Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 24, 2008 at 12:17am

TNT's Dan Voelpel: Tacoma Streetcars has Momentum

(Picture of Morgan Alexander by Todd Matthews at Tacoma Daily Index)

Yesterday, Tribune business reporter Dan Voelpel interviewed Morgan Alexander of Tacoma Streetcars:

It's a great article.  Here an excerpt:

Streetcars pick up traction, but will Sound Transit listen?

If momentum counts for anything, the grass-roots movement to build a streetcar network in Tacoma has it now.

This month two more neighborhood councils, representing the North End and downtown, have allied themselves with Tacoma Streetcar’s simple vision: a citywide streetcar network connecting Tacoma’s neighborhoods.

Also this month, Sound Transit announced that its 2007 ridership jumped 12.5 percent compared to an overall U.S. increase of 2 percent. That means Sound Transit recorded roughly 1.5 million more trips on its fleet of express buses and commuter trains. Rising gas prices should drive those numbers up this year – and might drive more support for streetcars.

At its board meeting Thursday, Sound Transit representatives plan to discuss whether to present us voters with another package of transit upgrades later this year. The board also will mull over what transit expansions to put in that package. It’s scheduled to vote April 10.

Tacoma Streetcar, five neighborhood organizations and a downtown transit committee have written letters to Sound Transit asking that any package presented to voters include an intracity streetcar network for Tacoma.

I sat down last week with Morgan Alexander, who founded Tacoma Streetcar three years ago, to talk about his progress and what he expects next.

What would you tell Sound Transit before its decision on the next transit package?

We’re saying, “Yes, you should do it, and yes, it should have streetcars on it.” That’s been our big push right now. I think there’s an opportunity for Tacoma, if Tacoma would just seize it, to ask for something. To say, “We want this and we want this to be streetcars.” Instead of just kind of reacting later when Sound Transit proposes something we really don’t want. I see it as an opportunity for Tacoma to take a proactive stand.

Voelpel has been a big supporter of streetcars in Tacoma. Here's a part of his article on May 26, 2006:

Streetcar network not just nostalgic – it’s practical, too

Let’s craft our own vintage streetcar network for Tacoma.

Given today’s political realities, our first phase must cover enough of the city to engender the votes to pay for it.

Why do this now, you ask?

Because a grass-roots campaign to bring streetcars back to Tacoma – which I first told you about in August – has gained serious traction with the Tacoma City Council.

The council plans to vote June 6 on a resolution calling for a feasibility study, cost analysis and route options for a streetcar-type network to connect Tacoma’s neighborhoods and business districts.

“This is fantastic,” said Morgan Alexander, a Tacoma real estate broker who started tacomastreetcar.org last year. “It’s an idea that’s been out there waiting to be pushed. And … it took a lot of pushing to get any momentum going at City Hall.”

Finally, Sound Transit is apparently placing in a streetcar proposal for Seattle in the next Sound Tranist package:

Sound Transit's 18-member board has until March 29 to decide if it wants to put a transit package on the ballot this year, and which projects to put in front of voters. On March 6, staff will present board members with a proposal to raise sales taxes in the Sound Transit area 0.4 percent—an increase that would raise about $6 billion, in 2007 dollars, over 20 years.

For that amount, voters would get light rail from Husky Stadium to Northgate and from Seattle to Bellevue across I-90. The proposal would also pay for a streetcar connecting Capitol Hill to First Hill, where a planned light-rail station was eliminated...

Nice for Seattle.  Would it be too much to obtain a streetcar component for Tacoma as well?

comments [2]  |  posted under tacoma


by fredo on 3/24/2008 @ 12:03pm
Morgan, your efforts are to be applauded. However, even though gas prices are driving people to look for alternatives, I don't see how a tax increase is going to gain any traction. I think most people will just muddle along the best they can. But good look on your initiative.

by Erik on 3/24/2008 @ 12:23pm
I don't see how a tax increase is going to gain any traction. I think most people will just muddle along the best they can. But good look on your initiative.

Whether or not the Sound Transit package will pass or not is an interesting issue. With the suburban "cross base highway" portion removed, I think the chances might be higher, at least for the city.