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Ehrlich: Rapid bus more practical for Purple Line

John Wagner

Rapid bus service, rather than light rail, remains Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s preferred mode of transportation along Maryland's proposed Purple Line, he said Tuesday during a campaign swing through Montgomery County.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced in August that he would pursue federal money to help build a 16-mile light rail line linking Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- an option Ehrlich (R) said the state probably can't afford.

"You have to be honest with people, and the honesty is the dollars aren't there," Ehrlich told reporters following a meeting with small business leaders in Rockville, in which the Purple Line light-rail plan was among many issues discussed.

As envisioned by O'Malley, the $1.5 billion project would use light rail to move commuters between New Carrollton and downtown Bethesda, with stops in between including Silver Spring, Takoma Park and the University of Maryland at College Park. Less costly rapid bus service along roughly the same route, advocated by Ehrlich during his administration, is "just more viable," he said Tuesday.

O'Malley campaign spokesman RIck Abbruzzese said Ehrlich's comments were "just more proof that Ehrlich is out of touch and wants to take our state back -- back to the days when the interests of private golf courses were put ahead of the interests of Maryland's families."

Abbruzzese was referring to previous comments by Ehrlich sympathetic to the Columbia Country Club, located off Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase. The club has opposed the light-rail line, which would bisect its 100-year-old golf course.

"This issue has been debated long enough, and under Governor O'Malley, the Purple Line is moving forward," Abbruzzese said.

By John Wagner  |  May 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , John Wagner  
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As a candidate for Montgomery County Executive, I can say that Governor O'Malley definitely knows the pulse of the voters on supporting the Purple Line whereas former Governor Ehrlich is comatose. This is a building project that will mean several jobs for Montgomery County and is smart transit thinking. On the issue of political "honesty," was then-Governor Ehrlich "honest and open" about the toll rates for the ICC Highway? Sadly, this topic makes it obvious that the former governor has no desire to win Montgomery County, which has the second most registered Republicans in Maryland and makes it painfully obvious why Montgomery County does not have a single elected Republican living in it.

Posted by: DANIELVOVAK | May 19, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

In Mr. Vovak's utopian world the reality of the cost of such a project is an ugly intrusion. The facts are the Federal Government is broke and the State budget only appears to be balanced because of accounting sleight of hand employed by the Governor in the last General Assembly session. There is currently no money for light rail. The Democrats’ idea of utopia will spend us into insolvency. I say again SHOW ME THE MONEY.

Posted by: cheverly1 | May 19, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

In the interests of fiscal conservatism, I wonder if Ehrlich would tell the people of Baltimore that the proposed Red Line, an east west transit line, should be a bus route? Probably not in an election year.

Posted by: VikingRider | May 19, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't the country club lobbyist know that a light rail will be a lot more quiet than buses when putting?

Posted by: hamsandwich | May 19, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I believe that the cost effectiveness of a project is more important than the bottom line. Metrorail is able to recapture 79% of its operating revenues through fares, while the Metrobus is only able to recapture about 30% of its operating costs from fares.

This is because buses have a much higher operating cost than trains: buses usually only last about 15 years while most trains last 30-40 years; the labor costs for buses are an order of magnitude greater than trains, since trains carry hundreds of people but buses only carry a few dozen; electric trains have lower maintenance costs than both diesel trains and diesel buses; and the fact that trains nearly always garner higher ridership than buses.

Ask any reasonable person, and nine times out of ten they'll state that the cheaper and more efficient long-term operating costs of light rail make it a much better option than "bus rapid transit".

Posted by: kancamagus4 | May 20, 2010 3:13 AM | Report abuse

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