The draft Tacoma Transportation Master Plan is the culmination of over a year of work by the City’s Transportation Commission. It is an attempt to produce a long range, layered, and cohesive multimodal transportation system. It is the first shot by the City and their consultants (Fehr and Peers) to take a look at how individual corridors can best meet the needs of those who walk, bike, ride transit, to get to their destinations, in addition to serving the needs of freight and autos. Later this summer, after public comment and further edits, the City will adopt the plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
The key points here are that the Transportation Master Plan is “layered” and “multimodal.” The idea is to create a network of priority corridors for each mode designed to get you between neighborhoods in Tacoma and to connect Tacoma with the rest of the region. So you’ll see a set of streets with bike priority and a set of streets with transit priority. How that differs from today is that right now we have a conceptual bike network with individual bike lanes, but staff do not have an understanding of who gets priority when there are modes in conflict within different parts of the existing transportation plan.
So within the document, we see that multiple modes can share priority access for a street, such as bike/transit or transit/freight, which will affect the future design of those corridors. Where the Transportation Commission saw considerable cause for conflict between modes on a corridor, mainly due to a limit on how much room the street has, tradeoffs had to be made.
Getting Excited about the Transit Element
What’s exciting about the plan is that it takes a first stab at what a conceptual long term streetcar and High Capacity Transit system will look like in the City of Tacoma. This has never been done before in the history of the city. If the ideas in the plan come to fruition, there could be High Capacity Transit making connections between areas of the City that are currently hard to get between, like Tacoma Dome and Tacoma Mall.
The plan also sets up a menu of infrastructure and policy options to support transit service, like traffic signal priority, queue jump lanes, curb extensions, and management of on-street parking. There’s a map of where City transit investments may be needed in the future. The transit layer is categorized by level of service desired: high, medium, and low, where high is 10 minute peak frequency or better, medium is 11-15 minute peak frequency, and low is 16 minute or longer peak frequency, with lower frequencies for off peak service. Some will complain that it isn’t a “frequent transit network” map with individual routes connecting centers, but it is a step in the right direction. While the focus is to come up with a framework to identify capital projects to support the transit network, the document does go as far as to say that the City may want to look into supplementing transit service to get us up to the levels envisioned. Such as with a contract for service.
What I would like to see added would be a map showing the difference between where we are now for service and where we should be now and in the future, as well as a map of where there are current choke points where transit speeds are substantially below a published standard. Those can give clues of where the City should be investing the most time, energy and resources to manage and improve transit service availability and quality. The City will have to work more closely with planning at Pierce Transit and Sound Transit to make this happen.
Learn more about the Transportation Master Plan today. The last day to comment on the current version of it is today.