Friday, May 16, 2008

more info means stronger opinions at purple line open houses

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: What are local high schoolers doing to show their support for the Purple Line? We'll find out next week.

A computer-generated image of Purple Line trains running along Wayne Avenue. The Maryland Transit Administration is releasing more visuals of the project to give local residents a better idea of what it will look like.

A new round of information on the Purple Line released at a series of open houses this week is giving some Downcounty residents more reason to support or question the controversial proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Representatives from the Maryland Transit Administration said there was a "steady flow" of visitors to an open house Wednesday evening at East Silver Spring Elementary School, with approximately fifty people in their guestbook at 6:10, an hour after the meeting started.. Transit advocate Don Slater, whom with his wife Tina lives "six doors off" the Wayne Avenue alignment, was excited about the turnout. As we reported last winter, the Slaters have printed out bumper stickers reading Purple Line/Green Transportation for supporters of the project. The Purple Line is "absolutely necessary to the Maryland suburbs," says Slater.

Gary Stith from the Silver Spring Regional Services Center noted that the project's slow pace has tested the patience of local residents, but only because they're so hungry for information. "The more you keep people informed, the better," says Stith. "They're smart, well-educated. They expect to get good information."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The State's newest ridership figures estimate that as many as 68,000 people will ride the Purple Line each day, depending on which of six alternatives is built. It's a large increase from the 47,000 daily riders anticipated last December. At this month's open house, MTA has also produced estimates of how many automobile trips will be removed in different parts of the region. According to the latest figures, the greatest traffic impacts will be seen in College Park, where as many as 7,000 trips could be replaced by the line, while an additional 5,900 trips may disappear in Downtown Silver Spring.

Another new feature was a series of video simulations depicting different parts of the route, the early versions of which have appeared in neighborhood meetings over the past several months. Standing a few feet away from a screen showing trains flying down Wayne Avenue, Sligo-Branview resident Rose Polyakova said she hoped that MTA would pick light-rail vehicles over Bus Rapid Transit, a cheaper technology that can be compared to a train on rubber tires.

"Most [people] want to build a Purple Line," says Polyakova, but "a lot of people would ride a rail that would not ride a bus . . . there's a perception that buses are not nice."

One possible BRT design would cut across the front yard of her home at Wayne and Flower avenues, where she's lived for nine years. "Sitting on my front porch would not be as pleasant as it is today" with a bus running through it, she says.

East Silver Spring resident Karen Roper, who sits on the Purple Line Advisory Committee, had already seen most of the information presented at the meeting. "Don't expect to see anything new," she says. "I just expect to keep them honest."

Roper made headlines two years ago for taking elected officials on walking tours of the Purple Line route in East Silver Spring to convince them to re-route the line away from her neighborhood. Learning more about the MTA's plans haven't changed her opinion, she says, especially as the project's focus has changed and more stops were added. "I think you have to look at what this was supposed to be," says Roper, "and it was supposed to be rapid transit."

"It's an end game," she adds. "Politicians are stuck between a rock and a hard place . . . to prove that they can make it work."

The next step will be the publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a several-hundred-page document outlining the Purple Line's direct effects on the region, later this spring. They'll also make a decision on which form the project may take - what routes and whether light-rail or BRT will be used. In September, the MTA will hold public hearings where residents can speak about the project.


Anonymous said...

The "perception that buses are not nice" is extremely frustrating to this transit rider. The newer Metrobuses have lower floors -- one step up, tap SmartCard, the next stop is automatically announced audibly and visually, the lower floor makes for a better ride, the diesel/electric hybrid is quieter/cleaner...that said, I was on such a new bus Tues. evening when a young man with bare muscular arms boarded, cussing all the way to the back door, where he stood. A young woman looked anxious & pulled the "stop requested" cord. I exited at front along with her, although it was several stops early. Such intimidation could just as easily happen in a "light" rail car.

Thomas Hardman said...

There are reasons I don't ride the bus, and you just described one of them.

Violence on the buses is unfortunately commonplace. Unless any new light-rail is as well-policed as is MetroRail, ridership will suffer. Literally.

Dan Reed said...

Nicer vehicles are helpful, but it's a lot harder to police a bus, and safety (or perceived safety) is a big barrier to riding the bus for a lot of people. When something happens, you can stop a train in a station and have security officials waiting at the platform, but if you stop a bus the suspect's just gonna book it. I'm looking forward to the construction of Transit Centers like the ones in White Oak and Langley Park that will give bus drivers a place to stop for help if there's any sort of trouble.

Anonymous said...

Buses have way to many stops and can potentially take a REALLY long time to reach their destinations. Also, buses DO NOT stop as smoothly as trains. Also, bus drivers toggle temperature switches when they feel like it and often make the temperature uncomfortable. Bus drivers also increase the risk for human error. Etc, mother_____ing, etc...

retgroclk said...

Perhaps what is needed is private ownweship of the bus system.

Allow investors to buy up to 5 buses from the County- let them hire drivers, and charge whatever the market will bear.

The investors are responsible for the upkeep and insurance for their employees.

If crime is a problem, perhaps someone with enough money could offer private bus service-- passengers pay a monthly fee, meet at a certain point everyday and after work, they meet at another pickup point.

With a private service the riff-raff can be weeded out.

Anonymous said...

Failure of private bus systems led to the creation of Metrobus, or at least that is what I have always heard. I've also heard that the Metrobus system was dumped on WMATA, which focused on the trains. The Purple Line looks like a another chapter in the long, sad story of treating rail like the fair-haired A-students, and buses like the scruffy stepkids.

Anonymous said...

Dan, a few months ago, I called WMATA's Transit Police from my cell phone on a C-4 bus, and asked to be met at the Wheaton Metro station. An officer did so, but the loud, profane young women who had gotten into a shouting match with an older man that nearly escalated into blows had already left the bus. I've seen even worse behavior on trains, but no officers.

Anonymous said...

Planners Invite Residents to Open Up at Takoma/Langley Crossroads Open House, Contribute to Community Plan

SILVER SPRING, MD – Planners from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, developing a plan to improve quality of life in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads through land use, transportation and pedestrian safety improvements, are hosting an open house on Wednesday, May 21 to hear from the community.

The open house at the Langley Park Community Center will provide an opportunity for residents and other interested stakeholders to specify what development they would like to see in the Crossroads area. Planners will provide a short presentation on the sector plan and encourage people to stop by to both learn about the plan’s progress and contribute their good ideas.

The sector plan creates a vision of the community over the next decade or more and makes recommendations on such issues as land use, housing needs, pedestrian safety, transportation, open space and more.

The sector plan is especially timely, considering the transit improvements planned for the Crossroads, including the Purple Line, a 14-mile transit system proposed to connect Metro to Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and Riverdale Park. Purple Line planners propose two stops within the Takoma/Langley Crossroads community: the intersections of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue and at University Boulevard and Riggs Road.

Moreover, state transportation officials have committed to building a bus transit station that would consolidate area bus stops in a central location on New Hampshire Avenue. Maryland transit officials will be on hand to discuss planned improvements at the May 21 meeting.

The 574-acre planning area runs in a one-half mile circumference around New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard. The sector plan represents a joint effort of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission – planners from both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties – with the city of Takoma Park.

Who: Members of the community joining the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the city of Takoma Park

What: The Takoma/Langley Crossroads Sector Plan community open house

When: 4 - 8:30 p.m. Wednesday May 21

Where: Langley Park Community Center, 1500 Merrimac Drive, Langley Park