The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Maryland’s Proposed Purple Line Update

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On August 3, 2016, Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Purple Line, a proposed light-rail project in Maryland, was ineligible for federal funding until the state recalculates the Purple Line’s ridership forecasts.

In nearby Washington, D.C., the public transit system (Metro), administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is seeing its ridership numbers continuing to decline year after year. Maryland’s current ridership projections for the suburban Purple Line are already 2.5 times greater than 31 of the 32 light-rail systems in the U.S. Therefore, the ridership projections are even more unrealistic when you consider 27 percent of Purple Line riders will be transferring from Metro.

The government argued that Metro’s problems would not affect the Purple Line because the two entities would be operated separately from one another using different technology. Federal lawyers also suggested that, since the Metro is making significant investments in its transit system via the SafeTrack program, Metro’s current decline in ridership numbers will not be an issue.

However, Judge Leon reached a much different conclusion. “I find that defendants’ failure to adequately consider (Metro’s) ridership and safety issues was arbitrary and capricious, and that these conditions create the ‘seriously different picture’ that warrant a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS),” Leon wrote in his decision. “While it is true that (Metro) is a distinct entity from Maryland Transit Authority, which would own and operate the Purple Line, this does not provide a rational basis for defendants’ summary conclusion that a decline in ridership thereon has no effect on the Purple Line, given that the previous projections estimated over one quarter of Purple Line riders would use the WMATA Metrorail as part of their trip.”

Construction of the Purple Line is scheduled to start by the end of this year.

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