In his Feb. 6 column, Randal O’Toole took aim at the Purple Line, just as he has with dozens of other rail transit projects across the country. His visceral hostility toward rail transit is captured in his suggestion after Hurricane Sandy that New York City should replace the subway system with a network of underground buses. Yet, New York City could not survive as the dynamic and powerful economic engine it is today without the people-moving capacity of the subway.
O’Toole has long failed to understand the transportation and economic value that New York, Washington and other regions have achieved through investment in transit. The D.C. region has generated billions of dollars in real estate value thanks to Metrorail, and more than 80 percent of office development in the pipeline is now being built within a quarter of a mile of a Metro station. More young workers have flocked to our region than any other, attracted by vibrant urban communities and car-free/car-lite living.
Corporate leaders have noticed. In announcing plans to move their long-time headquarters from their suburban Maryland office park, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson stated: “I think it’s essential we be accessible to Metro and that limits the options. I think as with many other things our younger folks are more inclined to be Metro-accessible and more urban.”
The Purple Line will increase the options for companies and workers, connecting by 2030 a combined 105,000 jobs in Bethesda, Medical Center and Friendship Heights, with another 35,000 jobs in Silver Spring, and tens of thousands more from the University of Maryland to New Carrollton. It will spark walkable, mixed-use redevelopment in new centers at Chevy Chase Lake and Langley Park, and connect four arms of the Metrorail system along with MARC and Amtrak, adding a major link to a Washington-Baltimore transit network.
Studies for the $2.4 billion project estimate it will increase real estate values by $9.8 billion and stimulate economic activity, which will generate $9.6 billion in new tax revenue. That economic activity includes some 27,000 permanent jobs in addition to 6,300 construction jobs.
The Purple Line addresses a real transportation need — where an overcrowded Beltway and arterial roads in Maryland’s inner suburbs demand new options. O’Toole may not buy the estimate that the Purple Line will carry 69,000 riders per day by 2030, but that just shows he doesn’t understand our success in linking transit with transit-oriented development. Less than two months after opening, the Silver Line carried 15,000 riders per day, representing more than 60 percent of the 25,000 riders projected after the first year of operation.
Imagine traveling between Silver Spring and Bethesda in just nine minutes and not worrying about traffic or having to park your car. Speed, reliability and time savings are key reasons the Hogan administration shouldn’t try to cut corners by reducing the frequency of service.
By expanding our network of high-capacity transit and transit-oriented development, we maximize transit, walking and bicycling trips, while reducing vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled. Every person living and/or working in a transit-accessible center and not driving is part of a regional transportation solution.
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