Greater Greater Washington


Purple Line pulls into Silver Spring Thanksgiving parade

It may be a few years until the Purple Line arrives in Silver Spring, but this past Saturday the Action Committee for Transit offered a fun preview by dressing up as a light-rail train in the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade.

Photo by Daniel Dancis.

ACT members and supporters marched in the 16th annual parade wearing Purple Line train costumes and blowing train whistles. Barbara Ditzler of Silver Spring designed a six-person Purple Line train costume, complete with Styrofoam plate wheels. And a fifth-grader at Clearspring Elementary School in Damascus made a train costume for her and her family out of painted cardboard boxes.

Dressing up as the Purple Line. Photo by Ralph Bennett.

ACT members and supporters march on Ellsworth Drive. Photo by Ralph Bennett.

The group already has big plans for next year's parade, including even more train costumes and possibly a dance routine. If you have a costume or song in mind, feel free to visit ACT's website and get in touch with us. We have only 12 months to prepare for the 2014 parade!

Ronit Aviva Dancis lives in Bethesda. She serves on the board of the Action Committee for Transit. 


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This seems like an excellent way to communicate the idea that public transit infrastructure is a serious concern of critical importance to public welfare, rather than a kitschy, cutesy gimmick choo-choo along the lines of monorail Monorail MONORAIL.

Or not :/

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but we do need to recognize that this is one of the main image issues facing rail transit, the notion that it is mostly a novelty white elephant project. To the extent that supports can counter that narrative... silly costumes may not be the best approach.

by Dizzy on Nov 25, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

@Dizzy, what do you suggest instead, for communicating the idea that public transit infrastructure is a serious concern of critical importance to public welfare, that would get people's attention amidst marching bands, Bolivian dance groups, and dogs dressed up as reindeer? As Ronit said, ACT welcomes your ideas.

by Miriam on Nov 25, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport


My general inclination would be to avoid productions in which a major transportation project is presented as being on par (in terms of importance, seriousness, value, etc.) with "marching bands, Bolivian dance groups, and dogs dressed up as reindeer."

I wouldn't want HHS employees dressing up as a giant syringe to promote the ACA either, you know what I mean?

I'm sure ACT is doing lots of great work reaching out to neighborhood groups, business organizations, local grassroots organizations and affinity/interest groups, school organizations, churches, etc. etc. The real influence you have to exert is on the legislators and regulators, of course, but as far as building public support goes, making the case to people in settings where they're looking to learn and deliberate - as opposed to gawk at spectacles - is probably a better use of time and effort.

Then again, if dressing up like a purple train is what helps you blow of steam, by all means, whatever makes your vessel buoyant.

by Dizzy on Nov 25, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

Dizzy: HHS people didn't dress up as syringes, but state health care people sure did go to state fairs and other events that were mostly frivolity to talk about health care.

Those weren't settings where they're "looking to learn and deliberate"; they were sharing space with corn dogs, funnel cake, Doberman races, and acrobatic shows. But it reached people where they were.

I think ACT's creativity is worthy of compliment.

by David Alpert on Nov 25, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport


Were they wearing silly costumes while they were going it? Anyway, I think we can agree that a government agency whose job it is to reach the public - particularly the lower-SES segment of the public that lacks health insurance - is facing a different challenge, calling for different approaches, than a policy advocacy organization trying to promote a specific infrastructure project by mobilizing grassroots political support. If you project silly, your substance will be seen as silly. That's my concern.

by Dizzy on Nov 25, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

I like this, looks fun.

by BTA on Nov 25, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

sometimes you are making a detailed substantive case

sometimes you are trying to get attention so you CAN make your substantive case (and at the same time giving the very abbreviated version of your case - greener future)

sometimes you are just trying to show your numbers. Thats why people like big turn outs at rallies and so forth - does that make the speeches more true - no - but it encourages press and pols to pay attention.

And sometimes you just want to energize your supporters.

"Bolivian dance groups"

what is unserious about Bolivian dance groups? ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 25, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

@David - exactly. We heard a lot of clapping and cheering from the crowd, and we got a lot of thumbs up from the folks watching the parade and the politicians who were taking part in it. I daresay that those politicians probably noted the enthusiastic support from the crowd and will keep it in mind.

@BTA it was a LOT of fun. Would love to have you join us next year!

by Ronit on Nov 25, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

Maybe Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train". After all:

It's the only line that takes you to Bethesda

by JimT on Nov 25, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't be worried about the "novelty" aspect here. We already have a lot f people taking a train to work in the DC region. It's a normal part of life here. Maybe in a city that is just starting a rail program but not here.

by Drumz on Nov 25, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't be worried about the presentation, either. Everything I read about public knowledge of massive projects like these says that people are not informed about things. Just look at the coverage of the Silver Line; it's been planned and under construction for years and plenty of people still don't know if it's Metro or something else, or whether you have to transfer to get on it, or whether Phase I goes to the airport or not, etc etc.

Anything that gets these future developments into people's heads is a good thing.

by MLD on Nov 25, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

When / if the Purple Line is ever built and operating it will be a boon to the lower part of Montgomery County and Prince Georges County.

BUT, the terrible bus plan put forth by the Governor and his lackeys for the CCT in upper Montgomery County seems to sit just fine with the Purple Line Supporters. It's like the people of the upper region are not as worthwhile to have LRT as in the lower region or Baltimore. The upper region is growing and has greater transit potential than the lower region and is needed to ease traffic congestion in the I-270 / 355 corridor over the next 50-100 years. Thanks to the politicians the upper MC and probably Frederick will get sham transit when rail is more than needed. Only those who believe in the Tooth Fairy think buses are better than LRT.

by George B. on Nov 25, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

Hopefully the bus routes will become transitl lines of the future.

by Thayer-D on Nov 25, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

My dream is that by 2050, the Purple line will go from Bowie across the Potomac to Tyson's Corner.

by Jerome Dancis on Nov 25, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport


Anything that gets these future developments into people's heads is a good thing.

That assumes that people's reactions once they learn about it are positive, and they don't start driving around a pig truck.

It's true that in a region with existing rail transit, some perception concerns are less warranted, although the fact that this will be the first light rail project does potentially open it up to some of the same lines of attack as the streetcar.

by Dizzy on Nov 25, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

I suppose this is marginally better than the alleged flash mob (comprising about 5 people) that PL supporters put together previously.

by Bob D. on Nov 25, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

On a related note, the police activity related to this parade completely ruined bus service in Silver Spring on Saturday morning, and, in an entirely preventable blunder, WMATA did absolutely nothing to warn riders or mitigate the (considerable) delays to bus routes passing through downtown Silver Spring:

by Kurt Raschke on Nov 25, 2013 7:06 pm • linkreport

I like that purple-line-people train!

Hopefully we add some more trains next year.

Ultimately, hopefully folks in these costumes can ride the real purple line on the first Thanksgiving that it is in service.

by Joe on Nov 26, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

@Joe - what a wonderful idea! We'll have a purple-line-train people reunion that day.

by Ronit on Nov 26, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport

What a wonderful way to communicate that the Purple Line has real public support; belongs IN the community as part of a parade, and is something to be celebrated. Congratulations on an attractive and creative contribution to the "discussion" [in all its forms] of public transit! I loved the smiles on the train "passengers'" faces. A url on the side of the train would add a little substantive content. Thanks, ACT!

by Wendy in Bethesda on Nov 26, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy: After living in the DC area for 26 years, I'm still amazed at how people take themselves SO seriously around here! Heck, it's a parade, it's OK to add a little levity to your 'very serious message about public transit' because it suits the occasion. Lighten up! I congratulate all those who thought ahead of time to make a statement in support of the Purple Line at this very popular event!

by Alex on Nov 27, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

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