Federal Government Key to Purple Line Funding

Light Rail in the Trastevere Neighborhood of Rome, Italy

An article in today’s Washington Post explains some of the hurdles facing the Purple Line – and why Maryland has opted to wait until next year to apply to the Federal Transit Administration for funding:

Unlike federal highway funds, which states receive based on a formula and may spend as they wish, money for new transit projects is awarded at the discretion of the FTA. The agency doesn’t have much to dole out. The FTA has proposed spending about $1.4 billion on new transit projects next fiscal year, compared with $42 billion that states will receive for highway maintenance and construction, according to federal figures. More than 100 transit projects across the country are expected to compete for federal money in coming years, according to a federal report. …

To win, said [John] Porcari, the transportation secretary, Maryland’s biggest challenge will be proving that a Purple Line would attract enough riders. He said he thinks it would beat out other proposals in its ability to serve a heavily transit-dependent population and blend into communities while “stabilizing and enhancing” them.

The 16-mile Purple Line, which could open by 2015, is designed to revitalize older communities, including such areas as Langley Park, where many lower-income residents rely on buses because the Metrorail system doesn’t take them east or west. …

It’s worth noting at this juncture that Dan Reed over at Just Up the Pike has produced a newspaper-quality series on Purple Line NIMBYism in Mongomery County. While not the major hurdle for the project, NIMBYism has proven to be a key (and very interesting) component of the debate. We thank Dan for continuing to raise the profile of area blogs.

Also, it should be noted that a fierce political debate lurks on the horizon in Maryland as to whether to raise the state gas tax to fund transportation projects like the purple line. John Porcari clued us in in June.

> W. Post: “Rail Projects at the Mercy of U.S. Agency

The photo shows a light rail line in Rome

22 thoughts on “Federal Government Key to Purple Line Funding”

  1. The editor of the Samuel Gompers Papers at UM-College Park who lives in Bethesda is a woman named Grace Palladino. She has also written a book about the history of American teenagers being considered a separate developmental stage between childhood and adulthood. She has gotten many letters picked for printing in the Gazette and WaPo opposing the Purple Line. The last letter of hers I saw was in the Montgomery extra in February 2007 praising the Ride On (county bus system) route 34 between Bethesda and Wheaton as better than the Purple Line because bus stops are more flexible for moving than rail stations. She has also gotten a letter published disputing the width of the Georgetown Branch of the Crescent Trail as not wide enough for both a 2 tracked light rail line and a bike trail. However I personally witnessed on Oct 14, 2006 Michael Madden, the head of the Purple Line study at MTA, measuring width between homeowners’ fences surrounding the trail near Sleaford Rd and Kentbury Dr in East Bethesda at 10 ft narrower than the right of way designated on the trail master plan. This shows encroachment on public right of way by some of the nimbys who in other contexts-like in Clarksburg where site plan height and setback violations turned over the planning board and probably got County Executive Isiah Leggett elected out of ‘no developer campaign donation influence’- cling to master plan designations as if they were a secular Bible. The measurements came on a trail walk where Purple Line nimbys tried, for a second time, to have then-Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan put his feet on the trail and gain his opposition or skepticism that slowed the study pace.

  2. It is not only NIMBY’s who are either against or apathetic about the Purple Line. Just ask Steve “Purple Line” Silverman who got trounced the the Democratic runoff vs. Ike Legget.

    The Purple Line fanatics tried their best to discredit Ike Legget prior to the election. What happened, he won in a landslide victory.

  3. jw fails to point out that Ike Leggett did not run against the Purple Line. Ike signed the “pledge” to support the Purple Line that was circulated by Purple Line Now, see the pledge and list of supporters at http://www.purplelinenow.org. All nine of the Montgomery County Council candidates who won election also signed the pledge.

  4. Wayne,

    All I know is that the Action Committee for Transit were out in front of a fund raiser for Ike Leggett protesting with their Purple banners. I saw them with my own two eyes.

    Steve Silverman had the Purple Line on the homepage of his website. If there was such a demand for the Purple Line the Steve Silverman/Developer/Action Committee for Transit unholy trinity would have won out.

    I hope you remember the thousands of “Sick of Traffic” signs. Silverman’s #1 issue was the Purple Line and he got crushed. Ike definitely did not make it one of his top issues. The demand for this system is exagerated by a slim section of Maryland residents.

  5. That Ike Leggett fund raiser was held in Chevy Chase. Ike refused to make any promises to the “Save the Trail” group holding that fund raise, and went on to sign the pledge to support the Purple Line. The strong anti-Purple Line councilmember who represented Chevy Chase, Howard Denis, was defeated in the election by strongly pro-Purple Line Roger Berliner to make the County Council unanamous for the Purple Line. Our anti-Purple Line Governor and Comptroller lost to a new pro-Purple Line Governor and Comptroller. Pro-Purple Line majorities were strengthened in the State Legislature. Opinion poles taken before the election showed widespread and strong support for the Purple Line.

    What evidence do you have that demand is from only a “slim section”? I think the election results trump anything you can show.

  6. Wayne,

    Howard Denis was beaten because of the anti-Bush/Republican voting tidal wave.

    When it was Democrat vs. Democrat, Mr. Purple Line vs. a moderate voice, the guy who aligned his campaign entirely in lock-step with the Purple Line was destroyed.

    All other results were mostly because of anti-Republican backlash. Nothing to do with the Purple Line that you and your small band obsess over.

  7. Wayne,

    Did the opinion polls mention that the Purple Line was going to be Light Rail and not part of the Metro System.

    I doubt it. Talk about a non-scientific study.

    Opinion polls also said that John Kerry was going to be President (I wish).

  8. The Purple Line will be part of the Metro system. That’s why it’s called the Purple Line. Just like Boston’s light rail Green Line is considered part of their “T”. The Purple Line is being built by the Maryland Transit Administration for the same reason that the Dulles rail extension, also part of Metro, is being built by the Airports Authority. WMATA has gotten out of the construction management business.

    And how come people are arguing about Montgomery County elections on a College Park web site? The Prince George’s county council (unanimously) and executive support the Purple Line. The attitude of Purple Line opponents seems to be that Montgomery County gets to make two-county decisions all by itself. It’s no surprise that they think that way, though – for many of them the whole reason for their opposition is that they want to keep those folks from Prince George’s out of Chevy Chase.

  9. for many of them the whole reason for their opposition is that they want to keep those folks from Prince George’s out of Chevy Chase

    Huh? is darn right. I’ve said that too. No on want to fess up about that part of the opposition. I have a strong feeling that the Purple line will ultimately terminate just west of Silver Spring.

    Gotta keep that University Park riff-raff out of Chevy Chase, after all.

  10. Huh,

    University of “MARYLAND” might be located in College Park but the last time I checked the taxpayers in College Park aren’t the only ones funding the state’s University system. This is the taxpayers of Maryland’s school and Montgomery County pays a big ole chunk of that money. When PG County is funding the school in its entirety they can claim ownership. Until then check yourself.

    Stop the disinformation campaign.

  11. You folks are arguing in circles. The purple line will be a part of the metro system as it will link in with existing stations and will be managed by WMATA. No it won’t be heavy rail, it will be light rail which is an up and coming technology being used all over the country because it is more cost effective than heavy rail:

    If your house is within earshot of one of MTA’s proposed alignments, then you don’t have any credibility to me when arguing over the project. Yes, a small minority of people are supporters of the project and yes there is a small minority of people wholly opposed to it. This is because there is only a small percentage of the population that even knows what this project is. Political support does seem to be building, but that issue and NIMBYism pale in comparison to the issue of federal funding. MDOT and Annapolis are in strong support of the Purple Line and they are pursuing it and other transit projects vigorously because transit=smart growth.

  12. If the only tax you pay in Maryland is sales tax, then you don’t have any credibility to me when arguing over any state funded project.

  13. I’m not a student you idiot. In addition to income tax, I pay MD gas tax, which funds transportation infrastructure (income taxes don’t pay for roads). I’m all for tying the gas tax to inflation. It hasn’t been raised since the early 90’s.

  14. Clearly, income tax paid does not directly correlate to civility.

    I suspect the commenter’s point was that when you own property in these areas, your concerns may be different.

    Smart growth is being used as defense for a lot of poorly thought out design and planning in CP. That said, I strongly support the Purple Line…and simple courtesy.

  15. I forgot, you are collecting a salary from the developers pushing the Purple Line. :o)

    Get a sense a humor you self-righteous hothead.

  16. David,

    There is that sense of humor. Listen no matter which ways this project goes, no one is going to die from the outcome.

    Sorry for goading you into anger. If they build it I will probably use it. I just pray that they use different cars than the ones used in Charm City. Man they are perfugly.

    BTW. Take it easy on the NIMBY’s they are only doing what just about anyone else would do if a train was going to be 20′ from their backdoor.

  17. i have always struggled with the concept that a few people could block something that would benefit so many – something that is clearly “for the greater good”…….people who travel from NYC via train love the thought of transferring at New Carrollton and taking the purple line to CP. this in turn takes vehicles off of 95 which then benefits the entire region well beyond the capital beltway

    with that said, it is easy to see how people could become very protective of the biggest investment in their lives – some of which im sure are very “old school” in their attitudes toward public transportation and probably remember the capital beltway from when it was 2 lanes in each direction (heck, even i can recall 270 as a divided highway with a grass median and 2 lanes in each direction!!!!)

    like another poster, i too see the line terminating before it reaches bethesda/chevy chase. this type of attitude (dont want that “Pee Gee Cow-knee element” in Montgomery county) is what kept the green line from having a station under Univ College and/or the Student Union. But as Rob posted before (may be helpful to post here again) – the data does not support the notion that crime increases when a station opens – in fact, i believe Rob proved the opposite to be true

    this is where the very cynnical side of me comes out: the people who dont want the line probably have the $ to fund the politicians’ campaigns whereby having the ability to stop it.

  18. Kevin,

    You are right the some of the people who want to stop this have the $ to make an impact. In this case however, I believe devopment interests have outspent and continue to outspend NIMBY homeowners and (1) country club.

    I would love to see the numbers paid to (lobbyists/politicians/political action committees) from the opposing sides in this debate. I think many people would be surprised with the findings.

  19. The ACT protesters JW saw at a Chevy Chase fundraiser (I was one of them) were activated by an apparent contradiction in Isiah Leggett’s position at the time. They wanted a clarification and ACT issued a press release at the time. About a week before the Chevy Chase fundraiser Leggett told a group of transit workers through their union that he supported ‘cut and cover’ tunnelling (the only affordable kind if above ground light rail is out of the question next to the Georgetown Branch of the Crescent trail). One of the sponsors of the fundraiser, and a former Chevy Chase mayor, is against above ground AND ‘cut and cover’ tunnelling. When campaigning in Silver Spring Leggett told everyone who would listen he supported the purple line. He just didn’t put many statements into writing or signs like Silverman did.
    If money donated to political campaigns on pro and con sides of the purple line is to be compared do not count the total money spent in 2002 donations to the ‘end gridlock’ council slate as ‘pro purple line’ as much of it was from developers more interested in building sprawl around the ICC not changing land use patterns in existing suburbs around the purple line. It was simultaneous ICC and purple line support, that lost Silverman many votes, because of skepticism about finding money for both.

  20. So Jon G, let me get this straight, you and your ACT (Action Committee for Transit) colleagues didn’t support Steve Silverman. You supported Ike Legget because When Ike was campaigning in Silver Spring he told everyone who would listen he supported the purple line.

    You guys are full of mullarkey.

    Just to clarify once and for all:

    The Purple Line Light Rail is no more part of the Metro Rail System than is a Metro Bus.

  21. The purple line light rail is only no more part of the metro rail system than is a bus if built as bus rapid transit instead of light rail.

    The election of Isiah Leggett is no more a statement of opposition to the purple line than the defeat of Steven Silverman is.

    What the election of Isiah Leggett is more a statement of is the victory of people who changed the subject of the ‘how growth in Montgomery and other counties can be better accommodated and managed’ TO ‘how to allow as few new Montgomery County residents as possible while still plausibly denying exclusionary, elitist, bigoted attitudes.’

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