Morgan's Brain

Feb. 6, 2009 at 3:00am

Hey Christine Gregoire! Tacoma Needs Streetcars, Not Highways!

Peter Calthorpe, one of the most respected urban designers in the country, wrote an interesting op-ed piece this week joining the chorus of others questioning what kind of infrastructure should be funded in the economic stimulus package. As an innovator who helped define the concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), I hope the fat cats back in DC take note of what he says.

Closer to home, a Pierce County delegation representing the Port of Tacoma, the Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and County Executive Pat McCarthy, is currently lobbying Governor Christine Gregoire to restore funding for highways including an extension of State Route 167.

While historically there may be good reasons to push for more highway construction, in this post-consumer society we seem to be entering in, I find it hard to imagine anything more critical to our collective future than investing in infrastructure that more effectively moves people around.

Here's an excerpt from Calthorpe's piece I found particularly interesting:

In the long run, using the power of the federal government to promote such community development requires an integrated approach over a range of federal agencies and programs. This integrated effort must focus on three areas:

-- Transportation funding that moves away from a bias for highway projects and toward investment in buses, streetcars, light rail and high-speed rail that supports our 21st century communities. (And as a bonus, construction of new transit systems creates nearly 19 percent more jobs than construction or widening of roads).

-- Environmental policy that protects air quality, wildlife habitat and open space must also aim to protect and connect regional open space areas.

-- Federal housing assistance that moves beyond its historic orientation toward plain vanilla single-family housing to encourage more multifamily housing, urban redevelopment, mixed-use developments that situate housing amid stores and offices.

Please urge your city, county, and state officials (especially Governor Christine Gregoire) to focus investments in mass transit (streetcars!).


comments [23]  |  posted under tacoma


by Erik on 2/5/2009 @ 10:44pm
Yeah what a disaster it would be if the funding just got used to fund Cross Base Highway. All the potential to build something useful wasted on a suburban road connection through the county spurring yet another round of sprawl and doing more harm than good.

Why not fund some infrastructure?

by Erik on 2/5/2009 @ 11:26pm
Kunstler weighs in on a similar situation situation now in Montgomery, GA:

But there are scores of places like Montgomery, Alabama, and thousands of traditional main street small towns that are sitting out there waiting to be re-activated. We need to do this much more than we need to build new freeways to the beach. Suburbia is not going to be abandoned overnight (even if it fails logistically and economically !) but we have got to arrive at a consensus about rehabilitating our forsaken small cities and small towns.

by tacoma1 on 2/6/2009 @ 7:51am
I definitely agree with the need for streetcars here. If we are hoping to get funds for Tacoma from the nearing stimulus funds from the feds, I am doubtful. Unfortunately the Tacoma elected officials have very little in the way of "shovel ready projects" unless you count pothole and sidewalk repair.

by tacoma1 on 2/6/2009 @ 8:23am
Just to follow up.......... Morgan you are right. We need to let our city, county, and state officials know what is important to us. Pierce County, and Tacoma has some politcal pull, not as much as our northern neighbor, but enough that we can be a spoiler in the state elections, so Gov. Gregoire can't ignore us.

by Urban E on 2/6/2009 @ 8:51am
Now wait a minute I seem to recall that some of you guys are the same ones that thought Prop 1 was a good idea when it was quite clear that streetcars for Tacoma was nothing more than a pipe dream? It seemed pretty clear to me when I voted NO that we were getting the shaft.

by fredo on 2/6/2009 @ 9:38am
Urban@ Right on! Pierce County voted NO on Prop 1 last November, but because we're part of the ST region we get the tax increase anyway.

by morgan on 2/6/2009 @ 9:48am
Urban E: That package included $85M for streetcars.

tacoma1: How to kill two birds: put rail down as streets are repaired.

Some thoughts on the subject of "shovel-ready":
Is ‘Shovel-Ready’ Ready Enough?

I don't think being "shovel-ready" is enough. We need to be smart about re-building our infrastructure with the long-term in mind. This may preclude many "shovel-ready" projects - like streetcars for Tacoma.

by Urban E on 2/6/2009 @ 10:42am
I was well aware of the 85M before still voting NO. One of the biggest reasons was because there was no committment from city to not spend the $ and take the streetcar/trolley whatever to the casino. Their response was "well whoever comes up the with matching money first". I'm sure I don't have to give you a history lesson on the Who it is they're referring to. I know I know, "we still need streetcars going up Portland Ave some day in the distant future" I've heard that argument. Doesn't really hold water with me concerning the immediate needs of Tacoma but I get it. A streetcar could have been "shovel ready" with all of your efforts If our ELECTED leaders really got it.

by tacoma1 on 2/6/2009 @ 11:32am
As far as voting went, just to clarify. Tacoma voted yes by approx 55%, the Pierce County suburbs voted no including Puyallup.

As this is supposed to be a Tacoma oriented blog, we should be aware that Tacoma did vote yes for both ST and ST2. The greater Pierce County results are not representative of the voting results within City limits.

by tacoma1 on 2/6/2009 @ 11:36am
ST2 obviously provides some streetcar track. It's a start, just not enough for the city to have a network. More will be needed.

by AngelaJossy on 2/6/2009 @ 12:26pm
Street cars downtown that take passengers up and down the hills would be awesome. Passenger rail cars along the waterfront from Thea Foss to Point Defiance that stop periodically for sight-seeing etc would also be neat.

by Urban E on 2/6/2009 @ 12:59pm
by tacoma1,
I think that was kinda my point. You can't say vote Yes on Prop1 because I want streetcars in Tacoma and then flip out when it starts headin north. I think my dad calls that slight of hand or somthin.

by Urban E on 2/6/2009 @ 1:18pm
U know bamboozld, hoodwinkd, playd!

by tacoma1 on 2/6/2009 @ 1:21pm
@Urban E
The main emphasis on Prop 1 was always about regional transit. I don't know anyone who voted for Prop 1 thinking it would build a street car network in T-Town. I'm sure everyone knew that Prop 1 will only provide matching funds for an extension of T-Link. The question here is whether Gov Gregoire can acquire funds from the stimulus plan for the matching funds, or even get additional funds to build more street cars in Tacoma.

by fredo on 2/6/2009 @ 11:00pm
Prop 1 Election results from Pierce County

Approve 124,856
Reject 129,536

Maybe Tacomans wanted the tax but Pierce County voters clearly did not.

by Urban E on 2/7/2009 @ 7:01am
Are you really saying you think Tacoma voted yes because they saw the value in a regional approach as opposed to being suckered by a measly 85M? The way I see it the only money coming out of the stimulus will be going towards what you say Tacoma wanted. A trip out of town!

by tacoma1 on 2/7/2009 @ 9:53am
What I am trying to say is:
1) Re-debating ST2 is a waste of time.
2) The question here is whether Gov Gregoire can (or will) acquire funds from the stimulus plan for the matching funds to extend Tacoma Link, or even better, to get additional funds to build more street cars in Tacoma.

by amyk on 2/7/2009 @ 9:58am
Don't forget about bike infrastructure. Tacoma needs it! Have you seen the Montlake bike path near UW Seattle? A street car with a bike section, perhaps, would be great for T-Town.

by tacoma1 on 2/7/2009 @ 10:13am
Excellent point. Although it seems that I am constantly arguing the transit side on these blogs. A world with multiple ways of transport (cars, bikes, walking, buses and light rail) is the ideal.
I am a strong believer in complete streets. Our fair city has been doing some great work towards planning for complete streets. Hopefully there will be federal support for this as well.

by Twisty on 2/8/2009 @ 6:24pm
I like the idea of streetcars, but I don't like how much they cost or how they are currently being implemented (as cover for huge neighborhood renewal projects that are actually welfare programs for politically-connected construction companies, and make the streetcars themselves look like an afterthought).

I also question if anybody would actually ride them once installed, if they are cost-effective vs. buses, and I do not trust the inept and corrupt management of the transit agencies.

But other than that, it's a swell idea.

by tacoma1 on 2/9/2009 @ 8:19am
I understand your concerns. Be assured that virtually every community that has installed streetcars nationwide has seen more riders than anticipated, not less.

As to alledged pollitical connections, we can vote out anyone who is corrupt. I personally think that Tacoma's current problems with development has more to do with a lack of forsight than an overbundance of greed.

by Urban E on 2/9/2009 @ 9:33am
So does lack of forsight mean taking 3 yrs to complete the mixed use center zoning or does it mean thinking that Tacoma's future depends soley on Russell/Thea Foss and not its small independent neighborhoods?

by tacoma1 on 2/9/2009 @ 11:27am
Yes and yes.

And near as I can tell, the only ready to go projects that our mayor has included on the list for stimulus money are the following:

From the US Mayors Report on Ready to go Projects.

1) Tacoma WA CDBG Murray Morgan Bridge
2) Tacoma WA CDBG Structural Sidewalks
3) Tacoma WA CDBG Americans with Disabilities Act Curb Ramp Program
4) Tacoma WA CDBG Puyallup River Bridge
5) Tacoma WA CDBG Arterial Street Program