Sound Transit yesterday released a list of projects for public review, some of which may go into a system plan for the third for phase of light rail, regional express bus, and commuter rail service expansion the agency is terming “ST3.” Sound Transit is requesting your feedback on this project list to learn more about public priorities and to understand if the project list is complete. An online survey is available and Sound Transit is holding a meeting at the Tacoma Convention Center on June 24th from 5:30pm – 7:30pm on this topic.
Following feedback from the public, this list will be refined and another more technical phase of work will begin to understand the costs and benefits of each project so the Board can better select what projects to go into a system plan.
All of the light rail projects recommended in the 2014 Sound Transit Long Range Plan for Tacoma proper are included in the draft project list. This list includes the long awaited light rail connection from Seatac Airport and Federal Way to Tacoma Dome Station (project codes: S-03, S-04), extension of Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College (S-11), and extension of light rail between Tacoma Dome Station and Tacoma Mall (Project S-05).
As far as Sounder Commuter Rail is concerned, expansion of Sounder Stations to 8 cars and beyond are being considered (S-06, S-07), as well as additional South Sounder service (S-08).
Overall improvements to ST Express Bus service are covered in project R-01, mainly as a placeholder. Of particular interest to bicyclists, Sound Transit is considering project R-05, which would fund “planning and implementation of investments to improve access to the regional transit system, including improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists, buses and private vehicles.”
As far as project priorities go, I cast my top 3 projects as light rail to Tacoma Dome Station via SR-99 (Project S-04), Tacoma Link to TCC (S-11) and light rail between Tacoma Dome Station and Tacoma Mall (S-05). Each of those projects will work in tandem, strengthening ridership across the system and giving Tacoma a rail network it needs to support the growth that is projected by 2040. It will be a substantial investment that will solidify Tacoma’s transportation connections between its Regional Growth Centers and the rest of the region.
Expansion of Sounder station platforms would seem to me relatively less important given the fact that station access is the primary constraint on new ridership, mainly in the form of parking. Parking at Sound Transit facilities in Pierce County is 89% occupied, up 5% from last year. I would prioritize additional express Sounder service to Tacoma and further South before extending platforms. The reasoning there is that additional efficiencies may be found to displace ST Routes 586, 590, 592, 594, and 595 service that routinely gets mired in I-5 traffic, particularly in the Fife area.
Is Anything Missing
Looking at this project list, I would encourage Sound Transit to consider adding a Dupont commuter rail station to Sounder South. Sound Transit already owns the tracks to the Thurston County Line and this service may enable efficiencies and eliminate the need entirely for Route 592. I am sure that commuters between Olympia and Dupont would likely prefer congestion free Sounder service to lumbering MCI coaches.
To learn more in depth about the projects being explored, please visit http://soundtransit3.org/ and fill out an online survey.