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Tacoma LINK Alternatives: ... And Then There Were 3

Here’s the latest on the Tacoma Link Light Rail expansion conversation: the list has been narrowed yet again, now down to three possible preferred alternatives. 

At this Tuesday’s City Council study session, Sound Transit presented its latest recommendations, assessed on criteria associated with each of six main criteria.

  1. Improve mobility and transportation access for Tacoma residents and visitors
  2. Increase transit ridership within the City of Tacoma
  3. Serve underserved neighborhoods and communities in the City of Tacoma
  4. Use transit to spur economic development and other types of investments
  5. Ensure that the project is environmentally sensitive and sustainable
  6. Establish a project that is competitive for federal funding

A draft chart shows how the six routes compare on those goals and criteria.


Coming out of that process, Sound Transit identified three top routes, which were presented to Council:  North End Central (B1), Eastside (C1), and North Downtown Central (E1) (see above map).  The Council now needs to consider the alternatives and make a decision on which alternative it prefers.  Council members gave some idea as to their priorities, and raised questions as well.  At the logistical level, an important question going forward will be how much value is placed on potential future development, and how much on existing ridership potential. 

From a funding perspective, it’s clear that whatever project is chosen, it will be important to keep federal grant criteria in mind.  Projects are being considered under a $150 million threshold that makes them eligible for a Federal small starts grant, which would bring $50 million from federal funds, and $50 million from Sound Transit, with a remaining $50 million to be raised from partners in the community. 

Next Steps
March 14 – Sound Transit Capital Committee Briefing
March 19 – Open House at UWT to present the corridor alternatives evaluation
March 20 – Stakeholder Roundtable to gather input
April 2 – Tacoma City Council Study Session
April 11 – Sound Transit Capital Committee
April 25 – Sound Transit Board

Once the Sound Transit Board has identified a preferred alternative, the next steps will include the environmental review and engineering phases, and a consideration of the chosen corridor on a block-by-block basis to choose the specific streets down which the LINK expansion would run.

As our City Council considers its goals for the LINK expansion, what are your goals?  If we’re going to pursue this project, should we be striking off into underdeveloped areas with great potential for growth?  Or should we be looking to connect already developed neighborhoods with existing riders?  The ultimate pot of gold at the end of the LINK rainbow is the ever tricky “economic development,” but what exactly does that look like?

Download presentation materials here (pdf) or find the full February 26 presentation in the TV Tacoma study session archives.

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Great post!  Got to it before I could.

Really, from what I read from Council discussions on Tuesday, we’re down to two alignments, because councilmembers want to serve the most riders and C1 doesn’t have as much projected ridership.

I’ve requested that in the resolution to the Sound Transit Board, that the City Council create room for environmental review and engineering of an additional extension if the funding can be found locally.  <span class=“caps”>LID</span>’s for both 6th Ave and <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> are both feasible and both routes could yield significant increases in ridership.

March 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Stephen Battey

I’d personally like to see light rail extended along 6th, the businesses in those neighborhoods could really use the benefits of increased access and it would boost desirability of the neighborhood, increasing the economy for the entire city as well as improving values of homes through the area.

March 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


How about the B1 entention to Sprague and the E1 extension to 13th?  If those neighborhoods want more rail, make the do a <span class=“caps”>LID</span>.

March 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Looking at the <span class=“caps”>PDF</span>, C1 is the winner and truly will benefit working class people that need the service more than other parts of the city.  That part of the city could really use the link for many reasons, getting people to work is one of them and that area is underserved.  6th avenue does not need it, they have plenty, <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> either, they have the influx of medical facilities that can help their growth spurt, Portland ave, lacks catalysts and the link could be it.

March 1, 2013 at 9:31 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

fred davie

If the Link doesn’t charge fares then these new routes are going to siphon off the fare-paying Pierce Transit passengers. That will further depress Pierce Transit and result in even <span class=“caps”>HIGHER</span> sales taxes.

March 1, 2013 at 10:23 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


I don’t see the need for this extension to go either down 6th Avenue nor <span class=“caps”>MLK</span>.  6th Avenue is already bustling, and the current combination of foot traffic and automobile traffic is hassle enough.  Adding a streetcar to this mix, on what is already a narrow thoroughfare, seems like a really bad idea.  And the <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> path, to me, just isn’t far enough away from the current line; it’s within walking distance of the existing track.  We’d not be doing our city a favor by putting the new line so close.

That said, I think we are badly in need of an extension that goes through the Stadium district to Sprague.  That is the area of Tacoma’s highest population density, and with ridership being the key to the Link’s success, it makes sense to service this deep cluster of potential riders.

Has anyone considered taking the streetcar on the old line along South 12th?

March 2, 2013 at 10:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply


I think that alternative forms of transport and mobility to the <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> should be considered too.

One big problem is that in many areas of Tacoma there are those darn hills.Here is a form of transportation that would work on the Hills of Downtown Tacoma or Mccarver Street off of Ruston Way or N 30th street off of Shuster Parkway.It’s called a Funicular and they are very energy efficient.


Also how about some Aerial Tramways.They would have spectacular views and would be fun to ride in.


March 3, 2013 at 9:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply


6th Ave, is the clear winner – it links the 6th Ave. shops, businesses and <span class=“caps”>UPS</span> with downtown restaurants and <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> – <span class=“caps”>HELLO</span>!  Student ridership win.  Take away the on-street parking if you’re concerned about congestion and keep it running until 2am for the bar scenes to link-up too.  We need a very strong economic core from which the rest of the city can grow from.

March 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


6th ave, Stadium District, downtown, Tacoma Dome Station!  Bring it!

March 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

David Boe

OK you 6th Avenue proponents – let me ask you this.  Would you prefer to drop down from the Stadium District down Stadium Way connecting you to the current <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> – or – what about going down St. Helens/Market/Jefferson to S. 25th which could connect you to:  Temple Theater, Hub/Doyles/Kings, Maxwells, City Hall, Rialto and Urban Grace, Market to Market, the <span class=“caps”>YMCA</span>, Upper Murano/Bicentenial Pavilion, Regence, Convention Center, middle of <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> campus, new <span class=“caps”>UWT</span>/YMCA facility, Brewery District, and the top end of the Prairie Line as you go by many, many, vacant sites ripe for high-density Transit Oriented Developments – and provides for double the number of trains going to the T-Dome to shuttle for events?

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



Let’s not touch Stadium Way once this current improvement underway is complete.  Stay on Division and hang a right on St. Helens. But from there to the T-dome I do think it’s a bit duplicitous to have two parallel lines. I’d prefer a jog at S. 9th to link the old and the new, if grade weren’t an issue. So long as the new line makes it to the T-dome from 6th Ave and the Stadium District, it’s a win.

March 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

the usual jamie

I’ve always been annoyed at the current Link terminus at Commerce since St. Helens is clearly a better corridor than Stadium Way. It’s just the redundancy question if we run parallel tracks…

March 4, 2013 at 3:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


David – Adding streetcar on Market <span class=“caps”>AND</span> St. Helens duplicates the existing alignment two blocks up the hill.  That’s really expensive – both in terms of capital <span class=“caps”>AND</span> ongoing operating.  It also means that we will be oversaturating south downtown with rail transit at the expense of the neighborhoods, while at the same time not connecting to any additional employment centers.  Using St. Helens versus Stadium Way could be explored though in the environmental review phase.  I agree, it’s ideal to use St. Helens if we can come up with the funding – but only if it’s not at the expense of reaching other mixed use centers.

<span class=“caps”>UWT</span> and City Hall are already accessible via light rail and the Temple Theater and Doyles/Hub/Kings are close to a potential rail stop off of N. 1st and Tacoma if we pick any variant of B1 or E1.

What needs stressing is that 6th Avenue would bring a diverse and reliable base of ridership in the form of students (<span class=“caps”>UPS</span>, Evergreen, Stadium, <span class=“caps”>SOTA</span>, <span class=“caps”>UWT</span>), commuters (to DT Tacoma, Tacoma General, Tacoma Dome), and visitors (Museum row, 6th Avenue).  It’s not hard to picture this line being used at all times of the day, from early morning commuters, to mid-day lunch goers to late night entertainment all along the line.

March 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


I love David Boe’s idea.  It creates two parallel streetcar lines within walking from each other distance downtown.  Walking from Commerce to Market street to get on another streetcar will create foot traffic likely through the center of the old Broadway shopping district.  It would infill many vacant lots along the route through an area of downtown that could use it.  It serves an up and coming area of south downtown (big plans for this area) and the line isn’t so far up the hill that you can’t walk between them.  In fact, it creates a four block wide swath of property right in the downtown core that “touches” tracks.

If you’re worried about redundancy of tracks, don’t.  For proof of the value of tracks only a block or two from each other, check out this map that illustrates the Portland system and how they planned theirs out.  Portland’s system is highly successful and often held up as the reason why many municipalities have wanted to do streetcar.  Note that downtown, the tracks separate onto two streets parallel to achieve foot traffic between them. 


David’s plan creates much needed foot traffic where it’s sorely needed, it creates opportunity for density in the core, and sandwiches the old Broadway shopping district with tracks.  I love it!

March 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Key difference between Portland Streetcar and Tacoma Link is that Portland operates on single track on one way streets on flat ground. Tacoma’s hills are 10% grade east west and we haven’t yet built a rail transit method to access downtown from any Tacoma neighborhood, when the Portland situation has <span class=“caps”>MAX</span> light rail feeding the streetcar circulator system downtown.

Tacoma Link to <span class=“caps”>TCC</span> via 6th avenue is projected to yield 15,000 passengers a day. What additional passengers are we picking up two blocks away – along parallel track? The <span class=“caps”>FTA</span> and Sound Transit Board won’t take up an idea like this if it doesn’t have any serious numbers to answer these questions.

March 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


@Chris:  So, you’re saying it’s a bad idea to run streetcar out to the suburbs and it’s a better idea to run heavier/more-capacity light rail trains out <span class=“caps”>THROUGH</span> (but also stopping there) those suburbs to neighboring cities? Then have a streetcar system in the downtown core fed by these longer range heavier light rail trains? 

According to this philosophy, why build the B1 line at all?  Why not wait for light rail to Gig Harbor and run the line close to 6th ave and those suburban destinations?

March 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Jim C

One aspect of the B1 route that confuses me is the fact that a large portion of the proposed line (between I and Sprague streets) is a residential neighborhood, unless you count Frisko Freeze, and there doesn’t appear to be the potential for redeveloping as mixed-use since these are single-family properties.  Unless I’m missing something.

I also wonder, if you asked some actual 6th Ave district business owners, their opinions on removing street parking stalls and the Link’s potential impact on their businesses.  A quick look at the retail situation on and around Commerce Street and the recent experiences at Freighthouse Square might offer a clue.

Also, not for nothing, facilitating 2 AM cross-city bar crawls isn’t going to do much to develop the city’s economy.  Neither would, in my opinion, using UW student ridership as a factor: Tacoma’s student population is seasonal by nature, the summers downtown get very quiet.  Why not design our transit system to develop “our” city, not extend the UW campus?

March 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


What I’m saying is that for transit to be used it needs to provide mobility and access between areas efficiently. If you chose to make transit inefficient because it connects nothing or duplicates existing routing, all you do is double your operating costs and halve your ridership.  The project then becomes an example of “Symbolic transit” that yields neither improvements to mobility or access.

March 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Ben Schiendelman

Just to weigh in here as a transit advocate – loops always provide a lower quality of service than having two ways on one street. For every situation where it appears they offer better service in one direction, they offer worse service in the other. Because people decide on their mode of travel based on the worst of the two directions, this reduces the number of passengers and the cost effectiveness of loops and couplets. They should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, and it’s far from necessary here. B1 looks like by far the best choice.

March 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


When talking about the extension, it is more important to talk about density, economic, and employment development than possible current ridership.  Here is the plan for the loop that just opened up in Portland this last September.  Note the entire document talks about these things as <span class=“caps”>THE</span> reason to advance streetcar. 


Portland has a very highly successful system.  That’s because they view it as an economic tool that becomes a transit tool in time.

I think people need to be careful for what they wish for on the 6th Avenue alignment.

March 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Bruce Nourish

“When talking about the extension, it is more important to talk about density, economic, and employment development than possible current ridership.”

No, no, no, you’ve got it backwards. If you build a system for mobility — i.e. the ability to get around without a car — and zone for the density you want (assuming there’s redevelopable property), you will get that density. If you build pointless streetcar tracks going in circles you will get a very expensive bus going in circles.

How many of you want to travel in circles? Oh, nobody? I didn’t think so. How many <span class=“caps”>NYC</span> Subway lines go in circles? None, right?

Let’s put that bad idea to bed.

March 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


I agree with Chris and Ben.  I like the route up Stadium Way (not St. Helens) to 6th.  I think simpler is better here, and it’s still easy to get all the places David mentions from that route.

March 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


The fewer transfers the better. David Boe’s idea is good within itself, but it forces an extra and unneeded transfer.

I remember talking to a transit planner once, and he had statistics on how many riders are lost for each time there is a transfer. And that once it is necessry to transfer 3 times, almost all riders are lost.

March 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Dan H.

Another option to get to St. Helens would be to connect to the existing line through the large parking lot near Commerce and 15th then head down Broadway until it becomes St. Helens at 9th St.  The Problem there would be that all of the current track after the convention center would go to waste.  All of the money spent to redo the track from 15th to 9th would probably mean you wouldn’t get far on 6th if you get there at all.  You might run out of money by the timeyou got to Tacoma General.  If I was planning a brand new line from the Tacoma Dome to 6th Ave <span class=“caps”>MUC</span> (mixed use center) I’d go with that route, because it is demonstrably better than Stadium Way, but it is not enough better to justify spending limited resources on duplicating what we already have.  If you duplicated the track on Market all the way to UW, you might not even make it past Stadium Highschool with the funds available.  At this point in time Stadium Way is the way to go.  I’m in favor of 6th Ave as the destination personally, but <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> would be a worthy route.  I’m just glad the stupid options like Pacific Highway have been eliminated.

March 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


@Bruce:  I’m not saying to not build it for mobility.  I’m saying that I think it’s important to look at what the streetcar will do for development where it’s put and some thought needs to go into that.  If it goes down 6th Avenue, what does that mean for that street?  Are people prepared for infill in the form of 2-6 story mixed use developments there?  Is that the best and highest use of the expansion of the system?  Is this development better off downtown or elsewhere?

I think people who think that 6th Avenue is a great route because streetcar is a better and more reliable form or transportation are wrong.  Why?  Because this thought process leaves out so many variables of this expansion. For instance, what will happen to parking there?  Can the area survive a streetcar if it means diminished parking post-construction?  Do the residents who own homes within blocks of there want the new development there?  Will the placement actually alter the current street so much that it becomes something entirely different than it is today?

And, anytime a transit thoroughfare has been built from a city center to an outlying area, it helps the outlying region more than the city center.  Because, if you’re a developer of property, are you going to build along an area where lots are $300k or lots that are $1.5 million on the same transit corridor?  Proof of this?  Look at what happened to Tacoma when Hwy 99 was built in 1938 – people moved outwards from the core.  Then I-5 happened in the 1960’s and people moved out from the core.  Building another major transit route out of the downtown will hurt downtown and help wherever the route goes.  If that’s the goal, than great.

March 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm / Reply / Quote and reply



It makes no sense that if we put a streetcar line where people don’t live or work, that it will be a catalyst to prosperity, but if we put a streetcar on 6th Ave, where there already is some prosperity, that the existing prosperity will die.

Did Portland’s streetcar kill any business district? No.  Is Seattles 1st hill streetcar gonna kill Capitol Hill?  No

March 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Agree to disagree.

March 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Salishan brings in the grant dollars.  C1 may have ridership problems, but light rail would turn it into a total redevelopment district since it has some of the cheapest, largest parcel land compared to the other districts.  Multifamily housing, links to the Casino and the Hotel district of the Tacoma Dome.

E1 has some of this potential but I think more can be done.

B1 is just a joke.  Every <span class=“caps”>UPS</span> alum knows that students rarely leave the campus and if they do leave they are well bike equipped.  The area is already well to do and I generally believe the economic development of 6th ave is close to capped unless more density is called for.

March 5, 2013 at 1:05 am / Reply / Quote and reply

David Boe

Another view is that the orignial <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> was put in as a commuter shuttle service – from the Dome parking garage to Downtown.  Tacoma did not demand a system that ‘made sense’ from a long-range planning standpoint – we were just happy to get this ‘demo’ of a system (some might say we rolled-over) and it was run along the most politically expedient route without serious consideration for viable expansion of a proper alignment to climb the hill (all that had to be done was pull the orignial streetcar map) – oh but we did end-up with a great (sic) urban space at Tollefson Plaza.  I understand the ridership issue.  But walk the proposed B1 route – it is almost entirely built-out – and the reality of the residential market in Tacoma will not pencil removing an entire block of 6th avenue businesses – build a 6-story building – and replace those same businesses back in.  Now walk from Sprague Avenue down 6th to Tacoma Avenue – huge amount of development potential and still maintain ridership – switch back along the Fawcett/Baker to St. Helens and boom.  Another option is a <span class=“caps”>BRT</span> System which would allow for twice the distance and the hill is much less of an issue:  www.urbanhabitat.org…

March 5, 2013 at 9:15 am / Reply / Quote and reply


I like the idea of <span class=“caps”>BRT</span> for 6th avenue.  It fits better and it’s less expensive.  A passenger wouldn’t have to unload off the streetcar at Alder to load onto a bus to get to <span class=“caps”>TCC</span> or run the rest of the route.

But that doesn’t get Tacoma the development advantages of streetcar.

March 5, 2013 at 10:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Jennifer Boutell

As a resident of 6th Ave, I cringe a little when I think about the short-term impact of all that construction, but I think the neighborhood can sustain it.

True, it would potentially disrupt parking, but at night the business is all about the bars and there are way too many drunks getting back into their cars. Every weekend night the <span class=“caps”>DUI</span> emphasis patrol is outside my window with someone pulled over. If a link extension converts some of those drivers to transit riders I’m all for it.

As a commuter line, it’s not completely nonsensical. Parking downtown is very expensive and bus service has been cut back enough that it adds another hour on to the day just to get back and forth to downtown. I don’t know if a <span class=“caps”>BRT</span> system is realistic, support for buses is really lukewarm in this town, we could just end up with more half empty buses and service cuts.

The small shops and cafes on 6th ave and the small shops and cafes downtown could both use some cross-pollination from students at <span class=“caps”>UWT</span>, <span class=“caps”>UPS</span>, Stadium and <span class=“caps”>SOTA</span>.

If you run it up 6th and terminate at Sprague, it will just miss anything interesting enough to make it worth your while to take the link up the hill, and it will be just a little bit too far to make it convenient for people commuting downtown from the <span class=“caps”>UPS</span> area.

March 5, 2013 at 11:29 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Morf Morford

Any developmental thoughts related to urban design need to take this into account – blog.ted.com/2013/03….

March 5, 2013 at 11:34 am / Reply / Quote and reply

the usual jamie

With any luck, a streetcar on 6th will funnel more of the <span class=“caps”>UPS</span> students to the downtown bars, meaning they won’t take up all of the tables at the Red Hot. Stay out of my fucking neighborhood bar, kiddies! (Kidding. Mostly…)

March 5, 2013 at 11:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply



I dispute your comment that 6th Avenue as a business district looks fairly built out.  The corner of 6th and Alder is a good example. With at least one multi-story mixed used project already permitted but not yet financed on a corner that, with the exception of 7-11 (somewhat kidding), is dismal at best.  There are many underutilized sites/buildings in the 6th Ave corridor and if we’re looking to Portland as an example, the architecture firm Holst has done some great mixed-use infill projects in Portland corridors that would look great on 6th Avenue!  The <span class=“caps”>NCX</span> zoning of the 6th and Pine Mixed Use Center opens up substantial development potential on under utilized sites.  There is also a tremendous amount of multi-family development potential in the 6th and Pine corridor with the blocks to either side of 6th zoned <span class=“caps”>URX</span>.

The Stadium District is our cities most dense residential neighborhood and with Walker Chevrolet’s now empty parking lots, there is significant opportunity for Stadium District to become a dense and vibrant urban hub. 

Many people today are looking to live in cities and be less reliant on automobile transportation.  I can’t say it enough, there is so much potential in both the Stadium District and 6th Avenue.  The Link to these neighborhoods could be the impetus for some really smart, transit-oriented urban growth in a city that desperately needs it if we’re going to compete for businesses, jobs, and young skilled workers.

March 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


We’re dealing with the same topography that existed when the streetcars were around the last time, so mimicking what existed before is worth taking a look at.

Never in Tacoma’s history have we ever used streetcars to connect Hilltop directly with Downtown.  The reason why is that it’s faster to connect the two points more directly with more appropriate technologies.  The City Council, long ago, forbade the use of streetcars on that alignment and insisted that a cable car be used instead on 11th St.  The one way trip took five minutes from bottom to the top of the hill, so it made loads of sense.  The E1 alignment on the other hand is a longer trip time to downtown than any bus route that currently intersects Martin Luther King Jr. Way (Route 2 [19th], 28 [12th], 1 [6th], or 57 [9th]).  If we want to link those two areas again, the best technology choice for the shortest trip time is electric trolleybus on 11th St., not a streetcar via Division and Stadium Way.

Streetcars historically were reserved for transporting passengers along each vertical level of Downtown (Pacific, Market, Tacoma, K St., etc.) and then working outward from Downtown radially to the neighborhoods.  That transit topography worked – there were 30,000,000 passengers a year on Tacoma’s 125 mile streetcar system back in the 1930’s.  Out of the options available, the B1 and C1 alignments are the closest match to our geography, with B1 having higher projected ridership.

March 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Too bad Sound Transit won’t do cable cars instead.  Tacoma could do streetcar to about <span class=“caps”>MSM</span> deli on 6th and use the rest of the money for the straight shot cable car from the MM Bridge to <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> on 11th.

March 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

David Boe

Jsisbest, up Stadium Way from the entrance/exit ramp at 705 until you get to Tacoma Avenue is for the most part built-out (except for two parcels on the West side – both likely to provide a ton of parking accessed off Stadium Way given the grade, their front door being up on Broadway, and the selling point of being seconds away from freeway access) and the entire East side is steep slope open space that is undevelopable.  From Wright Park down Division through the Wedge and North Slope is all pretty much developed and either in a Historic District or Conservation District.  So that is about 2 miles of track with limited development potential.  2 miles x $60m a mile – and the city now has to come up with $20m and we haven’t even got to the 6th Avenue Business District yet (with $50m from ST and $50m from Feds),.

March 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


The Stadium District is not in any way built-out.  The are several opportunities for infill of huge parking lots in that district that are either adjacent to Division Ave or are within 100 meters.  The zoning, urban form, and population density are there for some form of higher capacity transit.  David – you may be looking at this from a SQ-FT Development/$ perspective, but both Sound Transit and the <span class=“caps”>FTA</span> are going to look more strongly at ridership as an indicator of stimulating demand for real estate development.

The route that had the highest potential for vacant land that could be developed was out east to Fife.  It had the most dismal ridership and the least popular support of all of the proposed alignments.

After all of this process (since 2007 and 2010), with feasibility studies, the stakeholder group, et al. we said that mobility, ridership and connectivity with Downtown and neighborhoods were some of the most important aspects of this project.  Redevelopment potential is another aspect, but it should not completely overwhelm the others – lest they had, we would have chosen the Fife extension, which is no longer under consideration.

March 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply



Stadium Way doesn’t offer much in terms of future growth and as a steep slope is best untouched anyways.  I agreed with your first comment that Stadium Way isn’t the ideal way to go.  But sounds like it might be necessary given where the current Link ends.  Stadium District from Stadium Way to I Street has tons of development opportunity.  Division between the North Slope and Wedge doesn’t have much growth potential.  But South 6th is ripe for improvement and is just 1-4 blocks away on the other side of the Wedge and could be seen as benefiting from the Link.  And the corner of 6th and Sprague could see a ton of benefit from the Link. 

Overall, the extension of the Link isn’t just about its immediate geographical impact.  Although I think that the B1 line would spurn the most development.  The Link and each one of it’s stops would radiate urban vibrancy in Tacoma, in a way that Tacoma currently does not.  One look at the zoning map of Tacoma, and it’s easy to see that the 6th Avenue Corridor is the most prominent “finger” of downtown reaching into Tacoma’s neighborhoods.  The proposed B1 line has both the existing highest residential density, and it has the most potential for growth in terms of its zoning.  When you add in the proximity to <span class=“caps”>UPS</span>, Tacoma General, and Wright Park, the B1 line is an obvious connector to the greatest density of housing, universities, healthcare, and parks. 

End of the day, no configuration is perfect.  But we can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.  The B1 line is damn good. The shortest line to connect the most.  And it could be transformative for Tacoma.

March 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

David Boe

Well, I sure hope you all got deep pockets to pay the premiunm to get up to Stadium via Stadium Way – because we only have $100m coming our way – and the rest is going to come from somewhere (and I doubt those in condos ON Stadium Way are going to vote for an <span class=“caps”>LID</span>) – and more and more transit systems are being faced to look at cost of service models – so any idea on how much it is going to cost to ride that train from 6th Avenue to Downtown cause you sure ain’t going to be riding for free with expansion.

March 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Saying that the B1 line is all built out is a completely false statement. Just at the top o the hill, across from thrift way (where the Chev dealer was) is a huge empty lot.  It could easily take a tower style apartment bldg that would have beautiful views of the bay and Mt Rainier. And just past Jason Lee is a whole bunch if single story crappy buildings that are begging to be put to better use. 

I’m starting to get the feeling that our city council is gonna f this whole thing up. Bringing up an alternate route that hasn’t been studied isn’t going to qualify for federal funds, ST isn’t going to choose it, and we are going to end up with nothing but more planning. If that happens, I’ll be voting against every incumbent on the council.

March 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Jim C

Thank you for the explanation, Mr. Boe, of a point I’ve been trying to make since I saw the map of the proposed B1 route, a short version of the thought is contained in my post @17.

Chris@38, I am curious which parking lots you’re referring to as candidates for infill development around Division St in Stadium; I lived in the ‘hood for years so know it very well.  The former Titus Chevy lots at First & G are ripe but… after that (and those are not really big pieces of property) I am not sure there are any more.  The huge surface lot behind the Seminary is owned and used by the Presbyterian Church, and the surface lots on Multicare property are going to remain surface lots and the property of Multicare, without a doubt.  Unless we are advocating for some real urban renewal (city buying or seizing property for resale to friendly developers) I am not sure what you are talking about.

I have, from the beginning of this process, held the opinion that the city and its citizens would benefit the most from expanding the Link to the south and east or west.  Today, where does everyone with the means prefer to live?  In twenty/thirty/fifty years, would the chain of events set in motion by a Link expansion be able to change that answer?  I would love to find out.

Real vision comes from being able to see things that others cannot or will not, not from observing things as they are.

March 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Chris at 38:  The Fife route was never a route that could have dense residential anyways.  The only way it could have been a good route for creating density and commerce is… um… hmm… uh… let me know what you figure it out.

Everyone else:  David Boe did a good job of explaining why B1 isn’t the best route for economic development or for density.  It sounds like some want to throw out those facts and build to 6th anyways.

I think the streetcar will end up being built on the E1 route – and rightly so.  It has the immediate ridership along with the best economic growth potential.  It strengthens downtown as it creates a lane of possible development along <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> and blocks off of <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> where apartment buildings make sense.

The bottom line for me is development and density.  Where this route goes should take that into consideration as the most important aspect of this project.

On B1, all you’re doing is replacing a popular bus route with a fun alternative because the development potential isn’t there.

March 5, 2013 at 7:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


If we are concerned about increasing the area of adjacent redevelopment to the line, we should consider completing a couplet of Tacoma Link on Puyallup Avenue, up Pacific to UW.

There’s more redevelopment that could be done in the Dome District. An added bonus to this idea is that it removes the constraint of single track from Tacoma Dome to UW. This will better allow us to return to 10 minute headways without train conflicts. We could construct another two stops on the line near derelict or vacant properties on Puyallup Ave, and better Link rail and regional bus operations. Such an option could be relatively inexpensive and would also be easy to add without impacting operations on the current line.

March 6, 2013 at 8:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Mofo from the Hood

When I travel through Tacoma by car or bike, I try to avoid using the most narrow streets. Such streets tend to increase travel time because of factors like congestion, and the necessity to drive slower in order to drive safely.

This speculation about public transit is really fun especially for people who make a career of spending other people’s money. But beyond that, wasting people’s time with schemes on how to take their money on a scheduled payment plan is an even more repulsive thought.

Who in Tacoma has the money and the time to serve political tricksters? For decades, I have paid for countless Tacoma street narrowing projects. I’ve paid the political tricksters in money, and time.

RE post heading “Tacoma <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> Alternatives: … And Then There Were 3”: Here’s your population density projection.

March 6, 2013 at 9:38 am / Reply / Quote and reply


Saying that there is little development potential on the B1 alignment is just crazy talk, from people looking to sell another alignment or halt the project altogether.  Look at the zoning map.  Go walk the area.  Then talk to some developers, builders and architects in town.  We’re anxious to see what happens with all the alignments.  But the B1 line has the most promise for increasing urban density and creating livable transit-oriented urban housing in Tacoma.  Integrated public transit systems are the future.  Tacoma can either make the investment, and see the city prosper as a whole because of it,  or put it back on the shelf, and we can continue to speculate on why companies don’t want to locate or invest in Tacoma.

March 6, 2013 at 10:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Dan H.

@37 Boe

You have a great point about 6th Ave on the south side of the wedge neighbor hood having far more potential than Division, since Division is bounded by historic districs on both sides past I St.  When I drive, or bike down that stretch of 6th, I marvel that there are so many derelict properties.  It is great area in terms of potential.  I wonder whether even a line that comes up Stadium Way could hang a left turn on Tacoma Ave. After a stop in the Stadium district between 1st and Division it could head over to 6th and take that route to Sprague.  There would be increased travel times for some, but it would pick up the apartments and underdeveloped sites East of Wright Park and be a catalyst for the development on that stretch of 6th while also accessing the northern edge of Hiltop near Tacoma General.  Seattle’s First Hill streetcar has a similar jog as it approaches Yesler Terace (I’m not sure if it is for a similar reason).

March 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


What about talking about the merits of the <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> option?  If 6th avenue is the tunnel vision here, we’ll end up talking ourselves into it even though evidence suggests it’s the “Broadway Plaza” of our generation.

What about <span class=“caps”>MLK</span>?  Is there more vacant properties there ripe for redevelopment?  What will the committee that’s meeting about it this week say about streetcar as an option there?  Could streetcar help density there and down the hill in downtown?  What about Hilltop’s average property price per square foot of $75 vs that of north of Division at $125?  Is that a good transit option?

March 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Erik B.

With the close high density node of Stadium, the first connection should certainly be there, after that it gets a bit more complicated.

Connecting Stadium will provide a high ridership right off the bat.  Plus, as Chris points out, it still has a great deal of growth potential in Stadium given the number of vacant lots and the allowable height in the neighborhood.

Development potential in an area could be a minor factor for route determination.

However, forcing the <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> extension into vacant areas hoping that it will cause something to development in 5 to 10 years is going to result in very low ridership numbers for years.  Before anything develops, the <span class=“caps”>LINK</span> extension risks being deemed a failure and the whole system shut down. 

We need high ridership numbers immediately for the extension to be considered a success to leverage more funding in the future.

March 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


It seems as though (reading between the lines) that our city council is leaning towards the E1 alignment in hopes of stimulating <span class=“caps”>TOD</span> and redevelopment for that part of town.

I have yet to hear who all the developers and business owners that are gonna move in.  You would think that they wouldn’t spend $150 M without a completed plan, would you?

March 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm / Reply / Quote and reply



I hope you’re not right, but I suspect you are.  I can’t wait to ride the trolley around in a circle!  Once.

March 6, 2013 at 6:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Well, time will tell, but unless I’m mistaken, the Soundtransit board makes the decision, not our city council.

March 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


A grassroots option for a B1 alignment has been on my mind the last couple of days. Tacoma can’t move forward without a local match. If a couple neighborhoods in Tacoma band together and come up with the funding via an <span class=“caps”>LID</span>, it’ll send a loud message to both the city council and the Sound Transit Board, that we want rail and we are willing to put our dollars behind such a project.

March 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Concerning is the 2005 studies of the 6th Avenue Link expansion.  In 2005 dollars, it is estimated that 5.5 miles of Link expansion from the current termination at 9th to <span class=“caps”>TCC</span> is $600 million dollars – which is the end goal of putting it down 6th avenue, no?  The studies also illustrate, with pictures, how it eliminates at least half of the parking on 6th avenue as well. 

<span class=“caps”>IMO</span>, if you want to help the business district there, eliminate the turn lane and paint in angle parking – not eliminate it.  Street parking is important even in downtown settings.

March 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


@Jesse – That was light rail typology with full movement of utilities and dedicated right of way.  I think we would be ok operating in mixed traffic for a short period in the denser part of lower 6th and building to streetcar standards.

Angled parking is the worst possible thing you could do for any kind of transit down that corridor.  Just look at the freaking mess that <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> is.  It costs Pierce and Sound Transit millions a year in lost service.

March 7, 2013 at 1:57 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Dan H.

Angled parking belongs on small local roads and side streets, not major arterials that need to handle traffic.  6th has potential to add parking on almost every block.  Look at N Fife St.

March 7, 2013 at 7:03 am / Reply / Quote and reply


I can’t think of another city that I’ve ever been to that has angle in parking like we do.  It’s equally as unsafe for motorists as it is for cyclists. Tacoma has to be the guiness world record holder for it.

March 7, 2013 at 8:36 am / Reply / Quote and reply


“That was light rail typology with full movement of utilities and dedicated right of way. I think we would be ok operating in mixed traffic for a short period in the denser part of lower 6th and building to streetcar standards.” — Chris

Well that’s good.  I can’t imagine Sound Transit giving streetcar an elevated platform like their illustrations suggested.  In fact, I was shocked when I saw the drawings that they would even “go there” considering the width of the street.

But, I think the angle parking by <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> is great.  Some people just can’t take transit to where they’re going all the time.  There does need to be parking and street parking is way better than tearing out a building and building a garage – especially in a shopping area.

Dan H. – I wouldn’t mind angle parking in the 6th business district not only for the actual increase in parking spaces but to slow down traffic there.  I love the idea of the type of spaces you speak of at N Fife.  There needs to be a few more streets like that.

March 7, 2013 at 8:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Mofo from the Hood

<span class=“caps”>ALLEGED</span> <span class=“caps”>CREDO</span> OF <span class=“caps”>INTERNATIONAL</span> <span class=“caps”>BROTHERHOOD</span> OF <span class=“caps”>PUBLIC</span> <span class=“caps”>TRANSIT</span> <span class=“caps”>FUNDAMENTALISTS</span> (<span class=“caps”>IBPTF</span>) <span class=“caps”>LOCAL</span> 666, <span class=“caps”>TACOMA</span> WA.

WE <span class=“caps”>BELIEVE</span> in the resurrection of the Tacoma light rail transit system.

Reborn spiritually, after crucifixtion in 1938.

<span class=“caps”>ORCA</span> of <span class=“caps”>ORCA</span>, Transit of Transit, true citizen obligation of true citizen obligation.

By which all people shall be transported.

Tacoma light rail transit will come again, to judge the private transport owners, living and dead.

And of Tacoma light rail transit there will be no end.

We confess One Regional Card For All (<span class=“caps”>ORCA</span>) Business Cards.

And we await the legally enforced scheduled payments for everything from future family members, unending, for life everlasting. (<span class=“caps”>IBPTF</span>)

March 7, 2013 at 8:49 am / Reply / Quote and reply

David Boe

Angled parking on major arterial routes is putting a suburban topology on an urban setting (even if it is back-in) – as it turns the street into a parking lot – bad for bicycles, bad for transit, and bad for pedestrians as the visiblity is shot for cars having to creep out into the traffic lanes while having to look around all the parked cars.  Got to go with Dan H. and Chris on this one Jesse.  Meanwhile, back on the topic of the alternatives…

March 7, 2013 at 8:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

fred davie

angled parking allows women shoppers to visit a shopping area. women don’t like parallel parking.

March 7, 2013 at 8:57 am / Reply / Quote and reply


Well David, I am known to be wrong once or twice in each decade… 

Why isn’t anyone talking about the merits of the other routes, besides B1, proposed? What about <span class=“caps”>MLK</span>?  What could that do for the city?  Is there any glaring issues with it?

March 7, 2013 at 9:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply


@61 Fred,

That has to be the most ridiculously sexist comment ever to surface on Exit133.  That said, my wife agrees with you.  She’ll park a block away so not to have to parallel park.  But, Boe is right – angle parking doesn’t belong in the city. 

As for Jesse’s concerns that there’s not enough parking along 6th Avenue to sustain local businesses, I encourage you to visit successful medium/high density corridors in other cities.  Try Pike and Pine in Seattle’s Capitol Hill – the businesses are really suffering from the increase in housing density and bike lane “road-diets” there.  I’m being sarcastic of course. Like 6th Avenue, Pike and Pine is flourishing as a dense neighborhood corridor with many residents living without a personal automobile. Go figure.  If easy parking dictated where I went out to dinner, I’d be eating at some very different restaurants than I do.

March 7, 2013 at 11:06 am / Reply / Quote and reply


@63:  I only say that I’m concerned about parking because it was earlier stated that tearing out buildings on 6th to put in bigger buildings doesn’t pencil out for developers.  That means that there won’t be massive new density there suddenly because it could take years or even decades for those projects to make sense there even with streetcar on the alignment.  I have seen many places where there were scads of people living in an area and almost no parking with a thriving business scene.  But that scene takes population density and a way to achieve it.  Until then, many patrons of 6th ave have to have a place to park.

March 7, 2013 at 11:36 am / Reply / Quote and reply


It’s sort of a chicken or egg thing, but a streetcar on Sixth would be an indication that it aspires to be a real urban neighborhood, and it’s close enough to it that it will push it that way.  Parking could be several times harder to find in that neighborhood than it is, and it still wouldn’t be very hard relative to similar neighborhoods in other cities with successful business districts of similar scale and density but more vibrancy and variety.  Sixth is probably not on its way to becoming Pike/Pine, but it’s not so far from becoming similar to the thriving mostly single family neighborhoods on the east side of Portland or the way Ballard was ten years ago (when it was cool).  The streetcar will help it get there.

March 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


@65, well said.

March 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


I cannot understand how can anyone argue the matter that Portland Ave. is not the right choice.  These people need the service tremendously more than the other two lines.  This is not for joy riding to a bar, it has to serve a real purpose, we are not at joyride stages yet.

March 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


A 6th ave alignment serves folks that live on both the north and south sides of the street equally. Seems like an equal opportunity transportation system to me.

March 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Tacoma_1, how do you come to this conclusion?

March 11, 2013 at 6:59 am / Reply / Quote and reply


Because south 10th and north 10th streets are both 4 blocks away from 6th ave.  Both are a flat easy walk to 6th ave.

March 11, 2013 at 7:55 am / Reply / Quote and reply

Mofo from the Hood

“6.Establish a project that is competitive for federal funding.”—see post intro above.

Read it and weep. This is one of Sound Transit’s recommendations. This is one of their reasons to exist.

If Sound Transit or any of its advocates ever implies that public transportation exists for the benefit of the poor, then my reply is that I don’t think it is doing something good for the poor. In reality, it is doing something really bad to them.

Definition of federal funding for Sound Transit: Tax money paid to the federal government by the people with the lowest income, in order to serve the middle and upper income population.

This is not saying that middle and upper income people are not paying taxes. But I am making a point that lower income people (the largest population sector, with correspondingly less academic education and/or vocational skills) pay a greater share of their income for tax funded projects.

For starters, lower income people tend to enter the work force and pay employee taxes at a younger age than their higher income counterparts who secure government loans for higher education, or otherwise do not enter the workforce.

In the long view, the lower income people who enter the workforce sooner may pay more in taxes but get less benefits, because they tend to die sooner than their higher income counterparts.

Sound Transit is a sound prescription for what?

March 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply


Tacoma_1 has a point about pedestrian access to Portland Avenue.  Who is going to up Fairbanks Ave to get home from Tacoma Link?  The topography in the Portland Ave valley poses a real access issue for the elderly and disabled.

March 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

Erik B.

Angled parking on major arterial routes is putting a suburban topology on an urban setting (even if it is back-in) – as it turns the street into a parking lot

Angled parking in most places is actually an extremely useful urban tool to make walkable vibrant neighborhoods business districts.  Perhaps your concern is with “major arterial routes.”

Proctor is a great example of the successful use of angled and face in curb parking to revitalize an area.  Some advantages are:

1) Places the parking spaces on the curb rather than in surface level parking lots which eviscerate business districts by creating dead zones.

2) More efficient.  Allows more cars to be parking for the same length of curb space than parallel parking.

3) Create natural traffic calming for cars by reducing the width of the car lane (which drivers use to set calibrate their speed).

4) Reduces the need to build blightful expensive parking garages which require greater motivation to park in and general spread out the destinations worth walking to.

One of the reasons Proctor is a vibrant business center is because the city has nearly maxed out the curb parking and let businesses in buildings exist on the private lots. 

The result is an endless number of stores can be walked to from the corner of 26th and Proctor without the requirement of a single parking garage and few surface level parking lots.

March 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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