Tacoma is a mid-sized urban port city and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, 32 miles (51 km) southwest of Seattle, 31 miles (50 km) northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 198,397, according to the 2010 census. Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third largest in the state. Tacoma also serves as the center of business activity for the South Sound region that has a population of around 1 million people. Tacoma adopted its name after the nearby Mount Rainier, originally called Mount Tahoma. It is known as the "City of Destiny" because the area was chosen to be the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the late 19th century. The decision of the railroad was influenced by Tacoma's neighboring deep-water harbor, Commencement Bay. By connecting the bay with the railroad Tacoma's motto became "When rails meet sails." Today Commencement Bay serves the Port of Tacoma, a center of international trade on the Pacific Coast and Washington state's largest port.
Local and regional transportation:
Public transportation in Tacoma includes buses, commuter rail, light rail, and ferries. Public bus service is provided by Pierce Transit, which serves Tacoma and Pierce County. Pierce Transit operates a total of 43 bus routes (5 of which through Sound Transit), using mostly buses powered by compressed natural gas. Bus service operates at 30-60 minute frequencies daily, while three heavily-ridden "trunk" routes are mostly served every 20 minutes on weekdays and every half hour to an hour on weekends as of October 2, 2011. Sound Transit, the regional transit authority, provides weekday Sounder Commuter Rail service and daily express bus service to and from Seattle. Sound Transit has also established Tacoma Link light rail, a 1.6-mile (2.5 km) free electric streetcar line linking Tacoma Dome Station with the University of Washington, Tacoma, Tacoma's Museum District, and the Theater District. Expansion of the city's rail transit system (either in the form of electric streetcars or light rail) is under consideration by the city of Tacoma and Pierce Transit, and is supported by a local grassroots organization, Tacoma Streetcar. The Washington State Ferries system, which has a dock at Point Defiance, provides ferry access to Tahlequah at the southern tip of Vashon Island, typically on the ferry MV Rhododendron.
Greyhound intercity bus service is accessible via Tacoma Dome Station. Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Tacoma from a station on Puyallup Avenue, one block east of the Tacoma Dome Station. Amtrak train 11, the southbound Coast Starlight, is scheduled to depart Tacoma at 10:31 a.m. with service to Olympia-Lacey, Portland, Sacramento, Emeryville, California (with bus connection to San Francisco), and Los Angeles. Amtrak train 14, the northbound Coast Starlight, is scheduled to depart Tacoma at 7:11 p.m. daily with service to Seattle. Amtrak Cascades trains, operating as far north as Vancouver, BC and as far south as Eugene, Oregon, serve Tacoma several times daily in both directions.
Parks and recreation services in and around Tacoma are governed by Metro Parks Tacoma, a municipal corporation established as a separate entity from the city government in 1907. Metro Parks maintains over fifty parks and open spaces in Tacoma. Point Defiance Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country (at 700 acres), is located in Tacoma. Scenic Five Mile Drive allows access to many of the park's attractions, such as Owen Beach, Camp Six, Fort Nisqually, and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. There are many historic structures within the park, including the Pagoda, which was originally built as a streetcar waiting room. It was restored in 1988, and now serves as a rental facility for weddings and private parties. The Pagoda was nearly destroyed by fire on Aug 15, 2011.
Ruston Way is a waterfront area along Commencement Bay north of downtown Tacoma that hosts several public parks connected by a multi-use trail and interspersed with restaurants and other businesses. Public parks along Ruston Way include Jack Hyde Park, Old Town Dock, Hamilton Park, Dickman Mill Park, Les Davis Pier, Marine Park and Cummings Park. The trail is popular with walkers, runners, cyclists and other recreationalists. There are several beaches along Ruston Way with public access, some of which are also popular for scuba diving. Another large park in Tacoma is Wapato Park, which has a lake and walking trails that circle the lake. Wapato is located in the south end of Tacoma, at Sheridan and 72nd St. Titlow Beach, located at the end of 6th Avenue, is a popular scuba diving area. Wright Park, located near downtown, is a large, English-style park designed in the late 19th century by E.O. Schwagerl and Ebenezer Rhys Roberts. It contains Wright Park Arboretum and the W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. This beautiful historic park is also the home of local festivals such as Ethnic Fest, Out in the Park, Tacoma's Gay Pride festival and the Tacoma Hempfest. Jefferson Park in North Tacoma is the location of a new sprayground; an area designed to be a safe and unique play area where water is sprayed from structures or ground sprays and then drained away before it can accumulate. Frost Park in downtown Tacoma is often utilized for sidewalk chalk contests.
Tacoma's main public school district is Tacoma Public Schools. The district contains 36 elementary schools, eleven middle schools, five high schools, one alternative high school, a Science and Math Institute (SAMI), and one school of the arts (SOTA). Henry Foss High School operates an International Baccalaureate program. Sheridan Elementary School operated three foreign language immersion programs (Spanish, French, and Japanese). Mount Tahoma High School opened a brand new building in South Tacoma in the fall of 2004. Stadium High School and Wilson High School were remodeled/refurbished and reopened in September 2006.
Tacoma School of the Arts, opened in 2001, is an arts-focused high school that serves as a national model for educational innovation. SOTA is a public school, part of the Tacoma Public Schools and is one of the first school in the nation to implement standards based instruction, as well as influence the design of many schools in the nation. SOTA is located in multiple venues around Downtown Tacoma and uses Community Museums and Universities for instructional space. The Science and math institute partners with SOTA, sharing administrators and class space. SAMI and SOTA are the only schools in Tacoma to offer University of Washington in the Classroom college credit options from the University of Washington.Lincoln High School reopened in the fall of 2007 after a $75 million renovation and expansion. Tacoma's institutions of higher learning include the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, City University of Seattle-Tacoma, Bates Technical College, The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus, Corban University School of Ministry/Tacoma Campus, and University of Washington Tacoma. Pacific Lutheran University is located in Parkland, just south of the city; nearby Lakewood is the home of Clover Park Technical College and Pierce College.