MTA has not yet analyzed all input
by Andrew Ujifusa | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008
Early statistics compiled by the state about public hearings on the Purple Line indicate that a majority of participants support the project and its light rail alternative.
The Maryland Transit Administration analyzed public oral testimony at four hearings in November. Of the 224 individuals giving public testimony, 179 favored the Purple Line project in general (80 percent), while 117 favored light rail (65 percent) and 17 supported bus rapid transit (9 percent). Not all elected officials who gave testimony were included in the analysis.
But the MTA's report does not include comments received via e-mail and the MTA's web site, private oral testimony given at the hearings, or written comments. These other forms of input add up to 728 submitted opinions.
The lowest level of Purple Line support among those giving public oral testimony was at the Chevy Chase hearing on Nov. 18. Of 71 individuals giving such testimony, 51 people supported the project (70 percent), while 36 people supported light rail specifically and 13 supported bus rapid transit. Eleven individuals opposed the Purple Line project altogether.
Several Town of Chevy Chase officials and residents have argued that a bus rapid transit system along Jones Bridge Road would better serve the transportation needs of the area without harming the Capital Crescent Trail and the immediately surrounding area, which is the proposed light rail alignment in the Chevy Chase area.
The Purple Line project would provide public transportation from downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton through Silver Spring over 16 miles.
Purple Line project manager Mike Madden said the level of support shown for the Purple Line and the light rail alternative was about what he expected.
"We heard a lot more support for light rail than we did for bus rapid transit," Madden said.
MTA officials gave a presentation about feedback from the public hearings to the Montgomery County Planning Board Monday evening.
Asked why MTA was giving its report to the Planning Board without including all testimony, Madden replied that the board was particularly interested in public oral testimony, but that he preferred to wait until the public comment on the project closes on Jan. 14, 2009. The Planning Board is having a public hearing on the Purple Line Jan. 9.
"Their specific emphasis is what we heard at the public hearing through oral testimony. We have to remind them that that's not the only form people submitted comments through," said Madden.
Pat Burda, chair of the Town of Chevy Chase's Long-Range Planning Committee, said the community has always been concerned that the public hearing and comment schedule was rushed over the holiday season and not well-executed by the MTA.
"They're covering themselves in saying they've gotten input. But we would suggest that there's input, and then there's input," Burda said.
Support for the light rail option ran highest at the Silver Spring hearing, where 40 individuals giving public oral testimony spoke in favor, out of 52 in favor of the Purple Line project. No one giving public oral testimony at the University of Maryland hearing supported bus rapid transit.
Burda said there was still a major lack of understanding about the speed and reliability about rapid buses, and that there was no uniform opinion in any community about any specific Purple Line alignment.
"There's a huge educational component, and I would say the state has not done its job," she said.
The Maryland Transit Administration held four hearings on the Purple Line in November:
224 people gave public oral testimony
179 favored the Purple Line
117 favored light rail
17 favored bus rapid transit
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