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Tacoma Link: Riders face new $1 fare under Sound Transit budget proposal

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Sep. 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm with 16 Comments »
September 24, 2010 5:05 pm

Tacoma Link customers, who now ride the light rail system downtown for free, face coughing up a new $1 per ride fare beginning next summer under the 2011 budget proposal for Sound Transit presented Thursday.

“The recommendation right now is to start charging for fares in June,” Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason told me today.

Initiating the new fare for the 1.6 mile light rail system in Tacoma is just one idea among a number of recommendations in the offing, as the regional transit authority grapples with a widening budget hole amidst the tough economy.

Facing a $3.9 billion budget shortfall over the next 13 years, Sound Transit chief executive Joni Earl proposed a $1.1 billion budget for next year that, while actually a higher spending plan than the current budget, jettisons some key projects planned under the voter-approved “Sound Transit 2” program.

That initiative seeks to establish a high-capacity transportation system throughout central Puget Sound within the next two decades. But, as the recession has cut into Sound Transit’s projected revenues by 25 percent through an originally planned 2023 system build-out date, delivering all elements of the so-called ST2 program as planned is no longer an option, Earl said.

“While we are well positioned to make major transit investments in the years ahead, it is no longer possible to complete the entire program in 15 years,” Earl said in a press release issued Thursday.

If approved by the agency’s board of directors, Earl’s budget would have big implications for Pierce County. Along with the new fare in Tacoma, the proposal calls to delay current plans to extend a regional light rail link south of SeaTac.

Plans to extend the so-called Central Link light rail system from the airport to South 200 Street in SeaTac remain on track. But a further step to extend the line to South 272nd Street in Federal Way by 2023 – a key extension needed to launch service to Pierce County – is no longer recommended for construction.

Instead, the extension to 272nd “is still being recommended for preliminary planning, but there may not be sufficient funds for its completion to remain on schedule,” Reason said.

Still, most projects already underway are forging ahead, Reason said. In Tacoma’s Dome District, for instance, the so-called D to M Street project that will raise and connect a section of the Sounder line so that commuter rail service can extend to Lakewood remains on target for a 2012 completion date, she said.

And, implementation of four new Sounder daily commuter trips planned for the Seattle-Tacoma run are still going to happen, only on a delayed implementation schedule, Reason said. Th new trips – initially planned to be added on a staggered, one-per-year rate beginning in 2012 — instead would begin in 2013, Reason said.

We’ll have more details about the budget and its local implications in tomorrow’s print edition of The News Tribune.

Leave a comment Comments → 16
  1. Isn’t it bad enough we shoot ourselves in the foot, now Sound Transit can rob us and tie us down to the tracks?

    It’s one step forward, move two decades back.

  2. trekontenner says:

    Now they are going to have to hire people to collect the fares too. This is just the beginning. It will be up to $2.00 before you know it. Just to ride up to 1.6 miles. ..fagetta bout it.

  3. TacomaFan1 says:

    Once again, Tacoma gets the short end of the stick so that Seattlelites can have it all. At what point did we lose what little pull we used to have on the Sound Transit Board?

  4. tacomascene says:


  5. TacomaRick says:

    people wont ride it…not worth it…that line is the biggest waste in sound transit

  6. tacomascene says:

    TacomaFan1, I just say your comments.

    The problem with Tacoma coming out in fourth place, as I see it, is that Tacoma leadership has their heads up where the sun doesn’t shine: the Murray Morgan Bridge, Tollefson Square, The Circus Building at 13th and Pacific, the new Convention Center, just to name a few.

    I could go on, but then……..

  7. smcelhiney says:

    Ridiculous… what makes the Link work is that it’s free. That reduces the number of people bringing cars into downtown. I park at the Tacoma Dome Station for free, and ride the Link into Downtown for free when heading in by car for fun or business. The bus system sucks, the Link works because it’s free (we are already paying for it), and it’s frequent. If you are collecting tolls, it isn’t going to be running every 10 minutes and I’m not going to bother. Adding a toll means adding employees which means adding costs, which means a buck isn’t going to make a dent in the operational costs and then we’ll be seeing meetings after meetings explaining why we are charging a fee to use something when the fee is barely covering the cost of collecting it.

  8. sheyingshi says:

    For only a mile and a half, it’s worth free, but for a dollar (each way) I’ll walk it, than you very much.

  9. rgardner says:

    There aren’t enough details given yet, but I bet the operating costs per passenger on the Tacoma Link are an order of magnitude lower than the subsidy (cost less fare) of the Sounder Train and the new Seattle light rail that our sales tax was increased to pay for. So $1 to ride from the Museum stop to Convention Center too?

    Another brilliant idea coming out of UnSound Transit.

  10. Bait and switch! Get’s ‘em every time!

  11. HagenMeister says:

    I agree with everyone else – I simply won’t be riding it if they charge a fee. It is not right to charge for something so short. I’d understand charging for the Link if it brought people into the downtown area but as it stands it doesn’t. Someday it might but not today so don’t charge us for something that isn’t necessary. Rather make people pay for parking in the garages instead. That’s easier since there are only so many entrances and so many exits. Pay stations are easier to collect from.

  12. Close it.

  13. Newty2727 says:

    I only voted for the transit package because they were going to extend the line to federal way…….. Does anyone know if it is legal for them to abandon voter approved plans?

  14. Pierce County residents just get to keep on paying for Seattle’s transit system. This was a given back in the beginning, but too many people blinded themselves to the prospect and voted for the monstrosity and money-pit that is (King County) Sound Transit.

    One big hint missed by most, but not all of us,was the name: it’s Sound Transit, NOT the more geographically correct Puget Sound Transit. Eventually the King County puppet-masters will declare the ‘S’ will be changed to ‘Seattle’ and the “P’ that could have also stood for ‘Pierce’ will be even further removed from ever being a part of the system that Pierce County citizens have and will continue to pay for by force of law…even if it never goes further south than SeaTac.

  15. This is long overdue. Rides are heavily subsidized to begin with, and it makes zero sense to provide free rides. Even with a $1 fare, the ride will still be heavily subsidized by all taxpayers. And, I am supportive of having public transit. The alternative to this is cuts.

  16. billkaufmann says:

    Let’s call it what it is….right now it’s simply a parking shuttle, not transit. Most of the people who use it are avoiding the paid parking garages (and now the parking meters). Maybe that will change when Sounder connects to Lakewood, but with the current low number of riders I don’t see how they could collect enough to justify having someone collect money.

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