Tacoma, WA (TAC)

Located at the head of Commencement Bay, Tacoma was chosen to be the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. It subsequently grew into a major North American port.

1001 Puyallup Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98421

Station Hours

Annual Station Revenue (2016): $5,158,296
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 118,832
  • Facility Ownership: BNSF Railway
  • Parking Lot Ownership: BNSF Railway
  • Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
  • Track Ownership: BNSF Railway

Rob Eaton
Regional Contact
governmentaffairssea@amtrak.com
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

The Tacoma station opened in 1984 after service was discontinued at Union Station on Pacific Avenue. It was built to an Amtrak standard station design used at locations across the country. The one story building is composed of variegated brown brick with a prominent cantilevered roof of black metal; the deep eaves provide protection from inclement weather. The waiting room is lighted by sun which streams through large floor-to-ceiling windows. A small band of clerestory windows wraps around the upper portion of the waiting room wall where it meets the roof; this has the visual effect of making the roof float above the structure, lightening the whole composition.

Under the Point Defiance Bypass Project, passenger trains will be rerouted away from the shore of Puget Sound to an existing inland rail line with less freight traffic; as a result, the Amtrak station will move a few blocks southwest to the historic, mixed-use Freighthouse Square in the Dome District. By rerouting passenger trains, Washington State Department of Transportation planners believe the Amtrak Cascades service will become more reliable, and time will also be shaved from the current schedule. After the completion of other capital rail projects, two additional daily, round-trip Amtrak Cascades trains could be added to the schedule.

Construction on the Point Defiance Bypass Project commenced in late 2014, and work on the new station should begin in 2016. Both projects will be completed by 2017. Passengers will enjoy a light-filled space accented with wooden columns and terrazzo flooring. An arcade will connect to the rest of popular Freighthouse Square, and a glass canopy will run along the length of the station. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $89.1 million for the bypass and station work.

Tacoma was chosen in 1873 to be the western terminus of the northern route of the Transcontinental Railroad by the Northern Pacific Company. The first passenger rail station was built ten years later and moved to the site of the present Union Station in 1892. Then, in 1906, the firm of Reed and Stem, which also built the Seattle station, designed a new station more befitting Tacoma’s image as a prosperous and thriving metropolis. Construction began in 1909 and finished two years later.

The Tacoma Union Station, though no longer a working railroad facility, is a fine example of Beaux-Arts architecture. It was rehabilitated from 1990 to 1992 after purchase from the Union Pacific Railroad. The building’s focal point, its ninety-foot-high central dome, still stands out in the Tacoma skyline. Clad in copper and adorned with cartouches, the dome rests on a central pavilion with large arched openings on either side. The exterior reinforced concrete is faced with multi-colored red brick set in a Flemish-bond pattern with a limestone base and ornamental detail. The entrance doors, of stained oak with bronze hardware, are recessed within the arch on the western elevation. A large window fills the arch above the doors.

Today, the rotunda houses a collection of glass by renowned Tacoma artist Dale Chihuly. Suspended from the ceiling, a 20-foot blue chandelier hangs, consisting of over 2,700 hand-blown glass globes. The facility is now used, together with nearby wings, as the federal courthouse. The Tacoma Union Passenger Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The station and its surrounding historic district have served as a focus for downtown revitalization since the 1990s.

The area that became Tacoma, at the head of Commencement Bay, has been occupied for many centuries, primarily by the Puyallup people prior to European settlement. The name, Tacoma, comes from the Native American name for Mt. Rainier, “Tacobet,” meaning “Mother of the Waters.” At the close of the American Civil War, Job Carr, a land speculator and war veteran, built a cabin which served as the community’s first post office. Carr hoped to profit from the coming of the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad and developed the area. Tacoma was incorporated on November 12, 1875. However, the railroad actually built its depot two miles south of this development, and the two resulting communities grew towards one another and merged as the area boomed.

In addition to being a noted port, Tacoma has been home to lumber and paper industries since its inception, include giants such as Weyerhaeuser—so much so that the city was known for its distinctive (foul) odor until in the late twentieth century when the paper mills reduced their sulfur emissions by 90 percent. U.S. Oil and Refining also operates an oil refinery on the tide flats of the Port of Tacoma. Shipyards, especially since World War II, have also been major employers in the city.

Today, Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and third largest in the state. The Port of Tacoma is a leading North American seaport, handling more than $36 billion in annual trade and nearly 2 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent container Units) in 2007. The Port is the seventh largest container port in North America, and a major gateway to Alaska and Asia.

Amtrak provides both ticketing and baggage services at this facility. The Amtrak Cascades are primarily financed through funds made available by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Station Type:

Station Building (with waiting room)

Features

  • yes Short Term Parking Spaces

    Number of spaces available for Amtrak passengers to park for the day only, not overnight. Parking fees may apply.

  • Accessible Payphones
  • Accessible Platform

    Accessible platform is a barrier-free path from the drop-off area outside the station to the station platform.

  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Ticket Office
  • Accessible Waiting Room
  • Accessible Water Fountain
  • ATM
  • Baggage Storage

    Baggage storage is an area where passengers may store their bags, equivalent to "left luggage" in Europe. A storage fee may apply.

  • Bike Boxes
  • Checked Baggage
  • Dedicated Parking
  • Elevator
  • Enclosed Waiting Area
  • Help With Luggage
  • High Platform

    A high platform is a platform at the level of the vestibule of the train, with the exception of Superliners.

  • Lockers

    Self-service lockers are available in select stations for passenger baggage storage.

  • Long-term Parking Spaces

    Number of spaces available for Amtrak passengers to park overnight. Parking fees may apply.

  • Lounge
  • Parking Attendant
  • Pay Phones
  • QuikTrakKiosk
  • Restrooms
  • Shipping Boxes
  • Ski Bags
  • Wheelchair Lift

    Wheelchair lift is a platform-mounted lift for loading passengers from low platforms onto trains that do not have onboard ramps.

  • Wheelchairs

    For passengers who cannot walk far or at all, we offer a wheelchair to move the passengers around within the station. At some stations this may be a battery-powered people mover. The wheelchair or other types of movers must not leave the station or be moved onto the train.  

  • WiFi