Tacoma Link – Puyallup Avenue Couplet

Puyallup Avenue Proposal
Graphic by Tacoma artist Anique Zimmer

The Puyallup Avenue Couplet concept is an addition of 0.8 miles of single track along Puyallup Avenue to Pacific Avenue and north to UW Tacoma.

What this does for us is that I think it will benefit our chances for federal dollars. The addition of track along Puyallup Avenue would potentially expand the amount of transit oriented development along the line, given the City’s good work on the Dome District subarea plan. It would also allow for us to do Complete Streets work on Puyallup Avenue, while having dedicated transit right of way.

Additionally, by completing this track loop south of UWT, it would eliminate the need for streetcar operators to have to turn around, which would save around 20% of the time required per trip on Tacoma Link. Those savings in trip time can then easily be put back into service and be seen by the public as higher service frequency, which is one criterion for the Small Starts grant. On top of that, this concept would help use about 800 feet of underutilized track between Freighthouse Square and the Maintenance Facility, so we would be better using existing rail that’s already in the ground. If there were a station directly at the Tacoma Dome bus platform, both Pierce Transit and Sound Transit could better leverage Tacoma Link service by connecting to Tacoma Dome Station in new ways, and ridership would be enhanced for both Link and for buses. Further, one proposal for the future Central Link connection to the airport would be across the street from Tacoma Dome Station, so a bus platform streetcar station could also enhance access to the regional rail network.

One of the most dramatic improvements to the entire Tacoma Link system that’s brought on by this concept is that it essentially takes the lid off of how many trains we can operate on Tacoma Link without running into track conflicts. After the Commerce St. station on 11th St came into service we had to reduce service frequency from every 10 minutes to every 12 minutes. What I’m proposing could potentially help us restore 10 minute service without substantially more service hours, and would enable use of the third Tacoma Link train during peak periods, which could bring service frequency below every 10 minutes.

Finally, this track segment truly enables a potential streetcar extension to Portland Avenue and Salishan by expanding capacity in the southern section of the line.

I have spoken to a number of transit advocates, planners, engineers, and riders about this concept and the reaction has been 100% positive. Riders would like to take Link into Tacoma if their bus terminates at Tacoma Dome Station and transit advocates think it’s a good idea to cut out as much downtime from operators at each end of the line so people and trains can keep moving.

Hilltop Link
Puyallup Ave Rail
Couplet Summary

Faster Streetcar Service, Less Passenger Wait Time

This is a concept to enhance Tacoma Link and improve our chance for federal transit dollars. It is a single track extending from Tacoma Dome Station to Puyallup Avenue and then northward along Pacific Avenue to UW Tacoma. It’s purpose is to eliminate the need to turn around at Tacoma Dome Station, which will save time and money and create two new stations. The design makes it more feasible to expand Link Light Rail to more of Tacoma’s neighborhoods.

Major features:

  • Added Rail couplet on Puyallup Ave, Double-Tracking on Pacific Avenue
  • Enables higher streetcar frequency (12 to ~6 minutes with existing 3 trains)
  • Expands rail coverage for Transit Oriented Development in Dome District
  • Makes it easier to expand light rail to East Tacoma and 6th Avenue
  • Saves money by improving operational efficiency
  • Uses existing rail between Tacoma Dome Station and Maintenance Facility

Potentially two new stations:

  1. S. 25th and Puyallup Ave
  2. Tacoma Dome Station Bus Platform