Photo by Chris K. - Tacoma Link at Tollefson Plaza (2006)
The City of Tacoma is considering investing $135,000 to construct a new stop for the Tacoma Link streetcar along Commerce Street between S. 11th St. and S. 12th St. The addition of a new stop would represent the first major physical change to Tacoma Link since it was brought online in July 2003.
This would be the sixth stop along the 2.6-km (1.6-mile) route - reducing average stop distance from 520 meters to 430 meters (Or 1/3 mile to 1/4 mile). It would provide more convenient service to the Tacoma School of the Arts, the newly restored Pacific Plaza / Washington State Attorney General's Office, Restaurants on the Broadway Plaza, the Downtown Tacoma Post Office and other businesses in the International Financial Services Area. It would also leverage improvements the City is making to the pedestrian hill climb from Pacific Avenue to Broadway Plaza at S. 12th Street. Word has it that this stop addition is a prerequisite to attract a high end grocery store to Pacific Plaza as well.
Sound Transit staff indicate that Tacoma Link has a 7-1/2 minute run time. With 10 minute vehicle headways, timed signals, and single track along the southern portion of the route, this doesn't leave much room for error, and leaves even less time to add another stop to the northern section of the route. In fact, if a streetcar doesn't make the precisely-timed lights, Tacoma Link simply drops a trip, lengthening vehicle headways to 20 minutes. The Tacoma City Council will likely be confronted with a choice to either return full traffic signal priority to the streetcar (and potentially drop vehicle headways to 13 minutes) or to forgo the addition of the stop entirely. This is a bellwether decision that will indicate how far Council is willing to go in terms of implementing some sort of Transit-First policy.
The stop is to be in the form of a sidewalk bulb-out as seen on the Portland Streetcar. Its presence will inevitably cause conflicts with existing Pierce Transit bus routing between S. 13th and S. 11th streets. This puts greater pressure on PT to move the much beleaguered Commerce Transfer Center to another location.
There's a lot of other news that's developing in Tacoma politics concerning an extension of Tacoma Link, including an application for a federal grant through the FTA/EPA/HUD "urban circulator program" and a citizens initiative for matching funds this November. The Pierce County bus system redesign to be released to a citizen review committee next month is likely to take the form of a grid system (about time). More announcements to come, as usual.