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Tacoma Link

Tacoma Link
Tacoma Link at the Tacoma Dome Station.
Type Light rail
System Link Light Rail
Termini Tacoma Dome Station
South 9th/Theater District
Stations 6
Daily ridership 3,628 (Feb. 2014, weekdays)[1]
Opening August 22, 2003
Owner Sound Transit
Operator(s) Sound Transit
Line length Script error: No such module "convert".
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 750 V DC, overhead
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Highest elevation At grade
Tacoma Link[2]

Tacoma Link is a Script error: No such module "convert". light rail line located in Tacoma, Washington. Completed in 2003, this streetcar line connects the downtown core to the Tacoma Dome Station combined parking garage and transit hub. The service is currently free of charge, but a fare will be collected beginning in September 2016.[3]


A century ago Tacoma, like many American cities, had an extensive rail transit system. The first two streetcar lines in Tacoma were constructed in 1888 along the lengths of Pacific Avenue and Tacoma Avenue. A pair of horses pulled each of the yellow streetcars. The lines were a success from the start, carrying many passengers, and were very soon thereafter extended. From these few lines others sprang up, each emanating from Downtown Tacoma into the surrounding areas, allowing for houses and business areas to develop. At its peak the Tacoma Railway and Power Company was transporting in the range of 30,000,000 passengers a year, a number still not reached by the modern Pierce Transit. However, because of increasing government subsidies for road construction (some of which were paid for by transit riders) the trolleys were finding it more difficult to operate in an environment increasingly dominated by personal automobiles and taxis. The year that US 99 was completed commuter traffic between Tacoma and Seattle via the electric Interurban fell off nearly 40%, signaling the end of the trolley era. The last streetcars in Tacoma ran on June 11, 1938. The system was replaced with brand new rubber-tired buses that could more easily move in and out of the growing amounts of traffic in downtown. However, the system failed again and was eventually acquired by Tacoma, becoming the precursor of Pierce Transit.


Tacoma Link takes about 10 minutes to traverse its entire 1.6 mile route from the Tacoma Dome Station to the Theater District/ S. 9th St. Station. [6] Tacoma Link service begins at 5AM on weekdays, 7:48AM on Saturdays, and 9:48AM on Sundays. Service ends at 10:10PM on weekdays and Saturdays and 5:48PM on Sundays. [6]

Tacoma Link currently operates with the following headways: [6]

Time Headway
5:00 am – 6:36 am 24
6:36 am – 8:00 pm 12
8:00 pm – 10:00 pm 24
Saturday 7:48 am – 10:00 pm 12
Sunday 9:48 am – 5:48 pm 24


Currently, Tacoma Link is free to ride. However, in September 2016, Sound Transit will begin charging a $1.50 fare to ride Tacoma Link. Youth, seniors, and the disabled will pay a reduced fare of $0.75.[3] Like other Sound Transit train services, ORCA cards, passes, and individual tickets will all be acceptable forms of payment.[7] Up to this point, Tacoma Link has been a free service because of Sound Transit's policy to offer free service when the costs of collecting fares would exceed the potential revenue.[8]


File:Tacoma Link.svg
Tacoma Link route map.

The Script error: No such module "convert". line runs from the Tacoma Dome through downtown to the Theater District. This allows users to park, or transfer from buses or Sounder and ride Link into downtown destinations. Each station also features artwork that reflects the history of the surrounding area.

Tacoma Dome

End of the line. Allows connections to Sound Transit and Pierce Transit buses, Sounder trains, plus Greyhound. The Tacoma Dome is only a couple blocks away. Freighthouse Square, an indoor shopping mall, is located across the street.

File:Tacoma Dome Station.jpg
Tacoma Dome Station

Artwork at the station reflects the areas history with the railroads (Freighthouse Square, for example, was an actual freighthouse for the Milwaukee Road) and the large amount of lumber mills that existed in the area. Art consists of the following:

  • A footbridge that looks like an old trestle
  • A dry riverbed with scattered industrial tools and parts around it
  • Sculptures that look like dust collectors from sawmills
  • Seats at the station that look like railroad spikes
  • A clock that displays time by magnetically picking up metal scraps on the hour

South 25th

Right before the line turns on to Pacific Avenue and heads downtown, we find the South 25th Station. This is a single track station on one side of the street. This station's primary purpose is to serve bus lines on Pacific, but it also targets an area ripe for redevelopment and is close to the Brown and Haley candy factory.

Artwork at this station consists mainly of large fishing lures on the roof of the station platform that move in the wind. This is to reflect the fishing lure manufacture that used to take place in the area.

Union Station

Arguably the main station of the line, this station serves many museums and other locations in the heart of downtown Tacoma. It is a double-track station in the median. The station serves University of Washington, Tacoma, Museum of Glass, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Union Station, a former train station that is now federal courts, local restaurants and businesses, and new condo and apartment developments. During major events on the Foss Waterway, such as the 2005 Tall Ships Festival this station serves as a major transfer point. Many Tacoma School of the Arts students also use this station to get to their classes around downtown, such as those classes located at the Broadway Center for Performing Arts.

Artwork at the station reflects the area's American Indian culture, and the manufacturing and shipbuilding that took place in the vicinity (including in many of the buildings used by UW Tacoma). Artwork includes:

  • The outline of a ship's frame and American Indian fishing tools in the median by the station
  • Roof of the station platform is meant to look like the ribs of a ship
  • Photos and poems covering manufacturing and fishing in the area on the platform

Convention Center

This station serves the new Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, the Hotel Murano and major downtown employers such as Rainier Pacific Bank and Davita. The station platforms are split on either side of the street.

Artwork at the station includes colored panels in the roof and towers of rocks, evoking a Buddhist temple that used to exist in the area.

Commerce Street

In September 2011, Sound Transit and the City of Tacoma opened the new Commerce Street/ S. 11th St. Station in downtown Tacoma. An infill station, the Commerce Street station is the latest addition to the Tacoma Link. The orientation of the station is similar to others on the route with two 40-foot platforms on each side of Commerce Street.[9]

Theater District

Final station of the line (currently). This station serves the Theater District, Antique Row, City Hall, Pantages Theater, several clubs and businesses, and the Russell Investment Group. It is a single-tracked station on one side of the street.

File:Theater District Station.jpg
Theater District Station

Artwork at the station reflects the Theater District:

  • Seats at the station resemble fold-up theater seats
  • Bronze plaques in the ground are reproductions of historical theatrical posters
  • Projectors project theatrical scenes on screens at night

Rolling stock

The line is served by 3 partially low-floor articulated Škoda 10 T rail cars made in Pilsen, Czech Republic in 2002. These rail cars are 66 feet long, about 8 feet wide, and have two articulations in the middle. They are unable to be coupled and have a maximum capacity of 56 passengers. The cars draw their power from 750-volt overhead wires. [10]

Future Expansion

Shortly after the line was opened, the Puyallup Tribe commissioned a study investigating the extension of the line to their planned casino a short distance East of the current endpoint of the line. [11]

As part of the successful Sound Transit 2 ballot measure which was approved by voters in 2008, Sound Transit is currently working on a project to expand the Tacoma Link. Initially beginning with 6 possible corridors, in May 2013, the Sound Transit Board of Directors chose the North Downtown Central Corridor as the preferred corridor to send forward to environmental review. Tacoma Link will extend from its current terminus at the Theater District Station continuing in a northern direction before turning onto Division St. From Division St, Tacoma Link will either turn back south on J St. or Martin Luther King Jr Way. Within this corridor, there are several different possible alignments and routing options that Sound Transit is currently discussing. Based on different alignments, cost estimates for the expansion range from $165 million to $210 million, all of which exceed Sound Transit's target budget of $150 million. However, Sound Transit is considering several cost saving measures including shortening the expansion or increasing headway to 20 minutes. The $150 million budget comes from three sources: $50 million of local revenue from Sound Transit, $50 million of federal funding (Small Starts funding program), and $50 million from local funding partner or partners. The project currently is at 5% engineering, and cost estimates will continue to change as further engineering and survey work is done.[10][12]

Currently, Sound Transit is conducting environmental review and preliminary design on the proposed expansion and will soon apply for the Small Starts federal grant. No completion date has been set yet.[13]


  1. Sound Transit Operations (3 April 2014). "February 2014 Service Performance Report" (PDF). Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  2. "Tacoma Link Schedule" (XML). Sound Transit. 2007-08-18. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. "Quarterly ridership archive". Sound Transit. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  5. "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter 2003" (PDF). APTA. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Tacoma Link light rail". Sound Transit. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  7. "How to pay". Sound Transit. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  8. "$1 fare for Tacoma Link will start next fall". Sound Transit. September 26, 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  9. "Tacoma Link Commerce Street Station opens tomorrow". SoundTransit. September 14, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Expanding Tacoma Link" (PDF). SoundTransit. July 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  11. "Tacoma Extension Feasibility Study" (PDF). Sound Transit. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  12. "Tacoma Link Expansion Alternatives Analysis Report and SEPA Addendum" (PDF). SoundTransit. May 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  13. "Tacoma Link Expansion". Sound Transit. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 

External links