Bethesda Purple Line Station

Testimony to Planning Board, Nov. 7, 2013
Presented by Ronit Dancis

I am here to express the Action Committee for Transit's strong approval of the Minor Master Plan Amendment for the Bethesda Station.

As we all know, Bethesda will be a key Purple Line station, one of the four stations where the Purple Line intersects with the Metro. Bethesda itself is already one of the Metro Stations where equal numbers of people enter as exit during the rush hours. It is projected that more than 10,000 people will be using the Purple Line station in Bethesda each day. The station needs to be as large as possible. It needs to move as many people as fast as possible. Because of the Wisconsin Avenue bridge and the building density that already exists in Bethesda, building a small station now and then trying to enlarge and improve it in the future would be prohibitively expensive in addition to being impractical - and a potential safety issue/hazard.

The new design does the best job of meeting these goals given the conditions available in a dense urban area. Rebuilding the APEX building will allow the station to be much larger and work much better. If the building is not demolished and rebuilt, there will not be enough space for a wide track. Passengers will have to cross the train tracks to get off and on the trains. Train service may be delayed each and every time as passengers cross the tracks.

If the new design is approved, there will be enough space for a bike tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue, providing bike riders with an uninterrupted trail.

There is one area where I hope the board will make improvements in this new design. The current bike tunnel plans are constrained by the need to keep street access open to a 10 car parking lot on Elm St. The result is a tunnel with a grade that is considerably steeper than desirable. (Planning board staff presented another tunnel option at the Bethesda Open House: it had an even steeper grade, and only met ADA requirements by including an elevator at Elm & Wisconsin.) Parents in particular would prefer a much gentler grade as they bike with their kids on the trail. I strongly urge the board to modify the design so the county can purchase the parking lot; the 10 people who use the parking lot can be provided with reserved spaces across Elm Street in the parking lot in 7315 Wisconsin Avenue.