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Chevy Chase, MD (July 23, 2014) -- Questioning the validity of Purple Line ridership estimates, the Town of Chevy Chase voted at its July 9 Council meeting to submit a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) asking for the methodology and models used to develop ridership estimates for the proposed $2.37 billion light rail system. Despite past requests for the data used to support the final ridership estimates, the State of Maryland has refused to provide that information, citing proprietary issues of the engineering firm that was paid to conduct the research.
“Purple Line advocates have justified the need for the proposed light rail train based on ridership numbers that were developed in a private, secret process by a paid contractor,” said Patricia Burda, Vice Mayor for the Town of Chevy Chase. “These ridership numbers have changed over time yet have been substantially endorsed and quoted as valid by advocates and elected officials. Since past efforts to access this information have been rebuffed, we are pursuing an official inquiry through the public information act process.”
In August 2013, MTA released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed Purple Line project using numbers created by the engineering firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff. According to a recent Wall Street Journal column [O’Grady, Mary A. “Maryland's Incredible Purple People Mover,” 27 Jun. 2014] the numbers in the FEIS were revised from previous estimates in response to concerns expressed by state officials about underestimations.
The Town Council discussed the need to see any and all ridership estimates and information in the possession of the MTA that have been reviewed in evaluating the Purple Line Project; any and all information regarding numbers and models reviewed by the MTA with respect to ridership in evaluating the Purple Line Project; and any and all information provided by the firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff with respect to ridership in evaluating the Purple Line Project.
"The justification for the Purple Line light rail train is reminiscent of the wildly inaccurate process used to estimate ridership on the Intercounty Connector," Burda said, referring to the recently-completed Maryland transportation project that has not met ridership estimates. Burda continued, "We need transparency now, before it is too late. Parsons Brinckerhoff must reveal the basis for these ridership numbers. MTA should demand it. The Governor should require it. Before Congress appropriates a dime of taxpayer money to this project, it should demand a full explanation of the ridership numbers used to justify an expenditure of over $2 billion of taxpayer money."