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New Figures For Purple Line

The Purple Line transitway across Montgomery and Prince George's counties would take people on as many as 47,000 trips a day and get them between Bethesda and New Carrollton in 46 minutes, according to a study distributed last night by the Maryland Transit Administration.

Michael D. Madden, the state's manager for the project, said the ridership estimates compare well with those of other such projects across the nation. That will be important -- as the Dulles rail project shows us -- when Maryland asks the federal government to help finance construction.

Those ridership and time estimates are for the high-end version of the project: a light rail system that might cost $1.79 billion, according to the study. At the lower end, the state could invest $105 million in improvements to the existing transit system, upgrading bus service and traffic controls for an estimated 108 minutes of travel time between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

In between: A bus rapid transit system that for a high-end investment of $1.34 billion could board 45,000 riders a day and take 57 minutes to accomplish the end-to-end trip.

Leaders of the transit advocacy group Purple Line NOW! said they were very pleased with the study results, as presented last night at East Silver Spring Elementary School in the first of five open houses on the project. The group cited the ridership and cost figures and noted their essential role in winning federal financing.

Many of those who came to the school on Silver Spring Avenue, near the spot where light rail trains may someday enter and leave a tunnel linked to downtown Silver Spring, were focused not on the concept of improving east-west transit in the older suburbs, but rather in what impact the projects would have on their neighborhoods. They examined the large-scale and small-scale maps provided by the state and looked for the proposed route of the Purple Line in relation to their houses.

There's a long way to go on this project. Four more open houses will be held this month. The study will be refined and followed by hearings next year. Then the state will pick light rail, rapid bus or improvements to the existing system. (My vote is for light rail.) If everything went smoothly in Purple Line planning, Madden said, passengers could be boarding in the middle of the next decade.

Next open house:
Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
College Park City Hall
4500 Knox Road
College Park


By Robert Thomson  |  December 4, 2007; 7:47 AM ET
Categories:  transit  
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Comments

It's nice to have some concrete numbers to talk about, whether you agree with them or not.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Almost 2 hrs from Bethesda to Silver Spring??? I think it would be faster to take Metro in to, and then out of DC.

Also interesting to note is that Baltimore already has a light rail system that was *supposed* to have signal timing and control priority, to improve speed through downtown, but they never got it working (for whatever reason).

Posted by: Zizzy | December 4, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

say no to development say no to change say no to progress

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

That's a ton of money for 45,000 riders a year. You could afford to buy everyone and his/her mother a bike to go between Bethesda and New Carrollton --- and the trip would be quicker.

Posted by: KB | December 4, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Correction: A day (not a yr)

Posted by: KB | December 4, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

KB: what bikes are you buying and how fast do you think people can pedal?

Posted by: rd | December 4, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I would be totally up for giving everyone bikes. Figure $1,000 per person for a nice bike and a helmet. Maybe some baseball cards and clothespins for effect. You'd be able to give 1,340,000 people bikes. And since we already have a lot of bikers who use the roadways, why not stick them all on the beltway. There's a pretty wide shoulder they could use.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | December 4, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Well even if you could only go 10 miles an hour on a bike (which is slow), thats still just over 1.5 hrs for the whole trip. Thats quicker than the bus estimation. But nevertheless, what is the point of going between N.C. and Bethesda anyway and why is it worth $2 billion ? Bethesda to Tyson's, now you are talking.

Posted by: KB | December 4, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The tunnel you are talking about will open up and be street level directly after the East Silver Spring Elementary school, where children in grades K-2 attend, including my son. I am extremely concerned for his safety.
That and the fact that the park he goes too daily will be missing an acre of trees and no more Herons, who have a nest where the train will go.
More info at http://www.sstop.org

Posted by: elster | December 4, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

According today's Washington Post those ridership numbers are estimated through 2035. What are the numbers for 2015? 2025? It would seem 2015 numbers would have a strong impact on getting Federal funds.

Posted by: Greg of Silver Spring | December 4, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Zizzy, It's not 2 hours from Bethesda to Silver Spring. It's 46 minutes from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Big Difference. I don't know where you got 2 hours.

KB: 47,000 trips a day, but they aren't the same 47,000 riders each day (actually many riders will take two trips, but you know what I'm saying). The total number of users may very well be in the hundreds of thousands. Not all of whom can bike.

The point is not to go between N.C. and Bethesda specifically but to go from any one of many stops along the way to any one of the others without having to go into the city. More and more trips are suburb to suburb, but the present transit system is designed to take people into and out of D.C. This allows red line users to turn around quicker, it extends the reach of Metro, it allows for Transit Oriented Development, the eventual creation of a complete loop, etc.. etc..

Posted by: washcycle | December 4, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"The tunnel you are talking about will open up and be street level directly after the East Silver Spring Elementary school, where children in grades K-2 attend, including my son. I am extremely concerned for his safety.
That and the fact that the park he goes too daily will be missing an acre of trees and no more Herons, who have a nest where the train will go."

What? Elliott, you're "extremely concerned for his safety"? Ok first of all, how old do you think your kid is going to be when this is built? You know full well that your particular child's safety is not in question. But you bring him up simply to inflame the discussion. I suspect you're more concerned about the trains proximity to your home on Dale Drive rather than its proximity to the school and the park.

The nimbys have learned from the past. Rather than just admit that this is about not wanting something in their backyard; they pretend to actually care about transit and suggest all they want is another, better, alternative. Of course this alternative is always either a completely irrelevant to the plan (e.g. Corridor Cities Transitway) or a recommendation so unfeasible as to effectively mean nothing at all (e.g. tunnel).

Posted by: Rails | December 4, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"That and the fact that the park he goes too daily will be missing an acre of trees and no more Herons, who have a nest where the train will go."

There are ways of safely relocating animals who will be directly harmed by projects such as these (and in fact there are laws requiring the state to do this). The herons will be much better off in a new habitat without a bunch of screaming 8 year olds bothering them. I wouldn't worry about them too much...

Posted by: Laura | December 4, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

bikes scratch my paint when I run them over

Posted by: Jim Webb | December 4, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

it should be illegal to have schools by roads it is too dangerous they should be in the woods with a moat except then the students would get eaten by bears and drown in the moat i guess schools should be illegal too and we should all get a bubble from big bother

Posted by: elster the dunce | December 4, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

But bubbles are dangerous, too - did you never see The Prisoner? Bubbles kill.

Posted by: MB | December 4, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

" Ok first of all, how old do you think your kid is going to be when this is built?"
ESS Elementary is expected to be K-5th Grade when the purple line is open; If the route is chosen, it will still be an impact. I am concerned about safety and the safety of other classmates, in addition to the loss of an acre of Sligo Creek Park.
Mr Rails: please focus on Purple line issues, pedestrian safety, loss of green space being important to me and my neighbors. Personal attacks are not necessary nor are they correct.

Posted by: Elster | December 4, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

here's a solution for green space: demolish the school, plant some trees, and homeschool your kids!

Posted by: al gore | December 4, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

It is important to note that these ridership estimates are projected for the year 2035 and are based on projections of population and employment in 2035.
Projections of population and employment are estimated in turn, based on the increased building density that will be allowed if transit is built.

We can't tell much more from these numbers since MTA hasn't provided any information on their methodology for making these projections.

We can't determine what the current transit need or ridership would be, or where the greatest need for transit currently exists.

Also, note, there is no mention of taking cars off the road.

Posted by: Pam Browning | December 4, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"We can't determine what the current transit need or ridership would be, or where the greatest need for transit currently exists."

So let's just do nothing and have 24 hours of rush hour in the area. Because we can't take any chances! Being proactive solves problems, being reactive causes them.

Posted by: Laura | December 4, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

The simple fact is that the Purple Line will not be built without Federal funding. And the Federal Transit Administration is not going to give Maryland monies until they are satisified about the MTA ridership numbers (vis a vis Purple Line costs) and several other factors. So until MTA makes its numbers and methodology available, and tells us how many of the riders will be "new riders" (not current bus riders to be displaced by the Purple Line) we can continue to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the system without a firm grasp of the financial aspects. That is something the FTA will ultimately discern.

Posted by: Greg of Silver Spring | December 4, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"Mr Rails: please focus on Purple line issues, pedestrian safety, loss of green space being important to me and my neighbors. Personal attacks are not necessary nor are they correct."

Yet I am not the one that introduced my child into the debate. You cannot make a "won't you please think of my child" argument and then complain when someone points out that you, a prominent opponent of the Purple Line, happen to live right near the planned route. In my opinion, if it walks like a NIMBY, quacks like a NIMBY, it probably is a NIMBY.

Posted by: Rails | December 4, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I was being somewhat facetious about the bike...

Why not instead take the 2 billion estimated and build up the real estate near the existing Metro stations? Have you seen the dearth of development near some of them?

Yes, more and more trips are between suburb to suburb---and they are via auto. The areas aren't nearly dense enough for a light rail to make sense. So after you take the Metro + the light rail, you have to take a bus or two? Who in their right mind is going to do that?

Transit oriented development requires development -- build up the existing stations first and create a need.

Posted by: KB | December 4, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

KB, if you build the development around the stations before the transit gets there, people will have to drive while they're waiting for the transit to be built. Montgomery County doesn't let you build near a transit station if it will cause the roads to be overcrowded, even if there's lots of extra capacity on the transit line.

If you hold up the transit until the development comes, you won't get the development, and if you hold up the development until the transit comes you won't get the transit. The only way to move ahead is to make incremental progress on both.

Posted by: Hate to be practical | December 4, 2007 6:18 PM | Report abuse


I often take the scenic Dale Dr shortcut from Ga to Piney Branch.

The Purple Line maps show that both routes cross Dale. Does that mean that high rises can be placed along Dale like along Sligo Creek Parkway?

I bet those living in the high rises along Sligo Creek Pkwy have a great view of the park.

Imagine the possibilities for high rises on Dale. I guess with all the high rises we will need more stops too.

Any development news about Dale Dr highrises overlooking the park yet?

Posted by: ParkViews | December 4, 2007 8:04 PM | Report abuse

The ridership figures are awfully high. There is a free shuttle service from 8400 Connecticut Avenue that operates every 40 minutes from 7:00 am to 6:20 pm. and goes to Bethesda Metro Station. I see many empty Limousine shuttles going back and forth - check it out.
The fact that the present buses following the route of the Purple Line going from Bethesda to the Univ of Maryland only operate during rush hour and have few riders doesn't show any demand for the service.

No one is reporting on the effect the Purple Line will have on traffic on Connecticut Avenue, Manor Drive, Jones Bridge Road, and East West Highway which are already having traffic problems. We have to think about what is happening in 2007 not what was happening when the project was put on the Master Plan.

Posted by: AW | December 4, 2007 11:37 PM | Report abuse

The "ridership projections" are a joke. Do you also believe in WMDs?

To see what a joke they are, read this:

http://maryland-politics.blogspot.com/2007/11/purple-line-consultation-on-ridership.html

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

AW, doesn't surprise me that shuttle you are refering to is empty. How many people could possibily be taking and in need of that bus? I know there are a couple of high rises around there, but it would be simpler to drive to bethesda from that location. It's only about 2 miles. Heck you could walk it. I'm not sure how that location would factor into ridership numbers very much. It's riders between the major hubs of bethesda, silver spring, langley park, CP, and new carrollton who will be the majority of people using this.

And you obviously have not ever taken a ride on the J4 (the purple line bus) from Bethesda to Silver Spring (or vice versa). It is packed during rush hour. True it is not as crowded from trips to and from college park, but this is because it is faster to just take the metro from CP to Bethesda (bus gets stuck in waaaaaaayy too much traffic and it sucks to ride a bus for an hour)

Posted by: Laura | December 5, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

It's much more expensive, but they should definitely make it heavy rail compatible with the rest of the Metrorail system.

Posted by: Phil | December 24, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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