UMD VP Porcari Tapped To Be State Transportation Secretary

We’re pleased to announce that UMD Vice President of Administrative Affairs John Porcari will be nominated tomorrow by Martin O’Malley to head Maryland’s Department of Transportation. Porcari, who first held the post in the final term of Democratic Governor Parris Glendenning’s administration, has overseen over the past 4 years, UMD’s departments of Facilities Management and Procurement (among many others). With the Route 1 reconstruction, Purple Line, and even a possible metro Green Line extension to BWI airport on the horizon, it’s sure good to see College Park with friends in high places (even amid looming state budget deficits).

Martin O’Malley’s commitment to Smart Growth (UMD Connector Road implications) is not yet apparent, but he did support the Intercounty Connector throughout his campaign.

Here is O’Malley’s plan for transportation.

A Free Pass: The Best of the Northwest

SpaceNeedle.jpgTo limit congestion and to speed up circulation in their respective downtown districts, both Seattle and Portland have established Ride Free zones (Portland calls it the ‘Fareless Square’). Any ride completely within these zones is free during the day.

In fact, if one boards a bus in the downtown Seattle, the fare box directs riders to pay as they leave and only if they disembark outside the free zone.

This might be a wise idea to import for the College Park section of the Purple Line. By allowing anyone to ride free anywhere between the west side of campus and the College Park Metro station (inclusive), it’s possible to reduce the burden on Shuttle UM and speed-up the ride commuters must endure between campus and the Metro (the current bus ride from the Union to the Green Line can take as long as 20 minutes in rush hour!). Each train can carry many more passengers than a single bus.

Though it’s doubtful that perenially cash-strapped WMATA, the organization that runs Metro, would be amenable to giving free rides, the university could help pay for the service with money it saves from Shuttle UM.

A Greener Purple Line

Streetcar in Bilbao, Spain; from flickr

Some of the debate surrounding the Purple Line involves the amount of greenery it will remove along the existing Georgetown Branch Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. When most people think of rail, they think of wooden ties and rails atop unsightly rivers of oil-stained gravel. It needn’t be that way.

Be it beside the biker trail in Chevy Chase, in the median of University Boulevard, or cutting across a field on campus, we suggest setting the rails into a concrete base, then covering the base with grass where possible. Not only will this eliminate unnecessary pavement, but will allow the soil to absorb rainwater.

Of course this will be impossible where the light rail is expected to share the street with cars (in downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park for instance), but several miles of the Purple Line are planned as exclusive light rail corridors. A greener Purple Line is not only environmentally superior, but aesthetically superior, too.

Although we at Rethink College Park like to think of ourselves as innovative, the oldest continuously operated streetcar in the world glides gracefully along the grassy median of St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Likewise, the four-year-old EuskoTran (above) quietly and swiftly transports Spaniards in Bilbao.

Purple Line Route Stymies Politicians

What’s one thing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Benjamin Cardin and his Republican opponent Michael S. Steele have in common? Although they have said they support it, neither seem to know where the Purple Line would go. During their televised debate this week Steele caught Cardin off guard with a question about the location of the Purple Line. According to the Post’s account, “After starting to hazard a guess, sputtering out ‘Chevy Chase,’ Cardin snapped, ‘I’m not going to answer your question,’ and pushed back at Steele, asking him about national health insurance.” Yikes. The next day Steele did little better to prove he understood the project, directing reporters to meet him at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Station. The only problem? The terminus now planned is four miles away — in downtown Bethesda. The exchange is on YouTube, thanks to the Cardin campaign: [via JUTP via MoCoPolitics]

Detailed descriptions of the currently planned route is available on the official state website on the Corridor Route and Community Focus Group sections. (The route runs from New Carrollton to Bethesda via College Park, Langley Park, and Silver Spring.) Of course, we have our own Google Map of the route through College Park along with additional background information on our Purple Line Library Page. We think both candidates need to read up, and be reminded that saying they support the project is far from the kind of aggressive support it needs.

Where Will the Purple Line Go?

No doubt you’ve heard about the Bi-County Transitway, or so-called Purple Line. Currently state officials are considering either “bus rapid transit” or “light rail” (modern streetcars) for the route. Based on the information available on the project website, our technology director Eric Fidler created this map showing the currently proposed route and stations in College Park:

Much more information on the project including this map is availabe on our “Purple Line” library page. Would you like to see the line built? Your elected officials need to hear from you.

Purple Line Gains Momentum

The purple line appears to be gaining political support according to the Washington Post and Washington Times. The project, that would likely provide a direct link from the College Park Metro to campus and on to Silver Spring and Bethesda, had dropped off the map in recent years. Now, more than 120 elected officials and candidates have signed onto the transitway; building a bipartisan consensus and making it a critical election year issue in PG and Mongomery county. Both Maryland Gubernatorial candidates support the project as polls show approval for the project topping 78% in Mongomery County.

“A massive number of us are seeing purple,” said Delegate William Bronrott, Montgomery Democrat. “After two decades of controversy, a strong consensus is finally forming that the time has come to build the Inner Purple Line.”