Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 4, 2010 at 12:01am

Seattle Celebrates Expansion of Streetcars While Tacoma Considers Launching A Lawsuit Against Local Streetcar Initiative

In Seattle:

In Seattle, the city is celebrating the step by step expansion of their streetcar system as documented in the latest Streetfilm video posted today:

In Tacoma:

Meanwhile, in Tacoma, not only is the streetcar system lacking any timeline for expansion, the City of Tacoma is considering bringing a lawsuit to keep the recently filed streetcar initiative from reaching the ballot:

From the Tacoma Weekly:

An effort by two Tacoma residents to put a streetcar system up to a public vote could be doomed before it builds very much steam.

Last month, Committee to Build the Streetcar submitted a citizen petition to the city of Tacoma. Written by long-time streetcar advocates Chris Karnes and Morgan Alexander, the petition calls for funding to come from something called a transportation benefit district. For every $10 spent in this district, .2 cents of sales tax would go to constructing and operating the system.


Pauli has determined the petition goes beyond the scope of private citizens. It assumes such a district exists, when in fact the state will only allow a governing body, in this case the council, to create one. She said she met with the petitioners to approve their form and assign the measure a ballot title. Once that process is official, Committee to Build the Streetcar would have 180 days to gather the required number of signatures to qualify it for the ballot.

Because the initiative assumes an authority the petitioners do not possess, she said she will soon ask the council to give her authority to request a declaratory judgment from a court to make it invalid.


Karnes, who was not at the committee meeting, acknowledged the council would need to establish the district. If the measure passed at the ballot and the council did not do so, other components of the measure would move forward, such as engineering studies.

He feels Pauli asking for a declaratory judgment would be unprecedented, as legal flaws in initiatives typically are not challenged until after approved by voters.

What is being threatened is an unnecessary overreaction by the city.


Courts generally favor resolving the legality of an initiative AFTER the measure has been allowed to be voted on by the public.  Hence, the City of Tacoma will have a much more difficult time challenging the Streetcar initiative pre-election.

However, the city council should not spend the time, effort and resources to sue the Streetcar Initiative when it may not pass in the place. Citizens should be allowed to express themselves on the issue.

The city could decide to wait until after the election to take an action. Even then, the city is under no obligation to try to stop the streetcar initiative.  In fact the city could choose to (gasp!) support streetcars in the City of Tacoma and come up with their own pro-active plan instead of stop citizens who are trying to move the city ahead on this stalled issue.

The city could take the initiative and be a leader on the issue to make the streetcar initiative moot.

Why not use the time and resources that might be used in the lawsuit to work to follow other cities (like Seattle and Portland) and bring streetcars to Tacoma.

Must Tacomans continue to read about the expansion of Seattle's streetcar system in the Seattle Times time and time again while Tacoma fails to make any progress to expand LINK?

Tacoma citizens certainly have shown strong support for streetcars with supportive letters written by numerous neighborhood and civic groups.

comments [85]  |  posted under tacoma


by Urban E on 3/4/2010 @ 7:52am
I for one support the city's effort to put the breaks on this initiative. Not because I don't support streetcars but because the initiative seems a little selfserving. The city has already said that they support streetcars but I never heard them say that a 6th ave line was to be on top of the list. Seems to me that this is just an effort to hijack the first line from being on MLK and the HIlltop. I'm was very suprised to see that the supporters of this didn't seem to consider the Transit Oriented Development potential that could come with the 1st line being on MLK as opposed to 6th ave where the businesses have just now began to make it using existing buildings. Was there any consideration given that these businesses might not survive such a thing or would even want it. Imo it doesn't seem very practical to go up 6th ave given the width of the street and all.

by dltooley on 3/4/2010 @ 7:54am
It is definitely time to start discussing the planning of the Sound Transit **funded** expansion. Ms. Pauli's action is nothing but a serious continuation of her efforts to 'privatize' Tacoma government under her, and her associates, control - along the lines of recent open government actions in selecting the current council.

Do note also, that Belleuve, ahead of us for regionally connected service, is proving to be premature. I don't think that is the case here and if Morgan and Chris's effort does nothing but bring the subject into the light it will be a total success.

by The Jinxmedic on 3/4/2010 @ 8:12am
Don't forget Portland Aveneue to Salishan....

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2010 @ 8:18am
would asking the council to create a BTD infringe upon their 15 min city council meetings?

how many 15 minute city council meetings does it take before we can label this council as a do nothing governing body?

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2010 @ 8:19am
Hilltop and MLK is a ghost town. We need transit where the people are. Street cars aren't magic creationists. for god sakes!

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2010 @ 8:27am
I'd like try something new and run your answers to these questions along side my upcoming streetcar super tacomic. Look forward to your responses!

1. Who created this route? Why on earth do you normal citizens who are not planners or transportation engineers get to decide where the lines go? Just who the hell do you two dudes think you are anyway?

2. Section 10 of your initiative calls to restore a historic street car. Is this your personal white whale hunt Morgan?

3. Section 8 has legal issues. Section 3 is completely illegal. A citizens initiative cannot create a Transportation Benefit District (TBD). Nor can it mandate a tax levy. Why have you chosen not to change the petition?

4. "It's not the right time", "This benefits North Tacoma to much" and "Construction will kill off any business on 6th Ave." Why not instead build the street car where there are no people and let the streetcar be a divine spark of life, spontaneous development, etc.?

5. Aren't citizens initiatives just for assholes like Tim Eyman? If you use a citizens initiative won't people think you are just like Tim Eyman? If you love Tim Eyman so much why don't you marry him?

6. Did you know there is a streetcar in the old spaghetti factory?

7. Downtown Tacoma was built in the bottom of a massive crater and it is said that streetcars are scientifically incapable of moving along the vertical axis. How on earth do you expect these machines to operate in three dimensional space 'goin' up hills? What evidence do you have that proves streetcars going up hills is even possible?

8. Isn't it insane to expect voters to approve any new taxes in an economical climate like this?

by two9seven on 3/4/2010 @ 8:39am

by Erik on 3/4/2010 @ 8:41am
There are a lot of questions still to be addressed such as the preferable routes and the type of streetcars that should be used in Tacoma.

Yet, one has to start somewhere.

Portland and Seattle have managed to address these questions. Tacoma needs to start somewhere.

Transit ST2 ballot measure, which voters approved in 2008 and provides over $80 million in matching funds for expanding Tacoma LINK


Where is Tacoma's plan to start to use this money for streetcar expansion?

If the City of Tacoma can come up with a better alternative plan, now would be a good time. Then perhaps we can have a discussion of the merits of various plans and start making some progress on the issue.

Right now, the streetcar initiative, with all of its pluses and minuses, is the only proposal on the table.

by Erik on 3/4/2010 @ 8:49am
BTW, here is Tribune article written three years ago on 6/21/2007 urging the City of Tacoma to start working on streetcars:

But even Sound Transit�s buildout, should voters approve it in November, is decades behind the curve. To really get ahead of traffic congestion and growth, the region needs to be thinking a half century ahead.

A growing group of Tacoma leaders seem to get that. What began as a grassroots effort to push the revival of streetcars is getting serious consideration from City Hall, where a preliminary feasibility study recently concluded that a new streetcar network is a good idea and could be built. City Manager Eric Anderson is warming to the idea, telling reporter Jason Hagey, �I can�t tell you how yet, but it feels doable.�

Tacoma would be far from the first city that has fallen under streetcars� modern-day spell. Portland is the perhaps the most well-known convert around these parts, but smaller, less renowned cities � places like Kenosha, Wisc., and Trenton, N.J. � also are resurrecting old streetcar lines. Those cities have found that streetcars attract better ridership than buses and draw development to faded neighborhoods.

Much remains to be figured out about how streetcars would work in Tacoma, which is already well-served by Pierce Transit buses. Would the benefits of adding streetcar lines be great enough to justify the expense? How much street and parking capacity would be lost? Where would lines get the most use?


Other than having the initiative pass, I do not see any progress made in Tacoma toward implementing streetcars over the last three years.

by jenyum on 3/4/2010 @ 9:39am
I think the streetcar initiative needs work.

I do wonder how it would actually run up 6th ave given the width of the street and the disruption to the business district there. Was any consideration given to running it up S 12th? A much wider street, which would still get people to within walking district of 6th Ave/UPS, but also within walking distance to Allenmore hospital, the Target Neighborhood Business Improvement District ;), and run right by Franklin elementary and Franklin park. Extend it further up the hill and you get Delong Elementary, the YMCA, and TCC. There are few successful businesses on that strip and the ones that are there are set back from the street (the Mandolin, etc.) Running a streetcar down 12th would also calm traffic, which that neighborhood needs. Heck, you could still get a part of MLK in , run it down MLK from 6th Ave, turn on to Ernest S Brasil, and keep going as it turns down 12th. Makes so much more sense than 6th ave.

by Nick on 3/4/2010 @ 11:12am
I would point out that if Tacoma generally supports the idea of a streetcar system, publicly opposing efforts to create one would be political suicide for elected officials. There's no faster way to ensure an end to your political career than to do precisely the opposite of what the public wants. Just sayin'...

by Nick on 3/4/2010 @ 11:25am
The more I think about it, the more it seems like 6th ave actually makes sense. I'd point out that Commerce is about the same width as 6th and seems to do fine. The 1 is already the the most heavily used PT route (so we have the best possible predictor of ridership). If a localized sales tax levy is going to fund it, 6th ave would produce the most revenue.

I'd also suggest that our first streetcar line not be a speculative investment in TOD. TOD does work, but it's a riskier bet and generally only works when adding a line that connects an area with an existing streetcar network. That's the whole point, a once isolated area becomes instantly connected with the rest of the city's neighborhoods and districts. A line geared towards TOD would be more appropriate as a second or third line, when it could actually benefit from being connected to existing neighborhoods.

Imagine building a MLK line after a 6th Ave one already exists - effectively making a direct pipeline of people & money between 6th Ave and MLK. Let's tap the keg (6th) before we start trying to fill some cups (MLK).

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2010 @ 11:41am
take your medicine and like it 6th ave! ho ho ho

by Mofo from the Hood on 3/4/2010 @ 12:09pm
I propose the first track laid should encircle the 26th & Proctor District---from North 25th to North 27th and the two blocks from Madison ST. to Adams ST.---Flat terrain and lots of people.

by NSHDscott on 3/4/2010 @ 3:58pm
Circles mean building double the track necessary. Going back and forth on the same track like the downtown Link is the way to go.

I think it's poor that citizens have had to step up to make the first step, because all the City of Tacoma does is talk about streetcars without actually doing much about it. There's $80M of our tax money sitting there (so to speak) and we need to utilize it! If the City has problems with citizens taking charge, they need to fill the void that enabled those citizens in the first place!

by NSHDscott on 3/4/2010 @ 4:01pm
The thing I didn't really like in the citizens' initiative is that it talks about extending the Link, which I understand to be unnecessarily heavy and expensive for being a neighborhood streetcar system. I'd rather maximize miles for dollars, even if it requires changing from one streetcar system to another. At least that changeover would take place right near (optimistically speaking) the McMenamin's Elks, a grocery store, a revitalized Old City Hall, and a regional bus center, not to mention several other restaurants, theaters, antique stores and more.

by Nick on 3/4/2010 @ 4:57pm

Actually that's not entirely correct. The only component of the downtown LINK that is unnecessarily heavy/expensive are the tracks, which were laid with the intention of being compatible with the central LINK trains.

The trains we have downtown actually work on much lighter-grade (cheaper) track, which is what would be used in the extension. So the end result is no need to purchase all new trains, a new service facility, new staff to run it, etc. - all we have to do is lay the lighter/cheaper track and run the same trains on it.

by panachronic on 3/4/2010 @ 5:01pm
This is beginning to look and feel a lot like Seattle's ill-fated monorail expansion fiasco.

by NineInchNachos on 3/4/2010 @ 5:49pm
don't say the M word!

by panachronic on 3/4/2010 @ 10:40pm
The "M word"? You mean as in "Mike Parker"?

(Mike Parker was a Tacoma mayor in the 70s who campaigned on a platform of holding a world's fair. You don't have to remember Mike to know how that plan worked out. After his term, Mike went on to lead a world-beating consortium of entrepreneurs that cast about for ambitious plans for while before ultimately investing in the B&I water slide and indoor water park. Yes, folks... this all really did happen, before you got here.)

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/5/2010 @ 1:26am
Before my day.

They don't hold a World's Fair anymore, do they?

by NineInchNachos on 3/5/2010 @ 7:54am
Panachronic are you more of an old-timer than Mofo? Feed Tacoma should have a old-timer trivia contest. Do you remember Ivan the Gorilla? GO!

by Nick on 3/5/2010 @ 9:43am
I'm intrigued by this Ivan the Gorilla...

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/5/2010 @ 9:46am
Didn't Ivan the Gorilla get a job in Olympia working with former governor Mike Lowry? I wonder how Ivan is doing today, probably retired on some cushy pension at the tax payer expense. Double dipping his banana, as it were.

by fredo on 3/5/2010 @ 9:48am
It would be nice if some authoritative person would provide us the information on track widths, track capacity, voltage requirements, build out requirements, grade requirements, and costs per linear foot on all the various possible systems. There seems to be a fair amount of disagreement even among the experts who are commenting on all these streetcar discussions.

And not to throw cold water on anyones dream, will the tax under discussion be sufficient to build and operate the proposed system, or will the taxpayers be required to subsidize the installation or operation?

by Erik on 3/5/2010 @ 12:23pm
It would be nice if some authoritative person would provide us the information on track widths, track capacity, voltage requirements, build out requirements, grade requirements,

I agree.

Where is the plan? Where is the website? What is the timeline, if any?

by panachronic on 3/5/2010 @ 2:31pm
Ivan the Gorilla? Too easy, if for no other reason than because of the national coverage he received.

Here's a name that will only ring a bell for the real old-timers: Brakeman Bill. Bonus points go to those who actually met him.

by NineInchNachos on 3/5/2010 @ 2:54pm
even I know Brakeman Bill... but local TEE VEE cartoon show hosts is a hobby of mine.

by Nick on 3/5/2010 @ 3:45pm
"And not to throw cold water on anyones dream, will the tax under discussion be sufficient to build and operate the proposed system, or will the taxpayers be required to subsidize the installation or operation?"

Here's the math I've worked through so far:

$80.00M - Total tax revenue required to max out ST2 match.
$80.00M - ST2 Match
$160.00M - Total budget.
$29.09M - Per-mile for an approx. 5.5 mile line.

From what I've heard, Portland has been building out their system at about $15M per mile (their system being comparable to ours). So if we raise between roughly $40M to $80M we should be able to cover construction costs (and this doesn't account for any state/federal funding that might be available).

So that gives us a good starting point - can we raise between $40M and $80M by taxing sales all along Division, 6th, and Mildred by 0.002% for 10 years?

(correct me if I got any of that wrong)

by Erik on 3/5/2010 @ 4:17pm
Thanks for making the calculations Nick.

Now we just need to get all of the economists, engineers, and politicians together and come up with a timeline.

by panachronic on 3/5/2010 @ 4:43pm
$29.09M - Per-mile for an approx. 5.5 mile line.

I think that's a low-ball number. Tacoma LINK cost around $11K per foot, which works out to about $58M per mile. Granted, that figure includes rolling stock and the maintenance base, but still... $29M per mile seems hopelessly optimistic, especially considering that there will be some serious digging needed to get up Stadium Way.

by Nick on 3/5/2010 @ 4:54pm
That makes me wonder how accurate that $15M per mile number actually is. It would be interesting to find cited numbers to compare against.

by Nick on 3/5/2010 @ 4:59pm
Wikipedia has a good section on average costs per mile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_rail#Costs_o...

It sounds like staying under $29M per mile is possible, but is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum ($35M per mile being the average for US cities).

by NineInchNachos on 3/5/2010 @ 4:59pm
the link is an absurdly expensive track. that's why the lighter streetcar track is a better value.

by panachronic on 3/5/2010 @ 5:04pm
That makes me wonder how accurate that $15M per mile number actually is.

It was accurate... in 1982!

From Wikipedia
Construction of the 15-mile (24 km) route started in 1982,[5] and the system opened on September 5, 1986.[6] Of the project's total cost of $214 million, 83 percent was funded by the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now known as the Federal Transit Administration).[7]

I guarantee you that nobody is going to build light rail anywhere for less than $50M/mile in 2010. Not without cutting all of the non-transportation frills, anyway.

by panachronic on 3/5/2010 @ 5:09pm
the link is an absurdly expensive track. that's why the lighter streetcar track is a better value.

Track is track. All of the systems that I've seen - both LINKs, the SLUT, MAX - use the same LR55 embedded rail profile, where the lines are installed on a street instead of a dedicated rail bed.

The difference in cost, if any, will come from omitting all of the frivolous extras - the landscaping, gratuitous repaving, fancy lampposts, etc.

by Mofo from the Hood on 3/5/2010 @ 6:15pm
Railroad "Brakeman Bill" McClain on the Channel 11 Tacoma station KSTW TV weekday afternoons in the 1960's. He had an easel with a large white paper tablet on which he would draw caricatures with a felt marker. His co-star was a black hand puppet donkey with big teeth---his name: "Crazy Donkey."

by Jesse on 3/6/2010 @ 9:30am
You guys are looking at light rail statistics when quoting $35 million a mile - which is correct. We are talking about STREETCARS here! There is a difference in cost - big-time. You see, a streetcar is lighter and therefore requires a shallower channel to dig out of the street to lay tracks in. This channel is not deep enough to expose or require the movement of underground utilities and therefore costs significantly less to build.

The figure of $15-$17 million a mile in Portland is correct as I saw it with my own eyes on Trimet.com at one time... can't seem to find it now. But I was also involved with the building of that system. The Portland system is also through downtown corridors and still took $15-$17 million a mile including concrete the ramps and reconstruction of Front Avenue for the line heading to the south waterfront.

$30 million a mile isn't optomistic at all. In fact, I think it probably includes burying powerlines and a light LID along the route.

by Jesse on 3/6/2010 @ 9:35am
On another note, I have contacted a friend involved with the streetcar build-out at Oregon Iron Works -- they are putting together a streetcar division to make Skoda type streetcars for Portland and Tucson thusfar and trying to break into that market with a domestically built streetcar. Morgan or Chris may hear from the division manager soon.

When is the meeting to get volunteers moving on this? I'm ready.

by Erik on 3/9/2010 @ 2:12am
RR Anderson weighs in on the Streetcar issue in this week's Tacomic:

Shield your eyes:


by Erik on 3/11/2010 @ 12:48pm
Seattle on Tacoma today in Crosscut:

My first reaction to the Chihuly proposal, the vision of the Howard Wright family (owners of the Needle), was to feel even sorrier for cursed Tacoma, home of Chihuly's glass museum.

They must be pissed. Late last year, we stole their largest downtown employer, the Frank Russell Company, so that it could inhabit the gaping hole left by the debauched Washington Mutual. Now we're diluting the draw of their Chihuly glass museum by building one of our own in the middle of one of the most-touristed spots in Seattle. What's Seattle's gift to Tacoma? The Kalakala, the decaying Dutchman of local maritime heritage.


by Altered Chords on 3/11/2010 @ 2:59pm
Seattle has no grit. Tacoma stole it all.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/11/2010 @ 5:05pm
It is as I've said before, if Seattle and Olympia wants Tacoma to have streetcars Tacoma will have streetcars. Tacoma will get nothing until Seattle has all the streetcars it could possibly want, and then maybe even more. Spokane has a better chance of getting streetcars than Tacoma does. Don't be surprised if a fully restored Kalakala doesn't end up in Seattle at some time.

by Jesse on 3/11/2010 @ 6:04pm
When I heard about the possible glass museum on King 5 News at Seattle Center I was disgusted. Then they went even deeper into the story to say Seattle city council AND Dale Chihuly have been working on this for 2 years now. King 5 never mentioned Tacoma and stated that Chihuly is from Seattle!

Tacoma polititians need to make huge noise about thier dismay here and attend some Seattle council meetings, interview with newspapers, and kick that old greedy pirate traitor out of our town if he builds another museum just 30 miles away inn Seattle. Disgusting. Ah.

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/11/2010 @ 10:31pm
I say we give Seattle some things. Let's start with the ICE detention center. Then we can add in Western State (it's not T-Town, but too close). Let's also give them all those vacant lots in downtown.

Wait... Seattle has a surprisingly large amount of those too. Hell, give them ours anyway.

by NineInchNachos on 3/11/2010 @ 11:47pm
ICE detention center is one of the few businesses downtown doing mad/crazy profit. Can't just give it away. it's F-ing golden!

by Nick on 3/12/2010 @ 10:22am
Eh, I'm tired of seeing the "S" word. Personally, I love Seattle, but I love Tacoma more. That's why I chose to live and work here. If we're willing to pay for this thing ourselves, then let's try that before we start worrying about getting help from Olympia.

If we can make this happen, we'll actually be a pretty progressive city for our size. Notice how Seattle didn't start funding a "real" streetcar system until it hit a 600k population and a density of 7,000 people per square mile?

Compare that to Tacoma, where we're trying to build a streetcar system in a city with about 200k people and a density of 4,000 people per square mile. Population/density-wise we're tackling this problem at a much "younger" age, which bodes well for when Tacoma develops to a 7,000/sq. mi level of density.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/12/2010 @ 10:27am
Everything is stacked in Seattle's favor. I agree we have to be doing things on our own in Tacoma because nothing will happen otherwise. On our own means we need local government that is interested in taking Tacoma to the next level in terms of housing, transportation, and business opportunities. Business doesn't necessarily mean retail. Housing doesn't mean high priced fancy condos. Transportation doesn't have to mean streetcars down 6th Avenue. Tacoma has the makings of a very good college town and college towns tend to be pretty cool. Make Tacoma work as a very good college town and we'll have the Tacoma most people want.

by Jesse on 3/12/2010 @ 4:11pm
Nick: From what I've read, Portland has a density of 4288 people per square mile while Tacoma has around 4000. Pretty darn close. Portland must be on a bigger plat of land because it does have 585k people while T-town has 200k. But still, Portlands streetcar can only be found downtown right now so it doesn't go out in those low density neighborhoods where there are big numbers of people spread out there -- Tacoma doesn't have as much of that. Long story short, we're just as ready for streetcars here as Portland was when they started building them - higher population or not.

by Erik on 3/12/2010 @ 5:04pm
Good point Jesse. Also, remember that Tacoma used to have streetcars with a far less population!

by panachronic on 3/12/2010 @ 5:47pm
But still, Portlands streetcar can only be found downtown right now so it doesn't go out in those low density neighborhoods...

Huh? MAX goes all the way from Hillsboro to Gresham. Far, FAR beyond the downtown core. In the context of our area, it's like a system that runs from Federal Way to Lynnwood.

Good point Jesse. Also, remember that Tacoma used to have streetcars with a far less population!

Sure, back when very few people had cars.

Streetcars don't stand a chance against the personal automobile, which stands ready to go on a moment's notice, is not limited by where the tracks go, and usually costs less on a per-trip basis.

Light rail succeeds where it succeeds for precisely one reason: it gets you there without using one's car when to do so is undesirable, because of traffic or parking. Given the choice, people will use their cars and they've proven this over and over again. No form of rail can compete unless the automobile faces a disadvantage of some sort.

by Nick on 3/12/2010 @ 6:47pm

"Also, remember that Tacoma used to have streetcars with a far less population!"

Very true - though it's probably important to note that back then a larger slice of the demand for transportation could be directed towards streetcars, whereas today cars, buses, and now streetcars compete for that demand.

by NineInchNachos on 3/12/2010 @ 8:06pm
bus going up the hill today was having transmission problems... giving everybody whiplash shifting gears. it was hella annoying. anyway hope this contributes to the conversation.

by Jesse on 3/12/2010 @ 9:54pm
Panachronic: Max (light rail) is different than streetcars. Look at it like this: streetcars are there to take you from one part of a city to another. Neighborhood to neighborhood. Light rail is used for going from one town to another... like Seattle to Bellevue or Portland to Hillsboro or Tacoma to Olympia.

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/12/2010 @ 10:49pm
What I'd honestly like to know is what is the result in cities of approximately Tacoma size that have installed streetcars? Did the investment pay off? Did it spur development and density? Or have any mid-sized US/Canadian cities even attempted modern-day streetcars? Do we even have some analogs to make reasonable comparisons to?

Is there anyone knowledgeable on this who knows?

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/12/2010 @ 11:09pm
I don't think anyone with the population the size of Tacoma had done it. Boise, ID is trying. www.cityofboise.org/streetcar/

Not sure they'll do better than Tacoma even with their modest goals.

Other cities trying can be found at:


I guess wanting one isn't enough. Looks like a lot of planning and fund raising. Also dealing with a good deal of the population that isn't keen on spending money on such a project.

Portland, OR has defied the odds against it. Seattle, the jury is still out on their current finished project. Seriously, I think Tacoma needs to think more about walkable neighborhoods and give up on this pipe dream of streetcars. Walking is cheap. Streetcars, not so much.

by Erik on 3/12/2010 @ 11:35pm
Streetcars don't stand a chance against the personal automobile

That has been true in the past only because the United States decided to spend its post WWII wealth on building out the suburbs and subsidize automobile use:


Had the "market" been able to act, we would still have streetcars

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/12/2010 @ 11:49pm
The End of Suburbia promo trailer stresses "walkable" neighborhoods. I think we have our marching orders. The question is, will the market place respond or will we have to go across town to get the goods we need to run our lives with or will we find them an easy stroll away from our front doors? It was not that long ago in Tacoma where just about every neighborhood had at least a close by "corner store". Those corner stores are a thing of the past these days, not unlike the streetcar, Woolworth's, and even the old Crystal Market which was the downtown Tacoma version of the Pike's Place Market. We could very well run out of gasoline, but will Tacoma be ready for that day when the pump is dry? Remember what happened to prices of things when we had $4.00 gasoline? That is nothing compared to when we start running out of the stuff. Will the market place respond or will we continue to find ways of trying to drive to where we can get the goods to run our lives? A lot of people don't care, they just want to be able to run their cars today.

by NSHDscott on 3/13/2010 @ 10:14am
I just wanted to comment on panachronic's comment a few days ago that cars usually cost less than streetcars on a per-trip basis. That's only true when you look at gas costs and ignore the true cost of the car, which is buying it, maintaining it, and paying for insurance on it. A good streetcar network should help people avoid all these costs, especially when considering a second car.

by Dave_L on 3/13/2010 @ 10:15am
"It would be nice if some authoritative person would provide us the information on track widths, track capacity, voltage requirements, build out requirements, grade requirements, and costs per linear foot on all the various possible systems."

Good point, Fredo. At least as much as, say, any Trekker, gamer, code-writing group, RR fans are an intensely knowledgeable group.

This is the place, for example, always good for expert comment.
(Also has very useful search function.)

by Jesse on 3/13/2010 @ 5:38pm
NSHDscott: Not just the costs of a car to the owner but the costs of the taxes and state installed infrastructure required for a car. Last I heard, a car alone, considering cost of vehicle, gas, insurance, depreciation, and lost potential of dollars spent on the car equaled about 54 cents a mile --- the tax deductible gov't reimbursement rate. That's JUST the car. Add in the taxes, housing impact fees, and the fact that $500 of your net pay to pay for that car might actually equal $750 in gross income, you have an insanely expensive item in an automobile.

Ditching a car and riding streetcar might enable people to afford those expensive condos downtown.

by panachronic on 3/14/2010 @ 10:39am
I just wanted to comment on panachronic's comment a few days ago that cars usually cost less than streetcars on a per-trip basis. That's only true when you look at gas costs and ignore the true cost of the car, which is buying it, maintaining it, and paying for insurance on it. A good streetcar network should help people avoid all these costs, especially when considering a second car.

Those are "sunk costs". Streetcars are NOT going to replace our cars; we will all still need to have one. Therefore, the per-trip cost is all that really matters when weighing a trip on the streetcar vs. taking one's own vehicle.

by fredo on 3/14/2010 @ 11:35am
The problem with transit systems, it seems to me, is that they are highly effective...when discussed in a theoretical context. Reality is quite unlike theory.

If the commuting public all lived within a couple blocks of a point of departure, all worked within a couple blocks of a point of termination, required few or no transfers, never needed to transport children or seniors to intercurricular or medical appointments, could depend on never paying the proportional cost of the trip at the farebox, then the systems appear plausible.

by Jesse on 3/14/2010 @ 4:20pm
Many people go without cars when they move to an area with an easy to use and nice mass transit system. How do you think Portland can have zero parking requirements for the Pearl District and have THAT many people living there? It's because a lot of them don't own a car. It's a lifestyle decision.

by NSHDscott on 3/14/2010 @ 6:04pm
panachronic, first of all, we all won't need to have a car. There are already people, probably seeded in all the neighborhoods around the tentative proposed streetcar line, who don't have a car. Getting around should get even easier for them with a streetcar. And second, for those of us who really need a car (or strongly believe we need a car) having a streetcar line may save us from buying a second car. I think I might actually be one of those people, which is a bit scary to think about but logically very realistic and a big money-saver.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/14/2010 @ 6:28pm
People keep mistaking Tacoma for Portland. A common mistake, but a mistake none the less.

by panachronic on 3/14/2010 @ 7:30pm
People keep mistaking Tacoma for Portland. A common mistake, but a mistake none the less.

It's an understandable error. Both cities have butt-ugly iron bridges sitting out front.

by Jesse on 3/14/2010 @ 7:36pm
I don't mistake Tacoma for Portland. I talk about civic projects from Portland because I grew up there and understand them and thier impacts.

by NineInchNachos on 3/14/2010 @ 8:15pm
"butt-ugly iron bridges"

hey that's mean.

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/14/2010 @ 9:33pm
Fill in the blank!

Bellevue wants to be Seattle. Seattle wants to be NYC.

Tacoma wants to be Portland. Portland wants to be _____________

by panachronic on 3/14/2010 @ 9:54pm

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/14/2010 @ 9:57pm

by Jesse on 3/15/2010 @ 7:44am
Portland wants to be San Francisco.

by tacoma1 on 3/15/2010 @ 8:34am
If you donít want to support a fast, efficient public transportation system for someone else, do it for yourself in 20-30-or 40 years. I for one, plan on outliving my ability to drive.

From the PSRC transportation 2040 draft report


"According to the Federal Transit Administration, nearly one-third of the population in the United States does not drive a car. The estimate is similar for the central Puget Sound region. Included are those who do not want to drive, seniors who no longer have licenses, people with disabilities
who depend on transit or other transportation services, lower-income people who cannot afford a car, and children under the driving age.
The region will continue to experience an increase in elderly residents as the baby-boomer generation ages. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, the fastest growing segment of our population is the over-80 age group. People are increasingly outliving their ability to drive Ė men by an average of six years and women by an average of 11 years. Regional forecasts show the population aged 65 and over reaching 17 percent of the total regional population by 2040ódouble the number compared to 2006. The elderly also represent the group with the largest proportion of those needing special needs transportation, so with an
increase in seniors the region will see a greater increase in demand for such services. The number of children under the age of 16 will also continue to grow."

by Urban E on 3/15/2010 @ 10:08am
So a bunch of 70-80 yr old disabled poor people with exempt property taxes having a bunch of kids that need public transportation?

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/15/2010 @ 11:26am
Portland wants to be Vancouver, BC. Vancouver is where people in San Francisco go when they go on vacation.

by Jesse on 3/15/2010 @ 3:58pm
Ah, but Vancouver, BC just wants to be Vancouver, BC. They are the #1 livable city in the world. So that means they're on the top of the food chain?

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/15/2010 @ 5:19pm
Vancouver is more of a third-tier city (along with Portland and Seattle).
A second-tier city is like Chicago, Beijing or Moscow.
A first-tier city is like NYC, London, Tokyo, LA and Paris.

Those first-tier cities are the ones on top of the food chain.

by Jesse on 3/15/2010 @ 8:01pm
Tacoma has more people in it's metro area than Portland. It's just, Portland was wise enough to annex land into Portland proper long ago where Tacoma allowed Fircrest, UP, Fife, Ruston, Parkland, and Lakewood to create thier own municipalities when, IMO, they are really Tacoma.

by Mofo from the Hood on 3/15/2010 @ 8:26pm
It costs $1.75 to ride Pierce Transit buses. A transfer lasts about 2 hours.

On the weekend an all-day pass costs $3.50.

In these blog discussions, I haven't yet read any comparative fare rates for streetcars. Ideas anyone?

by NineInchNachos on 3/15/2010 @ 8:28pm
invade ruston. we Tacomans.... we need breathing room!

by tacoma1 on 3/15/2010 @ 8:58pm
If we take over Ruston, can we at least ban the Ruston residents from showing up at our city council meetings?

by Jesse on 3/16/2010 @ 7:51am
"Invade Ruston"

Now we're talking!!!

by Jesse on 3/16/2010 @ 7:57am
Dear University Place,

A strip mall does not constitute a "city".


PS - You're a joke.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/16/2010 @ 10:18am
UPS may be a joke but they do have a Trader Joe's. Pretty smug are those UPSers.