RTCP Contributor Featured On Washington Post’s All Opinions Are Local

Rethink College Park contributor Marcus Afzali’s piece, “Will U-Md.’s new president get on board the Purple Line?” is live on the Washington Post’s All Opinions Are Local blog went live late last week.

An excerpt:

“And the city’s future relies in part on the completion of the Purple Line — and, in particular, whether Loh will support running the light-rail transit line down Campus Drive, the state’s preferred alignment. The city of College Park, Prince George’s County, the University of Maryland Student Government Association and local transportation advocates have all strongly promoted the Campus Drive route for years. The university administration alone has stood against it.”

Be sure to click through here to read the read of the post and leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Afzali also represents District 4 on the College Park City Council.

Ehrlich Transportation Plan Unsuitable for College Park

light rail
Light rail transit in Portland, OR (image via the Rethink College Park Flickr Page).

Before casting your vote today, please consider what you would like your commute and that of future College Park residents to look like. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob L. Ehrlich surely has: His transportation platform, as outlined below, does not help actualize the vision of the modern college town that we all would like College Park to be.

More buses? The key to Ehrlich’s transportation platform is halting construction of the Purple Line light rail extension to the Metro system. The Purple Line would transverse Washington suburbs, connecting the Orange Line at New Carrollton to the Red Line at Bethesda. The route would have five stops in College Park—just outside the city limits at UMUC, in front of Stamp Student Union, East Campus, the existing Green Line metro stop, and on River Road at M-Square—quickly carrying local faculty and staff to campus, students to internships in D.C., and all residents to the businesses it would attract along the Route 1 corridor. Instead of investing in this speedy, commercially-viable transit system, Ehrlich would like to create a “rapid bus service” along the route, adding to the deluge of buses and shuttles that already hurdle up and down Campus Drive and get caught in mid-afternoon traffic across the region. Even The Diamondback, which endorsed Ehrlich yesterday morning, noted that when it comes to the Purple Line, Ehrlich’s plan is “less popular, less efficient, and less environmentally friendly.”

Roads over rail? Last week, Ehrlich promised to completely halt construction of the Purple Line if he gains office, claiming, “the dollars aren’t there”. While he cannot find money for light rail, there seems to be ample dollars available for roads. Ehrlich intends to divert the $80 million that O’Malley has dedicated to light-rail engineering to local road projects. Ehrlich has long given preference to roads over transit, beginning construction of the $2.6 billion Intercounty Connector during his term, while spurning the $1.6 billion light rail project. As Ehrlich’s representative on the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board Robert J. Smith told The Washington Post, Ehrlich’s complaints of funding woes for the Purple Line are an attempt to “delay the project” and direct “all money available” to the Intercounty Connector, a nearly completed freeway marked by its environmental infirmity. In College Park, where nearly 50% of students come to campus by some other means than alone in a car, Ehrlich’s antiquated, autocentric scheme is unsuitable for the needs of the campus community.

Simply, when it comes to transportation, Bob Ehrlich does not have the needs of College Park in mind. While the Purple Line surely faces other obstacles in the reluctant University of Maryland administration, the Prince George’s and Montgomery County Councils have already agreed to the project, proving that the need and the desire for modern transit is here. All we need now is a visionary governor who will bring our ideal of a livable, vibrant college town to fruition.

For a similar viewpoint, read architecture professor emeritus and Purple Line NOW president Ralph Bennet’s guest column, “Fear the purple,” in The Diamondback.

UMD fights phantom fences

The University of Maryland and the Maryland Transit Administration remain at odds over the Purple Line. One argument that UMD loves to trot out is that the light rail line will turn campus into a maze of tall fences.

While MTA fiercely denies that they are planning to install fences, the University of Maryland claims evidence to the contrary. Administrators cite the University of Minnesota, where a light rail line connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul is under construction. Staffers at UMD claim that the light rail line there caused 42 inch high fences to be erected to keep students off the tracks.

There are several problems with this logic, but the most important is that the fences pre-date the light rail line, and are being removed as a part of the light rail project.
Map of the U-Minn area
Continue reading UMD fights phantom fences

UMD Needs to Stop Playing Games

“I’m not going to kill the campus to get the Purple Line.” ~ Dr. CD Mote, UMD President

Hornbake more peds

That latest push from the  UMD Administration for a tunnel will add $51 million to the Purple Line project will effectively kill the federal funding for the Purple Line. This proposal presents exactly the same tunnel problems that their past tunnel proposals did, albeit it’s a bit cheaper. RTCP has been saying for 3 years that advocating for a campus tunnel is tantamount to a rejection of the entire 16-mile project. That’s regardless of whether UMD foots every penny of the tunnel bill or not. In the eyes of the Federal Transit Administration, the cost-effectiveness of the project is reduced equally:

Even if the university pays for the tunnel, the cost increase would still hurt the project’s chances at federal funding, said Purple Line project manager Mike Madden, due to FTA criteria that look at total costs, regardless of funding sources. UM wants underground tunnel for Purple Line [Gazzette]

The MTA has conducted 800 meeting (that number might have been said in jest) in College Park over the last 10 years about this project and literally 100s on campus including many related to concerns about EMI and vibration impacts on research. The time for proposing new alignments is long past.

This latest move along with the “test” closing of Campus Drive to all transit this summer is just another attempt at achieving a “pedestrian walking mall” on Campus Drive… a vision that is in no way, shape, or form advocated for in UMD’s Campus Master Plan. While such road closure practices can be successful in some areas and has been on other parts of campus and at other universities, UMD’s street network and the realities of the Purple Line planning process make such a vision impractical on Campus Drive. A Campus Drive closure would greatly hinder basic area transit access now and in the future.
Continue reading UMD Needs to Stop Playing Games

Campus Drive Purple Line Alignment Forum Update

On Monday the 24th Rethink College Park co-sponsored a public forum on the Purple Line Campus Drive alignment.

Joanna Calabrese [Director of Environmental Affairs, Student Government Association] kicked off the event.

Councilman Eric Olson acknowledged the value of student government as a consistent advocate for the Purple Line, and for a routing that takes light rail to the heart of the campus. He emphasized that there is unanimous support for the Purple Line among county council members. He pointed out that even the arguably hapless transportation planners of Northern Virginia came together to recognize the value of metro expansion for business and for the community.

Continue reading Campus Drive Purple Line Alignment Forum Update

RTCP Sponsoring Monday 5/24 Purple Line Forum

Come out and participate in a critically important briefing by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) on the preferred Purple Line alignment on campus and related issues impacting College Park’s Future.

As you may know, there has been a long-running debate on campus as to the proper location for the Purple Line. After an exhaustive analysis and several technical research studies, state transportation officials provided a comprehensive briefing to the University of Maryland System’s Board of Regents on Monday (5/17) definitively making the case for the Campus Drive Alignment (with a stop in front of the Student Union). The state’s briefing was followed by a presentation from outgoing UMD President Dr. CD Mote holding to his opposition to the Purple Line in any achievable form.

State transportation officials are pursuing Preliminary Engineering money from the Federal Transit Administration as early as this summer and it is critically important that this impasse get resolved as quickly as feasible, so that we proceed in the most unified manner as possible. The Purple Line depends on it. Come out and learn more.

This event is sponsored by:
UMCP Student Government Association (SGA)
Purple Line Legislative Caucus
City of College Park
Rethink College Park
Purple Line Business Alliance
Purple Line NOW
County Councilman Eric Olson
Action Committee for Transit
Prince George’s Advocates for Community Based Transit
Coalition for Smarter Growth


Mote Leaving, Chancellor Kirwan Responds, Regents Meeting and A New Purple Push

“I’m not going to kill the campus to get the Purple Line” ~ Dr. CD Mote, President of UMD, 5/13/2010

“When he’s convinced that something is good for the university, [Mote] latches on to it,” Farvardin said. “If this is what you call stubborn, then that’s stubborn.”

Back in February we did our retrospective on Dr. CD Mote’s 12-year tenure as UMD President. Last week the Diamondback had an excellent take on Mote’s presidency (“The Visionary“) which similarly praised him for taking UMD out of academic obscurity, but brought up criticisms from groups like RTCP related to transportation planning and Smart Growth:

Perhaps no group knows this better than smart-development advocates, who have been left baffled and angered by Mote’s deeply held contrarian positions. Mote continued to push for a connector road between the university and I-95 when city and Prince George’s County officials had zero interest in the proposal. And his administration continues to rail against near-universal support of a Campus Drive alignment for the Purple Line.

From our retrospective:

When it comes to planning, gut instincts and shooting from the hip rarely lead to favorable planning outcomes. More often than not Mote’s stubbornness resulted in the further deterioration of the surrounding community. Rather than embracing the university’s shared destiny with College Park, Mote ran from it. He sought to build a bubble around the campus, alienated local leaders and consistently pursued the university’s narrow interest instead of its shared future with College Park.

CampusDriveFence_013With the presidential search in full swing and Mote packing his bags and leaving College Park this August, RTCP feels it’s time for 21st century campus leadership on transportation policy and a bold new direction. We’re tired of the UMD administration sidelining transit and talking about the Purple Line as if it will be a freight train coming through campus. That’s why, in this time of transition, RTCP has worked with student leaders and other area advocacy groups to take the fight to keep transit (and the Purple Line) on Campus Drive beyond the UMD administration and to the Board of Regents. Our May 12th letter to Brit Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, was specifically timed to come before a presentation by the Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line Planning team to the Board of Regents on May 17th. The letter echoed other correspondences approved and sent by the Prince George’s County Council and College Park City Council demanding that Campus Drive be left open to buses and that UMD take into account the realities of the Purple Line Planning Process.

Kirwan responded to our letter and other groups with this message just before MTA’s presentation: Continue reading Mote Leaving, Chancellor Kirwan Responds, Regents Meeting and A New Purple Push

Coalition Mounts Broadside Against UMD Bus Plan, Purple Line Position

Purple Line 8

Purple Line 7BREAKING: In an unprecedented show of unity, a diverse coalition of student leaders, local elected officials and advocacy groups have mounted a broadside against the University of Maryland’s planned summer trial closure of Campus Drive to most buses. In a letter written to University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan, they connected the UMD administration’s bus plan, which is set to begin in June, with UMD’s continued opposition to the only feasible Purple Line route through campus. They implored the University to keep “the buses where they are,” and to “become an ardent champion and outright supporter of the Purple Line.” The coalition called the proposed at-grade Campus Drive alignment “the only achievable option” and demanded the University coordinate campus transportation plans more effectively with the Maryland Transit Administration and the Purple Line planning process.

Purple Line MultimodalThe letter, drummed up and drafted by Rethink College Park Founder and Co-editor David Daddio, represents the consensus view of every major local stakeholder on and off campus and joins a chorus of other voices (including the Prince George’s County and College Park City councils) opposed to UMD’s transportation plans. The two-page salvo was signed by the leaders of the Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Government, the Residence Hall Association, the Action Committee for Transit President, and Purple Line NOW (signed on behalf of their board – on which Prince George’s County Councilman Eric Olson and College Park Mayor Andy Fellows sit). The letter today represents the strongest and most diverse coalition ever put together to support the Campus Drive alignment and is timed to alter UMD’s planned summer bus trial so it will support rather than work at cross purposes to the Purple Line: READ THE LETTER.
Purple Line 4

City Council to Vote on Campus Drive Closure

At the upcoming meeting this Tuesday (8pm) the City Council plans on voting on sending a letter to campus concerning the closing of Campus Drive to all traffic. The public is encouraged to attend so feel free to come out and let your voice be heard.

The text of the proposed letter is shown after the break.

Continue reading City Council to Vote on Campus Drive Closure