Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 20, 2008 at 12:02am

Sound Transit and Streetcars: Down To The Wire

Yesterday, Tacoma Streetcars issued to the following press release:





TACOMA NEIGHBORHOODS ENDORSE SOUND TRANSIT STREETCAR EXTENSION


(Tacoma, WA) - With a potential vote by the Sound Transit board on another transit ballot proposal about a week away, Tacoma neighborhood groups are endorsing an expansion of  the existing LINK streetcar system connecting Tacoma's neighborhoods mixed use centers.


The Hilltop Action Coalition (HAC) voted their support in February followed by the North End Neighborhood Council. Joining them this week is the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council. The Central and West End Neighborhood Council's voted to support the concept of a city-wide streetcar system in 2006.



Jonathan Phillips, Chair of the North End Neighborhood Council wrote



 "with the Failure of Proposition 1, we support Sound Transit placing an intracity streetcar network within the city and believe that this must be in the next Sound Transit proposal with prompt funding. 


We agree with Tacoma Streetcar's statement that "...any Sound Transit proposal in the future must contain funding for a streetcar system in Tacoma connecting its neighborhood mixed use centers" and "the streetcar system should have an aggressive time line, commencing on the passing of the ballot measure."



In a letter to Sound Transit and local officials, Marty Campbell, President of the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council board wrote, "we request that any future Sound Transit ballot proposal include an extension of the existing LINK system..."



"This is a unique opportunity to implement much overdue investment in Tacoma's neighborhoods," stated Tacoma Streetcar President, Morgan Alexander. He further asserted "a Tacoma LINK extension connecting our neighborhoods will give voters the best bang for the buck in our great city."



Tacoma Streetcar sent a letter to the Sound Transit board in early February urging them to include an intracity LINK extension in any future ballot proposal and to do so with an aggressive construction time frame.


To learn more about Tacoma Streetcar, please visit

http://www.tacomastreetcar.org


 ###


For media inquiries please contact Morgan Alexander, Board President

________________________

Commentary:

The streetcar issue is coming to a head.  Should be interesting to see if Sound Transit can come up with a proposal that is good enough this time to vote for.

Any Sound Transit proposal is going to have to stand on it's own merits to pass at the ballot box.  For many of Tacoma's neighborhoods and community groups, a meritorious transportation measure means one that includes an intra city streetcar system.  Tacoma's neighborhoods have spent two years looking at this issue.

If there is one systematic mistake Tacoma keeps making in transportation issues is that it has repeatedly sacrificed the qualities and vibrancy of the city in the name of moving more people whether for cars or trains.

In order to gain more "parking" city leaders destroyed several blocks of historical buildings on Pacific Avenue build parking garages.  Having destroyed most of the attractiveness of Pacific Avenue, one could then park easily but then few wanted to.

The latest Sound Transit proposed rail line that will go through the Dome District will cause the loss of many businesses and create an blightful cement overpass all sacrificed in order to move more people. This has made downtown Tacoma a place to drive through but not stop at : A Road to Nowhere of sorts.

Streetcars, on the other hand, have the unique ability to move people while simultaneously rebuilding and attracting investment the area around the Streetcar lines.  If Sound Transit can support a streetcar system in Seattle and Everett and a mile of one in Tacoma, it is reasonable to extend the LINK between neighborhoods here.

 


(Previously on Tacoma Urbanist)

For more information, see
:

Tacoma Streetcars

North End Neighborhood Council

New Tacoma Neighborhood Council

The Bus Stops Here: Transportation Blog (Article on Streetcar issue)

comments [20]  |  posted under tacoma, washington

Comments

by AndrewBecherer on 3/20/2008 @ 12:07pm
If Sound Transit can support a streetcar system in Seattle and Everett and a mile of one in Tacoma, it is reasonable to extend the LINK between neighborhoods here.

I thought we covered this yesterday. Streetcar development in Seattle and the proposed streetcar development in Everett are projects run and funded by the cities with help from the State of Washington and the federal government.

I support streetcars for Tacoma but Sound Transit is not the correct entity to which we must direct our lobbying.

P.S. Streetcars in Everett are far from a done deal. The mayor of Everett is attempting to prevent any more money being spent on streetcar feasibility studies.

by Jake on 3/20/2008 @ 12:31pm
But wasn't ST planning a streetcar to First Hill?

by Erik on 3/20/2008 @ 1:18pm
I support streetcars for Tacoma but Sound Transit is not the correct entity to which we must direct our lobbying.

Sound Transit built what there is of LINK in Tacoma. They can certainly extend it. In fact, the latest plan that they have discussed does have a significant LINK extension within the city.

Thus, I certainly expect Sound Transit to continue running the current LINK and extend it within Tacoma.

We will see if it is a sufficient extension between neighborhoods to make the package worth voting for.

by tacoma1 on 3/20/2008 @ 1:22pm
Sound Transit is a regional transit authority, not a local agency. I would love to see the Link expanded, but we will have to do what Seattle did with their South Lake Union street car. They designed it, built it, and are operating it themselves. They paid for it with a combination of sources: a local improvement district, State, City, and Federal funds.

Hoping for someone to build us a light rail system is not a very productive way to get one built. Pierce Transit, the City of Tacoma, and ultimately Tacoma taxpayers would be the ones to decide if we will have a streetcar system. I for one am in favor of it, if it is affordable. Meanwhile, I am happy to let Sound Transit concentrate on the Sounder commuter rail (which is a wonderful way to get to Seattle) or the Express buses.

Yes, Sound Transit did build Tacoma Link, but I believe that Tacoma tax payers paid for the whole thing. I am sure that if we raise the funds to extend it, that they would be happy to do so. It all gets down to money in the end.

by AndrewBecherer on 3/20/2008 @ 2:10pm
When does this become a "cyberspat?"

by NineInchNachos on 3/20/2008 @ 4:05pm
congratulations You folks made it in the Biz Examner!

by Erik on 3/20/2008 @ 6:16pm
Thanks for the link RR:

As Sound Transit officials wrestle with the possibility of sending another funding package to voters in November, a group of Tacoma neighborhood groups have requested that the agency consider a city-wide expansion of light rail service. Today, New Tacoma Neighborhood Council announced its support of a proposal that would extend Tacoma's Link Light Rail by building a modified, more affordable web of rail connections between Tacoma's neighborhood business districts.

by Erik on 3/20/2008 @ 8:41pm
Street car advocates come out swinging

www.businessexaminer.com/blog/street-car...

by Twisty on 3/20/2008 @ 9:36pm
Sorry, Erik... I like streetcars too, but ST is supposed to be a regional agency that serves *commuters*. Intracity streetcar service doesn't belong on ST's next ballot proposal, as it is not related to that mission in any way.

I know, I know... they built LINK. But, quite frankly, they shouldn't have done so. LINK is nice, but at the end of the day it was little more than a bit of pandering to get Pierce County voters to help finance the startup of Seattle's light rail transportation network.

They needed the votes, so they threw us a bone. I'm not impressed.

LINK cost around $11,000 PER FOOT. If we are going to build a streetcar system in Tacoma, it had better cost a *lot* less per unit of distance (like, say, around 5-10% of what LINK cost), or we shouldn't do it. It's not worth it, and we can't afford it.

And furthermore, I'm not sure that I want the agency that built LINK -- under those circumstances and at that cost -- to be involved in anything that is being built purely to run between Tacoma neighborhoods.

by Erik on 3/20/2008 @ 9:44pm
Good question Twisty.

I contacted my Sound Transit informant who told me that Sound Transit Streetcar projects. They are also public knowledge.

Your right that Tacoma's LINK is a Sound Transit package.

In the last ballot initiative, Seattle's Capital Hill was also going to be added as a Sound Transit line.

Despite the question on the issue, the Everett Streetcar was proposed to be built by Sound Transit.

People can differ as to what they want from transportation. Some want a commuter connector. Others want a roads package. Many want a streetcar system.

Sound Transit has history of building or proposing streetcar type systems in at least three cities and I expect them to again with the next package if they want it to pass.

The reason I think that the neighborhood streetcar system makes sense is that I believe that it is the only option that has the potential of benefiting Tacoma.

In the end, everyone's going to have to view the package to see whether it is worth supporting based on their values and interests.

We will know soon enough what they propose and whether it is even this year.

by AndrewBecherer on 3/21/2008 @ 7:53am
LINK cost around $11,000 PER FOOT. If we are going to build a streetcar system in Tacoma, it had better cost a *lot* less per unit of distance (like, say, around 5-10% of what LINK cost), or we shouldn't do it. It's not worth it, and we can't afford it.

According to Sound Transit's estimates a LINK extension to TCC via 6th Avenue would cost $579.5 - $666.4. The ST document "Link LRT: Extension of Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College with Tacoma Link Technology" has the details:

www.soundtransit.org/documents/pdf/st2/p...

by AndrewBecherer on 3/21/2008 @ 8:21am
In the last ballot initiative, Seattle's Capital Hill was also going to be added as a Sound Transit line.

That is not exactly true. Sound Transit proposed to, in their words, "Enhance transit service connections between First Hill, the Central Link light rail line, and downtown Seattle transit hubs with new transit service (streetcar or bus) along the Jackson Street / Broadway Avenue corridor." You will note that they left the option to use buses open because the streetcar option cost more that $100 million more than the bus option. What was really in ST2 was the "option" to build a Capitol Hill streetcar.

source: www.soundtransit.org/documents/pdf/st2/p...

Despite the question on the issue, the Everett Streetcar was proposed to be built by Sound Transit.

Erik, you have made an unsubstantiated claim. An Everett streetcar was not part of ST2 (Central LINK extensions were). You can review the proposed Central LINK expansions at:

www.soundtransit.org/documents/pdf/st2/p...

I have been unable to find any reference in the media to Sound Transit funding of, much less involvement in the Everett streetcar project. I can tell you that the $113,000 feasibility study was funded by the City of Everett [1] and presented to the Everett city council on 12/19/2007 by Tom Brennan, from Nelson Nygaard Associates, and Chris Zahas, from Lelend Consulting Group.[2] I can also tell you that the, "consultant's report projects that as much as $92 million could be raised through a transit sales tax increase."[3] The NelsonNygaard study went on to state that the city could raise "$60 million from the Federal Transit Administration's Small Starts program."[3]

Sorry if that does not jive with your unnamed source.

[1] www.heraldnet.com/article/20071224/NEWS0...

[2] www.everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=298

[3] www.heraldnet.com/article/20080310/NEWS0...

by AndrewBecherer on 3/21/2008 @ 8:28am
the only option that has the potential of benefiting Tacoma.

Funny, I thought Sound Transit was supposed to benefit the region [1] and that our subarea projects were intended to benefit Pierce County [2].

[1] www.soundtransit.org/x8.xml

[2] www.soundtransit.org/x1393.xml

by tacoma1 on 3/21/2008 @ 9:22am
Link downtown was expensive because it was built to handle larger cars (in the future) than are currently being used, i.e. a longer run up to the airport. Although it cost more to put in, we won't have to tear up the tracks to expand like Seattle did in their bus tunnel.

As to extending the line, I certainly would love to see it on the ballot, whether it is just to TG, or further...........

I just think that we will have to take our "destiny" in our own hands to get an extensive local streetcar network.

by Twisty on 3/21/2008 @ 9:37am
tacoma1:
I disagree. I think Tacoma LINK was expensive for the same reason that Seattle's Central LINK is expensive: they are blowing obscene amounts of money of a lot of fluff that has little or nothing to do with the light rail itself.

Go drive the route along MLK Way in Seattle, and you will see what I mean. The project has a footprint that extends at least 100 feet to either side of the actual rails, and more like 200 feet in some places.

Building light rail is not going to be practical if we are going to insist on repaving side streets, adding fancy landscaping (with sprinklers, of course), building new fences and retaining walls for homeowners, adding cobblestones and fancy decorative pavement styles, putting in snazzy faux-vintage luminaires... the list goes on and on and on and on...

We see the same thing in Tacoma, where putting in LINK also included complete refurbishment of existing streets and sidewalks. I would offer that LINK could have been built for a fraction of what it ultimately cost, if indeed the project was intended to serve transportation needs, rather than as a welfare program for the construction trades.

by Erik on 3/21/2008 @ 9:52am
Funny, I thought Sound Transit was supposed to benefit the region [1] and that our subarea projects were intended to benefit Pierce County [2].

Now we are getting somewhere. What should be the output measures for success. The difference is that the neighborhoods want something that will benefit the City of Tacoma.

by dltooley on 3/21/2008 @ 9:52am
A strategy of seeking both local and regional support for intracity street car rail is probably wise - and each would probably make the case for the other stronger.

Benefits of a local segment would include increased service beyond what we can expect from the region as well as our own ability to investigate costs. A locally sponsored link would also strengthen the lobbying effort for regional funds for other segments.

And on the subject - how about a locally financed segment looping from EQC up 38th to the Tacoma Mall, complementing a regionally funded link to TCC?

Who knows they might even connect at some point - perhaps via Lakewood, UP, and Fircrest with a spur to Ruston .

by tacoma1 on 3/21/2008 @ 10:05am
I have no problem with light rail projects (or any public project) adding landscaping and artwork. Having the area look like a place you would want to go is what public projects should be about. Downtown Tacoma never looked better.

by Erik on 3/21/2008 @ 1:38pm
Now the Seattle Transit Blog has picked up on Tacoma's Story:

Andrew Becherer weighs in on this Tacoma Urbanist post about how Tacoma neighborhoods are demanding streetcars as part of ST2. The Tacoma neighborhoods are demanding that any Sound Transit proposal in the future must contain funding for a streetcar system in Tacoma connecting its neighborhood mixed use centers”.

Strong language. We've been following the Tacoma Streetcar issue for a while now, and I personally love the idea.


seatrans.blogspot.com/2008/03/more-stree...

Nice to get some support from our forward thinking friends in Seattle.

by AndrewBecherer on 3/21/2008 @ 4:06pm
You left out the good part,

My question is this: is that streetcar part of a regional transit network? If it is, then it could be part of a Sound Transit package.

The Seattle Transit Blog goes on to describe the roll of Sound Transit as a regional transit authority and the Tacoma LINK as an intermodal transfer mechanism.

Would a major network in Tacoma do that, or would it simply connect the neighborhoods in downtown?