Monday, February 02, 2009

Rail Advocates Respond to Delegate Waldstreicher

Following are responses to Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher's (D-18) position on the Purple Line from Ben Ross, President of Action Committee for Transit and Wayne Phyillaier, former Chairman and current Treasurer of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail.

Ben Ross

Del. Jeff Waldstreicher comes up short on the facts about transit.

He says he prefers the same Purple Line alignment as Del. Al Carr and Sen. Rich Madaleno. But these two legislators have endorsed different alternatives. Del. Carr supports a bus rapid transit line on Jones Bridge Road. Sen. Madaleno opposes both BRT and light rail and supports the “Transportation Systems Management” (TSM) alternative. Neither of these alternatives would provide the fast east-west transit connection that we need and that is supported by the vast majority of elected officials in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

The rationale offered for Del. Waldstreicher's position – whichever position it is – is that the Corridor Cities Transitway will remove more cars from the roads than the Purple Line. This simply isn't so.

The Purple Line, because very few of its riders will arrive by car, will remove about 14,000 daily trips from the highways. (This compares medium LRT to TSM.) Unfortunately, the corresponding figure has not been calculated for Corridor Cities, but the number will clearly be much smaller. The most recent state study of Corridor Cities, a 2002 DEIS, says that Corridor Cities LRT will only carry about 36,000 riders per day, and nearly half of them will arrive at the transitway by car. Many of the others will be people who will be on buses even if the transitway isn't built.

Del. Waldstreicher claims that almost 90% of Corridor Cities riders will be new to transit (including people who take the transitway instead of driving to Shady Grove). Wrong. Out of 14,000 morning rush-hour LRT riders, 5,000 will be people who otherwise would take MARC to work. Only 8% of Corridor Cities passengers will be new transit riders (comparing LRT to TSM). This 8% doesn't include those who would be riding the Red Line from Shady Grove even without the transitway, but of that group only a minority will drive to the Metro station if the transitway isn't built. Currently around 11,000 passengers get on Metrorail at Shady Grove in the morning rush hour and the station only has 5,745 parking spaces. The proportion of bus-to-rail transfers is already highest in the nearby areas that the transitway will serve, and it will go up in the future because space for new parking is limited.

Construction of Corridor Cities as envisioned in the DEIS will even create new automobile trips. (This is one of the reasons ACT supports a revamped alignment.) The DEIS assumes unlimited free parking at all stations. Free parking that never fills up will attract many commuters who would otherwise take buses from home to Shady Grove.

Del. Waldstreicher claims to agree with two colleagues whose positions are incompatible – unless both positions are really excuses for doing nothing. He rationalizes his position by arguing that the Corridor Cities Transitway will remove more automobile trips from the roads than the Purple Line, when the facts point strongly to the opposite conclusion.

Wayne Phyillaier

Delegate Waldstreicher:

As a resident of Woodside and one of your constituents, I am writing to ask you to give more attention to your stated position to oppose the Purple Line in order to protect the utility of the Capital Crescent Trail.

We have been waiting for the Capital Crescent Trail in North and East Silver Spring for 20 years, and we are still waiting. Nothing could enhance the utility of the CCT more than to complete it through our neighborhoods, and to connect it in downtown Silver Spring to the Red Line Metro station and to the (future) Metropolitan Branch Trail and Green Trail.

The Purple Line would complete the CCT, and would also rebuild the existing Interim CCT as a wider paved trail with grade separated crossings of dangerous Connecticut Ave. and of Jones Mill Road, and create a direct off-road connection to the Rock Creek shared use trail. It is unlikely the CCT will ever be completed through the North and East Silver Spring neighborhoods in your district without the Purple Line, because of the difficulty of getting essential CSXT right-of-way into downtown Silver Spring. It is largely for this reason that the Washington Area Bicyclists Association has endorsed the Purple Line. The importance of completing the CCT for its increased utility is so important that even the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, the leading organization dedicated to protecting the CCT, has decided not to oppose the Purple Line provided good trail design standards are met.

Your position to oppose the Purple Line in order to protect the "utility" of the CCT is not logical, absent a credible plan to complete the CCT without the Purple Line. In fact your position obstructs the best opportunity your District 18 constituents in North and West Silver Spring have of ever seeing the CCT come to their neighborhoods.

Please reconsider your position. I welcome you to come out and walk the future CCT alignment in the eastern part of your District 18 with me, as Al Carr and several other elected officials have done. You may not change your mind about the Purple Line, but you at least owe it to your constituents in North and West Silver Spring to look at the situation in this part of your district before you make such a blanket statement about the "utility" of the future CCT.

Wayne Phyillaier

Update: Wayne describes a phone call with the Delegate on his blog.