THE TACOMIC


STREETCAR: If Not Now When? If Not Us Who?

PART 1 of the BUILD THE STREETCAR EPIC
posted Mar 9, 2010
THE TACOMIC - STREETCAR: If Not Now When? If Not Us Who? (tacoma, streetcar, morgan alexander, chris karnes, liz pauli, tacomic, lawsuit)
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The Tacomic is trying something new with a new Investigative Political Cartoon where we go out and conduct an interview to accompany the fantastic cartoon artwork tens of fans have come to expect every Tuesday morning. Today we interview Mr. Morgan Alexander and Chris Karnes of team BuildtheStreetcar.com.  Relax and Enjoy!

TACOMIC: Who created this route? Why on earth do you normal citizens who are not planners or transportation engineers get to decide where the lines go? Just who the hell do you two dudes think you are anyway?

STREETCAR: Well to create the route, I let my cat play with a small ball of yarn until she got bored.  Then we took a photo of the yarn and then superimposed it on a map of Tacoma to create the route.  Coincidentally, a similar route was crafted by a group of interested members of the public in collaboration with City staff back in 2006 during a feasibility study that the Tacoma City Council authorized to look at streetcar technology, routing, costs, and benefits.  The News Tribune published an article on it in June of 2007.

In all seriousness, some form of high capacity transit has been scheduled for the 6th Avenue corridor between Downtown and TCC since then - it's in our two most recent regional transportation plans (Destination 2030 and the draft of Transportation 2040).  Several versions of an extension to TCC were also studied by Sound Transit in 2005.  The concept route on 6th Avenue offered the greatest ridership at the lowest cost, with the shortest trip time from TCC to Downtown Tacoma.

The bottom line is that the voters get to decide where things get to go.  Without additional voter-approved funds to match Sound Transit money, an extension isn't likely to happen.  What I hope people consider is that an initiative petition, just like a bill in a legislative body, is a proposition - an idea to move an issue forward.  If our campaign doesn't get the signatures within 180 days to move it forward, then obviously the community has something else they have in mind.  We would love to have more people and their ideas engaged in this debate, especially ideas from members of the City Council.  I think a political environment that has some healthy debate over routing would be great.  I look forward to it.

Morgan and I are just two people who have been studying and working on this issue steadily over the last five years.  We've both been representatives on neighborhood councils (New Tacoma and the North End).  We've participated in public meetings and work groups on public transit.  I'm a transit rider and I have seen the value of rail transit in other cities.  We think we've been patient with Eric Anderson and the Council, but we're tired of waiting for the City to do something concrete that substantively involves the public in some way.  If we can't have the audacity to propose an initiative to get some movement on an issue that we have some knowledge about, then who can?  And further, why do we have the initiative process anyway?  Shouldn't we just let the all-knowing, infallible wisdom of City Manager Eric Anderson guide us?  If we did that, I think we'd be up to our eyeballs in new parking garages.

TACOMIC: Section 10 of your initiative calls to restore a historic street car.  Is this your personal white whale hunt Morgan?

STREETCAR: I'll have to let Morgan answer the question of whether it's a whale hunt.  To address the real issue, restoring a historic streetcar is both a historic preservation issue, but it also makes good financial sense.  Restoration of one streetcar has been pegged at $400,000.  Modern streetcars cost on the order of $3 million.  They're both worth it, because their operating lifetime can be many times that of a bus when they are properly maintained.  If we can restore one vehicle for 1/6th the cost of a new vehicle and preserve a piece of Tacoma's history, we asked ourselves, why not?

TACOMIC: Section 8 has legal issues. Section 3 is completely illegal. A citizens initiative cannot create a Transportation Benefit District (TBD). Nor can it mandate a tax levy. Why have you chosen not to change the petition?

STREETCAR: Section 8 (instructing the City to lead) doesn't have any legal issues we're aware of.  As for Section 3, we knew going into this that we would require the support of the City Council to create a transportation benefit district.  Is that a legal problem?  Our position is, "No, it's a political issue at the moment, and not one for the courts."  If the City Council is willing to enable its citizens to vote on an issue that has languished for the last five years, it's definitely not a legal issue.

I encourage the City Council to simply act on streetcars before we get the chance to submit our 4,000+ signatures.  The only reason it's come to this point is because Tacoma's government hasn't involved the public, hasn't coordinated with other agencies, hasn't applied for all possible federal grants, and hasn't come up with a plan to match Sound Transit's $80 million.  The citizens are being proactive in a way that the City Council should have in the past.

TACOMIC: "It's not the right time", "This benefits North Tacoma to much" and "Construction will kill off any business on 6th Ave."  Why not instead build the street car where there are no people and let the streetcar be a divine spark of life, spontaneous development, etc.?

STREETCAR: Let's talk geography.  This extension borders or cuts through the Central Tacoma, West End, New Tacoma and North End Neighborhood Council districts, plus the northern portion of Downtown.  The neighborhood areas of Hilltop, Highland Hills, Stadium, UPS, Lower 6th Avenue, and TCC will directly benefit from this line.  Extensions that could spur off of this main line could benefit Martin Luther King Jr Way, the Lincoln International District, Proctor, Old Town, Tacoma Avenue, Lower Portland Avenue, and Pearl Street.

When is a better time for this?  Pierce Transit is in a once-in-thirty-years system redesign process and is open to streetcars as a part of local transit.  Sound Transit has $80 million in matching funds, the City just recently up-zoned its mixed use centers, the federal government is practically throwing money at Portland and Seattle to build out light rail and streetcars, we now have an American manufacturer of compatible streetcars not 150 miles from here, and the general public of Tacoma has shown a lot of interest in moving forward.

We can mitigate construction on 6th Avenue and keep businesses open.  We can construct the system one lane at a time to reduce impacts.  Other communities like Portland have dealt with this issue before, and they have developed an innovative manner of track construction that makes the process take weeks instead of months and reduces construction costs.

Spontaneous development?  Is that kind of what Tollefson Plaza was supposed to be?  We think that this first extension of the streetcar line will be a success and that future extensions to other parts of the City will similarly build on that success.

TACOMIC: Aren't citizens initiatives just for assholes like Tim Eyman? If you use a citizens initiative won't people think you are just like Tim Eyman? If you love Tim Eyman so much why don't you marry him?

STREETCAR: Mr. Eyman is a certifiable public menace.  His initiatives are irresponsible and damaging to this state.  Many of the potholes in Tacoma's residential streets today wouldn't be there if Eyman hadn't proposed Initiative 747, which capped property tax increases to below the rate of inflation.  Nor would we be looking at cutting bus service by 60% if Initiative 695 hadn't eviscerated a stable funding source for public transportation.  We would be better off as a society if the rich would stop bankrolling the signature gathering process of his ill-conceived ideas.  We will have no paid signature gatherers on our campaign.  That's something that sets the two of us apart.

TACOMIC: Did you know there is a streetcar in the old spaghetti factory?

STREETCAR: This is an obvious fake.  The name on the car says Tacoma Power Co.  The actual company that operated the Tacoma streetcar system was named the Tacoma Railway and Power Co.  I still like the restaurant, though.  We want people to be able to go there, by streetcar.

TACOMIC: Downtown Tacoma was built in the bottom of a massive crater and it is said that streetcars are scientifically incapable of moving along a vertical axis. How on earth do you expect these machines to operate in three dimensional space 'goin' up hills?  What evidence do you have that proves streetcars going up hills is even possible?





STREETCAR: These photos were obviously doctored by the 1930's equivalent of Photoshop.  You can tell because there are a number of anomalous artifacts in the picture that seem to indicate that there used to be crowds of people in Downtown Tacoma at one time.  Modern streetcars are capable of taking grades up to 9.5%, much more than enough to handle the grades on the 6th Avenue route identified.  Cable cars, like the one pictured here, could take grades much higher than that, and in fact served a vital purpose of linking together streetcar lines that operated perpendicular to it.  Our downtown cable car loop ran every four minutes up 11th St. and down 13th St. from A St. to K. St. 

Upper Tacoma used to be a thriving business district when that was in place.  Personally, I'd like to see the City and Pierce Transit partner to reproduce a similar service, perhaps with electric trolleybuses.

TACOMIC: Isn't it insane to expect voters to approve any new taxes in an economical climate like this?  

STREETCAR: Tacoma's voters tend to vote for things they approve of and like - schools, parks, and transportation.  I bet that if Tacoma's voters had been given the chance to vote on either a bright and shiny convention center and parking garage renovation or an extension of streetcars to the Stadium District, they would have chosen the latter.  The thing is that the voters have never been given the choice to vote for an expansion of our rail system when it hasn't been bundled with Sound Transit.    Even when it was and there wasn't all that much in the package for Tacoma, Tacoma's voters chose to support it.  Just think if there's actually a local campaign and a real piece of rail infrastructure being proposed on a route that needs the service.  We understand that it's not an optimal economic climate, but we're already paying taxes to Sound Transit for this extension and we're not getting any closer to seeing it realized.  Our campaign will give voters the chance to finish the job.

by NineInchNachos on 3/9/2010 @ 12:39am
proto streetcar tacomic research...


by marumaruyopparai on 3/9/2010 @ 4:45am
There's so much WIN in this Tacomic it's really kind of ridiculous. Good luck with your street cars Tacoma.

by Jesse on 3/9/2010 @ 7:35am
Great Tacomic RR. It's scandalous. It's edgy. It's angry. You can feel your frustrations coming through it.

by morgan on 3/9/2010 @ 7:44am
STREETCAR JIHAD!

by fredo on 3/9/2010 @ 7:57am
Mr. Anderson's amusing cartoon notwithstanding, I doubt if Elizabeth Pauli is a significant player in obstructing the streetcar petition. She's a salaried figurehead.

by NineInchNachos on 3/9/2010 @ 7:58am
Are you saying she is a tool of Eric Anderson? a hatchet man?

thanks for your comments comrades!

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/9/2010 @ 9:48am
Well this definitely lightens my mood before my meeting today.

It's really quite amazing work, RR.

by NineInchNachos on 3/9/2010 @ 10:42am
Chris you should bring a copy with you. Go ahead and print it the big version!

by NineInchNachos on 3/9/2010 @ 11:07am
I'm going to start a petition for intercity dirigible service..
www.uh.edu/engines/epi2571.htm

by NineInchNachos on 3/9/2010 @ 1:03pm
you got your good things and I've got mine.


by NineInchNachos on 3/9/2010 @ 3:12pm
update from Chris K :

"There will not be a lawsuit, but we also can't continue with this initiative. I am at a point now where I think we should give the new City Council a little time to doing the right thing. Mayor Strickland and Councilmember Mello were very emphatic that this is a City Council that gets this issue. I want to believe them.

We haven't made any commitments, but we are exploring every possible avenue to move streetcars forward. The City Council, sufficiently motivated, can implement law faster than we can. Maybe the tone of the initiative should shift from "this is exactly what we should build" to "thou shalt build it."

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/9/2010 @ 4:55pm
Well, at least we still have the BLink. Seattle can't take that away from us, or at least I hope not.

by Thorax O'Tool on 3/9/2010 @ 5:25pm
"Allah Akbar". Careful, RR. The Ayatollah may put a fatwa on you, kinda like what happened to Kurt Westergaard.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

If anyone wants some fascinating insight into transit related issues, especially streetcars as well as the overall nature of Downtown, I highly suggest you read Downtown: Its rise and fall, 1880-1950. FYI, this book IS available at the Tacoma Public Library.

Not only does the book make you think differently about the dynamics of downtown (you learn to see the Mall as a symptom, not the cause of the problem), but it delves heavily into mass transit. Streetcars, subways and elevated lines are all addressed.

And you know what? The issues we face now are nearly identical to the issues faced in 1910. More often than not cities had to build the lines themselves because private enterprise was usually unwilling to build it. However, the cities in those days had private companies run the rails. The city still owned the lines and the cars, but the operating cost was not burdened on the city.

Perhaps we need to look at successful examples and adjust our attack plan.

But one thing I do know, is that politicians only do what it takes to either make their corporate masters happy and to do what it takes to get reelected.
City council will start to listen only when the voters get loud and more aggressive about the streetcars.
And there's no reason why some manner of streetcar company can't be formed. We have a lot of ways to go about this.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/9/2010 @ 5:29pm
The Thorax O'Tool Streetcar and Sourdough Company. I like the sound of it.

by Thorax O'Tool on 3/9/2010 @ 5:38pm
Sir, you have the wheels in my head spinning!

So many ideas... so little time....

by Jesse on 3/9/2010 @ 5:58pm
Hey now! 1.6 miles built every 10-15 years means that I will see 17.6 miles of track (best case scenario) by the time I am 136 years old!

MAN... I am so STOKED!!!!!

by Jesse on 3/9/2010 @ 6:35pm
Gee whiz... all the biggest buildings of the day were built along the cable-car loop on the hill. Take a look at those pics!

Yet, how do we solve the hill problem in Tacoma... hmmm... I just can't think of ANYTHING. Golly guys, I'm just stumped!

by Chris.Tacoma on 3/10/2010 @ 4:41am
Hills are easy. Seattle tackles them with electric trolleybuses. The torque out of electric motors combined with the traction of rubber tires on asphalt does just as well as a cable car, technically speaking.

by fredo on 3/10/2010 @ 7:38am
If not now when?

I think we should wait for a stronger economy and for more urban density.Generally speaking, the automobile is the most efficient and practical mode of transportation for most people. If Tacoma had extremely high density like Portland or Seattle it would be a different story.

by tacoma1 on 3/10/2010 @ 8:33am
Yeah, Fredo is right, in this poor economy, it makes much more sense to have 80% of the energy you use to drive your car go straight out the tailpipe. Plus unnecessarily spending thousands each year on car insurance, car maintenance, car payments, parking, etc. is good for the economy.

Besides, big oil is hurting. Their billion dollar profits aren't high enough. They need more. Just think, every dollar we spend on oil makes someone else wealthy. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Bottom line here is that efficient electric powered rail is just too cost effective and practical in the long run to be good for the economy.


by NineInchNachos on 3/10/2010 @ 9:38am
sometimes libertarians drive me batty...

reason.tv/video/show/supertrain-2010

(making the argument for more roads and more airplane flights)

by NineInchNachos on 3/10/2010 @ 10:06am
Why People Don't Use Mass Transit

www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/pseudosc/masstransit...


by morgan on 3/10/2010 @ 10:17am
fredo: you are assuming that the current economy is not the new economy. Also, more transportation options can gring about density.

by NineInchNachos on 3/10/2010 @ 10:28am
Karen Vialle commented on Erik Bjornson's link:

"I agree with you on one step at a time. My personal preference would be to replicate the old downtown K Street line; Up 11th down MLK to 13th. This will reconnect the Hilltop to the downtown; and,provide incentives to develop grocery stores and other businesses to serve downtown residents and workers. The street car could the needed catalyst for Hilltop economic redevelopment.

The TNT had two cartoonists back in the 1990's. The only comment I have to make on this cartoon is that RR Anderson appears to be as sexist as Jerry Benson was. He finally got called on it after he went to Phoenix. My favorite is David Horsey. Overall I like Anderson's stuff. You can be a maverick-I am one, with out being sexist, etc."

by Thorax O'Tool on 3/10/2010 @ 10:54am
Now there's your magic bullet. Start with the old streetcar routes and adjust according to current population/business distribution.

Streetcar on 15th or Fawcett? Probably not. Streetcar on 11th, Division/6th, 19th and N. I/N 21st? Bingo.

by morgan on 3/10/2010 @ 12:21pm
Portland started the model of using streetcars as a revitalization tool. Unlike MLK though, downtown Portland had a lot of other stuff going on in which to build on. Streetcars are not going to save Tacoma or compensate for the years of disinvestment we see in neighborhoods such as Hilltop. Streetcars are not a magic bullet! I do believe streetcars can help build on what is working which could cause some spill-over affect.

Something to keep in mind also is that the streetcar line in Portland was originally ran by a private developer trying to increase value in his properties - much like how Tacoma's early developers built the first generation of stretecars. Unlike Portland, however, Tacoma has no private developers willing to do something like this.

by Thorax O'Tool on 3/10/2010 @ 12:56pm
No, streetcars aren't the magic bullet. The magic bullet was in regards to using the system of the past as a starting point. No more, no less.

But you're right that it often takes private investment to get the ball rolling.
Perhaps it is time to found the Tacoma Streetcar Company LLC.

by Jesse on 3/10/2010 @ 5:53pm
Fredo: Portland has high density BECAUSE of the streetcar.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/10/2010 @ 8:00pm
So if we have the streetcar we'll pretty much be Portland?

by Thorax O'Tool on 3/11/2010 @ 12:12am
Portland is only a hair smaller than Seattle (600K vs 580K). I have the feeling that most of those people were there before the streetcar was.

by Jesse on 3/11/2010 @ 7:52am
I grew up in Portland. If ever you want to go there so I can show you block by block what WAS there before streetcar/ light rail, I would be happy to. It would be a good way to show the impact you can have with streetcars, urban growth boundaries, and tax abatements and using these tools to re-urbanize an area.

I even will pay for the gas. Let's go!

by Jesse on 3/11/2010 @ 7:53am
Caveat: I am not saying we'd be Portland or Seattle with streetcars but it does start the ball rolling in that direction.

by fredo on 3/11/2010 @ 8:47am
I think Thorax's point was that Portland had high density before streetcars. Maybe the streetcars are associated with bringing higher density. Tacoma doesn't even have high density to start with.

by tacoma1 on 3/11/2010 @ 9:46am
Tacoma's lack of density is due to a large part to the terrible land use planning that Pierce County has had in the past. It is time to change that. If we continue doing what we've been doing for the past 50 years, there shouldn't be any reason to expect any change for the better. We should expect more road congestion, more sprawl, more air pollution.

From the Brookings Institute:

The Great Recession: What Comes Next for Americaís Metros

www.brookings.edu/speeches/2009/1027_ist...

A couple of exerpts below:

"It appears increasingly likely that the next U.S. economy will be low carbon, innovation fueled, less driven by domestic consumption, and more export oriented. This economy offers the kind of productive, inclusive, and sustainable growth that has eluded America for the past several decades."

"So what comes next for the United States?"

"With the specter of global warming, the United States is making a slow transition to a low (or at least less) carbon economy. To some extent, the narrow discussion of ďgreen jobsĒ has obscured how profound a transition this is. Shifting to low carbon will affect all aspects of our livesÖ the source of our energy, the cars we drive, the products we buy, the kinds of homes we live in, the shape and location of our communities, how we get from one place to another.

This transition to the next economy will demand and trigger a step change in innovation:
in state of the art infrastructureósmart grid, high speed rail, rapid bus, electric vehicles, clean coal.
in green building practice and technologyósustainable design, sustainable construction materials, energy efficient appliances and approaches, water efficiency.All this innovation will catalyze new markets for private investment and drive job creation. Alongside the low carbon transition will be a re-balancing of the American economy."

by NineInchNachos on 3/11/2010 @ 10:40am
update from TacomaTomorrow
www.tacomatomorrow.com/2010/03/tacoma-st...

"Political solution" sought for Tacoma Streetcar Initiative"

Yesterday at 12:33am

Deep in the comment thread at Exit133 about the streetcar Derek mentions some interesting information. He notes that on March 2, 2010 at the Committee of the Whole Meeting, the City Council did discuss the streetcar initiative and received a general update about progress on the streetcar. TV Tacoma has archived audio of this meeting here. The two main points came up were that studies are coming up and that the city will likely move to authorize a pre-election challenge of the initiative.

In this meeting, City Manager Eric Anderson and the Council discussed various background and such on the streetcar (12:50 - 52:00 in the audio). The big point that came out of that discussion is that the City is going to be working on a "mini-alternatives analysis" anticipated to be finished by the end of this year while Sound Transit will be doing a full-on federally-acceptable alternatives analysis that will take 18-24 months. The reason Eric mentioned the need for these duplicate reports is that Stadium way needs to be replaced ASAP and the City can't wait for three-four years.

After this, City Attorney Liz Pauli and the Council discussed (from 59:12 - 1:14:28) the legal issues of the Streetcar initiative. She says that the initiative is "beyond the scope of the initiative power of the people" since the city hasn't created a TBD yet and the initiative relies on the existence of said TBD to raise the revenue. The City Council deliberates this a bit and it seems there is a general sentiment that the Council will bring a motion to authorize a pre-election challenge of the initiative. This City Manager clarifies the timing of this challenge (at 1:22:39 - 1:22:55) and states that it'll happen "next week" or March 9th, 2010.

So, today (guess it is yesterday as I write this) the council met and discussed in detail the issues with Cheney Stadium and the Elks Project. However, the issue of the Streetcar Initiative wasn't brought up at all. I went up and talked with Liz Pauli after the meeting and she confirmed that the council didn't bring it up just yet as they will be trying to seek a "political solution" first.

The next council meeting is in 2 weeks so we'll see what happens between now and then.

by NineInchNachos on 3/15/2010 @ 4:14pm
www.tacomatomorrow.com/2010/03/extending...

Tacoma Tomorrow: Extending Tacoma Link West

"The long range issue paper did some brainstorming on what routes to cover and also identified some of the major concerns with a few of the lines. This study identified 3 sample routes for extending the streetcar west:

* Option 1 Ė 6th Avenue Corridor (blue on the map)
* Option 2 Ė South 19th Street Corridor (red on the map)
* Option 3 Ė North 21st Street and South 12th Street Corridors (orange on the map)"

by NineInchNachos on 1/20/2012 @ 2:05pm
UPDATE: Mr. Streetcar Morgan Alexander on Kplu talking electric rail road conspiracy 
kpluwonders.org/content/mysterious-demis...

by NineInchNachos on 1/20/2012 @ 2:19pm
see also: 
boingboing.net/2011/04/01/commander-edwi...

and...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_str...

by JesseHillFan on 1/21/2012 @ 7:05am
Excellent links RR.By the way although I am not old enough to remember the streetcars I do know someone whom does (my mother).Before she became a Fircrest resident back after World War II she was originally a Tacoma resident.Myself I have seen the decayed remnants of part of the track in Fircrest as I used to walk on them during the 1960's.It was around the old swamp  near Whittier Elementary School.I believe that that part of the track went along the Nalley Valley through Fircrest and then into University Place though I am not sure of this.Then again maybe it was a section of streetcar track that was planned to be expanded into other areas through Fircrest but abandoned.What I like about this is that they are electrified which leaves open them being powered by non Fossil Fuel power plants.I think that the (fossil fuel) coal plant somewhere near Centralia in Washington is being phased out so our main electrical production is headed towards not using fossil fuels and that's a good thing.I wonder what the average energy efficiency of these old street cars had too.Adding these street cars might displace Pierce Transit routes but that  would probably be good overall.Would new streetcars be able to carry bikes on them or have bike racks? 


by fredo on 1/21/2012 @ 8:14am


Recently Maria and Thorax noted that we should not complain so much. The city council in it's wisdom decided to removed the streetcars and either remove or bury all the track. The council was elected to speak on our behalf and apparently they did this. So why don't we honor the council decision and stop with the complaining?

by Jesse on 1/21/2012 @ 9:34am
Why don't they run the streetcar construction like in the old days but with a private-public spin.  The routes were all usually built by real estate developers to get people to live in their projects.  Perhaps today we could allow streetcar tracks built into roads by developers / real estate investors and the public would buy the streetcars themselves (not lay tracks), maintain, and operate the routes.

One of the biggest problems I see with a comeback is the fact we have Sound Transit in charge of this whole thing.  They are a gigantic money waster compared to other municipalities and a streetcar network being built with their "leadership" will take 250 years.  They insist on extravagant stations, tunnels where there need not be, everything on a bridge, and they study everything to death.

How many studies have been done so far about the T-Link?  How many dollars does that represent? How big and extravagant are the stations for Seattle Link compared to a light rail stop in Portland?  What is the cost per track mile of streetcar and light rail under Sound Transit compared to (any other on the planet) other municipalities? ... and don't give me that "we have more hills than other towns" bullshit.  The tracks are elevated parallel to the freeway on I-5 and the freeway to the airport, as well as down Pacific Hwy there, and much of Seattles MLK... all insane unnecessary costs.

I'll stop here.  We will never have a streetcar network if Sound Transit is involved in any way. Get used to the one mile every decade average bullshit as long as they're around.

by fredo on 1/21/2012 @ 9:48am


Jesse, I'm inclined to agree with most everything you wrote. But in the 1990's Pierce County voters decided they would join with 2 other counties to fund this transportation arrangement. In retrospect, it was not a particularly wise decision. The system was designed to be Seattle-centric with King County portions to be built first and if they ran out of money as time passed then the other two counties would get little in return for their contributions. They threw Tacoma a bone and built the DT link. People criticize third world construction techniques, but with the same amount of money the Chinese could have designed and built this entire system per spec and we would be enjoying the use of it today.

by Jesse on 1/21/2012 @ 10:06am
Doesn't China use basically slave labor though?  I'm not ok with that, but I am ok with market rate labor instead of prevailing wage.

At the rate of one mile per decade, we'll recoup our original 125 mile streetcar network in 1250 years.  Does anyone ever do this sort of math at these organizations? There HAS to be a better way.

by fredo on 1/21/2012 @ 12:33pm
I'm not in favor of "slave labor" as you put it. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, the low paid Chinese factory workers come to those low paid jobs from the farming areas where pay is even lower or perhaps non existant. Why would you consider them to be slaves?  They can quit and go back to the farms and many do.
 
But I will compromise and agree that at MARKET RATES we would be more likely to complete a  fully realized transit system then tying every step of the construction to prevailing wage rates. The construction schedule is very dependent on cost per mile as you state jesse. At prevailing rates it's prohibitively expensive and no one reading this post will ever live long enough to see the system completed. At market rates it might be complete in our lifetimes. At minimum wage it might be finished in 10 or 20 years, and with foreign work crews working without wage regulation perhaps it could be completed in four or 5 years. These are all my estimates and I'm not a construction engineer.

by tacoma1 on 1/21/2012 @ 4:31pm
Jesse@

I'm pretty sure that the individual cities, i.e. Seattle, Tukwila, Bellevue, are the ones that insist on fancy large light rail stations, not ST. And the elelvated track eliminates the need to buy land, eliminates the need to tunnel, minimizes car and or pedestrian collisions with trains. I don't know whether surface or elevated is cheaper, but elevated has alot of advantages over surface.

by Jesse on 1/21/2012 @ 7:28pm
I doubt elevating a track eliminates the need to buy the land to put the pilings on.

Elevated track is WAY more expensive than at grade.

Elevated does eliminate the impact of hitting pedestrians... but then again, with that philosophy, we should elevate all roads too.  After all, there are way more cars on the road with sketchy drivers and the sheer number of cars increases the risk of hitting a pedestrian more times than a train ever would.

by tacoma1 on 1/21/2012 @ 8:11pm
Trains not hitting cars was actually my main point (death and service interuptions and all that). And if ST lays tracks down on the ground, they have to buy the ground and all the buildings on the ground that are in the way first. That adds up fast. My guess is that the cost differential isn't that much when all the incidentals are figured in.

As for local street cars, the city puts them in city streets that the city already owns so that is certainly cheaper.

by JesseHillFan on 1/22/2012 @ 6:45am
If elevated wouldn't it be better to electrify the tracks rather than have overhead cables?Also wouldn't it be another idea to have a pedestrian walkway/bike path alongside the elevated tracks.In this aspect if the cable car becomes disabled say the electric motor fails the riders could get off of it and use the pedestrian walkway.I would assume that there would have to be a maintenance vehicle able to tow or push the cable car along the track dispatched from a central tracked location when needed.
Pedestrians and Cyclists would probably prefer to use such a walkway rather than use more risky active travel along side city streets, intersections etc with densified motor vehicle traffic.I remember decades ago back in the 1960's and early 1970's when walking and cycling was far safer in Tacoma with much less traffic.

by fredo on 1/22/2012 @ 7:51am


The perfect power source for all public transit is Feedtacoma (TM) Brand All-Purpose Utopian Pixie Dust. I recommend no other.

by tacoma1 on 1/22/2012 @ 7:51am
I dunnuh. I think to improve transit in Tacoma, the next best step is to get PT properly funded and then to extend T-link.

by fredo on 1/22/2012 @ 8:30am


  Raising fares would improve PT funding.

by tacoma1 on 1/22/2012 @ 8:43am
A yes vote for PT next election would do better

by fredo on 1/22/2012 @ 8:50am


The public subsidy portion is already too high so I say no to your suggestion. The riders are saving thousands of dollars every year by not owning cars so they can well afford to pay a little bit more.

by Jesse on 1/22/2012 @ 8:53am
Since Sound Transit has to be involved in the expansion of the LINK in Tacoma, I bet it will cost at least three times that of a Portland system.  That is: at least $50m a mile.

Any takers on that bet?

by fredo on 1/22/2012 @ 9:05am


Right on Jesse. I doubt if a firm estimate could even be provided. These prevailing wage projects always have  huge cost overruns remaining after the project is completed. No one cares, perhaps they even delight in the overruns. After all it's just a huge bureaucratic shakedown. 

by Jesse on 1/22/2012 @ 9:22am
I am usually the first one on here to defend decisions a municipality is making.  I am not a fan of Sound Transit though.  

How the hell can Portland start a new streetcar line, from first talks to tracks in the ground, in a few years while Sound Transit has taken nine years so far -- and with no build date in site.  How many studies have been done and REDONE to determine a route?  Of all the redone studies, how much money is that?  Is it a matter of one ST Director in an office changes so the entire plan has to be redone because the new Director wants to exert control?  

There is something seriously wrong at Sound Transit.  This is coming from a guy who worked with the people who built Portland Streetcar to South Waterfront.  I sold MOST of the materials to those guys laying track, talked to engineers, and watched the construction process with a front row seat.

Who is ultimately in control of streetcar build-outs? Can it be the City of Tacoma? Ever?

by Jesse on 1/22/2012 @ 9:32am
I would vote for an increase in county taxes to see more streetcar as long as we're getting a good value out of the dollars spent -- a similar cost as other municipalities are paying.  That is; eliminating Sound Transit from the mix, eliminating the streetcar board full of know nothing non-profit executives with agendas, eliminating extravagant stops and coupled street LID's, and having professional traffic engineers determine the routes.

by tacoma1 on 1/22/2012 @ 9:52am
Jesse
Expanding T-Link has always been subject to Tacoma coming up with matching funds. Tacoma hasn't done that yet. The fault for not expanding T-Link is ours.

Other than that, I'm ok with the rest if your plan.

by Jesse on 1/22/2012 @ 10:00am
What if Tacoma came up with more than just matching funds?  Could they eliminate ST and just have streetcar LID's run by the city?

by tacoma1 on 1/22/2012 @ 10:27am
Well, ST is our regional transit provider that runs the regional sounder commuter rail and a bazillion 59X buses. Both of which are extremely popular. Doing away with ST is not gonna be popular.

Within city limits, it's up to us to fund our local transit system. With PT redrawing their service boundary, a yes vote next time around is much more likely. But to add rail, Tacoma will probably have to form a transit benefit district.