Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 25, 2013 at 8:05am

Will Sound Transit Allow Tacoma to Derail A Sensible Light Rail Link Extension?

While Seattle is connecting one neighborhood after another with streetcar lines, Tacoma's right rail link extension process is at risk of being stalled out after nine years of exhaustive studies...with the threat of more studies. 

Worse, the idea of extending light rail may be abandoned completely.  Now there is a proposal to just install a bus to run the route where the light rail would have. A bad idea considering that studies have shown that bus lines have far lower ridership, are more expensive and enhance development far less than light rail lines.

A further analysis on this issues is presented below by transit advocate Chris Karnes:


Tacoma Link may be delayed by Boe, Campbell, Strickland

Does Council really think we need to study more corridors?

If you haven't already, please take the latest Sound Transit survey.

Lewis Kamb at The News Tribune is reporting today that the Tacoma City Council has sent a letter to Joni Earl requesting that the schedule for Tacoma Link alignment adoption be pushed back two weeks, and Board adoption by at least a month to study David Boe's "hybrid" corridor.

The concept was introduced with support by Mayor (and ST Board Member) Marilyn Strickland, was outlined by David Boe (At-Large), and was later supported by a number of city councilmembers like Marty Campbell (Eastside) at the Committee of the Whole meeting on March 19th.

I don't think that I can mince words about how foolish this kind of reality-divorced groupthink makes the Tacoma City Council look to Sound Transit and to the rest of the Puget Sound.  This only serves to embarrass the city and to show how little they understand the factors that influence how public transit operates.  They are attempting to hijack a process without a system plan or Transit Master Plan, and jumping in with their own uninformed long range vision.  By making this request, the City Council has actually weakened their own position in the process of selecting a preferred alternative, and has strengthened the voices of the community calling for other well-documented corridors.  I only hope that Sound Transit will see this for what it is and continue with the established schedule.

Refuting the "Hybrid's" Expandabilty Argument

Additional graphic on C1/E2 Hybrid Corridor

If either a B1/E1 alignment were chosen for expansion, more neighborhoods would have "last mile" access to Tacoma Link than the Hybrid: Tacoma Ave, Market St., MLK, 6th Avenue, Portland Ave, Lincoln, Old Town, and "I" St.  The Lincoln District on 38th and G St. would still be just as accessible from a Tacoma Ave line intersecting with the Stadium District at North 1st and Tacoma Avenue, but would still face significant engineering challenges getting across the valley.  So after all of the budget is exhausted, we would still be no closer to expanding Tacoma Link to any additional neighborhoods in Tacoma.  Council is really proceeding down a path that is not recommended by anyone - not staff, not constituents or transit riders, not the stakeholder committee, nor any previous studies of Tacoma Link extension.

The idea is to build, "a parallel line to the existing line, within walking distance, that travels through no dense residential areas, exceeds the possible budget substantially, and potentially has a circuitous double-back on itself north to south to reach St. Joseph Medical Center."

If I were to suggest this as a transit planner, I would be fired for gross incompetence.  It is divorced from the reality that we already have 1.6 miles of track in the ground, that the City has already invested millions in the reconstruction of Stadium Way to make it streetcar ready, and the fact that there are significant sections along Pacific Avenue and S. 25th St that are single track and capacity constrained.

Are we dealing with one new last-minute proposal or three?

Tacoma Link as it exists today is
practically ignored by David Boe's Hybrid
This bit from the article is particularly astonishing (emphasis mine).
...city officials are “fully aware” the hybrid route is longer than any of the three recommended corridors, Broadnax said the city is “open to the terminus of this corridor being located in another location” other than Sixth Avenue within the MLK mixed use center. He suggested other potential terminus choices as South 19th Street and MLK Way, or South 11th Street and MLK Way.
They don't even know where the terminus should be.  How are you supposed to evaluate an alternative without knowing a specific terminus?  That sounds more like three different alternatives than just one.  The city obviously has no clue about what it's doing. They failed to create a plan to prepare for this decision and now they are grasping at straws, desperately trying to retain some level of relevance.

The saving grace of the City Council at this point seems to be the levelheadedness of Ryan Mello, who at least put to bed the concept of recommending a BRT alternative when he said, "For these monies and this purpose, we've chosen the mode. That train has left the station.”

Ryan's levelheadedness, unfortunately is matched by Marty Campbell's ... interesting grasp of basic laws of physics, when he indicates that regenerative braking from a hybrid-electric bus down Tacoma's slopes could be used to propel the vehicle.  What's even more ludicrous is his insinuation that light rail is an antiquated technology that has been surpassed by improvements in bus technology.  To him, I say, go ride Central Link in Seattle and then take a trip on RapidRide.  There's a world of difference in ride quality, vibration, speed, and reliability.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/03/23/2526500/hybrid-corridor-idea-for-link.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: 'Hybrid corridor' idea for Tacoma Link modifies timetable

Again, if you haven't already, please take the latest Sound Transit survey.


Commentary: The proposed hybrid route biggest failure, is it' tortured efforts to avoid connecting the nearby high density neighborhood of Stadium which is recommended in 2 of 3 remaining proposals by Sound Transit. 

Such a route would devastate ridership numbers on the Link expansion which is the primary purpose having transit in Tacoma.  If circuitous route for Link is made in which very few ride, the Link extension will be deemed a failure by Sound Transit, the media and everyone else and put into jeopardy any hope for extending Link light rail to other neighborhoods.

As for the ill conceived notion of simply replacing the Link extension with a bus line, there are two problems.

First, this would force all riders to depart Link at Commernce and wait for a bus to pick them up rather than being able to ride the Link directly to their destination which would cause a significant hassle and reduce the useability of using the system.

Second, as the article explains below, light rail has a greater ridership numbers, is cheaper and is considered a great assets of a city than a bus system.


Blog Why streetcars are better than buses

click to enlarge
DC Circulator and Streetcar, to scale.
Not the same.

Streetcars are big in planning circles right now. DC and Arlington have grand plans for them, as do many cities around the US. Every time the subject comes up, however, someone poses the question what makes streetcars better than buses?

It’s a valid question, and it has a series of valid answers. Here are the most important:

  1. Streetcars have greater capacity than buses. Streetcars are bigger, longer, and can be combined into multi-car trains. They can carry many more passengers than any bus, even accordion buses. For corridors with transit ridership too high for buses but not high enough for Metro, streetcars can be a good solution.
  2. Streetcars are more affordable than buses. While it’s true that streetcars require a much larger initial capital investment than buses, that capital cost can be offset by significant operational savings year-to year, depending on the circumstances. In the long term, streetcars are more affordable as long as they are used on high ridership routes. Streetcars’ higher capacity means that if there are lots of riders on your route, you can move them with fewer vehicles. Fewer vehicles means more efficient use of fuel and fewer (unionized, pensioned) drivers to pay. Also, streetcar vehicles themselves are much more sturdy than buses, and last many decades longer. While buses must generally be retired and replacements purchased about every 10 years, streetcars typically last 40 years or more. For example, Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system is still using streetcar vehicles built in 1947 (although they have been overhauled once since then).
  3. Streetcars are much more comfortable to ride than buses. One of the big reasons why many Americans don’t like buses is that they are so rumbly. They jerk you up, down, side to side. They’re simply not comfortable. Streetcars glide along a rail much more smoothly, offering a vastly more comfortable ride. Less motion sickness, easier to hang on. This issue isn’t often discussed in newspaper articles, and rail opponents like to pretend it’s not a big deal, but it is a really big deal. Comfort matters to passengers.
  4. Streetcar routes are easier to understand. In any big city, buses are confusing. There are so many criss-crossing and competing routes that it can be intimidating and difficult to understand. New users are turned off because they don’t want to accidentally get on the wrong bus and end up miles from their real destination. Streetcars, on the other hand, are easier to understand because the cost of constructing tracks inherently limits the size of the system. Instead of an incomprehensible jumble, you get a clean and easy to understand system map. Even if streetcar line names may be a little more complicated than “Red Line”, they’ll be a whole heckuva lot easier to figure out than “P18″.
  5. Streetcars attract more riders than buses. Partially because of the above points, streetcars are always used by more people than buses when all other things are equal. They attract more passengers, which after all is the whole point of public transit.
  6. Streetcars are economic development magnets. The presence of rail transit nearby is one of the best incentives for economic development in the world. Metro stations radically remade large swaths of the DC area, and streetcars can do the same (have done the same, in places like Portland and Toronto). Developers rarely base decisions around bus lines, but routinely follow rail investments with real estate ones. In fact, the additional taxes generated by rail-oriented development is often used to repay the initial capital investment of rail lines.
  7. Streetcars use electricity rather than gas. This potentially makes streetcars much more environmentally friendly than buses, although it depends how the electricity is generated. And while it’s true that electric buses exist, they are almost never used in the US because of BRT creep, and require the same overhead wires as streetcars.
  8. Streetcars are much quieter than buses. Because they run on electricity, streetcars are very quiet vehicles. They are much less disruptive to neighborhood life than buses.
  9. Streetcars are iconic. Trains are graphic symbols for the city in a way that buses simply are not. Every tourist knows about the DC Metro, the New York subway, and the San Francisco cable cars. Their trains are an indispensable part of those city’s brands, and streetcars will be too as soon as they’re running. With the exception of London and its double deckers, nobody ever sent a postcard featuring a picture of a bus.

Of course, buses are useful tools, and are appropriate in many situations. Nothing here should suggest that buses shouldn’t be a major part of every city’s transit network. But buses are demonstrably different than streetcars. They don’t have the same characteristics, and don’t accomplish the same goals.


comments [51]  |  posted under Link, Tacoma


by Erik on 3/25/2013 @ 8:36am
Just in (yesterday) from transit advocate Chris Karnes to move the process forward:

Join us for an evening to rally for the expansion Tacoma Link light rail.

We will have information about next steps, information about each of the alternative corridors, and an opportunity to sign a letter of support.

After more than 7 years of study, it is time to move forward with an extension of Tacoma Link.

The Amocat Cafe will be serving beer this evening. Program/speakers to follow at 6:00pm

When: April 5, 2013 5:00 p.m.

Where: Amocat Cafe located at 625 St. Helens in downtown Tacoma

Link to event on Facebook:


by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 9:35am
Points of interest:
  • With the hybrid route, you gain access within blocks of the Lincoln business district, 6th Avenue, etc. A real spine for offshoot routes.
  • Sorry, but the 6th Avenue studies done over many years were not done by city planners.
  • The hybrid route could gain support of the Puyallup Tribe and therefore be funded by them.  If funded, that's the matching $50m needed to match the $50m Small Starts Grant and the $50 Sound Transit match.
  • If my last point is true, it speeds up the process by years.  You may get the line after the hybrid route in the same timeframe as without it.
  • The hybrid route goes through build-able properties that we want to be redeveloped.  The build-able properties along the B1 route include Frisco Freeze and MSM's building.  That is, big lots with low square footage buildings that could therefore be bought and redeveloped by a developer to "pencil-out".
  • To simplify the process by saying "just connect high density nodes" is wrong.  There are other concerns to consider as streetcar isn't just an elegant and sexier way of operating a bus line, it's also about development, certainty of transit corridors for developers, parking alleviation, and setting up a system of planning for where the city wants future density.
  • Portland ran their lines once through a warehouse region filled with druggies (the Pearl), once through a field (south waterfront), and once recently through the east side industrial district where all that really exists are tilt-up supply houses.  All three lines are the equivalent of running Tacoma's system through the east Foss tide flats and saying "we're going to develop this now".  So, where it goes has a lot to do with future plans and is considered the impetus of development. 
  • Citizens will always want this to go by their home or business.  That means the feedback is skewed to the population that is the loudest.  
  • How about some professional city planners, streetcar experts (real experts), and developers decide where the next line goes?
  • We don't know what's really going on behind the scenes.  Isn't it odd that a the better city council members in Boe, Campbell, and Strickland are all on board for this change?  Doesn't that say something?

by Erik on 3/25/2013 @ 9:35am
The hybrid doesn't really add anything to the Link system.It is largely parallel to the current system is an attempt to place the right "backbone" on the Link system that is perceived not to be present there.


A nice thought in theory.  If funding was infinite, I think more people might be open to restarting the whole light Link system in Tacoma. However, I think we are stuck to some degree to the track we have.

Here is some analysis of the hybrid's flaws by Tacoma Tomorrow which I mainly agree with:

While some on the Council may be intrigued by the new "hybrid" of E2 and C1, it has some pretty serious flaws not the least of which is that it has not been properly vetted by the public at this late stage of Alternatives Analysis.

The hybrid red line, if projected to run from the Emerald Queen Casino along Puyallup Ave to Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Ave to 6th and MLK is roughly four route miles. Four route miles is about as far as we can possibly hope to extend Tacoma Link with the ~$150m budget allocated.

That, in and of itself is not a fatal flaw, but when you factor in that this route bypasses the population density of the Stadium District AND doesn't reach a neighborhood outside of Downtown, AND doesn't connect the hospitals, AND duplicates a lot of the same corridor that Tacoma Link already serves, you start to see how this idea might be a bit premature.

Ridership and cost figures from Sound Transit will likely indicate that this corridor just doesn't have the market share to be successful at this stage of rail transit expansion. Maybe later, but not now.


by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 9:47am
The current line is not a spine for a comprehensive system.  E1 could be that spine but it doesn't get tribal dollars.  Where would the city's matching $50m come from for E1 or B1?  It wouldn't come from developers for B1 and it wouldn't come from the neighborhood for E1.  I would even doubt the two hospitals would care that a streetcar connected them.  They may mildly care but probably not enough to get a full $50m out of them.

Also, "couplets" cause density. Transit extremists hate them as they erode at ridership but streetcar is more than just about ridership.

Don't get me wrong, if the tribe isn't involved in this somehow and this is just a ploy to get off track or a delay tactic, I am certainly not for it. But, the city would never tell if they have something up their sleeve until it's all wrapped up as a certainty.

by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 9:51am
If the city is negotiating with the tribe, please throw in the ridiculous billboards along I-5 as part of the deal.  Use this opportunity to get rid of them.

by dolly varden on 3/25/2013 @ 10:48am
I'm with Jesse on the billboard issue.  I would almost support council member Boe's odd parallel streetcar idea if he could use it to negotiate the billboards' demolition.

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/25/2013 @ 11:02am
This does not get us any closer to the Lincoln District.  Public works has already indicated that the structural integrity of pretty much every street bridge across Nalley Valley would not be capable of handling a streetcar.  This is a significant engineering challenge that would significantly add to the cost of any extension to the Lincoln District across the valley.
The Hybrid doesn't get us closer to any other neighborhood outside of Downtown, it gets us further away, because there are no matching funds for a project like this, there is no residential density to speak of, there are no destinations beyond the Pierce County Courthouse and Tacoma Public Library that are not served by other corridor alternatives.
This is not the right phase of the project to be talking about Tacoma Avenue.  It should happen in the future, and the Stadium and Lincoln Districts should be linked together via light rail in the future, but not now.  It doesn't make any sense to study duplicating what already exists at the risk of eliminating a connection to dense neighborhoods less than a mile from the terminus of the existing line.

by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 11:10am
I am only playing devils advocate Chris.  I don't want delays either... And this isn't my preferred route of choice but if it gets the damned thing built than I'm all for it because it does have some redeeming qualities.

by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 11:12am
Does the hybrid line go down Tacoma Avenue or MLK?   I thought it was MLK...

by NineInchNachos on 3/25/2013 @ 11:15am
EventsInvite FriendsMaybeRally to Move Forward on Tacoma Link

by cisserosmiley on 3/25/2013 @ 11:20am
Transit "experts" say to increase bus service inside Tacoma & increase direct route transit from here to Seattle.  It all falls on deaf ears because it's more fantastic to imagine Tacoma with 300,000 residents. How about emotionally internalizing that Seattle is to "rail" what Tacoma is to "rubber" WE need rational thought now!

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/25/2013 @ 11:39am
This is the problem!  Nobody seems to know what the hybrid is!  It's so vague that it's actually several different alternatives - with varying termini.  This is the kind of analysis that you do at the beginning of a project during initial scoping or when you're at 30% completion of AA, not two weeks before you have to make a decision on the day that the final AA report is due to come out.
At this stage of the game, Council should be using their precious time to review all of the public comment that came in and all of the analysis of ridership and economic development to come up with a resolution justifying which alternative corridor(s) should be moved forward into environmental review.  
Instead, they're using their time to be at-odds with staff that have only done what they've been instructed to do by the City Council and Sound Transit.

by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 11:50am
You're right Chris.  But what if the hybrid could be built in 2015 instead of a currently proposed alignment being built in 2018-2020? Then, at 2015, adding 6th avenue to it is only one mile ($40m)?  That's something a LID and a grant could handle instead of what were looking at today as far as possible funding goes.  You could have 2018 opening 6th avenue anyways but having it cost the district one mile of track cost instead of the $163m cost were staring at today.  
I'm just saying that if the tribe is ready to fund the 1.7 miles to the Portland ave MUC, it funds the other $100m because there's your matching money. I'm assuming that's what's happening and it should be at least looked at because it makes all future lines less expensive.

by NineInchNachos on 3/25/2013 @ 12:02pm
I say we call it the HyBOErid

by cisserosmiley on 3/25/2013 @ 1:23pm
Draw a 'Hi-BOE' skin 

by Erik on 3/25/2013 @ 4:25pm
New Update from Tacoma Tomorrow.  What a mess.


David Boe, from his comments in the articles in the Tacoma Weekly and The News Tribune, indicate that he doesn't just want to look at a "hybrid route," he doesn't just want to look at wireless electrified bus rapid transit, he wants to see if we can delay this process to do a comprehensive, citywide transportation study.
Let's look at what that might entail
Rather than try to argue semantics and strategy, I tried help evaluate that course of action.  The first stumbling block for such an idea is that it is currently unfunded.  There is no line item anywhere in any budget to help pay for such a process, which if Seattle is any measure, would cost no more than $600,000.  It is not included in the six year transportation plan or in the Transportation Benefit District's list of priority projects
However, if this were to change, let's say at an emergency meeting of the City Council tomorrow, we might be able to have it included in the funds that will begin flowing from the vehicle license fee in three months time.  At the same time Council and staff could develop a scope of work, a public involvement plan, and develop a request for proposals from an outside consultant.
It took Seattle 12 months to work on their transit master plan.If all went well, a kickoff could be arranged sometime in July or August, but probably in September, to allow for evaluation of the proposals, and the bulk of the work would last about 12 months in duration.  The City of Seattle and the City of Bellevue encountered similar timelines in the development and update of their transit master plans.  At the conclusion of that timeline we would be in late 2014.  Council adoption of the plan could then take place as early as January 2015.
There is one issue with this plan that should be highly concerning to Tacoma residents.  It would completely delay the start of development of environmental analysis and engineering on a Tacoma Link extension until January 2015.  I highly doubt that the Sound Transit Board is willing to keep the contractor on standby for that long.  Preliminary engineering and environmental analysis on the Sound Transit side are both funded and scheduled and contracted to occur after ST Board approval of a preferred alternative.
However, the very same timeline has a lot of merit if we want to have appropriate levels of study done to include a second phase of Tacoma Link expansion in ST3 and potentially additional targeted transit service from a state transportation package.  ST3, by all indications from rumblings in King County (Legislature willing, of course) will be in November of 2016.  We obviously have to have some analysis completed by then to have any projects included in the package.
The clock is ticking.  Let's not waste anymore time delaying what's already in the pipeline."



Waiting until Tacoma does an an analysis of a "hybrid route," "wireless electrified bus rapid transit" and a "comprehensive, citywide transportation study" will pretty much kill off any effort to have a light rail link extension in the foreseeable future especially if Sound Transit simply hires out a bus to take the place of Tacoma's promised light rail extension in the hopes no one will notice.

by Jesse on 3/25/2013 @ 5:02pm
Do you know what I think the biggest problem of all is?  It's the fact that the city has waited so long and put this off for so long that nobody has any faith that they're serious about any of this.  This next route is looked at as possibly the only other new route we'll see in the next few decades so it is just that much more important.  The wait and planning have caused this to be an emotional issue rather than a logical one. 

Logic says the city needs to do a comprehensive plan for transit.  The process to expand LINK has taken so long and has been put off so many times that people are getting (I'm there already) pissed.  I know I'm tired of chasing that carrot on a a string and never getting it.  Didn't the tribe offer to expand LINK to the Portland Avenue MUC years ago?  What the hell happened?  How was that confusing to the city?  Why did they say no?  Why wasn't LINK expanded up Stadium way when the Stadium Way project was approved?  How is that not matching funds with Sound Transit's portion of the bill? You mean, there was never a plan to expand the system from the initial route? How amateurish can a city get?

This is emotional for all involved and all who are passionate about this because we're just waiting for the hammer to fall.  When is the city going to fuck this up this time?

Call me crazy, but I actually trust David Boe.  I have yet to see a blog, comment, or action from him that really pisses me off. I hope they do good work and FAST.

by NineInchNachos on 3/25/2013 @ 6:36pm
Boe's heart is in the right place. They say the road to Mordor is paved with good intentions...  or was it trackless light rail track?

by tacoma_1 on 3/25/2013 @ 8:29pm
Boe appeared to be a transit obstructionist during the Sounder D-M debate, and his actions now appear to be of a transit obstructionist, IMHO,

 If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a transit obstructionist duck.

As a transit advocate myself, and one who specifically wants better transit for Tacoma, I can't imagine ever voting for him again.

by NineInchNachos on 3/25/2013 @ 8:39pm
well the post and beam did turn out better.

by tacoma_1 on 3/25/2013 @ 8:42pm
Still, a duck is a duck. 

by Erik on 3/25/2013 @ 9:34pm
Boe's heart is in the right place. They say the road to Mordor is paved with good intentions...  or was it trackless light rail track?

Boe's action figure status is secure in the Feed Tacomic vault. His efforts on such projects as removing the wall in front of the bridge of glass are not forgotten.

His intentions are no doubt good.

With that said, Tacoma has to view each proposal based on it's merits, not by the person who is proposing it.Here, the difference is probably due to vastly differences in outcome goals.

If the "wireless electrified bus rapid transit" were implemented as Boe proposes, the entire reason for voting for ST2 would be undermined as voters were promised a light rail extension in Tacoma in exchanged for being taxed continuously since 2008.I don't think there is any doubt that if Tacoma was successful in delaying further work on the Link extension until a "comprehensive, citywide transportation study" and/or masterplan was completed in Tacoma, we could easily add another 2 years to the 9 years Tacomans have waited for a Link extension, Given the budget cuts on all levels of government and increasing costs, a 2 year delay could easily turn into a 5 year delay or longer and would certainly undermine Tacoman's willingness to vote for ST3.

As Chris K pointed out, Sound Transit has already examined every conceivable route:

Trying to "study" them again when they have already been vetted will only create more needless delay.

Thus, Tacomans should decline allowing the light rail extension to be transformed into a mere bus line and/or allow the process to delay the process so that Sound Transit can get coerced into pushing through a circuitous route that merely parallels much of the current rail route, avoids all of the nearby population areas, and results in anemic ridership numbers.

Tacomans have paid a great deal of tax money into Sound Transit into a system that have not really benefited the city. The one component that was suppose to benefit the city was the light rail extension. 

Placing the berms in the Dome District did far more harm than good.  If the light rail extension component is eradicated, than Tacoma residents will have been signed up to be taxed for nothing.

by dolly varden on 3/26/2013 @ 12:30pm
A electric trolley bus system that helps generate its own power on the way downhill (like a more modern version of the system in much of Seattle) might be a cool thing for Pierce Transit to do once it gets back on sound financial footing (that financial recovery was unnecessarily delayed by opponents of Prop. 1 last year, and the Prop. 1 failure is creating headwinds for the worthy effort to extend the Link). But an electric trolley is not a substitute for a streetcar and it's the wrong role for Sound Transit in Tacoma, which needs to move with all due haste to leverage its own funds and Tacoma funds to extend the existing Link on the route the existing ST process determines is appropriate -- which should be and is likely to be, absent footdragging by the city -- up Stadium Way and on to 6th or Hilltop.

by Jesse on 3/26/2013 @ 5:45pm
Via Exit 133.  A response from Boe:

"Whoa, you all need to take some deep cleansing breaths.1. Delay – there is no delay. Regardless of the Hybrid or not, the recommendation from council is going to take longer due to some members of council being away when ST Alternative(s) were originally scheduled to be reviewed and a route(s) recommended by council to the ST Board (original timeline by ST had it as ‘Spring 2013’). After a corridor is chosen by the ST Board, then there is at least a year or more of environmental review, funding allocation, preliminary design, etc… So right now there is no delay based on the Hybrid Concept – so you can stop beating that drum.2. Corridors: ST specifically is not looking at streets – still just corridors. So though the term ‘Stadium’ may be used as a corridor – it does not mean it is running up Stadium Way the street. The Hybrid option is just a vague as ST corridors and does not call out specific streets just an access to mid-hill/hilltop from the South – as included in the back-end of ST Option E2. Also the Hybrid is based on the Alternatives already put forth by the Stakeholder group – just combining them and shortening them to at least look at a future expansion of the system that can connect more than just one neighborhood in the City.3. Funding: Lots of work to be done on funding. Right now there is $50m and the rest is optimism (Fed Small Starts are off-line at the moment and who in town has $50m to put toward the system?). There is the real possiblity that we might have verly little construction funding for the project (so what, extend the existsing LINK to Old City Hall?).4. Tollefson Plaza: A physical testiment to the City of Tacoma NOT questioning the urban impacts in the selection of the original route of the LINK.5. Alternate Modes: The Hybrid DOES NOT propose alternate modes – that is my own personal opinion based on my own professional experience working on light-rail projects in the past – and the new technology that combines electric and hybrid technology that is creating zero-carbon transit systems – but was not part of the direction given to ST as part of the Hybrid route. They are only looking at light-rail."

by tacoma_1 on 3/26/2013 @ 10:51pm
It's comforting to know that Councilman Boe is so well versed in why TLink isn't going to get extended anytime soon. I will definitely sleep better now. 

by cisserosmiley on 3/27/2013 @ 12:38am
Tacomanians! Stop the madness! We don't need any more mass transit until there is more 'mass' Just out of curiosity, are streetcars more or less pee smell resistant than busses?

by Jesse on 3/27/2013 @ 7:23am
@ciccero:  Do you realize your every post pretty much advocates that Tacoma give up on just about everything?  Just saying...

by cisserosmiley on 3/27/2013 @ 7:44am
That's not exactly true. I believe in concensus building. There is a lack of consensus developing from some stakeholders so I advocated for "expert" input which is fairly consistent. REPRINT FROM ABOVE:  Transit "experts" say to increase bus service inside Tacoma & increase direct route transit from here to Seattle.  It all falls on deaf ears because it's more fantastic to imagine Tacoma with 300,000 residents. How about emotionally internalizing that Seattle is to "rail" what Tacoma is to "rubber" WE need rational thought now!  I ADVOCATE FOR MORE BUSSES IN TACOMA & MORE DIRECT ROUTES TO SEATTLE (maybe even a Proctor to Seattle express bus?). If you read my posts more carefully Jesse, they always advocate for action, just not the one you want.  

by NineInchNachos on 3/27/2013 @ 7:47am
Consensus is just 'nother word for LEAST COMMON DENOMINATOR

by cisserosmiley on 3/27/2013 @ 8:49am
I don't know if least common denominator is good or bad, but it's clear Tacoma should NOT model out Portland/Seattle for our future. I will restate MY personal transit position that I have worked extremely hard on for several months: BUILD LINK UP 6th AVE. I fill out surveys, send links to my friends, talk about Link future in actual f2f conversations, & follow up with my small 5-7 person 'hyperlocal' poli-watch gang to make sure we are sharing info well.  WE worked extremely hard and feel WE won, but now there will be no 6th ave train. So I say revert to expert opinion: ***see above***  because 'experts' know Tacoma to be under incomed, underpopulated, overtaxed, & over represented by *felons, unemployed, & undereducated folks, 'experts' say build a UWT, make business friendly city gov., have Mark Lindquist stop the felon dumping, & make neighborhoods more livable for families. NO 'EXPERT' EVER SAID BUILD A LINK-this is a local political desire. Now that consensus is to NOT build my 6th ave route, shut it down! 

by dolly varden on 3/27/2013 @ 9:35am
NIN, without something closer to consensus than its opposite, nothing gets done in a democracy. I think what we're shooting for is the best generally acceptable denominator...

by NineInchNachos on 3/27/2013 @ 9:42am
agree.  that should be the goal

by Erik on 3/27/2013 @ 11:16am

Did Seattle take some of Tacoma's light rail ST funds?


Quick update: Yes, $29m was cut from Tacoma Link.


Chris Karnes

Click the image above to get access to Sound Transit meeting video

This is a follow up post to the one that I did a few weeks ago - "Has $29m gone missing from Tacoma Link"?

A couple of days ago I spent part of my weekend watching a recording of
the March 14th Sound Transit Capital Committee meeting, where they were
getting a general update from Val Batey, who is managing the Tacoma Link

At the end of the presentation, Joni Earl, the Sound Transit Chief
Executive Officer, answered a question from Seattle Mayor and ST Board
Member Mike McGinn about whether the $50m number in the presentation was
the right number.  Here's how the exchange went.  If you want to view
it for yourself, it is at time index 1:00:40.  It only lasts about a
minute and a half.

Is $50m the right number?

Chair: "Are there any other pressing questions?" 

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

Mike McGinn: "Well I'm not sure it's pressing, but just to make sure
that I understand. So there was 50-million in Sound Transit 2 for this
purpose and the goal was to federal funding and then partner funding
would be uh, municipal governments, LID?  What's the thinking on partner
funding under contemplation? 

Joni Earl: "It's a combination.  It's a cobbling together of dollars,
the city has already talked about waiving fees, utility... you know
being able to lower what would be our costs... 

McGinn: "I see.  And so they might be able to pick up some genuine, in-kind costs that would reduce actual capital costs." 

Earl: "Right.  Yeah, and and keep in mind this was ST2 prior to the
recession and so you know, I mean it was putting the concept together
before everybody knew that City of Tacoma's budget would be down, Pierce
Transit's budget would be in such bad shape, so..." 

McGinn: "So is the 50-million-dollars, then now that you've raised
that - what is then the status of that $50m contribution in our resizing
of the finance plan for the work?

Earl: "That's what's left in the resizing."

McGinn: "Oh." (yeah, 'oh' is right.)

Earl: "So we started - we've already cut it back."

McGinn: "So 50 is the number?"

Earl: "50 is the number now, yes."

McGinn: "So we've approved this now and 50 in the financial plan."

Earl: "Yes."

Sound Transit has made a cut in the capital contribution to Tacoma Link.
 $29m is a steep cut to a project that is already cost constrained.  Is
there something else that Sound Transit can do to make up for this
drastic reduction in our budget?  Can they up front some more planning
dollars to allow us to move a second corridor into environmental
analysis, perhaps?  I'm open to ideas.


by tacoma_1 on 3/27/2013 @ 12:19pm
ErikYou seem unable to grasp the whole concept of sub area equity, and where ST gets their funds.   ST's south sound funds come from....wait for it....south sound sales tax revenues and excise taxes.  The less collected from us, the less money St has on our projects.  The money isn't missing, it never showed up,

Federal Way has the same issue, which is why their ST projects are scaled back too.

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/27/2013 @ 4:17pm
We have a lot of revenue capacity - just tied up for the last leg between Tacoma Dome and King County line.  Might become available after the South Corridor Study is completed and they figure that we're going to have to wait until 2040 for light rail to Tacoma Dome.

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/27/2013 @ 4:18pm
Oh yeah, Erik, no, Seattle didn't take any of Pierce County's funds.  That has to be a clear point.  Subarea equity still applies.

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/28/2013 @ 8:59am
The last time that David Boe worked on a light rail project, I believe was in the mid 1980's.  He can correct me if I'm wrong.

Update: Yeah, it looks like it was a light rail project in London that opened in 1987.

by tacoma_1 on 3/28/2013 @ 10:51am
That must make him an expert then. I wonder if he tried to delay that project too?  

by boearc on 3/28/2013 @ 6:09pm
As noted in Exit 133 and as conveyed to Erik yesterday, there is no delay in the City Council's recommendation to the Sound Transit Board on which route(s) to take to the next level of investigation - engineering, finding funds, etc... due to request to look at a combination of the previously reviewed routes.  The 'delay' is due to council members not being avialble to meet with Sound Transit next week or the week after due to conflict of schedule and then the knock-on effect of standing Sound Transit Board Meetings.  So even if there were no 'hybrid' option floated last week for ST review (which staff at the meeting said they could have back in two weeks no problemo) there would still be this 'delay' although the original timeline had 'Spring 2013' as a deadline to keep the trains running on schedule... Oh, and I was the Docklands Light Railway Canary Wharf Station Coordinator from 1987-1989 - and surprisingly, ST uses the same technology (actually, it is actually less sophisticated as the DLR in London is all computerized though in a dedicated elevated right-of-way for most of the route until it goes underground ala UW-Seattle).

by NineInchNachos on 3/28/2013 @ 6:40pm
well it looks like things are under control.   Thanks Councilmember Boe!

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/28/2013 @ 8:19pm
That puts us up for an ST vote on the issue on May 23rd (instead of April 25th).
I guess a one month delay isn't so bad.  Project has been percolating for nine years and isn't scheduled to be completed until mid-2020 anyway. *sigh*

by boearc on 3/30/2013 @ 8:13am
and now the Stakeholder Committee has asked Sound Transit to look at THEIR Hybrid Corridor(s) Proposal.  What!  How dare they!?!  After 9-years, etc..., who do they think they are to consider any modification to the own Stakeholder Committee's recommendations based on their concern for financial reality and neighborhood equity?!?  This must be a stall tactic to switch to a fleet of LEAF taxis!  I suggest we quickly hold a rally to show support for the rally to save transit (well not ALL public transit - just the expensive cool kind that attracts the 'right' kind of ridership).    

by NineInchNachos on 3/30/2013 @ 8:17am

by cisserosmiley on 3/30/2013 @ 8:51am
I agree with Boe, we should dump Link for a fleet of electric vehicles. For $1,000,000,000 we could buy a Segway for every person in Tacoma. A 'yellow Segway' program. Please really imagine how easy $1,000,000,000 is to raise around the Puget Sound. Thanks Mr. Boe.

by Jesse on 3/30/2013 @ 9:37am
I was looking at the map.  If you run LINK up Stadium Way to Tacoma Avenue and travel south on Tacoma Avenue to a terminus as 21st street and then have a cable-car built up 11th from the Murray Morgan Bridge to MLK, you almost have exactly the same amount of track in the ground as the proposed E1 route.  Except, this route would also: 

Serves the Foss Waterway where none of the other proposed lines do.

Serves downtown business core TWICE instead of once.  

One with current line and one cable line to MLK.

Serves south downtown by the brewery district where E1 current would not.

Serves MLK business District.

Serves the Stadium District.Serves the "levels" (north-south streets) of downtown.

It offers mass development potential along the mid-hill east and west AS WELL AS north and south.

Makes a spine for future system.

Makes 6th Avenue do-able from Tacoma Ave straight up west on 6th passing wright Park and development on the portion of 6th east of Sprague (avoids Division, wedge, and Frisco Freeze redevelopment)

Would serve to pull development down the hill at St Joe's to meet up with the UWT.

Puts a line at the west end of UWT.

Sets up Stadium and Tacoma Avenue as a gateway for further development of system .

Sets up the south end of Tacoma Avenue as a hub for other lines onto the system.

Cable-car tourist attraction to MLK helping MLK businesses.

Add the Portland Avenue MUC to the current end of the line and you really have a pretty comprehensive downtown system that may be paid for by the Puyallup's on the Portland Avenue end and matching funds from Sound Transit and Small Starts on the other end.

by cisserosmiley on 3/30/2013 @ 9:51am
Replicating the "ONE" bus route makes the most sense.

by panachronic on 3/30/2013 @ 11:07am
"ErikYou seem unable to grasp the whole concept of sub area equity, and where ST gets their funds."

Sub-area equity was a feature of ST1, but was left out of ST2.  It was too complicated and messy, and too inconvenient for politicians (insufficient opportunity for graft).

Good job, lefties.

by Erik on 3/30/2013 @ 2:46pm

The Logic behind a 6th Avenue LINK CorridorBy Chris Karnes Tacoma General Hospital, a major employer on the B1 corridor.
Right: Stadium High School Wright Park in BackgroundThis post comes out of the frustration that I feel when I read editorials like this in the paper about corridors like C1. I understand where the author is coming from, but in corridor evaluation, you need to try to back up your claims with numbers and with specifics. I try to do that here.

Here's why 6th Avenue needs to be given more serious consideration. The bold parts are categories of criteria for evaluating the project that were designed by the stakeholders group and were prioritized in part by public comment. If you have more to add to this, mention it in the comments.

Improve mobility and transportation access for Tacoma residents and visitors.

Long Range Bicycle Map around 6th Avenue
11 streets with bike lanes and bike boulevards intersect with B1The B1 corridor along 6th Avenue between Central Tacoma and the North End is slated to have a ridership response of 3.0 to 3.5 million additional riders per year or greater than 10,000 riders per day, matched only by the E1 corridor.  The B1 corridor would link together Tacoma Dome Station, Downtown Tacoma, the Stadium District, Hilltop, and 6th Avenue - tying E1 for the number of distinct neighborhoods and mixed use centers served by a corridor.  

Bicycle connections are planned at eleven - yes eleven - cross streets to the corridor, making it easier to expand access to more than just areas that are within ¼ mile to the line.  Federal regulations on transit investments allow federal grant money to be used to expand bicycle access within 3-miles of each station.  The eleven cross streets slated for bike access along B1 are: Union Ave, Puget Sound Ave, Alder St., Pine St., State St., Ainsworth Ave, J St., I St., Yakima Ave, St. Helens Ave and Tacoma Ave.  Also, local transit service from Pierce Transit routes 1, 11, 13, 14, and 16 would be available for redeployment to act as feeder and connecting services. Bus service from these routes could also potentially be redeployed to other parts of the city, further enhancing ridership and access to Downtown.

Increase transit ridership within the City of Tacoma.

The B1 corridor has the largest existing population center in Tacoma.  The 98403 zip code, which represents the North Slope neighborhood of the Stadium District is the 12th most dense zip code by population in the state and it is the densest in Tacoma by far at 7,830 people per square mile.
The Stadium District and 6th Avenue are rivaled again only by similar, but lower, existing population density along the MLK E1 corridor.

10,000 students, including those from UW Tacoma (3,662), UPS (2,600), Stadium High School (1,699), Tacoma School of the Arts (515), and others would have access to the line.  Students are very reliable users for public transit during all periods of the day.

Commuters would benefit by being connected with Tacoma General/Mary Bridge Hospital, the Downtown Tacoma regional growth center and connecting regional transit services at Tacoma Dome Station.  Tourists and visitors would be able to visit entertainment venues and green open spaces on 6th Avenue and at Wright Park in the Stadium District, not to mention the many festivals and farmers markets that take place in these areas.  Shoppers would have more choices in the Stadium District and on 6th Avenue.  Tacoma Link service would run late at night to match demand from existing night life venues in Downtown and on 6th Avenue.Goal Criteria and B1 (Source: Sound Transit)

Serve underserved neighborhoods and communities in the City of Tacoma.

The B1 corridor would serve significant portions of low income and minority populations and more than twice the proportion of households without a vehicle when compared to the C1 Portland Ave corridor. In fact the number of households without a car adjacent to B1 is higher than that found on average in Seattle or Los Angeles (also see Goal Criteria; right, for B1 reference).
Use transit to spur economic development and other types of investments
The Stadium District is zoned for mixed use development and there are a number of vacant parcels capable of being built upon.  The entire 6th Avenue corridor all the way to TCC is either zoned for mixed use or for commercial development and has many opportunities for additional density. At least one six story mixed use project is in the works for the corner of 6th and Alder St that might better pencil with light rail.

Jazzbones, an example of vibrant nightlife entertainment on 6th Avenue.
10 minute frequencies would be viable for up to 20 hours a day because of high ridership and proximity to businesses that stay open late.  New businesses would fill existing buildings currently for lease and in new buildings that would be constructed.  Proximity to entertainment venues as well as the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center would make development of hotels a possibility in the Stadium District.
Wright Park in the Summer time.  Wright Park would be served by B1 and E1.Ensure that the project is environmentally sensitive and sustainable
High ridership means fewer cars on the road.  Fewer cars means better quality air and less pollution into Puget Sound.  B1’s high ridership makes it easily one of the most environmentally beneficial routes considered.
The B1 corridor would be next to the 27 acre Wright Park with playground and sprayground facilities, a one mile trail, a botanical conservatory and pond.
The B1 corridor is consistent with the City of Tacoma’s Climate Action Plan, Comprehensive Plan, and Streetcar Feasibility Study.  No habitat corridors are affected by a B1 route.
Establish a project that is competitive for federal funding
The B1 corridor easily can match any other corridor in project justification for federal funding.  The mobility benefits of a B1 corridor would be profound, ranging from increased bike access to a 30% increase in transit reliability between 6th Avenue and the Downtown core.  High ridership again means more environmental benefits for the region.  It is a cost effective use of resources because it will save on the order of 2-3 minutes per trip between 6th Avenue and Tacoma Dome Station.  Local land use patterns are incredibly supportive of public transit, as is evidenced by high ridership on Pierce Transit’s Route 1. Economic development is zoned for and vacant land is available for development.  And finally, a local improvement district for a B1 corridor, that is the local match, is incredibly viable because local property values are high enough to support it.



by Jesse on 3/31/2013 @ 9:34am
Instead of having a plan to build this all the way to TCC, why not move TCC to (east side of the Foss and served by an 11th street cable-car?) Tacoma?  It would probably be cheaper (2005 estimate was $600 million to TCC) as well as a streetcar route to TCC is the wrong application of streetcar.  That's a good stop on a real light rail (heavier trains, more capacity, less stops, faster) route to Gig Harbor.  To build it in increments as a streetcar is insanely poor use of funds, time, and opportunity. Streetcars are a downtown amenity. Heavier light rail goes through the suburbs, usually in a dedicated corridor, to nearby cities stopping along the way in farther apart stops.

So if you're advocating for streetcar, all points above are pretty much dead wrong. If you're advocating for a heavier light rail line to Gig Harbor, your points are mostly valid but building it out on surface streets in an incremental fashion would be a commerce and financial nightmare as well as a really poor application of this technology.

So which is it? Streetcar or traditional and heavier Light Rail? I'm after a streetcar network.

by Mofo from the Hood on 4/1/2013 @ 7:48am

The Logic Behind A 6th Avenue Horse Drawn Barge Corridor:

by cisserosmiley on 4/1/2013 @ 8:52am
@Mofo brings up a good point:  should WE be looking more into the future?  Why be Seattle or Portland when WE could be Dubai or Helsinki?  Tacomanians, demand the future NOT yesterday's Portlandia re-hash!!!