MTA hands over Purple Line ridership data -- Gazette.Net


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The Maryland Transit Administration sent the town of Chevy Chase data and software that it says can replicate Purple Line ridership forecasts.

Town officials had threatened to file an official request for the data under the Maryland Public Information Act.

MTA sent the town several reports and data sets, so it can see how the agency came up with its ridership estimates for the Purple Line.

The Purple Line is a $2.37 billion, 16-mile light-rail transit system that would link Bethesda with New Carrollton.

Henry Kay, head of project development at MTA, said the Purple Line is expected to see 74,000 riders per day in 2040. Transit officials use “riders” to mean the number of boardings, rather than individual people, so a person making a round trip would be counted as two riders.

Kay said Parsons Brinckerhoff, the contractor that compiled ridership estimates, has agreed to let the town use its software to analyze the data.

“We can only give people things we have,” Kay said. “...We don’t have this, but sort of just because the town has persisted and is interested, Parsons Brinckerhoff has come to us and said, ‘Go ahead and give it to them.’ ... They’re supportive in our desire to be transparent about it.”

The town also would need a third-party software, called Cube, to replicate the agency’s processes. Kay said MTA sent the town information about how to purchase a license for the software.

Chevy Chase officials said they would file a public information request for the methodology and models used to estimate ridership after a Wall Street Journal columnist wrote that the state had denied requests to see some of Parsons Brinckerhoff’s data because it was proprietary.

Kay said the Wall Street Journal column was an opinion piece, not an objective news article, and the author jumped to the conclusion that there was something suspicious about the ridership forecast because MTA did not give Purple Line opponents Parsons Brinckerhoff’s software.

“We stand behind the forecast,” he said. “It was developed by experts under our supervision, it has been accepted by the Federal Transit Administration, which has the ability to compare it to other transit projects around the country, and there’s no doubt about its quality in anybody’s mind.”

Town Manager Todd Hoffman said Wednesday that the town had received the information from MTA that day, but the council would have to determine if and how to solicit help to analyze the data.

“It’s going to take a little while to determine if it’s sufficient for what we need,” he said.

ewaibel@gazette.net