Tacoma Link

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Tacoma Link
Sound Transit Link Light Rail logo.svg
Skoda 10T car 1003 of Tacoma Link on Pacific Ave (2008).jpg
Tacoma Link car on Pacific Avenue
TypeLight rail/streetcar
SystemLink light rail
TerminiTacoma Dome
Theater District/S 9th St
Daily ridership3,447 (May 2016, weekdays)[1]
OpenedAugust 22, 2003
OwnerSound Transit
Operator(s)Sound Transit
Line length1.6 mi (2.6 km)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification750 V DC, overhead
Operating speedmax 25 miles per hour (40 km/h); avg <13 miles per hour (20.9 km/h)
Highest elevationAt grade
Route map

Stadium District
Tacoma General
S 4th
6th Avenue
Old City Hall
Up arrow Hilltop Extension
Theater District/S 9th St
Commerce Street/S 11th St
Hilltop District
Convention Center/S 15th St
St Joseph
Union Station/S 19th St
S 25th St
Tacoma Dome
Sounder commuter rail
to Lakewood & Seattle

Tacoma Link is a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) light rail line located in Tacoma, Washington. Completed in 2003, this streetcar line connects the downtown core to the Tacoma Dome Station combined parking garage and transit hub. The service is currently free of charge, but a $1.50 fare is planned to be collected after the opening of the Hilltop extension in 2022.[3]


A century ago Tacoma, like many American cities, had an extensive rail transit system. The first two streetcar lines in Tacoma were constructed in 1888 along the lengths of Pacific Avenue and Tacoma Avenue. A pair of horses pulled each of the yellow streetcars. The lines were a success from the start, carrying many passengers, and were very soon thereafter extended. From these few lines others sprang up, each emanating from Downtown Tacoma into the surrounding areas, allowing for houses and business areas to develop. At its peak the Tacoma Railway and Power Company was transporting in the range of 30,000,000 passengers a year, a number still not reached by the modern Pierce Transit. However, because of increasing government subsidies for road construction (some of which were paid for by transit riders) the trolleys were finding it more difficult to operate in an environment increasingly dominated by personal automobiles and taxis. The year that US 99 was completed commuter traffic between Tacoma and Seattle via the electric Interurban fell off nearly 40%, signaling the end of the trolley era. The last streetcars in Tacoma ran on June 11, 1938. The system was replaced with brand new rubber-tired buses that could more easily move in and out of the growing amounts of traffic in downtown. However, the system failed again and was eventually acquired by Tacoma, becoming the precursor of Pierce Transit.


Tacoma Link takes about 10 minutes to traverse its entire 1.6 mile route from the Tacoma Dome Station to the Theater District/ S. 9th St. Station.[6] Tacoma Link service begins at 5AM on weekdays, 7:48AM on Saturdays, and 9:48AM on Sundays. Service ends at 10:10PM on weekdays and Saturdays and 5:48PM on Sundays.[6]

Tacoma Link currently operates with the following headways:[6]

Time Headway
5:00 am  – 6:36 am 24
6:36 am  – 8:00 pm 12
8:00 pm  – 10:00 pm 24
Saturday 7:48 am  – 10:00 pm 12
Sunday 9:48 am  – 5:48 pm 24


As of 2016, fares are not charged on Tacoma Link. A $1.50 fare is planned to be collected after the opening of the Hilltop extension in 2022,[3] delayed from earlier plans to begin collecting fares in 2014 and 2016 through subsidies from the Tacoma Business Improvement Area.[7]


The 1.6-mile (2.6 km) line runs from the Tacoma Dome through downtown to the Theater District. This allows users to park, or transfer from buses or Sounder and ride Link into downtown destinations. Each station also features artwork that reflects the history of the surrounding area.

Tacoma Dome[edit]

The Link station of the Tacoma Dome Station complex

This is the terminus of the line. It allows connections to Sound Transit and Pierce Transit buses, Sounder trains, plus Greyhound. The Link station is part of the Tacoma Dome Station complex, which includes separate stations for Link and the Sounder. The Tacoma Dome is located only a couple of blocks away. The Freighthouse Station MarketPlace (formerly Freighthouse Square), an indoor shopping mall, is located across the street.

Artwork at the station reflects the areas history with the railroads (Freighthouse Square, for example, was an actual freighthouse for the Milwaukee Road) and the large amount of lumber mills that existed in the area. Art consists of the following:

  • A footbridge that looks like an old trestle
  • A dry riverbed with scattered industrial tools and parts around it
  • Sculptures that look like dust collectors from sawmills
  • Seats at the station that look like railroad spikes
  • A clock that displays time by magnetically picking up metal scraps on the hour

South 25th[edit]

South 25th Street station

Right before the line turns on to Pacific Avenue and heads downtown is the South 25th Street station. This is a single track station on one side of the street. This station's primary purpose is to serve bus lines on Pacific, but it also targets an area ripe for redevelopment and is close to the Brown and Haley candy factory.

Artwork at this station consists mainly of large fishing lures on the roof of the station platform that move in the wind. This is to reflect the fishing lure manufacture that used to take place in the area.

Union Station[edit]

The Union Station/South 19th Street station serves many museums and other locations in the heart of downtown Tacoma. It is a double-track station in the median. The station serves University of Washington, Tacoma, Museum of Glass, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Union Station, a former train station that is now federal courts, local restaurants and businesses, and new condo and apartment developments. During major events on the Foss Waterway, such as the 2005 Tall Ships Festival this station serves as a major transfer point. Many Tacoma School of the Arts students also use this station to get to their classes around downtown, such as those classes located at the Broadway Center for Performing Arts.

Artwork at the station reflects the area's American Indian culture, and the manufacturing and shipbuilding that took place in the vicinity (including in many of the buildings used by UW Tacoma). Artwork includes:

  • The outline of a ship's frame and American Indian fishing tools in the median by the station
  • Roof of the station platform is meant to look like the ribs of a ship
  • Photos and poems covering manufacturing and fishing in the area on the platform

Convention Center[edit]

This station serves the new Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, the Hotel Murano and major downtown employers such as Rainier Pacific Bank and Davita. The station platforms are split on either side of the street.

Artwork at the station includes colored panels in the roof and towers of rocks, evoking a Buddhist temple that used to exist in the area.

Commerce Street[edit]

Link shares parts of its Commerce Street section with Pierce Transit buses.

In September 2011, Sound Transit and the City of Tacoma opened the new Commerce Street/South 11th Street station in downtown Tacoma. An infill station, the Commerce Street station is the latest addition to the Tacoma Link. The orientation of the station is similar to others on the route with two 40-foot platforms on each side of Commerce Street.[8]

Theater District[edit]

Theater District station

The Theater District/South 9th Street station is the current terminus of the line. This station serves the Theater District, Antique Row, City Hall, Pantages Theater, and several clubs and businesses. It is a single-tracked station on one side of the street.

Artwork at the station reflects the Theater District:

  • Seats at the station resemble fold-up theater seats
  • Bronze plaques in the ground are reproductions of historical theatrical posters
  • Projectors project theatrical scenes on screens at night

Rolling stock[edit]

The line is served by 3 partially low-floor articulated Škoda 10 T rail cars made in Pilsen, Czech Republic in 2002. These rail cars are 66 feet long, about 8 feet wide, and have two articulations in the middle. They are unable to be coupled and have a maximum capacity of 56 passengers. The cars draw their power from 750-Volt overhead wires.[9]

In November 2017, Sound Transit ordered five Liberty-model streetcars from Brookville Equipment Corporation, at a cost of $26.5 million, for use on the future Hilltop extension, with deliveries planned for late 2020 and early 2021.[10][11]

Future expansions[edit]

Hilltop Extension[edit]

Sound Transit is planning a 2.4-mile-long (3.9 km), 6-station extension of Tacoma Link to the Hilltop neighborhood west of Downtown Tacoma, scheduled to open in 2022.[3] The line was approved by voters in 2008 and will run north on Stadium Way to the Stadium District, west on Division Street to Tacoma General Hospital, and south on Martin Luther King Jr. Way to South 19th Street near St. Joseph Medical Center. The Hilltop Extension is estimated to cost $175 million after federal funding is secured.[12][13] As part of the project, the South 9th Street/Theater District station will be relocated one block north and headways on the entire line will be lowered to 10 minutes.[14] Construction began in November 2018.[15]

Tacoma Community College Extension[edit]

An extension beyond the Hilltop neighborhood to the Tacoma Community College campus in western Tacoma is funded by the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure that was approved by voters in 2016. The plan estimates that the 3.5-mile-long (5.6 km) line could open in 2039 with 6 stations at a cost of $447–478 million to serve 13,000–17,000 daily riders.[16][17]

Other proposals[edit]

In 2004, the Puyallup Tribe commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of extending light rail to their planned casino resort complex near Interstate 5 and State Route 167 in eastern Tacoma. The extension would've added 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and three stations to the line, at a cost of $38 to $75 million depending on the chosen alignment.[18][19]


  1. ^ "May 2016 Service Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 7, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  2. ^ "Tacoma Link light rail schedule". Sound Transit. September 27, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Tacoma Link to remain fare free until Hilltop extension opens" (Press release). Sound Transit. April 28, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  4. ^ "Quarterly ridership archive". Sound Transit. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  5. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter 2003" (PDF). APTA. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "Tacoma Link light rail". Sound Transit. Archived from the original on December 6, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  7. ^ "Tacoma Link remains free". Sound Transit. May 22, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Tacoma Link Commerce Street Station opens tomorrow". SoundTransit. September 14, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  9. ^ "Expanding Tacoma Link" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  10. ^ "Sound Transit taps Brookville for five more light-rail cars". Progressive Railroading. November 17, 2017. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  11. ^ Barrow, Keith (November 17, 2017). "Sound Transit orders Brookville LRVs for Tacoma Link Extension". International Railway Journal. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  12. ^ "Sound Transit Board selects alignment, stations for Tacoma Link Expansion" (Press release). Sound Transit. November 19, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  13. ^ Stiles, Marc (December 21, 2015). "New grant clears way for $175M expansion of light rail in Tacoma". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  14. ^ "Tacoma Link Expansion: Project Overview" (PDF). Sound Transit. November 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  15. ^ Sailor, Craig (November 17, 2018). "Hilltop street car's 2.4 mile route extension breaks ground Monday". The News Tribune. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  16. ^ "Tacoma Link Extension to Tacoma Community College" (PDF). Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan. Sound Transit. March 29, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  17. ^ Lindblom, Mike (November 14, 2016). "Where Sound Transit 3 projects could speed up or slow down". The Seattle Times. p. B1. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  18. ^ Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc. (March 2005). Sound Transit Long-Range Plan Update Issue Paper S.6: Potential Tacoma Link Extension - East (PDF) (Report). Sound Transit. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Puget Sound Transit Consutltants, LTK Engineering Services (March 2004). Tacoma Extension Feasibility Study (PDF) (Report). Sound Transit. Retrieved May 4, 2016.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata

Media related to Tacoma Link at Wikimedia Commons