By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
If you’ve driven around Tacoma recently, you’ve certainly seen seemingly endless construction projects, blocked streets, workers, and yes, rail-line grooves across neighborhoods and streets.
But it is not truly endless – in fact it is just beginning.
Or at least our use of it is just beginning.
Yes, those rail lines will soon be occupied by paying (more on that later) customers.
Once in operation, sometime early in 2023, Tacoma’s Link will run from the Tacoma Dome, through downtown, the Stadium District and end at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The extended route will include one relocated station and six new stations along MLK mostly between Tacoma General and St. Joseph’s.
Passengers on the new line will have immediate access to Wright Park and major medical facilities.
Besides a change in fare structure, five new cars will be added to the existing system.
Each of the eight-foot-wide, 66-foot-long cars is designed to carry more than 100 passengers with seating for up to 26 passengers (and standing room for about 75 more) with accessibility seating for passengers and designated spaces for bikes, strollers and wheelchairs.
No need for a schedule
These new trains will run every 10 minutes, with an expected daily ridership of 2,000 – 4,000 daily riders by 2026. You can find maps, updates and time lines here: https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/hilltop-tacoma-link-extension.
Tacoma transit nerds can see a full photo gallery of the new trains here.
The Tacoma Link was Sound Transit’s first working light rail line when it opened in 2003.
Tacoma’s Link will connect to the larger system, featuring connections to Sea-Tac, downtown Seattle, the University of Washington and other points north eventually.
You can see details on that progress here: https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/tacoma-dome-link-extension.
Tacoma will be the southernmost point of Sound Transit.
No longer free
A defining characteristic of Tacoma’s Link has been that is has always been free for riders.
That is about to change.
An ORCA card is a must-have for riding the new Tacoma Link line.
The ORCA card is your region-wide access and is all you need to pay your fare on Sound Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Seattle Street Car, Seattle Monorail, the King County Water Taxi, and Washington State Ferries.
If you don’t have an ORCA card already, you can order one online or buy one directly from any Sounder or Link station.
Each user must have their own card as the card itself shows the user’s status as the holder of a reduced fare or youth card.
You can see the details on fees here.
On a related topic, a new statewide program is in motion to make buses and trains free to all under 18.
It’s not in place yet, but you can see details so far here: https://crosscut.com/news/2022/04/transit-users-18-and-younger-ride-free-under-new-wa-program?
The literal streets of Tacoma are changing
Whether you ride the Tacoma Link or not, the streets of Tacoma are forever changed.
Parking at the Tacoma Dome Park & Ride and catching the Link will get you almost anywhere in the greater downtown Tacoma area.
Whether you work or are looking for entertainment downtown or are a patient, staff or visitor at one of Tacoma’s central medical facilities, the Link can save you all kinds of headaches of traffic and parking.
Personal flying saucer?
And if the Link doesn’t take you where you want to go, and you can afford it, your personal flying saucer could take you to Seattle (or beyond).