the ST drivers just like to F with us ;-)

    2. It’s most likely they were going from the I-90 Rainier exit to Renton or the S 133rd base. There’s no ST Express service in southeast Seattle.

  21. Just wanted to say thank you for this discussion, even though it has taken me a week to absorb it. As a fairly recent transplant to Tacoma, amd a mostly off peak user of transit to Seattle, this has been enlightening. Sorry I dont have much to add, other than those off peak nonstops between Tacoma and Seatte are wondrous, and make non-car visits to Seattle possible.

    Hopefully I can continue to learn, and advocate for improving access in Tacoma’s underserved neighborhoods, both professionally and not.

    1. That’s something we need, to hear more about Pierce County residents’ experiences and attitudes about ST and PT service. What trips do they take, do the routes and transfers meet their expectations, what are their neighbors saying? There’s one guy who occasionally contributes articles from a Pierce County perspective, but I’ve only seen a few other commentators from there. My dad is from Lakewood but I’ve only been in Tacoma and Lakewood occasionally so my knowledge is sketchy.

      What I’ve seen is that Pierce Transit service is skeletal, and so useless that most people drive. In the late 80s I spent a summer in Tacoma, and it seemed like only the poor and elderly/children were on PT buses. There are more middle-class riders now but it still seems skewed toward the poor more than Metro or CT or ST. ST doesn’t seem to serve the county hardly at all, since Tacoma Dome is just at the edge of the county’s population, and in the middle of nowhere. The part of Lakewood I’m familiar with is west of I-5 (SW 112th Street), while the Sounder and STEX stations are east of I-5, with no transit between them and an unwalkable distance, so when I go to Lakewood I have to take STEX to downtown Tacoma and a local bus the rest of the way. So ST’s Lakewood service might as well not even exist from my perspective, and even the Lakewood Transit Center west of I-5 is too far north, with few buses south of it.

      Which neighborhoods do you come from or go to? What do you think of the Tacoma Dome Link extension? Do you think you and your neighbors will use it and be satisfied with it? What do you think of ST’s Lakewood service? Do you ride PT? What do you think about PT’s service? Have you looked at PT’s long-range plan? It seems like a significantly better and more frequent network, not as much as CT’s or Metro’s plans, but a step forward.

      Of course, Pierce County always has difficulty with transit funding, as it seems to have the most anti-tax sentiment of the three counties, especially southeast Pierce and Spanaway. Tacoma and Lakewood support transit, but they sometimes get outvoted.

      1. I live in northend and work in Lincoln district, so I’ve taken pretty much the 1, as far as PT goes. It’s fine, but it is definitely full of people who need transit, not so much folks who choose transit. At least it’s there for them. The 1 seems solid, and sounds like they are going to gussy it up. I’ve also taken the streetcar, which will be useful for us, given it stops 3 blocks away from where I live. Other than that, just the 574 to friends in Federal Way as well as the airport, and 594, which I referred to above. That was a revelation getting home from an Ms game in 43 minutes without a car at near midnight. That’s better than I could do when I lived in Fremont almost.

        I am agnostic on the extension. I agree it should terminate at UWT, not dome. Not Mall. But Rainier Valley makes it pretty much unusable to get to downtown. I will probably use it to the airport, or Seatac. I have a lot of friends in White Center/Burien, and it might make sense to transfer there to go West. Maybe. Depending on if they put in a fast bus to Westwood.

        I’ll definitely look at the long range plan. My job looks at the needs of a variety of underserved communities, and transit is definitely a part of that.

      2. I think the issue as a longtime resident
        (I lived on and off in Tacoma for 25 years) is the lack of good service both in the major cities and towns in Pierce along with serving the outer regions that is just nonexistent. I put the 08 financial crisis as the tipping point for PT where it just never recovered and started culling bus service which caused rural towns in Pierce to reconsider their membership to the RTA and leave. I honestly think that PT probably needs someone from outside their administration (like someone from CT) to help come and fix their transit system to be better improved for providing service to urban and rural Pierce.

      3. I honestly think that PT probably needs someone from outside their administration (like someone from CT) to help come and fix their transit system to be better improved for providing service to urban and rural Pierce.

        I think they just need money. As someone who spends a lot of time looking at bus routes, and finding fault with the littlest of decisions, I don’t see much wrong with Pierce Transit’s routes (other than lack of funding). Even their future plans are sensible. Their priorities (in terms of BRT routes) are right in line with current ridership.

        It is really Sound Transit that is making the questionable decisions. The streetcar, sending the BRT version of the 1 to the Dome and extending Link away from downtown all seem like big mistakes. It is crazy that ST has so much money to spend on dubious projects, while PT can’t provide the basics. But that’s just life.

  22. That isn’t a fatal flaw. As life long resident of tacoma, Lakewood and university place. Running tacoma Link to the mall gives you many more options for future extensions that are frankly cut off if the tran goes downtown. The T line solves both of these issues by supplying a branch that still serves downtown and and allows extensions to North and West tacoma. Tacoma link will connect east tacoma, south tacoma and eventually Lakewood and could be extended further south, east or west from Lakewood to serve more of the County. Tacoma and pierce county are diverse. Sound transit would be better served to convert some of those 590 and 592 trips into 594 trips that start in dupont and take people straight into downtown tacoma instead of delays to all the passengers on the 592 with a stop at the tacoma dome station. The same with the 595. Pt needs to bring back 102 and keep the 595 a true express.

    1. Running Tacoma Link to the mall gives you many more options for future extensions that are frankly cut off if the train goes downtown.

      Maybe, but none of those options will give you anywhere near the ridership, let alone the ridership-per-mile of serving downtown Tacoma. Its really kind of crazy to spend a fortune on light rail to a city as small and low density as Tacoma. It is even crazier to bypass the biggest destination — with the biggest potential to grow — in the area. None of the places you mentioned are even close.

      That is why Tacoma Dome Link is nuts. It starts out with the idea of connecting Tacoma with Seattle. Fine, except Sounder is faster, and when Sounder isn’t running, a bus is much faster. Oh, and you aren’t connecting downtown Tacoma with downtown Seattle.

      But wait, it isn’t about that. Tacoma is a big city (a stretch, but OK). It is not a suburb (agreed). Plenty of people want to go to Tacoma, because of work, or school, or whatever. Fine. Then why the heck is it bypassing downtown Tacoma! Riders heading south from Federal Way are way more likely to be heading to downtown Tacoma then to the mall or Lakewood, especially if they are taking transit. Or what about the opposite — people from Lakewood or the Tacoma Mall are traveling to Fife, Federal Way and Angle Lake in droves? Get real. Or maybe there will be huge numbers of riders from south of Tacoma who want to ride the train over an hour and a half to Seattle? Again, get real.

      This is not a well thought out decision. It is symbolic transit, and it exemplifies Sound Transit’s attitude. There is a strong push, from leaders in both Everett and Tacoma, to “get to” Everett and Tacoma. There is little concern to where, as long as it gets in the city. This is common with ST. They routinely talk about cities, not neighborhoods. They are treating a subway line like it is an Amtrak station, or a freeway ramp. It is the wrong scale, because the transfer penalty is real (as is the distance penalty). Subways just don’t work like that.

      Sound transit would be better served to convert some of those 590 and 592 trips into 594 trips that start in dupont and take people straight into downtown tacoma instead of delays to all the passengers on the 592 with a stop at the tacoma dome station. The same with the 595. Pt needs to bring back 102 and keep the 595 a true express.

      Agreed, that would be great, but as been mentioned several times now, that would cost a lot of money. Having the 592 stop at the Tacoma Dome saves money. I understand the confusion, because the author of this piece never considered mentioned that. But this is clear when you look at the schedules. Look at the 590 ( and notice how many buses end at the Tacoma Dome during the morning rush-hour. These buses are ending there at the exact same time half-empty buses are running from Lakewood to Seattle. By sending some of those Tacoma-Dome-Ending buses to Lakewood (and calling it a 592, instead of a 590) ST doesn’t have to run as many buses from Lakewood to Seattle. This saves money. This change isn’t about connecting Lakewood with the Tacoma Dome, it is about saving money (some of which will go into more frequent all-day service). If the 592 buses were full, this wouldn’t work — but they’re not. Not even close.

      1. I could not agree more with all of RossB’s statements related to rail (and bus) services to Tacoma and the South Sound.

        I am disappointed when transit (and presumably urban planning) activists propose serving the Tacoma Mall by Link as though rails are better sent there over the existing, productive, densely developed and comparatively transit-rich Downtown Tacoma. The planning calculus is askew when the hypothetical “options” of a suburban mall that is served by a skeletal bus system is somehow more logical to serve than a major State urban center.

        For years I have ridiculed the Alaska Junction rail extension as both totally unnecessary and requiring of truly extraordinary railroad infrastructure. While TDLS is already problematic, sending it to the Mall would be our version of Link to Alaska Junction, and the payoff is so much worse for enormous effort: a modestly populated mall zone versus the densely populated and transit-rich Junction. People are missing the forest for the trees when the put forth this idea.

        For mall fans, there is also a failure to consider the substantial physical challenges of actually delivering rails to the mall.

        First, the Link aerial guideway hoisted above 25th would need to swerve onto some of the few undeveloped parcels in the Tacoma Dome neighborhood, dive to surface level to travel under the interstate, then somehow navigate back to an aerial guideway and cross Pacific Avenue. From there, it must travel on a significant grade on more aerial guideways along busy roadways and an active rail line, somehow obtain vertical and horizontal clearances from other elevated roadways, crest the hill and somehow travel under the various multi-level roadways of SR16, somehow gain yet more elevation to access the plateau on which the mall rests, reach a terminal rail station somewhere in the established suburban area, and do so all-the-while maintaining the minimum radius requirements of Link Light Rail aerial guideways.

        All of that….to serve a mall over Downtown Tacoma.

        If Link to Tacoma must happen, reasonable people would route the Tacoma Link Extension down Puyallup Avenue and into the city center and call it a day.

      2. Agreed, Tacoma is not dense. But sure has the potential be be dense. There is huge opportunity for infill on the 5 to 10 streets up the hill from Pacific, from 10th to 25th. And a lot of that is happening right now. 6 story, dense apartments and condos. Retail.

        Stadium district is already surpisingly dense. Lots of apartments, and lots of potential for more. Reminds me of central Capital Hill 20 years ago.

        These neighborhoods a hugely walkable and reasonably cheap. And becoming very vibrant. That is a great combination for growth and density.

      3. I walked Broadway from 25th to Division late one night a few weeks ago, expecting it to be dark, dangerous and sketch. Instead nearly every block and bars overflowing. A big party, and felt very safe. Good for covid. But also good for Tacoma.

      4. @Ross, I think we’re getting T Link and “Link Light Rail” confused here. T Link would be an extension of the streetcar to the Mall. Ain’t going to happen for many decades but maybe worth thinking about with respect to where it goes (if anywhere) past St Joe’s. Link (light rail) is coming to the T Dome station perhaps when some of us are still alive and riding transit. Where, if anywhere, it goes after that is another discussion. Tacoma Mall actually is a place. There’s a lot of multi family housing around it and it’s a big destination. Some of the the huge parking lot could become housing.

      5. “I am disappointed when transit (and presumably urban planning) activists propose serving the Tacoma Mall by Link as though rails”

        “T Link would be an extension of the streetcar to the Mall.”

        It’s the Pierce ST boardmembers who want to extend Central Link (not Tacoma Link) to Tacoma Mall. They said this at board meetings I attended in the run-up to ST3. They asserted Tacoma Mall would be the ultimate end of the Spine, the way Everett wants to extend Link north to Everett Community College north of downtown. The Tacoma Mall neighborhood is a PSRC growth center and they’re envisioning midrises or highrises and employers there like the Spring District, and that’s what ST4 Link would serve. It’s the same issue as Kirkland trying to get Link to Totem Lake instead of downtown, and Issaquah getting Link to a west Issaquah growth area instead of downtown Issaquah. They’re trying to channel growth “out of sight, out of mind”, where important single-family homeowners won’t object to it. And downtown Tacoma’s location makes it hard to serve without going out of the way of where most people live, so Tacoma is already handicapped.

      6. “presumably urban planning) activists”

        Urbanists would say do it in downtown Tacoma. It’s harder to create a new pedestrian paradise than to leverage a pre-WWII one. Tacoma has the right idea of densifying the UW Tacoma and MLK areas. It should expand into other adjacent areas like just north of downtown (e.g., North I Street). Trying to redevelop a separated mall neighborhood is likely to be disappointing.

      7. Wouldn’t making a hard turn up the hill to serve downtown be analogous to serving Alaska Junction, while continuing along the ‘easy’ path to Tacoma Mall be more analogous to Link following Delridge to White Center?

        If downtown is the final terminus, then it make sense to turn into downtown, but if the train is intended to go onwards, then it stays off the hill. Same for West Seattle – if it’s more important to serve south Seattle, White Center, and Burien, then the train should never go up to the Junction.

        (Not saying either alignment is better, just pointing out I think you reversed your analogy)

      8. AJ, you are absolutely correct. If Link is routed up Pacific Avenue into Union Station and Downtown, it is effectively the end of the line.

        What I argue, as have many others, is that Downtown (or central) Tacoma is the obvious and ideal terminus for an already weak rail extension, and any alternative does a disservice to Central Link, the City of Tacoma, and sensible community planning.

        A billion (or more) dollars to access the mall and skipping central Tacoma is not the right path forward. People suggesting that the streetcar already effectively serves Downtown is akin to suggesting First Hill is properly served by Central Link because their streetcar travels to it. Clearly, that is not the case.

      9. @Ross, I think we’re getting T Link and “Link Light Rail” confused here.

        I may have used the wrong terms — my apologies. I will try to be more explicit (and just write “streetcar” and “light rail”).

        My rant was about sending the light rail to the mall, instead of downtown. The rant wouldn’t make sense if I was talking about the streetcar, since it already serves downtown. I hope there wasn’t any confusion if I used the wrong terms, but I think it was pretty clear by the rest of my comments what I was talking about.

        As for the mall, I’m aware that there are apartments there. But downtown Tacoma has higher population density, and it is simply a much bigger destination. It is crazy to bypass downtown to serve the mall, yet long term, that seems to be the plan. It is quite possible that none of this will ever happen. Once the light rail gets to the Tacoma Dome, that will probably be it. But if it is ever extended, it should be extended to downtown Tacoma.

      10. The other big problem I see with Tacoma Dome is the actual transfer hassle between Line 1 (TDLE) and Line T (Tacoma Link).

        It’s very short-sighted to not have a cross-platform transfer between the two lines like we had for Pioneer Square in Connect 2020. The transfer effort between the two lines should be minimal and ideally the other train should be waiting with doors ready to open (or already be opened) when the other train arrives. It could make the transferring seem almost negligible.

        Unfortunately, the quality of transfers is not a discussion in the TDLE. No alternative has cross-platform transfers. Why? Apparently ST doesn’t want to touch the Tacoma Link Line T track or platform. This “close enough + only add” mentality plagues ST’s general expansion design approach. Of course, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious stakeholder or advocate to change that here. It’s like installing a handicapped ramp or elevator that ends at the last step rather than at the surface.

        Imagine the convenience of having Line T work like a waiting sideways elevator with doors on the platform to/ from Downtown Tacoma and the Stadium District! Instead, ST currently plans to build the two lines to connect on different levels and a few hundred feet apart.

        Given the hundreds of millions of connecting differently, spending as much as $50M-$100M to create a cross-platform transfer seems like a very strategically good investment.

      11. AJ, one more item: any serious rail plan to central Tacoma routes its tracks north either via Pacific Avenue or some other north-south street. There is no substantial hill on these Downtown streets and they are relatively flat. These roads developed to accommodate rail-based transit.

        Compared to any hypothetical rail journey to the mall, this is actually the easy (and logical) alignment. There is nothing about the mall extension that is straightforward, easy, or cost-effective.

      12. The Line 1 Tacoma Mall extension is only studied in ST3, right? There seems to be plenty of time for revisiting and modifying the idea — although admittedly ST only changes ideas when forced to by elected leaders.

      13. And downtown Tacoma’s location makes it hard to serve without going out of the way of where most people live, so Tacoma is already handicapped.

        Maybe in absolute number, but not in terms of density. The highest density area of Pierce County (such as it is) lies east and north of downtown. There are other pockets of similar density, but none involving as many people. I don’t have a listing of all the new apartments going in, but it is clear that there is plenty of action in an around downtown (especially around UW and Dock street). One of the biggest developments in the area is in Ruston.

        Worth noting that all of this areas are (or soon will be) relatively dense. They are on par with say, the parts of Ballard served by the 28. They aren’t nearly as dense as Capitol Hill, which isn’t nearly as dense as Belltown (or a typical brownstone neighborhood in Brooklyn). Nothing in Pierce County is as dense as the urban parts of Capitol Hill was 20 years ago, although there is definitely potential for growth there. There are some nice old apartment buildings, and plenty of parking lots that could be converted to new ones. Places like Ruston won’t get there, simply because they leave a lot of space between buildings (and the buildings themselves have a lot of dead space).

        Anyway, none of this takes away from what Mike wrote, as he was writing about ST’s motivation. My point is that downtown Tacoma is really not out of the way for the people who would actually use transit.

      14. Agreed, Tacoma is not dense. But sure has the potential be be dense.

        I’m surprised there isn’t bus coverage for the waterfront. There is a lot of new development going on at Point Ruston and it looks to be about a 15 minute walk to the nearest bus. I know it isn’t jammed together like DT Kirkland but there are a number of establishments along the way. And less stops is a feature when you’re covering that much distance. When I looked at transit from DT to Point Defiance Zoo it was the better part of an hour with 44 stops! A route that went from the Museum of Glass and served the Foss Waterway Seaport & then went Schuster Pkwy to Ruston Way and on to Pt Defiance would give wide area coverage without eating a lot of platform hours. I think one bus would provide 30 min frequency.

      15. Wouldn’t making a hard turn up the hill to serve downtown be analogous to serving Alaska Junction, while continuing along the ‘easy’ path to Tacoma Mall be more analogous to Link following Delridge to White Center?

        That’s a bit of a stretch. First, there is no hill — serving downtown Tacoma is relatively easy (note the exiting railroad tracks and streetcar). Second, a line on Delridge would connect riders to the biggest destination in the area (downtown Seattle). A line to the mall would connect those riders to … Fife? It would be more like skipping downtown Bellevue so the train could head towards North Bend.

      16. The other big problem I see with Tacoma Dome is the actual transfer hassle between Line 1 (TDLE) and Line T (Tacoma Link).
        Link to DT Tacoma is so far out in the future it’s not worth fretting about. OTOH Amtrak & Sounder will be moving into the new Freighthouse Square digs sometime this year. The main pedestrian access is off 25th St. and a 3 minute(ish) walk to the current T Link stop. Adding a stop at the front door shouldn’t be too expensive. Leave the existing stop since it’s a better layover/operator change location and better for P&R users.

        Will the dwell time change when the Medical Mile extension opens next year?

      17. Looking at the project planning page for the Link extension to Tacoma all but one alternative uses 25th St, Basically ending at the front door to Freighthouse Square Sounder/Amtrak stations. That seems perfectly reasonable as Link will be a commuter/airport shuttle. I think Link trains would be way out of scale to serve DT Tacoma surface running. There’s light demand for the existing streetcar so why extend light rail DT. And where would it go if extended? Running out South Tacoma Way to Lakewood seems to get the most of what little there is. Lakewood is a city of 60,000 people and a lot of them work DT.

      18. Bernie, my comment is about Tacoma Dome and TDLE — not an extension past that. It’s in early design now, close to heading to the EIS, and construction is supposed start in the next few years.

      19. I will add that the walk between Line 1 and Line T in the current plans is minimal although a level change is still involved. The walk will be much closer than the current walk between Line T and ST Express.

        ST is actively seeking comments about the Tacoma Dome Station layout. That’s why it’s important for interested people and parties to weigh in now. Most of the material is two-dimensions so it’s hard to see the vertical aspect. Finally, ST does not disclose the estimated volumes of people making all of these different transfers (a typical ST approach avoiding presenting how stations will be used as opposed to how they will look). That way, they can design what they want fir the picture books and flyers. It’s all about image (rather than convenience)!

      20. Yeah, ST says the Link extension to the Dome will be online by 2031 but also has a big disclaimer that there’s not currently the money to build it. Federal Way I noticed is moving dirt along I-5 so it should open sometime in the next four years. The extension to the Dome is just that, stopping at Freighthouse Square. From there any expansion is possible but not likely for at least 20 years. The connection to DT Tacoma from there really isn’t any worse than the connection DT Bellevue has to East Link. The Spring District, Microsoft and Redmond have better station access.

      21. “ST is actively seeking comments about the Tacoma Dome Station layout. That’s why it’s important for interested people and parties to weigh in now. ”

        Absolutely. Let’s not have a repeat of what transpired at the Federal Way Link Station earlier this year when the board was asked to approve spending almost $50M of budgeted contingency for a change order to redesign that station for functional reasons. (See Motion 2021-25.*) I always found that the $100M contingency added to the Kiewit contract after the fact (thru Motion 2020-54) to be very telling and a signal that the baselining at 60% design was premature:

        “Motion 2020-54 increased the contract contingency for the design-build contract with Kiewit by $100,000,000 using the ATC/NTD allowance within the Federal Way Link Extension baseline budget.”

        *For the complete story, I encourage reading the motion in full, particularly the “background” section.

  23. I’m hoping someone could confirm what frequency changes will happen to route 522 in October when it is truncated at Roosevelt Station.

    According to the service plan adopted by ST last November (
    15 minutes daytime weekdays and weekends
    30 minutes late nights

    According to Metro’s service change (
    15-30 minutes weekdays
    30 minutes late nights and weekends

    According to ST’s service change (
    15 minutes weekday rush hour
    30 minutes weekday daytime and evenings
    15 minute weekends

    So all 3 of those contradict each other. I was working on the assumption that truncated the 522 would be balanced with more frequent service 7 days/week, but now I’m not so sure. Does anyone have more solid information?

    1. I only know what’s in those and similar announcements. Yes, they’re contradictory; I noticed that too. The second and third may be the same: Metro’s “`15-30 minutes” is shorthand for 15 minutes parts of the period, 30 minutes for other parts. I assume Metro’s information is more accurate because it’s for this service change and Metro operates the 522. In the third one I don’t see the table you’re quoting, I see a phrase, “weekend frequency increases.” That would have to mean 15 minutes because the current service is 30 minutes. Unless it means the 60-minute runs after 9pm, but those should be called “weekend nights”, not “weekends”. I wish the agencies would publish the schedules earlier so we don’t have to guess what these vague phrases mean.

  24. Has there been a change in the organization of STB?

    Just noticing number of articles and podcasts.

    Or maybe there is just not that much going on?

    Still a great source of information!

  25. since Tacoma Dome is just at the edge of the county’s population

    Closer to the centroid as Tacoma and Lakewood are the main population. Parkland and/or Puyallup would be “just at the edge”.

    Sounder and STEX stations are east of I-5

    I thought they were west. I know I cross the tracks when heading out 100th St SW toward 167 and they have trains parked there on sidings. I think Lakewood Station is on Pac Hwy S near what used to be the old Fred Meyer. Where in the hell was the old B&I and what is it now?

    1. Sounder is north/west of I-5 at the Tacoma Dome as is Lakewood. Sounder crosses I-5 up by Skyway, then crosses again just east of the Tacoma Dome. Link crosses I-5 up by Boeing Access Road, and will stay on the west/north side all the way to the Tacoma Dome.

  26. Tacoma link isn’t double track near the tacoma Dome. Your thinking of sounder which has double platforms. But then goes back to single track age after D street

  27. Who do you think is riding LINK into downtown Tacoma? They would be coming from the Tacoma Mall area or further south in the county. The Tacoma Mall area has had large growth in multi family housing and retail. People work in Downtown but they live in south and west Tacoma the t Line expansion and Tacoma Mall Link answer both these issues. Secondly it would be incredibly complicated to build station that could cover the major employers along downtown. Due to the hills in downtown Tacoma which is one of the reason T link is designed the way it is very few people would want to walk from pacific up to the county city building on Tacoma Ave. Like I have said Tacoma and pierce county is diverse and challenging going to the Tacoma Mall allows people from West Tacoma and South Tacoma catch the train north all the way to Seattle or transferring to T Line or Stream to continue to downtown Tacoma or (if PT ever restores tideflats service) or even to PT service to the fife (501). The big question is where ST is going to put the light rail station at the Tacoma Dome. I belive they need to relocate the Tline platform and the bus facilities to the light rail platform to allow easy transfers. The uhaul building next to the current station would be a smart decision to build more bus bays, t Line platform and an elevated LINK station with a bridge to the sounder platform.

    1. You dramatically overstate the draw of the mall at the expense of central Tacoma, which is tragically flawed.

      Check out the post on this site’s “Page Two” section related to getting Link Light Rail trains into Downtown.

      An effective and frequent bus network is the future of Tacoma transit, not trains—especially not a train to the mall.

      1. Where would you put stations in downtown Tacoma? And how do you deal with the mass elevation changes of the hills along 9th st. Also central tacoma is the mall dude. Central tacoma goes south of 19th st to 38th or 48th between pacific and South Tacoma Way/union ave. The tacoma Dome station and the mall are 15 minutes from 90% of tacoma as well as being within 20 to 25 minutes lakewood. A rail line to what you think is central tacoma Ave. Look just like the T line but with fewer stations and alot more expensive. The street car and BRT line feeding the main line is the best option.

      2. Some Latin American countries also have steep hills in urban areas and they have outdoor escalators or gondolas or such for pedestrians.

      3. There is no “mass elevation” change on Pacific Avenue, the principal road of Tacoma that is the center of its downtown. Downtown Tacoma, or Central Tacoma, is intentionally located on a level bluff that takes advantage of gentler slopes to its west (as compared to more severe hillside slopes to the south). I use the term Central Tacoma to describe the larger city center, and any claim that the mall is more of a center than Downtown Tacoma very misguided statement that is not rooted in fact.

        To your other questions:

      4. The mass elevation change is for pedestrians going west from a Pacific Ave or Commerce St transit stop to the businesses and services west of it. It’s at least as steep as the hill in downtown Seattle between James and Seneca streets. Seattle’s Link stations and bus stops are in the middle of the hill, whereas a Pacific Ave station would be at the bottom of the hill.

      5. The tacoma Dome station and the mall are 15 minutes from 90% of tacoma as well as being within 20 to 25 minutes lakewood.

        What??? There is no way you can walk to 90% of Tacoma in 15 minutes from the Tacoma Dome Station or the mall. You can barely get to the biggest destinations (in downtown Tacoma).

      6. The mass elevation change is for pedestrians going west from a Pacific Ave or Commerce St transit stop to the businesses and services west of it. It’s at least as steep as the hill in downtown Seattle between James and Seneca streets. Seattle’s Link stations and bus stops are in the middle of the hill, whereas a Pacific Ave station would be at the bottom of the hill.

        Not really. The situation is quite analogous. First of all, in Seattle, Third is not in the middle of the hill. If you are walking up towards First Hill, the middle is roughly Fifth. But Third puts you well above sea level. So does Pacific. It isn’t the bottom of the hill, Dock Street is.

        Second, many of the big office buildings in Seattle are on Fifth. In Tacoma, many of the big office buildings — including the biggest one — are on or next to Pacific. There just aren’t that many big office buildings west of Market — or even Broadway. But there are plenty on the other side of Pacific ( It is basically apartments to the west, and office buildings to the east (not fundamentally different than what Seattle was 20 years ago). It makes way more sense to connect suburban locations (like Federal Way) with the central business district, rather than the apartments elsewhere. For the apartments, it makes sense to increase frequency on the east-west buses, much as Seattle has relatively frequent service from Capitol Hill and the Central Area to downtown.

    2. The point of extending Link to Tacoma Mall isn’t for what the mall area is now, it’s for what it will supposedly be after denser growth. The same with Lynnwood and Federal Way. The visions are something like the Spring District or SLU.

      1. SLU only exists as an extension of downtown Seattle. Likewise the Spring District is leveraging the success of downtown Bellevue. Do people really think that the Tacoma Mall area will thrive, while downtown Tacoma doesn’t? That makes no sense, given the location of the UW, as well as existing buildings and employment. That is like running the train to Factoria instead of downtown Bellevue, before Factoria even had offices. At the time downtown Bellevue wasn’t very big, and yes, Factoria did get a lot bigger, but that still would be a stupid decision.

        The Tacoma Mall will never be a bigger destination than downtown Tacoma. Never. If the Tacoma Mall does somehow leapfrog every other residential community in Tacoma and/or becomes a major office center, it would make sense to connect the mall to downtown Tacoma, not skip it.

      2. I dunno, Tacoma Mall and the surrounding area has always had way more activity than DT. The future of malls is what’s happening at Totem Lake. DT Tacoma has been fighting to remain relevant for decades. I can’t remember the last time there was a construction crane DT. UW helps but it’s 5k enrollment is less than Tacoma Community College (6k) and Bates (7k). The big employment center is around Tacoma General and St Joe’s. Lease rates at the Tacoma Mall Office Bldg are about the same as DT. There’s a density of office buildings DT but that includes a much larger area than just along Pacific. I just don’t see what would make DT Tacoma take off. All of the current office space construction is in Seattle and Bellevue. Large employers like Russel, State Farm and Weyerhaeuser have all left Tacoma.

      3. Bernie, you are espousing some uniquely (and disturbingly) American city and transit planning-thinking that was long ago relegated to the past.

        Downtown Tacoma has only fought for relevancy because people sharing your views continue to deny its importance and then redirect funds and capital improvements from it.

        Trains go to city centers, full stop, before anywhere else. This is Planning 101.

      4. DT Tacoma has gotten all the tax dollar help (WA History Museum, the Federal Court House, the list goes on). It has the best transit. It got the streetcar which in your view of the world should have been a game changer. Why do you think doubling down and running a train to Seattle and SEA is going to help? I’m sure the property owners would fight like hell against taking traffic lanes and or parking to ram Link down Pacific. Yes it was a RR in the past but then cars were invented. When the RR ran through DT you could take a streetcar to Steilacoom. Are you serious about thinking Union Station would ever be converted from the courthouse back to a train station when Amtrak and Sounder aren’t going anywhere near there? It’s a cool building and it’s great that it got repurposed.

        UW Tacoma is great. Another brick in the wall but it’s smaller than UW Bothell. Way smaller when you consider that Bothell is UW and Cascadia. We can’t even get decent bus service from 405 to that campus let alone DT Bothell which has way more new development than Tacoma. It’s obvious you started with a conclusion and are just trying to manufacture facts to support it.

      5. Bernie, you write as though Tacoma receiving these facilities and institutions is welfare, as opposed to being the logical venue for their location: a major urban center with rich transit connections. These are not subsidies, these are basic urban amenities. They belong here.

        You egregiously misstate my worldview, and I encourage all to read any of my other comments. I am deeply skeptical of the value of streetcars, and I do not support the Tacoma Dome Link Extension project. However, if it must be built, send it to the urban core of the City of Tacoma, a strikingly obvious transit and community planning concept. I mean, goodness, that is the title of my research report on Page Two and you still got the wrong message.

        No one in this thread has advocated for reopening Union Station—it is just the name of the existing streetcar station that Link should serve, too. Streetcars to Steilacoom are a silly non-starter, but good on you for knowing your local transit history!

      6. I dunno

        No, you don’t, but that doesn’t stop you from spreading the same unsubstantiated claims.

        The future of malls is what’s happening at Totem Lake.

        Right, which is nothing close to what is happening in downtown Bellevue or even downtown Kirkland.

        I can’t remember the last time there was a construction crane DT.

        You can literally see one on the Google Maps page ( You can also see a new apartment building very nearby.

        The big employment center is around Tacoma General and St Joe’s.

        Once again, you are ignoring the available data. It is really not that hard to look up ( Ask for help if you can’t figure it out. Downtown Tacoma has by far the biggest concentration of employment in Pierce County. The mall isn’t even close. Yes, this employment belt stretches to Tacoma General — that’s a good thing. It is like downtown Seattle employment stretching to First Hill. It makes for a stronger case for transit to downtown, not a weaker one.

        Large employers like Russel, State Farm and Weyerhaeuser have all left Tacoma.

        Right, and Boeing left Seattle. What is your point? New employers move in. MultiCare Health System is headquartered in downtown Tacoma as are several public agencies. What major organization, public or private, is headquartered in Tacoma Mall?

        Look, I get it. The mall has replaced a couple parking lots with apartments. Like Totem Lake, this is a good thing. But it isn’t a huge regional draw. The big selling points for malls in general is that they have parking. Yes, they have employment, but the type of jobs they have tend to have pay poorly, and are found in other suburban locations (which is what Link connects to for miles and miles south of Rainier Valley). No one from Federal Way is going to take the train to that mall (they have malls in Federal Way, too). It needs an actual draw — someplace that people want to go to from more distant places — to have any chance of being anything other than another disappointing, barely used light rail line. The mall isn’t it. It will never be it. Downtown Tacoma at least has a shot.

      7. DT Tacoma has had it’s shot… many times. There’s just no reason to believe it will ever be what Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond have become in a few short decades. Pushing Link into DT Tacoma gets little but pretty much eliminates any further expansion. Lakewood is almost as dense as Tacoma and has been growing at a much faster rate. We disagree on this but I feel the connection at Freighthouse Square is more than adequate for DT Tacoma. Like I’ve said, it’s at least as good as East Link’s service to DT Bellevue. Could East Link have turned west instead of going through the Spring District and on to Redmond. Sure and it would have been better for DT Bellevue but makes absolutely no sense. That’s what Link to DT Tacoma would be.

      8. Bernie, you freely make population and economic power claims that are verifiably false. Mercifully, proponents of Downtown Tacoma do not need to prove them wrong as what is claimed without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.

        The success of central Tacoma is now self-evident. Where did McMenamins locate their luxury hotel again?

      9. DT Tacoma is not (yet) a success. I’m in Bellevue. The Spring District is a success. Wilburton is on track to be a success. DT Tacoma is treading water. Back to DT Bothell. McMenamins has an establishment there; no 3B$ investment required. I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to create but obviously you’re trying to torture the future light rail alignment into creating something that doesn’t exist. That doesn’t work. McMenamins had no expectation that light rail would go to DT Tacoma. That alone should tell you it’s not needed. They developed based on what exists.

      10. [you] write as though Tacoma receiving these facilities and institutions is welfare,
        Well, it is. I won’t say it’s not a great place to sight things like the WA History Museum. I love what’s been done in DT Tacoma. Dirt is dirt cheap so why not put it there instead of Freeattle. Tacoma is a much cleaner city that what Seattle has devolved into. I love Tacoma; it just doesn’t need Link into DT and I don’t think the $3.3B price tag just from Federal Way to Tacoma Dome Station is remotely worth it. (add how much to go DT???) Keep what’s there and just run connecting bus service to Federal Way. Use that $3+ billion to improve intra Pierce County transit. Link light rail is really just transit out of Tacoma.

      11. I walked by 5 large apartment constuction sites in downtown Tacoma just this week. 3 on Fawcett, which has almost literally blocks and blocks of green fields being readied for construction. There are cranes popping up all over downtown. You really should visit. Its seems like you havent been downtown in a decade.

        I like Jamba Juice and Cheesecake Factory as much as the next guy, but …

        The mall lost one its anchors, Simon has a second on life support. The Other 2 are closing and consolidating locations, and Tacoma Mall will likely lose one or both of them in the next decade. The mall will very likely be a distribution center by the time Link gets there.

        I see one apartment building of any size at the mall. The rest are lowrise, low density. Nothing to see here.

      12. I walked by 5 large apartment constuction sites in downtown Tacoma just this week. 3 on Fawcett

        I was DT a couple of weeks ago. Are some of the new apartments near 15th & Fawcett just downhill from The Napoleon? I wouldn’t have seen this from Pacific. Looks like there really is demand for housing close to DT as they are renting 500sqft units for $1600/mo and there’s only two units available. You’d think there would be a high level of transit use being an easy walk but then you find out they have three levels of parking. When the T Link extension opens this area will be bracketed by rail so you could always walk downhill.

        Looking at where the SC could extend past St Joe’s it looks like the logical choice would be Allenmore Hospital. From there maybe up Union to the Mall. Trying to do this with Link light rail is more expensive and more difficult (turning radius, platfor length, etc.). The Malls are changing. I think Totem Lake is a model for what large parcel sites like this that are close to a city center will become. If not, then don’t go there. We’re talking a 10-20 year time frame so it’s easy to take a wait and see attitude.

        I think getting Link to Lakewood is the most important extension from DT Tacoma (T Dome). If it ever happens Sounder could return to terminating in Tacoma. The Mall is on the way. Having the SC and Link meet here has some advantages. It’s also an easy place to site a P&R for people that have to drive to transit (i.e. most of Pierce Co.).

      1. Nalley Valley is just the industrial area you drive over on the SR-16 viaduct. I don’t recall the area around the Mall as being referred to as anything other than South Tacoma. Tacoma isn’t broken up into named neighborhoods the way Seattle is. There’s Hilltop and Lincoln and Stadium Districts. Old Town has been referred to that way for as long as I remember as has Browns Point. Oh, and Ruston. I don’t know if anyone would know what you’re taking about if you used some of the names on Google like Manitou or Hillsdale. They know University Place, Fircrest, Fife, etc but those are all separate cities.

  28. The 500 was literally chosen because of pierce transits seattle express back in 1997. Since 500s were available and there was already an incredibly popular 590s series sound transit kept it

    1. PT did have the 594 (“The Seattle Express”) before ST did. But ST1 (“Sound Move”) was voted in in 1996, so if the 594 started in 1997 it’s likely ST was funding it even if the bus said Pierce Transit. It took time to ramp up the ST Express brand and order all the buses, and the 594 may have started before the branding. The 550 had existing routes (226, 235), and Snohomish County had the 4xx, but Pierce County had no express to Seattle, so it may have been high priority to get it running before the STEX branding was in place. Pierce also had oodles of extra money because its Link extension couldn’t start until Link reached Federal Way, so that might have gone into getting the 594 started right away. (It also went into making TLink free initially. TLink was the “first” Link line.)

    2. Didn’t the existence of WSDOT’s 500’s highway system also factor it? Isn’t that the origin of Route 522?

      Since ST seems to be proposing S1, S2 and S3 for Stride, it could make sense to trade in the “5” for a latter followed by two digits (like “X”). Two digits just seem easier to retain. Example: Routes 590 and 594 become Routes X90 and X94.

      1. Yes, sometimes the ST route number indicates which highway it’s serving, like the 522. But then you’d expect the 590 to be Issaquah/MI/Seattle. They all sort of run together. A starting letter indicating which county or subarea is supporting it might help; the way WA used to assign license plate numbers with the first letter designating the county.

  29. Dude the 590, 591, 592, 594, and 595 all started between 1992 and 1995. PT even had a 593 that ran between Lakewood and downtown but didn’t stop at the 705 park and ride or the old tacoma dome parking lot. These services were taken over by sound transit in 1999 but sound transit boosted the service in 1997 and 1998 and made some changes to the PT run routes

  30. Spoken like some one who has never been to tacoma or looked at the long range planning. The hills in city center make light rail pointless. You can centrally locate stations so they have a wide enough walk shed. A latest car (like they are building) that can side step the hills is the only answer

  31. The mall area is already dense. You’ll never see density in North tacoma or near North I because most of those homes are historic. And it isn’t really separated. You can serve the UWT and nalley Valley on the way to the mall you can serve them both on the way to downtown. The only people who want LINK light rail downtown don’t understand tacoma.

    1. From a walkability amd bikability perspective, the Tacoma Mall is a nightmarish hellscape, with a giant wall of an interstate on one side, vast half empty parking lots, non-navigable stroads creating a massive car sewer in all directions, and a 3rd tier retail core that will likely be a burned out hulk by the time central link were to arrive.

      Unless I’m in a car, i give the whole area a wide berth, riding my bike a mile out of my way to avoid it.

      Downtown Tacoma is not walkable like Capital Hill is not walkable. I walk and ride all over it, and I’m an old man. Downtown is the past. But also the future. Tacoma Mall is a historical mistake that is in the process of being murdered by Amazon.

      1. Absolutely the Mall and surrounding area are a car-topia. But adding transit to DT isn’t going to change the habits of all the people that drive to the Mall. A large percentage of which are Lakewood residences and/or military. Running quality transit to the Mall might change habits. The large parcels available at and around the Mall are what gets developers attention. Remodeling/gutting a century old building DT not so much.

        This whole thing of Link must go to DT Tacoma is much the same as the “MLK routing will create huge development in the RV”. Never happened; just ended up with a long route to the airport and points south. Spend more, get less. RV will someday build out. But a rail line A) on Rainier and B) to Renton would have been much better. And part of it could have been done with East Link instead of the colossal expense of tunneling under Beacon Hill which already had a fine trolley route to DT.

      2. The MLK routing is fine, Bernie. There are lots of new apartments on it. Plus, the alternative corridor is between an airport (height restrictions) and a huge freeway on a hillside — and not suitable for TOD. Finally, there are plenty of riders generally in SE Seattle.

        The overarching problem is simple: ST doesn’t establish any trip density requirements for station areas. It leaves everyone saying what projects are better or worse. It’s amateurish rail planning.

        The other factor should probably be paid parking. Without charging for employee parking, there is little incentive to use transit. It’s very likely why the percentage of Downtown Bellevue workers on transit is higher than at Eastgate or Factoria.

        I’ll add that higher density better justifies aerial or subway segments. If DT Tacoma or Tacoma Mall had the development forces and paid parking of South Lake Union, I’d suggest even boring a subway between the two places!

        Changing urban form and building rail transit lines are hard to sync together. But it makes no sense to promise the investment without the land use potential. Luckily, the Tacoma Mall extension is only funded for planning study and ST3 is getting extended by several years already (2047? 2055?) so there are a few decades before a choice must be made.

      3. But adding transit to DT isn’t going to change the habits of all the people that drive to the Mall.

        Nor will adding transit to the mall. That’s the point. All things being equal, people are way more likely to take transit to downtown than the mall. But they aren’t equal. Downtown has way more jobs.

        This whole thing of Link must go to DT Tacoma is much the same as the “MLK routing will create huge development in the RV”. Never happened;

        Wow, wrong on so many levels. First of all, you have it backwards. Downtown Tacoma has much higher employment than the mall. If the goal is to serve an area based on the assumption that it will never grow, then serving the mall is stupid, while serving downtown Tacoma is reasonable.

        Second, Rainier Valley has grown. You can see this on the census maps I referenced earlier. It has somewhere around 20% growth, with many census blocks bigger than any found in Pierce County. Rainier Valley ridership has also grown. It gets about 10,000 riders (some of which, of course, head to the airport). SeaTac gets about 6,000, and has been shrinking. Serving Rainier Valley was clearly the right choice. In terms of capitol spending, it gets way more riders per dollar spent; in terms of riders per hour it is much better. Those who view it as a detour or waste are ignoring all of the facts or don’t understand transit why you build transit.

      4. The choice of routing the TDLS down either 25th Street or Pacific Avenue has long term implications now for an extension either to the city center or to the Mall.

        One or the other does not happen if a certain street is selected.

      5. Nor will adding transit to the mall.

        We don’t know that. We do know that adding rail to DT Tacoma hasn’t moved the bar. You’re arguing that higher capacity transit will somehow improve what’s already overkill.

      6. “Link must go to DT Tacoma is much the same as the “MLK routing will create huge development in the RV”. Never happened”

        It was never intended to. MLK and nearby Rainier are already walkable neighborhoods with high existing transit ridershp, a mixture of multifamily housing and businesses meeting a variety of needs, no setbacks or excessive dead space in much of it , and a street grid with short blocks — exactly the kind of neighborhood that should have subway station(s). That’s even before any additional development. Additional development just allows more people to live in a good urban neighborhood and makes the neighborhood more able to live up to its potential. Since there’s a shortage of walkable neighborhoods, we should leverage the ones we have and put them on the main transit network.

        I haven’t seen the Tacoma Mall area recently so I can’t evaluate it. But any place that’s car-oriented, with five-lane roads, large parking lots in front, and superblocks is hard to turn around into a walkable neighborhood. Developers can pour money into multistory apartments but if they still have the five-lane roads and universal parking and large blocks and wide storefronts instead of narrow, it still a car-oriented area where pedestrians feel like second-class citizens. If the city and developers prioritized the right things they could turn it around, but that usually fails in the US. There’s a better chance of success if you start with a walkable neighborhood in the first place.

      7. We do know that adding rail to DT Tacoma hasn’t moved the bar. You’re arguing that higher capacity transit will somehow improve what’s already overkill.
        So the overkill should be added to the mall instead?

        Across the country, shopping malls are frequently in serious trouble. Online sales are more convenient for a huge portion of what malls sell. Even in the best of times, shopping malls were really not that great at generating transit riders. Compare the number of riders per square mile of development at Southgate vs Ballard, or even Magnolia.

        By extending Link to the mall, you connect one huge parking lot (the mall) with another huge parking lot (Tacoma Dome station and all the private pay to park lots around it).

        I fail to see how connecting these vast acres of parking lots to each other helps any of those Pierce County voters, other than they would then have more parking to get to SeaTac on transit.

        Basically, what you are asking for is a repeat of Tacoma Link, only with even less within walking distance of the line, and built far more expensively.

        If you are going to extend anything to the mall, make it Tacoma Link. At least it has small stations that will be appropriate for the lack of anything along its route.

        There isn’t much along Ruston Way to attract bus passengers, but if light rail were built above the BNSF main line, stations connecting to the residential and commercial areas on the hill above this road could be built. Old Town Tacoma alone would have more residents and businesses within walking distance of a station than Tacoma Mall.

    2. The mall area is already dense.

      Are you saying the apartments next to it have high population density? They aren’t bad, but it still isn’t very dense. As I wrote above, the highest population density area in Pierce County is the area north and east of downtown. The highest density census block is the one bordered by L, Tacoma Ave, South 19th and South 7th. But it still isn’t that dense. Nowhere in Tacoma is there much in the way of population density. At best it barely gets to 13,000 per square mile — what you can find in a typical Seattle single-family zoned neighborhood.

      But again, that’s not why people are suggesting the light rail go downtown. It is because of *employment* density. That is where there is the most employment density, as the mall itself lacks that. Just look at it: It is surrounded by wide streets and a wide freeway. Oh, and there is a big undeveloped section to boot. This doesn’t have population density nor employment density. The only thing it has a lot of is cars.

      Population density map: (if you zoom you can click on a particular census block.

      Employment density map: (requires searching, followed by selecting buttons, etc.).

      1. Drive there. Get out of your vehicle and take a body count. I’m saying at virtually any time of day/week it’s higher at the Mall. Of course it’s people driving there. This is the base demographic that votes for and pays the ST Taxes. DT Tacoma is not and won’t in the foreseeable future be anything like DT Seattle… thank God. That’s why people are buying houses in Pierce County at an astonishingly high rate.

      2. I dont think i would consider propensity to drive a demographic. The thing with Malls is that people buy stuff. When they buy stuff they tend to have to carry that stuff home. Cars make it easy to carry stuff home. Trains don’t, partly because there isnt a lot of storage space on transit. Partly because of the last mile problem. Conclusion: dont spends billions on transit to malls. It wont be used.

  32. What about 9, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 15th st? A huge junk of the new construction is happening between Market and Yakima which makes a train running 4 blacks away down a steep hill pointless. Simply put no one goes down town unless they work there, live there or have a court date. The bar crowd uses Uber so I dont really count those night clubs as potential ridership. Running LINK to downtown tacoma handcuffs future growth through not just tacoma but the rest of the county. I’ve lived in tacoma (mainly the west and east side) for nearly 40 years and can count on my fingers the number of times I went into downtown for something besides going to the court house.

    1. You really should check it out. There’s something for everybody from Chihuly glass to vintage cars and everything in between (did you know Chihuly is actual a big time car collector?). I live in Bellevue and would rather go to Tacoma than Seattle. It’s a great “little” city.

  33. I agree. Sound transit biggest mistake has been their lack of prioritizing easy quick Cross service transfers. The Tacoma Dome station is a great example of poor planning. Sounder and TLink are a good couple of minutes from the buses. Hopefully when the tacoma extension comes to the dome they will centralize all of these services somewhere.

  34. In the summer PT runs the PT runner along ruston Way. But outside of the summer the waterfront isn’t as popular as you’d think outside of point ruston

    1. That’s great to know. Unfortunately it’s on pause this year. PT says:

      Narrow stretches from Point Ruston to downtown Tacoma along Ruston Way prohibits a full-size bus from successfully traversing many of the streets and roadways.

      Looks like they use minivans and run as an on demand service. I don’t recall any roads along the route that are that narrow? I mean this was a working waterfront with large trucks. If a fire engine can get there… But really something like a van based chassis or 20 passenger bus would be plenty. Maybe even an EV which might have some Federal incentives? Service up to Pt Defiance I would think be a ridership boost. Lots to do there but currently pretty dismal transit options. I can totally see how this would be a seasonal route plus maybe a couple of weeks either side of Xmas.

    2. I think it was scheduled vans when I rode it. It had published stops and you didn’t have to request a pickup through an app. That’s only effective for onesies or twosies going to scattered destinations, not a bulk corridor for everyone going between downtown and the beach.

      1. The Ruston Runner provides seasonal on-demand public transportation services in a recreation zone along Ruston Way. I agree that a fixed route with a small bus would be much better. There’s a lot of groups that exceed the capacity of one minivan. And you’ve got the advertising of a bus and bus stops so people know it’s there. I think you’d see a lot of people take it to Pt Defiance which is a real gem. Has Tacoma ever made a serious pitch for a cruise ship. Even if they could just get Victoria Clipper or a fast ferry to the San Juans it would be one more brick in building critical mass. The biggest crowds I’ve ever seen in Tacoma was when they hosted the Tall Ships. The place was packed to the gunnels. When I had a boat down there all the racing was out of the north side of the bay. If one of the restaurants sponsored a week night race like Anthony’s in Kirkland that also draws a good size crowd. Does Tacoma do anything like the Free Museums Thursdays? I don’t know if LeMay (America’s Car Museum) would go for it but the waterfront is big enough to hold their Concours d’Elegance. It would certainly rival Pebble Beach and Amelia Island for beauty.

  35. Downtown Tacoma isn’t the cities core south tacoma and the area around the mall are

      1. We agree on at least one point :=> DT is the core and it’s gotten all the taxpayer benefits to try and keep it relevant. There used to be a large antique mall that was perfectly suited to the old buildings it was in. IIRC the 2009 bust killed that off.

      2. Translation: Internet personality thinks the city center of the third (and likely second) most populated city in the state—and certainly its second most important—is overly subsidized; wants to send high-capacity rail transit to the suburban mall instead.

        My goodness, as if literally everything outside of downtown hasn’t been directly and generously subsidized by the public down to the curbs….

      3. Sam, are you making a comparison between suburban Shoreline and the historic and densely populated urban City of Tacoma, which is the terminus of the Sound Transit Link Spine and its multi-billion Tacoma Dome Link Extension? If so, there is no comparison.

        Additionally, I am not arguing the sensibility of rail services to Shoreline. That can and should be argued by someone more familiar with the place. I will, however, gladly debate the merits of ending a key rapid transit rail line well beyond the urban core of Tacoma. It is preposterous.

      4. What about swinging it northward and ending it at the Point Ruston development? It could be an elevated line above the BNSF. You could sort of pick up downtown Tacoma, Historic Tacoma, and maybe a couple other places?

        The development pattens north of Tacoma on the peninsula are really far more amenable to transit than the tangled mess south of Tacoma, and the area already has a City of Tacoma owned railroad that could serve as a spine.

        Ideally, the line would go closer to the core of all the residential and commercial stuff rather than along the shore, but I don’t think it would be politically or economically expedient to do it that way.

        You might even get BNSF to sell Crescent Yard, which was vital in the 1870s but today is only used to store a couple gondolas of scrap metal. Could be a decent O&M or running repair facility. (This yard is at the north end of the old line that used to go through where the Tacoma Art Museum is now. Across Dock Street from Rock the Dock bar.)

      5. @Glenn, you’d trade Pt Ruston for Lakewood, a city of 60,000 people? Madness! And then south of Lakewood is JBLM which is the real driver of jobs in Pierce County. PT doesn’t even see fit to run a bus to Pt Ruston and you seriously think it needs light rail?

      6. Lakewood has Sounder, which in any country with a brain wouldn’t be wasted on peak period only service. The investment in infrastructure and equipment would instead be used as much as possible. You currently have millions in equipment and crew hours wasted by not running those trains more often. You have to pay BNSF for a full day of crew hours to run those trains, even though the schedule only allows them to actually work 2 hours per day.

        So, for the cost of a bit more maintenance, use the crews and equipment for a full day.

        JBLM has jobs, but also has access issues, as illustrated by the current situation. Apparently it’s not even worth an hourly Sounder train, yet could support light rail every 10 minutes? JBLM seems more likely to need the large shift change peak period capacity that could be achieved through better Sounder service.

        And yes, Lakewood is populous, but it’s also spread out and not especially suited to light rail trains every 10 minutes. Development patterns north of Tacoma suggest to me far more people would see better transit service if the Link line were run using some peninsula route, preferably up the center of a main corridor (but this is unlikely to happen).

      1. If that’s your anchor I hope there isn’t a storm ;-). It’s stable which is more than can be said for the businesses that have come and gone but it’s not a huge employer. It’s like people think this is the U Dist. It’s not, it’s not even UW Bothell. And it’s considerably smaller than Bates which has been in DT Tacoma forever.

        That said. I still haven’t heard any response to the idea of running freeway buses to UW Tacoma via 705 instead of the Dome District. That seems like a good compromise and appears to be time neutral. Could be UW doesn’t want the buses. My Jr year at UW the bus from Redmond looped through campus and dropped off at the HUB. They then kicked the buses off campus and the stop was on 45th. Don’t know for sure if that was a UW decision or Metro but seem to remember it was UW.

  36. No one said you could walk it. The drive time is 15 to 25 minutes even by bus from most of tacoma

  37. So where are all these people coming from on by LINK TO downtown Tacoma? Few people will be commuting in from federal way or fife. Im Not saying a line through tacoma wouldn’t have potential but it will be coming from north, south and west. No one advocating for link to downtown can tell me where all these riders will be coming from?

    1. I dont think that as long as parking is cheap to free in downtown Tacoma, there will be much transit use associated with regular commuting. That wont always be the case,but it is the dase now. Parking is becoming a problem north of 11th,
      and I would guess that will eventually be the case if Tacoma continues to be built out south of there. But i would guess the majority of transit communting will be local bus.

      I will defintely start considering more seriously the streetcar once it opens up, to avoid parking hassle there, as well as down near the water.

      If i didn’t prefer bike, I would use the 1 for commuting though.

      Im not sure why you can’t imagine people using a train to downtown Tacoma from points north to commute though, if traffic and parking become a barrier, which they are bound to. It would be quick and easy.

      1. If PT does not have the funding to provide frequent transit service to much of the county, Link to Tacoma and certainly downtown Tacoma is decades away at best, and you restrict work commuting by car to the commercial downtown core, what you will end up with is lots of multi-family housing and no jobs in downtown Tacoma, so why waste the money to run Link to downtown when Link’s main benefit is to transport workers during peak hour congestion. Unless the goal is to attract a lot of riders who don’t have jobs.

        Tacoma simply does not have the draw to restrict any kind of access to its downtown if it hopes to grow. For example, Bellevue’s downtown has massive amounts of very expensive underground parking because the tenants, lenders and city require it. Obviously Bellevue was not banking on East Link since East Link runs along 112th and the job growth in downtown Bellevue pre-dates East Link, and would have occurred without East Link, in large part due to Seattle’s policies.

        Same with Tacoma. Whether to run Link to the downtown core decades from now will depend on whether Bellevue like job growth occurs in Tacoma over the next 10 and 20 years. If not, Link to downtown — or restricting downtown parking in an undense county with underfunded bus service — won’t manufacture the jobs that Tacoma did not create before Link.

        Actually one of the benefits Tacoma does have (other than affordable single family homes) is the availability and affordability of parking downtown, considering today all of Link accounts for 0.8% of all regional trips, including for Bellevue.

        I understand the desire of some on this blog for urbanism for urbanism’s sake, but urbanism comes with a fair share of downsides. Tacoma and the county need to be careful that in pursuing urbanism to support Link to downtown decades from now, if ever, Tacoma doesn’t destroy the things that make it competitive with Seattle and Bellevue. If Tacoma simply becomes Seattle lite few from Seattle or the Eastside will want to live or work there.

    2. Where will the riders be coming from?

      The various Link stations to the north.

      But first, take a look at where they are coming and going now. Just look at the Pierce County transit network. It is a combination of grid along with hub-and-spoke, with downtown Tacoma as the biggest hub. This makes sense, given the fact that it has the highest employment density area and is adjacent to the highest population density area (with decent population density itself). It is easier to get to downtown Tacoma on transit than any other place in Pierce County (and much easier than the mall, or the dome).

      This is also reflected in the ridership numbers. These are the buses that go downtown, but not the mall:

      1 — 5,300
      2 — 2,400
      11 — 600
      13 — 100
      16 — 700
      28 — 600
      42 — 600
      45 — 700
      48 — 1,200
      63 — ?
      101 — 200
      400 — 500
      500 — 1,200
      501 — 400

      Now look at the buses that go to the mall, but not downtown:

      52 — 700
      53 — 900
      54 — 800
      55 — 700

      The buses that serve downtown account for a lot more riders. There are also buses that do both (go to the mall and downtown). But if you add up the ridership of all the buses that go to the mall (including the ones that go also go downtown) they still don’t add up to the ridership of the buses that go downtown but not the mall.

      That’s just Pierce Transit. Sound Transit doesn’t bother with the mall. With the 590 and 594, about 20% of the ridership comes from downtown Tacoma, despite the very poor service in the reverse direction (ridership downtown will likely increase with this change). With the 574, about half the riders from Federal Way are headed south, while about half are headed towards SeaTac. Kent actually has more heading south than north. It stands to reason that the folks from Federal Way are more likely headed to Tacoma than Lakewood, and they are probably transferring to the streetcar (or a bus) to get downtown.

      Any way you look at it, downtown Tacoma is the primary destination for transit in Pierce County. Extending the light rail to it would mean additional ridership coming from all the stations to the north. Ridership wouldn’t be huge, but that is true of everything south of Federal Way (and likely Federal Way itself). You aren’t going to get a lot of riders taking the train from the Tacoma Dome towards Seattle — you might as well supplement that ridership with people taking the train to the biggest destination in the area: downtown Tacoma.

  38. They had free days at the museums prior to covid. And a museum pass that you could buy and it worked for all the museums. If you are trying to go to point defiance pt already has the 11 that goes from downtown and the 10 that goes from TCC. There really isn’t anything along ruston besides the park and Point ruston. The park is an easy walk from N 30th ST an route 13 and point ruston is connected with point defiance park by the marina. While it would be cool to have a bus run along Ruston Way. It would never have more than 2 or 3 people either going to point ruaton or one of the parks. (The biggest park is closed for refurbishment right now) and I think pierce transit feels they have those services with the 10, 11, and 13. Perhaps in the future if we ever see more development along the waterfront

    1. I count about 8 dinning establishments along the route, the Seaport and glass museum and of course the string of parks that’s over 4 miles long. And from the new waterfront/marina section of Pt Defiance it’s mile up hill to the zoo/aquarium. There wouldn’t be big numbers of people at any one time unless it’s a large group but I’d think the number of on/offs would be decent. The park is on 54th? That’s a pretty long walk. Google says to use the 11 which is 43 minutes (& 45 stops). An hour basically to go each way sort of says just drive. But I understand this is a nice to have not a transit necessity.

    2. I’ve ridden the 11 to Point Defiance before. First of all, the route it takes is slow and winding, and a bus that went straight down Ruston Way would get you there in half the time. Second, the #11’s schedule is quite terrible. Weekdays and Saturdays, it runs once an hour, and trying to connect to it from a half-hourly 594 with unpredictable traffic in downtown Tacoma is a disaster. Depending on which bus you take, you end up with either a coin flip (heads no wait, tails you’re stuck waiting a full hour) or a guaranteed wait of 30 minutes. Sundays is even worse – the #11 runs just 4 trips the entire day, each trip two hours apart, and the earliest you can even get to Point Defiance at all is 11:15 AM.

      It’s a shame that, even if the 594 going from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma in 40 minutes, a transit trip from Seattle to Point Defiance still takes nearly two hours, and the #11 bus is a big reason why. At times, I’ve been creative to try to avoid the #11. For instance, I’ve ridden the 594 with my bike on the rack and peddled to the park. I’ve also taken the ferry route, utilizing the C-line and 118 bus, which is very scenic and only 30 minutes longer than the 594->11 route. I have also done the trip with the C-line and ferries, but biking the #118 route (Vashon Island is very hilly and not much traffic; it’s a great workout).

      1. The service in the north end has been readily dieing for years. There was a time the 11 ran ever 15 minutes and the 13 ran every 30 minutes. And there was regular service on both Orchard (rt 50 or 220) and Union (rt 51). The trend of bus ridership for the north end is something else that makes me question the idea of running light rail to downtown and north tacoma. You have to ask who would ride it?I don’t believe at this time the people that live north of 6th Ave or East of pearl st would ride a train and the would fight any attempts to build one near there house. The route to the mall had large open areas to still built in and with the cities and malls master plan to build out the parking areas you will see more density built there that you will in the North

      2. If transit service is slowly dying off in the north end areas where it is easy to get to transit, then how on earth will it fare better near Lakewood, where the lack of sidewalks plus busy, wide steers make it far more difficult to get to transit?

        Many Problems on the north end can be solved by a reorganization and by a speed increase. Both of these could happen with a Link line.

        Lakewood has Sounder. Make that more usable by more people.

        Consider particularly that Sounder could be improved much quicker, as there isn’t as much that needs to be built. (It won’t because there are other priorities.) Everything is already there, including the stations.

      3. I’m not asking for a train to Point Defiance. I’m asking for the lowly bar of a basic bus every 20-30 minutes that runs in a straight line. Or course, when service stinks, people don’t ride it, but that doesn’t mean that nobody would ride it if the service improved.

        The reason why the service has dying is that Pierce Transit is starved of resources. Areas of similar density in Seattle (e.g. Magnolia) have much better service than this.

      4. The reason why the service has dying is that Pierce Transit is starved of resources. Areas of similar density in Seattle (e.g. Magnolia) have much better service than this.

        Does it? It looks very similar to me. The 11 runs every half hour. It makes several turns along the way, before ending in the very low density northern section. The 24 runs every half hour. It loops back and forth before ending in the very low density western section.

        I’m not arguing your main point, but there are two issues here: Tacoma does not have much population density and Pierce Transit is underfunded. The first issue is often ignored. Tacoma feels very urban. It has good bones, as they say. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into high density. The 11 and 24 are quite similar, but the biggest difference is that the 24 connects to downtown Seattle, while the 11 does not. Downtown Seattle is just a much bigger destination.

        Meanwhile, eastern Magnolia is similar in density to the Stadium District. In Tacoma three buses converge there, so that riders in that area get good combined frequency. In Seattle there is the 33 — a bus that runs every half hour.

        One big difference is that the north end of Tacoma has significant destinations. For example, the University of Puget Sound. It is hard to find fault with the 11, since its major detour is to connect to one of the bigger universities in the city. Without that “detour” it would probably run every hour. You could shuffle around the routes so that another bus has that responsibility, but there is no easy way to save the fundamental problem with routes in the north end, which is low density. There are a lot of places in Tacoma which could really use more service, or a straighter path, but I don’t see the far north of Tacoma as one of them. For most of the way, density is just too low.

        The one glimmer of hope is Ruston. There is a lot of new development there, and no transit. I could see a bus like this: The issue there is that there is practically nothing along the way. It also doesn’t do much for the 11 (you still need a bus to cover Tacoma north of 30th). So as nice as that would be, it wouldn’t surprise me if they simply send the 11 to Ruston, adding one more “detour”. They might increase frequency though, as the performance of that bus would likely increase. But they would have to find the money.

    3. The 11 is half hourly weekdays with two omissions: no 8:25am northbound or 9:10am southbound. Now that I look at the schedules I remember that the 10 was always more frequent than the 11. The 10 is a crosstown grid route, while the 11 is treated as a coverage route.

  39. As life long resident of tacoma I watched all of it being constructed and have been to all of the museums multiple times. The museums have multiple buses that serve them.

  40. The people going to McMenamins will never take the train to get there so using them as your argument is pointless.

    1. Jonathan, for some reason your posts are not joining the larger thread on which you intend to comment. They are thus hard to follow and properly track.

      On that note, if you had been following that other thread, you would see that my comment was in regards to the claimed death or stagnation of Downtown Tacoma, which is obviously false. My comment was merely stating that the construction of a luxury hotel in Downtown is additional proof of the health and vitality of the city’s urban core, not that bunches of people will ride Link trains to the hotel.

      So, like others in this larger post, you are arguing a point that was never made.

  41. Here is another aspect to consider. You are delusional if you think that downtown Tacoma will struggle, but the rest of Tacoma will rally, with its mall leading the way. That isn’t the way cities work. There are basically two ways a city like Tacoma can do go:

    1) The downtown falls apart, people move outward, and the city collapses. A classic example is Detroit, although there are other examples in the Rust Belt.

    2) Downtown does well, as does the rest of the city.

    To put it another way, how goes your downtown goes your city. This isn’t necessarily true of suburban areas, that were once independent cities but are now part of the big city (e. g. Ballard, or Kirkland). These can function just fine as residential communities, with their old downtown accounting for very few jobs — although often accounting for the charm that accounts for their popularity. But Tacoma is simply too far away from Seattle to do well in that regard. The relative economic success over the last fifty years in the District of Columbia has not carried along Baltimore — it is just too far away. (Baltimore is on its own.)

    Tacoma is largely independent. As a result, it needs a strong downtown. This is why it has spent so much effort preserving what needs to be preserved, and building what can be built. The addition of UW Tacoma is huge in that regard. Not because of the employment (although that is significant) but because of the potential economic development that comes from it. If you read even a smattering of essays from Richard Florida (or similar writers) they will emphasize the importance of universities in the economic development of cities in the modern economy.

    Whether this investment will pay off or not is another matter. But if it doesn’t — if downtown Tacoma struggles — then so too will Tacoma itself, and the massive investment in getting light rail to the Tacoma Dome (or the mall) will look increasingly silly.

    1. Imagine if the University of Oregon had been located in Portland like the UW is located in Seattle. Portland would be a much more important city, and probably so would the U of Oregon. Same with WSU and Spokane.

      I agree with Ross’ points above. Jobs drive transit, not the other way around. But the Line T carried 972,400 passengers in 2016 with an average 3200 boardings per weekday.

      “Tacoma Link runs for eight to 14 hours per day, using streetcars at frequencies of 12 to 24 minutes. Fares are not charged and operating expenses are funded by a subsidy from a downtown business association”.

      “Sound Transit plans to extend Line T by 2.4 miles (3.9 km) to the Stadium District and the Hilltop area west of Downtown Tacoma in 2022. A longer western extension to the Tacoma Community College campus via South 19th Street is also planned to open in 2041.”

      I just don’t see the funding to duplicate or replace the Line T. Whether to run light rail into a single downtown station rather than the mall is a good question, although ST is loath to change its mind, and I am sure Pierce Co. politicians chose the mall for a reason (if there is ever the funding, and Pierce Co. does not withdraw from ST first, and DSTT2 could be the impetus for that withdrawal).

      There is some irony I suppose in arguing light rail should have never extended from Federal Way to Tacoma (or to Federal Way) but it should continue onto the downtown core for a few billion more, but at the same time commuters — and most riders — hate transfers, especially close to their destination, and Tacoma is a city right now with plenty of parking.

      But whether at the Dome or at a downtown station Link will have to meet up with Line T if folks want to get around downtown Tacoma. Transit throughout the downtown is going to be on Line T, good or bad, and Tacoma is pretty steep too. So maybe it makes sense consolidating everything at the Dome.

      At the same time, Link does go to downtown Seattle, but not very thoroughly, especially for such a steep city. There are basically two stops in the work core, three I guess if you include Pioneer Square.

      The trolley system in Seattle is awful. There is something to be said for a very large, free park and ride at the Dome that accesses the free Line T with all its stops, and many other forms of transit. There are plenty of buses on 3rd Ave. in Seattle, but 3rd Ave. has become a very sketchy street from Yesler to Pine, and waiting on 3rd even in the daytime is no picnic. Typical ST: crummy first/last mile access, even in the densest downtown core in the region.

      I personally don’t think Seattle’s ideological war on cars and parking has done it any favors, especially when it comes to retail, and now working from home. After all, what are all the huge park and rides on the eastside except Dome like parking, with Seattle hoping eastsiders park in those eastside park and rides and commute to Seattle to work or shop or dine and spend their money.

      Problem is eastsiders may use those park and rides, but more and more stay on the eastside. The jobs and wealth were always on the eastside, and now they are just staying there. Good lesson for Tacoma. Grow your own wealth and jobs because few will take light rail from Seattle to Tacoma, and don’t start a war on parking for ideological reasons, because once in a car folks can drive just about anywhere to shop or even work.

      Bellevue was smart about that, insisting on huge amounts of underground parking which the developers could afford (none of the new development from the downtown to Spring Dist. to Wilburton will be affordable, and most is commercial) and huge park and rides. If folks prefer to bike or walk or take transit, great, but according to folks like Kemper Freeman the money is with the car drivers, and in areas like East King Co. and Pierce Co. there just will never be the density or first/last mile access to replace the car, even if just to get to transit. So don’t discourage any form of transportation to your city is my advice.

      1. An extension into Downtown Tacoma would not cost anything remotely close to a billion dollars. The alignment just needs to travel down Puyallup Avenue, or such an proposal dies at Freighthouse Square.

        However, a mall extension will cost well over a billion.

        We know these things to be the truth now.

      2. Portland State is as large as U Oregon. Aside from a large football stadium, I don’t think it would make a difference on transit or land use. PSU + OHSU have as big an impact on transit as U Oregon would.


        Portland State U. is ranked 284/381 in the U.S. according to U.S. News and World Report.

        University of Oregon is ranked 103. (The UW is 58).

        While there is something to be said for a remote college town like Eugene (although Eugene has deteriorated) I believe both the U. of Oregon and Portland would have benefitted from having U. of Oregon in Portland, just as the UW and Seattle have both benefitted from having the UW in Seattle, especially when it comes to graduate programs.

        Granted Seattle has Seattle University and SPU, and some other minor colleges, but they don’t compare to having a Pac. 12 university in the heart of a city. I think U. of Oregon — which is the state’s flagship university — would have a higher profile and ranking if located in Portland, and think the same for WSU (which is a much better university than its 176 ranking) if it were located in Spokane (and as usual the new medical school is located in Spokane).

        Whether it would have an impact on transit is not the issue, especially since transit is such a minor factor in whether a city is a success or not, especially compared to education.

      4. You have to take those rankings with a grain of salt, but I think your point is correct. If the University of Oregon was located in Portland, Portland would be a lot bigger. Your other example is better though. Boise has grown much faster than Spokane. Why? Universities.

        Following up on Troy’s point, it wouldn’t cost a fortune to extend light rail from the Tacoma Dome to downtown Tacoma. Neither of us are saying that extending light rail to Tacoma is a good value. What we are saying is if you are going to do that — and a lot of people insist on doing that — than the least you can do is extend it downtown. The title to his Page 2 essay is literally “If Link to Tacoma Must Be Built, Do It Right: Send Trains Into the City Center.”

      5. Having universities in isolated small towns was a quirk of history and is mostly counterproductive. Having UW in Seattle benefits both the university and the students and the city and the state, because people can access campus easily, take transit to it, and the knowledge gets readily disseminated to the rest of the city’s and state’s residents. WSU is a good location for agricultural programs but not for much else. Some people like the lack of distractions in a small town, so there’s that. But overall it would be best if the largest universities were in the largest cities. When the universities were founded, 99% of the state was rural and the federal government was still distributing unallocated land, and 20th-century industrialization and new large cities was not foreseen. But now that we have those, that’s where we should locate most of the universities.

        The most notable thing happening at WSU, Western, Central, and Eastern over the past three decades has been the opening of branch campuses in Spokane, Everett, Bothell, Bellevue, etc, where they should have been in the first place. Or at least “should have” if those large cities and metropolitan areas had existed then. Since the state has profoundly changed its makeup since those universities were founded, it should profoundly change its distribution of university seats and majors to go with it.

      6. Boise’s growth is because of Micron Technology. J. R. Simplot, realized that the future was in computer chips rather than potato chips. Having the U of I there may have had a hand it creating that opportunity but Moscow hasn’t seen great growth despite having Idaho State and WSU next door. Micron was like M$FT in Redmond. Not only was it big but it brought in other tech companies like HP.

        I assume this discussion is because UW Tacoma branch campus is flouted as being such a game changer. It’s not; smaller than TCC and Bates which have been there forever. When you look at the enrollment of Whitman, Gonzaga and Eastern it’s pretty close to Boise State. And WSU recently opened their medical school in Spokane. It doesn’t hurt but it’s not a huge driver of growth. Bothell has growth but it has little do do with UW Bothell which is bigger than UW Tacoma.

        Once more, why not use 705 to intercept I-5 buses and have them provide a transfer to T Link at UW Bothell. It’s likely UW Bothell is going to be the final destination of more riders than the T Dome and it’s closer to DT. It’s also likely the closest stop to a lot of the residence that live DT (certainly more than the T Dome).

      7. WSU is a good location for agricultural programs but not for much else. Some people like the lack of distractions in a small town, so there’s that.

        Well, WSU was a land grant university and sort of hard to grant land in the middle of an existing city. Having spent two years at each institution I know how very different they are. WSU I was away from everyone I knew. Social life and study circles revolved around the student population. UW (junior/senior years) was a commuter school. I rode the bus to UW; at WSU I walked everywhere.

        But it wasn’t just me. Nobody at UW was in class to make friends. You came, you went and there was little interest from anyone about anyone except “me”?. In short, not a collegiate example which I think is part of big city distractions. Another fundamental difference was at WSU the professors were doing research but were fundamentally there to teach. At the UW they were there to do research and for most teaching was an occupational hazard that was pushed of to TAs as much as possible. I don’t know if that’s a function of big vs small town location everywhere.

  42. And no one is commuting from federal way to tacoma. Tacoma office workers are commuting from Puyallup, Lakewood, North and West Tacoma. Link to Tacoma has merit but only if it originates in a place that’s has people going to Tacoma. The LINK line as proposed to Tacoma will mainly be used for commuting to SeaTac. The route through Rainier Valley all but eliminates the likelihood that people will use it to commute to Seattle. And I don’t think we will see ST Express from Tacoma or federal Way to Seattle go away. Not just because of travel time but also the additional walking time involved.

    1. no one is commuting from federal way to tacoma

      Again, I refer you to the census data. Most of the people who work in Tacoma live in Tacoma. The other commute cities are about the same, but Seattle and Federal Way exceed Puyallup. Seattle and Federal Way combined exceed any place outside of Tacoma. You would see an increase in travel from Federal Way to downtown Tacoma if there was a fast, frequent train connecting the two (e. g. Link). The same is true for Rainier Valley to Tacoma, although a smaller proportion since it is a significantly longer trip. The stations in Rainier Valley are largely residential (the 7 covers the bigger destinations, such as they are). Yet they account for over 10,000 riders — a number that is growing. The vast majority of those riders walk to a train station from their home. It is reasonable to assume that some will ride to downtown Tacoma (if the light rail connected to it) just as some will commute to Redmond (which will take about as long, and will involve a transfer).

      The route through Rainier Valley all but eliminates the likelihood that people will use it to commute to Seattle.

      Not really. The fact that Link is a light rail line and Tacoma is so far from Seattle is why very few will use it to commute to Seattle. It doesn’t matter if those stops are in Rainier Valley, Tukwila, Boeing, or Georgetown. There is no plausible light rail line from the airport to downtown Seattle that wouldn’t take a long time. That is the way they work. The route to Rainier Valley is actually an express, with a gap of over five miles without a station (!) between Tukwila and Rainier Beach.

      The LINK line as proposed to Tacoma will mainly be used for commuting to SeaTac

      Which very few people do. The largest group of commuters to SeaTac come from Seattle (about 11%). That is for the entire city (not just the airport). That is followed by Kent, Federal Way, and SeaTac itself. Finally you get to Tacoma, with a mere 1,600 workers (far less than those who commute from Federal Way to Tacoma). That doesn’t include those who travel, but you can look at those Link numbers to see it doesn’t add up to much. SeaTac gets about 5,000 riders a day from the north. This number is also shrinking. This includes business travelers from the biggest business district in the state. It also includes those from the UW, and workers from Rainier Valley, who have an express trip to the airport. For that matter, you can look at the numbers for the 574. Tacoma has fewer than 400 riders, and clearly many of those riders are traveling between Federal Way and Tacoma (since Federal Way has over 200 riders who head south, instead of north on that bus). There is just no reason to believe that lots of people will either take a two seat ride to the airport (involving a transfer at the dome) or park and ride at the dome (instead of closer to the airport).

      Again, there is little chance that the extension from Federal Way to the Tacoma Dome will ever be considered a good value. But extending it to downtown Tacoma is the only way it can avoid being terrible. It is also the only chance — however slim — that it actually becomes good. There is no way that the Tacoma Dome, or the mall become a major regional destination, drawing in riders from north. But that could happen with downtown Tacoma (crazier things have happened).

      1. Most of the people who work in Tacoma live in Tacoma… Seattle and Federal Way combined exceed any place outside of Tacoma.
        So, I’m not fluent with looking at census data. The way you word this makes me believe that individually there is a place “outside of Tacoma” that exceeds both Seattle & Federal Way. Might that place be Lakewood?

        Is the census data able to show where the people working and living in Tacoma are commuting. I’m guessing the higher paid office staff working DT are living in Browns Point or North Tacoma. Service workers are coming from Hilltop or South Tacoma.

        Tacoma is a big city in terms of area. Not quite as big as Seattle but it’s virtually identical to Bellevue + Kirkland or Bellevue + Renton but way less dense than either of those combinations. To reach either combined population total you’d have to add in Lakewood (which would of course decrease density) but I suspect is closely linked to Tacoma employment and access such as medical.

      2. Its not that hard to use the census website. My biggest problem with it is that there is no way to link to the final data page. Here is a step by step:

        1) Go to
        2) Search for “Tacoma” on the left side.
        3) You should see a big list of areas. Pick the third one “Tacoma City, WA”.
        4) Select “Perform Analysis on Selection Area”. You should be presented with a big dialog box with lots of choices, separated by columns.
        5) For this particular data set, leave the first column alone (“Work” should be selected).
        6) For the second column, pick “Destination”, leaving the drop down box alone.
        7) On the third column, leave that date alone (unless you want to goggle between historical data).
        8) On the column to the far right, select “All Jobs”.
        9) Select the “Go” button.

        In this case, the map shows the concentration of people commuting *to* Tacoma. That’s why Tacoma is so blue (lots of people who work in Tacoma, live in Tacoma). The column to the right is where the raw data is. It lists the top ten places by default. On the far left you can change that to a bigger number (e. g. top 50). If that doesn’t work for you, here is what the numbers are for the top ten:

        Tacoma city, WA 28,385 24.9%
        Lakewood city, WA 4,928 4.3%
        University Place city, WA 4,238 3.7%
        South Hill CDP, WA 3,939 3.5%
        Seattle city, WA 3,249 2.8%
        Parkland CDP, WA 3,239 2.8%
        Federal Way city, WA 3,073 2.7%
        Puyallup city, WA 2,785 2.4%
        Spanaway CDP, WA 2,605 2.3%
        Auburn city, WA 1,970 1.7%
        All Other Locations 55,694 48.8%

        Lakewood does indeed lead the pack, but not by much. That’s my point. The fact that Federal Way has a respectable number of people commuting to Tacoma shows that there is hope for a significant number of riders on Link to Tacoma, if Link actually goes downtown. Not as much as if they somehow connect Lakewood to downtown, but they will never serve Lakewood. They are going to run the train to Federal Way, and it is quite likely the train will connect to downtown Tacoma. If there were no plans for the latter, then I wouldn’t advocate for extending rail to downtown Tacoma. But if they run the train to downtown Tacoma, then it makes sense to spend a tiny bit more to get the significant (although not huge) share of potential riders from Federal Way (and similar places).

        Worth noting: the hope is that there will be some TOD by these various transit stations. There will also be connector buses. Thus there is the possibility that additional people would commute from the suburbs to downtown Tacoma. Not huge numbers, of course, but nothing south of Federal Way will get huge numbers.

        NOTE: I played around with the website some more, using the “Selection”/”Draw Polygon” option. I drew a polygon (roughly) around downtown Tacoma. The numbers were remarkably similar, although Lakewood dropped a bit (being passed by University City).

      3. @RossB
        Thanks for the link and instructions.

        no one is commuting From federal Way to Tacoma

        I’ll look at the census data but I doubt they ‘ll break it down by mode (i.e. transit vs driving). But since you don’t refute it I’m guessing I’m right and the place you dance around saying is Lakewood is the big location for people living and commuting into Tacoma. That of course means Link extension to Lakewood is more important than a DT loop from Seattle for most people paying the ST taxes in Pierce.

  43. Isn’t one of the arguments that Tacoma’s leaders made for Link is that they wanted a reliable way to get to the airport?

    It’s not that Tacoma wants a more efficient way to commute to Seattle – they already have Sounder and that is good enough – it’s that the reliable all day trip to the airport makes downtown Tacoma more attractive to businesses.

    So in the sense that once Link arrives Tacoma will have gotten everything it really wants, all this posturing about whither to send Link after it gets there is somewhat meaningless.

    Therefore, after it gets to the T-dome shut it down, Pull Pierce out of future ST construction votes to save them the money, and make that the terminus. If Tacoma wants to expand T-Link for some reason they can vote on it themselves as a stand-alone project.

    1. “It’s not that Tacoma wants a more efficient way to commute to Seattle – they already have Sounder and that is good enough”

      Something that doesn’t run midday or weekends or evenings is not “good enough”. People go to Seattle or Tacoma for a variety of reasons, at a variety of times. Serving 9-5 commuters to Seattle and ignoring everyone else is not an effective transit system. At least ST is trying to address it with more frequent ST Express service, after decades of doing nothing. Some of Pierce’s mediocre ridership is due to demographics: outer suburban locations attract people who will drive anyway even if transit is there. But in city after city, even heavily suburbanized ones like Tacoma where ridership drops precipitously just one mile outside downtown, if you make transit more frequent and accessing more places, people will ride it. Not the die-hard drivers, but others who are invisible until the transit exists on the ground. Canadian cities like Tacoma will have transit like West Seattle, and higher ridership to go with it. American cities could have that too; they’ve just never tried that level of transit. Or at least, not for seventy years and most people’s lifetimes.

      Asdf2’s report on the 11 is sad: that’s why I’ve never gone to Point Defiance on my own. First there’s a half-hourly 594 that takes an hour to get to downtown Tacoma, then a very infrequent bus to get to Point Defiance. I’d usually go on a weekend, and when I was looking at it the bus was hourly or less. Those inconveniences add up and make people drive or forego trips. If it happens to a visitor to Point Defiance, it happens to people doing shift work or running errands to everywhere.

      1. I specifically stated I was talking about the commute regards Sounder. Link will, and should go to the T-Dome to provide the all day link to the airport that Tacoma wants

        All I’m saying is that, in my opinion, spending a lot of money to take Link anywhere else isn’t likely to be a very efficient use of money.

      2. pending a lot of money to take Link anywhere else isn’t likely to be a very efficient use of money.

        High capacity transit outside of UW to DT hasn’t been an efficient use of money. But that segment couldn’t have been built without votes for all the inefficient use of money. The extension north from UW has promise in perhaps making bus service more efficient. But you have to filter out the overall bad value and look at just the cost of each station extension.

      3. Asdf2’s report on the 11 is sad: that’s why I’ve never gone to Point Defiance on my own.

        You’ve missed a gem. Be ready to walk even once you get to Pt Defiance. If you’ve never been find a B&B and spend two days. Seriously, it’s a lot of walking and it’s totally worth it.

        I’m glad asdf2 confirmed what I saw on Google regarding transit to Pt Defiance. Tacoma has banked a lot on new Museums DT but that Pt Defiance has been there forever and is IMHO the best of the NW. String this together with the L…O…N…G waterfront route and I think it’s a winner. You get to the anchor (Pt Defiance) in a muchshort period of time and all the intermediate stops are relevant to people making this trip. Seasonal only probably makes sense; for sure to start.

        The Ruston Runner doesn’t (officially ) go to Pt Defiance and I haven’t seen anyone on this blog sing the praises of transit on demand with an app and a minivan.

    2. Isn’t one of the arguments that Tacoma’s leaders made for Link is that they wanted a reliable way to get to the airport?

      Maybe, but that’s just silly. The 594 doesn’t even run every half hour. It performs poorly and very few of the riders come from Tacoma (less than 400). A substantial portion of the riders don’t even go to SeaTac. On a northbound bus, 456 riders get off before SeaTac, and 683 use the two SeaTac stops. It is highly likely that less than 300 riders take the bus from the Tacoma Dome to SeaTac. But thousands upon thousands will take the train there? I don’t buy it. Very few people live by the Tacoma Dome. So why are people going to take a two or three seat ride to the airport, or park there instead of closer? It doesn’t make sense.

      Besides, if that is your goal — to magically revitalize your city with a light rail line to the airport — then at least run it to the central business district of your city — downtown Tacoma.

      1. why are people going to take a two or three seat ride to the airport, or park there instead of closer? It doesn’t make sense.

        Parking/driving is the nugget here. It doesn’t matter if there’s a transfer to the SC what really matters is how competitive is it with driving. The vast majority of Tacoma employees coming from the north are driving. Why, when you have free parking are you going to drive to a P&R to compete with all the northbound Seattle riders when you can just drive to work. And in the rare instance your employer doesn’t offer free parking you’d just drive to the T Dome parking garages. Time wise you’re way ahead and since you’re using your car anyway transit has the higher out of pocket cost. Frequency makes a difference; with your car you can come & go whenever you damn well please. The only market you have is the truly transit dependent. I’m thinking that is virtually non-existant for any of the Link stations south of SEA.

        Now, going to the airport if you can save someone an hour or more dropping you off and coming back to pick you up, or you are looking at paying for parking at SEA then hell ya the train starts to look good. In this case you don’t have a transfer penalty since you’re dropped or parking at the T Dome station. How strict are they (if they even have it) on the 24 hour rule?

      2. “Now, going to the airport if you can save someone an hour or more dropping you off and coming back to pick you up, or you are looking at paying for parking at SEA then hell ya the train starts to look good. “

        BINGO !!

        This is where Lynnwood Link is going to be a game changer.

      3. @Jim,
        Yes, for Lynnwood it’s even more of a case than for Tacoma. If your flight leaves during rush hour the slog through Seattle on I-5 is long and unpredictable. Even if the scheduled time is longer I’d go for the more reliable kiss and ride option on Link. And I know from dropping off the wife for business trips that at peak you can spend 15-30 minutes just fighting your way to the arrivals area. Link is a big win over a bus if you have luggage and or traveling with small children. It will bring in some of the car dependent demographic ;-)

      4. Right, because the farther away a destination is, the more people go to it. Oh wait, its the opposite. Oh, but don’t worry, it is the airport, so lots of people will take transit to it. Oh wait, wrong again. But OK, SeaTac is the most popular station in Seattle, and growing. Oh wait, wrong again.

        Link already connects to the entirety of downtown Seattle, as well as the UW, as well as its closest suburban neighbors as well as its closest urban stops (in Rainier Valley). It gets the folks who want a fast, easy commute, as well as the business flyers who are going out of town, as well as the students as well as people who park and ride to the airport. And with all of that, it barely scratches the 5,000 mark. It performs like every airport station everywhere — not especially well. But like all of them, people expect it to do really well, because they can imagine themselves riding it. To quote Jarrett Walker:

        Basic math: 1000 airport employees using an airport service every day are more ridership than 100,000 air travelers using it, on average, maybe a couple of times a year.

        This is the simple reason that airport transit politics are so frustrating. Everyone wants to believe in transit to the airport, because they might ride it a few times a year.

      5. Airport transit politics aren’t frustrating, they are just different than your politics.

        Some people value coverage and some people value ridership. There are structural tradeoff, but there’s isn’t a ‘correct’ choice unless people first align on values.

        Similarly, some people value a project that has a high number of unique annual visitors over a project that has higher daily ridership but lower annual unique riders.

        Pre-Covid, Link had less than 100K daily riders, but perhaps north of a million unique riders, many of whom used Link only a few times a year. I don’t think it’s surprising people value a project that occasionally useful for a large number of people over a project that consistently useful for a small number of people.

        What’s more important, a community college that serves 5K students a weekday but 20K different students throughout the school year, or a residential college that serves 10K students a day but only the same 10K students in an academic year? Or a hospital that is always full of the same small group of consistently sick patients vs an outpatient facility that serves less people a day but serves a much broader population?

      6. SEA hasn’t got much air travel ridership because it doesn’t have stations that make sense for that trip for people that have to drive to transit. 142k passengers go thru SEA everyday. Get just 1% and you have 1,420 for one station. I would expect it to be 5X that but until you get to Lynnwood and the Eastside it doesn’t make sense for these people to use Link. Nobody is going to drive DT, the UW or TIB and transfer to Link. In short, Link hasn’t yet tapped into the drive to the airport market. Yes, in fact the longer the trip on Link the more people will use it. More people drive to Portland than fly. More people fly to NYC than drive. Time is money and the Link stations outside Seattle hit the sweet spot. Yeah if you’re going with 5 kids probably not. A ski trip, maybe not. Business trips which is the main money maker for airlines, absolutely. Of course business travel has to recover post pandemic for this to happen.

      7. Oh snap. I just looked at the ST performance report for 2019. SEA had +5K daily boardings. Better than any station between there and the ID, better than Beacon Hill, Close to University Street. The only other stations that beat it are Westlake, Capitol Hill and UW. We’re already at 3.7% of the daily passenger count. Some are undoubtedly airport workers. Let’s conservatively guess it only gets 2% more when Lynnwood Link opens; that’s another 2,700 riders. Of course the other big hitters will see a boost in ridership but that puts SEA at 8.1k which is between Capitol Hill and UW. The data shows Pierce/Tacoma has a legit reason to support spending their money on a line to the airport.

      8. I’ve said this before, but when new Link stations with new parking garages open further south, the Angle Lake parking garage is going to become nearly empty. One no-brainer, easy way to fill it up and make a few bucks is to allow paid long-term parking there for people going to the airport. The ability to take a 2-minute train to the airport that runs reliably every 10 minutes, rather than have to wait who-knows-how-long for a shuttle bus that constantly gets stuck in traffic should allow the Angle Lake garage to compete very will with private parking providers. ST could easily charge $10-15/day (with round trip Link fares included in the parking rate) and people would absolutely pay it.

      9. should allow the Angle Lake garage to compete very will with private parking providers.

        Isn’t that a problem though. I’m thinking of the buses they ran to stadiums from P&R lots that got nixed because they weren’t allowed to provide the service if a private company wanted to. Maybe that just applies to bus service.

        How much does it cost ST to run a parking garage? Surface lots are considerably cheaper. I’m not sure Angle Lake will be empty. It depends on the other lots having excess capacity. It’s hard to tell with the pandemic but how much did TIB change when Angle Lake opened? Anyway, if they can turn a buck I’m all for it.

      10. what’s the security like at the angle lake parking garage overnight? it might be convenient, but if you’ve a late arriving flight and have to get your car out of an ‘abandoned’ parking garage in the middle of the night it doesn’t feel like the safest thing to be doing.

        vs. parking at a private lot where they have your car secured, and a shuttle to pick you up at the airport.

      11. An Angle Lake park and ride that charges for parking plus the round trip for light rail to access the airport won’t be very popular for the same reasons light rail makes up such a tiny percentage of trips to the airport, and I highly doubt ST wants to reserve the Angle Lake station for airport access.

        First you have to distinguish between work and pleasure flying:

        1. Work Travel

        I hate flying for work, so I don’t do it for free. The four main considerations for me are:

        A. Time, which is money. A client does not want to pay someone a lot of money in time to save a few dollars in transportation to the airport. Same reason I have TSA precheck and Clear. Time, which is money when it comes to work travel.

        B. The travel including transportation to the airport is tax deductible.

        C. Carrying things. A laptop, briefcase, suitcase, C-pap machine all add up, even for someone like me who works right next to the Pioneer Square station.

        D. Safety. Many large companies won’t let employees take public transit to or from the airport because of safety, and I am not all that keen on taking light rail back to Pioneer Square in the dark to either catch the 550 on 2nd east or walk to my dark and empty parking garage.

        2. Pleasure Travel.

        I like travelling for pleasure, sometimes, but there are some realities:

        A. For the first ten years there were small kids. That meant two car seats, at least one stroller, stuffed animals, huge suitcases, diapers, movie player, two harried parents, and so on.

        B. Safety. No way my wife is going to take small kids on public transportation to the airport, day or night, considering she herself won’t take public transportation.

        C. Cost. Four round trip fares on transit to the airport is not a great deal compared to parking or Uber/Lyft.

        D. Access. Light rail, if you can get to it and schlepp all your stuff onto it, drops you off a long way from the actual airport.

        E. Time. Just takes too long on light rail if you have to find first/last mile access.

        Hence the acres of paid parking at the airport and near the airport, and the many Uber/Lyft/Taxis, plus of course drop offs from friends.

        The key is if I am travelling for work the cost to and from the airport is irrelevant. If I am travelling for pleasure, and have a family or even just the wife who likes to pack heavy, public transit to the airport is impractical, and not a very good deal. There is a very good reason SeaTac is not interesting in trading the airport park and rides which are cash cows with no social costs for TOD, or worse affordable housing.

      12. TIB was the southernmost P&R before Angle Lake was built. It’s still pretty full as far as I know. When the Kent, Federal Way, Auburn, and Covington commuters vacate Angle Lake P&R, other drivers may fill some of the empty spaces. And the population is increasing over time.

      13. Not everybody who flies is coming back late. The same arguments you make against Link also apply to parking shuttles, only Link takes 2 minutes all time, parking shuttles take up to 20, depending on traffic.

        Sure, paying $30/day to park right in the airport garage and walk in is faster, but not everybody has that kind of money. Tons of people who don’t ride buses ride parking shuttles. If the fare issues can be worked out and you’re not returning to your car late at night, Link should be a far superior experience to a parking shuttle. Heck, ST could even use some of the parking revenue to run a special parking shuttle after Link stops running. It’s not like they don’t have idle buses at that hour they could use to run it.

        I suppose, if people really do consider Link untouchable, even for 2 minutes, because it has “poor people cooties” because somebody who can’t afford to fly might, god forbid, ride it too, forget it. I just don’t think that’s the case.

      14. Ridership on Link has more than doubled since they expanded to the UW and Angle Lake. Almost all of the stations have seen a huge increase. SeaTac is an exception, as it saw the lowest increase, going from 5,571 riders to 5,626. Most of it potential ridership has already been realized.

        There are three types of riders using SeaTac Link:

        1) Employees. My guess is this is the biggest group, by far. About 32,000 people work at SeaTac. Based on the data found on, it is quite reasonable to expect a significant increase of riders from the south (and essentially none from the north). But I don’t expect this to be really big, for several reason. First, we didn’t see a big increase when Link was expanded to Angle Lake — the numbers actually went down. Second, Link doesn’t have that many stops. Third, a lot of airport workers work really early in the morning (before Link operates). I expect an increase the number of people commuting to SeaTac via Link, but we are talking hundreds, not thousands.

        2) People traveling to Seattle. Business travelers from out of town undoubtedly make up a big percentage of those riding Link from the airport. A large number of business travelers and visitors are headed downtown. Link makes that connection easier (and often faster) than the alternatives. I expect little to no increase as Link expands. Even the extension to Tacoma misses the mark, as it misses downtown Tacoma.

        3) People from Seattle headed out of town. A very low percentage of flyers take Link to the airport. I don’t know of any study, but it is easy to guess why. First, there is luggage. It is a pain to carry luggage on transit, especially during rush hour. Then there are the alternatives. It is easy to drop someone off at the airport, or pick them up. Regular cab service is expensive, but there are “limos”, as well as Lyft/Uber. There is a ton of parking by the airport, and surrounding it. Outside of rush-hour (when many airplanes depart) driving is much faster. Link is cheaper, but that isn’t likely a factor. Business travelers can expense the long term parking. Infrequent travelers can get someone to drop them off, or they simply consider it part of the cost of taking a plane (an inherently expensive endeavor).

        After Northgate, Link will have covered most of the walk-up destinations. This means the bulk of potential riders will arrive via a connecting bus, or by parking and riding. There will be fewer transfers when Link expands north, but it won’t be much faster (often it will be slower). Lynnwood to SeaTac will take an hour on Link. Driving takes about 45 minutes. For the average person in Lynnwood, driving would be considerably faster, since they wouldn’t have to get to Link.

        Based on all three categories, most of the increase in SeaTac ridership will come from the south. For that, we can look at the existing ridership. Relatively few ride the 574 to the airport (about 500 riders a day). Link will no doubt get a lot more, but it is unrealistic to expect that number to increase tenfold. My guess is they double it. That is 1,000 riders, the vast majority of which are starting from the south part of King County (not Pierce). Add in everything else (Northgate Link, etc.) and I think you would be happy to get an increase of 1,500. A significant number, but only when part of other ridership.

      15. ” It is easy to drop someone off at the airport, or pick them up. “

        From the north end the increase in riders will not driven by the airline passengers themselves, it will be driven by the ‘family taxi service drivers’ who aren’t interested in making the slog through downtown.

        “When is your flight? Hey, I hear there is a train that goes right to the airport. I tell you what, I’ll drop you off at the station!”

  44. Blog is dead. Since this blog is now infer life support, should we all start a sub Reddit channel? Easier to discuss snd post articles there. Think this blog has run its course

    1. No, I don’t want to get a Reddit account or read things on Reddit. I rarely read STB’s Facebook page. Martin and Frank and most of the authors seem to have fallen off the face of the earth, and the blog seems to be running on autopilot. Alex is to be commended for almost singlehandedly posting articles. I hope everyone is OK and is just temporarily busy, and we’ll find out soon what’s going on. In the meantime, articles are regularly smashing the 200-comment threshold so the community is still active and wants to talk about transit. I know I do. And I don’t want to go to some more corporate social media for it, where we’re just cogs in a wheel.

      1. @MO,

        STB has a FB page? I didn’t know…

        And the reason some of these blog posts are “smashing the 200 comment threshold” isn’t because they are meaningful or foment heated discussion, it’s because there are so few posts in general and so many people that just seem to need to post something even if it is about about nothing.

    2. @ALEX,

      You think?

      355 posts in on an 11 day old topic and nothing new at all? I think the blog owners have wandered off to the bar or been distracted by a pretty sunset or something. Because there ain’t much happening here.

    3. A public slack channel could be fun.

      The blog is fine. There are plenty of great blogs that only post a few times a month. If you want a new article every day, got the The Urbanist, or pay for news.

    4. You can go to the Urbanist, which posts daily, and watch bloggers try to out-woke each other. The comment section is mostly dead, though. Then there’s Metro’s blog, Metro Matters. But, not only does almost no one comment there, almost no one posts there, either.

      1. Metro Matters is for corporate announcements, not independent authors with transit ideas. So it only has an article when Metro wants to do a survey or announce a new direction.

    5. Frank and Martin both have school age kids and full time jobs. I imagine once it’s safe for the kids to go back to school (eg a vaccine for them), there will likely be more activity here.

  45. “And I don’t think we will see ST Express from Tacoma or Federal Way to Seattle go away. Not just because of travel time but also the additional walking time involved.”

    @JPB I think this will be one of the central issues when Link begins to operate its commuter oriented lines (Northgate Link and north of there, East Link, Link south of the airport).

    ST built a very long light rail system in a huge three county region without the density between population clusters, and then skimped on the coverage and stations in the population clusters so first/last mile access is a big issue, at both ends of Link, when folks tend to hate transfers, and first/last mile access begins at your doorstep.

    Express buses will continue to run peak hours from Northgate after Link opens, and my prediction will continue to run from the Issaquah region after East Link opens, although ST is desperate to get everyone on light rail to approach the fantastical ridership estimates in ST 2 and 3. I agree express buses from the Tacoma to Seattle area make sense after Link reaches Tacoma. Taking a bus to transfer to Link at Federal Way is the worst option IMO.

    The fact is once Link begins to operate at any distance it is much slower than cars and express buses, and even Sounder, with lots of stops where you don’t plan to get off and maybe don’t want to travel through, and for most time-of-trip is the critical factor. After all, why take transit over driving if there is no congestion and transit is slower?

    Some argue ST can tell riders yes, your trip will be longer on Link, and first/last mile access worse, and there may be more transfers, and Link does not go to a lot of places you might want to get to at the end of your trip, but you will like it, and you will take Link. My advice to ST is good luck. Everyone has a car in their garage, peak hour congestion may never return as it did, many will work from home, and ST will have to learn it must provide a better service, whether on a bus or train, if it wants riders. I just don’t think ST and a lot of transit riders can come to grips with the idea a bus can be better transit than a shiny train.

    Many on this blog love transit for transit sakes, but the vast majority of the world doesn’t like taking transit (especially to work), and only do it because they are forced to, from congestion to artificial parking costs including 20% parking taxes in Seattle. It would be a travesty if we spent $131 billion through 2041 and many ended up with worse transit.

    1. Those are Metro express buses. It’s Metro’s decision; ST has little to do with it. They’re not going to downtown itself; they’re going to SLU/First Hill where Link doesn’t go directly. And not every city or neighborhood has an express bus to SLU/First Hill. Only a couple corridors do. Everyone else has to transfer at Northgate.

    2. ‘Transit for transit’s sake’, or ‘urbanism for the sake of urbanism’, is a back-handed slap in the face to everyone. People here devote a lot of time to thinking through the implications of many different things, and with a very broad brush you are being entirely dismissive of people’s opinions.

      Just saying….

    3. “, and ST will have to learn it must provide a better service, whether on a bus or train, if it wants riders”

      This gets into one of the fundamental challenges of running a transit system. It’s very easy to provide drastically better service to any one person by simply concentrating a disproportionate amount of the budget into service covering that particular person’s commute. The problem is, money is finite, so in order to make one person’s service better, you have to make somebody else’s service worse. Often, there are a lot of subjective judgements involved that have no clear right/wrong answer and can become mired in general politics. For instance, do you spread out service so that every neighborhood gets something, or do you concentrate your resources on a small number of destinations that transit can serve really well and say “for everywhere else, there’s the car”? The latter is better for getting people with cars to least try out the bus, but the former is better for people that don’t.

      Sometimes, a change will make service better for some trips, worse for others, but still better overall. Some people will complain that they are being shafted as their commute is in the “worse” category, and are being asked to accept worse service so that others can get better service. At its worst, destinations get prioritized for reasons that have more to do with politicians believing they are important than actual ridership potential.

      RossB does a great job at explaining these tradeoffs and does a consistent job at advocating for the greater good, even if it results in an outcome that some riders won’t like.

      1. Ross consistently advocates for higher daily ridership. I wouldn’t assume that’s the same as the greater good.

      2. Ross consistently advocates for higher daily ridership. I wouldn’t assume that’s the same as the greater good.

        I like to think my arguments are a little more subtle than that. But then again, I will use ridership as a shorthand for a more detailed examination. If ridership goes down, it means that fewer people are benefiting from the investment in transit. It also means it is highly likely that there are lots of people who have a worse transit experience, but keep riding. You would have to have a major improvement in coverage (or some benefit to a minority of riders) to make up for that, and be able to make the argument that it is “for the greater good”. It happens, but not this time.

        In the case of this particular change, I believe it is for the common good, and that the author of this essay neglected to factor in the hidden service savings. Lakewood peak-direction riders will have a very minor detour, but the service savings are enormous. Some of that savings will go into making it a lot easier to get between Seattle and Tacoma in the middle of the day. That is a worthy trade-off, in my book. Oh, and on top of that, a handful of peak-direction riders from Lakewood will be able to get to the Tacoma Dome. Yes, I believe it will result in an increase in ridership (largely from midday riders) — but just in terms of capability, it is a worthy trade-off.

      3. Scenario A: 100 daily riders, 36,500 annual ridership
        Scenario B: 1,000 monthly riders, 12,000 annual ridership.

        Scenario B has lower ridership but more riders. It’s possible that in Scenario B, “more people benefit” from transit. If I take the bus every day because I don’t want to walk a few blocks to the gym, it’s not the same value if someone takes the bus once a month to visit the doctor.

        Your comments are on this blog are consistent, articulate, and knowledgeable. The tradeoffs discussed in this essay are complex, so I’d characterize your here arguments as nuanced as you meticulously work through the scenarios, but I wouldn’t call them subtle because your holy grail, total ridership, remains the same.

        Doesn’t mean you are wrong. Gross ridership is a very powerful & useful metric, and often it does indicate the ‘best’ option. But not always.

      4. Both types of trips are important, but for different reasons. Daily riders are the backbone of productivity (and sometimes the reason for overcrowding). Infrequent riders are a wider universe and are important for general political support for both ongoing operating subsidies and occasional capital projects. Finally, there is a third category of benefitting others — like parents wanting their child to get to university via transit (and not need a car) or businesses who want workers to get to work or meetings on time and without needing to provide parking; they may not personally use transit at all but they still benefit.

        Transit is one of the few public services that has a multitude of performance measures. That seems to stem from its gradual transition from private franchises to public agencies. How often do you see statistics on park use, library use or police responses?

      5. your holy grail, total ridership, remains the same.

        That is simply not true. I would never favor a system based solely on ridership. I definitely support coverage routes, and support some level of balance. Ridership is not the only metric I mention, either. I’ll often mention rider time saved. This is essentially the sum of all of the riders multiplied by how much time they saved with a change. This can often favor coverage routes. You might get more riders by going from 10 minutes to 8 minutes on a popular route, but a coverage route will save those riders a lot of extra time. Even that metric has its critics. For large projects, it tends to favor either major urban subways (e. g. the Second Avenue Subway) or longer distance commuter trips. The former because of the massive number of riders (half a million riders for a tiny line) while the latter saves a relative handful of riders a huge amount of time.

        But there are other considerations. That metric fell out favor for the reasons mentioned. It tended to favor well-to-do suburbanites, along with only a small number of those in the city. It became reasonable — using that metric — to skip over a low-income neighborhood to maximize ridership time savings from farther away. It is worth considering *who* benefits as well. If I mention just the one metric (ridership) it is often shorthand for all of the ideas. Ridership would be better. Ridership time would be better. Coverage would be good, and it would serve low income areas well.

        This was true of the bus restructure for Northgate. The emphasis on very expensive peak service will mean worse service outside of peak. I believe this will reduce ridership. Ridership time saved will be worse. There will be no coverage benefit. It will be worse for low income riders.

        This bus change is the opposite. Overall, riders will benefit in all of those ways.

        Likewise, an extension of the light rail from the Tacoma Dome to downtown Tacoma is similar. You get better ridership and better ridership time saved. You also get better fare recovery. ST could improve coverage with that money (i. e. prop up poorly performing routes). Some of those no doubt help low income riders. It provides for a better network for Pierce Transit, helping them in a similar manner. In this case, the emphasis is clearly on ridership, but the rest follow. This makes it different than the Northgate bus restructure, where the biggest problem is equity (although it fails in other ways as well).

      6. An increased number of riders means more fare revenue (assuming it’s not all people that already have a monthly pass). But better fare recovery requires that the expense of generating this ridership is less than the extra revenue. You’d have to get a lot of extra riders to cover the cost of building and operating this loop. I did a back of the napkin guess at cost based on a generous estimate of cost per service hour and I don’t think you get there.

      7. But better fare recovery requires that the expense of generating this ridership is less than the extra revenue. You’d have to get a lot of extra riders to cover the cost of building and operating this loop.

        Downtown Tacoma is not very far from the dome. It would be about 4 minutes between each potential stop (UW, north downtown, Tacoma General). It would be all surface (relatively cheap). I’m not saying it would pay for itself, but I’m saying that the overall subsidy for the South Sound section would go down if it got numbers similar to what Rainier Valley used to have. If it grew into what Rainier Valley has now, it might pay for itself.

        At worst it would be a huge subsidy for a handful of Tacoma riders, which is not that different than any aspect of Tacoma Dome Link. It would offer some hope of TOD, which is often the strongest argument for the project. It is really hard to see how that many people will benefit when Link gets to the dome. Nor can I see any reason why there would be much development around the stations — despite the hope of many. But if the train goes to downtown Tacoma, I could see an increase in development as a result. This is where Tacoma wants to grow, where it expects to grow, where it is best if they grow. Any little bit helps.

      8. Building Link to where people want to go is what will generate ridership.

        It is why y a Ballard station should be west of 15th, It’s why there should be a station in downtown Tacoma. It’s why there should be a station at the west seattle junction.

        And it’s why there should be a station on a First Hill.

      9. Downtown Tacoma is not very far from the dome. It would be about 4 minutes between each potential stop (UW, north downtown, Tacoma General).

        #1 – the DT loop proposed doesn’t cover the major employer without a transfer to the SC.

        ” DT Tacoma is not far form the dome.” Yet it’s made out like you need this extra duplicate loop because it’s why? In other comments it’s mentioned how strapped Pierce Co is for funding but super expensive duplication of what’s already built makes no sense. T Dome link extension is a Tier 1 project that’s not going to happen before 2023 so lots can change before then and has because of Covid and the work from home commute patterns. I saw no value in the one alternate that was east of the existing platforms. Other than that it’s going to the T Dome and what’s done now for capital expenses should align with that. DT loop or Mall/Lakewood extension is really a discussion a decade (or more) out.

  46. The mall is expanding as you write this. They are building Nordstrom rack, Ulta, and theater. It sounds like you need to come visit the mall sometime. It’s always busy and even has good transit connections

    1. They are putting in a rack? That sounds like terribly news. That means they will close the main nordy anchor, almost certainly. And Macys is closing 125 locations as well. They may be down to just a dying Penny’s by 2023. Malls without anchors are in a death spiral.

      On the bright side, Amazon distro centers have a few jobs maintaining the robot workforce.

      1. Bellevue downtown has had a Nordstrom Rack a block away from the main Nordstrom for years. They serve different markets and can coexist.

        Outside of the very top of the market (i.e. Bellevue Square), a successful mall today has little to do with department anchors and more to do with a good mix of essential services (grocery stores, healthcare) and services (restaurants, entertainment) alongside growth in housing to build repeat clientele.

  47. @rossb you proved my point all of those buses that serve downtown are coming from another part of the county. LINK isn’t going to add more ridership it’ll just take rider’s from the 13, 41, 400, 500, and 501 from the Tacoma Dome, 41 from East tacoma and the 500 & 501 from fife & Federal way. And it will still be replacing the 574 and possibly the 590s.

    Currently there is no direct Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall route and the Tacoma Mall LINK does little to gain new rider’s because it will still rely those routes you listed to feed it. The smarter option is run all routes through downtown (maximizing coverage) and ending at either Tacoma Dome (extending routes 2, 11, 13, 16, 28, 45, & 57) or 10th and Commerce ( 3, 41, 42, 48, 400, 500 and 501).

    Now there is another option that could work for both and that is an extension to the tacoma Mall that travels up to a station at 21st or 25th to serve the southern part of UW Tacoma and downtown before continuing to the mall. The bulk uf new construction will be filling in that area signicantly by the time LINK past the dome is being looked at. Malls have a long history of being major transit points especially in the Puget Sound, just look at the Tacoma Mall or capitol mall and even Northgate.

    1. Currently there is no direct Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall route

      Exactly. Because the folks who actually know a thing or two about transit will tell you that it won’t get many riders. Look at those numbers again. The mall is not a major transit destination. It is puny compared to downtown Tacoma.

      Of course Link will steal riders from buses. That is what good subways do! Holy cow, when Link got to the UW, it stole the highest transit corridor in the state (UW express service to downtown). It will steal even more as it moves north. The 41 — stolen. It will steal ridership from 49 and 67 (even though those will still run). But with all of that stealing, ridership will increase, because the trip will be much faster.

      In contrast, going to mall will steal little, and add little, because there simply aren’t that many people who will take transit to the mall. Seriously, who do you think is going to take Link to the mall? Do you think someone is going to drive to the park and ride in Federal Way or the Tacoma Dome to take a train to the mall? Or maybe they will park and ride from Kent — because of course, neither Kent nor Federal Way have a mall. Come on — that just doesn’t make any sense.

      Oh, and the Northgate area has good transit *despite* the mall. It has a fast bus that travels through the neighborhood, and manages to quickly get its riders to downtown. The mall is not the destination for the vast majority of trips. It is mostly residential trips *from* that area, although you also have a college, as well as plenty of medical clinics in the area (but nothing in the mall itself). Put it this way — the Northgate Mall could have burned down years ago, and from a transit perspective, nobody would have noticed.

      1. “Northgate Mall could have burned down years ago, and from a transit perspective, nobody would have noticed.” I think that illustrates how we are talking past each other. Pierce wants to serve the Mall-neighborhood, of which the Mall-building is less than a quarter of the footprint ( The growth opportunity of Tacoma Mall is more that just the Mall-building, though the Mall-building presumably is ripe for a large development, hopefully more ambitious than what Simon is doing at Northgate.

        And this comment also gets to the central tension for a major transportation project. Is the goal to enhance the quality of existing trips, or to create new trips? A Tacoma Mall extension is clearly a project to create new connections, most importantly connecting the two urban nodes of Tacoma, downtown & the mall-neighborhood, and is not about upgrading an existing high preforming bus corridor. The mall-neighborhood is more aspirational and actual urban in 2021, but we are talking about a project that begin until the 2040s. To me it seems totally plausible that Nalley Valley could be Tacoma’s Spring District/Bel-Red and Tacoma Mall could be Tacoma’s Northgate (the neighborhood) in a generation, and a Link extension is a part of the effort to create new urban neighborhoods.

      2. I think it would help the case for the Mall if Tacoma made some real effort to show they are serious about that area being more like Totem Lake than Northgate or Alderwood. Kirkland knows it can’t build 400′ buildings in it’s downtown and has expressed interest in that sort of development around Totem Lake. The development that’s well underway or already on line is pretty substantial. One huge difference is Evergreen Medical, the cities largest employer, has always been there and for that reason has had good transit. It would also help if Lakewood expressed interest but their piece of the pie is Sounder for at least the next 20 years. Much more likely they’d get DMU service long before any EIS to Lakewood is even proposed in the budget.

      3. Pierce wants to serve the Mall-neighborhood, of which the Mall-building is less than a quarter of the footprint

        Right, but again, that is a bad idea. Let’s assume for a second that Tacoma Mall becomes like Totem Lake. Great. Wonderful. So what would that mean for the Tacoma Mall; what would they have?

        1) Retail. It is still a mall, after all. There are jobs there, but most of the jobs are the type that are found all over the place. It is unlikely that someone would travel from Federal Way to the mall to work, since they can get a similar job much closer. The same is even more true for those from Seattle. In contrast, a job in downtown Tacoma is more likely to be professional, and the type rare in Federal Way, or be different enough to warrant a long commute from Seattle. People who live in Federal Way will commute to a job at Starbucks headquarters. They won’t commute to sell coffee at a Starbucks across the street.

        2) Residential. The addition of lots of big buildings in Totem Lake has dramatically increased the population density of the area (or will very soon). But it still isn’t that high. There is still too much space given over to the automobile. The same is true (or will be true) for the Tacoma Mall. Take away the parking, and you lose mall clients. You can get away with that in the city, but that won’t work in a very low density, suburban area, like that found surrounding the Tacoma Mall.

        Meanwhile, the area around the mall is mid-density residential. There are lots of apartments, although the design of them keeps density from getting especially high (again, too much space for cars). It is high relative to most of Pierce County, but not the highest. There are dozens and dozens of places in Seattle (most of which will never have rail) that are similar density.

        That’s about it. There is no college there. There are very few clinics, or offices. A few, just nothing like what Northgate has, and has had for a very long time. Malls get visitors, of course, but most would prefer driving. It doesn’t make sense to take the train to the Tacoma Mall from Federal Way — there are malls much closer (and people tend to drive to malls, anyway).

        At best, it is residential. This is a good thing, and the type of place that is worth serving with transit. But it makes no sense as a light rail extension from the Tacoma Dome. It is expensive to serve, and quite a ways from the dome. But the biggest problem is is there is no place to go *to*. Every stop south of SeaTac is suburban. Thus the nearest actual destination is SeaTac (a minor destination). Yes, eventually the train will get you to Seattle, but that is a very long train ride.

        In contrast, downtown Tacoma has professional jobs. It has jobs that people *will* commute longer distances to. There would be plenty of people commuting from the suburbs to the one urban area within miles. It is also cheap to serve (as explained in the Page 2 post, where we should be having this discussion). As Tacoma Mall adds more apartments, there will be more and more people commuting to downtown Tacoma. Except if the light rail goes to the mall, it won’t even connect to downtown Tacoma! Very few will take a two seat (or three-seat) ride. Again, this area will not have the kind of population density of Capitol Hill, let alone Belltown. At best it will be similar to Rainier Valley, but without the nearby destinations that drive transit ridership. It won’t be easy to serve — there is no way to focus on the biggest pockets of density, because they simply don’t exist. There would be a big park and ride lot, with the expectation that lots of riders will park and ride the train to … where exactly? Federal Way? Fife? Oh, and on top of all that, the mall area is adjacent to the major freeway in the area, something researchers have shown to be very bad for light rail ridership (

        The biggest weakness with the line south of downtown is the lack of destinations. It isn’t a problem in Rainier Valley — it is more urban (i. e. less car dependent) and still relatively close to major destinations. But it increasingly becomes an issue as the train goes further south. You get a commuter-train rider pattern, not a subway rider pattern. As the train heads into the city, people get on at every stop, but very few get off, until it reaches downtown. Ridership outside of peak is very low. All of this is very bad for ridership, which in turn hurts fare recovery. Some have predicted that ridership per mile will actually go *down* as the train goes further out. This is terrible for an agency, and the public in general. Not only does it mean that it doesn’t provide much value, but it means that ST will have less money for train frequency or bus service. An extension to the mall simply continues that trend. The mall is not close to the dome; the train will follow the freeway; there is little along the way. In contrast, the much smaller (and much cheaper) extension to downtown Tacoma would reverse the trend. You would get riders from several stops north of there, and likely have the first increase in ridership per mile in a really long time.

        To be clear, any extension past Federal Way is likely to be a very bad value. But if they decide to run the train to the Dome, the least they can do is connect to the Tacoma Dome. (Which again, is what the Page 2 post is all about).

      4. “Is the goal to enhance the quality of existing trips, or to create new trips?”

        They’re inseparable if planning is done right. Not just transit planning but land-use priorities and everything else. If a corridor has a large number of existing riders, and bidirectional travel to the smaller stations’ destinations, and mixed residential/commercial uses so at least some people can both live and work in the neighborhoods — then it’s a proven successful corridor. You install rail in these corridors to improve mobility options, increase capacity, and replace dozens of buses (which are less efficient and each one serves fewer destinations). That’s for the EXISTING ridership, because the corridor has been proven productive. After you’ve installed rail and appropriately upzoned the station areas, those areas continue to outperform for the same reasons they performed before, and ridership goes up. Ideally you’d make the entire city like those areas, and contract the suburban ring to reverse its excesses, and then you’d have a 15-minute city everywhere, and people would have many more choices where to live without a car, and the price gap between urban villages and other areas would equalize at a lower level, and people with children would be able to walk and ride to more places so they wouldn’t need cars as much.

        We’re currently pursuing some of these in a piecemeal. minimal way, so we’re not getting most of the benefits. Having a mass of 9-to-5 commuters from Pierce to King County and a trickle at other times, and focusing transit resources on those 9-5 commuters and neglecting everyone else, are a symptom of the problem. The problem is car-dependent areas and single-use zoning and housing costs that lead to these travel patterns and car mode share.

      5. “Northgate Mall could have burned down years ago, and from a transit perspective, nobody would have noticed.”

        I don’t think so. The way the streets are NG is a natural for a transfer point even if the mall never existed. It’s the connection from Balard to Lake City and the intercept point for I-5. It’s not far from the old highway 99. It may have even been better if the congestion created by the mall wasn’t there.

  48. Dude the 11 runs every 30 minutes and only takes 35 to 40 minutes depending on the time day to make the trip. Pierce transit started seeing a drop off in North end riders when the they tried to route all of the routes through 26th & Proctor.

    1. Maybe on weekdays, but check the weekend schedule. For anybody that has a job and wants to visit the park, the weekday schedule is meaningless.

      The 35-40 minutes is also in addition to the overhead of the untimed transfer from the 594. That means arriving at the park a full hour after the 594 reaches Tacoma dome. This on top of 40 minutes to reach Tacoma from Seattle, plus however long it takes to ride the KCM bus from home to downtown and the untimed connection to the 594 there. Add it all up, you’re looking at at least 2 hours.

      As I said earlier, the planned frequency bump on the 594 will probably shave about 15 minutes or so by reducing the wait time at these untimed connections. But, the #11 is still a severe limiting factor.

      1. Next year instead of the Ruston Runner maybe try an 11X that goes from DT to Pt Defiance. Run it weekends or Friday – Sunday only. See if it generates any ridership. Of course a new route takes some time to develop so the Park & points on the route need to work to get the word out. Big bus wraps all over the city about visit the Zoo this summer and lunch on the Bay. The fish shop is excellent so I’d grab some tuna to go and drive home from the T Dome with Sundays dinner for the grill.

  49. Dude but none of those routes will stop running downtown. Or along that corridors. It’s about maximizing service hours and service potential. All your advocating for is 3rd line to connect what is already connected. The best in the county.. also the routes your talking about link taking were Express routes. There are no express routes between downtown and federal way besides the 574. It’s not like LINK will be able to replace the 500 or the 501. Do you think people will ride the bus to the dome, get off walk and board a train to downtown, then hike up a hill to their destination or to catch their next transfer when the bus they are on takes them most likely to the same bus stop they need to be at to catch their next bus or further up the hill. No they will stay on the bus. Even the TLine will have better ridership potential than a “subway” to downtown. It atleast serves the stadium district, MLK Jr Way, and hill top and eventually will connect to the 2nd busiest transit center in the county. Until a Georgetown bypass is built and pierce county builds more density in Puyallup, Spanaway, North and West Tacoma, Link will never be viable financially in downtown Tacoma. LINK to the Mall only makes sense due to the cities future plans for the Mall area, South Tacoma and Nalley Valley.

    1. Do you think people will ride the bus to the dome, get off walk and board a train to downtown, then hike up a hill to their destination

      No, and that’s my point. In contrast, I do think people will ride the train to downtown Tacoma, get off the train, and walk to their job, in downtown Tacoma.

      LINK to the Mall only makes sense due to the cities future plans for the Mall area, South Tacoma and Nalley Valley.

      So let me get this straight. People won’t commute to downtown Tacoma, despite the professional jobs there. But they will commute to jobs in a mall? That makes no sense. They have malls in other suburbs. A mall job is a mall job. In contrast, people who take professional jobs are picky. They choose a job based on the corporate culture, the particular opportunities, or because they pay better. Do you think there are headhunters out there, trying to lure the best mall workers from Federal Way to Tacoma? Come on, man, get real.

      Oh, and as far as future development, the plans for the mall say this:

      After the Downtown center, the Tacoma Mall area is seen as the next highest area of concentrated development in the city

      So not only is downtown Tacoma way ahead of the mall, but they expect development in downtown to exceed that of the mall! The very document proposing these grand plans for the mall state clearly that downtown will grow faster ( Do you think Tacoma doesn’t have similar, even grander plans for downtown Tacoma? Really? How stupid do you think the city planners are?

      Oh, and who the hell is “Dude”? Was this meant to be a response to someone? For that matter, why are you making these arguments here, instead of the Page 2 post, which is dedicated to this very subject?

    2. “they will commute to jobs in a mall? That makes no sense. They have malls in other suburbs.”

      It’s not for the current mall retailers. It’s for future highrise office buildings with high-paying jobs. Downtown Tacoma is growing but it’s hindered by old-fashionedness and uncleanliness, or in any case this is a chance to build a large new greenfield development and do everything right. The mall would ideally densify and get more housing and upscale businesses, but even if the owners refuse, the development could proceed around it. That’s more or less the argument of the mall extension proponents.

      If Tacoma Mall is owned by Simon Malls, which is redeveloping Northgate, that’s a good sign. Although Simon declined to build up to the zoning limit, the only highrise-zoned block in the neighborhood. That’s disappointing. Our one opportunity for a New Westminster or Metrotown-like station area, and it’s slipping away. We could have an Amazon-sized headquarters in Northgate if the city and developers would prioritize it, and a company would doubtless come. Especially with Northgate on Link and two-line frequency and a one-seat ride to both downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue.

      1. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, don’t build light rail where they ain’t. Transit follows density, it does not create it (which is why most light rail lines should not be very long). And even then folks like Bellevue Mall don’t want transit, at least nearby. The point of malls is very large parking lots to attract folks who can afford to drive — mostly during non-peak hours — to buy lots of things to take home. Not light rail to get the workers there, or to live nearby.

        It is also helpful to remember the owner of Northgate Mall and Tacoma Mall, Simon Properties, when explaining why Northgate Mall was going with lots of parking and less TOD, stated the point of transit is to get shoplifters to their malls.

        The 592 needs to stop at Tacoma Dome for the riders ($). But it still will be better than truncating at Federal Way when Link opens. At the same time there won’t be the money to extend light rail to downtown Tacoma or the mall, ST and Tacoma will never abandon Line T, and the Dome is a sort of transit mall with lots of park and ride space like the rest of suburbia, buses, Sounder, light rail, and Line T, with the irony very few will be coming from Federal Way.

        It isn’t how I would have planned it, especially for the exorbitant cost, but it is what it is. If Line T won’t get abandoned then there is little chance Link will continue to downtown Tacoma (if there really is a downtown) which would be publicly admitting a billion dollar mistake, and there is absolutely no reason to run light rail to a mall when a mall is the antithesis of transit. So Tacoma Dome will be the end of the line. Thankfully since we are already at $131 billion for about 1/2 the riders post-pandemic as predicted in the levies.

  50. Oh my God. Where are all these commuters coming from on a LINK line that goes from federal Way through Fife and then to downtown Tacoma. You blatantly missing my point. the line as proposed to go downtown makes an extra step for commuters commuting out of tacoma. LINK to Downtown will see more people going to federal way or fife and Many more heading to the airport. The connections between commerce and the Tacoma Dome are already there. People won’t want to go down town from west Tacoma or south tacoma when they can go to the Dome.

    1. to go downtown makes an extra step for commuters commuting out of tacoma.

      Not really. If they park at the T Dome garage it doesn’t matter if the train is on a long loop through DT shadowing the SC. It’s merely a colossal waste of money.

    2. They won’t? I do. Every day.

      Most people I know around me (North Tacoma) don’t rely on transit, simply because transit in the north end is not useful enough. At the very least, it DOES get us downtown. Good thing we finally got scooter shares back for that first/last mile we desperately lack. Not everyone wants to own/drive a car.

  51. @Troy. I read your article and it makes sense.

    ST continues to build stations where people aren’t. Whether it’s Tacoma Dome in your example, or 14th in Ballard, or 148th, or any one of a number of other examples ST’s route choices will have profound negative impacts on the transit using public if they keep going the way they are.

    If we are going to spend billions to build it we really should build it right!

    1. Since you’re so aware ST is just wasting public dollars I assume you voted NO on ST3? And since you know the current system is fundamentally flawed support changing the way the ST board is determined, right?

    1. 401 comments.

      Of course the top-10 numbers are now out of kilter since people are piling into the few articles that exist even if they’re not the 10 most major topics.

      1. The heading could have been blank. After a while it would have gone to 700. Next topic: Busses.

        No pictures, no videos. Now Go.

      2. Jimmy, I don’t think a blank post or open thread would have this many comments. STB commenters bloviate the most when the topic has to do with an area where they don’t live. They pride themselves on knowing what’s best for others. The further away the town, the bigger the experts they are.

  52. On nice days when you woild most want to head to Ruston or Pt. Defiance, Ruston Way is a parking lot. Makes Alki look like an expressway. I can beat any car or bus handily on my bike if they give me 3 feet between the traffic and the crurb. Not a good bus route.

    Once you get away from division/6th, The two northend destinations of jote are UPS and proctor. You could probably shave 10 or 15 minutes off the 11 while still serving those locations by halvimg the stop spacing and running straight up 26th to Pearl.

  53. And actually, if you look at the time it takes to go from wright park to the zoo, Ruston Way is usually 15 minutes, (except on weekend cruising days where it would be longer) and driving through the neighborhoods is 16 minutes. So bypassing the significant ridership points of UPS and Proctor wouldnt save you much.

    1. Things take longer, and they are harder to due now because of covid. Hopefully the mods haven’t actually gotten it!

      1. No, this was happening even before Covid-19. When I brought it up then, people said if I didn’t like it I could submit stories for publication.

      2. Seems like the commitment to the site has waned. There is enough news from the Northgate opening that there should be articles. Heck, the Urbanist is taking over the eyeballs.

  54. I’ve been getting alerts of a significant number of trip cancellations every day of East Base/Bellevue Base trips. Routes like 255, 257, 271, 311, 542, 545, 550. I expect that this is due to operator shortages.

    Metro would do service a bigger favor by simply canceling route 542 completely and assigning those operators to maintain full service on the other routes. As it is, the route 542 is being truncated at Campus parkway, so it doesn’t reach the Link station, and route 255 riders are being recommended to transfer to route 545 at Yarrow Point or Evergreen Point if they are headed downtown, given the Montlake Bridge closure. So why not have the few 542 riders transfer to the 255 rather than have multiple bus routes with irregular unreliable schedules, one of which (542) isn’t doing much of use.

    It’s an ongoing issue since SDOT has just announced that there will be another five weekends of Montlake Bridge closures coming, as well as Husky game traffic starting this Saturday.

    Metro, can we think of the customers and do something more friendly than random cancellations and bad reroutes?

Comments are closed.