I like the idea of connecting all the Metro Lines in Maryland. I think it's a brilliant idea that will serve smart growth well, greatly reduce automobile reliance, and I think it will economically benefit the city as well as the suburbs.
But are we doing it right?
I haven't heard anyone from Langley Park or Riverdale complain like the whiny NIMBYs of Chevy Chase and Bethesda, who, in my opinion, are doing the entire region a disservice by allowing a Country Club to exist in an area that could be more served with some sort of denser development that serves the larger community and not just a few wealthy people that are accepted by this private club. Move that nonsense out into the country. Or better yet, get rid of Columbia Country Club. We have plenty of golf courses in Montgomery County. At the very least, the club needs to relinquish the 84' of 100' right-of-way that it currently fences off from the general public.
Those whining about the Capital Crescent Trail being harmed are in my opinion selfish. This project will undoubtedly change the character of portions the CCT, but it will extend the path into Silver Spring, connecting it to other hiker biker trails in Montgomery County. Furthermore, this rail right-of-way was purchased to serve the needs of the county, not to serve as a park for the residents of affluent Chevy Chase. I fail to see how the decreased aesthetics of the trail outweigh the increased functionality of the trail.
Then there's the occasional "I won't want a train that close to my house" by people who perhaps aren't familiar with light rail, in which case I can understand their concerns but don't believe their argument has the clout to block the initiative. In my experience, light rail is quieter, cleaner, and safer than buses running up and down the street. The only thing they lose is street parking, which ought not be a birth right in denser areas anyway.
This proposal has a lot of support, and it's generally more organized and informed than the opposition. So I'm not in anyway a NIMBY here. I think this transit link needs to happen. But I want the good people out there who read Imagine, DC to convince me that the current plan is a good idea. I'm leaning that way, but I want more information.
How is this line going to be integrated with the Metro Rail? Sure, it's going to drop people off at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton... but what's the deal? Is it going to be like a bus route? Or is it going to be fully integrated into Metro with seamless transfers? I've heard that it will be integrated with SmarTrip. That's good, but it's not good enough if it is not treated as part of the existing heavy rail system. It seems to me that would just be a glorified bus route, especially if it winds up as a BRT. Convince me otherwise. Otherwise, change the name, because "Purple Line" implies a seamless integration with Metro that won't exist.
I am not a statistician. But even the most optimistic ridership numbers seem painfully low to me. Gas isn't getting any cheaper. I would use that line 3-4 times a week if it existed, and I don't even commute along that route. 67,000? No way. I think ridership will be much, much higher than that if the line gets built, and that's before the ensuing transit oriented development pops up around Langley Park and wherever else. Is a light rail going to be able to handle those numbers? 5 years after it opens, will it be able to handle double those numbers? Triple?
Considering the large percentage of the route that will be sharing traffic lanes, how do we know it's not going to get stuck in gridlock along Wayne Avenue, University Boulevard, Kenilworth Avenue, or Riverdale Road? Will it have dedicated lanes on those corridors? Will those roads be losing traffic lanes or will additional right-of-way be constructed?
What incentives does the region have to continue this line? I know there have been talks about pushing it further in PG County to Largo. What about Branch Avenue? Will it serve FedEx Field?Andrews Air Force Base? National Harbor? I think a Purple Line ought to be a full loop running all around the city. Eventually, it ought to run through Tyson's Corner, Annandale, Bailey's Crossroads, and Alexandria. Is this feasible with this project?
Trolleys are a great idea. I think they ought to blanket this region by the time I retire, or sooner. But the Purple Line ought to be more than just a simple trolley. Montgomery and Prince George's counties' combined population is pushing two million, mostly concentrated around the regions where this vital transitway will be constructed. Whatever gets build should have been built 10 years ago, and this region has failed us terribly by not providing this transit link.
Again, I WANT fixed rail along this corridor, whatever it takes. I think the only reason I'm not a full fledged Purple Line supporter is because I don't know where to find the answers to these questions. Help me and any passers-by who want more information understand why this proposal should be supported.
I'm asking every pro-transit reader to convince me to come down off the fence onto the side of pro-Purple Line. Don't tell me this is the best idea for the money that has been alotted for this project; tell me this is the best idea for the people of the DC region who want to get around the dense built up (and up-and-coming) towns hugging our Nation's Capital. If there's not enough money for what we ought to have, let's find more. We need the Purple Line, and we need it done right.