Wednesday, December 05, 2007

MSM on the Purple Line

A number of stories are appearing in the papers about the new Purple Line ridership numbers. The Gazette story is basically upbeat with a headline of "Purple Line numbers 'make project competitive'" and a lead quote from MTA Project Leader Mike Madden, who has long advocated for the much-debated project:

‘‘We think the numbers look good in terms of getting funding for the project,” said Mike Madden, project manager with the Maryland Transit Administration.
In contrast, the Washington Post's two stories, while balanced, give greater weight to skepticism about the project. The story in Thursday's paper highlights a point I've been emphasizing here: "Appetite Grows for Purple Line Data". The story in Wednesday's paper has a much more cautious version of the the Gazette headline: "Purple Line Could Draw 47,000 Riders a Year, Officials Say". Not exactly gushing with enthusiasm.

Of course, the mainstream media all seem to have missed that the figures seem highly favorable to the rapid-bus option on the surface.

As I have repeatedly said, the number remain largely meaningless until we know how they are derived. It remains depressing that MTA's information is so sparse. I have now heard that MTA has now decided it will release the information it is presenting at meetings on the web but only after it concludes its round of public meetings because it is just too busy. One wonders exactly how long it would take someone with a computer to just put the information up there, especially since so much time goes to soliciting attendance at the meeting via email in the name of wanting feedback. If the Silver Spring Penguin can do it, why not MTA?

Purple Line supporters are naturally touting the numbers as vindication, issuing one press release that touts the project as "Competitive with Recently Approved Norfolk, VA Project". Another says "Purple Line Takes Great Leap Forward: MTA Shows Project is Competitive and Will Attract High Ridership". While I would have avoided plagiarizing my lead from Chairman Mao (and Wikipedia describes the Great Leap Forward as a "major economic disaster"), I think it still makes the point.

The jousting over the ridership numbers and cost has just started and will only get more heated.