Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Behold how the Purple Line corridor is changing

When built, the Purple Line could dramatically improve transit commutes in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. To explore that and other changes the line will bring, researchers created a series of maps including this one of the "commute shed" of each Purple Line station, or how far you can get on transit before and after it's built.


All images from the Purple Line Corridor Coalition.

Two weeks ago, the Purple Line Corridor Coalition organized a workshop called "Beyond the Tracks: Community Development in the Purple Line Corridor" to bring different stakeholders together and talk about ways to prepare for changes along the future light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, which awaits federal funding and could open in 2020.

The coalition is a product of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, which hosted the workshop. Members of the group include nonprofit organizations, developers, and local governments in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. At the workshop, they looked at examples from cities like Minneapolis and Denver, which recently built light-rail lines.

The 16-mile corridor contains some of the region's richest and poorest communities, in addition to major job centers and Maryland's flagship state university. When it opens in 2020, the Purple Line will help create the walkable, urban places people increasingly want. However, rising property values could potentially displace small businesses and low-income households. To illustrate and explore these issues, the Center for Smart Growth produced a series of awesome maps.

Like the DC area as a whole, the Purple Line corridor is divided from west to east, with more jobs and affluence on the west side, and more low-income households on the east side. Many of the estimated 70,000 people who will ride the Purple Line each day in 2040 will come from communities in eastern Montgomery and Prince George's county to jobs in Bethesda and Silver Spring.

But today, getting between those areas can be difficult and time-consuming, whether by bus or by car. It's no surprise that many commuters along the eastern end of the Purple Line have one-way commutes over an hour.

These maps, and the map above, show the "commute shed" of three Purple Line stations, or how far you can get on transit in an hour. In all three cases, the Purple Line opens up huge swaths of Montgomery, Prince George's and DC to each community. While the Purple Line only travels through a small portion of our region, it adds another link to our existing Metro and bus network, meaning its benefits will go way beyond the neighborhoods it directly serves.

But better access comes with a price, namely rising property values. The revitalization of downtown Silver Spring has resulted in higher home prices in surrounding neighborhoods because of the increased demand to live there. But Silver Spring and Takoma Park still have substantial pockets of poverty, meaning that low-income residents may not be able to afford to stay in the area once the Purple Line opens.

There are two ways to ensure that neighborhoods near the Purple Line remain affordable for both current and future residents. One is to protect the existing supply of subsidized apartments. Many complexes near the Purple Line have price restrictions for low-income households, but they will expire before it's scheduled to open in 2020.

The other is to build more new housing near the Purple Line. New homes are usually expensive, but increasing the supply of housing to meet demand can result in lower or at least stabilized prices. We're starting to see this in downtown Silver Spring, where thousands of apartments have been built in recent years. But Montgomery officials reduced the number of new homes allowed in Chevy Chase Lake and Long Branch due to concerns about changing the character of each neighborhood.

There are a lot of great and interesting communities along the Purple Line. But many of them are dramatically different places than they were even 10 years ago. They'll be different in 10 more years, whether or not the Purple Line is built. We can't preserve these places in stone, but we should try to ensure that the people who enjoy and contribute to these places can stick around in the future.

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. 

Comments

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I like how the University of Maryland has a poverty rate between 36 and 91%

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

@Richard

It is largely an illusion, at least in terms of what people usually mean when they say poverty. A student at UMD with rich parents and a part time job working on campus will look like they are living in abject poverty in the census data even if their parents just bought them an Lexus.

by Colin on Apr 2, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

This isn't a justification for fighting the Purple Line, but I think this partly shows why the Town of Chevy Chase isn't supportive:
http://www.smartgrowth.umd.edu/assets/images/plcc/c02.jpg
http://www.smartgrowth.umd.edu/assets/images/plcc/cs01.jpg

The Town isn't in the walk/bike catchment for the new Purple line stations (just the existing Bethesda Red line). I'd also wager that most of town residents work somewhere on the red line or downtown -not the east side of the Purple Line- so their commutes aren't improved.

by Robert K on Apr 2, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport


It is largely an illusion, at least in terms of what people usually mean when they say poverty. A student at UMD with rich parents and a part time job working on campus will look like they are living in abject poverty in the census data even if their parents just bought them an Lexus.

O I know, but I enjoy it. I use to live there, constituting the 9% I guess

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

I live in Virginia so I haven’t followed the purple line stuff too closely, but I occasionally bike the Capital Crescent and Georgetown Branch trails. Will these continue to exist after the purple line is final in 2020 (the portion east of Bethesda)? What about during construction? Will there eventually be a bike trail running parallel to the entire purple line all the way to New Carrollton?

Also, doesn’t 2020 seem really optimistic for something like this? If the Silver line is any indication, I’d guess it won’t actually open until 2022 or later.

by Jason on Apr 2, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

Yes, the trails are being rebuilt as part of the project and will be next to the rail line. There are many parts of the trail that will be improved with removal of at-grade road crossings as part of the rail project.

by MLD on Apr 2, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

I live in Virginia so I haven’t followed the purple line stuff too closely, but I occasionally bike the Capital Crescent and Georgetown Branch trails. Will these continue to exist after the purple line is final in 2020 (the portion east of Bethesda)? What about during construction? Will there eventually be a bike trail running parallel to the entire purple line all the way to New Carrollton?
Also, doesn’t 2020 seem really optimistic for something like this? If the Silver line is any indication, I’d guess it won’t actually open until 2022 or later.

I believe it will only go to Silver Spring, from where you can pick up the Anacostia Tributary Trail System and get many many places(including the east coast greenway), but not New Carrollton I do not think.

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

And to add to what @MLD said, the trail will finally be completed through to downtown Silver Spring, where it will (eventually) meet up with the Metropolitan Branch trail into DC.

I don't actually believe there are additional segments of the CCT planned east of SS, but perhaps others know more there.

by Gray on Apr 2, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

@Jason:
Regarding trails:

The Capital Crecent Trail will be paved and will run alongside the Purple Line between Bethesda and Silver Spring. This will improve the trail in several respects, including (1) extending it all the way to Silver Spring, (2) paving it, (3) eliminating all but two street crossings between Bethesda and Silver Spring, (4) building a paved connection between the Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Trails, and (5) directly connecting the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch trails at Silver Spring.

Between Silver Spring and Sligo Creek, a sidepath called the Silver Spring Green Trail will run alongside the line.

Along University Boulevard, the construction of the Purple Line will result in narrowing the roadway from 3 lanes per direction to 2. It will also result in the installation of bike lanes.

The rest of the route largely follows street rights-of-way, so cyclists can use sidewalks or ride on-street.

by Matt Johnson on Apr 2, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

linking up with the anacostia tributary system is a real boon

http://www.pgparks.com/Assets/Parks+$!26+Recreation/PDF/Maps/Anacostia+Trail+Map+2012.pdf

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

Wish the landowners in Tysons would start making noises about extending the Purple Line to Tysons. The Silver Line is having a huge impact on land use, but really no impact on the existing traffic sewer infrastructure. The Purple Line is the final piece of the puzzle in actually transforming Tysons into a walkable place. Other wise it'll just become inward-looking super blocks.

by nbluth on Apr 2, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

@nbluth

I agree. When tysons gets built up the street grid will be worse than whats in Rosslyn right now. If they do extend it eventually into tysons in will need to go all the way to Merrifield/Falls Church down gallows. That area is FFX county's 4th largest office market and is rapidly growing.

by Ervin on Apr 2, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

Taking the Purple Line that far is a big step - 10 miles or so - basically without anything in between (somehow I doubt the CIA would want a train station on their doorstep).

What Virginia really needs is it own Purple line from Tysons down to Alexandria.

by Tom A on Apr 2, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

Taking the Purple Line that far is a big step - 10 miles or so - basically without anything in between (somehow I doubt the CIA would want a train station on their doorstep).
What Virginia really needs is it own Purple line from Tysons down to Alexandria.

Really depends. If in it's own ROW it could make good time, and do it in 20 minutes people would take it.

Also I am sure the CIA would want a station, just not on top of their campus, but beside it.

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Tom A

Fairfax County and Alexandria having their own version of the purple line would work too. But I dont think the CIA would mind having a rail line near by. One of the FBI's requirements for their new location is to be within a mile or so of a metro station so I don't see why the CIA would mind.

by Ervin on Apr 2, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

A. Under the Tysons urban design guidelines, super blocks will be broken up into a finer street grid, and walkability will be improved (at least within the quadrants defined by the Rte 123 and rte 7 traffic sewers)

B. Purple line to Tysons is not possible now, due to objections from McLean, and alt projects with better Ben cost ratios (purple line would have high benefits, but also high costs for the river crossing - and some form of BRT on the beltway may be an alternative) In say 10 or 20 years, when Tysons is more built out, and FFX has tilted further towards urbanism, things may well change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 2, 2014 12:17 pm • linkreport

I would be interested to see a study on the impact of commuting UMD students. University of Maryland is still a big commuter school and I think the Purple Line will attract a lot of students living in Montgomery County to use transit to get to the university.

by BBBB on Apr 2, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

VDOT is examining a dedicated ROW transit corridor from Tysons to Baileys to NW alexandria.

Around the beltway, the express buses in the hot lanes are the preferred alternative for the near future. If transit access to Tysons from Landmark is needed, thats the likely choices

For Old Town, the best option is likely a Rosslyn Wye enabling single seat metro service from King Street to Rossyln to Tysons.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 2, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

The gravel trail will be paved. But the route that the new section of the Capital Crescent trail will follow along the Metropolitan Branch (CSX line) is still unclear, since CSX has not been persuaded to provide a right if way for the trail.

Some PG planning documents have a trail called the Pink Line along the Purple Line. It is not being seriously pursued, as the focus is on a trail from New Carrollton to DC via Cheverly.

by JimT on Apr 2, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

I don't think extending the Purple Line to Tysons is the solution seeing as the Purple Line is light rail.

What we would need is a proper Metro line, like the Beltway line that's been envisioned in the past.

by BBBB on Apr 2, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

The Capital Crescent Trail is just the part from DC to Bethesda. It will not be effected.

The Georgetown Branch Trail (the Future Capital Crescent Trail) is the part from Bethesda to the railroad. This will be replaced by a new Capital Crescent Trail extension that will go all the way to the Silver Spring Transit Center which appears to be on schedule to also open in 2020.

by David C on Apr 2, 2014 12:32 pm • linkreport

The only potential transit upgrade across the Potomac River in the next 20 years will be expanding the Long Bridge to four tracks. HOT Lanes for buses across the ALB is also a possibility.

by mcs on Apr 2, 2014 12:34 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with Tom, Route 7 is the logial corridor for for any expansion of transit in the region, not sure if BRT or light rail makes the most sense give the ROW available. Long term there should be a beltline metro or at least portions of it. Alexandria to southern Maryland would make a lot of sense too.

by BTA on Apr 2, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

Metrobus goes to Langley (outside the checkpoints of course), so there shouldn't be any issue running transit there, in theory.

by Read the charts on Apr 2, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

I have to agree, I think bus is fine given probably low levels of ridership for people willing to walk that far to the stop. If they did a Pentagon style Metro Station that would probably work but it would need to deliver people door to door to be competitive with driving to that location.

by BTA on Apr 2, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

There are plans in the works to connect the existing Anacostia River Trail system (which includes the Sligo Creek Trail) from Bladensburg out to New Carrolton (& beyond) via the Beaverdam Creek valley (roughly parallel to Rt 50). Not as direct as along the Purple Line corridor, but it will be much nicer to ride on and avoid all the hills.

by PhilK on Apr 2, 2014 1:35 pm • linkreport

@mcs: d

by JimT on Apr 2, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

Don't forget the two empty lanes across Woodrow Wilson bridge, suitable for Alexandria to Green Line/national harbor bus or light rail.

by JimT on Apr 2, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

If we were gonna do a purple line to Tysons sort of thing I'd suggest branching it into two services. Tysons to Silver Spring and Bethesda to New Carollton. That way you could provide really frequent service between Bethesda and Silver Spring.

by drumz on Apr 2, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

If we were gonna do a purple line to Tysons sort of thing I'd suggest branching it into two services. Tysons to Silver Spring and Bethesda to New Carollton. That way you could provide really frequent service between Bethesda and Silver Spring.

You can have through running service and some short trunk services ala the Baltimore Blue line or the DC red line

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 2:01 pm • linkreport

I don't think extending the Purple Line to Tysons is the solution seeing as the Purple Line is light rail.
What we would need is a proper Metro line, like the Beltway line that's been envisioned in the past.

while complete grade separation is nice, and 6-8 car trains are sexy. I am not sure the route justifies it. Also heavy rail usually means high platforms, which would mean larger stations.

It is important to consider that this is light rail, not a street car. The line will have it's own lane virtually all the time, it will have grade separation from some of the worst intersections, it will have vehicles able to reach 60mph. The stations are in many places over a mile apart.

by Richard on Apr 2, 2014 2:15 pm • linkreport

we've also built interactive (webapp) versions of all these maps that allow you to zoom, pan and select additional data layers

check them out at http://knaaptime.com/maps/purpleline.html

by knaaptime on Apr 2, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity
"(at least within the quadrants defined by the Rte 123 and rte 7 traffic sewers)"
That's an enormous caveat. Extended Purple Line would be a chance to improve 123, which at is stands acts as an enormous wall through Tysons (as you imply). Also has there been any actual pushback from McLean re: an extended Purple Line or is that just conventional wisdom? McLean is a pretty big place, the biggest impact would be on development in downtown McLean. The most wealthy areas would be miles away from an extended Purple Line. I'd imagine upper-middle class government workers (who are closest to DT McLean) would like to see it turned into a walkable downtown.

by nbluth on Apr 2, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

Thats a big caveat, but still a chance for major improvement.

And my understanding is that the Mclean Civic Association is currently opposed to anything that looks at all like a Purple line through their neighborhood. and while they dont mind some improvements to walkability they dont want major increases in density. The market will generate some increases in density, now, even without any improvement in transit - demand there is that strong.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 2, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

The comments on Purple Line to VA remind me of anectodal comments I've heard trickle in about transit on Route 1 in Southern FairCo.

Check the details here: http://route1multimodalaa.com/
(could we get a post about this region on GGW?)

Everyone want's metro down here but they don't want huge parking garages or Bethesda/Arlington level development either....catch 22.

Metro or the Purple line is great but density is key, the Purple line would just be a shuttle from Bethesda to Tysons. Given the land density and spread out nature, it's unrealistc that people would try to get on a bus to try and cram in to the Purple line.

People need to really look at what kind of urban fabrics urban rail lines function in worldwide, like Tokyo, Moscow, London, even Paris has one in the plans. THey're SO much more dense because they are in essentially the center of town and the regions.

On the VA side aside from Tysons it makes no sense to swing it down there, centers (Merrifeld, Annandale, Springfield) are too far away and surrounding neighboorhoods are too spread out.

by Billy Bob on Apr 3, 2014 1:28 am • linkreport

The Council reduced the density in the Long Branch plan in order to preserve the existing stock of affordable apartments. If they had gone the higher density route as you suggest the newer units would have been more expensive, not less. Theoretically, the price of rental units should go down with more supply but do you have any evidence that has taken place yet?

by Woody brosnan on Apr 3, 2014 7:27 am • linkreport

Why would Virginia residents want the Purple Line to continue to Tysons Corner?

by selxic on Apr 3, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

So I don't have to go through downtown DC or drive across the legion bridge to get to Bethesda and Silver Spring.

/granted, I don't know how high of a priority it should be but generally, more transit is a good thing.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 9:56 am • linkreport

selxc

Because A. that will increase transit share to Tysons from MoCo, and reduce auto share, which will a. Make walking and biking at Tysons easier b. reduce auto congestion at Tysons, and on the ALB, with benefits to motorists and to air quality c. push developer incentives even more to accommodating peds, vs accommodating motor vehicles B. it will provide a transit route to MoCo for Tysons residents

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

BB

Dunn Loring/Mosaic is only a few miles from Tysons. Granted the area in between is low density, and rail from Tysons to Mosaic does not make sense now. But as both Tysons and DL/Mosaic grow, that may well change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

Here are two extensions that I've thought of:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.8974375,-77.2012367,12z/data=!4m2!6m1!1sz4VwWq_PV8ls.kinBWGY4FZmc

by NikolasM on Apr 3, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Without a revitalization authority and a big tax district, the various equity propositions aren't likely to get realized.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2014/03/purple-line-planning-in-suburban.html

by Richard Layman on Apr 4, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

Urban theory and empirical fact says if you biuld more housing accessibility increases thus over the long run prices increase. You increase the demand as well as supply too. See every city on the planet. Also why not do BRT cheaper with shorter headways, 24 hours and more purple. But the pictures are nice and it was a good sales of the purple line.

by matthew on Apr 4, 2014 3:17 pm • linkreport

"Urban theory and empirical fact says if you biuld more housing accessibility increases thus over the long run prices increase."

How does building more housing increase accessibility? Increasing accessibility increases demand, which increases price IF you hold supply constant. Building more housing does not increase demand. In some neighborhoods arguably more housing has meant more amenities - which given the shortage region wide of amenity rich walkable places, can mean prices increase IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD - but it reduces demand elsewhere.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 4, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

Yes and by putting that new demand near transit, we can grow without the negative effects of more traffic, increased carbon use, etc.

And Montgomery County is planning on building A LOT of BRT in the coming years.

by drumz on Apr 4, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

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