Monday, August 27, 2012

Tacoma Trolley

During my summer travels, I was pleased to find an operating trolley in downtown Tacoma.  It’s a simple trolley line, running 2.6 miles from the Tacoma Dome to the far end of downtown.  And it’s free.  No fares are collected.

During much of the day, two trolleys run back and forth, with 15-minute headways between trolleys.  In the early morning and evening hours, with only a single trolley in use, the headway doubles to 30 minutes. 

I took advantage of a gap in my schedule to ride the trolley.  I hopped on and off several times to sample different parts of downtown.  The trolley was never more than 30 percent of capacity, but it was mid-afternoon on a Thursday, so not peak usage time.

Transfers to other types of transit are provided at all stops, including a connection at the Tacoma Dome stop to a regional railroad with passenger service to Seattle.

The trolley stops are located to provide access to key areas of downtown, such as the museum district and the Convention Center.  The northernmost station is in Tacoma’s theatre district.  Today, there isn’t much theatre action, although a couple of historic theatres remain in use.  But at one time, top acts would stop in Tacoma.  To recognize that history, playbills of those long-past days have been reproduced on thin granite slabs and attached to the sidewalk near the trolley stop.  It’s a nice touch.

Regular readers know that I often highlight institutional biases against urbanism.  Some might wonder if a free trolley in downtown Tacoma with convenient access to other forms of transit is a bias in favor of urbanism.  However, one justification for the trolley was to allow commuters to park in lots at the outskirts of downtown from where they could ride the trolley to downtown jobs.  So the trolley is intended to facilitate both urban and suburban lifestyles.
I don’t recommend taking a trip to the Northwest just to ride the Tacoma trolley, but if you find yourself in Tacoma, I recommend using the trolley to look around downtown.  For me, it facilitated a pleasant afternoon of exploration.  And it can fire the imagination about what trolleys could offer to North Bay communities.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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