Monday, November 24, 2008

purple line hearing: east county pols hop on board

Part ONE of a re-cap of last Saturday's Purple Line hearing in Takoma Park. Later today, we'll look at what local residents had to say. Also check out this slideshow of the hearing.

School Board president Nancy Navarro testifies.

At the last of four hearings on the Purple Line Alternatives Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Study last Saturday, East County residents made it clear they're all for transit, but are still split on how and where it should be built. The meeting, held in Falcon Hall on Montgomery College's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus, was well-attended by elected officials, civic leaders and a wide cross-section of area residents who came to testify, to listen, and to learn about the proposed sixteen-mile transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

According to Webb Smedley from the Action Committee for Transit, a local Purple Line advocacy group, nearly half of the fifty-five individuals who spoke were in support of using light-rail trains instead of bus rapid transit. Those alternatives - of which there were eight altogether, including a no-build option - would route the Purple Line along the popular Georgetown Branch Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring that bisects one of the region's most exclusive country clubs. While that alignment raised controversy at an earlier hearing in Chevy Chase, the debate at Saturday's hearing was about where the line should go east of Silver Spring.

The elected officials who testified were uniformly in support of the Purple Line, citing the need for more reliable transit and a return to higher gas prices. "Commuters are more ready to leave their cars home and take transit than since World War II," said State Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20). Nancy Navarro, school board president and former County Council candidate, testified about seeing a "young Latino mother try to cover her infant child as she ran to catch a bus," calling her "the face of who will benefit" from the Purple Line.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

At-Large County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen, who testified at other hearings, watch the proceedings.

County Councilmember Valerie Ervin.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) talked about being "thrilled" as a kid to ride the just-opened Metro by himself, and offering those same opportunities to today's youth. "We have to fear for the future if we don't deal with the transportation issues we have now," said Raskin.

Bruce Williams, Mayor of Takoma Park, said the current economic downturn made now an even better time to start building the Purple Line. "We know money is tight, but this is the best time to invest in infrastructure," said Williams. "By the time developers are ready, the Purple Line will be finished."

County Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) hadn't prepared any statements before she took the podium, but she immediately launched into poetics in her endorsement of the Purple Line. "We all drink deeply from wells we did not dig," said Ervin. "We do this for all those people who built the roads and bridges for ourselves and our children." A Park Hills resident, she noted she could see the Purple Line's possible Wayne Avenue alignment from her house. "Our community is literally divided" by the proposal, she lamented.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin.

A frequent target by those spoke was Chevy Chase, where the Columbia Country Club and Save The Trail Coalition have been working to stall the project, which would run along the Georgetown Branch Trail. Elected officials representing that area who spoke at a hearing there on Tuesday - State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Dist. 18), State Del. Al Carr (D-Dist. 18) and Chevy Chase Town Councilman David Lublin - all testified in support of a Bus Rapid Transit line along Jones Bridge Road that bypassed both the town and the country club.

"We cannot let the recreational needs of a few wealthy golfers supercede" the needs of transit riders elsewhere, said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20). "If more buses were the answer, we would've done it years ago."

College Park Mayor Stephen Brayman chided Montgomery County for its "controversies" with the Purple Line in Chevy Chase and East Silver Spring. "While in Prince George's County we have some decisions to make with the alignment, I don't know anyone who's opposed to the Purple Line," he said.


C. P. Zilliacus said...

Mayor Brayman of College Park doth protest too much about Purple Line controversies in Montgomery County, and should remember the controversies in his own county that led to the idiotic routing of the Metrorail Green Line, with its University of Maryland located literally miles away from the middle of campus. The original Green Line plans had the rail line's University of Maryland stop being in the middle of campus, near the Student Union, but those were shot down by NIMBYist protests by solid citizens in the City of Hyattsville generally and along Adelphi Road in particular.

silverspringtrails said...

Delegate Tom Hucker observed ""We cannot let the recreational needs of a few wealthy golfers supercede" the needs of transit riders elsewhere. But golfers will be able to golf with the Purple Line as well as they do now. One or two of their putting greens will need to be realigned slightly to get them off the public right-of-way they now encroach on, but otherwise they will still be able to play through almost exactly as they do now.

"Save the Trail" Purple Line opponents testified at the Bethesda public hearing that cutting trees along the trail would remove all shade, and make the trail too hot and uninviting much of the year. "Save the Trail" folks need to get out of Chevy Chase more often. The nearby W&OD Trail has many long sections that are not under any shade. A full tree canopy is the exception and not the rule, mostly found only near the western end of the W&OD near Purceville. But the W&OD has three times the annual users as does the CCT. Why more traffic than the CCT? Partly because it is longer and passes through more communities. Sort of like the CCT will be longer and pass through more communities when rebuilt alongside the Purple Line.

C. P. Zilliacus said...

Speaking of NIMBYism:
Purple vs. Green in Chevy Chase

This "proposal" is a classic:
I propose that the Purple Line be built as light rail through Prince George's County to Silver Spring, and that an interim bus rapid transit be set up from there to Bethesda. With time and funds, an alternative solution may be found that saves us from the proposed route's community-destroying consequences.

Thomas Hardman said...

This is what annoys and worries me:

Bruce Williams, Mayor of Takoma Park, said the current economic downturn made now an even better time to start building the Purple Line. "We know money is tight, but this is the best time to invest in infrastructure," said Williams. "By the time developers are ready, the Purple Line will be finished."

"By the time the developers are ready"??

WTF, I guess we know where his wheels are getting greased.

I recall reading a post-mortem on the construction of a major freeway back in the 1950s. Evidently the argument was "when the freeway is built, everyone will take it, and that will decrease congestion on all of the existing streets". But due to the lag time between planning, public hearings, approval, and construction, by the time the freeway was opened, so much new development had occurred near the outer endpoints that the congestion was about the same or even worse, because of all of the new cars that had been added.

Now, translate "cars" to "riders" and you see the applicability of the analogy. If we build a light-rail Purple Line and then the developers get to work in expectation of putting their riders onto it, by the time it gets built, it will need to be ripped right up and replaced with a heavy-rail line. And if you build a heavy-rail line, the developers will build so that the ridership from their developments will saturate capacity... and it will still be necessary to supplement capacity with bus transit.

That might be the best argument ever for bus-transit, you can always add more buses until the streets once again are saturated, only with buses instead of cars.

Of course, with that level of population density in the 25-mile radius used by planners, the Greater Washington Metro area will have about 6 million people or more, and adding in comparable MSAs, US population will be in excess of a half-billion. I don't know what they'll be expected to be eating, where they'll get their water, or what energy sources will power transportation. But the root of it all is idiot politicians who cannot get it through their heads that there are Limits To Growth and they need to stop taking money from developers who can only profit if there is a growing number of Too Many People.