Imagine Tacoma – bLINK Extensions

Further to the Tacoma Light-Rail/Street Car Meeting last week, and having recently admired the ‘heights’ of the Sound Transit light-rail structures and stations at SeaTac Airport, imagine an extension of the bLINK up Stadium Way that has multiple urban design consequences:

Old City Hall Station
Relocate the ‘Theatre District’ Station further down the line so disembarking is at the foot of Old City Hall (see Clocks, Gateway, and Suburban Waters) and to lessen the disruption to South 9th Street – which will be important given the next item.

Rail to Ruston
With the removal of the Stadium Way on/off ramp to I-705 (restore the Historic View of Commencement Bay from Pacific Avenue!), the extension of the bLINK allows for a spur line to head along Schuster Parkway to connect Old Town, Ruston Way, Ruston and Point Defiance.

Stadium Way Hillside
This hillside is shifting and the roadway is starting to slough – so why not locate the light rail alongside the right-of-way so that the support structure can be designed to help stabilize the bank as well? This location also allows the light rail grade to be consistent up the hill, removes the congestion to traffic on Stadium Way, and presents a most amazing viewing opportunity for the commuter.

Stadium Corner
The introduction of a light-rail at the Stadium Corner could result in an urban design catastrophe. In order to make the corner without a side-grade issue, the rail most likely will need to rise prior to the corner – and thus provide a viaduct structure directly next to Stadium High School (not to mention how much it would totally screw-up the loading and unloading of the school buses, etc…). So why not turn the corner at Division and Stadium Way on a higher plane? With the ability to adjust the height of this corner over the long slope of Stadium Way, the rail line can turn the corner nice and flat and meet-up with Tacoma Avenue on-grade (blocking the grain elevator rather than the historic Stadium High School). With this alignment the light-rail can grind-off to a MLK Way Loop and/or head-off down Division to Sixth Avenue, Narrows and Gig Harbor.

But an even better idea may be to terminate the bLINK at Old City Hall and then connect up the Spanish Steps to a Broadway Trolley System – as it would be a much simpler and cost effective way to extend the system (man I wish I had thought of that).

Do you want to help the folks at Exit133 pay our bills and keep up with of all things Tacoma? Do you want to see even more coverage? Exit133 has always been free to read and comment, and it will stay that way. However, over the years, readers have contributed to the bank account to help us keep up our coverage of goings-on around town. Contribute and this message disappears!

Support Exit133



I agree that more light rail is needed in Tacoma and connecting to the stadium district should be the next step. However, I disagree with moving the Theatre District stop to Old City Hall. The Pantages Theater is one the the primary downtown destinations. The light rail stop needs to be as convenient as possible to the venue. If you move it further away, you will get some people who will not walk the extra two blocks. Light rail should pay attention to where people want to go, as well as where we want them to go in the future.

June 29, 2009 at 8:04 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


The <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> is a streetcar or light rail right now?  There’s a huge difference in cost, efficiancy, etc…  If it’s light rail, sell the current cars and get modern Chekoslavakian streetcars (not trollies) on that line instead so when additions to the line happen, it’s <span class=“caps”>WAY</span> less costly.  After all, when do you think Seattle will link up thier light rail system to Tacoma’s when there’s the sounder trains?  I’d suspect never.

I’d love to see a cable car line from dock street up 13th to <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> and back down 15th as well —-> or similar.  With your renderings here and that line, it’d really open up DT to growth all the way up the hill.

But, I think this is some of your best work David. Well done!

(PS-Man my spelling sucks!)

June 29, 2009 at 10:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Groban X-1a

At this point, I’d be happy if the darn thing just went somewhere besides 1.6 miles of downtown.

But alas! For we are Tacoma, and we will get the crumbs left over from what arrogant Seattle and Bellevue steal first.

When the economy finally really starts tanking, I’ll be happy to see those cities get what’s coming to them.

June 30, 2009 at 2:16 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

RR Anderson

@3 Ich bin ein Seattleite

June 30, 2009 at 3:13 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

crenshaw sepulveda

You can tell Seattle that they may take away our Russell, but they’ll never take… <span class=“caps”>OUR</span> Brown & Haley!

June 30, 2009 at 4:11 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Douglas Tooley

In Portland the Light Rail Max and Streetcar systems are at the same guage but completely seperate.  The biggest difference is in the power of the vehicle.  Floor heights are also different, but this doesn’t matter so much.

Long story short street cars and light rail can operate on the same track, just as buses and light rail can use the Seattle Tunnel with some relatively easy engineering ‘planning’.

This is important in deciding what to do with the roughly 80 million that is available to us now with last Fall’s Sound Transit measure.

Personally, I think we should be integrating our light rail system into I-5 with that 80 million – and the forthcoming I-5 <span class=“caps”>HOV</span> project with direct access <span class=“caps”>HOV</span> ramps, etc.  This might sound far out, but it is actually right at the edge of the prudent evolution of transit – check out the Seattle tunnel for a good example in a couple of weeks.

June 30, 2009 at 2:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I was driving down Stadium Way yesterday trying to picture the elevated light rail being there. The drive gave me the chance to admire Rainier, as I have hundreds of times before, and I fear the elevated tracks would block that view. We’d preserve the view of Stadium High (which have already been damaged once after construction of the gym/performing arts center) but we’d lose the view of our mountain.

Of course, I’m a big fan of the idea of moving the northernmost Link station to Old City Hall and transfer up the Spanish Steps to a Broadway Trolley that extends into the Stadium neighborhood, past Tacoma General to 6th Ave and the deeper North End neighborhoods. We really have to make a nice transition from Link light rail to a streetcar/trolley so that we can get more track-miles for our tax dollars, and that’s a pretty sweet transition. I’d hope that it would help spark development of Old City Hall, Elks Temple, and so on. Even sweeter if Pierce Transit took over the Elks Temple and nearby parking lot as was reportedly considered a while ago.

To me, the alternate idea is to can the idea of Link being light rail and convert the whole thing to a streetcar. Then you don’t need to transfer anywhere, although then there’s still the issue of how to get the streetcar up Stadium Way during rush hour and schoolbus congestion.

July 1, 2009 at 6:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

dolly varden

There have to be alternative pick-up, drop-off, and staging sites for the school buses.  It’s not like kids can’t walk an extra block or two if they have to.

July 1, 2009 at 9:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I lean towards branching off the <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> line at 25th. The new line would go up the hill and head north on Jefferson… which turns into Market… which turns into St. Helens… which could then head up to 6th Ave – and Hilltop – via the Stadium District. Of course also on Jefferson, the line could head south at some point to cross over I-5 and head to the Lincoln district.

Let’s just build it already!

July 5, 2009 at 3:19 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


If there’s only 1.6 miles built every ten years…  do the math.  Someone somewhere needs to put a streetcar package together for the Tacoma ballot.  Couple it with a roads measure and it might actually pass.

July 5, 2009 at 3:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


What a gift your Imagine Tacoma has been for opening minds and intiating converstation. I look forward to each one. Thanks.

July 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


How can we get this plan (or some variation of it) in the public eye so we can vote on it and get it going?

July 6, 2009 at 1:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


@8: There have to be alternative pick-up, drop-off, and staging sites for the school buses.

I’ve always been surprised that they didn’t just use the far side of the bowl.  It’s a side of the street that is dead of activity.  My guess is that the drivers don’t feel comfortable re-entering Tacoma Avenue without a signal.

July 6, 2009 at 3:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

jamie from thriceallamerican

I’m a fan of Morgan’s version, St. Helens has got to be the best neighborhood for taking the streetcar uphill, with good grade to match…  Assuming that we can’t modify the existing streetcar to make a transition a block uphill to Broadway somewhere before 9th (read=expensive), having a fork in the track down near 25th is a great solution that would allow continued service to the DT core on the existing tracks but also take a streetcar up the hill.

July 6, 2009 at 3:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


@9: north on Jefferson… which turns into Market… which turns into St. Helens…

I’ve been mulling this over and it seems to make a lot of sense for a streetcar line here.  It keeps the grade relatively flat and takes it by a good number of businesses.  I’m seeing stops at the massive 21st/Jefferson/Market; S. 15th South Side; S. 13th North Side; S. 9th South Side; 6th Ave South Side; S. 3rdish; and onto Division.

This alleviates two of the Stadium Way challenges: 1) slope stability & 2) lack of development potential.  These are important because of 1) sheer cost, including maintenance & 2) ability to spur additional growth and development.  Of course if we are talking an extension of the light rail line rather than streetcar it’s a different story.

July 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


@15 Your line alignment piqued my curiosity, so I busted out Gmaps’ altitude profiler for that route. (I put together a graphic too, its on flickr:

It’s a good alignment, with only one real grade concern from S25th/Pacific up the hill to Jefferson. It’s almost flat along Jefferson and Market, and has a slight uphill grade along St Helens as it approaches Division. There’s also plenty of possibilities for expansion west from there. (21st/I, 6th, <span class=“caps”>TCC</span>, etc.)

Another possibility got my attention, though: up to Jefferson, then south and west to South Tacoma Way via Center, South M (across the valley), and S 38th. This opens up another barrel of possibilities for So Tacoma. This route had few steep points.

July 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

jamie from thriceallamerican

@16 with only one real grade concern from S25th/Pacific up the hill to Jefferson

I bike this frequently coming home from the Sounder…there’s really only one really steep bit, just that last rise from the (abandoned) Prairie Line railroad tracks to Jefferson, which is less than a block.  A bit of regrading here could easily alleviate that steepness.

July 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


@16:up to Jefferson, then south

I hope that is part of the consideration, “where next?”  That seems to have been only cursorily examined with the Link line.  Now to expand the Link may prove so mind-numbingly difficult (i.e. expensive) we are creating a completely independent streetcar line.

July 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

This city is supposedly full of artists and the people of Tacoma supposedly like art, right?

So then why aren’t we art folk getting our collective asses in gear and creating attention in the public eye?

(as mentioned by #12)

OK, this is going to totally go over my my feedtacoma blog. We need to make some awesome propaganda-style mass transit posters and blanket this town. The wheatpaste will flow like water down the telephone poles!

In all seriousness, why aren’t we doing this?

Someone has to start it. I’ll step up to the plate.

July 9, 2009 at 4:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Post A New Comment

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Potentially Related Articles