Council Moves Toward Decision on Link Expansion

The Tacoma City Council will be expressing support for one of the alternatives discussed for the expansion of Tacoma’s Link light rail in a resolution appearing on next week’s City Council meeting agenda.

Although the resolution request on the pending agenda so far only reads “Supporting the Tacoma Link light rail system expansion project to create a significant and important investment in Tacoma and an important addition to the regional transit system,” the magic 8-ball seems to suggest that Council is likely to choose the E1 North Downtown Central Corridor alignment for the project. The E1 route would extend the current Link route from its north end, up to the Stadium District, where it would hang a left, and head for the MLK corridor, turning south again, and running the length of the Hilltop neighborhood/medical mile corridor.

At Tuesday’s study session an informal head count had a majority of council members voicing support for the E1 alternative, although the numbers were far from unanimous. Supporters of this alignment argue that the route will draw high ridership numbers from already dense neighborhoods, and help to drive development in the Hilltop. A recommendation that came out of the recent visit to Tacoma by the Urban Land Institute might be of interest in this discussion; ULI experts suggested that the focus in developing the Hilltop be less on the north/south MLK corridor, and more on east/west connectors with other neighborhoods and downtown.

We also heard support for the C1 options which would extend the Link route to the east side. Supporters of that route argue that it would not only connect east side residents to jobs, services, and other destinations, but it would also help to drive development along a corridor with a lot of potential, both in terms of available space, and zoned capacity. The News Tribune reports that the Puyallup Tribe would be willing to consider a significant contribution to project costs to see a route that serves Portland Avenue. Other arguments in favor of the C1 route are that it would better serve City-owned assets like the Dome, Convention Center, and others; and that

Although MLK seems to be emerging at the top of the list, Council doesn’t formally make its preference known until Tuesday’s resolution.

This topic has gotten a lot of coverage and been the center of quite a few heated discussions about transit, priorities, and the kind of city Tacoma wants to be. So, are you tired of the debate, or are you fired up to keep the discussion moving?

Previously from Exit133: Tacoma Link Expansion, Is It The Journey Or The Destination?

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Erik B.

Congratulations to the Tacoma City Council for their work on the issue.  I think Tacoma is going to get a great result.

There were two intra city Link expansion routes that had the potential to benefit Tacoma.

1) Stadium – 6th Avenue line

2) Stadium – <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> line.

Despite the expected politics going on, Tacomans are fortunate that the second was picked, although the first would have been my choice.

To have not connected the nearby high density node of Stadium would have resulted in minuscule ridership.

As for the economic development consideration that received a lot of press, significant ridership would still have been required.

No developer is going to start building tons of housing near the Link track if they see that streetcars are going back and forth empty all day.

Once this part of Link gets built, others can soon be considered.

For more analysis see Chris Karnes article:

“6th Avenue anything but “Built out”


April 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Here comes the gentrification of Hilltop, right Rize?  I suppose Hilltop residents oppose this extension of LinkLR for fear of big-bad-developers coming in and raising rents, or worse yet, evicting tenants to build the very buildings that the city is trying to encourage… Just playing into the anti-Hilltop-progress movement that recent Volcano and Post Defiance comments have seemed to advocate.

Erik B, thanks for the link.  And thanks to Chris for bearing light on Boe’s exaggerated comment about 6th Ave being totally built out… far from it of course. 

I’m psyched that the Council is supporting an alignment that serves Stadium District.  And bummed that said extension takes a dog-leg left.  It’d be 5-times faster just to walk the 6 blocks to downtown from <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> than to hop on the Link.  So we can expect that the <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> extension will contribute very little to ridership, even if businesses and high-density residential increase on <span class=“caps”>MLK</span>.

April 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik B.

Reason, comparative city and best practices seem to be prevailing on the issue.

In tomorrow’s Sunday edition, the News Tribune will endorse the E1 Stadium <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> route for the Link extension as well:There wasn’t an obvious “best” among the options for extending Link light rail further into Tacoma. But the City Council has tentatively chosen a very good one: the “E-1 North Downtown Central Corridor.”

Now all the city needs is to formally vote for it, get approval for its recommendation from the Sound Transit board, win a $50 million federal grant and find another $50 million or so from some other unidentified source.

The proposal that the council majority plans to recommend is a $133 million, 2.3-mile route from downtown to the Stadium District, west along Sixth Avenue and south along Martin Luther King Jr. Way to South 19th Street. It would extend the existing 1.6-mile line between the Dome District and its current terminus near South Ninth and Commerce streets in the Theater District.

But the E-1 selection – the first or second choice of six of nine City Council members – is a defendable one. It would connect job centers downtown and the city’s “Medical Mile” of health-care facilities to densely populated neighborhoods – a built-in ridership base.


April 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Buck Futz

I bet they’ll still get their Hilltop to Casino express, one way or another. Sad.

April 28, 2013 at 11:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Hey, the Hilltop Casino express is the only route that is based in reality. The Puyallup Tribe is going to kick down $$$ for it. Nobody is going get lawyers to stop it. It’s going to make a really run down part of town better. If they did try to build a rail line down 6th ave, the small business owners will fight the thing tooth and nail, because after 3 years of endless construction, they would all be broke. Everything you and I love about 6th ave would die off.

April 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mofo from the Hood

<span class=“caps”>DID</span> <span class=“caps”>YOU</span> <span class=“caps”>KNOW</span>? The proposed Link circulator from Hilltop to the casino is code named “The Broke Sucka Express.”

April 29, 2013 at 8:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jim C

So what should we name the line proposed to deliver riders from one cluster of bars near a college campus to another cluster of bars near a college campus?  The “Maybe I Should Be Doing Something More Productive With My Life”-a-rail?

April 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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@Mofo:  Perhaps shortening that to just “Broke Sucka”, or “BS” would work better…

April 29, 2013 at 4:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Buck Futz

Think of it now:

Pegasus Station, Emerald Queen Station, Gas Station Station.

April 29, 2013 at 11:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Pegasus station?!? I’d sorta of miss that place, even though the Harvester would still be around. But there isn’t much to miss if the Link rolls though that section of town, and that’s why it needs to go there. Anybody here want to see the Red Hot knocked down for a huge Red Robin? Wanna see Valhalla pack up and move to Seattle? Be careful what you wish for with the Link ploughing up the North End.

April 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’d say run it down Tacoma Avenue instead of <span class=“caps”>MLK</span>.  Block for block, you could get it to 25th Street on Tacoma Ave.  Then, use the $17m ($150m minus $133m for this route equals $17m) to build a sky tram up 11th that stops at Pacific Avenue, Tacoma Avenue, and <span class=“caps”>MLK</span>.  Then you’ve served the entire downtown core, mid-hill and all.

May 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tacoma Ave gives the system a spine to build off of in the future, lots of development mid-hill, addresses the hill as a walking concern, and goes by many more foot-traffic areas than the hospitals.  Even the experts say that servicing the hospitals shouldn’t be a priority… but mid-<span class=“caps”>MLK</span> at 11th is where a great east-west connection should be.  The above routes at comment #11 solve these issues and almost all party’s concerns.

May 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tacoma Ave will get its day, eventually.  Not this go around, and not the next, but the E-1 alignment does intersect with North 1st and Tacoma Ave, so it’s possible to make the connection at some point in the future.

Traversing the valley over I-5 is going to be a challenge, though.  Not going to be cheap.

May 3, 2013 at 9:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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