Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hopkins Attacks Berliner Over Purple Line

In her most pointed attack yet, Council District 1 challenger Ilaya Hopkins is slamming incumbent Roger Berliner over the Purple Line. The district includes Bethesda, the western terminus of the project, and Chevy Chase, where some residents have complained about the line's impact on the Capital Crescent Trail. Following is Hopkins's statement.



Media Contact: Chris Gill, campaign manager

Berliner Playing Politics with the Purple Line

BETHESDA, MD – July 20, 2010 – Last month's public hearing on the Purple Line Functional Plan – where many citizens from District 1 expressed continued concerns about the plan – spurred Roger Berliner into action based on politics, not sound policy.

Attempting to appease voters concerned about tree loss on the trail, the Gazette reported that Mr. Berliner called for research into a single track option from Connecticut Avenue to Bethesda.

Fortunately, he didn't have to look far. A report conducted by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) last year, at Mr. Berliner's request, found that single-tracking was not a viable option.

The MTA report concluded, “introducing a single-track segment between Bethesda and Connecticut Avenue would significantly compromise travel time savings, service frequency, passenger carrying capacity, and the maintenance and operating reliability of the Purple Line, thereby reducing the effectiveness, efficiency, and the return on a $1.3 billion investment. The reduction in the amount of tree clearance hoped for from building a trail and single track segment would not likely be achieved.”

The issue of the environmental impact of light rail on the trail has been raised for years by local communities. Yet up until now, Mr. Berliner remained unswayed by those concerns. In January 2009, he voted with his colleagues on the county council in support of the Purple Line light rail transit option along the Georgetown Branch Trail. In his statement on the vote he said, “ one disputes that building the Purple Line will fundamentally alter the current character of the trail experience.”

Last week, the Examiner reported that Mr. Berliner abandoned his two-week-long effort to save trees along the trail.

“I had hoped to be able to convince you that single-tracking would not compromise the integrity of the system,” Berliner said during a council committee meeting. “I grudgingly will come to the same conclusion [as the MTA].”

If Mr. Berliner believes light rail is the best option for the Purple Line, why would he push an idea which would make it less effective? If he truly cares about tree preservation, why would he push an idea which would have little to no impact on tree clearing? If he was legitimately addressing community concerns, why such a superficial response a year and a half after his vote when he had an opportunity to stand up for the community and impact the decision?

The answer to these questions sadly is - politics. His disingenuous attempt to reopen discussion on the Purple Line and half-hearted effort to research other options smacks of the worst form of election year politics – putting electoral results over legitimate community concerns and sound policy.

That isn't leadership, it's playing politics with our future, the kind of politics Montgomery County can no longer afford.

Ilaya Hopkins has participated in the Purple Line conversation for many years. Through the process she weighed the merits of different arguments and attempted to balance the good of public transit on the one hand with the much beloved and well-utilized green space and hiker/biker trail on the other. In the end, she took a principled stand in support of Bus Rapid Transit over light rail on the trail to minimize environmental impacts, avoid the use of overhead wires and reduce cost.

Ilaya is a strong advocate for robust, flexible and affordable East-West transit options and is committed to finding the best solution for the long-term success of the community. For more information on Ilaya’s position on the Purple Line visit, or watch her interview on transportation issues at You can also read her testimony last year before the Montgomery County Planning Board here and her letter to County Executive Leggett here.

We need strong leadership, to move Montgomery County forward. Vote Ilaya Hopkins for Montgomery County Council District 1 on September 14.


For the record, here are both candidates' responses to a question about the Purple Line on an Action Committee for Transit questionnaire.

Question: Do you support the Locally Preferred Alternative selected by Gov. O'Malley for the Purple Line, including an at-grade light rail line with a trail alongside it on the Georgetown Branch right of way between Bethesda and Silver Spring, as well as the at-grade light rail line running along Campus Drive through the University of Maryland?

Roger Berliner (D): I have been a supporter of the Purple Line and ran on that platform four years ago when I ran successfully for the County Council. I continue to be a supporter of the locally preferred alternative and have tried to work with all parties to see that the very best possible system is developed. If there are mitigation measures that can be taken to help maintain the character of the Trail and develop a successful transit system I want to see MTA embrace those measures.

Ilaya Hopkins (D): I strongly support transit and believe our current transit system needs better East-West connectivity. Our current major transit system – Metrorail – was designed to move people from homes in the suburbs to jobs in the city center. Over the past decades, work patterns have shifted to become suburb to suburb and we have not adjusted our transit systems accordingly.

To fill in this gap, I support a Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, via Silver Spring and College Park. I am on-record supporting the Master Plan alignment and continue to support it. Given the state and county budget situation, along with the uncertainty of federal funding, the selected medium-investment light rail option, at a cost of $1.6 B, no longer appears affordable. The Maryland Transportation Administration explicitly noted in its alternatives analysis that limited availability of capital funds may require selecting a lower-cost investment, or implementing only a portion of the selected alternative.

MTA estimates the medium-investment bus rapid transit option can be implemented for approximately a third of the cost of the current PLA. I believe it is preferable to investigate this option in more depth and move forward with its implementation, rather than waiting for funds to be available for the full LRT option. By pushing for the high cost option now, I fear we may wind up with no Purple Line at all.