WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Hillandale Rec Center set to close; East Silver Spring Purple Line focus group TONIGHT (see below).
WHOSE PURPLE LINE? Outside last week's Purple Line Now! fundraiser at Montgomery College. There remains a gap between line's eventual riders and its outspoken defenders.
If you listen to jazz artist and Silver Spring native Marcus Johnson, public transit might sound like the key to success.
"I took the Z2 when I went to Blair, I took the 70 when I went to Howard," said Johnson, emcee of last week's Purple Line Now! fundraiser, held at Montgomery College in South Silver Spring. "And they opened more opportunities for me than I would've imagined."
Johnson may be one of the few bus riders looking forward to the Purple Line, a proposed transitway between New Carrollton and Bethesda. Last week's fundraiser served to illustrate a widening gap between the Purple Line's support base and its eventual riders.
"What community speaks for what community?" says County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), who donated to the fundraiser. "The MTA [Maryland Transit Authority]'s looking at who's using the transit line . . . if you look at who's using [transit] now, it's the poor, the young, blacks and Latinos."
so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .
Many residents of Langley Park, which may have as many as three Purple Line stops, are barely aware of the project's existence.
In communities with high minority populations and heavy transit ridership, awareness of the project is much lower than it is in other neighborhoods. Over a year ago, the Gazette asked people in Langley Park and Takoma Park if they'd heard of the Purple Line, only to discover that most people had no idea what it was.
A ride on the J4 Metrobus, which parallels the Purple Line route from College Park to Bethesda, brings you in contact with people as diverse as the places the bus passes through. You'll see line-order cooks and lawyers; schoolkids and secretaries; blacks, whites, Latinos and everyone in between. But that cross-section of commuters - and potential Purple Line riders - was largely absent from last week's Purple Line Now! fundraiser. The crowd that night could have passed for any East County civic association meeting: mostly white, middle-aged and middle-class.
"If you look at who shows up representing the community, you don't see a lot of young people," says Ervin, who is black. "I mean, look at this room. We need to broaden the diversity of opinion."
To attract more residents, MTA has been holding focus groups in the Silver Spring area this month, including one tonight (7 p.m., Oakview Elementary School, East Silver Spring). Open houses for those uninitiated to the Purple Line will follow in November, according to Mike Madden, the project's director.
People boarding a bus in the Briggs Chaney neighborhood.
Many labor groups, including the transit workers' union - who would benefit from the line's construction and operations - are already aware of the Purple Line, but have become increasingly skeptical of its becoming a reality, according to Jos Williams, head of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO, a labor organization.
"Many of our members are beginning to wonder 'is this [the Purple Line] a reality' because there are some very powerful forces opposing the Purple Line," says Williams. "We have to keep them motivated."
"Workers in this region who are the backbone of this economy must have an economic way to work," adds Williams. "Workers have to have the Purple Line."