Link Expansion: Choosing an Alignment

At a public meeting next Thursday, Sound Transit and the City of Tacoma will begin the public process portion of selecting an alignment for the future expansion of Tacoma's Link light rail system.

In 2013 the City of Tacoma chose a preferred "corridor" for the future expansion of the Link. That corridor identifies a general route north up the hill from downtown Tacoma to the Stadium District, turning up Division, and then again heading south to the MLK Business District. The next task in planning for the not yet funded expansion is to identify the specific "alignment" of that path - the streets and intersections through which the plan would have the Link travel.

The full route has been divided into two segments for evaluation. Segment A, the portion of the route between downtown Tacoma and Stadium Way; and Segment B, the portion of the route that runs from Division to South 19th through the Hilltop. Potential Segment A routes climb the hill out of downtown via one of three streets: Stadium Way, Broadway, or St. Helens, with variations on how those routes would get out of the downtown core. Two early options that involved passengers getting off and walking a block or two to transfer were nixed as impractical. Potential Segment B options are more straightforward: B1 would send the line out and back along MLK, while B2 would loop back at 19th along J Street. Read more about the proposed alignments previously from Exit133.

For each potential route, Sound Transit considered a few key questions. Would the route...

  • Improve travel time to the Tacoma Dome Station?
  • Avoid major environmental and community impacts?
  • Serve community destinations?
  • Spur economic development and other types of investment?
  • Ensure the project is affordable and cost-effective to construct?

At the January 9 meeting Sound Transit will share information with the public on how specific route alignments meet (or not) evaluation criteria, and on next steps for the project. They will also answer questions and take public comment on the alternatives.

None of the options quite meet the $150 million projected budget for the expansion, though option A1 comes the closest at an early estimated cost of $165 million. Sound Transit presentation materials show possible cost-saving options including an "interim terminus" at either 6th or 11th, and an increase in headway times from the planned 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Option B1 would also offer a $5 million savings over B2.

A4 and A5 options have already been eliminated. Some of the remaining alternatives have obvious issues - A2a and both A3 options, for example, would disrupt Theater Square to get from Commerce to Broadway or St. Helens. A3 options would require the elimination of four times as many parking spots as A1 and A2 options, and all the options except A1 pose potentially significant conflicts with existing utilities.

Any guesses how this selection process will end?

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Map Reader

I was once told one of the ways to influence public input into making a preferred choice is color.  Making the option you wish for the public to support stand out with red or other vibrant colors and make your least preferred route fade with a pale or neutral color.  Another trick is slightly bolder or lines that are 3-5% thicker.
What does this map say to you?

January 2, 2014 at 12:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Would it be more financially prudent if City of Tacoma bought a few used buses and ran them on all the routes highlighted on the map?

January 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Unfortunately the city would lose the millions of dollars of grant money attached to the project.  Albeit my disappointment that there isn’t enough money to complete one of the lines without a “strategic donor” lol…

January 3, 2014 at 12:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Enough money was spent on the Tacoma Link Light Rail to have had bus service serving all of Pierce County that lies within the ST taxing district to have provided world class bus service serving all residents who live therein. Light rail is incredibly inefficient in terms of service per dollar spent.

January 3, 2014 at 10:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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True, but voters voted for light rail.  The grants provided are for light rail.

January 3, 2014 at 12:31 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Read SoundMove, the initiative that the voters passed in ‘96 and there are more promises made that will never kept than there were promises made that will be kept. The court has come back and said that the language in the proposition means anything bureaucrats say it means.

January 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Today I also read about Region’s trails, including Prairie Line, win federal grants Read more here:

So this makes me wonder just exactly what percentage of the City of Tacoma’s resources e.g. time, effort and money has the City of Tacoma poured into the downtown area and more importantly, at this point, what percentage of our resources is the City planning to spend in the downtown area in the future? I would think that this question would be a very important piece of information for City Council members who represent districts that are still having their service levels cut in order to continue to pour money into this one district.

Friends, given the City of Tacoma’s GIS capabilities these numbers can be reported and a 3-D graphical representation mapped showing what the dichotomy is. These numbers can be queried on a block by block basis even. This is technology our tax dollars are paying for and I say it is high time our district representatives on the Council DEMAND that it be provided.

January 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Without more study, I’d be hasty in making any decisions.  I would venture to say the Stadium Way route (A1) would be the least favorable—too far down the hill from potential users.

January 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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You are absolutely correct.  Stadium way will slow traffic that commute that major arterial every day and nobody will ride it because it is too far down the hill from all of the current and potential commerce on st.helens. A3 is the best option for future success.

January 5, 2014 at 10:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Do the writers at Exit133 have opinions on this at all?  I mean, I know that Exit133 isn’t the Slog, and there isn’t the need to be that abrasive in Tacoma, but shouldn’t the writer of this post have an opinion (any opinion?) on what should be built?  We have only been talking about this for nearly ten years.

I guess we’ll have to look to Post Defiance for actual commentary on important issues affecting the city and not just rebroadcasts of the public service announcements.  Personally, I posted on this a month and a half ago after Sound Transit’s presentation to the Council subcommittee.

January 2, 2014 at 9:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’m very in favor of the expansion of dedicated rail but by the looks of this there isn’t enough money to build any of them?  There also has been no announcement of the missing 50 million from “donors” connected to the project, making the budget only 100 million, when the cheapest project is 165 million?  What steps are being done?  How can you make an educated decision on what line to choose when there isn’t enough money to build any of them?

January 3, 2014 at 1:12 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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A3 is vital to success.  With the number of businesses and commercial establishments along that route you could have riders day and night going to that area of town.  A1 is a passthrough route and a waste.  A2 would only attract condo dwellers and bring limited ridership. B2 gives people at the hospital more options and increases the chances of success for businesses and increases commerce along the entire loop.  If we want success and increased ridership and development along the routes, these are the absolute best options.

January 5, 2014 at 10:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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B1 is better because splitting “there” and “back” routes onto two streets confuses people and makes for longer walks to everywhere.

I’m guessing B1 & A1.  A3 is better but money is going to lead to the choice of A1, which has a gentler slope as well.

January 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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A1 will be a nightmare with the Link trains slowing and stopping traffic. Thousands use Stadium to get to and from the freeway everyday. A3 will severely disrupt the Theater District since they have trucks that need to park there on the route for many hours to load, unload.
A2 is the best option, least impact to residents and businesses and will serve the most since it is in the middle of the two and there are a number of large apartment buildings close to Broadway.

January 23, 2014 at 9:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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