Wednesday, April 2, 2014

see maps of how the purple line corridor is changing

When built, the Purple Line could dramatically improve transit commutes in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. To explore that and other changes the line will bring, researchers created a series of maps including this one of the "commute shed" of each Purple Line station, or how far you can get on transit before and after it's built.

All images from the Purple Line Corridor Coalition.

Two weeks ago, the Purple Line Corridor Coalition organized a workshop called "Beyond the Tracks: Community Development in the Purple Line Corridor" to bring different stakeholders together and talk about ways to prepare for changes along the future light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, which awaits federal funding and could open in 2020.

The coalition is a product of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, which hosted the workshop. Members of the group include nonprofit organizations, developers, and local governments in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. At the workshop, they looked at examples from cities like Minneapolis and Denver, which recently built light-rail lines.

The 16-mile corridor contains some of the region's richest and poorest communities, in addition to major job centers and Maryland's flagship state university. When it opens in 2020, the Purple Line will help create the walkable, urban places people increasingly want. However, rising property values could potentially displace small businesses and low-income households. To illustrate and explore these issues, the Center for Smart Growth produced a series of awesome maps.

Like the DC area as a whole, the Purple Line corridor is divided from west to east, with more jobs and affluence on the west side, and more low-income households on the east side. Many of the estimated 70,000 people who will ride the Purple Line each day in 2040 will come from communities in eastern Montgomery and Prince George's county to jobs in Bethesda and Silver Spring.

But today, getting between those areas can be difficult and time-consuming, whether by bus or by car. It's no surprise that many commuters along the eastern end of the Purple Line have one-way commutes over an hour.

These maps, and the map above, show the "commute shed" of three Purple Line stations, or how far you can get on transit in an hour. In all three cases, the Purple Line opens up huge swaths of Montgomery, Prince George's and DC to each community. While the Purple Line only travels through a small portion of our region, it adds another link to our existing Metro and bus network, meaning its benefits will go way beyond the neighborhoods it directly serves.

But better access comes with a price, namely rising property values. The revitalization of downtown Silver Spring has resulted in higher home prices in surrounding neighborhoods because of the increased demand to live there. But Silver Spring and Takoma Park still have substantial pockets of poverty, meaning that low-income residents may not be able to afford to stay in the area once the Purple Line opens.

There are two ways to ensure that neighborhoods near the Purple Line remain affordable for both current and future residents. One is to protect the existing supply of subsidized apartments. Many complexes near the Purple Line have price restrictions for low-income households, but they will expire before it's scheduled to open in 2020.

The other is to build more new housing near the Purple Line. New homes are usually expensive, but increasing the supply of housing to meet demand can result in lower or at least stabilized prices. We're starting to see this in downtown Silver Spring, where thousands of apartments have been built in recent years. But Montgomery officials reduced the number of new homes allowed in Chevy Chase Lake and Long Branch due to concerns about changing the character of each neighborhood.

There are a lot of great and interesting communities along the Purple Line. But many of them are dramatically different places than they were even 10 years ago. They'll be different in 10 more years, whether or not the Purple Line is built. We can't preserve these places in stone, but we should try to ensure that the people who enjoy and contribute to these places can stick around in the future.


Unknown said...

I'm certainly an advocate for the Purple Line, but I get a bit frustrated when I hear folks talk about tripsheds and providing job access for lower income communities, like Langley Park and the folks at the PG end of the line. Here's why:

1) We have no idea of daily ridership costs post-construction. As the Purple Line will be privately managed, I think this could be an issue. Will the line be affordable for folks with little means?

2)How many low-skill jobs are available in Bethesda and CC? Proponents keep talking about how this line will serve folks with lower means. The employment maps should have included employment type (low-skill, high-skill) etc. The NCSG should have thought about this...

Dan Reed said...

Actually, there are maps of different jobs by employment type. Here's one of where jobs are that don't require a high school degree. There actually are quite a few in Bethesda and Chevy Chase - especially service jobs, considering there are so many restaurants and hotels there.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

(reposted without typos) Good point about the service sector jobs, and great maps. Thanks for the link. What about ridership costs? I can't find info on that anywhere. It's still a major concern.

I guess what I'm trying to hint at is that the folks in the Eastern communities should be in CBA talks (if they aren't already) with the government, and potential management companies, but I sort of doubt that to be the case. In PG particularly, I assume the government is looking at this as a way to increase revenue from the development of a more affluent tax base.