Jesse's Blog

Sep. 20, 2012 at 10:55am

Streetcar Tacoma: My Routing Opinion. What's Yours?

I wrote this as I have, unfortunately, a lot of time to kill these days.  I thought I would start contributing to the feed once in a while instead of just my usual commenting.  This is just my opinion on the new proposed streetcar line and why I think it should go on Tacoma Avenue. 

Heavy transit corridors that necessitate rail don’t go to the suburbs. I’m shocked that the plans state that some of the routes go to places like the mall, out on 6th avenue past Sprague, anywhere on 19th street, or out south of Salishan. These are obviously not the best routes to build when looking at the density rail often serves or causes. After all, does New York, Rome, Portland, Paris, or any other city with rail send it out to a zone where there’s primarily single family housing? No. It stays where the big density is possible and where it can make businesses and commerce stronger. It stays close to the core of the city because that’s where the amenities are and therefore serves well the people who can’t afford the suburbs, like the city life, or want to live car free - saving an average of $700 a month.


If you have a map and there’s primarily single family houses or duplex’s in the area of where you’re thinking of putting the tracks, than you are way off base in your thinking of where to put said tracks.

I think the best route is going up Stadium way to at least that district.  Perhaps stopping there or going down Tacoma Avenue and turning onto Jefferson and making it's way back to 17th and Pacific Avenue.  I'd also like to see a line (would it have to be a cable-car?) straight up 11th from the Murray Morgan Bridge to the MLK business district.


I like Tacoma Avenue because it is:

1. At the edge of UWT and sudents have proven they will ride light rail in Tacoma.  

2. It is only about 6 blocks from the Pacific line therefore creating a sandwich effect on the land between the lines - for commerce reasons.  Pedestrian shed on side blocks.

3.  Tacoma Avenue needs to be a major street in town for commerce.  Coupled with a freeway on/off ramp at Delin/Tacoma Avenue, you'd jump start Tacoma Ave as an important corridor again.

4.  At the Tacoma Avenue and Jefferson/Center Street intersection end of the line is a great spur location for a line to the mall, downtown brewery district, Lincoln High School, or the Lincoln District.  These lines then become cheaper to add onto the system later.

5. The Stadium area on Tacoma avenue is a great spur location for a future line to 6th Avenue, Old Tacoma, or downtown.  These lines then become cheaper to add onto the system later.

6. It would go right by the City/County Building - where there's always lots of foot traffic.  

7.  Tacoma Avenue needs a makeover to attract more housing and commerce.  Having only Pacific Avenue as the "main" street in town guarantees that not much value is added to locations only a few blocks off this path.

8. It sandwiches the mega-lot at Tacoma Ave and 21st and will make it attractive enough to get something awesome in there.  

9. Downtown is built on rock and underground parking is near impossible west of Pacific Ave.  If it went down Tacoma Avenue, you could build satellite parking structures and eliminate the parking requirement downtown for big businesses causing our real estate to be much much cheaper to a developer to actually build on.  

10. A Tacoma Avenue line goes right by Stadium High School and close to walking from Lincoln High School. If you haven't noticed, this is a demographic having money to spend on things like clothes, meals, and entertainment. For proof, pay attention to how many stores target teens in the mall.

11.  Creating this line created much less money to expand it out to another business district in the future creating the possibility that some of these districts may start the process of making this happen on their own.

12.  It encouraged UWT to build it's next buildings out to it's currently planned west side of the campus much sooner.  Therefore forcing the center of the campus to be completed, if only asthetically, faster.


Our ancestors knew all of these reasons and built the 2nd streetcar line ever on Tacoma Avenue.  Are we as smart?


Joining the hospitals on an MLK line shouldn't be a priority as people usually never leave a hospital if they work there and patients are either financially, emotionally, or physically destitute when coming or going that they create no commerce nearby.  Otherwise, if this "Medical Mile" would create commerce, hospitals everywhere would be surrounded by commerce and they aren't.  Doctors rarely (see also; never) leave for lunch and are wealthy enough to not be living nearby in a one or two bedroom condo.  But the business district there in itself is ripe for greatness IMO as it's proximity to downtown and the suburbs is ideal... but not BECAUSE OF the hospitals.


Sixth Avenue business district would have a hard time with this because of parking issues after the line is built -- and anything west of Sprague is the burbs anyways.  Besides students, people out in the suburbs LIKE their cars.  That's why they live in the suburbs!  Do these people want to set off a building density emphasis right on sixth Avenue?  Can you foresee and like seeing buildings being torn down in exchange for 3-6 story mixed use buildings?  That's likely to happen on sixth avenue and it's likely to happen INSTEAD OF it happening downtown.  I personally love sixth avenue the way it is and wouldn't want to see this.  Besides, what are they going to build the streetcar out to Alder and stop the route there?  Are you then going to have to load onto a bus for the rest of the route? 


The mall is 50 years old and in the outside of the downtown core.  Unless there's a way to use it for it's parking, this is a horrible idea.


Salishan is a good line but anything south of it on Portland avenue not only encourages sprawl but is a waste of money.  The route to Salishan is almost all dead streets as far as shopping or housing is concerned.  You'd have a hard time extracting the full potential of streetcar's economic impact if the line goes here.


Pacific Highway?  Really?  As long as there's a Sounder line, Tacoma isn't getting light rail to Seattle.


If there's a route up some of these suburban lines, what is the streetcar service going to end (because that's what line they could afford?) and then you'll have to load onto a bus?  Lol. 


The best way to build a track is on one street going one way and putting the other direction of tracks on a street at least two streets over parallel - this is how Portland capitalizes on it's system.  You buy not much more materials for the project but you get twice as much track frontage in front of businesses/commerce/ housing.  This  gets you much more commerce out of each dollar spent.  It creates (at least) a four block wide strip of street (pedestrian shed) where there's fixed transit lines... this is how the Pearl in Portland took off and it would create a similar effect between the Commerce line and the proposed (here) Tacoma Avenue line.

What are your thoughtful opinions on streetcar routes?  Where should it go and why?

comments [4]  |  posted under jesse, parking, route, streetcar, tacoma


by low bar on 9/20/2012 @ 11:46am
Agreed. And boycott IGA DT in favor of a TJ's. And turn the WSHM into a UWT school of Law so I don't have to go to the one in Seattle.

by NineInchNachos on 9/20/2012 @ 12:26pm
Go Jesse! 

by cisserosmiley on 9/20/2012 @ 1:53pm
It's got to be 6th ave because there is a built in user base all along this road.

by Jesse on 9/20/2012 @ 2:02pm
That depends on if you think streetcar can create density downtown or not. I'm sure it can and would.