The Town of Chevy Chase says purchasing a software license to evaluate the state’s Purple Line ridership data would be too costly and time consuming and the information should be publicly available.
The Town on Friday issued a report it had done by New Y0rk-based Sam Schwartz Engineering. According to the report, much of the data provided on disks by the Maryland Transit Administration in July was unreadable without proprietary software.
Upon providing the disks to the Town, the MTA provided information as to how to purchase the license, but said it couldn’t provide the software used by its own engineering consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff.
The ridership estimate — now at 74,000 riders a day by 2040 — is one of many aspects of the planned light rail Town of Chevy Chase officials have doubts about. The Town, which has homes that back up to the planned route, is officially opposed to the $2.43 billion project and has employed federal and state lobbyists against it.
In July, the Town officially challenged the MTA’s ridership estimates for the Purple Line and submitted a Maryland Public Information Act request asking for “the methodology and models” used to come up with the numbers.
Town Manger Todd Hoffman said on Friday that purchasing the software necessary to view the data would be too expensive and take too long. The MTA hopes to select a private concessionaire early next year to help design, build and operate the Purple Line, with construction slated to start late next year.
“We feel the data should be readily available and useable by anyone,” Hoffman said.
The MTA also provided the Town with technical data and methodology reports that have been available on the project website since last year. But the Town’s engineer concluded some of the information wasn’t specific or current enough to provide for an accurate ridership estimate.
“As a case in point, while Purple Line operating speeds have slowed significantly since the start of the study, ridership projections have increased — a counterintuitive result that is not explained by the MTA,” read a Town of Chevy Chase press release.
Mayor Kathy Strom said the data provided by the MTA was “useless” and the Town will submit more questions and requests to determine whether the methodology for the estimates changed during the process.
The Town was apparently buoyed by an anti-Purple Line column from a Wall Street Journal columnist, who questioned if the numbers in the MTA’s final environmental impact statement “were revised from previous estimates in response to concerns expressed by state officials about underestimations.”
“In developing the Purple Line the MTA has used nationally accepted practices for travel forecasting and we stand behind them,” read a statement from the MTA in July. “Hopefully this will demonstrate the transparency with which the MTA has operated throughout the Purple Line ridership projection process.”
PDF: SSE Report