Category Archives: purple line

Purple Line Drowns Maryland in Red Ink

Most Maryland pols are heavily invested in the Purple Line. Virtually all discussion by politicians has been on the imperative of finishing it while downplaying the financial cost. In “Hogan’s Purple Passion”, longtime columnist Barry Rascover has taken the opposite approach in his hard look at the epic financial mess that is now the Purple Line.

Though Purple Line supporters sold the P3 (public-private partnership) as insulating taxpayers from rising cost, Rascover explains that we’re now on the hook for the skyrocketing price.

By the time the east-west Purple Line from Montgomery County to Prince George’s County opens years after Hogan leaves office, the state’s total spending on the mass-transit line could exceed $2 billion. It may even top $3 billion.

If the state takes over construction duties of the Purple Line in the next month when the private consortium running the project could leave the job, there’s at least another $1 billion worth of work to finish. Plus, an added delay of six months — or longer. 

Given the line’s history of unexpected delays and under-estimated expenses, that $1 billion projection by the state for future costs could be way off.

This comes on top of the $1 billion in taxpayer dollars already expended by Hogan. 

And this doesn’t count the unpaid $800 million in contested cost overruns the contractor, and a judge, blame on the state.

Either we pay the consortium building the Purple Line what they want or we pay even more and suffer greater delays building it ourselves. Instead of protecting taxpayers, the P3 has turned them into hostages.

Rascover assesses who is to blame for this fiasco:

The state tried to lay the onus on the consortium. But a judge didn’t buy that bit of illogic. He ruled the state was responsible for out-of-control costs. He called it a “self-inflicted” wound.

In hindsight it’s clear [Secretary Pete] Rahn badly under-estimated the Purple Line‘s complexity and its costs. Lawsuits by unhappy residents along the route were inevitable — but Rahn plowed ahead anyway, never anticipating these almost certain legal delays of almost a year.

Rahn also didn’t anticipate lengthy fights over obtaining rights of way along the route, or expensive re-designs to separate the Purple Line from CSX tracks. Both were predictable.

The governor’s determination to privatize this project and get it completed while he is still in office overtook common sense. Now taxpayers will foot the bill for Hogan’s and Rahn’s terribly flawed miscalculations.

It’s even worse than Rascover outlines.

The Governor campaigned against the Purple Line and the gas tax passed under O’Malley to fund transportation improvements. He didn’t repeal the gas tax but instead used the monies raised to fund new road projects around the state.

Pressured by the Washington Post, which then endorsed him for reelection, Hogan changed his mind on the Purple Line. But instead of paying for much of the construction up front as originally planned by Democrats, he put it all on credit via privatization, so he could continue to pay for his road projects.

Excepting perhaps Anthony Brown, Democrats shouldn’t feel too smug. They pushed the P3 forward in their eagerness to move the project ahead and also went along with Hogan’s magically cheaper numbers that have now turned out to be wildly unrealistic.

The state’s ability to borrow to cover the monumental additional cost is consequently highly limited. Many sacred cows are going to be gored to finish the Purple Line.

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Transit Cuts are Just Starting: They’re Going to Get Much Deeper

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has authored an open sign-on letter (posted below) to Gov. Larry Hogan vehemently protesting major cuts in transit service and calling for more capital expenditures on transit.

The reality is that these cuts are just the start.

Due the economic devastation wrecked by the pandemic, revenues are down substantially. The federal government has shown no inclination thus far to help bail out the states, viewed as a “blue state” bailout by President Trump, so no money is coming from that source. The Maryland Constitution requires a balanced budget, requiring substantial cuts ahead. Gov. Hogan will not support a tax hike and there is little enthusiasm among Assembly Democrats either.

The drastically higher than expected costs for the Purple Line to the tune of over $750 million are about to suck even more funds away from other projects. The State has already indicated that the funds will come from other transit projects, like MARC. Even without the pandemic hit, the transit budget was set to take an enormous hit. The Washington Metro, unmentioned in the LCV letter, has already seen its funding cut.

The signatories to the open letter are notably a Baltimore heavy group. The absence of either Purple Line Now or the Action Committee for Transit, both staunch Purple Line supporters, from the letter signatories is perhaps telling. Both are normally easy gets for these sorts of letters but it tacitly recognizes the reality that the Purple Line will not be finished unless major cuts are made elsewhere.

Here is the LCV letter:

AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN, MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY GREG SLATER, AND MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATOR KEVIN QUINN:

Last week, the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration announced major cuts to the MTA system, including cutting bus service by 20%, reducing MARC, commuter local bus, and paratransit service, and cutting the MTA’s already strained six year capital budget for critical safety needs by $150 million. We, the undersigned, urge rejection of these cuts, which would be devastating to many Marylanders that live in low-income communities, communities of color, and people with disabilities.

Rather than take steps to relieve the strain of a veritable tsunami of challenges to Maryland’s most vulnerable communities, MTA’s plan would exacerbate residents’ difficulties and hobble the state’s recovery. TransitCenter found that 40% of transit commuters in Baltimore City and 35% of transit riders in the state work in essential job sectors, with hospital and health care workers being the largest share of riders. A large number of essential workers – nurses, grocery store workers, child care professionals, nursing care staff, and so many more – rely on public transit to get to their jobs. The proposed cuts would make it harder for these vital workers to get to their jobs, which would threaten their employment and exacerbate the devastation the pandemic has wrought to our economy. A shortage of these critical workers will also add strain to a healthcare system that is already spread too thin.

Maryland should be investing in more public transportation, not less. We should be increasing access to job centers from the communities most in need, not cutting it. We should be prioritizing cleaner transportation alternatives that reduce pollution and the health conditions that make marginalized communities especially vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses like asthma. Vehicle emissions also create NOx that ultimately contributes roughly one-third of the nitrogen pollution to the region’s rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Among the problematic cuts to service, the proposed changes eliminate any route from Baltimore City (the jurisdiction with the highest reliance on public transportation) to Annapolis. Even in its current state, public transit to Annapolis is extremely limited, but at least it was available and provided mobility services. With the cuts, Annapolis would become inaccessible by public transportation, limiting the ability of many Marylanders to participate in our state’s Democracy. Public participation is always essential to a free and fair government, but never more so than in a crisis.

In reference to Maryland’s essential workers, the Maryland Transit Caucus has stated in their letter to the administration following the proposed cuts: We rely on them. They rely on MTA. We call on the administration to take immediate action. Funding from the Transportation Trust Fund should be allocated to public transit that benefits all Marylanders, rather than to highway expansion and construction projects that benefit only the wealthiest.

Signed,

  1. Maryland League of Conservation Voters
  2. Maryland Sierra Club
  3. Common Cause Maryland
  4. Clean Water Action
  5. Climate Law & Policy Project
  6. Safe Skies Maryland
  7. Maryland Legislative Coalition
  8. Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
  9. Maryland Campaign for Human Rights
  10. Coalition for Smarter Growth
  11. Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
  12. Transit Choices
  13. Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
  14. Maryland United for Peace and Justice
  15. Sunrise Movement Baltimore
  16. League of Women Voters Maryland
  17. Maryland Nonprofits
  18. Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  19. Labor Network for Sustainability
  20. Family League of Baltimore
  21. Bikemore
  22. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
  23. Maryland Center on Economic Policy
  24. Job Opportunities Task Force
  25. NAACP Maryland State Conference
  26. Public Justice Center
  27. Our Revolution Maryland
  28. Indivisible Baltimore
  29. Indivisible Howard County
  30. Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
  31. Echotopia, LLC
  32. Maryland Conservation Council
  33. Ji’Aire’s Workgroup
  34. Indivisible Towson
  35. ATU Local 1300
  36. Food and Water Watch Action
  37. Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  38. Disability Rights Maryland
  39. Consumer Advocates for Ride Services
  40. Progressive Maryland
  41. Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Mary
  42. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) – Baltimore
  43. WISE Maryland
  44. Maryland Climate Justice WIng
  45. Takoma Park Mobilization Environment Committee
  46. Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
  47. Accessible Resources for Independence
  48. League for People with Disabilities
  49. Climate X-Change Maryland
  50. The Nature Conservancy – Maryland/DC Chapter
  51. Saltzberg Consulting
  52. Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  53. Sunrise Howard County
  54. Baltimore 350
  55. The Parent and Community Advisory Board, Baltimore City Public Schools
  56. Sunrise Rockville
  57. Marylanders for Patient Rights
  58. Bus Workgroup 14
  59. South Baltimore Community Land Trust
  60. Free Your Voice
  61. Represent Maryland
  62. Green Team at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Baltimore
  63. Baltimore People’s Climate Movement
  64. The Climate Reality Project: Baltimore Chapter
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Purple Line P3 Collapsing

Earlier today, the Washington Post reported that Purple Line Transit Partners has filed a notice of termination if it cannot reach an agreement with the State over massive cost overruns within 60 days. Currently, there are $755 million in cost overruns on the $2 billion project. The State and the P3 consortium disagree over who should pay them.

An anonymous source tells Seventh State that Fluor, a major partner in the deal, has pulled out. Del. Marc Korman told Seventh State that:

What I have heard is talks with Fluor are ongoing but if those collapse, the consortium will walk because Fluor is a large minority party. Not to say I’m optimistic about construction negotiations.

On Twitter, Del. Korman further elaborated:

One way or another, Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Department of Transportation need a plan to complete the Purple Line. We are not leaving a scar through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

The State was ill-positioned to absorb these massive cost overruns before the pandemic. The categorical opposition of federal Republicans to aid to states, as was done during the 2007 economic crisis, only exacerbates the already severe problem.

While an autopsy on the current situation is perhaps premature, key architects of the project have now conveniently left the building. Perpetually purple tied Mike Madden, the deputy director for the project, is gone. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, who was critical to gaining Hogan’s support for the project which he opposed during his campaign, has also moved along. No one can say either lacks impeccable timing.

Proponents of the project love to blame the environmental lawsuit for delaying it. But these sorts of suits are utterly typical and expected in major projects. Gov. Bob Ehrlich managed to complete the Intercounty Connector on time and on budget despite major environmental lawsuits that attempted to stop that project.

More important factors include the severe underestimation of costs related to tracks owned by CSX. The consortium has also accused the State of being slow to acquire properties necessary to complete the project.

The prediction track record on the project of Cassandras like Seventh State has proven far more prescient than that of supporters who continue to tout that the Purple Line is a “great value” and how the P3 “has overcome challenges that hampered Metrorail’s Silver Line.”

Advocates have a lot of explaining to do. The P3 was sold as a means to insulate the public from exactly these sorts of problems. Instead, we’re faced with the prospect of paying incredibly higher sums to complete the project or left with the priciest ditch in America.

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Elrich, Krasnow & Leventhal Mix It Up on Racial Equity & Purple Line

The recent county executive debate was fascinating if only for the incoherence brought to it regarding the Purple Line:

Rose Krasnow, deputy director of the county’s planning department and former Democratic Rockville mayor, said the Purple Line “will have wonderful benefits for people along its length. It will raise property values, but it will spur development,” she said. . . .

After Elrich expressed his concern about gentrification that could follow the path of the Purple Line, Leventhal spoke about the benefits the line would bring immigrant workers.

“We should stop frightening people about it, as Mr. Elrich has repeatedly done,” Leventhal said.

“I never said the word ‘destroy’ about the Purple Line,” Elrich responded, noting that his opposition to some of the plans resulted in changes that will preserve hundreds of affordable housing units.

Purple Line advocates have long argued that it will spur new development around Purple Line stations. Indeed, although Metro stops have not resulted in urban nodes similar to Bethesda or Silver Spring near any station in Prince George’s, proponents have faith that the slower moving light-rail Purple Line will nevertheless make it happen.

If they’re correct, the Purple Line will, as Rose Krasnow points out, result in more development and higher property taxes. More generally, if land near Purple Line stations becomes more desirable, its value will increase and so will taxes on it. Generating more tax revenue was a major rationale for the Purple Line.

If a place becomes more desirable and tax rates increase, the cost of renting or buying housing near Purple Line stops will rise and some current residents will find it harder to afford housing. Developers and landlords obviously prefer higher rents — and the Purple Line’s goal is to stimulate investments that will allow them to charge more.

As a result, current residents will gradually be forced out. It can occur when a property is wholly redeveloped so that higher prices can be charged. Alternatively, greater demand will allow landlords to raise rents and sellers to charge more. People who worked hard to buy homes there will gain.

This is not a side effect of the Purple Line. It is the intent of the Purple Line. Indeed, the more successful the Purple Line is achieving economic development, the more it will occur. Notwithstanding all of the social justice blandishments, there is only so much counties can do to stop it.

Nor do they want to do so because they want the tax revenue and it’s the nature of the market. When areas become more desirable, prices rise. This is not meant as an attack on people who leave as abandoning the neighborhood or on people who move in as insensitive gentrification agents. It is simply how the market works.

George Leventhal says “We should stop frightening people about it.” But, as the debate highlighted, change will occur. To the extent that the Purple Line is a transportation boon, and billions are going to be  invested towards that end, it will raise prices and drive current residents out, as it has in Bethesda and increasingly in Silver Spring.

There are a variety of policies one can do to increase the availability of affordable housing more generally. But the Purple Line is not one of them. Marc Elrich, an advocate of the Purple Line and more aggressive efforts to preserve affordable housing near Purple Line stops, explained his view in more detail in a blast email yesterday:

To zero in on an important case that came up at the forum, county officials have too often proposed zoning changes that would displace low-income communities of color. In 2012 and 2013, a Long Branch sector plan that included the upzoning of a very large swath of existing affordable multi-family housing – housing occupied largely by Long Branch’s low-income immigrant community – was brought before the County Council. The plan’s architects intended to tie construction of the Purple Line to new, much more expensive housing developments that would replace the existing affordable housing in that area. Even if 15% of the new units were “MPDUs” (moderately priced dwelling units), which was the best-case scenario, there would have been fewer total affordable housing units available in Long Branch if this plan had been implemented – in other words, less available lower-priced housing for people who need it.

Many of the families living in the existing affordable multi-family homes would not have qualified to live in MPDUs. Some had more family members than most MPDUs would have been able to hold (the proposed plan did not require developers to provide family-sized units). Some families had incomes too low or credit histories too short to qualify. For others, legal status would have been their chief barrier. In addition, the county did not have the resources to provide long-term rental assistance on the scale that would have been required in Long Branch.

In other words, under the Planning Board’s proposal, the current low-income immigrants in Long Branch would have been forced to relocate elsewhere. Since the existing buildings weren’t even an impediment to building the Purple Line, the Planning Board’s recommendations were particularly ill-advised.

When I met with planning staff and their director at the Long Branch shopping center, I told them – forcefully – that their plan was unacceptable.

I am happy to note that, within a week of my meeting, the proposal to rezone the particular properties I had questioned was withdrawn. I was also able to get results when the same process unfolded in two more sector plans and a proposal from the Planning Board to do a mini master plan. But these plans should never have been proposed in the first place. I am convinced they never would have been if we had a racial equity lens in place and were required to show the impacts such plans would have had on the surrounding communities of color.

I’ve been the consistent voice on the County Council speaking out on these issues because I know what the consequences will be if we fail to preserve our existing affordable housing. And as your next County Executive, I would like to make the consideration of racial equity the expectation in all of our policymaking, rather than the exception to the rule.

Put another way, the question is essentially how much power is  county government willing to exercise over developers both in terms of what they can do and what they have to pay. However, it’s also a question of how much tax revenue the county is willing to sacrifice. Happy talk is not the same as action or making the best of not-so-easy choices.

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Should There Be Rent Control Near the Purple Line?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council Member Marc Elrich, who recently equated potential gentrification near the Purple Line with “ethnic cleansing,” is taking flak for his remarks and is not backing down.  We will leave it to others to judge his choice of words.  But what interests us is the policy proposal he has made: specifically, Elrich would like to see rent control imposed near Purple Line stations.  That’s worth discussing.

Economists tend to disagree on many issues but a huge majority of them oppose rent control.  Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has written, “Almost every freshman-level textbook contains a case study on rent control, using its known adverse side effects to illustrate the principles of supply and demand.”  A massive review of economic research on rent control found evidence that it encourages conversions of rental units into condos and leads to higher rents in non-controlled units.  Rent control repeal in Cambridge, Massachusetts led to a surge in property values in both controlled and non-controlled units and a 20% increase in housing investment.  Even Communists denounce rent control.  In 1989, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach told a news conference that rent control did more damage to his capital city than American bombs.  “The Americans couldn’t destroy Hanoi, but we have destroyed our city by very low rents. We realized it was stupid and that we must change policy.”

One need not go to a Communist nation to observe the effects of rent control.  MoCo has a good example of that policy right here at home: the City of Takoma Park, which passed a rent control law in 1981.  We examined U.S. Census data to analyze how the city’s housing stock compares to the county’s.  Below we show that just 10% of the city’s housing was built in 1980 or later, much lower than the county’s percentage of 47%.  That’s not a fair comparison since the city is much older than the vast majority of areas in the county.  However, other older areas inside the Beltway like Downtown Bethesda (27%), Chevy Chase (20%) and Downtown Silver Spring (26%) have much higher percentages of their housing built in 1980 or later than Takoma Park.

It gets worse.  Takoma Park has been losing rental housing units for years.  Below we show the city’s total, owner-occupied and renter-occupied housing units in 2000, 2010 and the five year period of 2011-2015.  During that time, the city’s total housing units fell by 4% and its renter-occupied units fell by 18%.  Owner-occupied units increased by 10% and vacancies rose by 30%.  No housing policy that produces double-digit losses in rental units can be described as good for renters.

Takoma Park’s housing decline is not going to turn around soon.  According to the site plans, preliminary plans and sketch plans listed on the MoCo Planning Department’s development tracking map, only two housing projects with a combined seven units are pending in Takoma Park.  Those units are all single family, which are exempt from the city’s rent control law.

This extract from the Planning Department’s site plan map shows the huge contrast in development plans between Takoma Park and Downtown Silver Spring.

The implication of all this is clear: housing developers are steering clear of Takoma Park’s rent control law.  These folks are not going to be any more enthusiastic about rent control near Purple Line stations.  Why does that matter?  When it comes to building new housing, there are basically three options.  First, you can build it near transit.  Second, you can build it away from transit, thereby incurring the associated congestion and environmental costs.  Or third, you can try to block it from being built, and that’s one probable effect of rent control.  But that won’t stop population growth – instead, it will result in overcrowded housing, unsafe living conditions and code violations.  (Such phenomena are not unknown in some areas of the county.)  Rent control near the Purple Line just encourages options two and three.

Finally, the Purple Line is a huge investment, costing at least $2.65 billion to construct.  Only an insane society would pour billions of dollars into a transit project and then stop new housing from being built next to it.  Even Vietnamese Communists would agree.

Disclosure: Your author is a long-time supporter of the Purple Line and is a publicly listed supporter of Council Member Roger Berliner for Executive.

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Elrich: Without Rent Control, Purple Line Will Cause “Ethnic Cleansing”

By Adam Pagnucco.

In response to a question about just cause eviction and rent control at the Progressive Neighbors County Executive forum, Council Member Marc Elrich stated that the Purple Line would cause “ethnic cleansing” without a rent control law.  Elrich said:

I support rent stabilization and I think we need to be honest with ourselves about this.  If we throw up our hands about this and say the market will determine the price of housing and the market alone will determine that, then we are going to wipe out neighborhood after neighborhood in Montgomery County.  If you did that, then if you did not put rent stabilization around the Purple Line stops, for example, then the neighborhoods around the Purple Line will not continue to exist.  They will be bought, they will be repurposed and they will go to other people.

When we did the Long Branch plan, and Park and Planning came in and said we want to rezone all the existing housing in Long Branch, I accused the Planning Board of ethnic cleansing.  And I said some people do it with the gun, you guys are doing it with the pen but the truth is those folks would be gone and they would be gone forever…

Elrich’s remarks begin at the 2:29 mark of this video taken by Ryan Miner.

Disclosure: Your author is a long-time supporter of the Purple Line and is a publicly listed supporter of Council Member Roger Berliner for Executive.

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Gauging the Purple Line’s Prospects

Judge Richard Leon’s decision that the failure to scrutinize the potential impact of Metro’s stagnant or declining ridership on the Purple Line requires a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) has been controversial to say the least. But what is the likely long-term impact on the light-rail line’s future?

The Purple Line faces a number of hurdles at this point, so let’s examine each in turn.

Rest of Judge Leon’s Decision

Judge Leon still has to issue the rest of his decision on many other portions of the lawsuit. Much of the remainder rests on claims of environmental harms caused by the Purple Line. As a conservative who tends to read such statutes tightly, it seems unlikely that Judge Leon will also delay the project on these grounds.

Appealing Judge Leon’s Decision

Purple Line defenders will need to appeal the decision requiring more study of the impact of poor Metro ridership on the PL. Though I remain deeply skeptical of the projected PL ridership numbers, light-rail proponents have a strong probability of winning the appeal. The National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) focus on environmental impact will facilitate claims that the judge reached beyond the statute with his demands for new ridership studies.

The Cost of Delay

Even though they will likely win their appeal, gaining an injunction to allow the State to move forward immediately will be more difficult. Any costs created by delay–the State says these run at over $13 million per month–have been caused by the failure to allow the NEPA process, including judicial proceedings, to play out before beginning so much work. This should not engender much judicial sympathy. Additionally, courts are reticent to issue injunctions and use them, well, judiciously. Still, it could happen.

The Washington Post reports that the State would need to shut down the project around August 1. I don’t really buy this claim because it was part of the State’s effort to pressure a quicker decision out of the Judge. (The choice by Gov. Hogan and other PL proponents to follow Trump’s lead by impugning not just a judge but also his wife likely had no impact but it’s not a model that I would imitate.)

The State has also set this up as too big to fail. MTA states it would suffer an $800 million loss if it shut down the project. Deputy Project Director Mike Madden even says that there are no contingency plans. These claims alone should invalidate Hogan’s claims of bringing business sense to Annapolis.

What sensible businessman would sign a contract entailing heavy losses before the federal funds guarantee with no contingency plans? My guess is that this was done precisely to make it politically impossible to pull the plug.

The Trump Administration

Dependability has not been Trump’s hallmark. FTA has a window open only so long to sign a federal funding agreement. The window could shut before the State can sign. Of course, Trump could also just kill the project if someone explains to him where Maryland is, points to the blue on the map, and reminds him that Republican Gov. Hogan refused to back him.

At this point, however, FTA seems eager to sign the agreement. Who knows what will happen in Washington these days, but my bet is that the State can get the agreement if it can surmount the other obstacles. Despite some major last minute hiccups, odds remain good that the Purple Line will eventually come our way.

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Hogan Smears Federal Judge to Hide State’s Lack of Transparency

Spreading Lies

Larry Hogan joined in the attacks of the most extreme Purple Line supporters in accusing U.S. District Court Judge Robert Leon of being conflicted in the case.  As Bethesda Beat reported:

Hogan, who discussed the project with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao during a meeting last month, said the $900 million can’t be “shaken loose” because of Leon’s alleged conflicts.

“Secretary Chao can’t do anything about a judge whose wife happens to be involved in an opponent group and who has a conflict of interest who’s making a decision to hold this up,” Hogan said.

However, there is no real evidence of the claim that Judge Leon’s wife is involved beyond her membership in a citizens association that has opposed the project:

Christine Leon, the judge’s wife, has been a block captain for Andover Road for the Brookdale Citizens Association since at least 2005, according to documents posted on the associations’ website. The association is part of the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, which testified against the Purple Line in 2008 during a public hearing hosted by the state and submitted written testimony on stationery that noted the group was “representing the Citizens Associations of Brookdale, Chevy Chase Village” and other nearby communities. There’s no evidence that Christine Leon personally lobbied against the project.

One can only imagine the cries of sexism that would have emerged from Purple Line Now if the judge had ruled the other way and Purple Line opponents accused him of a conflict. Hogan went to spread a bizarre outright lie:

“But even with federal funding, we can’t move forward because of a judge who lives at a Chevy Chase country club,” Hogan noted.

Leon’s house is actually about 3 miles from Columbia Country Club in the Brookdale neighborhood of Chevy Chase.

Of course, Greater Greater Washington joined in the smear.

Lack of Transparency or Responsiveness

If the State thought there was a real conflict, they would have brought it up before the case was heard. As it stands, these sour grapes look designed to cover up the State’s total lack of transparency or responsiveness regarding the question of ridership raised in the judge’s decision.

Specifically, the judge wanted to know how the steady decline in Metro’s ridership will impact estimated ridership on the Purple Line. As is well known, Metro ridership has been affected by its chronic problems along with the rise of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft as well as telecommuting.

The State’s response to the judge’s concern was not to present any analysis but instead to thumb its nose at the court and declare such an analysis unnecessary. The claim of the unimportance of transfers directly contradicts the State’s own website, which highlights as a major benefit that the light rail “Connects to Metrorail Green and Orange lines and both branches of the Red Line.” Oops.

The State’s failure to respond to Judge Leon is a continuation of its total lack of transparency on how the ridership figures were calculated. MTA has consistently refused to divulge critical information about how the ridership numbers were calculated by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Call it a faith-based initiative.

Frankly, I have little expertise as to the legal or substantive merits of judge’s decision. I’m not a lawyer let alone an expert in environmental law. Nor do I know Judge Leon or anything about his record. But leaving legal questions entirely aside, why is the State so desperate that it must demean the court? Why has the State stonewalled and hidden the critical ridership analysis? If the Purple Line is so great, why not reveal all?

Why the secrecy?

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