The Logic behind a 6th Avenue LINK Corridor

Tacoma General Hospital, a major employer on the B1 corridor.
Right: Stadium High School Wright Park in Background

This post comes out of the frustration that I feel when I read editorials like this in the paper about corridors like C1. I understand where the author is coming from, but in corridor evaluation, you need to try to back up your claims with numbers and with specifics. I try to do that here.

Here’s why 6th Avenue needs to be given more serious consideration. The bold parts are categories of criteria for evaluating the project that were designed by the stakeholders group and were prioritized in part by public comment. If you have more to add to this, mention it in the comments.

Improve mobility and transportation access for Tacoma residents and visitors.

Long Range Bicycle Map around 6th Avenue
11 streets with bike lanes and bike boulevards intersect with B1

The B1 corridor along 6th Avenue between Central Tacoma and the North End is slated to have a ridership response of 3.0 to 3.5 million additional riders per year or greater than 10,000 riders per day, matched only by the E1 corridor.  The B1 corridor would link together Tacoma Dome Station, Downtown Tacoma, the Stadium District, Hilltop, and 6th Avenue – tying E1 for the number of distinct neighborhoods and mixed use centers served by a corridor.  

Bicycle connections are planned at eleven – yes eleven – cross streets to the corridor, making it easier to expand access to more than just areas that are within ¼ mile to the line.  Federal regulations on transit investments allow federal grant money to be used to expand bicycle access within 3-miles of each station.  The eleven cross streets slated for bike access along B1 are: Union Ave, Puget Sound Ave, Alder St., Pine St., State St., Ainsworth Ave, J St., I St., Yakima Ave, St. Helens Ave and Tacoma Ave.  Also, local transit service from Pierce Transit routes 1, 11, 13, 14, and 16 would be available for redeployment to act as feeder and connecting services. Bus service from these routes could also potentially be redeployed to other parts of the city, further enhancing ridership and access to Downtown.

Increase transit ridership within the City of Tacoma.

The B1 corridor has the largest existing population center in Tacoma.  The 98403 zip code, which represents the North Slope neighborhood of the Stadium District is the 12th most dense zip code by population in the state and it is the densest in Tacoma by far at 7,830 people per square mile.
The Stadium District and 6th Avenue are rivaled again only by similar, but lower, existing population density along the MLK E1 corridor.

10,000 students, including those from UW Tacoma (3,662), UPS (2,600), Stadium High School (1,699), Tacoma School of the Arts (515), and others would have access to the line.  Students are very reliable users for public transit during all periods of the day.

Commuters would benefit by being connected with Tacoma General/Mary Bridge Hospital, the Downtown Tacoma regional growth center and connecting regional transit services at Tacoma Dome Station.  Tourists and visitors would be able to visit entertainment venues and green open spaces on 6th Avenue and at Wright Park in the Stadium District, not to mention the many festivals and farmers markets that take place in these areas.  Shoppers would have more choices in the Stadium District and on 6th Avenue.  Tacoma Link service would run late at night to match demand from existing night life venues in Downtown and on 6th Avenue.

Goal Criteria and B1 (Source: Sound Transit)

Serve underserved neighborhoods and communities in the City of Tacoma.

The B1 corridor would serve significant portions of low income and minority populations and more than twice the proportion of households without a vehicle when compared to the C1 Portland Ave corridor. In fact the number of households without a car adjacent to B1 is higher than that found on average in Seattle or Los Angeles (also see Goal Criteria; right, for B1 reference).

Use transit to spur economic development and other types of investments

The Stadium District is zoned for mixed use development and there are a number of vacant parcels capable of being built upon.  The entire 6th Avenue corridor all the way to TCC is either zoned for mixed use or for commercial development and has many opportunities for additional density. At least one six story mixed use project is in the works for the corner of 6th and Alder St that might better pencil with light rail.

Jazzbones, an example of vibrant nightlife entertainment on 6th Avenue.

10 minute frequencies would be viable for up to 20 hours a day because of high ridership and proximity to businesses that stay open late.  New businesses would fill existing buildings currently for lease and in new buildings that would be constructed.  Proximity to entertainment venues as well as the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center would make development of hotels a possibility in the Stadium District.

Wright Park in the Summer time.  Wright Park would be served by B1 and E1.

Ensure that the project is environmentally sensitive and sustainable

High ridership means fewer cars on the road.  Fewer cars means better quality air and less pollution into Puget Sound.  B1’s high ridership makes it easily one of the most environmentally beneficial routes considered.

The B1 corridor would be next to the 27 acre Wright Park with playground and sprayground facilities, a one mile trail, a botanical conservatory and pond.

The B1 corridor is consistent with the City of Tacoma’s Climate Action Plan, Comprehensive Plan, and Streetcar Feasibility Study.  No habitat corridors are affected by a B1 route.

Establish a project that is competitive for federal funding

The B1 corridor easily can match any other corridor in project justification for federal funding.  The mobility benefits of a B1 corridor would be profound, ranging from increased bike access to a 30% increase in transit reliability between 6th Avenue and the Downtown core.  High ridership again means more environmental benefits for the region.  It is a cost effective use of resources because it will save on the order of 2-3 minutes per trip between 6th Avenue and Tacoma Dome Station.  Local land use patterns are incredibly supportive of public transit, as is evidenced by high ridership on Pierce Transit’s Route 1. Economic development is zoned for and vacant land is available for development.  And finally, a local improvement district for a B1 corridor, that is the local match, is incredibly viable because local property values are high enough to support it.

Great work on the issue Chris. Finally some objective analysis on why ridership and the success of the Link extension will be greater with the Stadium 6th Avenue route.

Here’s hoping the 6th Avenue corridor gets built ASAP. This would really provide a “spine” or backbone service, with high ridership, which is the key to being able to get future extensions and restoring other services.

Once this corridor is up and operating, I bet the political climate will shift towards more extensions. I don’t think that would be true of any other corridors.

Ideally the design would include provisions in the trackbed for a future MLK extension, to avoid digging up the same street twice.

I really like the bike access. For me, although I do walk do 6th Ave upon occasion, it’s too far for a daily commute. By bike though, it’d be a piece of cake.

I did a post on how Transpo Secretary Ray LaHood worked to change regulations to allow bike infrastructure to go from 1 to 3 miles from the station. That was a total game changer. With some of the light rail grant funding we could rapidly implement our mobility master plan and make it much easier to bike around Tacoma.

Yes, I remember reading that. I think that bike infrastructure is something that even cyclists can be guilty of underestimating the importance of.

An experienced cyclist may feel comfortable on many of Tacoma’s streets, but parents with young kids, elderly cyclist’s whose reflexes have slowed, or even an adult who hasn’t ridden for decades, will all want the safety of bike lanes if not bike boulevards before venturing out on a bike.

Good analysis as usual, Chris.

Another bit of (anecdotal) proof that the corridor is well-suited: the walkshed *south* of Sixth Avenue. There is enough density that PT Route 28 shadows Route 1 at a distance of about a half-mile.

I’m a regular PT Route 28 rider, but I also take Route 1 when there is less of a wait. I often see other Route 28 regulars board Route 1 at their usual cross-street. So there would be a ridership base stretching at least to South 12th and perhaps even to about 15th.

With a terminus at Union, you also have the opportunity for Route 51 to serve as a feeder from points further south and west.

Those are both really good points. Ridership demand on the 12th St. corridor is still very healthy despite significant cutbacks in service. Those two routes, Route 1 and Route 28, are two that have generally been able to remain free from the shackles of timed pulses, giving riders some choice, like you said.

Route 51, although a shadow of what it used to be could be a good connecting service, especially if the connection to the Tacoma Mall is restored.