Posts about Purple Line
Today, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed the transportation funding bill that passed the legislature this year. The governor also announced a list of projects that would get some of the money, including MARC expansion and studies for the Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line.
The tax will start this summer, and will help fund transportation projects across the state. The increased tax was a key part of O'Malley's 2013 legislative agenda, and is expected to generate $800 million more for transportation each year.
After the governor signed the bill, his office released a list of "first round" projects that will get some of the increased revenues. This list totals $1.2 billion, but over the first 6 years, the tax should generate $4.4 billion.
Of the $1.2 billion, $650 million (54%) will go to transit. However, a large portion of that funds studies rather than actual construction. Money will go to MARC to add weekend service on the Penn Line and 2 new weekday roundtrips on the Camden Line, and to purchase new locomotives.
Here is the full list.
- $100 million for MARC enhancements, including Penn Line weekend service, 2 new Camden Line weekday roundtrips, and new locomotives.
- $280 million for final design for the Purple Line.
- $170 million for final design for the Red Line in Baltimore.
- $100 million for final design for the Corridor Cities Transitway in Montgomery County.
- $125 million for construction of an interchange between I-270 and Watkins Mill Road in Montgomery County.
- $100 million for construction of an interchange at Kerby Hill Road and Indian Head Highway in Prince George's.
- $49 million for widening US 29 to three lanes from Seneca Drive to MD 175 in Howard County.
- $82 million for construction of an interchange on US 15 at Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick.
- $20 million for design of a new Thomas Johnson Bridge between Calvert and St. Mary's counties.
- $60 million for reconstruction of in interchange at I-695 and Leeds Avenue in Baltimore County.
- $44 million for BRAC-related construction near Aberdeen Proving Ground.
- $54 million for construction of a new interchage on US 301 at MD 304 on the Eastern Shore.
May is a great month to bike to school or work (and so is every other month!) Tomorrow is the national Bike to School Day, Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 17, and Greenbelt is having a vintage New Deal-themed bike ride later this month.
Also, there are public meetings to learn about and weigh in on some of the most important questions shaping our communities, like what the Purple Line will look like and how tall buildings should be in DC, a more walkable Route 1 in Fairfax, and Montgomery's Bus Rapid Transit plans, and more.
Here's what's coming up on the Greater Greater Washington calendar:
Purple Line open houses: The Maryland MTA is holding 5 open houses to inform residents about the Purple Line, now looking a lot more likely to actually become a reality. They're tonight (Tuesday) in Silver Spring, Thursday 5/9 in Riverdale, Saturday 5/11 in Langley Park, Tuesday 5/14 in Bethesda, and Wednesday 5/15 at Woodridge Elementary School in Hyattsville. Each is 5-8 pm, except the Saturday one which is 11-2.
Bike to school: If you have children in school and don't bike to school regularly, tomorrow is a great time to try. 17 DC schools are participating, and for the dozen on those which are on Capitol Hill, families can congregate in Lincoln Park for an event featuring Ray LaHood, then form bike trains to the schools. Sandra Moscoso has more on Greater Greater Education.
Walk Route 1: CSG's next walking tour looks at Route 1 in Fairfax, the oft-forgotten highway where big box sprawl has the potential to become eco-friendly, walkable communities. Volunteers will help groups take the bus from Huntington Metro for those arriving by transit. RSVP before it's full!
Height "master plan" meetings: The National Capital Planning Commission and DC Office of Planning are working together on a study that might recommend changes to the federal height limit, or might not. Regardless, the issue is sure to be completely noncontroversial, since as we know nobody ever wants to argue about the height limit. (Kidding.) The first public involvement is next week, with a meeting Monday, May 13, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Petworth Library, and then Saturday, May 18, 10:30-12:30 at the MLK Library by Gallery Place Metro.
Learn about, push for BRT: There's a big hearing on Montgomery County's BRT plans on Thursday, May 16, 6-9 pm in Silver Spring. Can you testify? Also, Montgomery transportation planner Larry Cole will talk about BRT as well as MARC expansion at ACT's monthly meeting Tuesday, May 14, 7:30 pm in Silver Spring.
What's up with Pennsylvania and Potomac? The second public meeting on the intersection at Potomac Avenue Metro is Thursday, May 16, 6:30-8:30 pm at Payne Elementary. Have DDOT and its consultants listened made the early designs even better to walk and bike, or have they gotten worse? We'll find out!
Bike to work: Just a little over a week after Bike to School Day (but much farther down our chronological calendar) is Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17. Pledge to ride, stop by one of the pit stops around the region, join one of the commuter convoys along popular routes, and support almost all of the event sponsors.
Talk Smart Growth with David Grosso: Ward 3 Vision, the smart growth resident group in upper Northwest DC, is having a meet and greet on Tuesday, May 21, 6:30 pm at Guapo's by the Tenleytown Metro. At-large councilmember David Grosso will be there to hear from you about your vision for a more walkable and vibrant Ward 3 and all of DC.
Roosevelt Ride: Ride around Greenbelt, the New Deal planned community, in your best New Deal-era attire, followed by a picnic. You can also get a free tour of the Greenbelt Museum, which shows how families lived in what was built as working-class housing in 1937. That's Sunday, May 26; the ride starts at 11, the picnic after, and the tours at 1.
Have an event we should consider including on the ? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a URL to a webpage that has the information about your event as well, so that we can link directly to your event.
As design work continues on the Purple Line, Maryland transit planners say they can convert two traffic lanes on University Boulevard in Langley Park for trains without impacting traffic.
It's "a big plus for the community," said Purple Line project manager Mike Madden at a neighborhood work group meeting last night in Langley Park.
As before, trains will run in the middle of University Boulevard between Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring and Campus Drive in Adelphi, where it will continue through the campus of the University of Maryland and on to the Purple Line's terminus in New Carrollton. But instead of trying to keep the 6 existing traffic lanes while adding the Purple Line, the tracks will now replace 2 of the 6 traffic lanes on this section of University Boulevard.
Engineers from the State Highway Administration say that many segments of University Boulevard carry fewer vehicles today than 20 years ago, while elsewhere traffic levels are about the same. With a few changes, the street can carry as much traffic in 4 lanes as it does with 6 lanes today.
While the street will have to be widened to make room for station platforms, the MTA won't need as much room as they did in their previous plan to keep all 6 lanes and add the Purple Line. With less space needed for car traffic, only 8 businesses will be displaced, compared to 25 before.
Reducing the number of car lanes on University Boulevard will cut speeding, meaning that a street where pedestrians are now frequent collision victims will be transformed into a safer and more welcoming place to walk or bike. There will be room for wider sidewalks and possibly even a cycle track, and there will be bike parking at each of the three Purple Line stations along the corridor, at Piney Branch Road, the future Takoma-Langley Transit Center and Riggs Road.
Meanwhile, key intersections will get traffic lights and turn lanes. This will not only make the street safer to cross, but allow trains to move more smoothly, reducing potential collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.
These upgrades will help the Purple Line fulfill its economic promise. Both Montgomery and Prince George's counties want to transform the aging strip malls along University Boulevard into an urban corridor akin to downtown Silver Spring. Making University Boulevard a safer and more attractive place to walk will support that goal.
This design change is also good news for Montgomery County's bus rapid transit initiative, which proposes a countywide network of dedicated bus lanes. In dense, close-in areas like Bethesda, Silver Spring and Takoma Park that have the most potential ridership, existing pavement is often the only place new bus lanes can go. However, plans to repurpose traffic lanes for buses have met resistance from residents and county officials alike.
If transportation engineers say we can give car lanes to transit on University Boulevard, it can work elsewhere in the region as well. Hopefully, the Purple Line in Langley Park will serve as an example to the Montgomery County Planning Board and County Council as they consider the BRT plan this year.
As Maryland moves forward with planning for the Purple Line, station designs are being released. They range from simple sidewalk shelters at the smaller stations to landmark aerial cylinders at Silver Spring and Riverdale Park. Here are 6 renderings, illustrating the range of designs.
Bethesda, in a subway.
Silver Spring, elevated.
Langley Park, at-grade.
Riverdale Park, elevated.
Typical at-grade side station.
Typical at-grade center station.
More graphics are available at PurpleLineMD.com.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Maryland and Virginia will both enact major new transportation funding bills this year. Neither bill says exactly which projects will be funded, but here are the top 10 projects in Maryland and Virginia that most deserve to get some of the funds.
1. 8-car Metro trains: Metrorail is near capacity, especially in Virginia. More Metro railcars and the infrastructure they need (like power systems and yard space) would mean more 8-car trains on the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines.
2. Tysons grid of streets: Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore and Richmond put together. Converting it to a functional urban place is a huge priority.
3. Purple Line: Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park, New Carrollton. That's a serious string of transit-friendly pearls. The Purple Line will be one of America's best light rail lines on the day it opens.
4. Baltimore Red Line: Baltimore has a subway line and a light rail line, but they don't work together very well as a system. The Red Line will greatly improve the reach of Baltimore's rail system.
5. Silver Line Phase 2: The Silver Line extension from Reston to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County is one of the few projects that was earmarked in Virginia's bill, to the tune of $300 million.
6. Arlington streetcars: The Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars both have funding plans already, but could potentially be accelerated.
7. Route 7 transit. Leesburg Pike is the next Rosslyn-Ballston corridor waiting to happen. Virginia is just beginning to study either a light rail or BRT line along it.
8. Corridor Cities Transitway: Gaithersburg has been waiting decades for a quality transit line to build around. BRT will finally connect the many New Urbanist communities there, which are internally walkable but rely on cars for long-range connections.
9. MARC enhancements: MARC is a decent commuter rail, but it could be so much more. Some day it could be more like New York's Metro North or Philadelphia's SEPTA regional rail, with hourly trains all day long, even on weekends.
10. Alexandria BRT network: This will make nearly all of Alexandria accessible via high-quality transit.
Honorable mentions: Montgomery County BRT network, Potomac Yard Metro station, Virginia Beach light rail, Southern Maryland light rail, and VRE platform extensions.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Purple Line gets first sponsor: Maryland has a transportation funding bill, but to help get the Purple Line moving, MDOT has signed a deal with Six Flags Corporation to sponsor the Purple Line. The new roller coaster design will include a loop-the-loop at Columbia Country Club and feature significantly higher speeds, reducing travel time.
New tax plan for Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell proposes eliminating the state sales tax. He would make up the revenue by a 50% tax on hybrid or electric cars, organic produce, reusable grocery bags, and bicycle inner tube replacements. Observers now consider him a shoo-in for the 2016 GOP Presidential primary.
Congestion solved: The Texas Transportation Institute found that lost jobs from sequestration improved congestion. "Therefore, the logical policy for transportation must be further job loss," said Tim Lomax. Plus, Stockton, "foreclosure capital of the world," has the nation's lowest congestion, making it a clear model to emulate.
Where's the birth certificate?: Donald Trump is offering a reward for anyone who can prove DC Councilmember McDuffie isn't a "native Washingtonian." Stronghold resident McDuffie owns the house he was raised in and says he was born here, but no incontrovertible proof was immediately available after a 5-minute Google search.
Metro becoming more self-service: As part of its efforts to create a more "self-service" system in the Momentum plan, Metro will replaces all escalators with stairs and convert trains and buses to a Flintstone's-style power system.
Examiner will keep going: The Washington Examiner has reversed course and will continue its current publishing format. "Once we saw how upset our editorial style made David Alpert, we figured we were doing our job and had to continue," said editor Stefan Schmitt. The paper will, however, still fire Kytja Weir and Liz Essley, as both sometimes had positive things to say about transit.
Cheh apologizes: After weeks of speculation and inquiries from the local press, Mary Cheh relented and issued a letter of apology for her completely legal campaign fundraising activities. "DC residents have come to expect so much more of their elected officials," said DC voter Amy Zoneger.
Fifty years ago, visionary leaders conceived, planned, and built Metro, radically reshaping the Washington DC region. Today Metrorail is a national example of how a well-planned transit system can help fuel economic growth by revitalizing communities and helping hundreds of thousands of people get where they're going each day. But where's the plan for the next generation?
Today, with a new report, Thinking Big, Planning Smart: A Primer for Greater Washington's Next Generation of Transit, the Coalition for Smarter Growth wants to engage residents in a campaign to win a new transit vision and the funding to implement it.
Regional leaders have expressed strong support for transit-oriented development in their Region Forward vision and in recent state of the county addresses, but our regional transportation plans are dominated by a never-ending list of new highways and road expansion projects, with a few disconnected transit projects.
Just two weeks ago, the Virginia Department of Transporation (VDOT) added a number of new road projects to the regional plan, but not a single transit project. While the road projects march forward, transit projects are forced to beg for funding.
So, our report is both a call to action and a baseline resource. It offers the first compilation of the region's many transit and transportation plans, briefly summarizes the many benefits of transit to the DC region, and features and compares the metrics for six major transit projects or systems that are under construction or reasonably far along in planning, including the Silver Line, Purple Line, DC Streetcar, Arlington Streetcar, Alexandria Bus Rapid Transit and Montgomery Rapid Transit System.
A CSG volunteer, John Peck, worked to create a base map of all of the current rail transit lines and the six systems featured in the report. We gained a respect for the GIS professionals!
While we are encouraged by the new transit systems being proposed, we are very concerned that the region has no plan to interconnect the systems nor to ensure operational coordination including common fare card use and real time information, not to mention who should operate each system. We also found that the studies for these systems don't share a common set of performance measurements. So we owe it to University of California engineering student Haleemah Qureshi for creating the first comprehensive, comparative table of metrics derived from the technical reports for each of the featured transit systems.
How do we get there?
"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." Daniel Burnham's quote is perhaps overused, but nevertheless, we need a regional commitment to a new transit plan, the funding to support it, and a hardnosed commitment to implementing it.
We are recommending extensive public involvement and modern crowdsourcing. We believe that a joint committee of elected officials who serve on the WMATA and Council of Governments boards, should oversee the process and complete a plan within two years. WMATA staff, who have been leading the PlanIt Metro analyses and the development of the Momentum program, should provide the lead technical support, and be assisted by COG staff and local transportation and land use planners. Your thoughts on the process?
Finally, our report includes a recommended set of principles to justify and guide the development of a new transit vision. Do you agree? What might be missing?
Principles to guide a next generation of transit
High-capacity public transportation is the most important investment for supporting a sustainable region of livable, walkable centers, and neighborhoods.
Several factors make public transportation investments critical:
- High energy prices and the high cost of auto transportation
- Climate change
- Air and water pollution
- Failure of road expansion to effectively manage traffic, due to induced demand and related inefficient patterns of auto-dependent development
- The significant number of residents who cannot drive, cannot afford a car or do not own a car. This includes lower-income residents, the disabled, the young and elderly, and the growing sector of our population seeking to live in communities where they do not have to be dependent on a car.
- The benefit public transportation provides in supporting compact, efficient development, lowering per capita infrastructure costs and saving land.
Rehabilitating and improving our Metrorail system must be our first priority.
Major public transportation investments must be tied to good land use: well-designed, compact, mixed-use, mixed-income, walking and biking-friendly neighborhoods with interconnected local street networks - both transit-oriented development and traditional neighborhood development.
Supporting build-out at our existing Metro stations should be a priority, and together with mixed-use development at all stations, will ensure that our Metro trains have high ridership in both directions all day.
New high-capacity public transportation corridors must include the region's commercial/retail corridors. Given the strong commitment to preserving the character of existing suburban neighborhoods, these commercial corridors offer the best opportunity to absorb regional growth while protecting suburban neighborhoods.
We should be flexible and not locked into one public transportation mode as the answer. We should ensure we match the public transportation mode, design and service plan to the land use densities and levels of service we are trying to achieve.
Public transportation planners should ensure that each public transportation study considers all modes and the necessary mixed-use, walkable, and transit-oriented urban design essential to maximizing ridership and the value of the public transportation investment. Safe and robust access to public transportation by promoting walking and bicycling and supportive local street networks must be a part of any public transportation and funding plan.
Continuing to debate the mode after a final vote by an elected board or council isn't constructive. It delays and even harms the advancement of much needed public transportation investments.
We can be proud of our region's success with transit and transit-oriented development. But without the commitment of the public and our elected officials, we'll fail to make the investments in the next generation of transit that are necessary to support the demand for transit-oriented communities, to offer an alternative to sitting in traffic, and to fight climate change.
With this report and the engagement of CSG members and GGW readers, we aim to spark a new transit plan for the region. In the coming weeks, we'll be speaking to local elected officials, the WMATA board, the Council of Governments, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, transportation and land use planners, and the public. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 3/5/13: CSG has launched a Next Generation of Transit feedback catalog, where we'll be cataloging feedback, comments, ideas and suggestions. Keep the conversation going in the comments below, but we also encourage you to check out and contribute to the catalog.
The disagreement over what should happen in Chevy Chase Lake wasn't surprising: developers wanted taller buildings and higher density, while neighbors wanted the opposite. What's surprising is that both sides found a compromise in the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, now going before the Montgomery County Council.
Located on Connecticut Avenue just south of the Beltway, Chevy Chase Lake was originally an amusement park at the turn of the 20th century, built by developer and Senator Francis Newlands at the end of the streetcar line he built down Connecticut to downtown DC. Newlands also used the streetcar to draw homebuyers to several neighborhoods he built along Connecticut Avenue, including Chevy Chase.
The lake, the amusement park and the streetcar are all gone, and in their place are a couple of strip malls, some garden apartments, and a lot of traffic on Connecticut.
The Montgomery County Planning Department recently finished work on a sector plan for Chevy Chase Lake in anticipation of the Purple Line, which when built will have a stop there. They envision creating a compact, but dense neighborhood around the station, with housing, shops and a new urban park, and a stretch of Connecticut Avenue into a real main street.
Disagreement over future of Chevy Chase Lake
However, the size and scale of that neighborhood was up for debate. In 2011, the Chevy Chase Land Company, which was originally founded by Senator Newlands and still owns several offices and shops in Chevy Chase Lake, proposed building up to 4 million square feet of new development there, including up to 3,000 new homes and several buildings up to 19 stories tall.
Transit advocates supported their vision, arguing that concentrating housing around the future Purple Line will help alleviate congestion in the future, but some neighbors were upset about the amount of development, fearing it would cause traffic. They found common ground with county planners, who sought a more nuanced approach to development in Chevy Chase Lake.
"There is no transit system in the world that creates 18-story buildings at every transit stop," wrote then-planning director Rollin Stanley. "Not every transit station has to be downtown Silver Spring or Bethesda. In reality, the best transit systems have a very diverse network of transit stops."
The resulting plan, which was approved by the Planning Board in January, calls for 2.2 million square feet of new development, including about 1,300 new homes, in the entire commercial district. Most of it won't be built until after the Purple Line is funded and built; until then, most properties would either stay the same or be allowed slightly more density than there is today.
Instead of 19-story buildings throughout the commercial district, there would be 3 buildings between 100 and 150 feet tall adjacent to the Purple Line station. Elsewhere, building heights would be restricted to 55 to 80 feet, while townhouses would form a transition to adjacent single-family homes.
Connecticut Avenue would transform from a traffic sewer into a main street, with on-street parking, new traffic signals, and sidewalks with streetscaping. New bike paths, trails and improved connections to the Capital Crescent Trail would knit the commercial center into the community, making up for the area's disconnected street network.
Meanwhile, the Chevy Chase Land Company's plans have shrunk, to just 1.5 million square feet of development and fewer than 900 apartments, and split into three phases. The first, which would occur before construction of the Purple Line, would replace the Chevy Chase Lake Shopping Center at Connecticut Avenue and Manor Road with 3 buildings containing a mix of apartments and retail space around a half-acre park.
Once the Purple Line is built, later phases would replace their headquarters building at Connecticut Avenue and Chevy Chase Lake Drive and the Lake West shopping center across the street with additional retail, apartments and townhouses, and a new headquarters.
Neighbors use Purple Line to discourage development
While this is much less than what the Land Company first wanted, not everyone's satisfied. Some neighbors formed a group called Don't Flood the Lake, raising concerns about traffic and calling the plan "wildly out of scale with the area." They also question whether we should allow new development around the Purple Line when there's no money for it yet.
It's unclear whether this group has any connection with Save the Trail, an anti-Purple Line group that's campaigning against funding for the Purple Line and other transportation projects. But not building the Purple Line or development associated with it won't fix traffic. No Purple Line means people have fewer alternatives to driving, while no new housing in Chevy Chase means people working next door in Bethesda, one of the region's largest job centers, have to commute from further away.
1,300 new homes in Chevy Chase Lake will be far less of a burden on Connecticut Avenue than the influx of thousands of workers, patients and visitors who currently drive on Connecticut Avenue to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
Besides, the scale proposed at Chevy Chase Lake isn't much different than what Senator Newlands built around streetcar stops just a few miles down Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, DC: mid- to high-rise apartments interspersed with shops and offices and steps away from quiet streets lined with single-family homes. If this could work a century ago, why can't it work today?
Traffic is a big issue in Greater Washington and will continue to be so as the region grows. Yet the answer, in Chevy Chase Lake or any other neighborhood, isn't to stop anyone new from moving there. If neighbors don't want to see more traffic on Connecticut Avenue, they should join groups like Get Maryland Moving to ensure that the Purple Line gets the funding it needs.
And they should support the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan, which will not only give them a great town center within walking distance and allow others to live in a place where they don't have to drive everywhere.
The Montgomery County Council will hold a public hearing on the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 pm. To sign up to testify or to send written comments, visit the County Council's website.
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