August 20, 2006

South Tacoma Auto Show

Filed under: photography,tacoma — sparkrobot @ 10:35 pm

Took the dogs down to the South Tacoma Auto Show on South Tacoma Way yesterday afternoon to get them some exercise. The street was blocked off to auto traffic from about 50th St S down to around 58th. The streets were lined with mid-century classic american automobiles the entire way. In particular, I picked up on emblems as a lost design element that is for the most part missing from modern vehicles. There are a bunch of photos from the event on Flickr.

An interesting parallel note, we met a group of people from the Edison neighborhood who were participating in the Edison C.A.R.E.S. Action Team program who were working on their initiative sponsored by the City of Tacoma’s Community Based Services program. The group meets once a week to focus on creating solutions for local issues like clean up, street trash, curbing and lighting maintenance and speeding. All things that have come up in conversations I’ve had with Dionne about what it would take to improve our neighborhood. They’re focusing on the Edison neighborhood, which is south of us, Oakes to Washington, 56th to 66th. If they succeed in simply slowing the traffic on Oakes it would be a major improvement for the area. According to the city’s website, a recent speed sting in Edison netted $2,700 in tickets issued for speeding violations.

Oakes has a 30 mph speed limit, though routinely people buzz through here like it’s a the freeway. It’s scary sometimes. In spite of my usual support for privacy, I’ve even said aloud we should go the Lakewood route and install cameras, as long as a proper appeal process is in place. 5 mph over? Yeah, too bad. Ticket. Slow down. The volunteers told me most of the speeders were from other neighborhoods around the region. Well… duh? Who would speed into their own driveway?

While not without it’s share of issues, South Tacoma is still an affordable option for living in the city without paying exorbitant prices North End homes pull in. Especially as projects like this succeed in polishing up the area. A while back, I ran across a Tacoma city map circa 1887 (via which indicates that the entire area of Tacoma was formerly connected via cable car lines. While the light rail system downtown is nice. It doesn’t do much for connecting the entire community of Tacoma. (Or much of anything for anyone for that matter. Every time I’ve been on it, it’s been almost empty.) It might be an interesting proposition to connect all the areas of Tacoma in a manner similar to what Portland has done with it’s MAX light rail.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that downtown Tacoma is getting lots of attention, but there are other areas in town that could really use some love too. By romanticizing the idea that downtown Tacoma is going to become an urban utopia, and in doing so is going to auto-magically make Tacoma the greatest city ever, collectively we may be unable to see the forest for the trees.

I guess this post is not just about the auto show, but it was still pretty cool.


  1. spark, have you checked out the Tacoma Streetcar Project? That definitely aims to connect all of the areas of Tacoma instead of just downtown…

    Also, excellent use of “automagically”…one of my favorite fake words.

    Comment by jamie — August 22, 2006 @ 10:36 am

  2. Auto-magically is a word if you will it to be. Wiling things to be is a proven technique.

    I could probably conditionally get behind something like the streetcar—the map is inclusive—but “a fleet of vintage or replica streetcars running throughout the city” seems to serve nostaligia more than really provide an answer for a modern transpoartion problem.

    On the routes page: “Cities with historic streetcars in operation are Tucson, AZ…” I grew up in Tucson and the street car ran on Sunday afternoons from the U of A main gate to 4th Avenue. That thing was totally useless and the tracks were a bicyclist’s nuisance. There are scars to prove it.

    Hopefully, the intent exists to expand the light rail system so it would become a viable transportation option in the future. Currently, it’s only helpful if you need a ride from the Tacoma Dome to the Theatre District. While this is nice (and pretty much only nice if you’re going to the TD from the TD) you couldn’t even pop off the train to pick up some groceries or any other task most people normally do in cars. I’d rather see a modern, efficient light rail system than revisit the transporation model from the late 19th century. That said, I defintely have respect for the inertia people have with projects like these. In the end, there’s a similar goal in mind—connecting Tacoma as a whole—with the city center being the star.

    Comment by sparkrobot — August 22, 2006 @ 11:58 am

  3. One of the primary problems with waiting for the Link rail to serve our needs is that it is a Sound Transit program. Meaning 1) funds are regionally approved rather than just being a county or city thing, and 2) the goals of ST are for regional transit instead of transit within the city. Thus, even if the next round of ST funding is approved by voters (which seems like a long-shot for various reasons), the best we can hope for is either a connection to a route to Seatac, or an extention from downtown along Sixth Ave to TCC — and neither of these solutions serves as a way to connect the various neighborhoods of Tacoma to each other very effectively, especially South End, South Tacoma, etc.

    Another problem with Link vs. a streetcar is the infrastructure requirements. The current link system requires quite a bit of infrastructure to be put in place, with all sorts of associated engineering, etc., whereas a streetcar apparently can easilly be embedded in a roadway simply by digging a trench about 1ft deep. So this is obviously cheaper, etc., and more of an agile way to design and expand the system.

    Now, as far as vintage/heritage style cars, I guess the intent here is to provide something of an attraction/landmark, but these are far from a necessity. Some people like the idea of having something old or old-looking tooling down the street, others are unimpressed. But no one says that we need these types of cars, it is just up for discussion.

    I’m a big fan of all of the rail transit options. I think Link has been great for downtown, and like the possibilities for expansion it may have, but I think if we want something soon, and we want something that is going to serve to connect the whole city effectively and affordably, we need to look at options like the streetcar proposal…

    Comment by jamie — August 22, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  4. Interesting points Jamie, and thanks for putting them on my radar. I just can’t help but think that if we go the quickest or easiest route, the system wouldn’t be scalable, and thereby novelty. We already have busses. Now we just need busses that run on rain. :) Yes, it would be hard to build an efficient, green, innovative transporation system that serves the entire City of Tacoma rather than the regional iniatives. But it would also increase the pedestrian quality of life in the city immeasurably, and I feel like that would have far greater pull for Tacoma.

    I like the idea of rail too. I’m into it. But I’m not a transportation planner, so I can’t even begin to understand the logistics that would go into something like this. The website looks a bit out of date, but I signed up for their email newsletter to watch what happens with the project.

    Is it ironic that we’re having this conversation on a post that at least initially was intended to celebrate historic automobiles? :)

    Comment by sparkrobot — August 22, 2006 @ 2:20 pm

  5. Definitely ironic.

    I don’t think the streetcar website has been updated in a while, but there have been recent meetings and they are working towards organizing as a non-profit–assembling a board, etc., so stuff should be happening.

    Comment by jamie — August 22, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

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