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Puget Sound Transportation Projects

Tacoma, Washington Citywide Streetcar System

map of proposed trolley lines

With the current success of the Tacoma Link light rail line and the continued growth of the city, there is growing support for a citywide streetcar system. Current proposals have ranged from extensions of the current Link system to loops that run between major neighborhoods. This parallels a trend in other West Coast cities of adding, or in most cases, restoring, streetcar systems. Two local examples are the Portland Streetcar and the South Lake Union Streetcar in Seattle.

Tacoma, like many cities, had an extensive streetcar network that was removed shortly before World War II and replaced by buses. While struggling for many years Tacoma has seen a resurgence in recent years driven by many things: the revitalization of downtown, closeness to both Seattle and Redmond (though not a fun drive, it is almost reasonable and much cheaper to live in Tacoma than Seattle or Redmond), and the addition of many large employers in the area.

While current traffic is still bearable in Tacoma, especially compared to Seattle or the Eastside, continued growth will eventually overwhelm the current road system. The existing Link line, while short, already sees ridership in excess of predicted 2020 levels, mostly by commuters using it to access jobs downtown.

This project is very much in the initial stages. No definitive routings, budgets, timelines or anything else have been set.

Thoughts: Back to Top

Tacoma has had a bad reputation in the greater Puget Sound area. Like most cities here, Tacoma was formed by and for logging. While taking an early lead over Seattle by having the first transcontinental train link end here, the Great Northern Railway, Tacoma declined in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the city is on the upswing and now feels more like Seattle when I was there for school in the mid-90s. Many trendy restaurants, condo developments and good employers have been added to the city in recent years. Furthermore, the continued growth of Microsoft and other employers in the central King County area have driven people South for housing.

Depending on the routing this could be very valuable for the city. Implementing a system now before it becomes even more expensive or difficult to build is the right thing to do. It adds tourism value to the city and could connect employers and business districts with each other and with regional transportation projects. It also would introduce people to the idea of taking the train before we become another Seattle and have to charge for parking and develop a gridlocked city core.

On a side note, some of the proposed routings parallel my own thoughts on future Link extensions.

Future: Back to Top

  • More planning; possible budgeting and specs

Links: Back to Top

Map: © The News Tribune