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U.S. Streetcar Systems- Washington-Tacoma


Tacoma Link

Began operation: 2003

Route Miles: 1.6

Stops: 6

Org: transit agency

Schedule: daily

John Smatlak photo

Tacoma is located about 35 miles south of Seattle, both cities being served by the Sound Transit regional transit system. Tacoma’s modern streetcar system opened in 2003, connecting the Tacoma Dome station (a regional bus and commuter rail hub) with Downtown Tacoma. Downtown is also home to a new convention center, museums, and a University of Washington campus. This relatively short line does not charge a fare and provides service on twelve minute headways throughout most of the day, with 24 minute headways off-peak and on Sundays. Two cars operate on the line at one time, with the trip from the Tacoma Dome station to the Theater District terminus originally taking only 7 minutes, lengthened to just under 10 minutes in 2011 when a sixth station stop was added. The fast, convenient service is currently (2Q 2011) attracting about 996,000 riders annually (source: Sound Transit).

The current is line is about half single-track and half double-track. Through downtown, the line is double track, with single track on the southern end towards the Tacoma Dome station. Most of the line is in either a center median or a reserved line, a condition which is reflected in its relatively fast running time. The single-track southern end of the line provides a good example of how bi-directional operation can be implemented on streets with relatively low traffic volumes. Some interesting active warning signs (as seen in the photos below) have been implemented along this section of the line.

In addition to the Link service, a grass-roots streetcar movement has emerged in Tacoma, generating interest in a city-wide streetcar network including a Vintage Trolley operation.

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The three
track Maintenance Facility houses the lines three cars and has
room for additional vehicles anticipated for future expansion.

track beyond the Tacoma Dome station to reach the maintenance

Single track
alignment  on 25th St. Looking towards the Tacoma Dome

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from Pacific onto 25th.

gas station driveway on 25th is protected with a blank out sign.
The single bi-directional track at this location requires this
extra measure.

track on Pacific Avenue- when streetcars can get out of running in
mixed traffic (such as in this median), service speed is greatly

Union Station stop. Two cars are in operation on the line at most
times and they meet at this mid-point stop.

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magnificent 1911 Union Station, now the
of a federal court house.
Pacific Ave. northbound
connection between Pacific Ave and Commerce St., Convention Center
in background.

Center station on Commerce St.

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“platforms” for the Convention Center station on
Commerce St. are located on the sidewalks.

on Commerce approaching the end of line.

Theater District station, the northern terminus of the line.

John Smatlak photos

News and Updates

March 2012- Tacoma Link opened a sixth station along its line during September 2011. The new station at 11th & Commerce opens at a time when ridership on Tacoma Link is growing, increasing 16 percent in the last year to 3,330 weekday riders. Sound Transit is also working together with a local stakeholders group on an expansion study.

October 2009- Tacoma Link ridership continues to be strong, with 900,000 riders predicted for 2009 (source: Sound Transit). A visit in late September found the system running as efficiently as ever, the only noticeable difference being that the cars now carry interior and exterior advertising.

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view from atop the convention center with Union Station
and the Tacoma Dome in the background 

on a short section of private right-of-way towards Pacific

Union Station stop is a busy connection point to other
transit services. 

track right-of-way in the street median

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east down Puyallup Ave. towards the bridge.

interior. Note the security guard riding along and the
interior advertising.

the Tacoma Dome terminus. Note the adaptively reused
Freighthouse Square building at left.

the other side of the Freighthouse Square building one
finds the Sound Transit commuter rail platform.