UPDATE: State Responds to Legislators' Questions about Purple Line Agreement
Delegates from Montgomery and Prince George's counties asked for details about fares, coordination with Metro and mitigating construction-caused disruptions
A rendering of a Purple Line station
Maryland Transit Administration
Update – April 5, 3:30 p.m. – Maryland Transportation Sec. Pete Rahn Tuesday responded to questions from local state delegates about the Purple Line agreement in a letter.
The responses note that MTA plans to work with Metro to add the Purple Line to the Metro map, that the state will be wholly responsible for setting fares on the Purple Line and address how the state and private partner will keep affected communities updated on construction. Here's the full response:
Original article – March 30, 10:30 a.m.
Local state legislators are seeking details about the lengthy agreement between the state and the private team of companies chosen to build the Purple Line.
Delegates Marc Korman (D-Bethesda), David Moon (D-Silver Spring), Carlo Sanchez (D-Prince George’s) and Erek Barron (D-Prince George’s) sent 11 questions in a letter to state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn Tuesday that range from how the 16-mile light rail project will operate with Metro to how fares are set.
The questions were sent a little more than a week before the Board of Public Works is scheduled to review and possibly approve the agreement April 6, one of the final steps before construction can begin on the project.
The legislators noted their strong support for the project, but wrote they were sending the questions to seek clarification on certain provisions in the 800-plus page agreement.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) did not respond Tuesday to questions sent in an email about whether Rahn had received the letter and if the department had specific answers to the questions.
Several of the questions in the letter concern how the Purple Line will mesh with the Metro system, including whether it will be drawn on the Metro map and if riders can use SmarTrip cards or other Metro payment systems on the Purple Line. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates Metro, while MDOT and the private partner will operate the Purple Line.
“The Purple Line is a fixed route light rail line that connects four Metrorail stations,” the letter says. “It would make a natural addition to the WMATA map.”
Other questions ask what role the private partner will play in setting fares, such as whether there are controls in place to ensure low- and middle-income riders are not subject to unreasonably high fares. The agreement notes the state will maintain control over fare setting, but Korman said in an email legislators are seeking more information about how the fares will be set and adjusted in the future.
Another question asks if there are safeguards to make sure the private partner is collecting appropriate fares and not relying solely on the approximately $150 million annual availability payment it will receive from the state over 36 years to finance, build, maintain and operate the line.
The legislators also asked what steps the state or the private partner is taking to make sure affected communities are aware of what construction will take place and when as well as how the effects of that construction on local communities plan to be mitigated.
The questions come about a month after the state announced it had selected Purple Line Transit Partners—a team of finance and construction companies—to finance, build and operate the line. State officials said construction could start near the end of this year and anticipate the project to be completed in spring 2022. The rail line is estimated to cost $5.6 billion over the life of the 36-year contract with Purple Line Transit Partners.