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."