BRT on JBR, part five

Keeping it in balance.

I began this blog nearly a year ago with these comments in the first post:

“Either building the Purple Line in order to complete the Capital Crescent Trail into Silver Spring or not building the Purple Line in order to save some of the park character of the Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase would be having the tail wag the dog.”

We trail users are rightly critical of neighborhood groups and of the Columbia Country Club when they put their own very narrow self interests ahead of all else. Just up the Pike has reported that some residents of the Town of Chevy Chase are very critical of their Town’s efforts to obstruct the Purple Line. But trail users can also lose sight of the larger public interest if they place the trail ahead of all else.

The Interim Trail has 10,000 uses each week, but the Purple Line ridership will be more than 30 times higher than the trail use with over 60,000 boardings each work day or over 300,000 boardings each work week. The trail is a very important issue for us.  It will be an important part of the Purple Line. But nonetheless it is only one of several important issues that must be considered in the Purple Line decision, and the public has a right to expect trail users to make reasonable accommodation for the public good.

The previous four articles of this series outline reasons why I believe the Purple Line medium or high investment LRT will be most compatible with the trail, and why BRT on JBR is a poor substitute for the quality transit that we need. I believe the Purple Line LRT is the most effective and attractive transit system that we can realistically afford anytime soon for this area. Your views on our transit needs and how the Purple Line will impact your own community may cause you to reach a different conclusion. But all of us can agree with the sentiment Councilmember Berliner expressed in his December Berliner Brief:

“…if the trail is going to be compromised, it should only be for a truly first class transit system, worthy of the investment and the sacrifice that will be required.”

2 Responses to “BRT on JBR, part five”

  1. David Brook Salzman, Ph.D. says:

    Why is it that those supporting LRT on the Trail instead of BRT on JBR cannot do even the simplest arithmetic? The Trail has 10,000 users per week, which is 20,000 “rides” the way the MTA counts. The portion of the Purple Line relevant to the Trail would carry 6250 commuters.

    Keep in mind that the Medical Area and the Woodmont North area of Bethesda CBD:
    (1) already employ more people than the portion of the CBD the FTA permits to be counted around the Bethesda Metro Center;
    (2) are growing jobs and residents faster (another 6000 jobs and daily visitors just by 2011!; and
    (3) are expected to do so through 2030 and well beyond.

    This means that the JBR route would serve more riders than the Trail alignment right now, and a lot more in the future.

  2. silverspringtrails says:


    I strongly encourage you to learn the facts about the Trail User Survey before you try to instruct us on how to perform arithmetic. You can find the survey at the CCCT website,, at the Survey webpage. There are links there to the full study including information on what was counted, and how.

    If you read the survey method, you will see that it was “uses”, not users, that was counted. Every time anyone passed by an observation station in either direction a “use” was counted. A round trip by the same person would count as two “uses”. The number 10,000 is the weekly estimate of uses, not users. I know this as true because I was the volunteer coordinator for the survey. I designed and distributed the survey count forms and the volunteer instruction sheets, and I also performed several of the hourly counts myself.

    Under this survey count method, the 10,000 uses per week is the same as 10,000 “rides” the way MTA counts, not the 20,000 “rides” that you claim.

    In fact no one has ever counted 10,000 users per week on the Georgetown Branch Trail, and claims of 10,000 users is simply based on ignorance of what the survey counted and reported. We can do some simple arithmetic to see that the number of users will be only a small fraction of the number of uses, however. Say the “typical”, or average, user makes two round trips each week. If that is so, then each such typical user creates 4 uses each week (the round trip is two uses, times two trips). 10,000 weekly uses divided by 4 uses by each individual requires only 2500 individuals.

    Of course I’m only guessing about how often a “typical” trail user is on the trail each week. I don’t know what the average is – and neither do you. But we can be certain that the number of individuals generating those 10,000 counted weekly “uses” is only a small fraction of 10,000.

    Consider that over 13,000 people are estimated to board the Purple Line at the Bethesda station every day, under the medium to high LRT option. That is equivalent to a “use”, but this counts the eastbound use only since Purple Line commuters coming into Bethesda are not boarding there. It is likely that an equal number come into the station each day as leave the station each day, for another 13,000 uses, the westbound Purple Line riders. That is 26,000 uses every weekday, compared to 10,000 trail uses in a whole week.

    I don’t know what kind of arithmetic you use that can have 13000 people boarding the Purple Line each day at the Bethesda Station, yet can have only 6250 actually leave the station on the LRT along that part of the trail.

    Wayne Phyillaier