Save the Trail petition Part Five – grass is green too

We look at the green space issue in this post of this Save the Trail petition series.

The Save the Trail petitioners have a good point to make when they protest that the Purple Line will result in removing all trees within the Georgetown Branch Corridor. That is the one point they make that cannot be reasonably disputed. But, like so much else they present, they then go on to present a very extreme, unbalanced version of the impact transit will have on the trail.

Save the Trail petitioners assert that transit will transform the corridor into a barren wasteland that will make the trail so uninviting that no one will use it. They present this sketch to illustrate their vision:

A brown trail at the Town of Chevy Chase

Let’s do a reality check on their sketch of a brown, barren wasteland. First, let’s get grounded by taking a look at what is there now:

At the Town of Chevy Chase this spring.

Of course there are several sections on the Georgetown Branch Corridor that are now under a full tree canopy. But much of the section shown in the Save the Trail sketch as at risk of being deforested by the Purple Line is like the photo above. Other sections are also largely without trees, including at much of the Country Club and at the Connecticut Ave. crossing. Save the Trail claims that the entire Georgetown Branch Corridor is in a full forest are exaggerated.

Now let’s take into account the fact that the Purple Line that is being endorsed by the County Council and County Executive will have grass tracks in the Georgetown Branch Corridor. A two track light rail transit with grass tracks looks like this:

Transit on grass tracks in Freiburg.
More examples are shown at

Grass tracks will be green. The grass can absorb storm water runoff, and also can absorb the summer sun so there will be no heating effect from large areas of pavement. The only part of the corridor that will not be green where grass tracks are used will be – the trail!

In fairness we must yield the point to “Save the Trail” that many trees will be cut for the Purple Line. But it does not follow that the corridor will be barren, hot, and brown. The trail will still be very inviting and heavily used.

The next post will be the last of the series, about how very local neighborhood interests drive the “Save the Trail” petition effort.


One Response to “Save the Trail petition Part Five – grass is green too”

  1. David C says:

    They're also wrong about the 15 acres of trees. First of all it's 14 and 14 acres is the difference between the high-investment BRT and the low-investment BRT on the entire route. Between the low-investment BRT (the only one that doesn't use the Georgetown Branch) and LRT, it's more like 7-12 depending on which system you use, but the section in question appears to be about 9 acres (comparing the low BRT to the mid BRT both of which use the same route almost everywhere but in Chevy Chase) (See Table 4.10-1). So that's more like 8 football fields. The mitigation plan hasn't been defined yet, thus it's unclear how much of that we'll get back, but clearly, trees will be replanted where possible. Perhaps, the entire right of way could be claimed by the county and extra trees planted to make up for the lost ones. Perhaps they could be planted on land the Country Club has encroached on.