A week after the Town of Chevy Chase challenged its ridership estimates for the Purple Line, the Maryland Transit Administration said it stands behind its projection that the light rail will see 74,000 riders a day by 2040.
The MTA also provided the Town all of the data it used to prepare its ridership forecast, methodology reports that have been available on the project website since last year and information about how to buy the software the MTA used to compile the results.
The Town of Chevy Chase Council voted on July 9 to submit a Maryland Public Information Act request to the state agency for the data and said previous attempts to get the data were rebuffed by MTA because of “proprietary issues” involved with the outside engineering firm that conducted previous research.
The Town is officially opposed to the Purple Line, a section of which would run behind homes in the Town on the existing Georgetown Branch extension of the Capital Crescent Trail.
The Town, apparently buoyed by a recent anti-Purple Line column from a Wall Street Journal columnist, questioned if the numbers in the MTA’s final environmental impact statement “were revised from previous estimates in response to concerns expressed by state officials about underestimations.”
“In developing the Purple Line the MTA has used nationally accepted practices for travel forecasting and we stand behind them,” read a statement from the MTA provided to BethesdaNow.com on Wednesday. “Hopefully this will demonstrate the transparency with which the MTA has operated throughout the Purple Line ridership projection process.”
Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm that provided ridership projections for earlier Purple Line studies, projected 68,000 trips daily. The light rail will run from Bethesda to New Carrollton with stops in Chevy Chase Lake, Silver Spring, College Park and other places in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
In a press release on Tuesday announcing the official Request for Proposals for the project, MTA said estimated ridership is now 74,000 riders a day by 2040.
In 2008, around the time of the Purple Line’s draft environmental impact statement, Purple Line officials said planners increased all daily ridership estimates by 20,000 to take into account potential Purple Line trips made by Metro and MARC riders.
“These ridership numbers have changed over time yet have been substantially endorsed and quoted as valid by advocates and elected officials,” Town of Chevy Chase Vice Mayor Pat Burda said last week. “Since past efforts to access this information have been rebuffed, we are pursuing an official inquiry through the public information act process.”
The Town of Chevy Chase earlier this year entered into a $350,000 contract with a group of lobbying firms to work against the planned Purple Line route, where construction is scheduled to begin in late 2015 and last five years.
The Town also donated $10,000 to a nonprofit group to finance a study of endangered critters the group said would be harmed by the construction of the light rail.