Thursday, January 10, 2013

what's up the pike: action committee for transit edition

It's been a busy week in East County, specifically for the Action Committee for Transit, Montgomery County's premier transit advocacy group. They voted in a new board, raised awareness about the ongoing Silver Spring Transit Center debacle, and got an exciting update about the Purple Line:

purple line at east-west highway

- Mike Madden, Purple Line manager for the Maryland Transit Adminisration, gave an update on the project to a packed crowd at ACT's monthly meeting, held Tuesday night in Silver Spring. The MTA is finishing preliminary engineering on the project and will soon begin design work, though they still need funding from the state and federal government for construction. If everything goes to schedule, we could see a groundbreaking in 2015 and be riding it by 2020.

Madden announced that the Purple Line, which would run between Bethesda and New Carrollton, is now estimated to carry over 69,000 passengers each day in 2030 and 74,000 in 2040. Not only is this higher than previous ridership estimates, but it's substantially greater than many other light-rail projects being built around the country. Phoenix's light rail, which opened 2 years ago, carries just 48,000 riders daily, while Seattle's light rail, which opened in 2009, carries 28,000 riders each weekday. It just shows how much Montgomery residents have taken to transit, especially in the downcounty where the Purple Line will run.

The most intriguing news, however, was that the Purple Line station in downtown Silver Spring will be 80 feet in the air. Madden showed pictures of a sort of clear tube that would sit over the current Red Line platform. This presents a really interesting design challenge for the project's engineers and eventually architects, and I'm curious to see how this will develop.

- Also at the meeting, ACT voted in its new board, which includes yours truly as Land Use Chair. I'm proud to be a part of ACT, which for almost thirty years has promoted a vision of "better communities and better transit" for Montgomery County, and I look forward to working with them supporting that vision in the future.

- However, no sooner had I joined ACT did I get drawn into its push for more answers about the future of the Silver Spring Transit Center, which has been discussed for 20 years, under construction since 2008 and stalled since the county discovered there may be structural issues.

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of that announcement, we held a press conference outside the unfinished transit center yesterday morning. ACT's goal is to get a public hearing where county officials can let the public know what's going on and provide some assurance that the Transit Center will actually be completed this fall, as they're currently saying.

The press conference was well-covered by local news, including WJLA/News Channel 8, WTOP, WPFW, the Post, the Examiner, Silver Spring Patch, and the Gazette. Reporters interviewed ACT's president, Tina Slater, and yours truly, who brought along this photo of myself from when the transit center was first conceived.

County officials say they'll release a report later this month with a structural and engineering analysis of the Transit Center, including what needs to be done to get it fixed. There's also the possibility they might sue Foulger-Pratt, the contractor hired to build the Transit Center, but that shouldn't delay the project.


jag2923 said...

I can't even picture what this glass tube would look like in the context of its surroundings so I'll withhold judgement until the renderings are released publicly (odd that they haven't been yet, at least according to the Examiner article).

I seriously hope the transit center report has some good news in it....

jag2923 said...

ACT have any info on why the MBT adjacent to the transit center still is gated off? Inquiring minds on SSSingular are looking for answers.

silverspringtrails said...

I believe the county promised us the MBT and walkways across the property would be opened by now. They appear to be finished. Opening them would make transfers from bus to rail easier.

Is the County making any effort to get these walkways open?

silverspringtrails said...

@silverspringtrails, adding to that comment:"

"The Metropolitan Branch Trail on the west side of the station will open by November, which will “improve pedestrian access” to the Silver Spring Metro station, said Don Scheuerman, chief of the project management section for General Services."

Yet another promise broken.