Housing Complex

Why Aren’t Homeowners Getting Booted by the Purple Line Raising Hell?

Hard to see, but those little red boxes are houses that'll disappear. (MTA)

Last week, the news broke that many more properties than anticipated would have to be taken to make way for the Maryland Transit Administration's* Purple Line from New Carrollton to Bethesda—330, to be exact. It's no wonder: Looking closely at segments of the line, while in most places the route goes along the main roads—impacting few properties in Bethesda and Chevy Chase—it appears to go directly through peoples' houses by the side of Riverdale Road and Kenilworth Avenue east of College Park.

Considering the headache of condemning land and moving people elsewhere, I thought this was an odd choice, and was surprised to not have heard much uproar from that area. Well, according to the Maryland Transit Administration, the original plan had been to put dedicated lanes down the center of the road. But 21 homes in the path of the Purple Line through Riverdale actually wanted to be relocated rather than have a widened road encroach on their front yards.

"We did do outreach to the people who lived in those homes, and everyone we spoke to said, they've widened this road over the years, if we park in the street, people smash into it," says project manager Mike Madden, noting that he hadn't been contacted by any attorneys representing the Riverdalians. "Instead of taking more of our front yard, we'd rather you take our whole house."

So I guess those are 21 people who won't be suing to stay in their homes (or at least aren't planning to at this point—construction is still years away).

Of course, it doesn't mean everybody's happy about the Purple Line. Norman Livsey is president of the East Pines Citizens Association, which covers the area most directly impacted by the takings. Although his own home isn't on the condemnation list, he just thinks the plan won't bring all the benefits the county says it will. "This whole business of having a purple line is just nonsense to me," he says. "East Pines is getting it in the shorts, and we're not real happy about it."

At the same time, Livsey says, even though there's been some dissatisfaction with MTA's plan, people are too apathetic to do much about it. "I think a lot of people have a bunker mentality," he says. "They want to stay in their bunker and not be bothered."

* CORRECTION, Saturday, 3:54 p.m. - Not Metrorail.

  • Eric

    Apparently Mr. Livsey is so far down in his bunker that the enormous benefits of this line to the entire region, not just his neighborhood, are lost on him.

  • Frank

    Unfortunately, these "enormous benefits" that you speak of are highly speculative and at an enormous cost.

    Other progressive cities are focusing on technological improvements (e.g. smarter signals, more traffic information, better buses, etc.), particularly where there is neither the money nor the space to build new roads or rails. We should step out of the 80s and 90s and focus on a smarter transportation infrastructure, not a bigger one...

  • Adam

    The benefits are far from speculative. Look at the vibrancy of neighborhoods near most any mass transit stop. The studies on property-value increases wherever such stops are added. The efficiency that is plain to the eye in moving large numbers of people in quiet electric vehicles. The popularity of mass transit in our region. The extremely high population density along the corridor through which the Purple Line will run. I agree that we should seek smarter transportation infrastructure, and the Purple Line represents that in spades.

  • Frank

    Many of our politicians commit the same logical fallacy. The fact that some neighborhoods with metro stops are vibrant does not mean that metro stops cause vibrancy. I can think of quite a few stops that are far from inviting.

    $1 billion could go do a lot more to improve the lives of MD's citizenry if it was spent on other programs. Fortunately, Ike Leggett seems to realize that.

  • aileen

    The first line of the article repeats the fallacy that the Purple Line will be part of Metro. It is planned as "light" rail adding another mode to the mix of Metrorail, Metrobus, regional bus lines such as Ride On, Marc trains, street cars and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT is planned for parts of Montgomery County. Even though the MTA has admitted that for 12 of the 16 mile Purple Line route trains will be "subject to traffic delays," they are plunging ahead with hopes for this "snazzy" mode. Just because homes are not razed doesn't mean they are not "impacted" by shaking, noise and dirt.

  • ami

    Why is this not going to be part of Metrorail? I don't understand the logic of having all these separate rail systems. Why do we need Metro, VRE, MARC and now a separate "light rail"? OK, I understand that MARC and VRE were originally started in Baltimore and Virginia respectively and then it only made sense to have them connect to metro stations in DC, but why create a whole other "entity" instead of simply creating another line? The Silver line isn't a different system, it's just an additional line. This is just stupid.