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My eldest daughter (who is an expert on getting around NYC by subway) told me about a new project in the Maryland DC suburbs, the Purple Line. This looks like a major effort to improve congestion and transportation access. Any of you local Maryland fellows have any more info?

 

http://www.purplelinemd.com/en/

 

 

 

 

Peter

 

 

Last edited by Putnam Division
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The purple line has been the subject of a lot of debate centering on the route and ridership projections.  The first concern, regarding the route, centered on the part that went through Chevy Chase.  Lots of room for interesting observations about NIMBY and political consistency to be left for different forums and discussions.  The substantive debate was about ridership projections and wildly different numbers being derived from the transit skeptics and advocates.  Then, when Gov. Hogan was elected, there was concern he would kill it.   After Montco and PG counties agreed to absorb more of the cost, and after being persuaded by the business community that it was a good idea, he went along, in keeping with what appears to be his moderate, analytically driven approach.

 

On balance, I will be excited to see this project completed because I think it will help foster growth and additional development in MD, which has lagged VA in business growth for the last 10 years or so.  My biggest concern, fwiw, is that it will be run no better than WMATA, which is the authority that runs the Metrorail and bus system in DC.  A properly functioning Metrorail is critical to the DC metro region's daily life, but for whatever reason they cannot seem to go more than a few days at a time without a major incident.  Operator error, equipment maintenance equipment age, infrastructure maintenance, waste, fraud, and abuse all seem to be part of the problem.  Very troubling.

IMO, this project made more sense when it was originally proposed to connect the existing Metrorail lines in Bethesda and Silver Spring.

Putting it into PG county just makes a political boondoggle that will increase crime, raise taxes, and take half a lifetime to build.
The money for this would be better used to improve highway connections, such as the US15 corridor between VA and PA, a new bridge over the Potomac at Point of Rocks.
Also improvements to I83,I81,and I270.

Also wouldn't mind seeing money to MARC/CSX for dedicated passenger lines along the Metropolitan and Capital Subdivisions. 

This state wastes too much money for projects that benefit few, but the reality is Montgomery and PG Counties, along with Baltimore have all the political power in this state.

I don't know about this particular line or whether it would effectively help anything (don't know Maryland well), I will say that spending money on improving roads isn't the answer either if traffic congestion is the issue. Whether building better commuter rail, or the purple line, is the answer I don't know, but money spent on widening roads or expanding them generally ends up creating more congestion, not less, as people switch to the 'expanded' road or think "hey, it is widened, now it will be good". There is a name for this, someone codified it as a rule, but in general the answer to road congestion is not expanding existing roads, and rarely building new ones. 

Originally Posted by bigkid:

I don't know about this particular line or whether it would effectively help anything (don't know Maryland well), I will say that spending money on improving roads isn't the answer either if traffic congestion is the issue. Whether building better commuter rail, or the purple line, is the answer I don't know, but money spent on widening roads or expanding them generally ends up creating more congestion, not less, as people switch to the 'expanded' road or think "hey, it is widened, now it will be good". There is a name for this, someone codified it as a rule, but in general the answer to road congestion is not expanding existing roads, and rarely building new ones. 

Unfortunately the congestion is already here, and using a network of roads that were already outmoded, and unsafe.
In Central MD., and Frederick County in particular, there is little public transportation in county, and even less goes outside the county.
There is over 30 miles between Potomac River bridges going to Northern Virginia (from the Capitol Beltway I495 north), and the 2-lane bridge at Point of Rocks dates from the late 1930s, and has 2-lane roads (US15) on both ends. The only Interstate highway that has received any updating is I-70, an east-west road around Frederick. The main Interstate towards Montgomery Co. and Wash.,DC (I270) was built in the early 1950s, BEFORE the Interstate system, and has never been improved. People die on this road weekly. US15, the main commuter route from the PA line south to Frederick, was 4-laned in the 1970s, but kept its dangerous at-grade intersections and sharp curves. People also die on this road weekly. How do I know? I live on it and use it daily! I also hear our local volunteer first responders go out there almost daily to sort out the carnage.
I don't feel the heavy taxes I pay to live here should be wasted on public transportation that goes nowhere and serves few. It doesn't do me, or anyone else I know, any bloody good.
All Maryland does with transportation is play catch-up with a system that is 25 years behind the times.

Originally Posted by Borden Tunnel:
Originally Posted by bigkid:

I don't know about this particular line or whether it would effectively help anything (don't know Maryland well), I will say that spending money on improving roads isn't the answer either if traffic congestion is the issue. Whether building better commuter rail, or the purple line, is the answer I don't know, but money spent on widening roads or expanding them generally ends up creating more congestion, not less, as people switch to the 'expanded' road or think "hey, it is widened, now it will be good". There is a name for this, someone codified it as a rule, but in general the answer to road congestion is not expanding existing roads, and rarely building new ones. 

Unfortunately the congestion is already here, and using a network of roads that were already outmoded, and unsafe.
In Central MD., and Frederick County in particular, there is little public transportation in county, and even less goes outside the county.
There is over 30 miles between Potomac River bridges going to Northern Virginia (from the Capitol Beltway I495 north), and the 2-lane bridge at Point of Rocks dates from the late 1930s, and has 2-lane roads (US15) on both ends. The only Interstate highway that has received any updating is I-70, an east-west road around Frederick. The main Interstate towards Montgomery Co. and Wash.,DC (I270) was built in the early 1950s, BEFORE the Interstate system, and has never been improved. People die on this road weekly. US15, the main commuter route from the PA line south to Frederick, was 4-laned in the 1970s, but kept its dangerous at-grade intersections and sharp curves. People also die on this road weekly. How do I know? I live on it and use it daily! I also hear our local volunteer first responders go out there almost daily to sort out the carnage.
I don't feel the heavy taxes I pay to live here should be wasted on public transportation that goes nowhere and serves few. It doesn't do me, or anyone else I know, any bloody good.
All Maryland does with transportation is play catch-up with a system that is 25 years behind the times.

100% accurate. Rt. 15 especially can be scary. I've had several close calls over the years and have seen some ugly, ugly accidents. I went to Mt. St. Mary's for a year and regularly traveled the highway up to the Mount afterwards as well as trips to Catoctin Mountain Trains and plenty of other "passing through" trips. I could probably drive it with my eyes closed! LOTS of danger out there

My two experiences with driving in this area, was, one, to show up at a DC airport on

Monday morning and try to navigate a rental car through DC to the other side of town to a meeting in an obscure building,,,hey, and I have driven in several other countries, Frankfurt, and Paris, etc.....and then, a couple of years ago, after York, I tried to get through the Baltimore/DC area to Virginia that Sat. afternoon.  Took forever, at a crawl, for no visible reason! Desperately needs a major multilane Interstate that avoids and bypasses Baltimore and DC south from Pa. (Philly?, Harrisburg?) into Virginia.  One stinkin' route is not adequate. Around the east side is probably too populated and congested...around the west side?   New raillines cost gazillions and always seem to have to be taxpayer subsidized, and are only workable in high commuter traffic areas, and are of no use to most interstate travelers.

Originally Posted by colorado hirailer:

....I tried to get through the Baltimore/DC area to Virginia that Sat. afternoon.  Took forever, at a crawl, for no visible reason! 

 

Actually pretty normal for Sat. afternoons now in the DC area - those of us that live there generally have our radios locked to at least 2 different traffic reports and have a couple of contingency routes in our back pockets at all times.  It's even more fun during rush hour on Fri that lasts from 2 pm to 8 pm.  The slightest thi8ng will cause a total frelling back-up and then you'll get one the going the other way watching the first one.

 

One stinkin' route is not adequate.

 

True. Where do you put another?  West around DC is a mess - I commute around the city on that side; listening to the traffic report the East side isn't any picnic.

 

BTW, 95 south out of the DC area officially reached a level of horrific while the return from Richmond can be just as bad.

 

New raillines cost gazillions and always seem to have to be taxpayer subsidized, and are only workable in high commuter traffic areas, and are of no use to most interstate travelers.

Somebody pays for those new roads, too.  Last time I checked - taxpayers.....and then they add tolls that get collected by a company in Australia.......

Originally Posted by bigkid:

I don't know about this particular line or whether it would effectively help anything (don't know Maryland well), I will say that spending money on improving roads isn't the answer either if traffic congestion is the issue. Whether building better commuter rail, or the purple line, is the answer I don't know, but money spent on widening roads or expanding them generally ends up creating more congestion, not less, as people switch to the 'expanded' road or think "hey, it is widened, now it will be good". There is a name for this, someone codified it as a rule, but in general the answer to road congestion is not expanding existing roads, and rarely building new ones. 

With all respect, this argument strikes me as the public policy equivalent of my kid saying he doesn't want to make his bed because it will be un-made the following night so it is a waste of time.  One of the key jobs of government is to provide infrastructure.  Granted, not just roads but roads are an important piece of the puzzle.  And when suburbs and the DC region in general explode in population, the reality is that you will need a program of road expansion (together with mass transit) because not everyone is in a situation where mass transit is practicable or feasible.  

Last edited by Ray Lombardo

Lifelong (50 years) resident of the area and familiar with all of the above. It looks like just about everybody has some valid points and I wouldn’t quibble with what’s been said.

 

What I will say is that this discussion reminds me -- yet again – of the failure of long-term transportation planning.  The Capital Beltway, 270, and the Metro system (the subway portion), to name a few,  were all obsolete -- or over-burdened -- within a fairly short period of time after going live. Sure, some of that is just population growth but there were definitely shortcomings, especially with Metro, on failure to plan for service areas. And much of the DC-area transportation infrastructure was planned for using a commute-from- the-suburbs-into-the-city model during the 50’s and early 60’s. Of course, that pattern still exists but it failed to take into account the huge growth in suburb-to- suburb commuting.

 

I’d also throw in the infamous case of the so-called “Outer Beltway.” On the books for decades, it eventually morphed into the Inter-County Connector.  And also the fight that stopped Interstate 95 from going through the city rather than the now clogged to the gills jog around the Beltway. That little gem is probably the worst stretch of 95 in the country.   

Last edited by johnstrains

Metro (who runs the subway and buses) in DC has allowed the system (subway) to deteriorate.  They literally have ignored repairs needed to the system (Metro Safety Officer resigned today, after last month's metro train derailment and WHY it derailed came to light. It was: a purposefully deleted repair order for the section of track).  On average, there is a major problem with Metro every two days.  Fires. Power outages. Cracked rails. Signal malfunctions. I am not making this up or exaggerating.  I call it the disaster du jour.

 

Taking on more rail miles to maintain and operate is out of the question.  Metro is incapable of doing so with what they have and until they prove otherwise, the money should be spent on maintaining what they have vs. stuff like this.

 

And I did not mention the fiscal mismanagement?  Again, not making this up either.  Effectively, they are not allowed to spend any federal $ without complete oversight by some federal authority whose name escapes me.  Other transit systems are not under this microscope because they manage themselves, maybe not perfectly, but certainly much more effectively. 

 

Metro recently (1 yr ago) opened the Silver line - it will eventually run from Falls Church, VA out to Dulles Airport (about 20 miles of rail).  About 1/3rd has opened.  Next part under construction.  I have said from day 1 what I am saying about the purple line:  prove you can maintain what you have before adding more burden.

 

BTW, Metro has already had issues with the new silver line - premature concrete cracking on elevated section - of which there is a good amount.  Nice.  Even if repaired by contractor & 'under warranty', it will still need to be maintained. 

 

Unbelievable.

 

Off to home now, taking the Metro.  Wish me luck.  I forgot to bring my motorcycle helmet.  It is not required, but recommended.

 

Last edited by cooperthebeagle
Originally Posted by johnstrains:

Lifelong (50 years) resident of the area and familiar with all of the above. It looks like just about everybody has some valid points and I wouldn’t quibble with what’s been said.

 

What I will say is that this discussion reminds me -- yet again – of the failure of long-term transportation planning.  The Capital Beltway, 270, and the Metro system (the subway portion), to name a few,  were all obsolete -- or over-burdened -- within a fairly short period of time after going live. Sure, some of that is just population growth but there were definitely shortcomings, especially with Metro, on failure to plan for service areas. And much of the DC-area transportation infrastructure was planned for using a commute-from- the-suburbs-into-the-city model during the 50’s and early 60’s. Of course, that pattern still exists but it failed to take into account the huge growth in suburb-to- suburb commuting.

 

I’d also throw in the infamous case of the so-called “Outer Beltway.” On the books for decades, it eventually morphed into the Inter-County Connector.  And also the fight that stopped Interstate 95 from going through the city rather than the now clogged to the gills jog around the Beltway. That little gem is probably the worst stretch of 95 in the country.   

The key idea you brought up was long term transportation planning and the lack thereof. There is a stigma against planning in this country, there is this idea that somehow planning is like a Soviet 5 year plan, that it doesn't work and so forth, so what we end up with a lot of the time is a crisis comes about, then there is scrambling and posturing to fix it. 

 

In the NY area there is something called the Regional Plan Association, that looks at the region (the NY region is multiple states, with a lot of people), and comes up with a vision of where they think things should go. One of the reasons they emphasize the region is to get away from this idea that the area in question somehow are these states that have no impact on each other, and that simply isn't true. For the people in NJ who complain about NY Commuters and grumble about Mass Transit, they totally ignore the fact that being part of this region has meant that housing values didn't tank in this region the way they did in places like Las Vegas or Tampa, because there is a stable base here. Those NY Jobs bring benefits to businesses in NJ, and NJ businesses supply NY businesses and so forth (I use NY and NJ, this also applies to Connecticut and to a certain extent eastern PA). 

 

One of the biggest things they push is rational planning for transportation, and also in trying to figure out how to break the logjam on the roads. Like the description in Maryland, commuting in the burbs can be a royal pain in the neck, the highways and roads at rush hour make commuting difficult. Some of it involves rebuilding and expanding roads, some of it is also finding ways to incentivize businesses to local where interstate commuting might be possible. 

 

If the traffic around DC is people commuting from one place to another, rather than DC itself, then it probably won't do much for the logjams, and new roads might be in order. Part of the problem is towns in the area make a pitch for businesses to locate in their area, wanting the tax revenue and such, but they also don't think about accessibility. A major bank that shall remain nameless located in this area of north central NJ, that while near a major interstate highway, also put them at a disadvantage, because they had, still have, a hard time getting employees (it is  tech center among other things)> They got big tax breaks from the town for locating there, but commuting to it is very difficult for people, it isn 't convenient, and despite what people claim, you don't get a bunch of people moving to the town in question to live close to work (among other things, the area they located in is pretty expensive real estate). 

 

You are seeing this in the NY area, where the plight of the cross river tunnels has suddenly been thrust to the forefront. The ARC tunnels, while flawed, could have been amended to tie into Penn Station, and the decision to cancel them. Suddenly politicians that said things like "why should we build new tunnels, move the companies to my area" or as they did in fact do, cancel the tunnel and use the money on road projects the state didn't/couldn't pay for,are suddenly born again transport-philes when they face angry commuters when the existing tunnels continue to literally fall apart and become unusable for a time. 

 

The real problem is trying to find a way to align where people live and where they work, but that one in the modern world seems kind of difficult, given that these days people change jobs often (or get forced out, so find themselves working far afield from where they may have settled. 

 

 

Originally Posted by johnstrains:

And also the fight that stopped Interstate 95 from going through the city rather than the now clogged to the gills jog around the Beltway. That little gem is probably the worst stretch of 95 in the country.   

Probably a blessing in reality - if it were to go through DC it probably would still be under construction and/or falling apart.

 

The biggest problem with the Metro systems is that it's tied to DC and then DC is tied to Congress. Long-term planning is no longer than the next election.

I am glad I do not have dogs in either of those fights, except occasionally.  I passed up

a chance to look at a car out on Long Island because I figured there was no way to get

there from here, and, to avoid the metropolitan area, it was take a ferry to and from

Connecticut?...I think. I last snuck into the New England area by crossing the Hudson

at Albany.  Here in the midwest, they are s-l-o-w-l-y punching four lane Interstates out

to six lanes, even out in the country, which actually appears to be ahead of the need,

and that is unheard of.  There appears to be a fantasyland of dreamers in certain urban

areas that think transportation needs of very large geographic areas can be served by

twinning the London Underground, and packing all those people into cattle cars to be

magically dropped at their doorsteps, after being picked up from same.  People prefer

their freedom, and have since they were whipping Dobbin through Times Square.

Originally Posted by mwb:
Originally Posted by johnstrains:

And also the fight that stopped Interstate 95 from going through the city rather than the now clogged to the gills jog around the Beltway. That little gem is probably the worst stretch of 95 in the country.   

Probably a blessing in reality - if it were to go through DC it probably would still be under construction and/or falling apart.

 

The biggest problem with the Metro systems is that it's tied to DC and then DC is tied to Congress. Long-term planning is no longer than the next election.

Not to mention that putting highways through the middle of cities ends up destroying neighborhoods and creating urban blight in its path. If you ever want to see what I am talking about, get a view of what Boston looks like in the aftermath of the Big Dig, compare what those neighborhoods looked like when the elevated highway was still there and what it looks like today, it is no contest. Robert Moses' had that kind of vision, and it destroyed large swaths of NYC, not to mention other cities and the federal highway administration that listened to him. 

 

Like I said in another post, a lot of this comes down to the distaste we have with planning in the US, we build housing in a region, we have jobs locate there, but no one plans for the infrastructure. Some of the answer might be putting businesses close to commuter rail and bus lines, that might allow more than a few people to commute, rather than drive, or it might be figuring out which roads and highways need upgrading or expansion, but it needs to be done with thought, not just "let's expand the size of the road". Maybe it would be better to build another road, rather than expand an existing one, if there is a need to have high speed access to a certain area, so that people don't take the old highway, A, then have to drive through congested local roads, have a new highway, B, that goes near the concentration of businesses. 

 

And yeah, people love the 'freedom' of the car, but then they complain because a lot of people like that, so they are faced with gridlock and such. Our corporate HQ is in Atlanta, and the folks who work in that office spend a lot of their time figuring out times to leave/get into the office to 'beat traffic', and over time the situation gets worse and worse, in large part because Atlanta has relatively little mass transit. 

Metro is a privately run entity.  It is run by incompetents.  Unfortunately, it has been that way for years.  It, like other public transit systems, gets federal money.  It, unlike other federal transit systems, also gets money from each legal jurisdiction that it traverses (MD, VA and DC) and that means politics too.  You smell the egg starting to rot?

 

One other unique thing - Metro has the ability to issue bonds that are backed by federal government.  That means: taxpayers of the USA.  It is a convoluted process which they are not presently able to leverage because their financial footing is so poor - thus they just do not have a blank check (thank goodness).

 

It is a real tragedy how poorly managed and operated the system is.  It is years in the making and that price is being paid today and will be for some time.

 

 

Originally Posted by mwb: 

 

The biggest problem with the Metro systems is that it's tied to DC and then DC is tied to Congress. Long-term planning is no longer than the next election.

 

Last edited by cooperthebeagle

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