“The university is a major beneficiary of this project [the Purple Line],” Daddio said. “But you wouldn’t know it by their actions in the last few months.” Washington Post (1/28/2008)
There is no doubt as to the University Administration’s intent with their latest move to close Campus Drive to cars and transit. One of the strongest arguments for a central campus Purple Line alignment between the ‘M’ Circle and the Stamp Student Union on Campus Drive is that the proposed light rail would link up with the hub of Shuttle UM – UMD’s successful and far-flung bus system. By removing transit vehicles from Campus Drive, administration officials have found a way to seriously undercut and potentially pre-empt the Maryland Transportation Administration’s (MTA) preferred alignment through campus. In doing so they risk the continued success of Shuttle UM and create yet another serious obstacle for the Purple Line – a project whose profound potential benefits for the campus community they rarely communicate. The Purple Line would bring 4 high investment transit stops to campus and dramatically enhance transportation options for UMD students, faculty and staff both regionally and intra-campus.
The planned closure supports outgoing University President Dan Mote’s vision for Campus Drive to “serve as a major pedestrian walking mall” that he laid out to the campus community in October 2007. He claims this idea is explicitly supported by the Campus Master Plan, but RTCP’s editors showed that Mote’s vision for the roadway is based on a misreading of the Campus Master Plan which neither implicitly nor explicitly supports closing Campus Drive to transit. Mote’s continued opposition to the Campus Drive alignment is a “knee-jerk reaction and demonstrates a continuing lack of coordination with MTA.” It runs counter to the advice of nearly every urban and transportation planner who has taken a serious look at the situation on campus as well as counter to the multi-year, multi-million dollar Purple Line planning process being conducted by the state.
Unfortunately, since Campus Drive is the only viable east-west transit route across campus, Dr. Mote’s vision for the road is tantamount to a rejection of transit on campus and ultimately the Purple Line. The plan relegates existing regional (WMATA) and campus (Shuttle-UM) bus service to the periphery of campus… a plan which will dramatically reduce the efficiency and efficacy of area transit in the near term. The plan adds more credence to UMD’s proposed Preinkert Drive alignment, but that proposal still presents major technical and funding obstacles to the Purple Line that neither the administration nor the MTA have found a way to address.
A test run of this road closure will begin mid-June or July and continue on through September 15th into August. Long term implementation could begin as soon as 2011. RTCP fully supports the closure of Campus Drive to private automobiles as quickly as possible. A thorough study of the road by MTA (as part of the Purple Line planning process) showed that 5,500 private automobiles snarl 750 transit vehicles on the roadway during any given school day between 6am and 7 pm…. putting cars in major conflict with transit and pedestrians. Most of those cars are single-occupancy vehicles and based on driver interviews nearly 20% of cars on the roadway were just passing through and had no business being on campus.