South Sound residents will use mass transit. They are sending that message loudly and clearly by parking 400 more cars in the Dome Transit Station than were projected, filling it to capacity. Pierce Transit is responding by speeding up development of Phase 2 of the station.

Meanwhile, older parking lots under Interstate-705 are back in use to accommodate the growing demand and employees of Total Renal Care, which decided to locate its offices in the former Schoenfelds building in part because of easy access to Dome Station. TRC employees will park under I-705, then catch Downtown Connector shuttles when they start working at TRC Tower this spring.

That will leave more space available at the Dome Station, but it will again be over capacity by fall, according to current projections.

Dome Station Phase 2, the ultimate solution to the parking crunch, is a joint venture between Pierce and Sound Transit. It will double the 1,200-vehicle capacity of the station.

The two agencies are splitting the $21 million price tag, with Pierce’s half coming mostly from federal grants.

Fortunately, the Transportation Efficiency Act Congress passed last fall allows flexibility in the use of federal grants so they can go either to highways or to transit development.

“You need good projects and good grant applications,” says Kevin Desmond, Pierce Transit’s director of development. “There is a lot of money but also a lot of competition for it.”

The final design and bid processes will soon be complete, and excavation will begin the second quarter of this year. Dome Station Phase 2 is scheduled to be finished the third quarter of 2000.

Phase 2 will be a multi-modal station and a gateway to the city. Pierce Transit officials express hope that it will spur economic development in the Dome District as well as serve as a transportation hub.

A Sound Transit Tacoma Link light rail station is part of the plan, probably on 25th Avenue between the station and Freighthouse Square. A meeting Jan. 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Washington State History Museum will give the public an opportunity to discuss station design.

Shuttle services and eventually a remote airport check-in are among the possible future additions to Dome Station, along with a new station for Greyhound buses. Greyhound officials are in negotiation with Pierce Transit for space in Phase 2, but as yet there is no signed agreement.

Pierce Transit also is trying to acquire property for open space and retail development adjacent to the station.

Another Dome Station asset could be federal money available for transit-oriented development, such as any development that occurs above the station. The station also addresses the perception that there is too little parking downtown.

“The station will be a nexus, an asset to the district, then more people will use it,” says Desmond. Some of that synergy will depend on how the Dome District develops, he adds, and where the LeMay Antique Car Museum is located.

Already, the success of Dome Station is generating increases in ridership and that is further contributing to the success of the station. And that success is generating interest among potential retailer tenants as the development continues

“Build it and they will come,” seems to work when the topic is transit in the South Sound, says Desmond.

Though there is no funding yet for a third phase of Dome Station, it could be part of the second phase of Sound Transit.

By Janice Smith, Business Examiner staff