Tacoma Urbanist

Aug. 21, 2012 at 2:07am

Jaw Dropper: Sound Transit May Give Tacoma a Bus Extension Rather Than a Light Rail Extension

There are a slew of community meeting concerning the possible LINK expansion in Tacoma.  

However, according to Gig Harbor City Councilmember Derek Young, Tacoma may not get any rail LINK extension at all but only a bus to pick people at here LINK now ends.Sounds crazy.  

But that is just what councilmember Young states may be one of the options Sound Transit takes,  Here is his full comment on Exit 133 (comment #3) on the matter:

Sound Transit had a presentation on this process at our Pierce 

Transit board meeting on Monday. An interesting points came up that I 

thought people might want to be aware of.

Link extension doesn’t necessarily mean light rail extension. 

Although that’s the most obvious option, when asked, ST staff said that 

alternative modes would be considered such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). en.wikipedia.org/wik…

It’s very similar in operation to light rail, but the cost is usually 

significantly less. Light rail still has a number of advantages that I 

think justify the cost, but it’s important to weigh all the pros/cons 

and that’s what an alternatives analysis is designed for. 

I’m not as directly affected as you all since I live outside the ST 

boundaries on the other side of the bridge, but this is pretty exciting 

for Tacoma and therefore the rest of the county. Looking forward to 

seeing the final product.


I don't think getting off Tacoma's LINK on Commerce and piling into a bus is what Tacoma voters thought they were voting for in 2008 after which time Sound Transit started taxing everyone. I think the matter would have certainly failed if Tacomans thought LINK extension = a bus extension.

This would be the nightmare version of a political bait and switch.  Let's hope that councilmember Young misunderstood or only heard a brainstorming comment from a Sound Transit junior intern. 

By the way, Seattle has no difficulty of differentiating between a Streetcar / Rail expansion and a bus route.  Seattle is currently building three streetcar lines in the city connecting the different business districts.

Not a bus:

Nor would Tony Bennet sing a classical song about a bus in San Francisco:


Nothing wrong with buses, but they are not equivalent to a streetcar. Here are 8 reasons why streetcars are better than buses as well as James Kunstler's take on the issue:

comments [6]  |  posted under Link, Tacoma


by Erik on 8/21/2012 @ 2:51am
Take the survey from Sound Transit re: Link Expansion with any concerns or preferences you have:

by KevinFreitas on 8/21/2012 @ 6:54am
Interesting point and bait/switch possibility on the part of Sound Transit. The next step doesn't have to be a massive expansion of the line but should be at least an incremental one that involves actual rail. Just run the thing up into Stadium and stop it there for now if funding is an issue. But, please Sound Transit, stop seeing Tacoma as a second city for our precious funding.

Thanks for that survey link. Taking it now!

by Chris.Tacoma on 8/21/2012 @ 8:20am
This is not going to happen, Erik. Derek M. young has a tendency of looking at things a certain way. Yes, the same process can be applied to bus rapid transit, but if the local community wants a rail extension, they are going to get a rail extension.

by Erik on 8/21/2012 @ 8:35am
I agree Chris that the local community overwhelmingly wants rail extension.  

However, the fact that Sound Transit is considering making a bus extension as one of their alternatives, to save money in Tacoma, is news to me and something to be aware of. 

As we found out in the placement of the berms in the Dome District, Sound Transit often does what it wants if it will save money.

by Chris.Tacoma on 8/21/2012 @ 8:40am
The bus alternative is something that's required by Federal Alternatives Analysis and not Sound Transit specifically.  The Federal Transit Administration wants to ensure that before they give us a grant, that we have evaluated the possibility of using other modes to attain the goal of the project.
Many of the goals of the project are development-related, and buses (in most cases) don't do that - for all of the other reasons that are talked about on the post on Exit133

by Erik on 8/21/2012 @ 1:39pm
I hope you are right Chris. 

However, we need to stay vigilant on this one. I have spoken to a number of people on the issue and the bus option for LINK may not be as remote far fetched as you think.

Sound Transit has always treated Tacoma as a place to go through, not a place to stop at.  Hence we get berms and Seattle gets tunnels to improve the quality of their living area. ST considers Tacoma's function to be a feeder area for Seattle and a place where things should be done as cheaply as possible for utilitarian functions.