Tuesday, July 27, 2010
"P" is for Purple
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the new Silver Spring Library and the proposed "pedestrian" bridge connecting it to the Wayne Avenue (once known as the Doug Duncan) Parking Garage. The post was up for a brief time before I took it down later that day. I thought it would go unnoticed, but someone commented, wondering where it had gone. I answered that I had taken it down because I wanted to work on it and would post it again later.
I lied. Well - sort of.
I took the post down because I was afraid of criticizing the Purple Line.
The Purple Line has become a Sacred Cow to Silver Spring “Hippie-crits.” Even though the transit line is nowhere close to being built, the need for a light rail station in the same location has drastically altered the design of the new Library, moving the main entrance to the third-floor. Now - of course - you're going to need a bridge to fix this crazy design! All brought to you courtesy of the Purple Line.
I didn’t participate in the planning process or public comment. I wanted to, but I just didn’t have the time. I know a lot of caring people did, and they did their best to do a good job. I assumed it would be done right, and that is a mistake I make too often.
Instead, we now have a train station with a Library in it, not the other way around. Oh, BTW, there’s no train in sight. The debate about the pedestrian bridge is a proxy discussion. The real discussion should have been - are we going to accommodate people here, or are we going to accommodate the Purple Line? To me, it is clear that the Purple Line won this contest.
If people had won, the entrance to the Library would be on street level. There would be no need for a bridge. Instead, the new Library will turn its back to the community in favor of the parking garage. If the county builds the bridge it will be saying, in effect “We would prefer it if you would drive here.” Even though the new site will have a light rail station, the current design runs contrary to Smart Growth principles. It would be unfortunate to construct a public building so unfriendly to pedestrians.
Just because you walk over it doesn’t mean it’s a pedestrian bridge. The fact that it is connected to a parking garage at one end means it is intended to service drivers, not pedestrians. P is not for Pedestrian in this case.
Disabled people have varying degrees of mobility, and to assume we all need to be driven to the Library is both condescending and unrealistic. This is not Smart Growth. People are willing to spend almost $2 Billion on a train, but don’t care about the community’s ability to walk there. Why don’t they advocate for sidewalks on their own streets? Maybe it’s because taking five feet of yard might leave them with no where to put their “Purple Line, Greener Future” signs.
Silver Spring needs good sidewalks. We also need public buildings at street level where the doors open up to the entire community, not just those who park in the right place. Pedestrians should not have to enter the parking deck to get to the front entrance. Pedestrians should not be relegated to “back door status” either. Montgomery County should think beyond cars for a change, and design a Public Library that places equal emphasis on pedestrian access. I am afraid that the cavalier attitude of some Purple People scares away people who have legitimate concerns. As a consequence, decisions are made that cause unforeseen problems. Overbearing support for the Purple Line will ruin it.
“Purple Thinking” clouds the decision-making process in so many matters these days. I want a Purple Line, but I want one that works for everyone. Not connecting it to good sidewalks will keep the project from reaching its potential. If those rabid supporters really want a viable light rail line, they will subject the project to rigorous testing and honest appraisal of potential consequences. Facing the challenge of creating a useful transit line means asking the hard questions and being open to hearing the answers. Instead, everyone is expected to fall into line and support the train, regardless of the impacts. The majority of the compromises to accommodate the Purple Line will be carried by pedestrians, AGAIN. Big Stakeholders like Discovery get what they want without debate, while pedestrians are left to deal with the consequences. Who is looking-out for us?