Idea of faster buses to and from downtown worries Dome businesses

Pierce Transit is working on route and station ideas that would enable faster bus trips between East Pierce County and downtown Tacoma. Map courtesy of Pierce Transit

Pierce Transit is studying ways to shorten the trip times between Spanaway and downtown Tacoma, a well-used 14.4-mile route on Pacific Avenue that is often clogged with traffic that slow buses.

The corridor is currently served by Pierce Transit’s Route 1, which has the highest ridership of any route in the agency’s bus system, averaging 5,950 daily boardings during the work week.

The working idea is to swap out the route’s standard buses with a $150 million Bus Rapid Transit system that would include specially design articulated buses with capacities of 90 passengers that would run on dedicated lanes rather than combat with traffic. Trips would be shortened even further by shortening the bus’ “dwelling time” by allowing passengers to pay fares while they wait rather than once they bound and enabling them to take their bicycles onboard rather than securing them on the front of the buses. Imagine them like the Link light rail cars but on wheels.

The route would run from Mountain Highway East and 204th Street East along Pacific Avenue into the city and head to the transit hub along Tacoma’s Commerce Street. The specifics of how buses would get to Commerce. One idea would be to loop the buses to a stop at 25th Street and Puyallup Avenue to tie the route into the nearby Sounder train station and bus terminal at the Tacoma Dome Station before taking 25th to Jefferson and down to Commerce.

The plan is already half funded with grants in the works to pay for the rest of the work that would start in 2020 and be operational by 2022. Open houses are in the works for September to allow people to learn about the plans and voice their thoughts during the review process.

Dome District businesses fear the creation of transit-only lanes along his strip of Puyallup Avenue will require the removal of all on-street parking spaces, which would hamper the economic development of the area at a time when it is one of the emerging business and residential districts of the city.

“A TOD (Transportation Oriented District) neighborhood’s whole reason for being is proximity to Work, Live and Play,” the Dome District board wrote in a letter to the City Council’s Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Council Committee. “This is a challenge not met or answered by taking away the commercial fabric and making the local businesses unviable. … Since all three of our east-west streets are part of the TOD, we ask that the BRT busses travel like all other busses when in the urban downtown — No Transit Only Lanes and No HOV lanes. We also ask that this Dome District Tacoma Dome Station Loop be implemented incrementally, and be planned to change as conditions warrant. Rather than predicating traffic data 20 years into the future, and putting those assumptions into place today, we can plan to modify the transit route and give it a level of priority as conditions change. This incremental approach will allow the BRT affects to the Dome District to be rational and fitting and not a mandate of abstract planning calculations.”

Neither the loss of on-street parking nor the specific routing of the buses themselves has been determined yet. That work will come after Pierce Transit finishes a traffic study this fall and include projected ride times to compare with the current travel times.

“We want it to be a data-driven decision,” transit spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said. “We don’t know yet if the BRT will even travel on Puyallup Avenue; there is another option, which is traveling on 26th and G in both directions. It is premature to presume any particular impacts, including to parking, as we don’t yet even know the route the BRT will take.”


More information about the project is available at

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  1. “Imagine them like the Link light rail cars but on wheels.”.

    Um, Link Light Rail cars actually have wheels. Did you mean “but on rubber tires?”

    And so far as the “TOD” businesses, “Dudes and dudettes, the point of TOD is that people live and shop where they work. You won’t NEED drive-ups when you are surrounded by five story apartment and condo buildings. That’s the way it works.”

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