Category Archives: purple line

MTA Financial Fail

This one is going to cost us way more than Charlie’s proverbial nickel. The Baltimore Sun reports:

The Maryland Transit Administration failed to verify the accuracy of millions of dollars in contractor-submitted architectural and engineering costs for the Red and Purple light rail lines, according to a state audit released Monday.

The unverified labor bills from four contractor groups hired to work on the two pending transit lines, scheduled for Baltimore and the Washington suburbs, respectively, account for or relate to $232.8 million in overall costs under the multibillion-dollar projects, the audit found.

And we ought to be concerned that the accuracy of expenditures were not verified because:

The joint ventures were originally awarded contracts not to exceed $280 million, but the value of those contracts was increased in July 2013 to $547.1 million, the audit found.

The lack of checks on expenditures has led to waste such as:

• $10 million in overpayments to Mobility Paratransit Program vendors for fuel.

• Nearly $500,000 in payments of excise tax on fuel that the agency is exempt from paying.

This no worries attitude is especially shocking because one of the major firms involved in the project–Parsons Brinckerhoff–also played a key role in designing the fiasco known as the Silver Spring Transit Center.

Failing Disabled Marylanders

The audit further legitimated claims by disability rights advocates that MTA is failing them::

The audit also found the agency failed to properly oversee eligibility for its mobility program, something advocates for people with disabilities also alleged in a lawsuit recently filed against the agency.

MTA does not contest the audit’s results.

Accountability

Who in MTA is responsible? Will anyone be held accountable for this two-fold scandal–not just waste of public funds but failure even to keep track of how they are being spent?

Catching Fire–Just Not in the Good Way

streetcaronfire

DC Streetcar on Fire, Source: @willsommer (aka Loose Lips)

This was not a good weekend for public transit in Washington be it streetcar, light-rail, or Metro.

Metro is Smokin’

Here is a summary of this weekend’s record, though I’m not sure I caught all of the incidents:

  • Woodley Park evacuated after faulty brakes filled station with smoke;
  • Foggy Bottom smoke blamed on “maintenance issue” resulted in deployment of firefighters;
  • Smoke in L’Enfant Plaza after a Green Line train experienced a “mechanical issue.”

Fortunately, no one was hurt in these incidents. As usual, @unsuckdcmetro has absolutely the last word with his tweet: “Metro should vape instead.”

But the Streetcar is on Fire. Literally.

On Saturday, the DC streetcar and a car parked a foot from the curb had a close encounter. Think car mirror meets streetcar exterior and neither is better for the experience. Apparently, this was not its only collision that day.

But that turned out to be small beans compared to the fire on the DC streetcar.  Still in its prolonged working out the kinks phase, the streetcar experienced an “unexplained” flash fire on top of the car.

Again, no one was injured.

Purple Line Repudiated by Guy who Named It

In a letter to the Gazette, the guy who named the Purple Line says the project is a mistake:

There are many problems with the Purple Line that give Mr. Hogan pause. It should have been part of Metro. A trip from one end to the other takes too long. It cost too much and its benefits are too small.

The most important cost, though, isn’t in dollars it would take from better transit projects, but the destruction of a priceless pedestrian/bicycle connection between Bethesda, Rock Creek Park and Silver Spring. Maryland and Montgomery transit officials have been obsessed with claiming the Georgetown Branch for their own, regardless of the lack of benefit and destruction it would cause.

Independent Transit Authority Proposed for MoCo

At the request of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, the County’s legislative delegation has filed a bill (MC 24-15) to allow the County to create a new, independent Transit Authority. The bill is already generating controversy and an online petition against it on change.org (or, in this case, don’t change.org).

If passed, the bill would permit (read again: permit, not require) Montgomery County to create a Transit Authority. The new authority could potentially run anything from the current Ride-On system to a new BRT (bus-rapid transit) system to parking lots and roads around the County.

The County Executive would appoint the members of the Transit Authority board subject to confirmation by the County Council. This independent body would then carry out independently a transit program as passed by the Council. This program could be relatively narrow (e.g. take over the existing Ride-On system) or broader (e.g. construct and operate a new BRT system).

Taxes and Finances

As written, the bill would allow (again: allow, not mandate) the County to pass a property tax that is designated to raise funds specifically for the Transit Authority. These monies would not count toward the County Charter limit.

Additionally, if transportation expenditures (e.g. Ride-On) are moved over from the County budget, the County could reduce taxes  or spend the money on other needs because they would no longer be counted as within the Charter limit.

Less Different Than You Think

The County already has the power to do much of this through special taxing districts that have the power to construct transit (i.e. make capital expenditures) and raise funds outside the Charter limit. However, special taxing districts cannot operate transit.

Though the Transit Authority might spend monies on building and operating new systems, it would also likely realize some savings elsewhere. For example, a new transit line would likely result in needing to spend less on Ride-On buses.

Advantages

The clear advantage of this proposal is that it would allow Montgomery to take greater control its transportation future. Monies raised in Montgomery would stay in Montgomery. The County could choose to build projects that the State is not ready or able to fund. Ideally, the County would adopt a program that would help reduce traffic and help Montgomery grow.

Ironically, it might conceivably save money at the State level by reducing the need to construct another project elsewhere in the State in order to build the political support needed. Unlike the Montgomery-Prince George’s Purple Line and the Baltimore Red Line, Transit Authority projects would not need to move in tandem with other projects to gain support.

Disadvantages

No one likes seeing their taxes go up. While some would be willing to pay to see the money spent here in Montgomery on transportation, other will undoubtedly oppose anything that allows the County to increase its taxation authority.

Other may view the Transit Authority’s greatest strength–its ability to operate more insulated from politics–as its greatest weakness, perceiving it as less accountable to the public. Tradeoffs like these often exist in government. The Federal Reserve Board operates infinitely better for being independent of Congress and the President but it is also less responsive to the vicissitudes of public opinion.

County Executive and Council influence over transportation would simultaneously increase and decline. It would increase because they could fund and mandate new projects, giving the County much more muscular authority over transit. But the independent authority would be more independent once a funding mechanism is in place and a program adopted.

To Build What

A new Transit Authority would likely be able to move forward with the widely supported Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) and additional bus-rapid transit lines gradually for the County. BRT is much less costly than light rail (Purple Line) or heavy rail (Metro).

It would almost certainly not be enough to move forward with the Purple Line because that project is just so expensive ($2.4 billion and rising). I am hearing that the Transit Authority would not be intended to build the Purple Line but to move forward with the CCT and other transit improvements.

Of course, I’d like to see numbers so I could figure out what is possible and what is not. This is impossible for the simple reason that the taxation rates and general program of any Transit Authority would be up to the County Council.

Preliminary Thoughts

My initial reaction is that the Transit Authority may well be a good idea. Montgomery County has major transportation needs that should be more broadly addressed. The Authority would provide both the means and the opportunity to do so. Councilmember Nancy Floreen, a former Council President, said that the idea had “a certain amount of sense” when I spoke with her.

People certainly should be interested and make their views known regarding the proposal. But I am concerned that the petition and emails circulating suggest large tax increases that simply are not realistically in the cards. This is a critical issue and we should use the bill as an opportunity to discuss our future–not dismiss it out of hand.

The proposed Transit Authority may well allow Montgomery to  tackle its transportation needs much as similar tax increases in northern Virginia have aided road and transit construction south of the Potomac. No doubt people will want more information. The County Executive should tell us more about why he requested that this bill be filed. At the same time, there is a limit on what can be provided as the County has not begun to debate publicly if and how it would use its new power.

George Leventhal’s Double Standard

Nobody does high dudgeon quite like Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal. The Washington Post reported that his latest expression of outrage was in response to the Council having to approve another $21.2 million for the Silver Spring Transit Center:

General Services director David Dise, lead county official overseeing the project, offered no specific opening date but said repairs would be complete “by late May, certainly in the spring.”

Dise’s forecast drew a stiff response from Council President George Leventhal (D-At Large), who said some county taxpayers are so deeply frustrated with the delay that they advocate tearing down the building.

“Mr. Dise, a growing number of my constituents don’t believe anything you say anymore,” Leventhal said. “And I’m hearing from constituents that they think the promises are covering up a structurally-flawed building that ought to be torn down, that we ought to declare a loss and give up.”

County residents are rightly upset about the management of this project. The Transit Center was supposed to open four years ago and is massively more expensive than originally intended:

Silver Spring Transit Center 2

While pungent responses towards people testifying before the Council are nothing new for George Leventhal, his views on cost increases here contrast sharply with his stance regarding far greater increases on another transportation project.

Purple Line Double Standard

George is a lot more bothered by some cost increases than others. A huge fan of the Purple Line, he seems unconcerned about its rising cost and argues vociferously against anyone who opposes the project. And the costs have doubled to $2.4 billion (table below from the Washington Post), an increase that makes the spike in the Transit Center’s cost look piddling.

PL CostsIndeed, the latest cost increase of $220 million was more than the entire price of the Silver Spring Transit Center. The consistent increases in costs suggest manipulation as costs should sometimes go down if estimates are randomly off. Moreover, costs have increased even though the promised quality of the project continues to decline. The Bethesda Terminus has been downgraded and the tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail under Wisconsin Ave. shelved.

Yet George will brook no opposition to his pet project. The contrast is especially striking as Parsons Brinckerhoff has been involved heavily in the design of both the Transit Center and the Purple Line. Despite the Transit Center fiasco, MTA remains unwilling to disclose how Parsons calculated ridership figures for the proposed light rail project.

ACT Sees Purple Line Dream Fade; MCDOT Follows 7S

The Action Committee for Transit (ACT) sees its Purple Line dreams moving out of reach and has sent out an email trying to rally support:

The Purple Line is again in grave danger — at the very moment when it is about to begin construction.

ACT’s definition of “about to begin construction” is different from most. While this phrase invokes visions of bulldozers ready to go, no federal funding has been awarded and the State has yet to receive–let alone evaluate–proposals from concessionaires (i.e. contractors) for the public private partnership (P3) who would still need to design the system.

Social Justice Out, Jobs Program In

The reasons that ACT believes we need to save the Purple Line have altered in focus:

Maryland will lose thousands of jobs in construction and future growth if we don’t build the Purple Line now.

Here, ACT has jettisoned its social justice rhetoric, formerly at the center of Purple Line appeals, so easily that it should give pause to those who support the Purple Line Compact to protect residents and businesses likely to be displaced by it. It’s now (and probably always was) all about something else.

Interestingly, the new front-and-center focus is on construction jobs. A temporary jobs program requiring massive public spending seems an odd way to appeal to our Governor-Elect and shows a tin ear in an attempt to bootstrap synchronicity with Hogan’s values by former Brown supporters.

Still Confusing Purple Line with Metro

Not all ACT rhetoric has changed:

The new Silver Line has four stations in Tysons Corner because Virginia understood the economic importance of rail transit; Maryland must not fall behind. Businesses and commuters are counting on the state to keep the commitments it has made and go forward with the Purple Line.

ACT  continues to equate the building of the light rail Purple Line, which will not be part of the Metro system, with the heavy rail Silver Line, which is integrated into Metro and will terminate at Dulles Airport. This effort to obfuscate the differences through the use of a color name similar to Metro lines has long been one of the most clever parts of ACT’s communications strategy. Light rail and heavy rail are quite different–the former is more similar to bus-rapid transit systems (RTS), though RTS is far less expensive.

Give to Aid the Land Company Now

ACT’s email closes with the traditional fundraising appeal:

If you can do one more thing for the Purple Line, ACT needs your financial help to continue our campaign. Please make a special contribution now.

By allowing for increased development, Purple Line proponents argue that it will raise land values around stations. Indeed, that is the goal. For example, the wealthy Chevy Chase Land Company is keen to see the Purple Line built–they’re organizing a letter to Hogan arguing for the pricey project–because it will increase the value of their holdings in that area. Yet we are asked to pay for the privilege of aiding the Land Company by donating to ACT.

Ironically, virtually all of the development over the short and medium terms will occur at Chevy Chase Lake without the Purple Line. The revised sector plan added 1.7 million square feet that will move forward with construction even if the Purple Line isn’t built. This will include about 700 apartments and 70 town houses, a hotel and over 250,000 square feet of commercial development. This is more than than the 1.3 million square feet that would be built much later on condition of Purple Line construction.

New Twitter Follower

I am happy to welcome the Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director’s Office as a follower to @theseventhstate.

Correction: Earlier version had MDOT instead of MCDOT. Apologies for the Error.

The Giant Purple Credit Card, Part III: Is Pro-Purple Anti-Transit?

Opportunity Costs

The choice to spend vast sums of money on one project requires foregoing other choices. The tangled finances for the Purple and Red Lines (see also here) render it especially obvious. When the fares from Baltimore’s public transit system are needed as a backstop in case Purple Line fares are lower than hoped, the use of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) for non-Purple purposes is obviously going to be quite limited.

The plans to move ahead also with Baltimore’s Red Line should further assure that the TTF is tied up for literally decades. Indeed, the two projects have been closely tied together in order to build political support. It is hard to imagine moving ahead with one project without the other, as legislators in one metro area are unlikely to want to fund an incredibly expensive project in the other unless their constituents share in the benefits.

Existing Transit Needs

Montgomery and Prince George’s County already have an extensive public transit system. Both are integrated into WMATA’s Metro and Metrobus system. Each operates its own bus system: RideOn and TheBus. Both are also tied into the MARC system.

All parts of the system have suffered from cutbacks and need investment in infrastructure. Metro, the lungs of Washington’s transit system, remains in particularly dire need of money to maintain and to upgrade its infrastructure. Placing so many chips on the Purple Line will constrain the ability of the State to aid Metro–Montgomery and Prince George’s cannot expect to get all of Maryland’s transportation funding.

Less widely heralded in Montgomery in the face of perennial Metro problems–endless single tracking, escalators that don’t work, overly crowded trains at rush hour despite stagnating ridership–have been the cutbacks to MARC and Ride-On. Oddly, we reduced transit service designed to connect to the Purple Line even as we move forward with building it.

Foregoing Other Transit Opportunities

Some key supporters of the Purple Line recognize these implicit tradeoffs even if they don’t advertise them. In the at-large County Council debate in Chevy Chase, new Council President George Leventhal derided Councilmember Hans Riemer’s support for additional Ride-On service. He and other Purple Line supporters have also expressed great skepticism about the proposed countywide bus-Rapid Transit System (RTS).

The irony here is that for the cost of building the Purple Line, we could build a RTS that would serve all parts of the County. Indeed, a Purple Line incorporated into an RTS would accomplish most of the goal at far less cost than the proposed light-rail system even according to MTA’s own analysis (see also here).

Purple Line supporters like to accuse opponents of being anti-transit–it’s a good simple communication meme that boils down a complex decision to good versus bad. Except that wanting to spend transportation dollars wisely and get the most for our tax dollars is pro-transit. Opposition to expanding bus service and continued negativity regarding an RTS that could serve the whole county sure doesn’t sound pro-transit.

The Bottom Line

We shouldn’t starve our existing transit system and forego future opportunities in order to build the Purple Line and the Red Line. Ironically, we could build cheaper RTS versions of both that would save the State billions–not chump change–and allow for additional transit and road improvements that would truly aid economic development and the ability of all Marylanders to reach jobs far more broadly. Now that’s smart growth.

The Giant Purple Credit Card, Part II: Thank You, Baltimore!

faux-card-purple

Mike Madden, the Project Manager for the Purple Line, was once again kind enough to answer questions on the topic. I appreciate his willingness to take the time. Today, I publish some of my questions and Mike Madden’s answers along with comments.

Show Me the Money

Seventh State Question: My understanding is that the service payments will come from fare costs. Is this correct (and, if not, where do they come from)? How does MDOT estimate the takings in fares as it hasn’t set the fares or negotiated a transfer agreement with WMATA for Metro yet? It is not correct that the payments come from farebox revenues.

Mike Madden: The annual payments will come from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, as does all the state investment and support for transportation projects and services. Farebox revenues go into the Transportation Trust Funds as do the other sources of revenue for transportation purposes. Again, the Pre-Solicitation Report provides further information on this topic.

Seventh State Comment: I followed Mike’s suggestion and looked at the report, which states that:

[T]he forecasted fare revenues generated by the Purple Line are estimated to be on average greater than the concessionaire’s debt service. Therefore, even though MTA would collect and account for the Purple Line fare revenues, the MTA revenues generated by the project are sufficient to cover the borrowed capital repayment share of the availability payment. (Source: “Presolicitation Report to the Maryland General Assembly, August 2013, pp. 17-18).

So in essence, MTA is claiming that the revenues from the Purple Line will be enough to pay back the cost of building it. There are major, serious problems with this claim. MTA has no idea what the fares will be at this point if only because they have no agreement negotiated with WMATA about how transfers between the Purple Line and Metro will be handled. As a result, we have no idea how the revenue from transfer trips–a significant number of trips including the PL–will be divided. Heck, MTA doesn’t even know how they will collect the fares on the open (i.e. no fare gate) system yet or how much it will have to spend on enforcement of it.

Next, if ridership has been overestimated, and Randall O’Toole explains why it almost certainly has been, MTA will either collect less money and or have to reduce fares in order to attract more ridership. MTA and Parsons-Brinckerhoff’s record along with their complete unwillingness to explain how they calculated ridership does not inspire confidence.

Operating Costs

Finally, notice that there is no mention of the operating cost, which will also be factored into the bids and for which the State will also have to pay. The sources of payment for this cost remain shrouded in mystery. My inquiry to Mike Madden didn’t reveal more:

7S Question: As fares usually do not even cover operating costs, where will the funds to operate the Purple Line come from?

MM: The payment for operating costs are included in the annual payments, which will come from the Maryland Transportation Trust Funds, as does all the state investment and support for transportation projects and services.

7S Comment: I imagine that the funds to fill the Transportation Trust Fund are expected to come from the planned gas tax increases–the same one our incoming Governor has vowed to stop and to repeal.

Thank You, Baltimore!

7S Question: Is it correct that the State’s ability to pay the concessionaire is backed by its income from public transit in Baltimore?

MM: No. The farebox revenues from transit services in the Baltimore region go into the Transportation Trust Funds.

7S Comment: Despite the flat denial, since the fares from the Baltimore region go into the Transportation Trust Funds, they are obviously going to be used to help guarantee that the State can pay for the Purple Line. It seems obfuscatory to pretend otherwise, especially as MTA has explained this to legislators.

More to Come in Part III

The Giant Purple Credit Card, Part I

One of the more esoteric part of the Purple Line is its finances. They are so complicated, in part, because the State has worked hard to mask that Maryland cannot afford to pay for the project.

State Debt Limit

The first sense that the State cannot afford it is the more difficult to understand and relates to the State’s tax-supported debt limit. Unlike the federal government, Maryland does not have a legally mandated limit on borrowing. Instead, it has a guideline of the maximum appropriate share of debt in relation to State revenues.

These guidelines–think of them as a credit limit for the State–are developed in line with the demands of the bond rating agencies. Maryland has had a stellar AAA bond rating for decades and losing it would raise significantly the cost to the State of borrowing money. Everyone agrees this is a bad idea.

Due to these constraints, the State could not afford to borrow directly the money to pay for the Purple Line because it would blow past the tax-supported debt limit guidelines. While the federal government will pay $900 million and Montgomery and Prince George’s will kick in another $220 million, the State is on the hook for the remaining $1.1 billion of the current estimated cost. As a result, the project loses feasibility because our debt would rise dramatically relative to revenues.

P3 to the Rescue?

Hence, the creation of the Public Private Partnership, or P3, as it is known. (Unfortunately, we’re just getting started with the transportation jargon, folks, so buckle up.) Through the P3, the State contracts with a company, called the concessionaire (I know, it sounds like they sell popcorn and Twizzlers), to build and to operate the Purple Line over 35 years.

Rather than having Maryland borrow the funds directly, the concessionaire borrows the bulk of the money needed and the State pays it back annually through the availability payment. MDOT contends the great bulk of the availability payment is operating costs rather than capital costs and thus should largely not be counted towards the State tax-supported debt limit.

Presto! Even though the cost is the same, through the wondrous magic of accounting, MDOT has made the debt limit problem go away.

Giant Purple Credit Card

MDOT claims that only the concessionaire’s cost of financing the debt (i.e. interest payments) and any bonds backed by the State’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) should count towards the State debt limit.

In order to make signing on the bottom line less painful (read: convince us we can afford it), the State plans to use the federal funds to pay for the early years of the payments. Except that we’ll be on the hook for the those honking availability payments for years to come. It’s really not much different than the Ruthless People clip I posted at the top of the post.

Will the Credit Agencies Buy It? Should We?

The problem for MDOT and Maryland is that no one knows if the bond rating agencies will swallow these manipulations. After all, the great portion of the availability payment is to cover the building of the Purple Line, not to operate it, despite the work of fiction authored by MDOT.

Moreover, Maryland will have signed a contract. The State will owe all of that money decade after decade. It’s like signing a 35-year mortgage for the purposes of building a house and saying that, once it’s built, it hasn’t reduced your credit because the mortgage payment is really the operating cost of the house. Except the money is still coming out of your account and you have less of the green stuff to spend.

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has studiously avoided wading into the political soup of taking a position on the Purple Line and the debt limit. But their failure to take a position actually makes clear that it remains open whether the bond rating agencies will buy MDOT’s theory on the debt:

At this point, there is insufficient information to determine if the capital availability payments are State debt. Whether or not it is State debt depends on such factors as the use of the project (is it a public good or is it for general use), is there a long-term liability for the State, and do State revenues support the project.

Concerns have been raised that federal funds have not been awarded so there is some risk that they may be less than anticipated. MDOT advises that if federal funds appropriations are insufficient, TTF bonds will be issued. Since these TTF bonds are State debt, a loss in federal funds could affect debt affordability. Source: “Effect of Long-Term Debt on the Financial Condition of the State,” Department of Legislative Services 2013, p. 81.

Note that the answers to at least two questions raised by DLS–“is there a long-term liability for the State and do State revenues support the project”–are clearly yes.

And even if the State is willing to swallow the idea that this debt is not a debt, should the public? The reason bond rating agencies care about debt ratios is obvious and sensible: exposure. If we really need to shuffle the cards so much to pretend that the debt is affordable, it’s probably an indication that the Purple Line is not in the more fundamental, conventional sense. Regardless, it will limit our ability to borrow for other purposes for decades.

More in Part II.

Housing Initiative Partnership Responds

HIP Logo

Last week, I published a blog post on the conundrums facing the Purple Line Compact effort to preserving affordable housing and commercial rents in areas around new Purple Line stations. At the end of the piece, I wrote that I’d welcome hearing more from Compact proponents about “creative ideas to ease the collision of fundamental economic forces with real social needs.” I appreciate that Maryann Dillon, Executive Director of the Housing Initiative Partnership, took up this public invitation. Here are her thoughts:

In his article on October 2, “Fair Development Compact Pipe Dream”, David Lublin rightly argues that a “central goal of the Purple Line is to improve transportation connections” and that, as a result, “the land around the stations should become more desirable and valuable”.

He cites Bethesda, Silver Spring, Ballston and Clarendon as successful examples of places that have become more desirable given their access to transportation including Metro. These places boast stronger tax bases that help local governments provide better services. I think we all can agree that these are four of the most desirable and attractive destinations in the DC metro area, and that, as a result, they naturally have increased in value.

What David fails to note, however, is that all four of these locations are beneficiaries of progressive housing policies by the Montgomery and Arlington County governments put in place well before revitalization occurred.

Forty years ago, Montgomery County pioneered the concept of “inclusionary zoning”. Called Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs), Montgomery County’s program requires developers of over 20 residential units to include 12.5% of the units as affordable to working families earning less than 80% area median income ($85,600 for a family of four). The MPDU program has created thousands of homes affordable to moderate income renters and homebuyers scattered in every neighborhood of the County. In this way, a broader range of residents can live near transportation and jobs, reducing the burdens on our roads from long-distance commutes. A mix of housing types makes it easier for employers to find workers for their restaurants, hotels, offices and local services that make these communities special, let alone the teachers, fire and police personnel necessary to maintain their high quality of life. Montgomery County commits around $50 million annually from its own general revenue to support affordable housing development in its most desirable communities.

Likewise, the Arlington County Affordable Housing Ordinance offers developers seeking additional density in the site plan process the choice of providing affordable units or contributing to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The Special Affordable Housing Protection District (SAHPD) as outlined in the General Land Use Plan identifies existing affordable housing sites within the County’s two Metro Corridors that are planned for site plan projects of 3.24 FAR or higher. Existing affordable housing units are to be replaced on a one-for-one basis, again with the goal of protecting and preserving the mix of housing types and prices that can help keep these corridors dynamic and diverse. Arlington has committed $13 million in the current fiscal year to support its Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

Last year, the Prince George’s County Council passed inclusionary zoning legislation and charged the County Executive with recommending areas of the County in which this zoning would apply. While the recommendations have been made, County Council has not yet taken any action on them. Unlike its neighbors, Prince George’s County does not dedicate any of its own resources to develop or renovate affordable housing.

On August 30, 2014, the Washington Post published a story, “Affordable rents fading away in DC’s housing picture” which described the imbalance between the overbuilt “luxury” rental market and the continued loss of more affordable and moderately prices apartments. Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties share the distinction of having 50% of their renters “cost burdened”, where they spend more than 50% of their gross income on rent. Another surprise… both the District and Montgomery County have a higher number of households earning less than 50% of the area median income than does Prince George’s County, despite perceptions to the contrary.

Surely we all understand that the Purple Line will be an economic boost for the neighborhoods along its way. But, as higher density is introduced into some of these redevelopment corridors, our State and Counties should take measures to protect the residents and small businesses that have kept many of these areas thriving, despite the lack of investment in properties for so many years. These residents kept the faith in the bad years. They should share in the rewards once the good years finally come.