Council committee supports streetcar resolution

A plan to create a historic-style streetcar connecting the city’s business districts has gained support inside City Hall, according to action taken yesterday by the city’s environment and public works committee.

The committee yesterday unanimously approved a do-pass recommendation for a resolution directing city staffers to study the feasibility of developing the streetcar. The full City Council is expected to vote on a final version of the resolution at an upcoming council meeting.

The one-page resolution also directs the city to work with Pierce Transit and Sound Transit on the plan, as well as the city’s neighborhood councils and business districts.

“We’re supportive of the idea,” said Scott Morris of Pierce Transit during a brief discussion at the meeting yesterday. He said creating a streetcar would change the layout of the city, and connect neighborhoods. “We’re very enthusiastic.”

“Hopefully this will get the ball rolling, and we can get feedback on what it will take to move forward,” said Morgan Alexander, a Tacoma resident spearheading the streetcar idea.

Supporters argue the streetcar would reduce traffic and auto emissions, increase participation in public transit, encourage economic revitalization, boost tourism, and provide a sense of historic preservation.

The plan calls for three lines connecting points as far north as the Proctor District, and as far south as South Tacoma Way. The 6.1-mile blue line would serve the Sixth Avenue, Stadium, and Proctor Districts; the 4.6-mile yellow line would serve the Hilltop neighborhood; and the 4.7-mile green line would reach the Lincoln District, Tacoma Mall, and South Tacoma Way. An optional fourth line would stretch eight miles and serve the Westgate area.

Final costs for the project are expected to be determined during a feasibility study.

Streetcar roots in Tacoma date back to the 1890s, when the Tacoma and Steilacoom Railway Company used steam engines to transport passengers between the two cities, according to, an online encyclopedia of Washington State history. Steam-powered trolleys were replaced by horse-drawn trolleys and, later on, an electric streetcar system (at one time, the 12-mile line was the longest in the world).

Currently, Sound Transit operates Link Light Rail, a 1.6-mile line connecting the Dome District to the Theater District.