Monday, December 22, 2008

Planners Recommend Light Rail for Purple Line - Press Release - Park & Planning

For immediate release:
December 22, 2008

For more information, contact:
Valerie Berton
Communications Manager
Montgomery County Planning Department

Montgomery County Transportation Planners Recommend Light Rail for Purple Line While Protecting Popular Trail

SILVER SPRING – On Thursday, January 8, the Montgomery County Planning Board will cast its vote on the best way to build the Purple Line, proposed for years as a new east-west public transit route across Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Board will make recommendations about bus versus light rail, the route and other issues, such as station locations and ways to protect and improve a popular bike trail that runs along the line's proposed path.

Today, the Board's transportation planners issued their recommendations, the most significant of which was that the Purple Line run on light rail rather than bus rapid transit. Light rail can better handle the expected ridership, forecast to reach 2,000 passengers during the busiest weekday hour in the year 2030, planners say.

The Board will weigh the planners' recommendations during its January 8 public hearing, then send its input to the County Council and to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). Its decision concerns only the Montgomery County section of the Purple Line.

MTA will make the final decision on the biggest public transportation project in the county since Metro built the Red Line. The proposed 16-mile Purple Line would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, including stops at and provide connections to Metro at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton, as well as buses, the MARC train and Amtrak.

State transportation officials estimate that up to 70,000 passengers will ride the Purple Line daily.

The planners' report endorses one of MTA's Purple Line alternatives (called "medium investment light rail") specifying the type of transit, the route and 22 stations, with two significant differences.

Planners recommend the state eliminate the station at Wayne Avenue and Dale Drive in Silver Spring because their analysis showed that riders will tend to board either east of the area or closer to the Silver Spring Transit Center now under construction.

Planners also call for preserving the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch bike trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. They say the trail should continue through the tunnel but be constructed above the train. Planners also recommend widening the trail to 12 feet where possible as part of the Purple Line project.

The transit line will do more than just create a shortcut between the two legs of the Red Line and reduce reliance on cars. If done right, planners say, the Purple Line will create better connections to where people work, live and spend their time as well as spur opportunities for new housing in some communities. Moreover, the Purple Line should promote new street activity in the downtown areas along the route.

Since planners first envisioned the Purple Line in the mid-1980s, they studied the route and impact of the section proposed between Bethesda and Silver Spring. In today's report, planners recommend that the state better analyze travel demand and other issues on the east side of the line through East Silver Spring and Takoma-Langley. For example, some residents in East Silver Spring favor a Purple Line tunnel under Wayne Avenue. Planners recommend new analysis to gain understanding about the impacts of a surface versus tunnel path – although they prefer a street-level line on Wayne Avenue.

Planners worked with a Planning Board-appointed citizens' advisory group that provided input for the report. While the citizens' group was unable to reach consensus on whether the Purple Line should be light rail or bus – or over what route it should run – the report recognizes the group's work and recommendations on many of the issues.

Learn more at

The public is welcome to speak at the Board's January 8 public hearing, although given the large number of people who may want to speak, Chairman Royce Hanson is encouraging people to send written testimony of any length. Written testimony should be received by noon on January 2. Testimony will be limited to two hours, with each speaker receiving no more than three minutes.

People signing up to speak on January 8 will need to specify which segment of the Montgomery County Purple Line they wish to address – Bethesda/Chevy Chase; Silver Spring; Long Branch/Takoma/Langley; or the entire length – using the online sign-up system at or by calling 301/495-4601..

Public hearing on the Purple Line

Approximately 2 p.m. Thursday, January 8

Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

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