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Purple Line Planning Tonight

The Maryland Transit Administration is beginning a round of open houses tonight to update the public on planning for the Purple Line, one of two transit lines I hope will be built across the suburbs north of Washington during the next decade.

Purple Trail.jpg Signs at 2006 campaign rally in Langley Park. (Robert Thomson)

The Purple Line would be either a light rail or bus rapid transit system linking Bethesda with Silver Spring and New Carrollton. The planning process is a mini-version of what Virginia is going through in launching the rail line through Tysons Corner to Dulles. Project managers must pick a route and prove to the federal goverment that the cost per passenger will justify a federal contribution to the construction program.

Like the Virginia project, the Purple Line isn't just about moving people. It also is an opportunity to focus suburban development on transit stations, reshaping communities to meet the demands and stresses of a 21st century environment.

At these open houses, the MTA will provide more information about the Purple Line's anticipated ridership and travel times, cost estimates and routes and the project's schedule. Here's a link to an MTA fact sheet that includes a map of possible routes. (One of the many vexing questions facing planners is how to bring the line through the neighborhoods of Silver Spring. While many people favor construction of the transit line, they don't necessarily favor putting the tracks or the stations very close to where they live. And they don't want the state to take their property for the project.)

Tonight's session is at East Silver Spring Elementary School, 631 Silver Spring Ave. This week's other session is at College Park City Hall. Both start at 5 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. There will be three more sessions later this month.

Not everyone agrees with me that the Purple Line is a good investment. Some think the money would be better spent widening the Capital Beltway or on other road projects. Others think the money set aside for the intercounty connector highway should be diverted to the Purple Line construction, while I'd build both because they fill very different needs. I'd also do the Purple Line as a light rail system, because the relative permanence of the stations allows for better land use decisions. Others like the bus rapid transit system because it's likely to be cheaper and more flexible. What do you think?

[Join me at 1 p.m. today for an online discussion of this and any other local transportation issue that's on your mind. If you'd like to submit a question or comment early, here's a link you can use.]

By Robert Thomson  |  December 3, 2007; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  transit  
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Comments

Build it already!

The entire route will be very well utilized but the Langley Park stop in particular is one of the densest inner suburbs aroud - there are already about 500 businesses within one block of the intersection of University Blvd. and New Hampshire Ave.

Having a Metro stop in Langley Park will: 1) bring a more econimically diverse housing stock, 2) alleviate the 24/7 gridlock at the intersection 3) bring in vistors from throughout the metro area who have yet to discover the seemingly endless variety of ethnic restaurants and stores.

From a personal point of view, having a stop next to the Comcast Center and Byrd Stadium may allow me to drive out to buy milk (or anywhere else) on game nights!!

Posted by: College Park | December 3, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather have the tunnel under downtown SS. Take the pain now and look at a brighter future once it's over.

BRT makes sense theoretically, but people don't like using buses; they like using trains. Look at all those empty D.C. Circulators passing by on downtown streets for evidence. Additionally, I'm not sure where you would run a BRT line through downtown SS without tunnelling anyway. It's not like you can grow lanes on Wayne Avenue.

I'm looking forward to checking out the materials at the meeting tonight. BTW, I e-mailed the meeting coordinator, and there's no need to stay for the whole three hours, which is good because that's too long.

Posted by: Lindemann | December 3, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

"BRT makes sense theoretically, but people don't like using buses; they like using trains."

Note your comment - people like like using TRAINS - not light rail, which is the configuration being talked about. Studies show that light rail only attracts riders who already take the the bus. Besides, unless it's taken off the streets and given a dedicated right of way, light rail will only slow down traffic and move slowly itself. In other words, light rail will be a waste of money.

The only configuration that will attract many riders will be expensive heavy rail, which will eat up more money in capital and operating costs than either BRT or light rail.

For my money - and it IS my money - I say improve cross-county roads - East-West Highway has long been obsolete - and implement BRT for the relative few who will be riding transit cross-county. Light rail is a waste of money and heavy rail simply isn't cost-effective.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 3, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

With MY money, and IT is MY money, I prefer more spending on public transportation and less on roads.

Posted by: rd | December 3, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Ugh.

Yet another public transit proposal that is designed for people without cars, rather than for people to get out of their cars.

Let's call it like it is--this is an effort to spend the absolute least amount of money possible to build a system that will suddenly allow developers the right to build far more on their property than is there now. This is not visionary, this is not about moving people. This is about the cheapest way to increase the land value of a very small number of people.

Why can't our public transit heads build a transportation system for the NEXT generation, not one that is barely adequate enough to server the LAST one? Light rail? Slow as a turtle. Buses? Please...don't make me laugh.

Why can't we have high speed trains criss-crossing on the purple line (or anywhere in the DC area), instead of more slow buses or overpaying for a train that crawls across the suburbs enriching developers? Why is there just no vision with public transit folks in this part of the country????

Posted by: Andrew | December 3, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yup, I meant to include in my comment that I favor heavy rail.

Posted by: Lindemann | December 3, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

While I know it's costly, the long term bonus of making the Purple Line heavy rail, and maybe even running it all the way around, a Beltway like trip, could be visionary and make a huge difference.

Light rail works in the Inter-mountain West, but I would not ride the Purple Line unless it's the train option of heavy rail.

Posted by: DC Centurion's Shield | December 3, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

People like using RAIL, whether it's subway or light rail or streetcar. There are many reasons, including the smoothness of the ride. Try riding a bus from the outer burbs to downtown standing up, it's not pleasant. On rail it's not bad at all, b/c rail is smoother, corners better, and is roomier and generally more comfortable.

There just isn't enough money out there for transportation. Somehow, it has been decided that it is just too expensive to build a heavy rail Purple Line, or a new line through downtown to alleviate congestion on the Blue/Orange Line, or a Columbia Pike line to Bailey's Crossroads, or indeed any other Metro line besides the Silver Line. So light rail is the only option being considered for the next 20 years.

Many people are confused about what light rail is, and there actually isn't a solid definition. Heavy rail, like Metro, is completely grade separated, which means that in most places it has to be in a tunnel or on an elevated structure. Light rail can do that too, indeed light rail trains could run on existing Metro lines, but the reason light rail is usually chosen is because of its ability to cross streets, and even run in the middle of the street, something that Metro cannot do.

I am sure that the ridership on the current Purple Line route would justify heavy rail, it will link four very busy existing lines to UM and other traffic generating stations. Bus rapid transit is a joke. "Oh, it's just like a train, but so much cheaper!", people say. Yeah right. What would really happen is that some fancy new buses would be purchased, some fancy shelters would be built, and then they would drive on the same congested roads. Because it's cheaper! Then, not that many more people would ride than are riding the existing buses, and anti-transit folk would say, "Look, no one is riding, good thing we didn't build rail." That is really one of the goals of the 'Bus Rapid Transit' lobby. They don't want to expand mass transit, they want to prevent expansion of rail transit. The Orange Line in LA is a good example of the shortcomings of BRT.

This probably will be built as a light rail line, probably finished around 2015, and will immediately be packed full, and people will wonder why a full Metro line wasn't built. Of course, it's painful to think of what the transportation situation will be like by then anyway.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 3, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Any regular rider of the J4 bus route (which connects College Park to Silver Spring and Bethesda in a manner reminiscent of the Purple Line plans) sees how bus rapid transit would be doomed to failure in that corridor.

Posted by: Lindemann | December 3, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

This is what happens when you plan transportation reactively instead of proactively. Why don't we provide transit and roads before there is a transportation crisis? This is what they used to to. In New York City they built subway lines to nowhere, and development occurred around them (in the Bronx, Queens, upper Manhattan). In New Orleans, they were running out of buildable land, so someone decided "hey lets build a causeway across the lake and then people can live up on the North Shore". If you tried doing that today, people would scream that we are wasting money on a train to nowhere, or a bridge to nowhere. Thus, nowadays we don't do anything until we have a crisis. That is the only way we can justify spending large sums of public money. Of course when you wait then there are other problems, like incompatible land uses, lack of a right of way, etc. Many people would not have a problem with building a new road or transit line through their neighborhood if they knew exactly where it was going to go and if the right of way was set aside before the area was built up. But those same people would have a major problem with the government tearing out neighborhoods to put in needed infrastructure after the fact. ANd then you have hypocritical people. Everyone thinks building a new road is a great idea, but not one of those people thinks having the road run through their neighborhood is a good idea. Everyone wants a Metro line in their neighborhood, but not it it involves placing a park and ride station there. Imagine how much easier it would be if they actually reserved corridors for this stuff in advance!

I think the purple line is a great idea, since it will be a big step towards modernizing the DC-centric transit system we have now. There are few undeveloped areas left in DC, and a lot of the growth that is occurring now is occurring in suburbia. But someone who lives in Bethesda has to drive to Silver Spring. And someone who lives in Rockville isn't goig to take the Metro to Silver Spring either, since they'd have to go all the way downtown and back out. And there is plenty of land ripe for development in PG County that is probably under-utilized because its a royal pain to get to from the places where most people want to live (the western half of the Metro area). My guess is that people will certainly ride the purple line and the silver line...the trains will not sit empty. But our govt. needs to stop taking the cheap way out on everything. Maybe people wouldn't mind paying more taxes if they actually got things they wanted out of it (hint, investment in infrastructure here in America is what people want...imagine how many new roads and transit lines would could have if we spent all that Iraq war money in our own country)!

Posted by: Woodley Park | December 3, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

NOT IN MY BACKYARD

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

There's no point in going with the cheaper option if it's just duplicating existing service. There are already buses from SS to Bethesda, and plenty of people use them. They also clog up the right lane and make everyone else's commute longer.

Only a heavy rail service integrated into the existing Metro System (closing the red line loop) would be likely to increase ridership and (slightly) lessen the traffic backup between SS and Bethesda. A light rail system that runs all the way to New Carrollton would have some drawbacks, but if well-designed it would at least improved the transit options for those commuting across the county line. More buses would accomplish nothing and would be a waste of money, even at a bargain price.

Posted by: AJL | December 3, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

In 2003, County Executive Doug Duncan proposed the Purple Line Loop -- a plan developed by staff of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)-- which would run Metro heavy rail along the Beltway connecting Silver Spring with Bethesda Medical Center.

This Metro loop would provide faster, seamless connections, carry more riders, allow for growth at NIH and Bethesda Medical Center and expansion to White Oak and Virginia, and improve Metro service and enhance national security by allowing Metro trains to run a circuit between the two legs of the red line.

The Purple Line Loop plan should be re-visited now, especially in light of BRAC -- the relocation of Walter Reed Hospital to Bethesda Naval Hospital -- which will bring thousands more staff, patients, and visitors to Bethesda Medical Center DAILY.

In addition, serious consideration should be given to the very strong opposition in the community and among trail users to building the light rail Purple Line along the popular Capital Crescent Trail. There are more than 10,000 uses of the Trail WEEKLY. This strong opposition could block attempts to obtain Federal funding for the Purple Line. It would be far wiser to seek a consensus plan that unites, rather than divides, the community around a transit plan.

Posted by: Pam Browning | December 3, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

how many new roads and transit lines would we have if we spent all that Iraq war money in our own country?

zero, the nimbys and the urban sprawlers would have stopped them all and spent the money on "studies"

Posted by: grease my palm | December 3, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

If you want to see why bus is a bad solution, just imagine if the existing Metro lines were all bus instead of train.

You would never take them, is what would happen. And that would happen with the Purple Line, too.

Posted by: sickofspam | December 3, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Also, I agree with the poster who said "I am sure that the ridership on the current Purple Line route would justify heavy rail, it will link four very busy existing lines to UM and other traffic generating stations."

Why is heavy rail not being studied? Who cares if several administrations ago Governor Glendenning ruled it out? Glendenning was anti-transit.

It is irresponsible to do studies on cost-benefit and neglect to study heavy rail.

Posted by: sickofspam | December 3, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

There are other reasons for concern regarding the Purple Line in East Silver Spring than it being built near houses.
One of the proposed routes will take OVER AN ACRE of Sligo Creek Park, home to diverse wildlife and hiking/biking trails. In addition, the train will cross in back of East Silver Spring Elementary school, also posing a safety hazard to children.
More information is at the website: http://www.sstop.org

Posted by: Elster | December 3, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

a whole acre? there's only two of those in maryland

Posted by: stop progress | December 3, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Someone wrote into today's chat:

Baltimore, Md.: Re freight traffic on MARC Camden Line: The poster might want to think about driving a little farther from Laurel and taking the Penn Line from BWI. With the Penn, you have to only worry about conflicts with AMTRAK, not with freight trains. Plus, you get many more trains to choose from.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks for that advice, and it is possible for some riders to choose between Penn Line and Camden Line stations. Brunswick Line riders, meanwhile, are out of luck on that.

Oh, please for the love of all that is holy don't ride the Penn line. It is so very overcrowded as-is. I take the 7:15AM express from Penn to Union every day and there are no seats by the time we hit Halethorpe, nevermind BWI. In the evenings, the last express train is the 5:20PM (ridiculously early, IMO). It is so crowded that conductors often have to call Amtrak police to force folks from the vestibules.

I've tried taking the 4:46PM, the 5:34PM, the 6:05PM... All are similarly overstuffed. If you aren't in Union Station standing by Gate A when the track announcement is made, forget getting a seat. Forget standing comfortably. Expect to be crammed cheek-by-jowl with other passengers in the tiny aisles while the conductor tries to squeeze past to collect tickets.

Posted by: Melissa | December 3, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

"In addition, the train will cross in back of East Silver Spring Elementary school, also posing a safety hazard to children."

Having a large vehicle pass by a school is a safety hazard? Better shut down Thayer Ave. and Silver Spring Ave. while you're at it, what with all those cars going by.

God, the pro-cars anti-transit population continues to hold transit up to standards that they would NEVER even think about holding their road-dreams to. Allow a train within a hundred feet of a school? Not on your life, but go ahead and build that road. Spend billions of dollars to make negligible improvements to traffic times? Sure. Spend millions to make huge improvements to transit times? No way. It wouldn't be good enough, so why bother? Plus, it might pass within shouting distance of a school (that is if they can hear the train over the traffic zooming by).

You could never build enough roads to make these people happy because they are completely unable to grasp the concept of induced demand.

Posted by: Build It | December 3, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

roads are anti-transit haha
it is great how all trains are silent and run on fairy dust

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Here is a link regarding how the Houston Light Rail is causing mass fatalities including a blind pedestrian:
http://www.actionamerica.org/houston/index.shtml

Posted by: elster | December 3, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that so many Greener-Than-Thou types support building the Purple Line (as an above ground line!) when doing so will necessitate the clear cutting of thousands of trees -- all this in an area of rapidly shrinking greenspace.

Mass transit should help preserve greenspace -- not necessitate its permament revoal.

The misguided Purple Line will also doing NOTHING to alleviate the mass of road congestion in the DC metro area which is north-south, not east-west, as the line would run.

Want to *really* alleviate congestion? Build a metro running alongside 270. Oh wait, that won't line the pockets of greedy developers in Bethesda and Silver Spring -- so forget that!

By the way, "Purple Line" is a misnomer as it implies the line will be part of the Metro system -- it will not. With that said, this misnomer suits the developers and their 'grass roots' toadies, so don't look for it to go away any time soon.

Posted by: Purple Line = White Elephant | December 3, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

When heavy rail was studied, it was on a different alignment to the north of the current corridor, basically following 270, with stations at Grosvenor, Wheaton, White Oak, and Greenbelt. Notice that White Oak would be the only new station. Of course, it is possible that other stations would be added in the planning process, but it is clear that with less stations, ridership is lower.

In the central city, stations are closer than in the burbs, and when the alignment moved closer to the core, more stations were needed. Just look at the distance between Shady Grove & Rockville and Metro Center & Gallery Place. This station placement would be fairly similar no matter whether it's bus, light or heavy rail.

As far as being a different system; yes, it would be, as is VRE/MARC/Metro/RideOn, etc. Passengers will be able to pay with a Smartcard anyway, so that's not an issue.

I am always amazed at the safety questions people raise about rail. Cars and trucks can kill you anywhere, crossing the road, on a sidewalk, crashing right into a building... You know (or should know) that a train can only be where there are rails, and that you should be careful when you cross tracks. Crossing two tracks, with gates and lights, carrying trains that have bells and whistles, is much safer than crossing six or eight lanes of traffic, populated with crazed, incompetent and unlicensed drivers.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 3, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The circulator isn't empty when I get on it. It's quite full in the morning rush

Posted by: CBGB | December 3, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"Here is a link regarding how the Houston Light Rail is causing mass fatalities including a blind pedestrian"

You have got to be kidding me. Do you really want to get into a fight over what means of transportation kills more people every year? Seriously? Need I remind you of the woman who was shredded on Southern Avenue just yesterday by a bunch of joyriding teens?

And seriously "mass fatalities"? Four people injured by a light rail equals "mass fatalities"? You must think that the 12 teens killed last month alone in car accidents around DC is a downright massacre.

But probably not. Since you would never hold automobile transportation to the same standards that you hold mass transit to.

"it is great how all trains are silent and run on fairy dust"

Again, do you really want to get into a fight over what means of transportation is more energy efficient? Really? Even a hybrid filled with two people gets clobbered by the efficiency of a half empty train.

Posted by: Build It | December 3, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

ceefer66

"With MY money, and IT is MY money, I prefer more spending on public transportation and less on roads."
---Posted by: rd | December 3, 2007 11:15 AM.

We've been doing exactly that for 35 years. That's why we have such bad traffic. Doing more of the same is a fool's errand.

Repeating the same actions and expecting different results is insanity; anyone advocating the same is an idiot.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

"It's ironic that so many Greener-Than-Thou types support building the Purple Line (as an above ground line!) when doing so will necessitate the clear cutting of thousands of trees -- all this in an area of rapidly shrinking greenspace.

Mass transit should help preserve greenspace -- not necessitate its permament revmoal."

The greeneies only care about losing trees when that loss is caused by roadbuilding or suburban development.

When it comes to building rail transit (on EVERYONE'S dime, whether or not they they can use it), anything goes.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Cars and busses can swerve and stop easier than a train. Here's a link for Light Rail fatalities by city, a little outdated, but here goes:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/2003-01-07-rail-fatalities.htm

Posted by: elster | December 3, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Here's some Interesting Commentary on a Purple Heavy Rail Line.


I would like Heavy Rail Discussion revived because it would be Wiser to plan for the Future than act for Today. DC is only going to grow and that needs to be accounted for in Transit Plans.

Posted by: Nebraska | December 3, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Nebraska | December 3, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

The Safety Argument is slightly frustrating because it's like comparing Apples to Oranges. Transit is not Perfect; unfortunately there will be Instances of Death. But, People hold it to a Higher Standard because they are not Responsible for the Train's Operations; it's Easier to blame someone else. But, when we get behind our Cars, we're in Control and we think we can do a Better Job and we won't kill anyone. However, that simply is not the Case. Cars Hands-down cause More Accidents than Transit will because the Operator's are trained and whose Sole Responsibility is to watch the Tracks Ahead. But, Mistakes will always be made and, as we have seen, Trains can cause Death. Yet, seeing some of the Driving that occurs on MD/DC/VA Roads makes me wish for Transit that may hopefully take such Horrible Drivers off the Roads.

Posted by: Nebraska | December 3, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

"We've been doing exactly that for 35 years. That's why we have such bad traffic. Doing more of the same is a fool's errand."

If by "what we've been doing" you mean authorizing suburban development without regard to transportation demand, then yes, what we've been doing is what results in you sitting in traffic. More money on highways will only result in more people living further from their jobs, and that's the real reason for congestion.

And ok, if you think spending on transit is an inefficient way to reduce congestion, then please explain why more more spending on highways (i.e. more than the $30 billion plus we already spend) is a more efficient way. If lowering congestion is really your goal, then the most efficient and effective means would be to jack up the gas tax and introduce HOT lanes everywhere.

"The greeneies only care about losing trees when that loss is caused by roadbuilding or suburban development."

Well that's obviously an exageration, but so what if they make a decision that cutting down trees for transit is acceptable, but cutting down trees for McMansions and the ICC isn't? It's called setting priorities; and bending over backwards to accomodate somebody's decision to live in a McMansion 50 miles away from their job is not a priority worth making.

Posted by: Build It | December 3, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

There are many myths regarding the Purple Line. Below are some:

Myth: Purple Line is a subway system and part of Metro.

Fact: The Purple Line will be a light rail or bus-rapid transit system and may or may not be part of Metro. It may be operated by the state MTA, the counties involved, or some other entity. Given Metro's funding problems and the fact that the BCT will be a money-loser it is doubtful that Metro would want to take on the BCT responsibility.

Myth: The Purple Line will get people off the road.

Fact: No evidence of this, and in fact, where bus lines are curtailed and/or people have to ride a bus to a Purple Line stop to catch the Purple Line (increasing the time and cost of commuting), people may give up on public transportation and begin using their automobiles. This has happened in other cities such as St. Louis, where buses no longer take people to where they want to go but to a light right station. It should be noted that several years ago when a true Metro-operated "Purple Line" subway system was envisioned a Maryland Capital Beltway Corridor Transportation Study stated that only about 1% of drivers would be diverted from the Beltway to the Purple Line. That would have been, at peak areas, on the Maryland portion of the Beltway, between 2,000 and 4,000 drivers. Of course that was when the Purple Line was going to be a Metro operated fast subway system.

Myth: Over 50,000 people will use the BCT daily.

Fact. At Maryland Transit Administration Focus Group meetings in early May and early June 2006 MTA reported that 11,000 people currently travel by bus in the Langley Park-Bethesda corridor and that fewer use the bus between Langley Park and New Carrollton. They also noted that many of those people who travel short distances would still continue to use the bus once a BCT is built. Assuming that 8,000 current bus riders will initially use (or be forced to use) the Purple Line and 2,000 people will give up their cars to use a BCT, that is only 10,000. A 2002 study found that there would 28,000 riders (56,000 trips by 2020). Assuming this might be true, that represents less than 1%of the year 2020 population of the two counties involved.

Myth: "Traveling at up to 55 miles per hour, the Inner Purple Line will enable commuters to bypass the most congested section of the Beltway." (Inner Purple Line website)

Fact: While it might be true a light rail train might be able to achieve a 55 mph speed in a few areas it will go the speed limit in former traffic lanes and it does have to stop to pick up passengers. With every stop comes deceleration and acceleration, which limits average speeds no matter what the top speed. During fiscal year 2002 the 27 light rail systems, according to the American Public Transportation Association, had an average speed 15.3 miles per hour. New Jersey's new River Line averages 28 miles per hour, but stops are on average 1.8 miles apart. The Purple Line's stops will be about 1 mile or less apart; thus, will undoubtedly be averaging less than 20 mph.

Myth: The BCT will spur economic development.

Fact: Many cities have been misled by this myth, and have ended up having to pay businesses subsidies to spur development. It would have been cheaper just to pay the subsidies and not spend a billion dollars to build and tens of millions annually to operate a Purple Line. And let's say, it does spur economic development at Long Branch and Langley Park, what will happen to the low-income families that will be dislocated?

Myth: More stations and stops will increase ridership.

Fact: Just the opposite. The more the stops the slower the speed and the slower the speed the lower number of riders. Just look at the new River Line in New Jersey where, to gain support for the system, everyone was promised a stop, one every 1.8 miles on the 34-mile line. This, along with dealing with very slow street running in downtown Camden and numerous grade crossings throughout the higher-speed alignment, where trains must often slow down as a safety precaution, has resulted in low ridership compared to projections. It should be noted also, that while the River Line is publicized as "light rail", the system was installed without the electrification which characterizes LRT technology. This was, according to Light Rail Now, "intended to reduce the initial capital cost of the project (and to assuage local community resistance to a fully electrified LRT line)."

Myth: The Purple Line will be cost effective.

Fact: No. Nationwide, light rail systems are not that cost effective, especially when compared to automobiles and buses. The Coalition to Build the Inner Purple Line stated "Factoring in operating costs and system lifespans (sic) - light rail transit is more cost-effective. Each car has twice the capacity of a bus, and one train operator can therefore handle six times the capacity of a single bus. Rail cars also have a longer lifespan than diesel buses. For both these reasons, operating costs are lower for light rail." A light rail car, depending on the particular model, can certainly carry more people than a bus, and therefore, it is possible for a three-train light rail system to have one operator handling six times the capacity of a single bus. But the salary and benefits of one train operator compared to six bus drivers is meaningless when you figure in the construction and operating costs. Additionally, the roads are already built for the buses. The rail car-diesel bus comparisons are almost as meaningless, when you figure in construction costs and actual operating expenses. It could be argued (not with stops every mile) that the Purple Line will be faster than a bus, but it will not be as convenient (with just a limited number of stops), as inexpensive to ride, and as dependable, and it should be noted that the few minutes gained in commuting will not be that great in certain stretches of the Purple Line.

Myth: The Purple Line will have no impact on bus service.

Fact: It will have a dramatic negative impact on bus service. People will be forced to take a feeder bus to the system because the bus they formally used would no longer be taking them directly to where they wanted to go, because it would no longer be in operation. Addressing this issue in 2001 the U.S. General Accounting Office noted that bus systems will be forced to "reroute their bus systems to feed the rail line." "This," the GAO reported, "can have the effect of making overall bus operations less efficient when the highest-ridership bus route has been replaced by Light Rail; the short feeder bus routes can be relatively costly."

Myth: The Purple Line will not impede traffic nor cause congestion.

Fact: Given the alignments being considered for the Purple Line and the problems inherent with light rail and bus-rapid systems dealing with intersections, traffic, etc., it is likely that a Purple Line could significantly worsen congestion on roads such as Piney Branch and University Blvd, where two lanes of traffic will be lost to Purple Line use. Nationwide light rail increases congestion whenever the rail lines occupy former street space.

Myth: "The cost of the Bi-County Transitway [former name of the Purple Line] is projected to be between $375 million and $1.6 billion depending on the alternative and mode selected." [fomer Maryland Secretary of Transportation on July 5, 2006]

Fact: Who really knows what will be the cost. The company the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has awarded a contract (approved by the Board of Public Works on August 9) to take part in the process to come up with the figures allegedly not only missed the mark with Boston's Big Dig project but was scheduled to go to court this year [St. Louis County Circuit Court] regarding a $550 million 8-mile light-rail extension project in the St. Louis area. The company was fired in August 2004 and a lawsuit filed against them regarding the $130 million in overruns, that brought the eventual price tag to $676 million. This is not to say, however, the Maryland-based contractors are as inept.

Myth: The Purple Line will be funded by the Federal Transit Administration.

Fact: According to the former State Secretary of Transportation on July 5, 2006, "The State of Maryland would seek a portion of the funding for the Bi-County Transitway from the federal government. The federal contribution to the project is expected to range between 50 and 60% of the total cost. Obtaining federal funding will require the project to compete against other new transit projects proposed across the country. The Federal Transit Administration will select projects for federal funding based on, among other things, the cost effectiveness of the project. Cost effectiveness will be key to the success of the Bi-County Transitway receiving federal funding." Based on cost effectiveness, there is no possibility of the Purple Line receiving federal funding. And even if the state's contractors come up magically with numbers to show low costs and high ridership, there are still the problems of the system causing, among other things, traffic congestion, and destroying possibly too many homes, businesses, trails, and yards along the route.

Building the ICC and widening the beltway are not the the answer to congestion within the beltway. If the State of Maryland stopped the Purple Line planning and redirected the planning monies to putting equipment on buses to control lights at intersections and studied putting bus-car ramps/bridges over key roadblock intersections, at least in the short term things would be better for the car and bus riders. I am sure there are other short-terms solutions that could be implemted, while more effective ones are developed. The Purple Line, no matter how much the developers want it, is not the solution. It would just create more problems.

Posted by: Greg of Silver Spring | December 3, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Let's not bother ourselves with such trivial considerations as actual, verifiable ridership-demand levels for the Purple Line.

After all, there will be plenty of time to make excuses and play pass-the-blame later...

So, what will Purple Line ridership actually pan out to be? How about some light ridership in the mornings and evenings, no one in the middle of the day, perhaps a few on the weekends. Call It The White Elephant Express.

But don't worry, the developers will get *they* want -- the ability to build in greater density between Silver Spring and Bethesda. CA-CHING!!! And, after all, isn't that all that really matters?!?

See below for a few predicitions on how MTA and lemming "lawmakers" will/would respond to anemic, flat, Purple Line ridership -- after having spent all that money and destroyed all that rare public greenspace (Crescent Trail, Sligo and more) on their "Build it and they will come" mistake called the Purple Line:

1. "Well, you've got to understand, this is a new resource and it takes a while for people to get used to it being there. Don't worry, the riders will start showing up."

But they don't... So they'll shift to "excuse #2."

2. "Well, yes, we agree. Ridership is a little (read: very) disappointing, but, don't worry, we're initiating a dynamic new consumer-focused marketing campaign that is intended to attract new riders. We're very excited!"

Still more money gets spent, but few new riders emerge. Possible because the ads run -- wait for it! -- on Purple Line trains on which No One Is Riding!

So, it's time to move on to the coup de grace -- Excuse #3! Step up Montgomery County Council, MTA, etc., the floor is yours!

3."Harumph... yes.. um... Well, I think we all had misgivings about the Purple Line project from the outset... In fact, we're not even sure how this whole unfortunate circumstance came to pass... This is yet another example for the need for "greater oversight." Someone needs to conduct a study... and... um... I'd like to appoint myself to chair it!"

Posted by: I'm "Green" -- But I Hate Nature! | December 3, 2007 5:51 PM | Report abuse

"Cars and busses can swerve and stop easier than a train. Here's a link for Light Rail fatalities by city, a little outdated, but here goes:"

And that nifty chart demonstrates that on average a mile of light rail tracks will result in .02 deaths a year. (or .00002 deaths per weekday rider). What mode of transportation is safer than that?

(And yes, a train cannot swerve. But then again, it can't hit you if you're not on the tracks. It also can't drive through a crowd of people at a fair. Nor can it plow into a tree. These are all scare tactics. Cars will continue to be way more dangerous to people than light rail could ever be).

Posted by: Build It | December 3, 2007 6:10 PM | Report abuse

The only way to compare systems fairly is by passenger miles, that is, miles traveled divided by number of passengers for each mode, and the numbers for fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled is:
Car & Truck - .76
Bus - .03
Rail - .02
Air - .02
These are approximate numbers from the APTA, but the figures are similar no matter who calculates them. Motor vehicles are much more dangerous than public transportation.

Another thing that must be considered is that many people choose to commit suicide by stepping in front of a train, and the numbers of fatalities do not take into account which were accidents, and which were intentional. For that matter, they don't take into account worker deaths, which account for all of the recent Metro fatalities.

One last thing that must be considered is that the supposedly high death rates take place in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Houston. The simple fact is that these areas have higher numbers of immigrants from areas with either no rail lines, or very dilapidated systems. Many people simply have never seen a train that goes faster than walking speed, or even know that fast trains exist. Many deaths is SoCal and Texas are people walking on the tracks, thinking they'll have plenty of time to get out of the way. Of course lots of Americans are clueless about trains, too, in fact most car and train collisions actually involve the car running into the side of the train, not the other way around. Seriously.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 3, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Today in Phoenix, Arizona, regarding tests for its new light rail system, a news story stated: "We've designed safety into the system as much as possible," says Larry Engleman, METRO's director of safety and security. "But the reality is that a light rail train traveling 35 miles-per-hour has a stopping distance of 200 feet, almost two-thirds the length of a football field. And we can't swerve to avoid the driver who chooses to run the light."

If a Purple Line is built a really good safety education and enforcement program will be a necessity.

Posted by: Greg of Silver Spring | December 3, 2007 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I would love a Metro stop in the Langley Crossroads area, but everything I read leads me to believe that this is either a bus rapid transit or light rail? How is that really so different from the current system. I will still have to get off the Metro train at Silver Spring and PAY to get on some other mode of transportation to get to Langley. The Purple Line is not an extension of the Metro, it is a separate mode of transportation independent of the Metro system. It sure would be nice if it was all seamless. I wonder how much I will have to pay to get on this thing after riding the Metro. Will transfers apply like they do on Ride On?

While I love public transportation, it is not cheap.

Posted by: BusRider | December 3, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

shouldn't there be a character limit on manifesto posts?

Posted by: karl | December 3, 2007 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Bus Rider: According to MTA people the seamless payment aspect of the system is basically a given; something that can be easily done. Of course, like Baltimore, the cost per ride for the Purple Line will be more than a bus.

Posted by: Greg of Silver Spring | December 3, 2007 8:41 PM | Report abuse

It's funny: the pro-Purple Line camp thinks it will "improve traffic congestion" and the anti-Purple Line camp can't believe(!) MTA and others could be "so stupid as to undertake such a doomed project that will do nothing to improve congestion."

However, neither camp understands the larger picture:

The Purple Line will not significantly alleviate road congestion anywhere, ever --and MTA knows that.

The goal of the Purple Line is not to remove cars from the road or to "lessen congestion," but, instead, to serve as component of economic growth.

Building The Purple Line will require revisions of zoning regulations along its path (creating commercial districts in which it is possible to build in greater "density," i.e., large(er) office buildings, more retail space, taller multi-use buildings, etc) which, in turn, will create a broad range of major profit opportunities for real estate developers, their investors, and those parties with whom they are affiliated.

Build The Purple Line -- and many areas near to it become much more commercially valuable -- newly saleable areas emerge, rents go up, developers achieve huge profits, some of which will end up in public coffers -- although, given "tax relief" generaly offered to the private sector in these scenarios -- not much.

You can think this scenario is fine or appaling but, either way, it is what it is.

The Purple Line is an infrastructure asset intended to aid and supplement economic growth -- it has nothing to do with "congestion" or, directly, even with transportation.

With all that said, the parties who already understand this are (and will continue to be) silent on it...

This Purple Line "works best" (for those who will benefit most from it) when it is framed in terms of the transportation/ congestion debate.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 8:44 PM | Report abuse

I have heard that light rail requires a transformer the size of a large (18 wheeled) truck for every mile of track in order to run the train. What will these really look like and where will be be?

The kids sure look forward to participating in Friends of Sligo Creek activities. We will miss an acre or more of green space taken from Sligo Creek should any route demand it. This green space has been an ongoing teaching story for us as we track animals, bird watch and nurture plants/trees among other enjoyable activities. I guess we can ride the new Purple Line to other green spaces??

Posted by: AM | December 3, 2007 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock was spotted at the public meeting tonight. So he better be posting tomorrow.

Posted by: Lindemann | December 3, 2007 9:12 PM | Report abuse

"If by "what we've been doing" you mean authorizing suburban development without regard to transportation demand, then yes, what we've been doing is what results in you sitting in traffic. More money on highways will only result in more people living further from their jobs, and that's the real reason for congestion."

What I mean by "what we've been doing" is the absolute madness of spending billions to construct the nation's second-largest rail transit system while simultaneously cancelling more than twicwe as much lane-miles of planned highway than were built. The result is the nation's second-worst traffic congestion. No amount of road-hating, suburb-bashing, and train-loving can change that fact.

"And ok, if you think spending on transit is an inefficient way to reduce congestion, then please explain why more more spending on highways (i.e. more than the $30 billion plus we already spend) is a more efficient way. "

If you call a 35-year pattern of cancelling highways "more and more spending on highways", we have a serious dis-connect. What we've done - and what you advocate - is spent "more and more" on RAIL with an UNSATISFACTORY result - the nation's second-worst traffic. It doesn't take a PhD in urban planning to see that rail-only DOES NOT WORK!

"If lowering congestion is really your goal, then the most efficient and effective means would be to jack up the gas tax and introduce HOT lanes everywhere."

The old "make driving more expensive" canard. Let me guess - you want the gas tax revenue spent...on RAIL!

""The greeneies only care about losing trees when that loss is caused by roadbuilding or suburban development."

Well that's obviously an exageration,"

Hardly. That's the excuse they always use for opposing ALL new roads.

" but so what if they make a decision that cutting down trees for transit is acceptable, but cutting down trees for McMansions and the ICC isn't? It's called setting priorities;"

Actually, it's called duplicity, hypocrisicy, and setting doiuble-standards. And you wonder why people don't respect environmentalists?

" and bending over backwards to accomodate somebody's decision to live in a McMansion 50 miles away from their job is not a priority worth making".

In other words, everything would be right with the world if people would onlt live as YOU think they should. Well, this is America. Here, we have freedom of choice. People can live and work where they want to. If that upsets you so much, try moving to China or to one of the socialist European countries you greenies think is so much more advanced than the US. You, your bike, and your farecard will be quite happy with the density.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 3, 2007 9:30 PM | Report abuse

"The Purple Line is an infrastructure asset intended to aid and supplement economic growth -- it has nothing to do with "congestion" or, directly, even with transportation."

I don't think that that is all that the Purple Line will offer; but regardless, even if all the Purple Line achieved was more development along the transit-way, why can't you see how that would improve congestion? Do you honestly think successful transit oriented development patterns like the Wilson Blvd. corridor don't take cars off the road that would otherwise be there?

Congestion is not the result of too few lanes; it is the result of too many homes built too far away from where those people work. As long as people insist on living in the middle of suburban sprawl and driving in a single occupancy car to work and every other place, there will never been enough lanes to satisfy them.

And frankly, I believe AM is a "Friend of Silgo Park" about as much as I believe he or she is equally torn up over the hundreds of acres destroyed for the ICC.

Also, BusRider comments sound suspiciously drawn from anti-Purple Line screeds (particularly the "The Purple Line is not an extension of the Metro, it is a separate mode of transportation independent of the Metro system."). I wouldn't be surprised if BusRider's hasn't actually ridden a bus since grade school.

Posted by: Trains Not Buses | December 3, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

"The kids sure look forward to participating in Friends of Sligo Creek activities. We will miss an acre or more of green space taken from Sligo Creek should any route demand it. This green space has been an ongoing teaching story for us as we track animals, bird watch and nurture plants/trees among other enjoyable activities. I guess we can ride the new Purple Line to other green spaces??"

---Posted by: AM | December 3, 2007 08:45 PM

AM, you should take that up with "Build-It". According to "Build It", killing trees and destroying green space to build transit is perfectly OK:

"Build It"'s own words: " but so what if they make a decision that cutting down trees for transit is acceptable, "

This is why I - and many others - have no respect for environmentalists.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 3, 2007 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this thread has been busy. Here are a few last thoughts before I turn in.

In some ways the Purple Line is an economic development tool. It is meant to improve the areas around the future stations, and that means higher property values, and profit for some people. Of course this happens with lots of government projects, including highways, sports stadiums, etc. But it will also benefit regular people who don't own land by giving them better, faster access to many different destinations. And the intent is to relieve congestion on East-West highway and other roads in the area.

Relieving traffic congestion is a very hard thing to do anywhere. What is likely to happen is that there will be fewer cars near the line initially, but when people realize that a road is much less busy than it used to be, it will quickly fill up again with people switching from other driving routes. This is why the ICC will be quite busy, but will not reduce Beltway congestion at all. It's called Induced Demand, if you're interested in reading more about it.

Greg in Silver Spring, almost all of your 'Facts' in that epic post of yours are wrong. One post responding to all of them would be too long, so I will do each individually, although it might be tomorrow morning.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 3, 2007 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Ceefer66, you do not disappoint. I just KNEW there would be a "Why don't you move to..." comment coming. You say "this is America. Here, we have freedom of choice. People can live and work where they want to". Really? Well then, I'll pick the White House for both. The reality is, there are some places that no one can work and live, there are some that only a few can, and one of the most important factors in deciding the locations is usually (but not always) price.

For many years, public policies have made it easier and cheaper to live far from your place of employment. That's fine, for many years that was thought to be the best plan, and in alot of places it still is. No one is proposing a housing board that orders people to live a certain place. But in most cities, including the DC metro area, a large number of people and elected officials have decided that it is better to improve the existing city and inner burbs, and not to keep pouring money into more and farther out suburbs.

You seem to be very bitter about the fact that Metro was built, and all the Interstate plans were canceled. I wish the DC Transit trolleys had never stopped running, but hey -you can't change the past, man! I don't think that DC would be a very nice place with interstates through all the parks, cutting down every corridor, with a big highway instead of the C&O canal park.

We have the 2nd worst traffic in the nation. Pro highway people seem to think that if we had built all the proposed roads, that it would be so much better. Well, Los Angeles built their roads. There is a web of Interstates crisscrossing their whole metropolitan area.

And guess which city is number 1.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 3, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

"We have the 2nd worst traffic in the nation. Pro highway people seem to think that if we had built all the proposed roads, that it would be so much better. Well, Los Angeles built their roads. There is a web of Interstates crisscrossing their whole metropolitan area.

And guess which city is number 1. "
---Kinverson

Comments like this are what make me doubt the intelligence of the anti-road pro-transit types.

What do LA and DC have in common? I'll tell you - a SINGLE-FACETED transportation infrastructure.

Until recently, LA built only highways; DC on the other hand, put all its efforts into rail; some idiots STILL think that's the way to go.

Consider the FACT that the following cities ALL have a BALANCED tranportation infrastructire - BOTH a well-developed highway infrastructure as well as extensive transit: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago.

What do they have in common? ALL are less congested than "one-trick pony DC.

This ain't rocket science, playboy. It's called common sense.

BTW, I have no bitterness about Metro being built - I use it myself when it makes sense.

My bittemness is towards the jackass fallacy that rail transit makes roads unnecessary and towards the jackasses that believed it then and even more so towards those who ignore the failure of "rail makes roads unnecessary" and insist on forcing more of that nonsesne down our collective throats.

When is enough finally enough for you people?

Posted by: cefer66 | December 3, 2007 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Ceefer, now that we're the only ones still talking, I guess you're saying that we should have built Metro AND built lots more Interstate highways. But there was never enough money for that. The money for Metro came from previously authorized highway money transferred from the canceled plans for I-95 and I-66 through the city, and I-266 and I-695, and other unbuilt roads. If those roads had been built, there would be no Metrorail, and the city would be a very different place, I think the change would be for the worst.

The four cities that you mention all had built their rail systems before WWII. And they were all built by private, for profit companies, no public money involved. During and after the war, the government prevented the private transit companies from raising fares while pouring money into road construction. From the perspective of the amount of funding that each mode recieved, roads were way ahead of rail by the time the private companies were taken over by the city transit authorities.

And in many places, there was no expansion of rail, but instead the closure and dismantling of rail lines that had already been built, sometimes using the right of way for new highways. If a few things had gone differently, there would be a big interstate running from the beltway to the Whitehurst where the Crescent trail is now, and the purple line question would be moot.

Of those four cities, it's really hard to compare NYC to any other b/c it's so much bigger. Boston actually doesn't have any more highways than DC, in some ways DC has more. Boston also canceled 95 through the center city. They do have 495, which is kind of their outer beltway, but there are fewer freeways to the center city.

Philadelphia has a few more highways, but Philly has major problems with its transit system, huge areas of the city are abandoned, and by most measures it is worse off than DC. Then there is Chicago. They built most of their proposed highways, and are still building more. They also have the best commuter rail in the country, a system MARC & VRE can never come close to. And they are number 7.

Congestion is going to happen as long as there are alot of jobs concentrated in one place. Some smaller cities can avoid that and sprawl everywhere, but in large cities, there are always large activity centers. In DC this is mostly caused by the Federal government. I, and many others, just believe that these centers are better served by rail than by highway. I don't think that roads are unnecessary, I just don't think that constructing more limited access highways will make things better.

In fact, instead of the ICC, I think a better use of two billion, if it must be for highways, would be a new Potomac bridge at Dumfries, connecting to an upgraded 301, forming a real DC bypass. This, unlike the ICC, might actually take a significant amount of traffic off the Beltway, and parts of 95. But it would quickly be replaced by more traffic - see Induced Demand. I just think rail is a better long term choice, if we can only afford one or the other. The fight for funding goes on and on.

I know I've gone on too long. I hope we haven't bored everyone, maybe someone got something positive from this.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 6:16 AM | Report abuse

""Build It"'s own words: " but so what if they make a decision that cutting down trees for transit is acceptable, "

This is why I - and many others - have no respect for environmentalists."

And for completely misquoting me (my point, as was made obvious in the part of the sentence you cut, was that what is wrong with setting priorities? You're doing it by supporting the ICC instead of the Purple Line) I have no respect for you.

And you are insane if you think that all efforts in DC over the past 60 years have been directed to transit. Sure we built Metro, but we also built the beltway, I-66, the Dulles turnpike, the BWI Parkway, etc. We also dismantled the streetcar system and the Washington and Old Dominion railroad. The tables have been slanted against transit since the moment WWII ended.

And even in recent years you'd be hard pressed to show a focus solely on transit. how much was spent on the Springfield mixing bowl? How much will be spent on the ICC?

Even if you could show a temporary imbalance towards transit, it wouldn't even come close to making up for 60 years of de jure prejudice it suffered at the hands of pro-highway types like you.

Posted by: BuildIt | December 4, 2007 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Okay, there's a new thread about the Purple Line meeting, with the new ridership numbers. I assume that most people will be looking at and commenting on that thread, and I promise I won't post more than a paragraph at a time on that one. But I did say that I would respond to Greg in Silver Springs Myths and Facts, so I will do that here since this is already really long and out of control. I'll do each one separately.

Myth: Purple Line is a subway system and part of Metro.

Fact: Yes, alot of people have assumed this. It will not be a part of Metro, and will be operated by the Maryland MTA. However, with Smartcard, it will not be a problem to transfer between systems. The price will be about the same, actually it might be cheaper for most people than if it was run by Metro, b/c it's likely to be a fixed fare instead of being based on distance.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Okay, there's a new thread about the Purple Line meeting, with the new ridership numbers. I assume that most people will be looking at and commenting on that thread, and I promise I won't post more than a paragraph at a time on that one. But I did say that I would respond to Greg in Silver Springs Myths and Facts, so I will do that here since this is already really long and out of control. I'll do each one separately.

Myth: Purple Line is a subway system and part of Metro.

Fact: Yes, alot of people have assumed this. It will not be a part of Metro, and will be operated by the Maryland MTA. However, with Smartcard, it will not be a problem to transfer between systems. The price will be about the same, actually it might be cheaper for most people than if it was run by Metro, b/c it's likely to be a fixed fare instead of being based on distance.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Myth: The Purple Line will get people off the road.

Fact: Of course it will. The problem is that the space that is opened up quickly fills up with traffic again once people realize that a road is less busy & faster. Once again, this is Induced Demand. New roadways and lanes quickly fill up, while when a lane is removed, travel is reduced.

Yes, some peoples bus routes will change. This happens all the time even without rail lines being built. But hey, this is one of the benefits of buses! Unlike rail, it's so easy to change the route! In reality, that's one of buses drawbacks, no permanence. Most people never know where a bus will stop, or when. Rail just instills more confidence, Metro's problems notwithstanding.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Myth: Over 50,000 people will use the BCT daily.

Fact: At the meeting last night, the MTA gave an estimate of 47,000 for light rail. This is probably on the low side, it is more likely to be 70,000 or so after a year or two. But let's say 47,000. It won't just be the current bus riders that use it. It will allow transfers between Metro lines, that is surely several thousand riders per day that won't even get off at intermediate stops. I will allow many new commuting patterns just from existing Metro riders, and I believe the biggest problem will be overcrowding.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Myth: "Traveling at up to 55 miles per hour, the Inner Purple Line will enable commuters to bypass the most congested section of the Beltway."

Fact: The Purple Lines average speed will be about 22 mph including stops. No, that's not that fast. But the Beltway quite often comes to a complete stop, or is stop and go. The idea is not that it will always be faster than the Beltway, but that it is an alternative to the Beltway for tens of thousands of people. It will allow many drivers to bypass the Beltway.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Myth: The BCT will spur economic development.

Fact: Yes it will. Whether or not you think this is a good or bad thing, the government spends money that stimulates economic development all the time. I think I get your point, though, and I kinda agree. This issue is about much more than the Purple Line, at any rate.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Myth: More stations and stops will increase ridership.

Fact: On the current alignment, yes it will. Station placement is always a big issue for transit systems. As a general rule of thumb, stations are closer together nearer to the city core, and farther apart as distance from the center increases. This route is fairly dense near Silver Spring, less so near New Carrollton, and the station placement reflects this. Comparisons to the Riverline in NJ have no relevance.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Myth: The Purple Line will be cost effective.

Fact: Railcars last for 50 years, buses, maybe 10. One rail operator can carry the same number of passengers as six bus drivers. You say "the salary and benefits of one train operator compared to six bus drivers is meaningless when you figure in the construction and operating costs" - salary and benefits ARE operating costs!

The construction figures given by the MTA last night are 1.79 billion for light rail, and 1.34 billion for 'Bus Rapid Transit'. Of course, there's also 103 million for 'little bit better bus'. Operating costs are lower for light rail, the costs go way up for bus, and the capacity is much less.

Just look at the Orange Line bus in LA, it carries 23,000 people per day and is PACKED, it can't take any more without buying huge new buses that are as expensive as light rail cars, but can't hold as many people.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Myth: The Purple Line will have no impact on bus service.

Fact: Yes, bus routes will change. Remember, this is a good thing! Those flexible buses, always ready to change!

Some lines will be changed or cut, and the buses that used to carry people now riding light rail can be used on new routes, or more service on the busiest existing routes. Sarcasm aside, this is a good thing.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Myth: The Purple Line will not impede traffic nor cause congestion.

Fact: The construction will certainly cause alot of congestion. Once the line is in service, traffic patterns will adjust, some trips will be on different routes, some trips will just disappear. Once again, see Induced Demand.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Myth: "The cost of the Purple Line is projected to be between $375 million and $1.6 billion depending on the alternative and mode selected.

Fact: Well, now it's up to 1.79 billion. And that will probably go up. Most of this is because of the skyrocketing price of concrete and steel. But there are also intrinsic costs of light rail that are just higher than buses. You can just stick a sign with number by the side of the road and call it a bus stop. Light rail has fancy stations and other amenities that make it more attractive than riding the bus. Overall rail is a better investment.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Myth: The Purple Line will be funded by the Federal Transit Administration

Fact: Well, some of it will. For many years the FTA funded 90% of new highway construction and 80% of new transit construction. That was back when hardly any cities were building new rail projects. Now that dozens of cities all across the country are competing for transit funding, the FTA funds no more than 50% of new rail projects.

Bus Rapid Transit, on the other hand, receives the full 80% that rail used to get. That is one reason that the Ehrlich administration stopped rail only planning and started considering bus service, and why the name was changed to the Bi-County Transitway. The other reason, of course, was to make sure that the ICC got its money and started construction before the Purple Line.

There might not be any money left for new transit or road projects in Maryland after the ICC is built, but any project that goes forward will have at least 50% of the costs paid for by the federal government.

Well, I'm sure no one is reading this anymore, but if anyone is, I hope you learned something. Now I'm done.

Posted by: Kinverson | December 4, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Kinverson, thank you for your informing comments. And I liked you information regarding the history of transit vs. roads in other cities.

I also want to point out that those cities have transit systems that are much older and more developed than D.C., so it just isn't a good comparison. Theirs were created with the city in mind, not just moving people from the suburbs into the city and back out. Now commutes are much more suburb to suburb but the transit construction hasn't kept up with this. It's projects such as the purple line that are necessary to put us on par with cities such as New York and Boston.

Posted by: Laura | December 4, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Anonymous | December 5, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I need a hobby

Posted by: Kinverson | December 7, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

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