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Link Expansion: Is It The Journey Or The Destination?
It seems that the LINK expansion alternative conversation that was supposed to be on track to producing a preferred alternative for further study has been derailed… Okay, maybe not derailed, but we couldn’t resist the puns.
Last we wrote, the conversation about an expansion of Sound Transit services within Tacoma had narrowed a wide field of possible corridors down to three top picks, one of which was supposed to be recommended for further study.
Now the City Council has asked Sound Transit to consider another option.
The alternative, proposed by Councilmember Boe at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting, with support from Mayor Strickland, is being called a “hybrid option.” It would take parts of the C1 and E2 alternatives already considered as a part of the public comment process, and combine them into a new transit corridor option. The intent is that this new corridor could serve as a kind of spine or central line for a future transit system in Tacoma – an attempt to free the Link expansion conversation of some of the constraints posed by a system based on the existing downtown line.
According to Boe, the hybrid route would give greater potential for connections to other parts of Tacoma. The proposed solution doesn’t specify roads, but identifies endpoints as target destinations for the expansion: one at 6th and MLK, and another in the vicinity of East 29th and Portland Avenue.
At this point, the Council is still not choosing one extension; as Broadnax said at last week’s meeting, this is not a decision point, it’s a request to add another option for consideration. Aside from questions of cost and feasibility of the proposal, questions were also raised about the mode of transit – both for this proposal and for the others under consideration – and whether there might exist more appropriate technologies than light rail for Tacoma’s topography and transit goals.
The original intent of the existing Link line, as Boe described it, was to function as a commuter shuttle between the downtown core and the Tacoma Dome transit center. This new proposal asks us to consider that existing line as one line of many future lines making up a larger system. Considered from the perspective of creating a central nervous system for Tacoma’s transit future, where does it make the most sense to locate the spine of Tacoma’s transit system? Does this better accomplish the goal of improving mobility and access to the regional transit system by connecting the existing Tacoma Link with the City’s major employment, residential, and activity centers?
Is it too late to think more comprehensively about the expansion?
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