The common sense challenge to the $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail project continues in Federal District Court, as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) were called out for refusing to conduct an objective assessment and continuing their faulty interpretation of regulatory requirements. In their filing of January 5, 2017, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and co-plaintiffs John Fitzgerald and Christine Real De Azua, addressed in plain detail the failures of the state and federal agencies.
This latest filing by Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail responds to FTA and MTA’s December 16 filing that stated that reduced ridership did not affect the Purple Line’s costs and benefits or the environmental impacts of the Purple Line, and that no supplemental assessment was necessary.
On November 22, 2016 Federal Judge Richard Leon confirmed that the Purple Line remained suspended per his August 3 order, and required the FTA to consider Metro’s crisis while specifying a “limited” change in the procedure for how the agencies may undertake their consideration of Metro’s declining ridership and increasing safety problems (Metrorail was projected to supply between 27% and 40% of the Purple Line riders, in the 2013 Final and 2008 Draft impact statements).
“Completely ignored by FTA and MTA are the glaringly obvious questions about the veracity of the ridership estimates,” said Ajay Bhatt, President of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail. “The defendant’s modus operandi was and continues to be an outcome-driven analysis with the wasteful Purple Line as the goal, as opposed to sound transportation policy. Meanwhile, with Metro’s needs in the billions, and other transportation resources at risk of being cannibalized by the Purple Line, it is time to set this project aside.”
“[R]ather than analyze at all the central issue raised by the ongoing Metrorail difficulties”, FTA and MTA instead “extensively address a red herring: whether, assuming the Purple Line is built, the environmental impacts of the project would be affected by lower ridership,” note Plaintiffs in their memorandum.
“The ridership forecasts are key [and] there are compelling reasons to question the forecasts that have been presented over the years for the Purple Line … There is now also the complication of uncertain ridership on Metrorail, where the Purple Line has long been presented as a line to connect four arms of Metrorail to each other as well as to connect Metrorail riders to their homes. But other transit options, less environmentally damaging while less costly and more cost-effective, can also do this. At this lower level of ridership there is even less reason not to consider them,” said Frank Lysy, Ph.D., in his expert declaration submitted with the Plaintiffs’ brief and quoted in the brief’s conclusion.
“Such an entire failure to address the views of experts is contrary to the court order and the law underpinning it,” said John Fitzgerald, an attorney and plaintiff in the case. “A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is needed to shed the full light of independent expert and public scrutiny on this environmentally harmful and exorbitantly expensive project and the less harmful, less wasteful, modern alternatives that are readily available.”
For information about the Purple Line, why it is fiscally and environmentally irresponsible, and why it is “transit that hurts transit,” click here
For the Plaintiffs’ response see below:
For the January 4 expert declaration by Frank Lysy see below: