Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Light rail in Norfolk, Virginia and suburban Washington, DC

Train cars, Monticello Station, Norfolk Light Rail System, Virginia
Monticello Station, Tide light rail system, Norfolk.

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports in "Poll: Public on board with expanding light-rail route," that 80% of residents polled want to see the newly opened Tide light rail system expanded, both within Norfolk and to Virginia Beach.

The system is only within Norfolk now, because extension was seen as controversial, and Virginia Beach voted against participation. Norfolk went ahead, figuring that "seeing is believing" and that Virginia Beach would then want to participate. The system launched in August.
Purple Line routing and station map
Proposed purple line routing and station map for Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland.

This is interesting--the poll results--because of how people in the Chevy Chase area of Montgomery County, Maryland are still lobbying-organizing against light rail under the guise of "Save the Trail," because they don't want the light rail system "in their backyards"--the line is to run on the right of way of an old railroad line, which for the last 20+ years has been used as a bicycle-walking trail (Capital Crescent Trail, Georgetown Branch Trail) although they use a variety of other pretexts seemingly in support of other activities, such as the trail (even though in other contexts they oppose the trail too).
Anti-Purple Line flyer from Save the Trail
Because I was told that people from this group went to the first open house in College Park, I wasn't surprised to see people at the Silver Spring open house for the Purple Line systematically talking with people about why the light rail was a bad idea, and even camping out at the table that was set aside for writing comments. I overheard someone doubting that people would even use transit--this in a region that has one of the most successful transit systems in the U.S., and the projections of light rail ridership for the Purple Line (upwards of 70,000 daily riders, with highest ridership between Bethesda and Silver Spring) would make it in all likelihood the highest ridership single light rail line in the U.S.
Open House, Purple Line light rail projec
I was surprised that the people from the Maryland Transit Administration were pretty nonchalant about the opposition, which admittedly was low key, they weren't agitating, just going up to people, they didn't have signs, they weren't demonstrating, etc. See "Residents still split on Purple Line" from the Gazette.

Although my expectation is that like in Norfolk, once the Purple Line light rail system is in place, people will lament that it didn't open earlier.

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