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

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Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound 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. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.