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Chevy Chase digs in its heels to fight the Purple Line

After almost 30 years, the pieces are finally falling into place to build the Purple Line. But as it decides whether to keep fighting the project, will the Town of Chevy Chase see the writing on the wall?


Protesters at a Purple Line event last year. Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

This week, the Maryland Transit Administration narrowed down the list of private partners to help build and operate the $2.2 billion, 16-mile light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. But on Wednesday night, Chevy Chase held a public hearing about whether to spend $360,000 on legal representation to keep fighting the Purple Line, which passes through it for a half-mile.

During the hearing, residents of the affluent town of less than 3,000 people debated the merits of continuing to fight a project that even opponents admit is basically a done deal. Matilde Farren compared the Town Council to change-resistant aristocrat Lord Grantham on the TV show "Downton Abbey." "Trying to keep our town the way it was in the '20s is not realistic," she said. "Times change and we must too."

Residents worried about sound barriers, small shrimp

The Federal Transit Administration could approve Maryland's environmental impact study for the Purple Line in a few weeks, making it eligible for federal funding. Once it's approved, the town will have 150 days to file a lawsuit.

Chevy Chase will probably argue that the MTA hasn't done enough to mitigate the Purple Line's impacts on the town. Some trees will have to be cut down on the Purple Line's route along the Capital Crescent Trail, a former freight line that was converted to a trail in the 1980s with the expectation that transit would follow. And some of the 30 or so houses that back to the trail might have to get sound barriers or retaining walls.

Meanwhile, parents are concerned about losing an at-grade crossing at Lynn Drive that students use to walk to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, though the town's been unwilling to consider an underpass there. And environmentalists have taken up the fight for a small, endangered shrimp-like creature in Rock Creek Park that's actually never been seen near the Purple Line route.

Town would rather hire lawyers than talk to MTA

It's not like the MTA isn't willing to listen. There have been meetings and public hearings about the Purple Line and its earlier iteration under Governor Bob Ehrlich, the Bi-County Transitway, for over a decade. Even the Columbia Country Club, which straddles the trail and has historically been the Purple Line's biggest opponent, agreed last year to lay down their guns and work with them.

MTA officials have been communicating with Chevy Chase's Mitigation Advisory Committee since 2009. But town officials haven't spoken to the MTA in months.

Instead, the town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to fight the project, including over $430,000 to consultant Sam Schwartz to study alternatives to routing the Purple Line through Chevy Chase and a subsequent review of the state's plans. More recently, it hired law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in December and will decide on a longer-term arrangement next month.

At the hearing, some residents were prepared to spend more. Doug Kammerer, a meteorologist for NBC4 whose house backs to the trail, compared not hiring a lawyer this time to "entering a fight without a boxer."

A "self-centered" town

Chevy Chase previously considered suing the MTA to block the project in 2009 before deciding not to, which came up multiple times during the hearing. "4 years ago we fought this battle," said Jacob Bardin. "We lost something in those years. If we continue this antagonistic view we'll lose more." Bardin was one of fourteen citizens who wrote an open letter to local officials in 2008 decrying the town council's "self-centered" behavior.

The town seems to be digging in its heels. Recently-elected councilman John Bickerman vowed to "find a way to defeat" the Purple Line and its supporters, and this last-ditch effort appears to be his attempt to do so.

But more residents on both sides of the issue are recognizing how bad this fight makes Chevy Chase look. Many speakers at the hearing noted that this effort wasn't about killing the Purple Line, but finding the best solution for their town.

"To say we are going to take a step [hiring a lawyer] does not mean we're going to oppose the Purple Line," testified Rolf Sinclair. "We do run the risk for a lot of efforts to squash our attempts at this...people are opposing something that will benefit the working people of PG [County]."

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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It's annoying that one town has caused this much trouble to the purple line. Most other towns are thrilled with it coming (in Silver Spring the Purple Line, Greener Future is a common site).

by bk on Jan 10, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

I think a traffic jam is in order.

But seriously, why NIMBYism doesn't try to propose a good solution instead of outright blocking will never make sense, nor does spending hundreds of thousands to attempt to block something when it could be spent on mitigating the problems...

by John on Jan 10, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

You can't make some things up: Bickerman - LOL. And what is even funnier is that he'd a mediator. I thought names were supposed to reflect one's profession.

by fongfong on Jan 10, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

It just seems bizarre that they think that if they can prevent change in Chevy Chase they can mitigate the changes that are happening throughout the county. It's just a bizarre isolationism that refuses to consider that all choices have consequences.

by drumz on Jan 10, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that's pretty ridiculous that it's only going to be in Chevy Chase for a half mile and they're so opposed to it. That makes UMD's former stonewalling look almost principled in comparison.

by Daniel on Jan 10, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

This is embarrasing for the town of Chevy Chase. Having lived there for a good part of my life, I can say it is/was filled with well intentoined progressive types that are the first to donate to the Sierra Club et al. To not see the larger environmental picture of smart growth really calls to question the town's progressive values.

Again, I don't see how this isn't an open and shut case considering it was always supposed to be a trolley line. Buyer beware.

by Thayer-D on Jan 10, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

I'm not even clear on what they want. Is the goal of a majority of the town to stop the entire Purple Line? Or would they be fine with spending hundreds of millions of dollars to route it along a path that hasn't been designated for rail transit for decades?

And I'll copy my earlier comment from the roundup the other day:

It's pretty amazing that 3,000 rich people can make their "concerns" heard over hundreds of thousands of people of all income levels who will benefit from the Purple Line.
I bet there are plenty of people in Long Branch, Langley Park, Riverdale Park, or New Carrollton who would love for the biggest concern in their neighborhood to be the loss of a few trees for a new high-quality transit line.

by Gray on Jan 10, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

- http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/19/opinion/la-ed-subway-beverly-hills-mayor-race-20130219

very similar to what has been happening in Beverly Hills, LA, wrt transit service there.

Or, in Bellevue, WA, http://www.bellevuereporter.com/news/223527541.html

It's pretty typical. People can sue even if they have weak cases.

But it does wear down public officials, who don't like to have to deal with this, and it decreases their willingness to take on other "controversial" infrastructure projects in the future if they believe that litigation is likely.

In Baltimore County, in the late 1980s, neighborhoods in Ruxton and Riderwood successfully opposed have LR stations, although they didn't change the overall alignment. More recently, I think Anne Arundel residents sued to close one of the LR stations there, because of alleged crime issues.

by Richard Layman on Jan 10, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

Dear Chevy Chase,

Democracy has spoken. Please sit down and shut up.

Sincerly,

Everyone Else

by DAJ on Jan 10, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

Anyone else see the irony of the WRC4 METEOROLOGIST (!!!) opposing this?

by William on Jan 10, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

"Chevy Chase digs in heels to fight the Purple Line"

I'm not sure why the star of classic comedies like "Caddyshack" would really care one way or the other about the Purple Line.

by Mike on Jan 10, 2014 12:52 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that's pretty ridiculous that it's only going to be in Chevy Chase for a half mile and they're so opposed to it. That makes UMD's former stonewalling look almost principled in comparison.
to be fair, the proposed route through UMD will shutter Campus Drive to car traffic. Campus Drive is a lot more important to UMD than any trees are to any suburban community in MoCo.

UMD was also not trying to kill the purple line, they were just hoping they could get a tunnel through campus or a route that didnt involve closing Campus Drive.

by Richard on Jan 10, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

"Anyone else see the irony of the WRC4 METEOROLOGIST (!!!) opposing this?"

The irony is not so much that he is a meteorologist, but that he did not join WRC$ until August 2010, and had been in Philadelphia before that. So he likely bought his Chevy Chase house in 2010. His WRC4 pofile is at http://www.nbcwashington.com/on-air/about-us/Doug-Kammerer-101316634.html

Doug Kammerer bought a house that backs upon the Purple Line right-of-way recently, with the knowledge that the county and state had already fully committed to building the Purple Line. The alignment and the chief characteristics of the light-rail were already well known when he bought his house.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 10, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

"Long Branch, Langley Park, Riverdale Park, or New Carrollton who would love for the biggest concern in their neighborhood to be the loss of a few trees for a new high-quality transit line."

That's because they're meh communities that want the economic development and are willing to take the bad with the good. Chevy Chase is largely built out as a SFH residential town and sees mostly downside. You don't have to agree with that view, but you can understand it.

by Alf on Jan 10, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

Rolf Sinclair. "We do run the risk for a lot of efforts to squash our attempts at this...people are opposing something that will benefit the working people of PG [County]."

I found that to be an odd and somewhat elitist statement. People in Montgomery County don't work? lol Last time I checked, the plans don't call for a sky-bridge from PG County to Chevy Chase for the Purple Line.

by adelphi_sky on Jan 10, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

Chevy Chase should ask Georgetown how blocking Metro from its environs worked out. I'm guessing the residents really, really, really wish there was a Metro stop so traffic/parking wouldn't be quite so bad.

by lou on Jan 10, 2014 1:32 pm • linkreport

@lou

I agree. Both UMD and Georgetown have had to rethink that strategy. I find it odd that Chevy Chase would try to go down the same obstructionist path only to find out years later that mass transit almost always is a good thing if done right. Both UMD and Georgetown now realize this. But, apparently they have money to burn, so let them burn it in futility.

by adelphi_sky on Jan 10, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

Although it's unlikely to win an award, it's interesting to note that AIA just awarded Metro its 25 Year Award and part of the award focuses on how Metro changed DC for the better.

http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2014/twenty-five-year-award/

by JDC on Jan 10, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

"it's" refers to the Purple Line.

by JDC on Jan 10, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

As a resident of Chevy Chase for 12 years I am disgusted by the town's NIMBY attitude. The Purple Line will greatly benefit Chevy Chase and is a major + in the environmental column.

by pjwjr on Jan 10, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

As a Maryland taxpayer, I'm not happy about the possibility that my tax dollars may have to be used to fight off a dead end lawsuit.

The irony is that the Town has money for this lawsuit because, as MarylandJuice puts it "under state law they are refunded 1/6 of county income taxes paid by town residents". So state tax funds will be used in a futile attempt to defeat a state policy.

by Ronit Dancis on Jan 10, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

My theory behind these things is that you get a lot of older type A people in semi retirement that are just looking for stuff to get worked up about because they are bored.

by BTA on Jan 10, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

Georgetown didn't block Metro; Metro was never planned to go through there. UMD on the other had didn't like Metro and up until recently was trying to screw with the Purple Line as well.

by MLD on Jan 10, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

Just build around them. They can just continue to drive in their rich little Mercedes hogging up the freeways while everyone else can enjoy a multi-modal, public, regional rapid transit system. Hope these people get what's coming to them.

by YIMBY on Jan 10, 2014 4:42 pm • linkreport

@YIMBY - That would 1) cost more 2) be less effective, and perhaps most importantly in this contest 3) give them exactly what they want.

by Distantantennas on Jan 10, 2014 5:18 pm • linkreport

It's interesting to see how people react when they realize that rail transit projects can face the same stubborn, well-financed and well-organized opposition as rods.

Also interesting is how the same people who praise road opponents as "concerned, enlightened citizens using the democratic process" are calling the rail transit opponents a bunch of "disgusting selfish NIMBYs".

by ceefer66 on Jan 10, 2014 6:32 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that's the straw man you always prop up when this happens, ceefer66, but I'm not seeing it. I certainly have never praised anybody threatening a pointless lawsuit against a road that's far along in the planning process as a savior to all that is good and holy, but perhaps you're talking about someone else.

In which case, you're welcome to provide actual evidence rather than simply a straw man.

by Gray on Jan 10, 2014 6:44 pm • linkreport

Ceefer, once again, if you're going to call someone a hypocrite you need to actually tell us who you're calling a hypocrite. It also helps to show when they have said the things that you think represent hypocrisy. Just making up a person who may have said one thing and then another is kind of pointless.

by David C on Jan 10, 2014 7:22 pm • linkreport

Yes, if you support a rail project but don't support a road project with equal, nay, even more fervor that's evidence of hypocrisy and thus all bets are off and the rail fans are now required to go out and buy a Caddillac that only gets 12mpg.

by drumz on Jan 10, 2014 7:23 pm • linkreport

@lou -- fwiw, it's an urban myth that Georgetown was an intended location for a Metro station and that resident opposition led to its being dropped.

The only original planned station that was successfully opposed was on Oklahoma Ave. and Benning Road NE.

by Richard Layman on Jan 10, 2014 7:50 pm • linkreport

Two comments:
Indeed, the lack of a Metro stop in Georgetown has nothing to do with community opposition. Well documented.
Also, can we assume that the Chevy Chase legal bills will be paid with revenue from its infamous speed cameras?

by 20015 on Jan 10, 2014 8:55 pm • linkreport

As President Ford once said, Chevy Chase is a very funny suburb.

by aces on Jan 11, 2014 12:11 am • linkreport

What we want is to be listened to. In all of those so-called "hearings," Town residents were told what the county and the state want to do, but no one was listening to our concerns--about noise, safety, loss of a great many trees (not "some trees"), pollution, and cost, among other things, In fact, we were misinformed--and, in many instances, lied to. When we proposed alternatives, we were effectively told that nothing could be done. And btw, that half mile of Purple Line we are concerned about affects the entire northern border of the Town and everything within several blocks of it. This is not a minor issue, nor are we NIMBYs; we are citizens of this county and this state, we pay plenty of taxes, and we want our concerns taken into account. We also want to preserve the Trail, which is a wonderful linear park and a walking and bicycling path that is used by all of the towns along it. (A major lie we were told was that it would not be greatly affected; we have since derermined that it would be pretty much destroyed.) The only way we will be treated fairly by the state is if we are taken seriously, and for that, we need legal representation.

by Veda Charrow, Ph.D. on Jan 11, 2014 12:28 am • linkreport

Just like Georgetown rejected Metro 45 years ago, we see that going on in the enclave at Chevy Chase. Are they right or wrong? It depends on who you are. If my family lived there through four generations as many have and I amassed quiet fortune and power through real estate and loved our little town within a town, I would fight this overland rail transit too. The reason I would fight is the incessant noise. The reason many fight is perceptions of crime and easy access into their town by poor people like those who work there as domestics. It could also be viewshed. Overland rail is ugly with a capital U.

by AndrewJ on Jan 11, 2014 7:59 am • linkreport

What we want is to be listened to.

OMG, no one has been listened to more than the people of Chevy Chase.

but no one was listening to our concerns--about noise, safety, loss of a great many trees (not "some trees"), pollution, and cost

There have been numerous modifications to the plans based on these concerns. That's why they're building a four- to six-foot sound barrier along the track. That's why they have extensive plans to mitigate tree loss (From the FEIS: "Where forest impacts occur, MTA will comply with MDNR requirements for the final forest planting obligation. MTA will follow MDNR direction in offsetting those impacts by reforestation, which is planting trees in cleared areas, or afforestation,
which is planting trees in areas not previously forested. Based on MDNR mitigation requirements, MTA has preliminarily identified reforestation sites and forest mitigation banks with available credits that could be used to satisfy the requirements.") You wanted a Bus line instead? Well, MTA studied that in 2002. You wanted it to bypass your town? Well, your candidate, Gov. Ehrlich, lost his re-election in part because he promised to do that - and many other did too.

You've been listened to at public meetings. You've been listened to in the media. You've been listened to at the polls. And you've been heard. It's just that MTA hasn't found your arguments compelling. That's not the same thing as being ignored. Instead it's called losing. You lost.

A major lie we were told was that it would not be greatly affected; we have since derermined that it would be pretty much destroyed.

Well, I don't know who told you it would not be greatly affected and I'd love to see you back that claim up, but the won't be "destroyed". It will be rebuilt. It will be paved. It will have grade-separated crossings at major intersections. It will connect to the Silver Spring transit center. It will be fundamentally changed, with perhaps a less park-like feeling, but it will not be destroyed. Saying it will be destroyed is at least as much of a lie as what you claim someone told you (and I can pretty easily cite this lie).

Look, spend your money on this if you want, but it won't change anything. The Purple Line is going to be built. And someday you will ride it. And in 10 years you'll tell everyone how wonderful it is and how glad you are that you supported it.

by David C on Jan 11, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

"the enclave at Chevy Chase"
It's not an "enclave", it's some dotted lines on a map.

"we need legal representation."
Would CC residents who support the project have to pay into this?

"We also want to preserve the Trail"
Here's the current trail crossing at Connecticut Ave.: http://goo.gl/maps/qPYFM

by Bob See on Jan 11, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

" The reason I would fight is the incessant noise"
The noise from auto commuters barreling and honking their way through my DC neighborhood is far more offensive.

by Bob See on Jan 11, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

Please Dan:
"Some trees will have to be cut down on the Purple Line's route along the Capital Crescent Trail"

You've told me you've walked the trail. You know the Capital Crescent Trail sits under tree canopy for most of the trail from Silver Spring to Bethesda. When the heat index is 105 its 90 in the shade of trail.

Within this forest are approximately 150 "specimen" trees - 24" or greater in width - that will be cut as part of the clear cut for the train.

A forest ecosystem inside the beltway would be decimated.

David C - "It will have grade-separated crossings at major intersections."

Only 3 miles of this project are planned on the trail the 13 remaining miles of this project are on streets.
There is no grade separated crossing at Georgia Avenue in the heart of Silver Spring. Why doesn't this bother anyone?

The Town's fight reminds me of Tacoma Park's fight against 95 South going through. I wonder what GGW would have said then?

by Ajay Bhatt on Jan 11, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

@ Ajay Bhatt:

"the Capital Crescent Trail sits under tree canopy for most of the trail from Silver Spring to Bethesda"

But the trail does not go to Silver Spring! The off-road trail dead ends in Lyttonsville, far from downtown Silver Spring. Completing the trail into downtown Silver Spring is a major benefit of the Purple Line.

The Town of Chevy Chase, and "Save the Trail", have given no credible explanation how the trail can be completed without the Purple Line, or even shown awareness that the trail does not go to Silver Spring.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 11, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

Only 3 miles of this project are planned on the trail the 13 remaining miles of this project are on streets.

But the section that is the trail is the one we're talking about. Why is this fact relevant?

There is no grade separated crossing at Georgia Avenue in the heart of Silver Spring. Why doesn't this bother anyone?

Is that what you're advocating for? The current plan plus a grade separated crossing at Georgia Avenue?

But the main reason it doesn't bother anyone is that the CCT won't cross Georgia Avenue, the MBT will. And that bothers people very much. WABA has a whole advocacy push on correcting that. Perhaps you could get involved in that when you're done with this.

by David C on Jan 11, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

@Ajay

When I-95 was proposed to go through Takoma Park and Northeast DC, the "freeway fighters" used the slogan "White Men's Roads through Black Men's Homes."

I don't think the situation with the Purple Line in Chevy Chase is comparable at all. A light rail line isn't a 10-lane highway. And Chevy Chase isn't Takoma Park, which has generally been supportive of the Purple Line.

by dan reed! on Jan 11, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

Trees grow back

by Drumz on Jan 11, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

Trees will not be permitted along the trail adjacen to the Purple Line because of the overhead catenary lines (electric wires) that are required to provide electricity. Tree branches and falling leaves would interfere with the wires. In fact the most that will be permitted will be shrubs. ( I was on the poorly named Citizens' Advisory Committe for the PL, and found out just this sort of thing, after much prodding of the County's contractor and engineers.)

by Veda Charrow, Ph.D. on Jan 11, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

@Veda Charrow:
I was on the poorly named Citizens' Advisory Committe . . .
Good point. In areas with significant population (i.e. more than 3,000) and/or residents that are not exclusively very wealthy, Citizens' Advisory Committees get to dictate policy and single-handedly cancel large, well-studied projects with significant benefits to other areas.

It really is mystifying that for some reason, the same courtesy isn't being extended to the handful of angry Chevy Chase residents.

by Gray on Jan 11, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

@Dan
"And Chevy Chase isn't Takoma Park"
Both municipalities with a desire to maintain the quality of life for their residents. TP prevented the highway, CC is working on preventing the PL.

@Gray
"handful of angry Chevy Chase residents"

In the past 3 years over 5,000 trail users from across the region have signed our Save The Trail petition.
Prior to that Pam Browning delivered 18,000 signatures to Governor O'Malley.

by Ajay Bhatt on Jan 11, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

I encourage anyone who would like to learn more about Pam Browning's so called "Save the Trail" petition to see the blog series at http://www.silverspringtrails.org/?cat=11

I summarize in the last post of the series:
"Waving boxes of “Save the Trail” petition signatures that contain many very outdated signatures, gathered while presenting gross misinformation about the Purple Line plans, does not give GBCCC standing to speak for all of the many diverse trail users throughout the region. If politicians, decision makers, and reporters want to know what trail users want, then they need to do the hard work of listening to the many diverse organizations that represent them, including not only “Save the Trail” but also WABA, CCCT, MoBike, the Sierra Club and others."

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 11, 2014 5:03 pm • linkreport

@Wayne Phyilaier
"I encourage anyone who would like to learn more about Pam Browning's so called "Save the Trail" petition..."

Or
See the petition for yourself online at
https://www.change.org/petitions/trees-not-trains-on-the-capital-crescent-trail

by Ajay Bhatt on Jan 11, 2014 6:50 pm • linkreport

@Ajay Bhatt - Can you cite any other transportation projects you have opposed on the grounds of tree loss?

by Distantantennas on Jan 11, 2014 8:33 pm • linkreport

The beauty of infill development is that it saves many, many more trees elsewhere.

Opposing the Purple Line is environmentally irresponsible.

by Crickey7 on Jan 11, 2014 9:30 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7: "Opposing the Purple Line is environmentally irresponsible."

While Ajay Bhatt goes on and on about the trees, the Sierra Club has named the Purple Line one of the 25 best transportation projects in the nation. The Sierra Club report notes that because the Purple Line links different Metro lines and is near the core city, it will draw development inward, encouraging revitalization and development where it is most needed.
http://www.purplelinenow.com/SierraClubpick.html

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 11, 2014 9:46 pm • linkreport

@Crickey7 "The beauty of infill development is that it saves many, many more trees elsewhere."

The specifics of that should be stated in the FEIS - but it's not. And now we're going to leave it up to the word of a corporation to follow the rules - ask the people in WV how that's working for them.

@Distantantennas "Can you cite any other transportation projects..."
@Wayne Phyillaier"...best transportation projects..."

I don't believe the PL is a good transportation project. Why? A good transportation project would use the latest technology to reduce congestion. Overhead powerlines on a fixed rail system is not the latest and best technology.
We could do much better with integrated computerized traffic signaling to move traffic efficiently at a fraction of the cost. That doesn't get you or O'Malley/Brown a new shiny train.

With regards to congestion - MTA tells you 20K cars will be taken off the road, what they don't say is how many more will be added. There's no hiding the math.

It's a great development project for developers, but spending tax money on infrastructure to fatten developers wallets is not what I believe smart growth should be.

On top of this, unfortunately the P3 creates a smokescreen of accountability and a potentially unlimited taxpayer subsidy.

by Ajay Bhatt on Jan 11, 2014 10:34 pm • linkreport

Ajay Bhatt: you have hit the nail on the head. This project is brought to us and promoted by the local developers, and the politicians they have bought and paid for. At the many meetings if the Citizens' Advisory Committee for the PL, representatives of the various developers made it clear that this project was tied in with their own plans for developing (and over-developing) areas such as Chevy Chase Lake and other land they owned in Silver Spring and all along the planned route. Since they didn't own land along the Beltway or along the western end of Jones Bridge Road, the PL could not possibly be built along those routes--even though, for example, BRAC had moved Walter Reed to the Western end of Jones Bridge Road, and staff and patients would need a way to get there from eastern Montgomery County and PG County. Since the Walter Reed move had not been part of the Master Plan, it could not now be considered as an end point for the PL, even though it would be more practical in terms of ridership and cutting down on car traffic. Bus rapid transit was off the table, too, because the planners' minds were already made up. No matter what the affected residents said, our ideas were rejected out of hand. We did find out that the projected ridership numbers were pulled out of thin air, and that the project would NEVER be self supporting. In addition, the project initially had no funds allocated for rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail; once that was finally taken into consideration, all kinds of problems came to light, such as how to get the trail across or under Wisconsin Avenue or how to fit both rail and trail on the narrower parts of the existing trail. Cost estimates started rising early on, when reality hit, and have continued to rise ever since, not because of the objections of residents, but because the reality of what needed to be done and the engineering problems involved, became apparent.

by Veda Charrow, Ph.D. on Jan 11, 2014 11:57 pm • linkreport

What is "integrated computerized traffic signaling?" Do you have a specification?

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 12, 2014 2:25 am • linkreport

@ Veda Charrow:

You are using the testimony and findings of the "Citizens Advisory Committee for the PL" as a foundation to build your arguments, and are implying this important committee supports your position. Is this committee the Purple Line subcommittee of the Western Mont. Co. Citizens Advisory Committee? And if it is, can you please share with us what the official position of the Western Mont. Co. Citizens Advisory Committee is on the Purple Line? Are you speaking for the committee??

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 12, 2014 6:55 am • linkreport

While it is true that the company that owns the land in the Chevy Chase Lake area is promoting the Purple Line, let's look at the proposals to develop upper NW and Chevy Chase to begin with. Yes a streeetcar company and landowner (Chevy Chase Land Company) built the bridges over Klingle Valley and Connecticut Avenue to Chevy Chase Lake, prompting the development of all of the single family homes in Cleveland Park, Chevy Chase DC, Chevy Chase MD etc. Maybe those opposed to the purple line are just being selfish about their area because they don't want others to share in same lifestyle (albeit in mid-rise development at Chevy Chase Lake) they currently enjoy.

Look folks, the fact of the matter is that our roads are already clogged and exurban sprawl is already choking our agrarian resources. The region is expected to grow by millions more. If we don't come up with alternatives to the single family house and single occupancy vehicle to handle this growth, then our region will not be economically or environmentally viable for the long term. Fighting the Purple Line, or the Street Cars in our region, fighting new residential development on our transit corridors simply undermines the logical long term needs of our region.

If residential growth and transportation options are not accepted where they are currently proposed, then where exactly should they go? Because simply not having them is not really an option.

/rant

by William on Jan 12, 2014 8:44 am • linkreport

@ Veda Charrow:

"Since the Walter Reed move had not been part of the Master Plan, it could not now be considered as an end point for the PL, even though it would be more practical in terms of ridership and cutting down on car traffic. "

That is clearly a false statement. The BRT alignment along Jones Bridge Road to Walter Reed was one of the options carefully considered during the selection process. Ridership on the Walter Reed route was found to be lower than on a route to Bethesda, simply because Bethesda remains the preferred destination for employment, residences and business even after the Walter Reed growth is included.

People living along Jones Bridge Road and represented by Coquelin Run Citizens Association have worked hard to get traffic calming measures on that street and especially at the North Chevy Chase Elementary School to address serious traffic measures, see http://www.wtop.com/41/2884910/Jones-Bridge-Road-safety-improvement-becomes-a-costly-hazard
Now you want to push a concept to widen that road and run dozens of large buses down that road every hour?? I know the Town of Chevy Chase will not hesitate to throw Coquelin Run citizens under the bus to keep transit away from their neighborhood, but is that the postion of your "Citizens Advisory Committee" also?

The Purple Line FEIS includes the ridership and cost comparison between Bethesda and Walter Reed.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 12, 2014 8:45 am • linkreport

Actually, a better termination point for the Purple Line would be the new development at Westbard (River Road) or even better, McLean, VA, though neither of those will ever happen.

by William on Jan 12, 2014 8:49 am • linkreport

"Overhead powerlines on a fixed rail system is not the latest and best technology.
We could do much better with integrated computerized traffic signaling to move traffic efficiently at a fraction of the cost"

Naturally if you think that rail mass transit is in general a bad idea, you would oppose a rail transit line. I doubt that's the position of most CC people (others have said they support a heavy rail metro line) and AFAICT its not the case they usually make in public.

BTW is there any evidence that SHA is not trying to improve traffic signalling?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 12, 2014 8:55 am • linkreport

Welp, we are hitting all the usual tropes:

Claim that the fact that some trees will be cut down means it's environmentally irresponsible? Check.

Claim that trains are "old" technology and we'd be better by just fixing traffic lights? Check.

Claims that local govt just made up numbers without demonstration of what they should have arrived at? Check. If you're going to claim "bad math" then it is incumbent to provide some good math.

Claims that this is all a conspiracy by developers to ruin places in the name of the almighty dollar? Check, and rich coming from people living in a community built by developers.

by Drumz on Jan 12, 2014 9:18 am • linkreport

Save The Lake!

"Overhead powerlines on a fixed rail system is not the latest and best technology."
Should they use maglev?

by Bob See on Jan 12, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

The Save the Trail rhetoric is disingenuous since most of the Georgetown Branch of the trail is an utter mess.

The trail itself is muddy, poorly maintained, and too narrow throughout. There is no path separation between bicyclists and walkers/joggers, leading to constant confrontations.

The trail access point at Sleaford Rd is completely dilapidated and dangerous. The crossing at Connecticut Ave is not only ugly, inconvenient, and untrail-like, it's a bit dangerous with the speeding traffic (to a lesser extent so is the crossing at Jones Mill).

The worst part is that once you get past the bridge over Rock Creek(to which there is no direct access, btw), the trail conditions deteriorate dramatically. The huge ruts and irregularities in the trail make biking dangerous and walking unpleasant at this point. And going through a run-down industrial zone certainly takes away from the park feel. The trail then unceremoniously ends instead of going to Silver Spring or connecting with the far more beautiful Sligo Creek trail system.

Some Chevvy Chase residents like to talk up how wonderful the Georgetown Branch Trail is, but coming from Minneapolis where they have real trails, the Georgetown Branch is nothing so special that it should warrant killing progress.

My biggest disappointment is that NIMBYism is part of why this project will take decades longer to complete than it should have.

by Djuha on Jan 12, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

The Citizens' Advisory Committee for the Purple Line existed between October 2007 and September 2009, and met 21 times with the Functional Planning and Policy Division of the Montgomery County Planning Department. There were representatives of the developers, as well as individuals who had been chosen to represent all of the towns along the proposed alignment (route) in the Master Plan. Our job was to "participat[e] in addressing the many issues inherent in a project of this scale." We reviewed the MTA plans and their analyses, and gave our opinions. We raised issues that had not preciously been considered. We did not provide a final report; that was the Planning Board's job. There was often little or no agreement on a number of issues among those who represented the towns and the Trail and those who represented the developers. Even though there had been significant changes since the Master Plan had been created, such as the addition to the Naval Hospital campus of Walter Reed, as well as unexpected issues with tradfic flow, and the popularity of the Georgetown Branch of the Trail, there was no move to amend the Master Plan. The Planning Board put together a staff memorandum and ultimate recommendations that were forwarded to the MTA, but the major concerns of the various towns west of Silver Spring were not addressed. I do not fault the Planning Board; they did a very good job; however, the agenda had been set for them, and they could not change it.

by Veda Charrow, Ph.D. on Jan 12, 2014 5:00 pm • linkreport

Transportation Tech and Health/Environment articles from BBC News Online today:

For those who asked about new transportation tech:
"Electric buses have huge potential and we're exploring how they can help us take better care of the environment without compromising passenger service,"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25621426

Can you imagine spending money on typewriters for schools? That's what a single line fixed rail system with overhead powerlines equates to.

Mental Health and Green Spaces:
"...people living in greener urban areas were displaying fewer signs of depression or anxiety."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25682368

We're adding density but not green space - why would you remove green space when there is no way to replace it while you are adding density? Ask NYC how they like Central Park or the Highline and if those decisions were prescient?

by Ajay Bhatt on Jan 12, 2014 6:06 pm • linkreport

I agree that we should emulate the High Line and Central Park. Surround a few intensely programmed parks with mixed use buildings from 5-60 stories tall.

And most importantly, put lots of fixed-route rail in.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 12, 2014 6:13 pm • linkreport

Buses. That runs on electricity. This is the alternative? Ok.

Buses, better than trains except when it comes to capacity, ride quality, development potential, traffic mitigation, the fact that even if we used buses instead of a train it'd still need to probably travel through Chevy Chase since it's a town smack dab between the two major business centers of Maryland's largest county.

by Drumz on Jan 12, 2014 6:48 pm • linkreport

@Drumz: But if we studied it for another decade I'm sure we could come up with a way to get less service for more money!

Not doing that would mean prioritizing the pleas of hundreds of our richest neighbors as lower than the concerns of hundreds of thousands of other residents. And then how could we sleep at night?

by Gray on Jan 12, 2014 7:00 pm • linkreport

This project is brought to us and promoted by the local developers, and the politicians they have bought and paid for.

Bought and paid for...that would be one way to look at it, but then that means you've lost complete faith in our democratic process. And of course, those who oppose the rail were bought and paid for by the Chevy Chase Country Club no?

But, that probably isn't the issue (undue developer influence). The Purple Line has been a major issue in every election going back to the 1990's. In 1994, Doug Duncan won the County Executive race, in part, on a pledge to not build the light rail. But the pendulum swung and by 1998, 2/3rds of the County Council won on a pro-light rail campaign. In 2002 Governor Ehrlich was elected when one of the issues was the Purple Line and he was opposed to it, but that was really the last win at the ballot box for the Anti group.

The Purple Line was a major issue in the 2006 and 2010 Governor's races and the pro side won. By 2006 the democratic candidates for County Executive were arguing over who supported it more. In 2010, all 9 winning candidates to the County Council had signed a pledge to build the Purple Line. In fact, in election after election at the county and state level, the Purple Line has been a major issue and for the last 10 years the pro-Purple Line side has won every time. Even in the Chevy Chase area, Councilmember Roger Berliner, a strong Purple Line supporter, won the 2010 Council District 1 (which includes Chevy Chase) race by more than a 2-1 margin over a Purple Line opponent. Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, a strong Purple Line supporter, won her 2010 State District 18 race as well.

So it's not developers that have bought and paid for the elected official's loyalty, it is the voters who have supported in overwhelming numbers elected officials who have demonstrated loyalty to the Purple Line.

How else do you explain so many wins for candidates on one side of such a major issue?

by David C on Jan 12, 2014 9:14 pm • linkreport

"This project is brought to us and promoted by the local developers, and the politicians they have bought and paid for"

Unlike Chevy Chase, Maryland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevy_Chase,_Maryland

by Thayer-D on Jan 12, 2014 10:01 pm • linkreport

It seems like the Blue TOngued Pine Vole may be heavily impacted also

by patb2009 on Jan 12, 2014 10:44 pm • linkreport

I really do empathize with the nearby resident over the loss of a sylvan linear park that was like a private perk for nearby resident. That said, any opposition to the Purple Line on environmental grounds, process grounds, social equity grounds or democratic valeus grounds is simply misplaced.

The Purple Line will bring incalculable economic benefits to the inner Maryland suburbs that are now poorly linked. It will be a net boon to the environment because it promotws infill development. It will convert a trail used by a tiny handful of nearby property owners to a trail used by tens of thousands across the region. It's been exhaustively studied, publicly debated and approved.

by Crickey7 on Jan 13, 2014 9:26 am • linkreport

I could make arguments about the transit benefits of the Purple Line, which are significant, the economic benefits, which are concentrated on the more eastern portions of the line and which will primarily benefit, I think and hope, minority and lower-income areas. (Always nice to see an all-white community opposing that).

But what actually frustrates me, and would frustrate me as a Chevy Chase taxpayer, is that this system "skirts" Chevy Chase residential areas. The majority of Chevy Chase residents will not abut the system and those that live in Chevy Chase Lake will actually get a new transit service. Use the Chevy Chase Lake development tax dollars to keep improving the town.

by thesixteenwords on Jan 13, 2014 9:45 am • linkreport

Djuha: The worst part is that once you get past the bridge over Rock Creek(to which there is no direct access, btw), the trail conditions deteriorate dramatically.
Yes, and direct linking of the new trail to Rock Creek (which is an actual park trail) is included in the plan.

btw, gotta love that carefully-worded petition, it implies through lies of omission that the trail is going away completely.

by Bob See on Jan 13, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

What is your definition for residents not being near the Purple Line? Eyeballing I'd say a good percentage of the town will be within a mile of the station or the one in Bethesda. You could make the case for more staions like maybe at Jones Mill Rd?

by BTA on Jan 13, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

@BTA, thesixteenwords

If I remember correctly, the MTA did look at a station where the trail passes under East-West Highway, near B-CC High School. I assume it got dropped due to low ridership (the Bethesda station is a few blocks away, and the neighborhoods east of Wisconsin Avenue are of course much less dense than downtown Bethesda) but it would have put more of Chevy Chase within walking distance.

by dan reed! on Jan 13, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

And this is why a Connecticut Avenue line, linking Kensington to Dupont is a good idea (at least in my world).

by Andrew on Jan 13, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

The Chevy Chase NIMBY's (on both sides of the border) are among the most irrational, self-centered, and arrogant in the entire region. The problem is that these clowns have too much time on their hands and more money than they know what to do with--a very bad combination.

Just getting the (very watered down) Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan approved was like pulling teeth. For being such a "well-educated" populace, the residents of CC display a lot of ignorance. Their arguments against the Purple Line (or any other positive development) are full of holes, defy the most basic principles of logic and reasoning, and are usually founded on selfishness/bigotry. Among them:

- "The line will wipe out an imaginary, "endangered" creature that nobody's ever heard of 5 miles downstream of a small Purple line crossing"

- "Arbitrary claim that a 'bus (BRT) line' would be better when 99.9% know they would never step foot on a bus"

- "The CC Lake development will destroy the "character" of the ugly strip malls and parking lots on the site now"

Seriously???

The Purple Line will provide a huge economic boost for the quarter million residents living in inside-the-Beltway communities in MoCo/PGC and drastically improve mobility in the area and is especially critical for the many working class communities of eastern Montgomery County/northern Prince George's County (Riverdale, New Carrollton, Long Branch, Langley Park, Takoma Park, etc.).

To have the selfish residents of a relatively small, wealthy community (who are deaf to compromise) kill it would be an atrocity.

by King Terrapin on Jan 13, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

King Terrapin - "The line will wipe out an imaginary, "endangered" creature that nobody's ever heard of 5 miles downstream of a small Purple line crossing"
The stream that has untold numbers of stormwater drains already dumping into the watershed, I might add.

by Bob See on Jan 13, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

Speaking as a former Chevy Chase resident who has remained active in local politics (because I still own and rent out my former home there) the unfortunate truth is that a small, but very vocal, group of CC residents seems to believe that the neighborhood is completely perfect and is willing to dedicate substantial amounts of time and money to opposing any and all change. Viewing this as an opposition to transit is not accurate when you are dealing with people who (in addition to wanting to kill rhe purple line) also vehemently oppose the installation of LED bulbs in streetlights and the replacement of copper phone lines with fiber optic replacements.

by Jacob on Jan 13, 2014 7:56 pm • linkreport

@dan reed!, BTA--

Forgive the confusion. I think there are great transit benefits for Chevy Chase residents. But in the transit literature, it is argued that proximity to a line is far less desirable than a station. And the number of Chevy Chase residents for whom that is the case is quite small. So the actual "grievance" is sooo small.

by thesixteenwords on Jan 14, 2014 12:16 am • linkreport

If I get anything from this, it's that I would boycott NBC4 weather. :)

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 19, 2014 8:54 am • linkreport

@ Geoffrey Hatchard: "If I get anything from this, it's that I would boycott NBC4 weather."

When I commented that Doug Kammerer bought his Chevy Chase home in 2010 and knew, or should have known, the Purple Line was coming to the publicly owned Georgetown Branch corridor, I did not mean that Doug has no right to express an opinion about the Purple Line. Of course he does, as do we all.

But I do feel that anyone who purchased a home after about 1988 did so after it was clear that rail transit was in the master plan and likely to be built on this former B&O Railroad corridor. They cannot fairly claim that it is unfair to them to now convert that local park into a regional transportation and trail resource. I'm not aware that Doug has made such a claim, but others from the Chevy Chase neighborhood often do. For example, the President of "Save the Trail" purchased his home backing upon the Georgetown Branch in 2007.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Jan 19, 2014 10:09 am • linkreport

Wayne: I'm not saying he doesn't have a right to speak his mind. Sure, he does. And by expressing his POV, I am making an equal move to decide that supporting his station is not in my best interest. Simple economics! :)

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 19, 2014 10:31 am • linkreport

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