The Purple Line will more significantly improve the job access for residents who live near stations proposed in the largely residential Long Branch community than in a highly commercial area like Bethesda, a researcher said Saturday.
Two Purple Line stations are proposed in Long Branch — one around Arliss Street near Piney Branch Road, and the other near University Boulevard and Piney Branch.
The growth in the number of jobs accessible to residents there once the rail line is completed will be about five times greater than the growth in job prospects for Bethesda residents, said Ting Ma, a research assistant with the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education in College Park.
“Bethesda already has employment centers,” Ma said during the “Makeover Montgomery 2” conference at the Silver Spring Civic Building. “Long Branch has a more limited number of job opportunities in its immediate area.”
The 16-mile light-rail line is proposed to have 21 stations between Bethesda and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. Besides Long Branch, stations in the Silver Spring/Takoma Park area are planned at 16th Street, Dale Drive, Manchester Place, the Silver Spring Transit Center, the new Silver Spring Library and the Takoma/Langley Transit Center.
The transit centers and library at Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue are still under construction. Official expect them to open by 2015.
Maryland transit officials hope construction of the $2.4 billion Purple Line begins in 2015, so the system can open by 2020. The line will provide direct connections to Metrorail’s Red, Orange and Green lines, as well as the MARC trains.
Despite construction problems with its long-delayed transit center, downtown Silver Spring is identified by state planners as having one of the most successful transit-oriented development systems in Maryland. Transit-oriented development is typically centered around a transit station with higher-density residential and commercial development.
The Silver Spring Transit Center has seen opening dates set and delayed several times after inspectors found structural cracks in the concrete in 2010. Officials now say it may not be until early next year before it opens.
While the delays may be frustrating, once that center opens, it will be a great asset, said Lee Quill, a founding principal of Washington, D.C.-based Cunningham Quill Architects. “I think it will be everything that it has been advertised to be,” he said.
The conference, coordinated by the Montgomery County Planning Department, the University of Maryland and its smart-growth research center, welcomed some 300 participants, about the same as the first “Makeover Montgomery” conference in 2011.
The first conference was centered around the need to clarify and update the county’s zoning code, which was outdated and redundant, said Françoise Carrier, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. The County Council approved the updated code in March.
The new code promotes sustainability while adding more neighborhood protections, Carrier said. “Our goal is to encourage better development,” she said.