Town of Chevy Chase Questions Purple Line Ridership Study

Town wants to examine methods used to determine ridership numbers


The Town of Chevy Chase plans to submit a public information request to the Maryland Transit Administration to obtain the methods behind the survey that determined ridership projections for the Purple Line.

The town voted at its July 9 meeting to pursue the request, stating in a letter to residents that the state has “refused to provide” the information due to “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,” Patricia Burda, the town’s vice mayor, said in the letter. “These ridership numbers have changed over time yet have been substantially endorsed and quoted as valid by advocates and elected officials.”

The ridership estimates were developed for the state by the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, which projected a daily ridership of about 68,000 trips on the 16-mile line.

However, the town wonders about the accuracy of the projection and cites a recent Wall Street Journal column that says the numbers may be overly optimistic. In the column, Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes that the $900 million in federal funds being requested by the state for the $2.4 billion project “seems to be a colossal waste of money.”

O’Grady writes that the state refused Purple Line opponents’ requests “for the data necessary to replicate the forecasts” after the ridership estimates were released in 2008.

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