Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening (D) says the decision to locate the College Park Metro station off campus was a “huge mistake, made on my watch.”
That decision was made during the 1980s when Glendening, a longtime University of Maryland professor, was serving as Prince George’s County executive. It happened, he told a campus symposium this week, in part because both the school and the community had public safety concerns.
“The university’s official position was not to have the station on campus,” he said. Metro’s Green Line runs from southern Prince George’s County through some of Washington, D.C.’s poorer neighborhoods, north to Greenbelt.
“It was maybe not blatant racism. But [residents at community meetings] would say, ‘We don’t want crime spilling over from the District of Columbia.’ That is a code word.”
Appearing to choose his words carefully, Glendening said, “There was a lack of understanding about the benefits of diversity and inclusion.”
In a follow-up interview with Maryland Matters, Glendening recalled discussing the matter with then-Gov. Harry Hughes (D) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) as decision-time neared. “I acquiesced as a matter of practical compromise. I should not have given in.”
The College Park station is located well east of Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue), 1.6 miles from the center of campus. With 5,118 daily average riders, according to WMATA, it ranks 49th among Metro’s 91 stations in ridership. Enrollment at the University of Maryland is 37,610. Faculty, staff and visitors bring thousands more people to campus each day.
“A huge was mistake, made on my watch, was locating the College Park Metro station so far from the campus as to make it practically useless,” Glendening lamented.
College Park “would have more riders if the station were next to campus,” said David Alpert, executive director of Greater Greater Washington, the nonprofit that promotes walkable communities.
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D), a former University System of Maryland regent whose district includes the City of College Park, said it was “very gutsy” for Glendening to admit the mistake, given that he is now “a worldwide leader on smart growth.”
“It was the university that drove that decision,” Rosapepe said. “The university didn’t want [Metro] on campus.”
Glendening, now president of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and just joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School, is speaking candidly about past mistakes to encourage current office-holders not to shy away from tough decisions regarding transit and development.
He and others say the Purple Line, with five stops in College Park and two others close by, will do a lot to correct the decision not to bring Metro onto the Maryland campus a generation ago.
“The Purple Line is going to be a huge game-changer for the [College Park)] area,” said Alpert. “There’s such a clear need [for transit] because of the huge activity and job centers” in and around the university. “The case for it couldn’t be more clear.”
Glendening told Maryland Matters that university President Wallace Loh enlisted his help three years ago when it appeared that opposition to transit was resurfacing. “There were some forces on campus opposing the Purple Line.”
Brought in to speak at a university forum, Glendening stressed the importance of “being connected to the outside world,” adding, “We should be looking at the Purple Line as our own way of addressing the issue of equity and make absolutely sure that we don’t make the inequalities in our life even worse.”
“When we make a decision of this magnitude,” Glendening added, “the impact goes on for decades and decades.”