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.