Greater Greater Washington

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Purple Line opposition has "tarnished" the Town of Chevy Chase

Not everyone in Chevy Chase wants to block the light rail Purple Line. I don't want to start another Purple Line flame war, but this testimony at the recent Purple Line hearing, from long-time Town of Chevy Chase resident Arthur T. Rowse, bring a unique and valuable perspective on the super-local, anti-Purple Line politics:


Fenced-in interim Capital Crescent Trail near the Columbia Country Club. Image from Finish The Trail.
I would like to raise a few questions about where the Town of Chevy Chase stands on the Purple Line. Since the rail-trail plan was proposed, the dominant powers of the town government have simply assumed that everyone in town opposes the plan. They also have used more than half a million dollars of taxpayer funds to concoct a scheme that would dump the problem onto the residents of Jones Bridge Road.

The town has never conducted a poll of residents to determine where they stand on the issue. One reason may be the fear that if the issue were presented fairly and objectively, the overwhelmingly liberal residents might strongly support the Purple Line plan. They also might want their tax money back.

The fallout has unfairly tarnished the town. Many of its progressive residents have become ashamed at the NIMBY image that the town government has presented to the outside world on this matter. Saving the trail has never been the real issue. It is whether a few property owners who bought property on the freight spur might tolerate the softer sounds of a trolley carrying non-residents so close to the town's border.

Even more shameful is the narrow-minded image created by critics of the Purple Line at a time when most rational people are seeking ways to break the cycle of planet destruction from fossil fuels. I wonder how the opposition of town officials to light rail fits with their endorsement of the Kyoto Treaty? And how can they explain to their children why they support the so-called green revolution for everything but the Purple Line?

Much has been made of a petition drive that has boasted many thousands of signatures as part of a clever campaign entitled "Save the Trail." But, as Shakespeare might say, such strutting and fretting signify nothing. It's like asking people if they like ice cream. Everybody likes the trail. That's why planners have included it in all their plans, like many successful rail-and-trail operations around the world.

Much has also been made of the probable loss of many trees along the trail. The same people seem blind to the invasive weeds that have already devoured many of the trees and shrubs with scarcely any effort made by save-the-trail people to stop the destruction. My message to Purple Line opponents is: relax. By the time the first dirt is moved for this line, there won't be many live trees to cut down.

Update: Ben T. points out a Brookings panel next week about the Purple Line, "Remaking the Suburbs in a Carbon-Constrained World: A Case Study of Maryland's Purple Line." It's Wednesday, Dec. 3 from 9:30 to 11 am. Register here.
Cavan Wilk became interested in the physical layout and economic systems of modern human settlements while working on his Master's in Financial Economics. His writing often focuses on the interactions between a place's form, its economic systems, and the experiences of those who live in them. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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Brookings will have an event about the Purple Line on Wed., 12/3 from 9:30 AM - 11 AM. The title of the event is "Remaking the Suburbs in a Carbon-Constrained World: A Case Study of Maryland’s Purple Line." Here's the link: http://www.brookings.edu/events/2008/1203_carbon_constrained_world.aspx?p=1

by Ben on Nov 26, 2008 9:16 am • linkreport

Agreed. I found it pretty disgusting that the town was using taxpayer money to oppose the project.

by Omari on Nov 26, 2008 1:45 pm • linkreport

What a wonderfully witten testimony! I too would be curious to see a poll of Chevy Chase residents and find out their actual standing on this issue.

So many remain silent for fear of backlash by their more aggressive neighbors. You can always rally a rabid bunch to fight against something and keep their energy stocked, but it is so much harder to maintain an enthusiastic, positive vision in the face of bullying opposition and personal attacks. One hopes that Rowse and others like him will keep speaking their truths.

by KathyJ on Nov 27, 2008 10:45 am • linkreport

The picture of the trail passing through the Country Club with tendrils of poison ivy reaching out at walkers or cyclists says it all.

With the Purple Line the trail will be wider and not constrained by a 8' high chain link fence.

by WLS on Nov 28, 2008 9:01 pm • linkreport

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