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Decision Time for Purple Line

Transportation expert Sam Schwartz conducts a "walkshop" along the Capital Crescent Trail in May, talking about the impact the Purple Line light-rail plan would have on it. Two banners in the background show how wide and tall two light-rail trains would be.
Transportation expert Sam Schwartz conducts a "walkshop" along the Capital Crescent Trail in May, talking about the impact the Purple Line light-rail plan would have on it. Two banners in the background show how wide and tall two light-rail trains would be. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, February 1, 2009

The key questions regarding the Purple Line transitway proposed for the Maryland suburbs are: 1) Is a transitway needed? 2) If it is, should it be bus or light rail? 3) What route would the line follow? The final decision on those questions will come from the state of Maryland in the next few months. But an important voice offered its answers Tuesday. The Montgomery County Council said yes to a light-rail system that would primarily follow the Georgetown Branch rail right of way between Bethesda and Silver Spring. Here's where the project stands.

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The Basics

The Purple Line would be a 16-mile east-west rapid transit line running inside the Beltway from Bethesda to New Carrollton. But there are choices within that concept.

It could be either a bus rapid transit or light-rail line.

A bus rapid transit system would have permanent stations and operate large buses on streets with traffic, or in dedicated lanes or on a separate right of way.

A light-rail system would have permanent stations and operate an updated streetcar on tracks with overhead wires. Like the bus line, it could run on streets with traffic, or in dedicated lanes or on a separate right of way.

Most of the transit route would be at street level. Twenty-one station locations are being evaluated. A hiker/biker trail is included along the Georgetown Branch and CSX/Metrorail corridors.

What the Council Did


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