Wednesday, March 11, 2009

what i imagine the purple line looking like

The St. Charles streetcar in New Orleans.

I realized recently that Purple Line supporters and opponents have very different ideas of what the transitway will look like, which informs their opinions of it. Especially along the Capital Crescent Trail. Whenever I think of the Purple Line on the trail, I think of the streetcars in New Orleans, which I rode while doing volunteer work there last summer. They run in the middle of major streets, on grassy, landscaped medians. The trains run slowly enough that people feel comfortable jogging next to them.

The C and E lines of the Denver light rail.

When people who are opposed to the Purple Line on the trail imagine it, I wonder if they think of something like the Denver light rail, which I rode over winter break. Downtown, the trains run both on and off the street, on track beds with no landscaping and no trees. New offices and condos line the track. An ideal - and, IMO, very attractive situation for the inner city, but also what many people in Bethesda and Chevy Chase fear their neighborhoods will look like one day.

BeyondDC pointed us to some pictures of the [eventual] D.C. streetcars running in the Czech Republic, where they'll be until the lines are actually built here. This is what I imagine the Purple Line looking like on the trail: trees, grassy beds, nice, clean, quiet trains. But, of course, if trees on the trail are removed to build the line, it would take decades for it to look like this.


silverspringtrails said...

The Purple Line will look green in Bethesda. The MTA has presented plans for transit to be on grass tracks in the sensitive areas, and the Montgomery County Council and Executive joint letter sent to the governor endorsing Light Rail calls for grass tracks.

An MTA concept sketch and a photo of transit on grass tracks is at my finishthetrail blog at

Pam Browning said...

You may imagine the Trail and the Purple Line looking like this photo of New Orleans, but the Purple Line Environmental Impact Statement is clear that it won't look like that.

The DEIS states that the trees in the right-of-way will be removed. Period. Lovely artistic renderings to the contrary are pure fiction.

Years ago, I walked the Trail on a tour with an MTA engineer. He must have foreseen this discussion. He said "Don't ever let anyone say it will take less than 66' to construct the Purple Line."

When Mike Madden was asked about the trees OUTSIDE the right-of-way, his response was "we'll do what we can to protect the roots". No guarentee even on those.

Amazingly, MTA did not do a count or assessment of the trees that will be destroyed. So much for its so-called Environmental Impact Statement.

American Forests' analysis found that 17 acres of trees will be bulldozed.

Please see the Petition to Save the Trail website for the other side of this story, at

Pam Browning, organizer
Petition to Save the Trail

Thayer-D said...

Please remember that the only reason we got the trail is that Montgomery County bought the rights of the old CSX tracks to build a trolley connecting Bethesda and Silver Spring. It's great that Bethesda and Chevy Chase got an ammenity subsidized by ALL of Montgomery County, but it belongs to all the citizens, not just the B-CC folks.

As for trees, they will be replanted, but let's look beyond our own self interests and do what our tax dollars where spent to do in the first place.

Build the rail now. (please)

Pat Burda said...

Melanie, the County bought the right of way about 20 years ago for a one track trolley to connect Bethesda to Silver Spring, not a two track light rail running every three minutes at potentially 45-50 mph next to a narrow pedestrian trail in narrow right of ways (they want the CCT ROW to make up time they lose in Silver Spring). And, again, they will not replant trees within the 66 foot right of way. There are better alternatives and that is why we feel so strongly about this. We do need transit, but smart transit.

Please note MTA's concept sketch is not to scale at Silverspringtrail's link.

silverspringtrails said...

If you are interested in seeing a sketch that is to scale, see the one at

If you don't want to paste that long URL into your browser, just go to and select the "A bicycling raceway?" blog from the list on the right.

But you don't need a scale drawing to figure it out that an approx. 30' wide railbed for transit and a 10'+ wide trail can fit into a 66' wide corridor at the Town of Chevy Chase. And remember the r.o.w. is 100' wide and more for more than 1/2 of the total distance between Bethesda and the east side of Rock Creek.

Agreed that all of the trees within the 66' r.o.w. will be removed for construction. But with the transit on grass tracks and a buffer planted with grass and shrubs in between the trail and transit, it will be far from barren.

Dan Reed said...

If we're talking about grass tracks, the Purple Line on the CCT sounds a lot like what I saw on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans . . .