Intercollegiate Athletics Weighs in On Purple Line Debate

A broadcast e-mail was sent out by Terrapin Club Executive Director Greg Enloe on Thursday urging Club members to oppose the Campus Drive alignment recommended by MTA.  Here is the email text (scroll all the way down for analysis):

Dear Terrapin Club Members,

Recently, the State of Maryland Transit Administration announced their intention to pursue the creation of a light rail line that would run from Bethesda to New Carrolton.  The proposed “Purple Line” would run through areas in Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, including through the University of Maryland campus.  An Open Meeting was held on October 29th in College Park to initiate discussion with community leaders and members of the College Park community and surrounding areas.  A number of us attended the meeting.  We wanted to update you on the project, the current position of the Athletic Department and the Terrapin Club and how to receive further information on the project.

The project is in its initial phases and the Maryland Transit Authority is still gathering important environmental impact information, as well as information on traffic patterns in the affected areas.

Maryland Athletics and the Terrapin Club leadership support the Purple Line on campus.  The line will provide access for thousands of fans to come to athletics events, including football, men’s and women’s basketball and our 24 other varsity sports.

Connecting Montgomery County to College Park will provide a number of our most loyal fans from Bethesda, Silver Spring and other nearby areas with direct and easy access to athletic events, reducing dependence on automobiles and thus reducing traffic on game days.

THAT SAID, WE ARE NOT IN FAVOR OF A CAMPUS DRIVE ALIGNMENT FOR THE PURPLE LINE, AS CURRENTLY RECOMMENDED BY THE STATE HIGHWAY ADMINSTRATION, FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS: 

1. We are concerned that the Campus Drive alignment would negatively impact the essential physical character of our campus, forever damaging the aesthetic beauty of the University of Maryland.

2. A Campus Drive alignment will mean the loss of hundreds of Terrapin Club parking spaces for home football games.  Maryland Athletics is a self-supported campus unit.  We also pay the campus several million dollars in annual overhead and taxes.  Parking benefits for fans constitute a vital element of our ability to achieve our fundraising requirements.  The loss of these parking spaces will damage our ability to remain self-sufficient and to continue to pay the subsidies to the University.

3. Aligning the light rail tracks through Lot 1 will force tens of thousands of football fans to cross the tracks on their way to the football stadium, creating a significant safety concern for our fans, many of whom are families with young children.  The light rail will stop every 3 minutes in peak hours and in non-peak hours, every 6 minutes.

Maryland Athletics and the Terrapin Club support either a Stadium Drive (North) alignment or Mowatt Lane (South) alignment for the Purple Line, for the following reasons:

1. A Stadium Drive or Mowatt Lane alignment would preserve the beauty of the campus we are all so proud of and would serve the student and faculty community for the entire campus.

2. Secondly, there would be minimal impact on parking spaces allocated for Terrapin Club members on football game days in either alignment.

3. A station positioned at the corner of Stadium Drive and Regents Drive would be ideal to ease traffic for home basketball games at Comcast Center.  With such proximity to Comcast Center, the Purple Line would be easily accessible to the center of campus and would provide basketball fans with a reasonable transportation alternative to automobiles.

4. And finally, a more southern route at Mowatt Lane would increase accessibility to campus and would better accommodate the merchants in the heart of College Park.

In summation, Maryland Athletics and the Terrapin Club members support the Purple Line on campus with a Stadium Drive or Mowatt Lane alignment.  Either is a better possible solution to ensure the beauty of our campus, fiscal stability for Maryland Athletics, and overall fan safety.

The Maryland Transit Administration plans to hold several informational meetings in the impacted areas.  The next meeting for the College Park area will be held on Wednesday, December 5, 2007 from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the College Park Municipal Center at 4500 Knox Road…. (it goes on to supply emails and phone numbers of people to contact)

Like other recent communications emanating from the Office of President Mote and Vice President for Administrative Affairs Douglas M Duncan, this e-mail seems designed to foment hysteria among the tens of thousands of people who really will be future beneficiaries of the Purple Line.

The Enloe communication demonstrates a failure to understand many basics about the alignment discussions.

  • First it resurrects the idea of a Mowatt Lane alignment.  Such an alignment was discarded by the university and City of College Park years ago.  It would provide much poorer service to the core of campus as well as North Campus, the location of most high volume special event destinations.  It also would require a new tunnel on Knox Road underneath the metrorail and CSX tracks and does not serve the new East Campus Development.
  • Secondly, Mr. Enloe assumes that a Campus Drive alignment would result in the loss of parking while Stadium Drive would not.  Given that the evaluation of Stadium Drive has not even been completed, this is presumptuous.  However, in either case parking spaces required for the Purple Line would need to be replaced, so the more tactical position of both the administration and ICA would be to insist on construction of a replacement  garage along Campus Drive serving  (west and central campus) as well as some limited underground parking along Rt. 1 serving the administration complex.
  • Recent Rethink College Park posting addresses the fear mongering in the Terp Club letter and other university pronouncements regarding safety.  FTA maintains statistics on safety of all modes of transportation and light rail is safer than buses or automobiles (which will be the subject of a future posting).
  • The letter apes Campus pronouncements regarding preservation of the beauty of the Campus Drive corridor.  These people must be ignoring the current mishmash of chain link fences and uncoordinated landscaping that marks this core roadway and that would be replaced with a coherent streetscape, lighting, sidewalks and landscaping as part of the Purple Line project.

Pedestrian safety concerns logically grow the closer the Purple Line would be to major sports venues.  This is the real reason that a Stadium Drive option is problematic.  As Senior Planner Greg Benz of Parsons-Brinkerhoff pointed out at the 10/29/07 focus group meeting, sports venues need “breathing room” between themselves and the transit stop to avoid unacceptable game day congestion.

32 thoughts on “Intercollegiate Athletics Weighs in On Purple Line Debate”

  1. Does anybody out there understand what are the real arguments behind the campaign? The arguments being offered are less than compelling.

    Parking: the Terrapin Club should consult the campus Master Plan, where they will be reminded that the university aims to eliminate Lot 1 entirely, replacing it with peripheral parking structures. Regardless, the half dozen football home games should not drive policy. Thousands of fans will need to cross the tracks on those 6 days, whatever the alignment.

    Safety: I have sufficient faith in the intelligence of UM students and visitors to expect them to understand that train tracks carry trains, and to recognize large purple objects with loud bells moving on those tracks. Does the UM administration not share this faith? A greater safety concern involves placing stops in remote parts of campus where some riders may feel unsafe to wait at night.

    Comcast: It’s true that a Student Union station is a 10-minute hike from Comcast, and could be less convenient for a metro-riding basketball fan. But does anybody seriously expect the Purple Line to impact basketball traffic for the handful of popular home games? Most people who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per year towards men’s basketball season tickets live nowhere near the Purple Line, and would have no interest in taking the train. It’s the people who come to campus 200+ times per year who will value living near the Purple Line so that they can ride to work.

    Aesthetics: this is the concern that the Purple Line could jeopardize some of UM’s greatest assets, i.e., a well-manicured traffic circle and a couple of lawns, plus possibly a clogged roadway (Campus Dr). If I’m reading correctly, the concern seems to come mostly from alumni and sports fans, i.e., people who spend little time around the campus. Residents, students, and employees seem less likely to rate bucolic charm as one of UM’s primary virtues. It is vibrancy, not landscaping, that will help UM to achieve its goals.

    Well-designed light rail through the heart of a vibrant campus (and East Campus) could be one of the best forms of advertising the university could hope for.

  2. I am completely agree with you, Colin. I’m sorry UMD, but I find much of the Historic Core District of the campus, which includes Campus Drive, to be rather ugly. Many pedestrian paths have quirky alignments that do not direct foot traffic in a logical manner. If you’re skeptical of this, just look at all of the dirt paths that have been made around the Mall. And the entire layout of sidewalks just north of McKeldin Library (by Jimenez and St. Mary’s) is not so picturesque, either.

    The Northwest District, which has a southern border along Campus Drive, is slightly better. But there’s still a blatantly obvious dirt path in front of the Stamp Student Union, and there is a lack of sidewalks along Fieldhouse Drive.

    Okay, so I went off on a bit of a tangent there. Still, I think that a alignment along Campus Drive will at least help fix some of these pedestrian and landscaping problems, because it will force the University to look at how pedestrians move around and about Campus Drive.

  3. I am completely agree with you, Colin. I’m sorry UMD, but I find much of the Historic Core District of the campus, which includes Campus Drive, to be rather ugly. Many pedestrian paths have quirky alignments that do not direct foot traffic in a logical manner. If you’re skeptical of this, just look at all of the dirt paths that have been made around the Mall. And the entire layout of sidewalks just north of McKeldin Library (by Jimenez and St. Mary’s) is not so picturesque, either.

    The Northwest District, which has a southern border along Campus Drive, is slightly better. But there’s still a blatantly obvious dirt path in front of the Stamp Student Union, and there is a lack of sidewalks along Fieldhouse Drive.

    Okay, so I went off on a bit of a tangent there. Still, I think that an alignment along Campus Drive will at least help fix some of these pedestrian and landscaping problems, because it will force the University to look at how pedestrians move around and about Campus Drive.

  4. Colin made an disputable point when he said “Most people who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per year towards men’s basketball season tickets live nowhere near the Purple Line, and would have no interest in taking the train. It’s the people who come to campus 200+ times per year who will value living near the Purple Line so that they can ride to work.”

    Lots of people of means take transit to sports events because the drive back and forth is usually far worse than normal drives on the access roads. They may not take the trip from their home – preferring to drive to a transit stop and then take the train.

    Still, while some will take advantage of the Purple Line for special events, Colin is correct in suggesting that the real bread and butter of the ridership will come from people who make decisions on where to live in 2020 based on the Purple Line service area and use it for daily trips to campus during the work week. There is plenty of evidence that rail transit becomes a factor in the decision making process about where to live assuming it is well integrated with land use plans, which it is.

    It is ironic, turning to Daniel’s comments, that some of the deficiencies in pedestrian pathways through campus are because of the layout and location of athletic fields and venues (think SSU to the Computer & Space Sciences area).

  5. ICA was having fits about the new journalism building taking parking too. This building will be located just north of Tawes – along the Purple Line s(see: http://www.journalism.umd.edu/newrel/06newrel/knight06.html) I wonder how the administration would have felt if ICA or the Terp Club had sent around an e-mail drumming up support for moving that building off of Lot 1? The fact is, the Purple Line will take fewer spaces the the Journalism Building and the spaces will be replaced by the proposed new garage – still a reasonable walk to Byrd Stadium. Additionally, the campus will get road improvements to allow for the orderly shifting of traffic away from the Campus Drive corridor. Everyone wins with the Purple Line, and the campus campaign against it is unfathomable!

  6. I always advocate inconveniencing the poor (students) to help out the rich (TC members.) Especially when the rich will use the train 20 times a year and the poor will depend on it daily. Once again, university presidents and rich alumni should not be making these decisions.

  7. You can’t say anything bad about athletics at a big state school, but sometimes I wish we could just jettison the entire sports establishment. It’s encouraging that the student body’s come out in support of the Campus Drive alignment, but does that really hold any water when the big dogs – Mote and the ICA – decide to ignore both reason and the school’s own master plan?

    It’s a shame. I thought that the only Purple Line battles to be waged were in Montgomery County.

  8. Eric – Unfortunately, in a rankings obsessed country, as long as the US News and World Report and other similar college rankings continue to factor in Alumni Giving participation rates so heavily into their rankings and as long as Annapolis keeps cutting and cutting and cutting and cutting the state’s higher ed budget, the Univ has no choice but to stay close to the alums who donate. Its not a rich versus poor thing, its a simple matter of survival. The state’s budget cutting goes back to my days as a student in the late 80’s and early 90’s. At the rate they have been going I think College Park must get about 26 cents total in state funding.

    ok, sorry for the sarcasm.

    So, if we need to keep alumni engaged to keep the lights on and the professors paid, then we need things that engage the alumni and bring them back to campus and our sports teams (and all of the marketing and licensing dollars they generate) go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

    Look, when I was a student and after my first few years out I was the same way. But the older you get, and the longer you are away, the more you will come to realize that as members of the Univ of Md community, we all play a role and have a vested interest in each others’ success in life. That means, if alumni donate, it helps you because it helps raise the University’s prestige and hence the value of your diploma. It also means that every Terp that comes to me asking for help and advice in terms of career or whatever, I have a duty to do my best to help. So, if we have alumni that stay engaged with and connected to the university than so be it, lets accept it and encourage / foster it because in the end, in the grand scheme of things, the “sports establishment” helps all of us, not just the athletes and not just the “rich alumni”

  9. Indeed alumni money talks (well, all money talks), but to view campus development on Lot 1 as destructive to tailgating merriment is premature. Any light rail line only requires a sliver of space. The only real impediment would be new buildings called for in the Campus Master Plan. Certainly there are other alternative spaces for these events and, in fact, part of Lot 1 is to be replaced with a grassy mall which will be perfect for tailgating. If redevelopment of this lot into a grassy mall (as the university plans) also includes permanent public lavatories, electrical outlets, and preinstalled tables and pavillions, I’d wager that such a new site would be considered an enhancemet over the current lawnchair-on-pavement setup.

    Then again, if that’s unsuitable, the lawn in front of the president’s house is spacious enough for hundreds of people. 😉

  10. A concern for parking is not a legitimate argument against a transit project – especially one whose right-of-way is on an existing roadway and has virtually no effect on existing spaces. Any spaces lost will be mitigated by state and federal dollars. Money does not equal knowledge and general education does not equal a specific understanding of basic transit principles and complex funding processes. I seriously question how much alumni giving is behind this whole fiasco.

  11. I think there are plenty of alumni who will donate more money if they see the university walking the walk and not just talking the talk on sustainability. The campus’ carbon footprint is huge in part because of the overreliance on cars to get to campus. The campus’ mediocre transit ridership can be improved dramatically if the Purple Line is built.

  12. I think the Purple Line is a great idea, especially now that I commute from College Park to Bethesda on a daily basis. That being said, I think a Campus Drive Allignment would be a horrible idea for the University and all of its community – students, faculty, visitors, alumni alike.

    It’s clear that some people like to nit-pick about a dirt path, or mis matched flowers, however, UMD is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful campuses in the Nation. And that is for good reason – because it is, especially the Historic Core District. That being said, I don’t think the Purple Line will ruin the beauty of campus, but it will have detrimental side effects.

    Currently, Campus drive, and all of campus is extremely pedestrian friendly. Most students use cross walks, and cars/buses have to stop. There are many students that do not use cross walks, and cars/buses still stop. A light rail train is not going to stop for crossing pedestrians. During Rush hour in DC 6-10am and 3-7pm, the light rail train is slated to stop on Campus drive every 3 minutes. Trains will be entering campus from both directions, so a 6 car train would most likely be cutting campus in half every 90 seconds. These trains are not 1 car in length, but 6. That will inevitably cause a back up in pedestrian foot traffic across campus drive.

    Students will attempt to run across Campus Dr to beat the train, because we have to make it campus on time. Mote is correct about one thing, as soon as someone is hurt/injured from the light rail train, ugly large partitions/fences will make it so that one can’t cross Campus drive at any more than 6 places.

    So in addition to bus traffic, pedestrian traffic, and car traffic, why don’t we go ahead and add train traffic to the already over-congested Campus Drive. I know the Campus Master plans calls for Campus Drive to be shut down to cars/buses in the future, but it also calls for a new soccer stadium. It’s just a plan, and certainly not set in stone.

    So now lets add to the congestion on Campus Drive, throw in some even more attractive over-head power lines – and now we have a Purple Line stop.

    What exactly is the downside to still having the Purple Line stop on campus but over near stadium drive? The best argument I’ve heard is that it’s too far away from the Mall. So it boils down to laziness, and not wanting to walk a few extra minutes. The GSA and RHA have supported the Campus Drive location because of less walking time. Anyone that lives on campus, commutes to campus or just visits campus, already knows that one will have to walk a far distance to get where ones desires.

    If the Purple line were to stop on Stadium Drive, it would be more accessible to more students, whereas North Campus houses thousands more students than does South Campus. A fact most have overlooked.

    Attackin the President Mote and the Administration for having foresight and actually encompassing the entire Campus community, is unwarranted. It still remains that it would be more student friendly if alligned at Stadium Drive, and would be more visitor friendly, especially with our loyal Terp Fans.

    Support the Purple Line
    Support Campus
    Support the Stadium Drive Allignment

    GO TERPS!

  13. Thanks for the thorough analysis and I can appreciate your concern for the aesthetic/historic core of campus. Couple issues:
    1) Purple line trains will be 2 cars long (not 6 as you say).
    2) During peak hours a train will be on campus every 3 minutes (2 trains – one in each direction every 6 minutes). You are wrong on the 90 second issue. Pedestrins can queue at signalized crosswalks for a few seconds if they happen to be crossing when the train is passing.
    3) Forgoing the purple line on campus drive would mean forgoing $2 million in streetscape improvements to one of the ugliest areas of campus.
    4) Mote stands by the master plan, but only at his convenience. Campus drive would be far safer and far more beautiful if closed to cars. A light rail would replace several bus lines, thus reducing the number of pedestrian/moving vehicle interactions even further.
    5) Not walking from stadium drive may be laziness, but the reduction in ridership caused by the distance can be scientifically predicted by the MTA and the reduction could be catastrophic for federal Purple Line funding.
    6) A light rail directly next to Byrd Stadium would be disastrous on game days. Witness light rail at Camden Yards on game day.
    7) UMD is an academic institution, not an intricatlely designed state institution intended to support the Terps (despite what some will have you believe). On-campus students will be the most infrequent users of the project followed closely behind by terps fans. MTA is rightfully targeting daily commuters – off-campus students, faculty, and staff – which are the true bread and butter of any viable transit line.

  14. Ever since I first heard talk of this new Metro line, I have been intrigued. I grew up riding the metro and, as a child, wanted to drive the trains myself just so I could say “Red Line- Shady Grove” into the loudspeaker. During the four years that I lived on campus, I took countless metro trips home to Gaithersburg. After boarding the train down Paint Branch Parkway, believe me when I say that one transfer to the Red Line and an hour and 15 minutes later I would have killed for a metro stop closer to my residence hall or a Purple Line that took me home more directly. That the development of a Purple Line will benefit both the campus and the region is unquestionable.

    That being said, I am vehemently opposed to placing an above-ground light rail along Campus Drive. It is true that a centrally located stop near the Student Union would be convenient for everyone. A brief walk from classroom buildings, residence halls, and sports facilities alike, the positive impacts are obvious. However the negative consequences of slicing the campus in half with train tracks are unacceptable.

    Maryland boasts incredible aesthetic appeal as it is. Future additions to our campus, such as new buildings and grassy areas, should always serve to enhance this. After giving campus tours for 4 years as a student, I can personally attest that visitors to the university are invariably wowed by what they see. They are also typically impressed by Maryland’s existing transportation connections, with Shuttle-UM buses running back and forth to the Metro station every 10 minutes or so. Although the Purple Line would be even more convenient, why would we want to compromise our greatest asset? If the Metro did not already service College Park, I could justify taking drastic measures to connect the campus to the surrounding metropolitan area via mass transit. Since, however, we already have a metro station, we should not settle for a Purple Line plan that degrades the campus so drastically. The new light rail is meant to increase convenience, but no measure of convenience is worth the aesthetic harm that this centrally located route would do.

    As an alumnus, I am proud of every award that our faculty receives, each title that our sports teams win. I am proud of the high-profile research conducted at the university and of the consistently rising profile of each successive class of incoming freshmen. More than anything, I am proud to call Maryland my alma mater. I take every opportunity to boast about our beautiful campus and what we achieve here, showing it off to anyone who will pay attention. This is why I am so opposed to a Campus Drive Purple Line. If below-ground tunnels are prohibitively expensive and a Stadium Drive stop is unfeasible, I would rather leave the campus without a station at all. Because it’s great as it is.

  15. I’m glad folks are pationate about the campus, but I think the aesthetic concerns are overblown and the MTA sketches:
    http://rethinkcollegepark.net/blog/library/purple-line/
    should help make that point.

    People keep saying that the campus will be “sliced in half”, but I don’t see that. I see a degraded roadway that already has plenty of fences in desperate need of repair. This project should be viewed as a bus (just more reliable), on a fixed track, which has priority at signalized crosswalks. That’s it, that’s all. The purple line has the added benefit of being a federally funded one with mitigation funds and heavy consideration of every imaginable factor…

    How is campus drive better of aesthetically with the status quo…

    “”If below-ground tunnels are prohibitively expensive and a Stadium Drive stop is unfeasible, I would rather leave the campus without a station at all. Because it’s great as it is.””

    This attitute is tantamount to killing the entire purple line purely for aethetic concerns. There are a variety of technical and pragmatic reasons the transitway must traverse campus.

  16. “This attitute is tantamount to killing the entire purple line purely for aethetic concerns.”

    That is precisely my attitude. The Purple Line is a fantastic idea in theory and would bring many tangible benefits to the community. I am merely saying that those benefits do not outweigh, in my opinion, the way it would make the center of our campus look. Campus Drive right now is not as ugly as you make it sound. It is lined by great brick buildings with visible grassy patches and new improvements like the flagcourt/Testudo topiary in front of Cole. If the current aesthetics of the corridor do not appeal to people because of degraded fences, those can be easily fixed with small scale improvements and landscaping. To me, the MTA sketches look like a railroad freight yard, not a picturesque college campus.

    I don’t claim to know anything at all about the specifics of the issue, particularly related to funding. I understand that the Campus Drive route may very well be the only one that is financially viable. I’m just expressing my view, as a Maryland alum who loves the university, that to build the Purple Line up Campus Drive would be detrimental to the image of campus that I and many others treasure.

  17. One of the finest characteristics this University offers is its paramount location to Washington, DC, without being in the city. Many people find this separation critical, especially when deciding where to live, work, and study. During my tenure as a student and staff member at Maryland, I have encountered many people who have expressed their love for this University’s location; a nice at-home feel, without the real hustle and bustle of a city….but at the same time, within reach of a major metropolitan center.

    Bringing the purple line through the heart of campus may damage this feeling. People are attracted to the natural beauty and serenity this campus offers, and I would think that overhead wires and tracks may hurt this overall campus feel.

    I do not find the Campus Drive alignment ideal. Nor am I a proponent of a Stadium Drive or Knox alignment. However, I do know that of these choices, Campus Drive seems most prone to interrupt the ‘core’ district that this campus has preserved for over 150 years. A campus drive alignment would surely disrupt the commitment of the university and state to keep this University’s uniformity in all capital projects.

  18. So is it more appropriate to bring the hustle and bustel of the beltway right to the doorstep of campus with the I-95 connector road. We need real solutions to our transportation needs and need to be pragmatic about getting them…. We can’t pass up billion dollar federal transit project just because we think it might not be aesthetically pleasing (and I believe it will be better than the status quo as I’ve already said).

  19. The I-95 Connector road would not negatively impact the aesthetic appeal of campus and sever it down the middle. It would not spur an increase in traffic, as anyone using it would otherwise use regular roads to reach the university. It would, however, divert traffic away from the main campus arteries and Rt. 1. That is not, however, the issue that TerpAlum and others who have posted are voicing concern over.

    “We need real solutions to our transportation needs and need to be pragmatic about getting them”

    What are the needs you are referring to? The university is situated 5 miles from D.C. and even closer to the Beltway. We have a Metro station in College Park already within 15 minutes walking distance from campus, and a system of campus shuttles that carry people to and from it. It is true that, particularly around rush hour, roads around campus become clogged. This is not, however, a phenomenon unique to College Park and it is certainly not a situation that the Purple Line or anything else has the power to singularly change.

    Yes, the Purple Line would allow commuters to travel around the Beltway relatively efficiently. That is why it is a good idea, in theory. But the issue being discussed is the impact of this light rail on the University of Maryland. The view that TerpAlum, ConcernedTerp, and myself, among others, have expressed is that, in addition to all of the positives it will bring, the line will have a distinctly negative impact on campus. This is not something we should readily ignore.

    “We can’t pass up billion dollar federal transit project just because we think it might not be aesthetically pleasing”

    It could be argued that we also cannot ruin a campus aesthetic that has taken a century and a half to evolve with a federal transit project, however there is no need to take such extreme stances. The Purple Line would be a great boon to the area and I support its development. However I think we must be cautious before running it straight up Campus Drive. Taking time to consider alternative solutions will not scrap the project. But once we dig up Campus Drive, we will never get that historic beauty back.

  20. As great of an asset I think the Purple Line would be, in my opinion, I do not think the benefits outweigh the consequences of a train cutting through the historic ‘core’ of campus. One of the major focal points of colleges and universities nationwide is the aesthetic value of campus. From what I can determine, this is not very important to you, although it is to the thousands upon thousands of visitors Maryland’s campus receives each year.

    You stated that, “We can’t pass up billion dollar federal transit project just because we think it might not be aesthetically pleasing.”

    Well one can, and in this matter, one should. If aesthetics weren’t a concern, then our campus would not have matching brick buildings, thousands of mature willow oak trees, or even grass. We wouldn’t spend millions of dollars picking up leaves, cutting the grass, maintaining the landscaping and continually improving campus.

    It is President Mote’s sole job make decisions and take stances on issues that will affect the University Campus. He shouldn’t be concerned about overall traffic on the beltway and cow towing to MTA for 2.5 minutes of travel time, but rightfully so, acting in the best interest of Campus.

    Campus Drive is a relatively narrow road, so construction would have to widen the roadway to make room for 2 additional lanes of trains. Mature oak trees line the sidewalks from the main gate to the circle M and beyond. What little grass there is in front of the engineering buildings, in front of Hornbake, Stamp, The Heath Center, and Cole Field house, would be replaced with tracks and concrete. That being said, trees can obviously be replanted, but it will take decades for them to grow even close to the size they are now.

    Aesthetics aside, you seem to chastise anyone with an opinion different than yours. And you seem to be the one that is most steadfast in your unwillingness to compromise. At least President Mote and the University still supports the Purple Line, but with a different alignment through campus. It is these kinds of compromises that are necessary for projects of this magnitude to ever occur. You should join the President and rather than chastise, compromise. Campus Drive alignment is optimal for MTA, and in my opinion, not for the University. Campus comes first in Mote’s mind, as it should. It seems as though the Purple line comes first for you, and aren’t as open as Mote is to a more workable solution.

  21. Thanks to everyone for a lively debate for once. I definitely appreciate your participation and hope I’m not coming off as too uncompromising (also sorry if I repeat stuff that I’ve already said).

    I would definitely encourage you to walk the campus carefully from the bombed out future home of east campus, up the back of the engineering field, around the M, and up Campus Drive. While I do not deny that there will be some aesthetic losses to some of these areas, I believe these problems can be mitigated (‘grass tracks’, consolidation of overhead wires, streetscape improvement) and that combined with a major north-south walkway/bikeway parallel to the Purple Line, the functional benefits of the project will be tremendous.

    Campus Drive between the M and Union Lane is easily the ugliest part of campus to me. Indeed I cannot fathom how a quiet, 2 car light rail train and all it’s associated mitigation funds could make Campus Drive, after closing it to cars, worse than it is today. Such a train would greatly reduce the number of regional busses (and shuttle UM metro buses) coming down the roadway. Therefore the a Campus Dr Purple Line is the only scenario within the realm of possibilities before us that minimizes as much as possible the number of pedestrian/traffic conflicts.

    – Mowatt Lane would be prohibitively expensive and would incite massive resistance in the community and would not serve East Campus (thus hurting ridership.
    – Stadium Drive will slow the train down considerably, hurt ridership, and may not even be feasible from an engineering standpoint. It adds .5 miles of track to campus when compared to the Campus Drive alignment. That fact alone is probably why, after careful study, the University agreed to drop it (AND THE MOWATT LANE alignment) all the way back in 2003. I’ll wait for the MTA’s upcoming reanalysis of Stadium Drive but I am not optimistic.

    The aesthetic concerns (many of which will be mitigated) of .25 miles of Campus Drive are not serious enough to reject the entire 14 mile, regional transit project, in any form.

    I’m willing to compromise, but only if it is based on a robust public dialogue based on facts and not the half-truths and knee-jerk reactions which Dr. Mote continues to perpetuate. His position arises out of a total lack of imagination and a refusal to listen (or even sit down with) people who have spent years collaborating with UMD staff and designing this project.

  22. The university has been systematically destroying woodlands and wetlands for sprawling development and huge surface parking lots and now it laments MTA’s proposal to makeover the core avenue?

    I agree with ConcernedTerp about the importance of aesthetics, but strongly disagree that the Campus Drive corridor is attractive. Check out the chain link fences around Shriver, for example … UGLY (and, Mr Duncan, were these not design to “channelize students”?) The landscaping, coherent on the nearby McKeldin Mall and Hornbake Plaza is totally incoherent on Campus Drive. Crosswalks are very poorly marked and the lighting is very Soviet. The bus bay area is hideous. There are no bike lanes. I could go on.

    Most urban designers would rate the corridor a C- at best. The Purple Line would come with a major makeover – new utilities, lights, trees, waiting areas, signage, crosswalks, everything. Generally, the overall amount of pavement would not be increased if the three land option is selected, and different materials would make the pavement more interesting. The bus layover area can and should be moved as should some of the on street parking. Other surface parking will be eliminated in favor of garages – green space can be enhanced, even if it is smaller. Check out quality urban universities – Brown, for example, or Yale. Smaller spaces, more intensively landscaped and care for. Less high surface parking lots. Urban in a good way, for which quiet transit is a major complement. Fewer cars – EASIER to cross the street

  23. This discussion is very useful, as it gives a clearer idea of the primary concerns of people who object to the Campus Drive alignment. I agree with recent posters that we’re not getting very far by trying to shut down discussion (on either side of the argument). The recurring concerns seem to be whether the university will suffer a loss to its visual appeal, whether it will be divided in half by a central rail line, and whether this will put it at a competitive disadvantage. These seem to be the real issues that exercise people, and I think that they are honest concerns from people who genuinely care about UM. Safety, parking spots, crime, etc. seem to be more of a distraction.

    Nobody has seriously challenged the claim that a central alignment is preferable for commuting, ridership figures, etc.

    On the question of visual appeal and dividing the campus, it would help to distinguish concerns about what MTA is promising from fears about what MTA might ultimately do. Personally, I happen to find MTA’s renderings very attractive, much better than what is currently on Campus Drive, and more likely to create a focal point for campus. Jason’s post says that he’s seen the plans and doesn’t like them. I respect the difference of opinion. For others, though, it seems that the concern is more with what would happen if MTA reneged on its initial designs and created something cheaper, uglier, and more divisive. That is an understandable fear. (As a concrete comparison, I’m not sure that many would argue that Boston’s Green Line as it cuts through the Boston University campus is particularly attractive – high concrete barriers beside the tracks in the middle of a busy highway – and that campus certainly does feel divided.) Some simply may not have seen MTA’s plans. Clarifying the specific concerns would be helpful.

    On the question of whether Campus Drive (from the M to Cole Field House) is one of UM’s visual assets, I remain unpersuaded. Try searching for images of the University of Maryland on Google or flickr, and you quickly find what people do consider visually appealing and representative. This certainly includes the M, but Campus Drive almost never features, except in large aerials (here’s a rare exception: http://flickr.com/photos/mita/18670354/ – very attractive). The university administration apparently agrees: Campus Drive does not feature among its ‘Images of Maryland’ http://www.umd.edu (again, the M is the exception). I was interested by one poster’s remark that UM is consistently ranked as ‘one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation’, so I googled ‘beautiful campuses’. UM very rarely appears. More importantly, placing high on those lists seems to be a poor predictor of a university’s overall success.

    This then leaves the question of whether light rail through Campus Drive and the center of East Campus helps or hinders UM in achieving its main goals. (And I agree fully with the UM administration on overall goals, and on how they can benefit the region and the state.) I find it hard to imagine that anybody would choose not to study, work or teach here because of light rail on campus. On the other hand, I think that a central alignment could contribute in many ways. If designed right, it would not divide campus but provide a focal axis, linking M-Square, East Campus, the traditional ‘core’, and UMUC. It would stimulate connectivity across the vast campus (2 1/2 miles from UMUC to the middle of M-Square). If the rail is designed right, it would promote the sense that UM is forward looking and bold, and enhance the connections to the region (the ‘unfair advantage’ that the administration likes to talk about). It would bring more people from the region through the heart of campus, offering free publicity. Last but not least, it would more closely align the campus with the rest of the community.

  24. The administration is a bunch of clowns. Aesthetics?? College Park has “aesthetics?” You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s obvious the UM administration is purely profit driven, and by profits, I mean those culled through the DOT.

    Can you imagine how much money they pull in yearly from parking permits, parking tickets, and meters? I don’t think they care one bit about anything besides keeping it as difficult as possible for the thousands of students who commute in to do anything but drive.

    Point #1:

    If they had any committed interest in safety, convenience, or accessibility, they’d put the stop in the student union or another central place. Haven’t they ever been to NYC and noticed the elevated subway lines in the Bronx? DC and the surrounding area is a study in miserable use of space, and the purple line looks like it’ll be no exception. No one will have to cross the tracks if the train goes above street level. I don’t see what’s so complicated about elevating the tracks above high traffic – both pedestrian and vehicular – areas.

    Point #2:

    The administration likes to give lip service to making UMD accessible to people of all economic backgrounds. As far as I see it, they still exclude those lacking means to own a car or pay the artificially inflated rents close to the university. UMD is not a commuter school in the sense that it is openly accessible to people from the immediate AND surrounding areas. Putting a stop in the middle of campus would open it up not just to people who want to swill beer and watch a game, but to underprivileged individuals who want to come to UMD for an education.

    Point #3:

    The traffic here is abysmal, and the housing situation is in first place on my personal list of Inescapable Headaches for College Park Residents. As much as I understand building a new luxury box in the football stadium, what I don’t understand is why on earth UMD isn’t using money like that to buy up land within 0.5 miles of proposed purple line stops and building affordable UMD housing for grad students, undergrads, etc. I mean, if the state (and by default, UMD) wants to make a real estate killing, that’s where I would start. DC (and the surrounding metro area) has a rotten, segregating, outdated, and completely pointless public transportation system. Think about it; if you could commute to school via subway that ran frequently and reliably, why wouldn’t you?

    The administrators are so short-sighted. I can’t believe they’re perpetuating this idiocy, that the only thing worth doing in College Park is going to a game. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER DAYS OF THE YEAR??? Seriously, it’s bad enough that the campus shuts down for games, but why on earth when faced with an opportunity to mayyyyybe make this mismanaged area into a hint of a cosmopolitan, connected, functional region on the rise, do they start hollering about aesthetics?

    This place is doomed. I’m getting my PhD and moving back to NY.

  25. One more thing… this to ConcernedTerp:

    Mote’s priority is NOT the campus, it is the STUDENTS. He is the president of a university, not a landscaping convention. Regarding the aesthetics of this place, I completely disagree with you. Frankly, I find the homogeneity of the architecture miserably boring, bunker-like, and completely unimaginative. Plus, this is by far one of the worst layouts I have ever encountered. Who plunks a football field right smack in the middle of campus, effectively dividing it, with no way to get across other than walking all the way around the thing?

    Also, Mote SHOULD be concerned with the surrounding community, traffic, and MTA. Does he want to bill his school as an interractive part of the region? Does he want to make UMD more accessible to people of all economic backgrounds, even those who are too poor to own a car? Does he want easy access to DC? Then, my friend, he certainly must take it ALL into consideration.

    We live in an ever-flattening world. The ivory towers and gated campuses are becoming obsolete. Why are people banging down the doors of NYU, for instance? Because the campus is NYC in its undiluted unfiltered form. It’s real. UMD certainly has potential to integrate with its community, including DC. But it resists. I’m honestly not sure why.

  26. M – you’ve got it wrong on one score:

    Mote’s priority is keeping donors happy, keeping research dollars flowing into campus and keeping the faculty happy. Down below that is keeping the athletic fiefdom happy. Then alumni (out of which when you sprinkle alcohol and football spring donors)

    Oh yeah, and below that on the pecking order are undergraduates.

    On your other point, I agree. Students like the green campus, but want easy access to the city and surrounding communities. NYU is at the extremme end – no boundaries between town and gown. There are other examples that might strike more of a balance and be more of a model for UMd. But I think the students want the balance to tilt away from the suburban strip stuff and more to the urban, which is why east campus and the purple line go well together.

  27. Joe D.-

    I understand what you’re saying. You’re probably right. I went to NYU and we had no sports scene whatsoever. NYU doesn’t garner large numbers of donors, but it is the largest landowner in Manhattan which is how I suspect it stays afloat. However, it’s changing its tune to its student body in an attempt to get more alumni to donate, a plan that is allegedly working. Basically, I just wanted to throw in an example of a place that is huge, admission is highly coveted, but they don’t have to cater to the sports contingent.

    And I contend your placement of undergrads. Grad students arguably rank below them because we don’t even pay tuition. 😛

  28. “This place is doomed. I’m getting my PhD and moving back to NY. ”

    good. dont let the amtrak door hit you in the ass as you step off on to the platform in the ever so lovely Penn Station New York. That quote right there is what give Ny-ers the bad reputation they have in CP.

  29. I recently came to the University as a new faculty member. On my
    interview day, I saw nothing of campus except campus drive between
    the M and the student union, and I came away with the impression that
    UM was very unattractive. Only later did I see McKeldin Mall,
    and gain some appreciation for the beauty of the campus.

    Concerning pedestrian safety, many people seem to be under the
    impression that a light rail trolley runs on autopilot, rather
    than being operated by a driver. Can anyone tell us the stopping
    distance for a purple-line style train traveling at the proposed
    speed for campus drive? Is there any data on pedestrian accidents involving light rail?

  30. Kevin, my dear,

    That “NY attitude” is what’s behind the incredible success of the not only Manhattan, but the entire NY metro area. I proudly hail from a less apathetic geographic region where when there’s a problem, we confront it. When I see a change in the intractable apathy of this area, when the people here call for an extensive and highly functional commuter system, when there are express trains – as opposed to trains that run on the same track and stop at all the same stops, when I can drive from College Park to Bethesda on a Saturday and not get stuck in a rush-hour worthy traffic jam, I’ll be thrilled to change my mind.

    Then again, it might be that I’m missing something. What exactly makes College Park so wonderful? Why would I or anyone else say “wow, I’d love to live here?”

  31. First, just so you know – in the interest of full disclosure. I have lived in NYC or NJ since 1996. I am in NYC several times a week.

    Second – when you see a problem you confront it? Mmmm, how have New Yorkers – and especially New Jerseyans been doing confronting the rampant corruption problem? NY is great if you are connected. Talk to all of those that are not and are forced to pay obscene rents for substandard housing while trying to get by on “the average salary”….talk to the thousands of Jersey residents fleeing the state because of insane taxes funding corrupt politicians and do nothing jobs in Trenton and New Brunswick. Yeah, thats success all right

    Try convincing those folks of “the incredible success… of the entire metro NY area”…..Im not even touching Jersey…..that is enough for its own blog

  32. Corruption? Please. Where’s all the money going here? Corruption in gov’t is as rampant as cockroaches in apartments. Somehow, NY manages to run, but as for here, I have my doubts.

    I’m going to bullet a few things I prefer in NY.

    – Commuting is easy, nearly painless. You have a million options. Commuter buses, express and local, bus only lanes that get you into and out of the Port Authority far more rapidly than if you drove. Commuter trains – Metro North, PATH, LIRR. Commuter ferries – The one that leaves from Nyack, and of course, the Staten Island ferry.

    – Functional public transportation within the city. Not only can you get everywhere via bus or subway, but you can get there FAST, if you so desire. Express trains are nifty. But there are plans to run another subway line farther east to make it even easier.

    – If I lived in NY and wanted to live say, in the Bronx, that’s a 1 hr commute to Union Sq. If I live in Bethesda and want to commute to College Park, that’s 1.5-1.175 hrs, and then I need to take a bus to get to campus.

    – Rush hour into NYC in the morning is over by 9:30 unless a truck blew over on the Tappan Zee bridge or something drastic like that. I sometimes hit Beltway traffic at 11 AM if I drive from Bethesda to CP for no discernible reason.

    All of the above have a common theme, making the city and all the job (and cultural) opportunities available not just to Manhattanites, but also to those outside the city limits. I wouldn’t disagree if you compared Jersey City to College Park in terms of crime and the like, but as far as the suburbs of NYC in NY (I said the NY metro area, not NY-NJ metro area; I don’t know Jersey, and I wasn’t pretending to), it’s outstripping DC as far as I’m concerned.

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