The Sound Transit Board of Directors have decreed formal names for stations on the Tacoma Link extension and purchased five more streetcar vehicles. The extension will add six new stations and relocate an existing one slightly north of the Theater District. Sound Transit chose names that reflect local contexts, such as district names, landmarks, street names, and other geographical references. The transit agency’s policy sets maximum station name lengths at 30 characters and encourages easy-to-remember names. The policy also generally discourages reusing similar names and words that appear in existing station names operated by the transit agency. The new streetcar vehicles will also help support the extension.

The planned and existing Tacoma Link streetcar line. (Sound Transit)
The planned and existing Tacoma Link streetcar line. (Sound Transit)

Station Naming

During the station naming process, the community requested that Sound Transit reconsider the existing name of Commerce Street Station. The local community wanted to retain the name “Theater District Station” in the arts district. With the existing Theater District being relocated further north, Sound Transit chose to name that station “Old City Hall” and rename Commerce Street Station to “Theater District Station.”

One oddity in the slate of adopted station names is “S. 4th” which will be located at S 4th St and Stadium Way. Why staff chose to exclude “St.” from the name is unclear, but it’s also inconsistent with the transit agency’s practice of including street types such as “University St Station” and “6th Avenue Station.” In fact, the Tacoma Link streetcar already has a station named “South 25th Street Station” closer to Tacoma Dome Station. On the other hand, Sound Transit recently chose to torture permanent station names in Shoreline with “Shoreline South/145th” and “Shoreline North/185th” at the request of city officials. Now is arguably the time that Sound Transit should reconsider its policy guidance on station naming, which often runs at odds with its own stated intentions.

A side-by-side comparison working station names and permanent station names for Tacoma Link.
A side-by-side comparison working station names and permanent station names for Tacoma Link.

New Streetcar Vehicles and Construction

The Sound Transit Board of Directors also authorized the purchase of five additional streetcar vehicles. This is in addition to the three that the transit agency already operates on the line. Brookville Equipment Corporation will provide the new streetcars at a cost of approximately $26.5 million. Brookville’s main streetcar model is the “Liberty,” a modern and comfortable train design compared to Tacoma Link’s Škoda 10 T. The Dallas Streetcar began operating Liberty streetcars in 2015. Delivery of Tacoma Link’s new streetcars is expected between late 2020 and early 2021 providing ample time for testing before revenue service. Sound Transit will also retain options to purchase a further 10 streetcars if the need arises.

“Ordering more light rail cars for the Tacoma Link Extension will ensure sufficient fleet capacity to run trains on the expanded line,” said Tacoma Mayor and Sound Transit Vice Chair Marilyn Strickland. “By ordering these cars now, we will have the equipment we need to begin service to the Stadium and Hilltop communities when construction is complete.”

In order to support the new streetcars, an expanded operations and maintenance facility will be constructed near Tacoma Dome Station. Construction on the extension is set to begin early next year with early construction work. The first segment slated for construction will be Commerce Street and Stadium Way followed by N 1st St and Division Avenue. The $217.3 million streetcar extension will add about 2.4 miles to the line connecting the Theater District and Hilltop neighborhood while picking up other urban districts on the way. The streetcar line will have 10-minute or better headways when the extension opens for revenue service in early to mid-2022.

Tacoma Link Extension Receives Final Approval

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
guy who doesn't know

why does it loop around like that?

Stephen Fesler

The Tacoma City Council recommended a preferred routing that deviated from Division/6th Avenue to the Hilltop. The routing was highly contentious. There are some large employers on the Hilltop segment and there is potential for some significant infill development. However, a more productive line would have followed the alignment of Route 1 which traverses 6th Avenue and has higher all-day utility. But who knows? Maybe the Hilltop alignment will perform well.

Stephen Battey

Of course it will perform well, also why would we duplicate route 1?

Stephen Fesler

Because it’s a high ridership corridor. Typically investments in rail are best suited to corridors that already have high ridership use so that either it can build upon existing service (the Route 1 could be a shadow local while the streetcar could be an express) or existing service can be redeployed to less productive corridors. Putting rail where there is low demand is not a sure thing.

The route probably won’t perform well, in part because it is not time competitive to other options with the Hilltop segment running parallel to the Downtown Tacoma. The Pierce Transit routes will have to be specifically redesigned so as to not poach riders from the Hilltop and be more time-competitive than the streetcar. That probably means deleting the Route 102 and altering the Route 57.

Stephen Battey

Because there is a large employer base in that neighborhood and it is at the very top of a VERY steep hill. It is also historically a low income neighborhood that stands to benefits from economic development. Right now there is one bus that covers that route and it is infrequent and packed on the weekends.