From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Purple Line, previously designated as the
Bi-County Transitway, is a proposed 16-mile
(25 km) transit line to link the Red, Green and Orange lines of the Washington
Metro transportation system in Washington, D.C.
The project is currently being administered by the Maryland Transit
Administration (MTA), but is expected to be integrated in some
manner with the existing Washington Metro system.
The Purple Line was conceived as a rail line from New Carrollton to Silver Spring.
Maryland's Glendening administration (which
included John Porcari as Secretary of Transportation) removed the
rail option from planning discussion because it was felt that
the cost was greater than the need.
Flanagan, the Maryland State Secretary of Transportation under
Governor Robert Ehrlich,
merged the Purple Line with another transportation project,
Georgetown Branch Light Rail Transit (GBLRT). The GBLRT was
proposed as a light rail transit line from Silver Spring
westward, following the former Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore
& Ohio Railroad (now a short CSX siding and the Capital Crescent Trail) to Bethesda.
Both Governor Ehrlich and Secretary Flanagan introduced an
alternative mode – bus rapid transit — that might
be utilized in lieu of light rail transit. To reflect this
possibility, the administration changed the name of the project to
the "Bi-County Transitway" in March 2003. Another reason that "the
Purple Line" was discouraged by the Ehrlich administration was that
its associations with the other color-oriented names of the
Washington Metro system (which consists of heavy rail) might lead
the public to expect a heavy rail option. The new name did not
catch on, however, as several media outlets and most citizens
continued to refer to the project as the Purple Line. As a result,
Governor Martin O'Malley and Secretary of
Porcari opted to revert to "Purple Line" in 2007.
In January 2008, the O'Malley administration allocated $100
million within a six-year capital budget to complete design
documents for state approval and funding of the Purple Line. In May
2008, it was reported that the Purple Line could carry about 68,000
A draft environmental impact study was issued on October 20,
December 22, 2008, Montgomery County planners endorsed building a
light rail line rather than a bus line. On January 15, 2009, the
county planning board also endorsed the light rail option, and
County Executive Isiah Leggett has also expressed
October 21, 2009, members of the National Capital Region
Transportation Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the
Purple Line light rail project for inclusion into the region’s
Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan.
Even though the project is currently overseen by the Maryland Transit
Administration (MTA), it is not yet clear who would operate the
Purple Line once construction is complete. MTA representative
Michael Madden said that the Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been working
with the MTA to develop the Purple Line. The future transit system
could be operated by the state of Maryland, by WMATA, or by
Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Regardless, planners
intend to utilize current Metrorail stations and for the Purple
Line to accept WMATA's SmarTrip farecard. Metro's
2008 annual report states that it plans for the Purple Line to be
integrated with WMATA's existing transit system.
Route and station
A map of the proposed Purple Line routes including alternative
The planned rail or rapid bus line will connect the existing
Metro, MARC commuter rail, and Amtrak stations at:
Official plans for new stations have not been announced.
Stations have been proposed for these locations (not all would be
built, since some are on parallel alternative routes):
Although the majority of discussions about the Purple Line
describe the project as a 16-mile east-west line between Bethesda
and New Carrollton,
there have been several proposals to expand the line further into
Maryland or to mirror the Capital Beltway as a
loop around the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Sierra Club has argued
for a Purple Line which would "encircle Washington, D.C." and
"connect existing suburban metro lines." Maryland Lieutenant
Governor Anthony G. Brown, while campaigning in
2006, similarly stated that he'd "like to see the Purple Line
go from Bethesda to across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge," adding,
"Let’s swing that boy all the way around" (a reference to having
the Purple Line circle through Virginia and back to the line's
point of origin in Bethesda).
An advocacy group known as "The Inner Purple Line Campaign" has
stated that the Purple Line could be extended westward to Tysons Corner and eastward to
that it could eventually cross the new Wilson Bridge from Suitland through Oxon
Hill to Alexandria, eventually forming a
rail line that encircles the city.
The reconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-495's southern
crossing over the Potomac River) provides capacity for the
bridge to carry a heavy or light rail line.
Suggested stops along this proposed Purple Line expansion
Community support and
- The Action Committee for
Transit is a community group that supports the Purple Line.
- The Washington Post advocates
construction of the Purple Line light rail option.
- The Montgomery County Council and Prince George's County
Council voted unanimously in favor of the light rail option for the
Purple Line in January 2009.
- State officials (including Governor O'Malley, Dem.) are also
strong Purple Line advocates. State officials say that a Purple
Line, which would run primarily above ground, "would provide better
east-west transit service, particularly for lower-income workers
who can't afford cars."
- The development firm Chevy Chase Land Co. is a strong proponent
of the construction of the Purple Line. The website for the
pro-Purple umbrella group Purple Line NOW! lists Edward Asher as a
member of its board of directors. The
Washington Post indicates that the development firm would
"no doubt profit from property it owns near at least one of the
- The Sierra Club
advocates a larger-scale rail system to parallel the Capital Beltway and
link all existing Metro lines at their peripheries. This
environmental group advocates rail
transit over car
use because carbon emissions are a major risk factor
- Student leaders (the Student Government Association and
Graduate Student Government) at the University of
Maryland support transit alternatives to campus.
- On January 27, 2009, the Montgomery County Council voted to
support the light rail option.
Governor O'Malley announced his own approval on August 4, 2009.
- A 2008 study by Sam Schwartz Engineering for the Town of
Chevy Chase supported bus rapid transit using an alternate
Jones Bridge Road alignment. The Chevy Chase study expressed
concerns about the expected ridership numbers, carbon
footprint, interruptions in recreation pathways, and the cost
of bus and light rail proposals by the MTA involving a Capital Crescent Trail
alignment. Although a Jones Bridge Road alignment was also proposed
by the MTA, the study noted that features typical of bus rapid
transit that were missing from the MTA proposal.
- An unincorporated local organization, Save the Trail Petition,
has been collecting signatures on a petition opposing the MTA's
Purple Line proposals since 2003. The organization's website
explains that the MTA's light rail and bus rapid transit proposals
will have significant environmental and safety impacts on the Capital Crescent Trail.
Alternatives suggested by the organization's website included the
Jones Bridge Road alignment for bus rapid transit recommended by
the Chevy Chase study.
Save the Trail Petition prefers alternatives, however, noting that
a Jones Bridge Road alignment would also have some impact on the
- A leading opponent of the Purple Line is the Columbia Country Club, a golf course with land
that occupies both sides of the planned route between Bethesda and
- Opponents in the Town of Chevy Chase cited the town's study of
bus rapid transit alternatives. The study estimated a cost of less
than $1 billion dollars for a bus rapid transit system, compared
with an estimated cost of $1.8 billion for light rail.
- Some Silver Spring residents are concerned that one of the
proposed routes will take houses along Thayer Avenue, cross behind
East Silver Spring Elementary School, take over an acre of Sligo
Creek Park, and bring noise to a residential neighborhood.
- University of
Maryland administrators have raised concerns that the Purple
Line could disrupt existing pedestrian and automobile traffic
patterns on campus.
Responses for and against
Common responses to opposition points, and responses in turn to
them, include the following:
+ Pro-rail: The Purple Line will not destroy the Capital Crescent
Trail, but will exist adjacent to it.
– Anti-rail: The proposed routing will clear-cut thousands of
mature trees and replace a verdant linear park with a paved
sidewalk adjacent to a pair of high speed rail lines.
+ Pro-rail: The environmental benefits of increased transit use,
such as lower vehicle emissions, more than offset the removal of
trees along the route from an environmental perspective.
– Anti-rail: Light rail transit vehicles will generate more carbon
dioxide per passenger than cars, even with all seats occupied. With
bus rapid transit, emissions would be reduced if as few as eight
passengers per bus can be lured away from their cars.
+ Pro-rail: The Purple Line will allow the final 1.5-mile section
of the Capital Crescent Trail to be completed into Silver Spring as
an off-road trail and will reduce the number of at-grade
– Anti-rail: The Capital Crescent Trail extension into Silver
Spring was part of all build alternatives in the AA/DEIS document
prepared by MDOT. It was not limited to the light rail
+ Pro-rail: The right-of-way for the Capital Crescent Trail was
purchased by the state of Maryland specifically for a transit line,
so the trail would not exist if not for the transit line.
– Anti-rail: In fact the right-of-way was purchased through the
rails-to-trails program "to serve a public purpose", and
rail supporters are only proposing a small portion of the length
for conversion back to rail. It is simply untrue that there exists
some obligation from law or practice to regress a trail back to
rail. In the intervening decades the Capital Crescent Trail has
become the most popular trail in the entire State of Maryland,
enjoyed by 1.5 million people annually: a clear public purpose.[42
+ Pro-rail: Bus rapid transit is not as efficient (due to reduced
speed and higher emissions) as light rail.
– Anti-rail: Bus rapid transit costs $500 million less, can carry
more passengers per hour, and offers more frequent service. It is
also part of a system integrated with County-wide transportation
needs rather than an isolated line.
+ Pro-rail: The suggested alternate route along Jones Bridge Road
between Bethesda and Silver Spring is indirect and slower than the
Capital Crescent route.
– Anti-rail: An alignment along Jones Bridge Road would serve more
passengers than an alignment replacing the Capital Crescent Trail.
Speed is a function of the number of at-grade crossings, not the
vehicle, and only differs for contrived apples-to-oranges
- ^ a
Governor O'Malley Announces
Purple Line Locally Preferred Alternative MDOT press release
2009-8-4, retrieved 2009-12-3
- ^ a
Purple Line Overview MTA
Maryland website. Retrieved 2010-1-7
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Purple Line planning". The Gazette (Maryland).
Post-Newsweek Media. http://www.gazette.net/stories/011808/polinew204004_32360.shtml. Retrieved
Katherine Shaver (2008-05-30). "Trips on Purple Line Rail
Projected at 68,000 Daily". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/29/AR2008052902261.html. Retrieved
Maryland Transit Administration
(2008-10-20). "Project Alternatives
Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (AA/DEIS)".
MTA (Maryland). MTA. http://www.purplelinemd.com/aadeis. Retrieved
Miranda S. Spivak (2009-01-16). "Montgomery Planners Back
Rail". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/15/AR2009011502563.html. Retrieved
Katherine Shaver (2009-01-23). "Leggett Endorses Light-Rail
Plan". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012203666.html. Retrieved
TPB News Vol XVII Issue 4 p. 1 (November
2009). "TPB Gives Final Approval to
Purple Line Project". Metropolitan Washington Council of
Governments. http://www.mwcog.org/store/item.asp?PUBLICATION_ID=94. Retrieved
"Public Meeting on the Purple
Line". Town of Chevy Chase, Maryland. 2007-06-06. http://www.townofchevychase.org/assets/documents/pdfs/purpleline/purplelinetranscript.pdf. Retrieved
"2008 Annual Report".
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/docs/FY08_AnnualReportBooklet.pdf. Retrieved
"Metro preparing for more
people to shift to transit if gasoline prices continue to
skyrocket". WMATA. 2008-05-22. http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/news/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=2101. Retrieved
- ^ a
"Purple Line Facts". http://www.purplelinemd.com/about-the-project/purple-line-facts.
Maryland Transit Administration. "Project Area Map". http://www.purplelinemd.com/images/stories/purpleline_images/2008_purpleline_align_alts_w-callout-boxes2.jpg. Retrieved
"Purple Line". Sierra
Club. http://www.sierraclub.org/dc/sprawl/purple-line/index.html. Retrieved
Thomas Dennison and Douglas Tallman
(2006-10-04). "Brown’s ‘lofty’ Purple Line
plans draw fire from transportation officials".
Gazette.Net. http://www.gazette.net/stories/100406/burtnew214616_31941.shtml. Retrieved
- ^ a
What is the Purple Line?,
The Inner Purple Line Campaign, a project of the Action
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and I-95)". Roads to the Future. http://www.roadstothefuture.com/Woodrow_Wilson_Bridge.html. Retrieved
"Sierra Club Purple Line
Scott M. Kozel (2001-1-23). "Metrorail Branch Avenue
Route Completion". http://www.roadstothefuture.com/Metro_Branch_Ave_Opening.html. Retrieved
"Full Speed Ahead". The
Washington Post. November 16, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/15/AR2008111502142.html. Retrieved
Montgomery County Council
votes 8-0 for medium light rail option (2009-1-27) Purple Line
NOW! accessed 2010-1-6
Prince George's County Council
approves the new Transportation Master Plan (2009-1-17) Purple
Line NOW! accessed 2010-1-6
- ^ a
Katherine Shaver (2008-07-13). "Purple Line Foes Offer No
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"Purple Line". http://www.sierraclub.org/dc/sprawl/purple-line/. Retrieved
Katherine Shaver (May 13, 2007). "Students Urge Stronger
Backing of Purple Line". The Washington Post. p. C04. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/12/AR2007051201341.html.
"Letter from student leaders
to UMD President" (PDF). http://rethinkcollegepark.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/Purple%20Line%20-%20University%20of%20Maryland.pdf. Retrieved
- ^ Shaver, Katherine (2009-01-23). "Leggett Endorses Light-Rail
Plan". The Washington Post: p. B03. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012203666.html. Retrieved
- ^ a
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- ^ a
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Trains on Purple Line". The Washington Post. http://blog.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2008/07/chevy_chase_says_buses_beat_tr.html.
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- ^ a
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