The Purple Line Debate: Light Rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit

The Washington area has neither light rail nor bus rapid transit, the two modes of public transportation under consideration for the proposed Purple Line. Here's a look at how the two systems compare.

Light Rail

Construction cost: $1.2 billion
Annual operating and maintenance costs: $25 million

TRAVEL TIME BETWEEN . . .
Bethesda and Silver Spring: nine minutes

Silver Spring and University of Maryland campus center: 25 minutes

Silver Spring and New Carrollton: 50 minutes

Daily boardings: 62,600

Pros: Route seen as more permanent. Often viewed as better at promoting economic development around stations. Attracts more riders because it is considered faster and more reliable than buses.

Cons: More expensive. Competition for federal construction money is strong, and state transportation funds are extremely tight.
NOTE: Estimates are for "medium investment" systems for the year 2030. Cost estimates are in 2007 dollars. SOURCE: Maryland Transit Administration alternatives analysis; Images courtesy of the American Public Transport Association. Published on Jan. 8, 2009.
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