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O’Malley’s Light Rail or Ehrlich’s Bus Rapid Transit: Which One is Better for Us?

October 13, 2010 4 comments

O'Malley and Ehrlich Televised Debate 10/11/10

On one hand, you have O’Malley’s plans for light rail.  On the other hand, you have Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system.  Which one do you think is better for Washington, D.C. metro area commuters? 

As per usual, there are plenty of pros and cons on each side.  Bus rapid transit would involve setting aside bus-only lanes (not sure if this means stealing existing lanes from automobile traffic or not) along portions of existing routes.  The light rail would be built along an existing route and would not create additional traffic

Baltimore Sun’s Michael Dresser says Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system would be a little cheaper to build — estimates are $1.2 billion — as opposed to $1.68 billion for O’Malley’s light rail project.  However, at an estimated $5.9 billion, the annual operating costs for buses quickly turn that positive on its head — light rail would only cost about half of that — an estimated $3.2 million annually.  

Ehrlich — who is not opposed to not building anything at all — says the money is simply not there to build.  Light rail proponents at Maryland Transit Authority disagree, saying that money could be made available soon through President Obama’s long-term transportation bill.  

Developers, proponents of transit-oriented development, the Prince George’s County council, the Montgomery County council, and a host of area businesses like the idea of light rail because it has a permanency that rapid bus transit does not that would make it ideal for becoming hubs of future business activity, creating much-needed jobs in the area.     

There are more pros and cons of both, but I’ll stop right here.  Personally, I’m for O’Malley’s decision to go with light rail.  It would be a shame to waste almost a decade of planning and the $40 million that MTA has already invested into deciding which way to go, only to implement the more expensive of the two — or even worse — nothing at all. 

Do you have an opinion about this one way or another?  Don’t be shy – I’m very interested in learning your thoughts.

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Commuting Suburb-to-Suburb Via Metro – It Wasn’t in the Master Plan

traffic congestion

Aren't you glad you're not stuck in this right now?

Are you sick of sitting in your vehicle staring at all the cars, buses, trucks, SUVs, and minivans around you while watching the Metro trains go whizzing by?  Me too.  Traffic congestion has gotten completely out of hand, and others outside the area have noticed.  Washington, D.C. has been ranked as the third-worst traffic in the country.  It is at these times that I wonder if other commuting alternatives would be better than sticking it out in traffic everyday.  

One noted way to relieve traffic congestion is through increasing use of public transportation.  But the problem in the Washington D.C. Baltimore metro area is that, depending on where you work, using public transportation is not always expedient.

I would seriously consider taking Metro to my current place of business but, to be honest, it’s just not that convenient for me — even with the subsidy my job offers.  Fact is, buses are totally out of the question because it would probably take three times longer than a car ride — in traffic.  No express buses to my destination exist.  And my job is over a mile away from the nearest Metro station — not appealing for a woman who wears heels everyday. 

But even if I decided to wear walking shoes instead, public transportation is still not a convenient solution for me.  This is because Metro was originally designed for suburban MD/VA commuting into D.C., not for suburban MD/VA commuting to other parts of suburban MD/VA.  In other words, in order for me to get to my job in Rockville, I would need to drive through traffic to get to the nearest Metro station, pay to park, ride into downtown D.C., and then ride back out into the suburbs.  To get to my jobsite, I would then need to either take a bus or walk more than a mile…not appealing, right? 

 The solution to this problem would be Metro’s purple line.  But because of major obstacles to getting the project off the ground, we do not yet know of a completion date for this light rail alternative that would connect the Orange, Green, and Red lines.

I’m all for the Purple line being part of the solution if it provides a viable alternative to sitting in traffic!  Local lawmakers really need to step up the pressure to get this project done.  If you’d like to make it your personal mantra, you can get involved by sending an email by July 23 with “yes, I support the Purple Line” in the subject line to cscott@purplelinenow.com.

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