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A crowd celebrates the opening of the T Line in 2003

Twenty years of Tacoma Link: Celebrating history and welcoming the future

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Did you know that the T Line was the first light rail service that Sound Transit ever opened in the Puget Sound region? 

It opened on this day in 2003, well before the first segment of the 1 Line (Westlake to Tukwila International Boulevard Station) opened in 2009.  

And it was the first modern electric light rail service in the state.  

Transit have a long and interesting history in Tacoma. Some local residents shared their favorite memories of riding trains and buses: 

But the history goes even further back. 

In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad selected Tacoma as the terminus for its western line – a decision that was somewhat surprising. 

The city and surrounding county grew rapidly, while another form of transit was taking root.  

Streetcars were the primary mode of public transport in Tacoma from the late 1800s, with the first two lines constructed in 1888 along the lengths of Pacific Avenue and Tacoma Avenue. Horses pulled bright-yellow, 14-passenger streetcars with upholstered seats.  

By around 1912, the city boasted 125 miles of streetcar trackage (much of it electrified) and almost 30 streetcar lines. 

Like in many American cities, the whole system was replaced by buses by the mid-1930s - only to restart with the Sound Transit vote of 1996, which approved a tax that would establish a modern light rail line.  

The segment of Tacoma Link that runs from Tacoma Dome Station to the city’s Theater District started service 20 years ago. 

And on Sept. 16, we'll celebrate when the T Line doubles in length and seven new stations open. 

In a quirk of history, the route it runs is one parallel to the ones that streetcars did at one time - so when you ride, remember the history and look to the future of even more connections and sustainable transit options! 

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