Big Moves at the Purple Line Meeting Last Night

Based on the proceedings at the Purple Line meeting last night, we demand that the University retract its request for the reconsideration of the Stadium Drive alignment (which they themselves allowed to be dropped long ago). This request is a waste of public funds and demonstrates their continuing disregard for the MTA’s planning process. The University must work more cooperatively with MTA and their ongoing refusal to allow the East Campus developer to meet with MTA planners is completely incomprehensible. Their approach to the Purple Line goes against everything the community should expect of a upstanding public institution. Our faith in them is badly shaken by this debacle and to continue this make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach will only further degrade the University’s reputation.

Purple Line 5

We’ve been to few public meetings as productive as MD Transit Administration’s (MTA) Purple Line Focus group meeting last night. For the first time, the vast majority of the stakeholders for the College Park portion of the project were in one place at one time to hear one message from the MTA. That message was that the MTA strongly prefers routing the Purple Line along Campus Drive with a stop in front of the Student Union over UMD’s newly proposed alternative on North Campus along Stadium Drive. Unlike the several top-level university officials present (all with the same ridiculously simplistic talking points in hand) the MTA project team had a coherent and strong argument to route the transit project in the most accessible location. Their arguments very closely matched those we made yesterday in the Diamondback.

—> VIEW THE MTA’S SLIDES (PDFs)—#1 and #2

Purple Line 3The single biggest concern for University officials seems to be whether the transitway would act as a barrier to pedestrian movement across Campus Drive. This argument fell short at the meeting when it was explained that peak pedestrian activity occurs every 15 minutes during regular school days (with the change of classes) and that since two trains (one in each direction) will come every 12 minutes during peak hours, many times trains won’t even be crossing campus during peak pedestrian times. To further debunk pedestrian concerns, the MTA pointed out that the current situation, with unrestricted automobile access, is far more dangerous for pedestrians. With the closure of the road to automobiles (planned anyway in the Campus Master Plan) and the replacement of several bus lines by the Purple Line, how is it that a light rail traveling at 10-12 mph across campus more dangerous than the status quo?

The second major line of argument from the university is that Stadium Drive is relatively close and that transit riders will not be greatly inconvenienced by the extra walk. This argument certainly overlooks the fact that Stadium Drive is largely disconnected from central campus by sports practice fields that already make walking to classes from underclassmen dorms on North Campus an unbelievable chore. If the University is so sure Stadium Drive is convenient perhaps they should start moving every single Shuttle UM route off Campus Drive to that roadway. Their suggestion to shift the Purple Line north to Stadium Drive is equally preposterous! To be effective, transit must go where people are and where they need to be, not relegated to the side.

East Campus RoutesAn interesting discussion was sparked by RTCP Co-editor Rob Goodspeed during the Q&A. When he asked about the supposed need for a 130 ft Right-of-way (50 ft for the Purple Line supposedly) within the East Campus project, the MTA responded “We don’t know where that came from.” A discussion ensued between Richard Perlmutter from the East Campus Development team and MTA. It turns out the 130 ft Right-of-way was completely bogus (as well as the developer’s claim that that alignment would impinge on the engineering fields). Therefore there is now not one legitimate reason to route the project around rather than through the East Campus Development. Rob was vindicated,

19 thoughts on “Big Moves at the Purple Line Meeting Last Night”

  1. I think the MTA presented its case very thoroughly. I feel the Campus Drive route would be the best route. It would centralize the whole campus and give it a “downtown” feel. From just looking at the plans, it is also the path of least resistance which is cheaper.

  2. I think there is something going on here that we haven’t heard about. I find it very hard to believe that concerns for pedestrian safety is driving this issue. I agree with Kevin that Mote has a difficult job and the hiring of Duncan is a HUGE benefit, but I have to say I smell a rat. There was a large contingent of “stadium drive” supporters from Athletics at the meeting. What that means I’m not sure but I am sure that everything isn’t on the table.

    -Clay

  3. Ok I have a simple question:

    Would someone please explain to me the difference between the Purple Line running (and stopping) BEHIND the Union versus IN FRONT of the Union?

    It seems silly to me that people find the Stadium Drive alignment to be so terrible. The Stadium Drive alignment has the added benefit of being closer to Byrd and Comcast (two venues that draw large numbers of visitors to the area whereby creating massive trafic headaches that impact the region not just the city.)

    Im open minded so please enlighten me. The more I think about it, the more I like the Stadium Drive alignment because it seems like a really nice alternative / win-win. I am one of many that has concerns over the visual impact of the purple line on our main entry to campus.

    I applaud President Mote and the Administration for coming up with a viable compromise. Also, theink about visitors to campus (all year round, not just game day) – if they stay at the new East Campus Hotel, the Paint Branch to Stadium Drive alignment makes it much easier for those traveling with bags to get from BWI to New Carrollton to the Hotel in East Campus then up to Byrd (if they are visiting for the game)

    Not trying to be a jerk or anything but this type of process requires open minded out of the box thinking, flexibility, and a willingness to consider every option. Once all the options are out there then we debate the pro’s and cons of each. Thats why this is such a great site. It opens up the public dialogue and gives everyone the opportunity to learn and contribute. My fear is that if RTCP develops too much of an agenda (and makes demands for one point of view) we may lose credibility and readership (ie Univ Administrators who I hope are reading this).

    I think it is completely legit for the Univ to want to preserve the Campus Drive ROW up the hill as a pedestrian first environment. However, if shuttle UM is continue to utilize the space between the Union and The Health Center then I see no reason why the Purple line is a problem. It is afterall, essentially some Shuttle UMs attached to some wires and track isnt it?

  4. Kevin, I’d recommend you read our recent Diamondback article. In addition, consider that Stadium Dr only has a few pedestrian access points to central campus, adds half a mile of track, and will hurt ridership. The engineers aren’t even sure if stadium drive is technically feasible and they are concerned about large crowds dumping out of football games and snarling the track which would basically go under the Byrd highrise (look at this phenomena at Camden yards). Mote is advocating against the campus drive alignment under the guise that it will ruin the “M” circle but it will not as MTA showed last night. Also, the stadium drive alignment would obliterate the Founders gate.

    The key point about pedestrians is that nothing could be worse than what exists today. We close Campus Dr to cars, replace several bus lines with the purple line, and the resulting situation is far more pedestrian friendly because there are far less moving vehicle vs. pedestrian interaction.

    They HAVE considered every option and the experts are saying Campus Dr. The university agreed to drop Stadium Dr. years ago and now they want to revive it even though the people who have spent years working on this thing already know it is inferior.

  5. I don’t have a dog in this fight. On a day-to-day basis, as a UM student, staff or faculty member, I definitely would find the central alignment option preferable; it’s a long walk from stadium drive to central campus. Then again, on game days, I hate all that car traffic, and I wonder if MTA has predicted how much of that will go away under each of the 2 alternatives. (Have they?)

    I agree with Kevin’s point that this post was a little heavy handed. I strongly suspect that for people who have been looking at this issue in detail for a while, President Mote’s latest actions are more than a little frustrating, if not maddening. But not all of us are as informed about this issue as the RTCP editors, so please give us a chance to catch up. Bees, honey, etc.

    Getting back to Kevin’s point, are there ways to integrate a solution to gameday traffic with the central alignment option? Experts? Has this question been studied? What do you think?

  6. I repeat my questions re: gameday traffic. Do we have any idea whether and to what extent a central alignment would help the situation? Please note that, even if such an alignment wouldn’t help gameday traffic at all (a possibility I consider remote), I would be inclined to support the central alignment it. That said, gameday traffic on Stadium Drive is one of the worst traffic problems we have in this area, and I think it’s a legitimate question for Kevin and others to ask what we know about how each of these 2 proposals for aligning the Purple Line would affect it.

  7. (Sorry for the multiple posts. I just keeping thinking of things to add.) David et al. To be more precise in my questions, what I particularly wondering about, in addition to whether MTA or anyone else has considered possible effects on gameday traffic of the 2 alignment options per se, is whether there may be any *additional* measures that could be taken for combatting gameday traffic even using a central route. Such options could include special shuttle service, new walking routes, dicounts on game tickets for people taking the Purplet Linet, etc. I’m wondering if anyone has studied such things.

  8. I’m confused by your question but let me take a stab at it. The stadium drive alignment would close stadium dr to cars permanently. On top of the fact that Campus Dr. is already planned to be closed (perhaps it could be reopened for traffic on game days) there would be lots of things to work out for gamedays including some of the great ideas paul metioned.

    I think the importance of special events is overstated since the thousands of cars that pour into campus every school day would be considered special event in any other location. Keep in mind that a purple line stop in front of the Student Union would be a 2-3 minute walk to a Byrd Stadium gate. I concede that Comcast won’t be very convenient with the Campus dr route and special gameday bus service will have to continue. Walking to comcast from East Campus via the pedestrian bridge at the View would not be all that far. I count 22 home games for mens basketball….

    My point about rerouting shuttle um is that that would be a way to test people’s sentiments on putting Purple Line away from the center of campus (and away from the shuttle um central bus transfer point).

  9. I just looked at a campus map. I thought Stadium Drive was the road directly behind the Union (but south of the baseball field and Byrd) ….with the new bioscience bldg, that is no longer much of a road.

    I did not realize Stadium Drive was NORTH of the baseball diamond and Byrd.

    Given that, I agree, that is too far from the campus core.

    However, I do think Campus Drive is an uphill battle (no pun intended) to say the least given that most University affiliates are intensely proud of and emotional about driving in through the main gate up to the M circle. After the all out visual assault of driving down rte 1, it is one of the few nice vistas for visitors. Thankfully President Mote “gets it” when it comes to the visual beauty and impression of our campus. We need to be careful to protect it.

    If folks are advocating going so far from the core with the Stadium drive option, then they should consider a Calvert Road alignment that goes into the Knox Box area, passes in front of the Catholic Student Center, snakes around the Smith School and up to Univ College. This would provide a nice catalyst for redevelopment of the Knox Box area into another mini downtown. It would require aquisition and demolition of the CP Quality Inn (which should happen anyway) ….would help our original “downtown” (Knox/Rte 1 intersection)….would make a nice transfer point at the metro station and provide a quick shot up to the Smith School and Univ College …..you may or may not realize it but that place draws a lot of visitors and has a full service Marriott Hotel.

  10. Those in attendance at the meeting who kept parroting the University talking points advocating for a Stadium Drive alignment seemed willing to completely ignore the very negative impacts of realignment on the residents of College Park and ridership on the Purple Line.

    The Stadium Drive alignment would apparently require the line to continue along Paint Branch Parkway rather than through the new East Campus development. That Northern alignment would negatively impact Old Town College Park by moving the transit stop from the planned location near Rossborough Lane and Route 1 to somewhere up on Paint Branch Parkway away from the neighborhood.

    One of the major selling points for East Campus was that is was supposed to be a transit-integrated development that would not have a large impact on automobile traffic, but this realignment would disintegrating the transit component from East Campus.

    Taken together the lack of convenience to College Park residents and the lack of integration with East Campus would negatively impact the Purple Line by reducing ridership.

  11. David: “my trees” would not remain in the ideal redevelopment of the Knox Box district anyway because I think the only way we can get anything down down in there would be to win over the environmentalists by using Guilford Run to create a water feature (canal or long rectangular pond with aerators to improve the water quality of this fragile Anacostia tributary) so the days are numbered for those trees

    In regards to John Payne’s post: I find it particularly interesting that the residents are now talking integration w/ East Campus. Didnt we just have a thread going about how the residents want to be shut off (road closures) from East Campus? I feel like it was just a week or two ago. It seems contradictory to me. I think fully integrated to create a thriving vibrant community is the way to go but I thought the Old Town residents were adamantly opposed.

  12. Thanks for posting the MTA handouts. The renderings of the three lane profile are far better than those of the earlier four lane concept which would be too wide for the center of campus.

    Most of the perceived problems with Campus Drive are true for Stadium Drive, except there are more of them because it is 1/2 mile longer. While $30 million (minimum) may not be a huge amount – it is enough to build some of the new buildings on the university’s wish list. Not chump change, by any definition.

    The real problem with Stadium Drive is that it prevents the university from doing what the master plan (and Dr. Mote) call for – make Campus Drive more pedestrian friendly. Cars would be discouraged (or prevented) from using Stadium Drive – so more would be forced onto Campus Drive. Limitations of that traffic would be impossible since there are so few alternative (Fieldhouse Drive is little more than an alley). The end result would be a degraded center of campus as well as a slower transit line because of its more circuitous route.

    One participant in the focus group meeting said most people exit the stadium from the south. This is not true. At least 10,000 people – probably more – pour out of the stadium onto Stadium Drive to the north. While the administration does not seem to believe Greg Benz, the planner who addressed this at the meeting and said that there is a need for space between major venues and transit stops, this has been documented across the country so FTA is more likely to listen to the planners than the UM administration on this one. The issue could be addressed if the road were moved but there are constraints on that – Ellicott Hall and others. There is also a parking garage for which access needs to be retained.

    It is also demonstrated that people will walk further from transit or parking to a sports event than to their offices. That is why transit ridership drops drammatically with every five minute wall from the stop. This will be a major issue with the proposed relocation of the east campus stop away from Rt 1. It will no longer serve the core of East Campus, downtown College Park or the engineering/science area of campus.

    All of these issues will come on when the side by side comparison is presented. Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail than some that have been articulating the administration’s position over the past month. The bottom line should become apparent when the university considers the number of riders that might actually use this to get to campus. If it will have a dramatic impact on the current miserable modal split, the attitude towards it may shift. Let’s hope so, because east campus without the purple line will result in total gridlock on area roads.

  13. In response to Kevin Fallon: The post on October 18 “East Campus Update” quoted individuals representing College Park as saying that they thought streets should be closed between Old Town and East Campus. As a resident of College Park, I responded to that (Oct 19) by saying those individuals were not speaking for all the residents. Many of us beleive the street grid should be maintained (and even restored) between East Campus and Old Town. I further stated that the city council should show leadership on the issue of traffic study to help find solutions to any potential cut-through commuter traffic–the issue that I believe is driving some to suggest the easy answer of street closure. It is particularly important that the elderly and handicapped be able to drive to the gocery store.

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