Thursday, December 6, 2007

big figures, bumper stickers at purple line open house

With a Post reporter in tow, local residents examine maps at Monday night's Purple Line open house.

Residents eager to see the Maryland Transit Administration's newly-released ridership figures packed the first Purple Line open house at East Silver Spring Elementary School Monday night.

For those who've been following the debate, it was something of a reunion. "A lot of us know one another for years from being involved," says Isaac Hantman, whose letters - with titles like "Plenty Of Reasons Not To Build The Purple Line" - frequently appear in the Gazette. "This is a chance for the MTA to tell us some things, and some people would like to know more."

Depending on how much money is poured into the proposed line between Bethesda and New Carrollton - and whether it takes form as a bus or light-rail - the Purple Line could see between 29,000 and 47,000 daily riders, nearly twice as much as Baltimore's entire light-rail system. Those figures are a boon to both supporters and opponents alike hungry for numbers to crunch, according to the Post's William Wan (who brushed me off when I introduced myself to him).

"I hear some people in our neighborhood who are opposed to the Purple Line, and I wanted there to be some positive message," says Tina Slater of Mansfield Road, a block from the Wayne Avenue alignment. "When gasoline reaches $5 a gallon . . . people will be happy to have some alternative."

Rather than continue to butt heads with neighbors who disagree, Slater's reaching out to the unconverted, printing up bumper stickers reading "Purple Line/Green Transportation." "I think there are a lot of people who are neutral to it," says Slater. "It's like religion . . . you wouldn't want to knock down the door of someone who already has a religion and say 'convert to mine!'"

what do mystery residents and little kids have to say? so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Display boards at Monday night's open house.

Nonetheless, skeptics abound. "I want to ask about these figures and how they're input," says one East Silver Spring resident who insisted that I not use her name. "The political powers that be are determined to build this, and development is tied into it."

The resident also expressed concerns about who the line is intended for. "If they're poor people from Langley Park coming to Silver Spring, that's one thing," she adds. "If it's people living in new condos, taking white-collar jobs, that's another."

"We're not quite that detailed," says Sarah Michailof, who's drafting a socioeconomic study of the route area for MTA. "It's definitely been designed to link employment centers with residential areas." She adds that her study is aimed at examining "how the transit will affect community cohesion," but that the State isn't really responsible if that "cohesion" is disrupted in any way by the line.

Younger riders seem less concerned about the neighborhood fabric. Two elementary-school-aged girls, about ten and seven, sat at a table in the middle of the cafeteria-turned-open house, poring over colorful maps of the proposed route. As the older girl reached for a map, the younger one snatched it away.

"This is my map," she says, "to see where the train will go."


silverspringtrails said...

Dan, it was good to see you again at the reunion Monday night.

These new numbers do put some of the issues to rest. For example, the strongest point Isaac Hantman made in his "Plenty of Reasons to oppose the Purple Line" letter to the Gazette was that the Corridor Cities Transitway would be far more cost effective than the Purple Line and should be built instead. But now we have numbers showing the opposite. Mike Madden of MTA indicated in a conversation that the corresponding preliminary ridership numbers for the Corridor City Transitway are much weaker than those presented Monday night for the Purple Line. When the Corridor City Transitway numbers are released (and also the Baltimore Red Line) we will see the Purple Line is clearly the most cost effective and ready to go forward.

Elliot said...

I don't belive that there are projected to be more riders on the purple line than Baltimore City, which has a much larger population. Reasons not to choose the Thayer avenue alignment are at:

silverspringtrails said...

I've only heard second hand that cost effectiveness of the Baltimore Red Line are not as high as the Purple Line, but we must wait until the Red Line numbers are released to be sure.

But I've heard (again second hand) that the Red Line cost of construction is higher than the Purple Line, so it could have more riders and still have a lower cost effectiveness score by the FTA guidelines.

BRT said...

The BRT proposal would bring in 45K riders, essentially the same as a light rail system at a substantially reduced cost. Sleek, quiet, clean buses on fixed route are the mode of transportation of the future. Tell O'Malley to support BRT for the Purple Line as the most cost effective, quiet, flexible alternative

Webb said...

LRT could be in grass tracks along the capital crescent trail which is a big plus over BRT on 28 ft of pavement along the Georgetown Branch.

The 9 minute travel time between Bethesda and Silver Spring would make this project a hit for residents of both burgs as well as those up and down the redline. We need more travel time data for pairs like Rockville to College Park.

Anonymous said...

PG and Mo-co have a lower population than Baltimore? Check your facts buddy. You are way off.

Elliot said...

Not all of PG and Montgomery will ride the purple line, a better comparison are to total the proposed cities with stops:
Bethesda: 55,277
Central Silver Spring (below Forest Glen): 76,540
College Park: 24,657
Langley Park: 16,214
New Carrolton:12,589
vs Baltimore: 640,961
The other part is the B'more rail includes Timonium and BWI, which I won't count.
HOWEVER: A better comparison are the ridership of other major cities. If this link is correct, they are projecting the purple line to have more ridership than ANY OTHER CITY (the chart also includes fatalities):
USA Today chart
The numbers projected (over 40K+ daily) are higher than ANY OTHER CITY light rail. All I can say is WOW they are making every effort to pull the wool over our eyes.

Dan Reed said...

1) Your estimate doesn't include the seven towns with "Chevy Chase" in their name, the City of Takoma Park, Adelphi and the City of Hyattsville (portions of which abut the Purple Line) and the Town of Riverdale Park (in which the PL would stop twice!), so if you're going to do it that way, at least be thorough.

2) And besides, since the Purple Line will connect with Park-and-Ride lots at Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton - not to mention three Metro lines and three MARC lines - people will come to use it from a much greater region than the communities that have stops. That's just how it works. My family's house in Calverton is six miles from the Silver Spring Metro station, but I still use it.

3) Not to mention, of course, that many of the Baltimore Light Rail stops are in low-density neighborhoods (both in and out of the city) or in parking lots, and that it misses some of the largest population and employment centers in the area (i.e., Towson.) The Purple Line would hit the State's second-largest business district and transportation hub (Silver Spring), its largest university, and the gilded extravaganza that is Bethesda. It's already got a lot on the Baltimore Light Rail, in terms of going to places that people actually go to.

Elliot said...

Please respond to the 46K daily ridership, which is higher than any other city light rail, including Los Angeles and Boston. Philadelphia has about 70,000 WEEKLY ridership. BTW, this IS breaking news.

Dan Reed said...

My response: Boston's Green Line, the only light-rail line in the system, has 230,000 riders a day. Los Angeles' Blue Line alone gets 72,000 riders a day.

I can see 47,000 for the Purple Line.

Webb said...

The 42,000 to 47,000 remains preliminary. It does not include student riders to UMd. Even a relatively small percentage of the 35,000 UG and Graduate students will push the number over 50,000.

The "transit-shed of the Purple Line will certainly extend up and down the other metrorail lines. Transit travel times for Rockville to College Park, for example, will be significantly improved, attracting riders.

Greg of Silver Spring said...

I believe the Washington Post article indicated that the ridership estimates were for the year 2035. What are they for 2015? At Maryland Transit Administration Focus Group meetings in early May and early June 2006 MTA consultants reported that 11,000 people currently travel by bus in the Langley Park-Bethesda corridor and that fewer use the bus between Langley Park and New Carrollton. They also noted that many of those people who travel short distances would still continue to use the bus once a Purple Line is built. Assuming that 8,000 current bus riders will initially use the Purple Line (or be forced to use the Purple Line because their bus route will be terminated)and 3,000 people will give up their cars to use a Purple Line, that is only 11,000. My assumptions could well be very wrong. But until we see what numbers MTA came up with to feed into their models and how they were derived, and what they are for 2015, I believe we should hold off speculation on how cost-effective the system will be.

By the way, it should be noted that several years back when a true Metro-operated "Purple Line" subway system was envisioned a Maryland Capital Beltway Corridor Transportation Study stated that only about 1% of drivers would be diverted from the Beltway to the Purple Line. That would have been, at peak times, on the Maryland portion of the Beltway, between 2,000 and 4,000 drivers. Of course that was when the Purple Line was going to be a Metro-operated subway system. Of course that 1% number would now be higher than when the study was done, and perhaps now more than 1% would leave their cars behind for the Purple Line.I wonder how many drivers MTA estimates will leave their cars behind.

segwayman said...

we could give those 47,000 riders Segways for less than $100 million and build a parallel Segway-byway to the CCT. Buy your Segway today and join the future of transportation.

jw said...

From the numbers I read the BRT solution is far more cost efficient with 96% of the ridership.

"Based on the numbers provided by MTA, bus-rapid transit appears to be the big winner. While the high-end estimates in terms of cost are 27% cheaper for bus-rapid transit, the decline in ridership is only around 4.5%."

Why not run BRT from New Carrolton to Jones Mill Road, take a left of Jones Bridge Road and run directly into the NIH/Bethesda Naval complex. This would solve alot of our BRAC issues.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Dan, the comments on your blog are so healthy: full of fruits and nuts!!

I am always astonished at the amount of opposition to this obviously-needed transit improvement. Let's build the Purple Line NOW.

mcknif said...

As much as the Purple Line sounds like a good idea- I still have to wonder about its path.

Is all the ecological, house damage, road damage and water pollution worth it-- NO.

Is the route through Silver Spring still on the plans-- displacing all those old homes and disrupting neighborhoods-- NO

I believe that the Purple Line will turn into a White Elephant.

It was predicted in 1968 by Abe Kalish, that the Subway System would be a white elephant-

If you break down the pros and cons of the system- if you look at how wxpensive it is to maintain the system one has to wonder whether it is a White elephant

I have no reason to ride the Metro- I suffer from pulmonary problems- and the places I have to go or to visit are no where near a Metro
stop- I have to drive everywhere- so I allow myself time so as not to get caught in traffic jams. I use the backroads, and I do not have to stand in a crowded sardine can to get where I have to go.

This is not a complete rejection of the system- it serves its purpose-- but the purpose it serves is not mine.

The reason you see so many cars on the road despite the Metro system is because the Metro does not serve the car drivers need-- There are two sides to this issue- those who take the Metro becasue it serves a purpose- and those who do not becasue it does not.

Anonymous said...

Better bus service is what we need. The Bus in Prince George's does not even take SmarTrip yet. A recent Gazette story about U.S. 1 describes various shuttles being proposed by developers who want to build projects. A coherent bus system for Route 1 is lacking. If the Purple Line were built, bus service would be reduced -- MTA and Mont. Park & Planning admit that up front. Good, comprehensive bus service serves the people, and preserves communities. Rail leads to rezoning and current resident removal.

pennster said...

What they need to do in College Park is get rid of some of all that dilapidated housing and create a true college town atmosphere. State College, PA, where I go to Penn State is a great small town that College Park could emulate.

Anonymous said...

In the category of what-were-they-thinking, Seattle has inaugurated a new trolley line, the Seattle Lake Union Trolley. Yes, that's right - the SLUT. T-shirts were printed (none left, more on the way). Story at