Wednesday, August 15, 2007

purple line haze: paralysis by analysis

Chevy Chase wants to do its own study of the Purple Line, but will it stall discussion? Check out part ONE of a series on the Purple Line. On FRIDAY, we'll continue our adventure in Chevy Chase with a visit to local activist Pam Browning.

Chevy Chase councilman/former mayor Mier Wolf on the Capital Crescent Trail. Wolf has proposed a $250,000 study on the Purple Line, which may run along the trail. Check out this slideshow of the Purple Line route through Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

I am walking through Chevy Chase with Mier Wolf, a man who for the past quarter-century has alternated between being a town councilman and being town mayor. Every block, it seems, someone stops to say "hello" to him. A Latino garbageman is throwing refuse into the back of a truck. "Thank you," Wolf says.

"This is a friendly town," says Wolf. "The strength of this town is there's a lot of community - but there's a lot of privacy."

Chevy Chase likes to keep to itself. All but one side street leading into the town from Connecticut Avenue is marked with a forbidding "DO NOT ENTER" sign, while the entrances of the town's two very exclusive country clubs - Columbia and Chevy Chase - have no signs at all.

In June, Chevy Chase residents even voted to take regional transportation matters into their own hands by approving a $250,000 study of the Purple Line, commissioned by Wolf himself. The town's got concerns about the proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton, which would skirt the town's northern edge for a few blocks - and even if the state of Maryland's already doing a multi-million-dollar study, Chevy Chase needs to look out for its own.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

the Capital Crescent Trail directly east of Bethesda in Chevy Chase.

"We want what's good for the County," Wolf says, but "the town is almost entirely in favor of undergrounding the Purple Line." The study will look at the line's impacts on Chevy Chase. "If they are what we think they are," he adds, the town will press the State to change its plans.

We're walking through a playground and into the Capital Crescent Trail now. Chevy Chase's chunk of the Purple Line falls in this "wildly popular" and heavily forested hiker-biker trail that swings around from Silver Spring to Georgetown. Until not long ago, it was a freight line, running slow trains a few times a week on a single track. ("People used to wave at it from their backyards," Wolf says.) But the Purple Line, however, would involve faster light-rail trains passing through every six minutes, posing a danger to users of the trail and neighboring houses.

"We don't think you could feasibly put a train and a trail here and not have it ruin the experience of the trail," says Wolf, gesturing to the majestic trees that blot out the sun and sounds of urban life. "You don't get a [tree] canopy like this overnight."

"Because this trail has existed, it's easier for [Purple Line] proponents to say 'let's just put the tracks here,'" says Wolf.

There are 11,000 people who use the trail each day, Wolf points out. That's half a million each year. The Purple Line can't claim that kind of ridership, he suggests.

The Maryland Transit Administration "couldn't find ridership justification for the route," he snorts. "There is not sufficient demand - especially from Bethesda to New Carrollton. There isn't enough to say people would go from Bethesda to New Carrollton."

I point out that, since Bethesda is a large job center, the majority of commuters would be headed from New Carrollton to Bethesda, and ask if Wolf has ever driven or used transit along congested East-West Highway before.

"No, I haven't driven it because that's not the route I take," says Wolf, adding, "I think the people on that transit should have a better understanding of the history of the trail."

Soon enough, we reach the East-West Highway underpass - the end of the Purple Line in Chevy Chase. Mier Wolf suggests that I speak to Pam Browning, a local activist and head of the Save the Trail Petition, which claims over ten thousand signatures of trail users who want it kept just the way it is.

We walk back to the Chevy Chase Town Hall and Community Center, a sprawling complex at the rough center of town, to make a phone call. In the lobby, Chuck Norris appears on a TV hanging from the ceiling. There's a heavy-set black woman at the front desk; like everyone else in Chevy Chase, she says "hi" to Wolf and they briefly chat about how hot it is.

"How do you get to work?" I ask the woman at the desk. "Do you live in Chevy Chase?"

"Oh, no!" she says, explaining how she takes the Metro from Naylor Road in Temple Hills across D.C. to work. "It was congested. It's horrible. On several of the trains it was no air."

"And they barely run any trains after eight or nine," Wolf commiserates.

I'm reminded of every night coming home from the 9:30 Club, waiting twenty minutes for a train to arrive. Could the Purple Line be the same? Trains wouldn't come every six minutes the whole day, right? Surely, Chevy Chase could live with that.

I propose this to Wolf. He frowns. "You know, when you talk about ridership estimates on a train that would only run during the rush hour, I have problems with that cost-wise," he says. "But if it's undergrounded, I don't have a problem with that."

Mier Wolf walks me the block-and-a-half to Pam Browning's house, one of a few dozen that actually backs to the trail. On the way, he explains how he'd ridden the Metro "since it was built" to his job at the department of Housing and Urban Development, better known as HUD.

"I'm a big Metro advocate," Wolf says.

23 comments:

rtsind said...

How many more studies are needed, before everyone realizes that the Purple Line will never be built.

It is too expensive, and will not alleviate any traffic. it is just a political issue that will be talked about for another 10-20 years and used as a political tool by local politiicans.

No one has any reason to goto New Carrollton( oh I am sure there will be a few complaints from some people about this statement- but not enough to warrant the expense of a Purple Line) but ask your- selves why would I want to go to New Carrollton- cheaper booze, drugs, department stores, dollar stores, - I can not think of any reason that would be worth the expene of a Purple Line.

Let's stop spending tax dollars on anymore Purple line studies and devote the money to something worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

A lame attempt at hiding your bias.

"The Maryland Transit Administration "couldn't find ridership justification for the route," he snorts."

rd said...

"It is too expensive, and will not alleviate any traffic."

That statement is just dumb... If you spend money on infrastructure it ends up making more money in the long run. Making it easier for New Carrollton residents to commute west will drive labor costs down for people in the west and will get more money in the pockets of the people in the east... and there many, many, many, many, many, many, many more positives to increased and improved mass transit.

People are against the Purple line because they're afraid of change. How could you say that creating an option that gets cars off the road could be bad for the environment and pedestrian safety?

I don't think I've heard a single argument against the Purple Line that makes any sense.

Anonymous said...

rd

How about, It can't go west from Bethesda and will not be scalable for future needs. The Sierra club has a picture of the Purple Line circling the entire city of Washington D.C. How will the light rail do that?

Small-time solution for big-time problem regional problem. Why waste billions on a band-aid stop gap fix. It will not be part of Metro, different cars, slower.

Build it to scale for demand, running underground for speed. As it gets hotter above ground tracks have issues, as evidenced by recent Metro outages of last week.

That is unless you are taking the near-sighted developer view of "give me my money now".

rd said...

anonymous: So are you saying that once a light-rail system is built there can't be any changes made and therefore it's better to build anything?

Why not solve the problem and improve upon the system?

Anonymous said...

No RD what I am saying is that you will be building a system that does not fit in with any current systems and will not be able to be expanded (as it will need to be). Above ground Light Rail (not Metrorail) will not be able to be extended westward toward Virginia. Too slow and even more neighborhood opposition in Bethesda & NW Washington. You will be spending a over a billion dollars on a system that will serve one purpose, to lift development ceilings on Connecticut Ave and in Bethesda. It won't remove cars from the road. No studies have suggested that it will.

I am saying do NOT waste a billion dollars+ on a system that will benefit developers almost exclusivley and will not be expandable in the way we will need it to be.

Once all the trees are chopped down along the Capital Crescent Trail the linear forest east of Bethesda will not come back in our lifetime.

You do know that it is not part of the Metro system?

Sligo said...

Aren't the do not enter signs time-specific? I can't blame them for wanting to prevent Bethesda commuter traffic from cutting through their neighborhood. I wish they had one of those on my street.

rd said...

Anonymous: RideOn isn't part of the metro system either... At first, they didn't accept SmarTrip and now they do. It's like magic...

The "billion" dollars invested in the Purple Line WOULD take cars off the road. There's a LOT of people who don't ride buses, but are psychologically okay with trains. Why do YOU think that a complementary transit system that is parallel and more comfortable than the current system of buses would not be used? That's just stupid. Why shouldn't the nation's capital lead the way in mass transit? The NYC subway sucks compared to Paris'. Below ground metro would be fantastic, but if there's people bitching and moaning about an above-ground transit system, there's absolutely NO way a below-ground option will be financed.

Anonymous said...

rd

You throw the word "stupid" around quite a bit. Just an observation.

People are bitching and moaning about above ground rail because it will put a 60' wide highway over top of a natural setting that is used for walking and biking by thousands of people, young and old.

Anyone who is psychologically not "ok" with buses is an elitist idiot or "stupid". Unless the light rail is as inexpensive as a bus, most bus riders won't use it.

rfust said...

Part of the problem the entire line has been delayed is that politicians keep on adding different routes to it. Duncan wanted to reroute it to Grosvenor, Ehrlich along Jones Mill Road, and Lt Gov Anthony Brown wants it to go to Ocean City. None of this will work. This has been in our master plan for decades. Just build the master plan route from Downtown Bethesda to Downtown Silver Spring. The Georgetown Branch is envisioned in the master plan as a light rail route, likely single track that would connect the two spurs of the Red Line, nothing more. By adding tunnels and quadrupling the length of the route it made the Georgetown Branch unaffordable, unfeasible, and unlikeable. Any route beyond Silver Spring violates the Master Plan and would only serve to attract undesireable ridership from places in PG County (most people who work downcounty work in Montgomery, Frederick, or Howard, not PG county). Lets upgrade our buses and build the Georgetown Branch Trolley, not the boondogle Purple Line.

rd said...

anonymous: Personally, I take a RideOn bus to work every day. However, when I ask co-workers why they don't take the bus with me (which the federal government pays for), I get the not-smart answer that I alluded to. So yeah, there's apparently a lot of elitist idiots that work for the Federal Govt.

I also jog and bike on the "Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trail" regularly. I would be more than happy to jog next to a train if it meant better mass transit.

I just think that your points are baseless. Improving mass transit promotes its usage. We're completely screwing our planet with CO2 and people are getting fatter and fatter. Good mass transit = less cars on the road and more people walking on the streets.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
"You will be spending a over a billion dollars on a system that will serve one purpose, to lift development ceilings on Connecticut Ave and in Bethesda."

So, how would the purple line help developers? By creating a transportation system allowing more worker bees and shoppers to get to their developments? This is the only way it would help developers, and if so, then it would promote mass transit use.

Anonymous said...

These low wage worker bees you speak of, the modern day indentured servants, many of whom are illegal, scraping together every penny to help lift their families, will only use the light rail if it is cheaper than the bus. Only the bourgeois who keep immigrants down by not insisting that they learn the language of the knowledge based economy will benefit from this boondoggle. It is my understanding that the Chevy Chase Land Company wants to create a new Friendship Heights caliber shopping mecca at Connecticut Ave. Check their website - the plans are in place. I am sure that the folks who live in Langley Park will be jumping on the train to come buy their Coach handbags. More likeley they will be riding the same cheaper buses to come work at the shops (cleaning them at night) of the merchant class hypocrites who don't give a damn about the quality of life of their "servants". Don't give us this helping the underclass BS.

Anonymous said...

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

rfust said...

Good points. The fact is that most workers in Bethesda and Silver Spring are white collar and live in Montgomery and Howard, not PG.

But I must correct one thing. Building the Georgetown Branch past Silver Spring will reduce bus service to the Langley Park/Long Branch communtiies, and the exorbiant fares that will be charges are unaffordable by these communities. And middle class white yuppies that like to move into cheap downtroddent areas will force out poorer Latino immigrants trying to make a living in America. They will be forced to move to Hagerstown where there is no public transportation and they will suffer.

Building the ICC and the Georgetown Branch (SS to Bethesda) will help solve our immediate East-West transportation crisis in Montgomery County. Building a multibillion dollar trolley line to nowhere will only serve to allow Bethesda and Silver Spring to grow even more and congest clogged arteries like Wisconsin and Georgia because that is where the commuter traffic is headed from, not New Carrolton.

Anonymous said...

rd said...

"It is too expensive, and will not alleviate any traffic."

That statement is just dumb... If you spend money on infrastructure it ends up making more money in the long run. Making it easier for New Carrollton residents to commute west will drive labor costs down for people in the west and will get more money in the pockets of the people in the east... and there many, many, many, many, many, many, many more positives to increased and improved mass transit.

People are against the Purple line because they're afraid of change. How could you say that creating an option that gets cars off the road could be bad for the environment and pedestrian safety?

I don't think I've heard a single argument against the Purple Line that makes any sense.

RE: Thats your Ignorance. The purple line will only replace the existing Metro/ride on bus routes. If they can't build a heavy rail underground subway then then any other low level rail alternative will just be a waste of ax Payer's Dollars.......

Anonymous said...

rd said...

anonymous: So are you saying that once a light-rail system is built there can't be any changes made and therefore it's better to build anything?

Why not solve the problem and improve upon the system?

RE: Because it will be another CON excuse to waste Tax Payer's Money.....

Anonymous said...

rd said...

Anonymous: RideOn isn't part of the metro system either... At first, they didn't accept SmarTrip and now they do. It's like magic...

RE: OK?????

The Fairfax Connector is not part of Metro but yet Fairfax County has been Very Successful for pushing the progress of Building the Heavy Rail Silver Line Subway towards Loudon County, the Infamous Springfield Interchange, and the Express Toll Lanes along I-395/95.

rd said...

The "billion" dollars invested in the Purple Line WOULD take cars off the road.

RE: Just like the Red, Orange, and Green Line was to take cars off the roads but yet every morning the Traffic is a stand still on the Beltway towards Virginia, the B-W Parkway and US 50 towards DC, and I-270 Feeding to the Beltway towards Virginia and the Avenues/Boulevards towards DC..........

rd said...

There's a LOT of people who don't ride buses, but are psychologically okay with trains.

RE: Yeah Underground Subways not trolley like Light Rails that run at snails pace.....

I guess you really believe that people in Montgomery County are Retarded.........

rd said...

Why do YOU think that a complementary transit system that is parallel and more comfortable than the current system of buses would not be used?

RE: Why you won't make the same argument about building new Bus Lanes on the Highways....

rd said...

That's just stupid. Why shouldn't the nation's capital lead the way in mass transit?

RE: Not with some tired argument that building Trolley Like Light Rails are the "so called" way of the future......

I can just see/hear people in Virginia laughing at the thought of building slow moving light rails while Fairfax and Loudon County is in the process of building a Heavy Rail Silver Line Subway......

rd said...

The NYC subway sucks compared to Paris'.

RE: Who cares, this America, if you like Paris so much then whats stopping you from moving there.........

rd said...

Below ground metro would be fantastic, but if there's people bitching and moaning about an above-ground transit system, there's absolutely NO way a below-ground option will be financed.

RE: Thats your narrow minded biased thinking.....

Anonymous said...

rd said...

anonymous: Personally, I take a RideOn bus to work every day. However, when I ask co-workers why they don't take the bus with me (which the federal government pays for), I get the not-smart answer that I alluded to. So yeah, there's apparently a lot of elitist idiots that work for the Federal Govt.

I also jog and bike on the "Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trail" regularly. I would be more than happy to jog next to a train if it meant better mass transit.

I just think that your points are baseless. Improving mass transit promotes its usage. We're completely screwing our planet with CO2 and people are getting fatter and fatter. Good mass transit = less cars on the road and more people walking on the streets.

RE: I now understand why people look at you as being a anti-Urban Psycho.......

Last time I checked Montgomery County is a Suburb and until you anti-progressive people stop trying to prevent High Density Growth in the County and start promoting Tyson's Corner, Reston-Herndon, Arlington, and Alexandria like Development then your BS argument about getting people in Montgomery County to abandon their cars WILL FAIL.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

These low wage worker bees you speak of, the modern day indentured servants, many of whom are illegal, scraping together every penny to help lift their families, will only use the light rail if it is cheaper than the bus. Only the bourgeois who keep immigrants down by not insisting that they learn the language of the knowledge based economy will benefit from this boondoggle. It is my understanding that the Chevy Chase Land Company wants to create a new Friendship Heights caliber shopping mecca at Connecticut Ave. Check their website - the plans are in place. I am sure that the folks who live in Langley Park will be jumping on the train to come buy their Coach handbags. More likeley they will be riding the same cheaper buses to come work at the shops (cleaning them at night) of the merchant class hypocrites who don't give a damn about the quality of life of their "servants". Don't give us this helping the underclass BS.

RE: Exactly, thats one of the other reasons the anti-growth psychos support the Purple Line Light Rail because they know that most of the Illegal Mexican-Central American Immigrants will use it to commute to their below wage jobs cleaning the rich Caucasian residences. They hope that it will draw alot of the Illegal Immigrants to Bethesda-Chevy Chase like they did with Wheaton and Rockville/Gaithersburg.......

WashingtonGardener said...

Where are the actual facts here?
~ how can anyone say with any authority that this light rail will be more expensive than the bus? In my experience (Toronto, Boston, New Orleans, etc.) - they are the SAME price. So is my metro ride to Metro Center from SS and bus ride to there - about $1.25 nonrush hour - which one I choose depends on which one gets me quicker and closer to my destination.
~ 11,000 people use the CCT EVERY DAY? I'd like to see the supporting studies that prove that fact and what kind of usage that actually is
~ I hope some folks from New Carrolton weigh in on this discussion - according to some of these posts, they are all illegals, poor, non-English speakers, cheap, and lazy to boot - have any of you even been to PG County lately? - New Carrolton has the IRS and other Fed Govt job hubs now - definitely a draw for commuters many of whom live in Mont Co - believe it or not!
~ the IPL will not only help people who wantto go SS-Bethesda or SS-Univ of MD -- but will provide a great deal of relief to rush hour crowding on the Red Line's downtown stops - no longer will masses of commuters have to go in DC to come out the other side - imagine getting a seat when you board in the morning!

Anonymous said...

Come one and all to the Capital Crescent Trail which was bought for transit and recreation. It is currently being used for both. It is open for everyone and everyone is welcome. One thing, please keep your trains at home with you.

Save the Trail.

Wayne Phyillaier said...

WashingtonGardener said...
"Where are the actual facts here?

~ 11,000 people use the CCT EVERY DAY? I'd like to see the supporting studies that prove that fact and what kind of usage that actually is"

This one is easy. The Coalition for the CCT completed a trail use survey last year, and the Parks Dept. just recognized the CCCT for their effort and published the results as a Parks Dept. Report. The results are available at the CCCT website, at www.cctrail.org, just go to the Trail Survey link.

The trail use at Elm Street Park was counted as 10,000 uses per week. That is one way "uses". Any person doing a round trip or using the trail several times in the week will be counted multiple times, so the persons using the train each week is much less than the 10,000 "uses" counted. Mr. Wolf claims 11,000 persons use the trail per day, but that is clearly very exagerated, and he can not support that number.