Tag Archives: Mike Madden

Hogan Approves Purple Line

In a surprise move, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that he is ready to move full-speed ahead on the light-rail Purple Line that will travel from Bethesda to New Carrollton in suburban Washington. The Baltimore Sun reported:

“Working closely with Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, we have discovered the means to reduce costs substantially,” said Gov. Hogan at an early morning press conference. “If we eliminate frills, I am now confident that it can be built in a cost-effective manner that will bring business to Maryland.”

Hogan explained that a major barrier has always been the price of the light-rail cars, which are expensive and have to be imported from Ostrava in the Czech Republic:

We have cut unnecessary extras. Seats provide no benefit to the taxpayer, so they have been eliminated from the redesigned trains. Indeed, we have now also done away with walls and the ceiling to go with a sleek, modern flatbed design.

Purple Line Project Manager Mike Madden applauded the move:

I appreciate the governor’s support and leadership on the project. Eliminating not just doors but walls will make it easier to board and to exit the train, thus reducing time spent at stations and increasing speed, resulting in an estimated increase in ridership of 31.7%.

When asked for the documentation on the increased ridership, Madden described the information as “proprietary” but also reassured the public on their accuracy: “They were calculated by the same high-quality experts who designed the Silver Spring Transit Center that will open later this year.”

Hogan’s decision to simplify cars was hailed by former Action Committee for Transit President Ben Ross:

This new design is in touch with the simplified lifestyle preferred by Millennials. Let’s face it: seats are emblematic of the bourgeois Lexus lifestyle. I’m glad that Maryland and Montgomery County have said “yes” to our smart growth future by embracing open plan light-rail.

Similarly, Montgomery Council President George Leventhal congratulated Hogan on WAMU for “finally following his lead” and said “The open plan is an excellent forward-thinking idea. I think of it as a moving Capital Crescent Trail. It will be a first-class system.”

Not all of Leventhal’s colleagues were so sanguine. Council Vice Chair Nancy Floreen said to the Washington Post:

Heck, I never thought the Governor would invest so much money in areas that will never vote for him. Now, I’ll have to come up with all the money that Montgomery County promised when I’m Council President next year. I don’t see why I shouldn’t just run for Congress instead.

But Robert Thomson, better known as Dr. Gridlock, reassured the public in an online Post discussion: “I have every confidence that the Purple Line will light a fire under small business in Langley Park just as the DC Streetcar has sparked long quiet H Street.”

Former Carroll County Commissioner Republican Robin Frazier denounced the move. Appearing at a “Help Save Maryland” rally, she said that it would only help “homosexuals and illegal aliens get around so that they can use bathrooms in more places.”

 

 

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

Mike Madden on Changes to Bethesda PL Station

Tierra TurtleTierra Terrapin is one the characters that promotes
the Purple Line on the Purple Line Kids’ Page.

Mike Madden, the Project Manager for the Purple Line, was kind enough to answer questions I put to him regarding the revised Bethesda Station in light of the County’s decision not to purchase the APEX Building. Here are the questions and answers:

Seventh State: First, it is is my understanding that the elevators to the PL and Red Line will now need to be on Elm Street. Can you tell me how much width do you currently think will be left on the sidewalk after the placement of the elevators? Are there any other measures that MTA or the County plan to take to facilitate the ease of movement pedestrians and cyclists through this area?

Mike Madden: First let me explain that there will only be two elevators on Elm Street itself. The other four elevators will be in the area of the Purple Line station and elevator lobby area (which is one level below the street). The other four elevators will take people down to the Metro Red Line mezzanine.  People will also be able to reach the Purple Line station by stairs down to the station from Elm Street, by walking in from Woodmont Ave., and by walking in from the east along the narrow walkway that extends to the Purple Line station and elevator lobby from under the Air Rights building.

The existing sidewalk along Elm Street near Wisconsin is about 12 feet in width, and once the two elevators are built, the sidewalk width will remain the same. Not using up any of the existing sidewalk width is accomplished by extending into what today is a curb lane in which the two elevators would be located.  For this portion of Elm Street, there will be two 11 foot lanes for traffic.

7S, I read in the paper today that there will be pillars in the station. How many will there be? And how much less area will be available on the platform? Can you also explain to me why riders will now need to cross the tracks?

MM: There are 7 columns within the 200 foot long Purple Line platform. The columns are approximately 2.5′ by 4.5′ oval shaped columns (including the architectural wrapping). Typical center platforms are about 15 feet wide but this Purple Line platform will be 18 feet wide so that there is sufficient area on the platforms for passengers.

In terms of crossing the tracks, this is standard practice for light rail systems throughout the world, including at Purple Line stations. If a rider is headed to the Purple Line station from Woodmont Ave., they would just walk onto the center platform and not have to cross the tracks. The only place where patrons would be crossing the tracks is at the east of the platform; if they are transferring from the Purple Line to the Red Line, getting off the Red Line and transferring to the Purple Line, walking into the station from the east along the narrow walkway, or if they are getting off the elevator or stairs from Elm Street to access the Purple Line.  The crossing of course would be well marked for safe crossings.

7S: Finally, does the change in plans mean that the tail track on Woodmont Ave. will now need to come back.

MM: The design for the station with the Apex Building remaining in place has always required a tail track that would extend outside of the existing tunnel no more than 100 feet. However, the trail track would be used only in emergency conditions. Trains would not be stored on the tail track under normal operations.