Friday, August 17, 2007

purple line haze: pam browning's trail

Class war butts heads with the environment as activist Pam Browning tries to keep her end of the Purple Line out of sight. Check out part THREE of a series on the Purple Line.

Activist Pam Browning on the Capital Crescent Trail. Browning's organized a petition to stop construction of the Purple Line on the popular path. Check out this slideshow of the Capital Crescent Trail/proposed Purple Line route in Chevy Chase.

I'm introduced to Pam Browning in her kitchen, spooning yogurt from a cup. Trees fill the view of a picture window behind her. A box of Trader Joe's dishwashing detergent prominently located on the kitchen counter.

"I'm a tree-hugger," she says. "You can write about that on here. It makes me want to cry."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Like most people, Pam Browning likes trees. Organizer of the Save the Trail Petition, Browning has spent the past several year fighting the Purple Line, a proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton. Its preferred route would follow the Capital Crescent Trail, a well-used and heavily-forested hiker-biker trial that runs through her back yard.

While some 11,000 trail users have signed her petition, but it appears considerably fewer actively support ther work.

A tree is chopped down in front of a house being rebuilt.

"We're going through a lot of mansionization right now."
On our way to the trail, Browning points out a construction crew working on a new house. "This used to be the 'other side of the tracks,'" Browning says, "and now we're having all this mansionization."

A man hacks away at a felled tree in the sidewalk. "And these guys are raping all the trees," she moans. "I'm having huge battles with the town about not stopping them."

I ask an elderly woman what she thinks of the Purple Line. "Purple Line? What Purple Line?" she spits. "The trains they want to put here," Browning responds. "I don't want it. Not a bit," she says.

"The observation is that the buses aren't full," Browning says as we enter the trail. "People come here to find what they can't elsewhere in this urban area."

"They're telling us it'll be a nice trail," says Browning, referring to the Maryland Transit Administration's plans to build the Purple Line alongside the trail. To do so would involve the removal of thousands of trees dating to the area's original development a century ago. "I say it's a fiction in the most generous terms."

The exclusive Columbia Country Club has been on of the Purple Line's biggest opponents since inception.

The trail's right-of-way ranges from sixty to ninety feet, the majority of which is completely forested. Many backyards infringe on it, making the area seem smaller than it really is. In the Columbia Country Club, which surrounds the trail on both sides, the trail is hemmed in on both sides by tall chain-link fences. Columbia, the most exclusive country club in the region, has historically been the Purple Line's largest opponent, suing the County for control of the railway in the 1980's when the project was first proposed.

A country club in one of the wealthiest communities in the nation is an easy target for proponents of a transit line that would serve some of Montgomery County's poorest neighborhoods. The Action Committee for Transit, who advocate building the Purple Line along the Capital Crescent Trail, blame Columbia Country Club for the project's twenty-year delay:
"Were it not for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Columbia Country Club has spent on political contributions, public relations, and lobbying, the segment from Bethesda to Silver Spring would already have been built."
But they aren't the only ones opposing the Purple Line, insists Browning. "The Ben Rosses [from Action Committee for Transit] . . . to them, it's all the country club. They don't see any of these houses," says Browning. "The people who use this trail don't go to the country club."

"They [MTA] don't have to look at the neighborhood or the trail. It's not their criteria."

A mother stands in the path, holding a bottle to her baby's mouth. A leashed dog stands guard. "What do you think of the Purple Line?" I ask. "I'm sort of still indifferent," she says. "As long as they make some kind of accomodation for pedestrians."

Take Columbia Country Club out of the equation, Browning explains, and class is no longer an issue. "These are not mansions [in Chevy Chase]," says Browning. "A lot of the people in this neighborhood are government workers or teachers."

For decades, she's been advocating for people in need, a fact she was quick to point out to me. "My senior thesis was on red-lining on the South Side of Chicago before Barack Obama was there," she notes.

"I wanted to get a job with the NAACP in Chicago, but they didn't know who I was," Browning laments. Instead, she moved to Washington over twenty years ago and started working in non-profit groups. She runs through a list of the advocacy and lobbying work she's done: migrant workers. Civil Rights. The decline of Black farmers. After-school programs for low-income kids. A national campaign for sustainable agriculture.

"[The controversy] it's like pitting Black people against Hispanic people."
"All my life I've been campaigning in non-profits for justice," she says, brow furrowing. "And I hate seeing this [the Purple Line controversy] painted as a justice issue when it's an environmental issue. It's like pitting Black people against Hispanic people."

Browning admits, however, that she doesn't know much about the Purple Line's proposed route east of Silver Spring and through some of Montgomery County's poorest neighborhoods - not to mention struggling neighborhoods on the Prince George's side as well.

"I'm not in the discussion of Silver Spring to New Carrollton. I don't know those areas," she says. "I'm saying the best transit plan for this area is Metro, and if it's tunneled or along the Beltway . . . I don't know everything that's at stake, but I know what's at stake here."

Two mothers power-walking with their kids. "What do you think of the Purple Line?" I ask. "We love it!" one says. "We were just saying we live in such a great place."

"I don't think she heard what you were saying," Browning suggests.


"So the developers said . . . Let's do whatever we have to to get the goddamned development!"

We can hear the roar of traffic on Connecticut Avenue up ahead. Six lanes of traffic stream from the Beltway through Chevy Chase and into the heart of D.C. The Capital Crescent Trail stops at a metal guardrail, takes a sudden jerk to the left, and ends at a poorly marked crosswalk. On the other side, next to a tall office building, the trail starts again.

There, the land on both sides of the trail is owned by the Chevy Chase Land Company, responsible for the development of the umpteen villages that bear the Chevy Chase name. If the Purple Line is built, Browning says, the company would make a fortune from a proposed development called Lake East to be built adjacent to the trail and a proposed Connecticut Avenue stop.

"This was not a transportation plan, it was a development plan," she spits. "There was nothing about your New Carrollton."

The trolley first proposed in the 1980's "would never get approved," Browning says. "So the developers said, 'Let's make it go to University of Maryland! Let's make it useful! Let's do whatever we have to to get the goddamned development!'"

Browning points to a bike shop in the office building that faces the trail. "They're crass enough to put a bike store here because they know how popular the trail is," she snorts.

"If everyone who wanted transit got together and said 'we want underground Metro,' we would have it. But instead, we're battling each other."
Four teenagers and a mother on bikes near Jones Mill Road. "I think it's a good idea," one kid says. "I want to have my cake and eat it, too," the mother says. "I want the bike trail and I want the Purple Line."

"Bike trail on top!" another kid adds.


The Chevy Chase Land Company is not "viewed favorably," she says, nor are most developers here. "Our developers are greedy," she says. "They just want to build up every inch of Bethesda that they can. Why not give some of that development to Silver Spring?"

Browning stops. "Have you ever been to Mexico?" she asks. "In every village there's a zocalo, or town square. These are areas where people come together. Every evening, they talk, and they don't go shopping.

Public, non-commercialized spaces such as this - whether on the currently undisturbed Capital Crescent Trail, Downtown Bethesda, or even in the land company's proposed development - are what communities need the most, she say. Places where people come together, instead of polarizing issues that only force people apart.

Several times during our conversation, Pam Browning appears to be on the brink of tears. It's hard not to be moved by her devotion to the trail. "It's a beautiful resource, and I've spent a significant amount of my life trying to save it," she says. "If everyone who wanted transit got together and said 'we want underground Metro,' we would have it. But instead, we're battling each other."

"I would love to have a Purple Line. I'd just like to have it underground," laments Browning. "We shouldn't be pitting transit against the environment."

Most voices in the Purple Line debate have yet to experience the Capital Crescent Trail, Browning says, and few are interested in learning more about it. "I would organize people to tie themselves to trees," proclaims Browning, "but short of that I can't get anyone to even walk the trail with me."

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

>> Take Columbia Country Club out of the equation, Browning explains, and class is no longer an issue.

Take Columbia Country Club out of the equation and the trains would have been running ten years ago.

If you don't believe that, think about why the people who live near the ICC haven't been able to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Based on your posts, people in Chevy Chase "snort" a lot.

Anonymous said...

great article!

Anonymous said...

The ICC will shorten the commute for many more people than would the Purple Line. The people who live near the ICC can't stop it because it makes sense to the majority of Marylanders.

The Purple Line will not effect nearly as many people.

It is being sold as many differnt things:

Fast transport for thousands of workers. It won't be fast, too many stops, slower trains than Metro.

Economic Affirmative Action (for lack of a better term). This is such hogwash. This is just another way landlords and the haughty elite can get their cheap, sometimes illegal labor shuttled in from Langley Park. The real shame of this is, other than the lazy bums who can't cut their own grass and clean their own home..., that this cheap labor will still take the cheapest mode of transport, bus.

Connection of Major Employment Centers. The Medical Center Complex will have more 9-5 and late night jobs than Bethesda. The Purple Line can't run to Medical Center it will remove the primary engine behind this whole project.

The Chevy Chase Land Company is the engine behind the Purple Line movement, and it will not be able to develop on Connecticut Ave. without a stop at Chevy Chase Lake.

http://www.cclandco.com/lakeeast/lakeeast.asp

They don't care about the trail and they really don't care about their neighbors except as potential clients.

In my mind the Chevy Chase Land Company is way shadier than the Columbia Country Club.

Anonymous said...

"the lazy bums who can't cut their own grass and clean their own home"

Maybe they are busy working 60 hour weeks and they don't want to spend their free time handling menial tasks that they can afford to pay people to do.

It's not like everyone in Chevy Chase is sitting on their decks in their white suits sipping mint julips all week while watching the servants.

Anonymous said...

If you can't do the menial tasks and are working 60 hours a week I assume you are a professional. If that is the case make sure you are paying the menial laborer a fair wage. Do not continue this indentured servitude abuse of illegal workers who have to settle for what they get.

In other words, do it yourself or pay the correct wage you cheap-skate.

Anonymous said...

What do you consider a "fair wage"? If people are willing to work for the amount you are offering, it's worth their time and fair to them. Supply and demand.

David Daddio said...

"If everyone who wanted transit got together and said 'we want underground Metro,' we would have it. But instead, we're battling each other."

Does she mean if everyone decided to raise taxes to pay for a completely different project (that isn't even being studied), then we'd have the transitway? Are we really talking about ecologically critical habitat here? My impression is that we're talking about a narrow abandoned railroad right-of-way that has trees in it. The purple line is a net benefit to the environment both because it will reduce auto-dependence and by federal/state law the mta must replace the parkland and tree cover it takes.

Anonymous said...

Dave Daddio,

Do you or Rethink College Park receive any funding from either the Chevy Chase Land Company or the Action Committee for Transit.

Just wondering.

Ecologically critical habitat, how do define that? The Amazon Rain Forest perhaps?

Anonymous said...

David Daddio said...

The purple line is a net benefit to the environment both because it will reduce auto-dependence and by federal/state law the mta must replace the parkland and tree cover it takes.

RE: Oh Really Now?????????

Then why in the Hell has the Red Line Subway to Shady Grove reduce the Heavy Traffic along I-270, MD 355, and MD 97...........

Anonymous said...

David Daddio said...

The purple line is a net benefit to the environment both because it will reduce auto-dependence and by federal/state law the mta must replace the parkland and tree cover it takes.


Ok genius, how do you replace 75 year old healthy trees that are over 60' tall.

Anonymous said...

Not only do the Purple Line opponents think people who live in Chevy Chase are a privileged elite, they think the same of trees that live in Chevy Chase. It's just fine, in their view, to destroy 700 acres of middle-class forest to build the ICC. It's only in Chevy Chase that the environment needs to be preserved.

The anti-Purple Line lobby, the so-called "Committee to Save the Trail," supports the ICC. See the letters they sent out to Bethssda business owners and community leaders in 2002, which say that the cost of the Inner Purple Line "would make it difficult to fund other transit projects such as the Outer Purple Line, the ICC, and the Wilson Bridge."

Anonymous said...

There you go with the class warfare. The NIMBY's that would be effected by the Purple Line Light Rail (if the boondoggle is pushed through) are middle class. You must be thinking of some other Chevy Chase neighborhoods.

Unfortunately the ICC (which has been in the planning stage far longer than the Purple Line) is necessary to move some of the car traffic.

If you are looking to take some rich people down a peg you might want to hook up with Chavez down in Venezuela or perhaps Mugabe over in Zimbabwe. It's too bad none of the Romanov heirs are still alive you could go hunt them down.

You Bolshevik you.

Anonymous said...

Columbia Country Club is middle class? They proudly refer to themselves as "exclusive." Check out the dues and the initiation fees. They have been waging class war against the Purple Line since 1986.

The fact that a few long-time Chevy Chase residents who are middle-class by income (although mostly upper-class by residence) add their chirps from the peanut gallery doesn't change the fact that the essence of this issue is a class war waged by Columbia Country Club. Columbia Country Club is the only reason this project wasn't built years ago.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with you. The primary reason the Georgetown Branch Rail Line wasn't built then and hasn't been built to date is that there is no real need for this line. The ONLY benefactors will be the developers whose profits will provide some additional tax revenue for the State/Counties.

I would like to see the ROI on the tax revenue versus the startup costs and ongoing operational costs of this lightweight attempt at curing a regional traffic problem.

If the Purple Line was really needed and desired by the public, Steve "Purple Line" Silverman would now be County Executive in MoCo.

The Columbia Coutry Club might have some pull, but I doubt they stuffed the ballot box.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Not only do the Purple Line opponents think people who live in Chevy Chase are a privileged elite, they think the same of trees that live in Chevy Chase. It's just fine, in their view, to destroy 700 acres of middle-class forest to build the ICC. It's only in Chevy Chase that the environment needs to be preserved.

The anti-Purple Line lobby, the so-called "Committee to Save the Trail," supports the ICC. See the letters they sent out to Bethssda business owners and community leaders in 2002, which say that the cost of the Inner Purple Line "would make it difficult to fund other transit projects such as the Outer Purple Line, the ICC, and the Wilson Bridge."

RE: Just like the same idiots that are Opponents of the ICC(along with other Former and Present Planed Highways) are doing so because they feel threaten that the Federal Spending for Building the Highways in Maryland will reduce the Federal Highway spending in Virginia in which it is why Virginia was soo successful of building the Springfield Mixing Bowl, Wideneng the Beltway, widening I-66 and I-95, and Adding HOT Lanes on I-395, I-95, I-66, and I-495.

It is very strange how Virginia can continue to get away with Building New Highways along with Sprawling Office Parks and Upscale Retail, but yet Maryland can't have the samething because of some Maryland hating IDIOTS are constantly trying to make it hard for the Developers and the FEDS to sponsor Development and Highway Building at the Same Speed as Virginia.

Anonymous said...

Gawd, I love these pissing matches!

WashingtonGardener said...

If the PL is such a threat to the local eco-system, was it one of its biggers backers the Sierra Club?! Do you really think they have not considered all the factors before making their decision on just what is really best for the local environment? EVERY plan forthe IPL includes a hiker/biker trail alongside it and when the IPL is completed folks from downtown SS will finally be connected and able to see the CCT.

Now, take a breath, wipe away the hysterical tears, and step back to really look at our future -- mass transit is the only way we will be able to get people moving in the down county area.

Anyone who does believe there is a real need forthe IPL has not ridden the J buses (anytime - weekend, night, rush hour) and had to stand on the roller coaster ride that is East-West Highway or had the hell-ish, overdcrowded C2/C4 experiences going into PG County.

Finally, If the IPL is not built - that county purchased (with OUR tax dollars) rail right-of-way riverts to the Chevy Chase Land Co. - do you think they will just let that valuable land be maintained as a trail! They have already stayed they ewant the IPL, but if not built, will develop the land as they see fit. Save the trail - build the rail!

Anonymous said...

There it is in a nutshell. If the Chevy Chase Land Company can't play the game exactly as they want, they are taking the ball and going home.

The IPL is not a scalable solution that will accomodate the transportation requirements for the future.

Damn the Chevy Chase Land Company.

Anonymous said...

You folks in Chevy Chase want a scalable transportation solution? How about fencing off the entire right of way and building a heavy rail Metro line at grade? Unlike light rail, we wouldn't have a trail.

Tell me that you would support heavy rail at grade through Chevy Chase with no trail, and then I'll pay attention to your complaints that light rail isn't good enough for transportation purposes.

Anonymous said...

WashingtonGardener said...

If the PL is such a threat to the local eco-system, was it one of its biggers backers the Sierra Club?! Do you really think they have not considered all the factors before making their decision on just what is really best for the local environment? EVERY plan forthe IPL includes a hiker/biker trail alongside it and when the IPL is completed folks from downtown SS will finally be connected and able to see the CCT.

Now, take a breath, wipe away the hysterical tears, and step back to really look at our future -- mass transit is the only way we will be able to get people moving in the down county area.

Anyone who does believe there is a real need forthe IPL has not ridden the J buses (anytime - weekend, night, rush hour) and had to stand on the roller coaster ride that is East-West Highway or had the hell-ish, overdcrowded C2/C4 experiences going into PG County.

Finally, If the IPL is not built - that county purchased (with OUR tax dollars) rail right-of-way riverts to the Chevy Chase Land Co. - do you think they will just let that valuable land be maintained as a trail! They have already stayed they ewant the IPL, but if not built, will develop the land as they see fit. Save the trail - build the rail!

RE: Thanks for the BS Commentary but it has fallen on Deaf Ears.

Either build the Purple Line as an Underground Heavy Rail Subway or don't build nothing at all.......

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

You folks in Chevy Chase want a scalable transportation solution? How about fencing off the entire right of way and building a heavy rail Metro line at grade? Unlike light rail, we wouldn't have a trail.

Tell me that you would support heavy rail at grade through Chevy Chase with no trail, and then I'll pay attention to your complaints that light rail isn't good enough for transportation purposes.

RE: Building the Purple Line as an Underground Heavy Rail Subway is the Only and Best Option....

Then the trail will remain the same.....

Debbie Cook said...

The Cresent trail is awesone! I have walked the entire trail from Silver Spring to Fletcher's Boathouse in DC. Get out there and walk or bike it, while it is still there to enjoy! You will be amazed at the other world that exsists in our area, behind all the traffic and congestion.

WashingtonGardener said...

Anon. - prove to me ONE THING In my post that is not a FACT? Just because YOU do not LIKE it does not make it BS.

One arguement for ABOVE ground (besides much lower costs and faster time frame until completion) is the pleasure that riders will get from viewing the CCT and neighboring parklands - that BTW the local taxpayers paid for to enjoy for this purpose. Personally, it is a much more pleasurable experience on metro to be above rather than in tunnels below - and in these times of "terror alters" certainly feels much safer as well.

Anonymous said...

washingtongardener:

You are on the coalition to build the purple line. How much money are you getting from the Chevy Chase Land Company.

Taxpayer's are currently using the Capital Crescent Trail every day. It is open for everyone. Come on over and take the chip off your shoulder. You sound awfully bitter.

Rob G said...

To whomever asked about Rethink College Park finances, I will tell you about our budget.

I pay Yahoo! Hosting $12.95 a month.

That's all.

While I share Pam Browning's concern for trees, I am also concerned about trees in Loudoun County VA, Charles County WV, and Charles County MD. If we do not aggressively control sprawl by deciding to invest in redevelopment of existing urban areas, many more trees than exist on Pam Browning's trail will be lost. We will also have no hope to save the Chesapeake, but that's another topic entirely, far from the minds of MoCo NIMBYs.

Anonymous said...

Rob G said...

To whomever asked about Rethink College Park finances, I will tell you about our budget.

I pay Yahoo! Hosting $12.95 a month.

That's all.

While I share Pam Browning's concern for trees, I am also concerned about trees in Loudoun County VA, Charles County WV, and Charles County MD. If we do not aggressively control sprawl by deciding to invest in redevelopment of existing urban areas, many more trees than exist on Pam Browning's trail will be lost. We will also have no hope to save the Chesapeake, but that's another topic entirely, far from the minds of MoCo NIMBYs.

RE: When all else Fails use the Chesapeake Bay as a Scare Tactic to force people into falling for the Building Cheap Trolleys as opposed to encouraging modernize Development like Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton areas in which they sit along the Chesapeake Bay....

WashingtonGardener said...

Anon said:>> You are on the coalition to build the purple line. How much money are you getting from the Chevy Chase Land Company.<<

I wish is was getting something from them or anyone for all the volunteer hours I and others like me have invested of our lives to see this project get started! BTW check your facts, I'm no longer on the Coalition board nor on its renamed version, PurpleLineNow, and haven't been for quite a while.

Anon also said: >>Taxpayer's are currently using the Capital Crescent Trail every day. It is open for everyone. Come on over and take the chip off your shoulder. You sound awfully bitter. <<
I would like to use the CCT - but being a downtown SS resident and car-free - I cannot get there from here. So I will have to await the PL completion and trail finishing so I can cross that gap without risking life and limb.
Not bitter - just a bit frustrated that there is even debate on this when to so many it is so clearly wanted and needed.

sin verguenza said...

WashingtonGardener:

I must say over $1,000,000,000 is quite a bit for the State of Maryland to pay just so you can have direct access to the bike trail. :0)

I truly feel that this money will not be well spent on the Purple Line Light Rail System. We need first to decrease automobile traffic and I honestly cannot see the Purple Line doing that.

Anonymous said...

WashingtonGardener said...

"Finally, If the IPL is not built - that county purchased (with OUR tax dollars) rail right-of-way riverts to the Chevy Chase Land Co. - do you think they will just let that valuable land be maintained as a trail! They have already stayed they ewant the IPL, but if not built, will develop the land as they see fit. Save the trail - build the rail!"


They already lost that case the first time around


http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/marylandstatecases/coa/1999/24a98m.pdf

Anonymous said...

Can't beat golf at CCC!

Sin Verguenza said...

Can't beat shopping at Ralph Lauren,CO-OP Barney's, New York , Max Mara, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Cartier, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Advanced/K and Bulgari. "The Collection at Chevy Chase" space owned by Chevy Chase Land Company.

These type of stores are the various CRAP that will replace the woods and golf course. Give me the golf course anytime. At least I don't need to see a bunch of face-lifted euro-trash that have more money than sense.

It is ridiculous that the Purple Line Advocates are trying to claim the moral high ground. Rubbish.

Nancy said...

Chopping trees along the trail is only the beginning. The Purple Line would bring waves of rezoning and destruction to Silver Spring and everywhere else it would run. Rail means rezoning. Buses do not have this impact. Add more J buses, including that express route. To concentrate development around rail stops means that any rail stop is a festering sore that devours the community around it. There are plenty of empty industrial sites around the US that could use some growth. Silver Spring cannot afford to lose one more tree.

Anonymous said...

Many of these people fighting the Purple Line are simply hiding behind the "save the environment" rhetoric because either a) they live adjacent to the trail and they do not want a train running past their home or b) they do not want "outsiders" of differing demographics in exclusive Bethesda/Chevy Chase. Neither of these are reasons they can state for why they are fighting the Purple Line.

And oh, by the way, Pam Browning lives adjacent to the proposed Purple Line in the Town of Chevy Chase: 4317 Elm Street. The Purple Line train would becme her backyard view . . .