Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: HOT lanes operator wants advice on improvements

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HOT ideas

In the 10 months since the 495 Express Lanes opened, I’ve received suggestions from readers about how the high-occupancy toll lanes could be improved and have offered some of my own. Now, Transurban, the company that operates the lanes on the west side of the Capital Beltway, has set up an “ideas” Web page.

“From now until Oct. 25, we are asking express lanes customers and Beltway travelers for honest and constructive feedback about how to improve the 495 Express Lanes,” said Pierce Coffee, Trans­urban’s director of marketing. “The idea could be about lane striping or it could be about marketing and communications. We’re going to review the ideas and see if any of them can be implemented to improve the express lanes customer experience.”

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

To add your suggestions, go to 495expresslanes.com/ideas. No prizes offered, but Transurban might actually use your idea and publicize it.

Reliability vs. speed

Keep sending your suggestions about the express lanes to me, too. November will mark the one-year anniversary of the lanes’ opening, and I plan to assess their impact on travel in Virginia, though I think that will continue to evolve.

Drivers have asked many questions, including how to recognize the exits for Tysons if you’re unfamiliar with the area. But the main issue relates to the variable tolls: At the point where you need to make a decision about taking the express lanes or the regular lanes, how do you know that the express lanes trip is worth the price?

I wish we had travel time signs, but in their absence, here’s my advice: Use the express lanes when you need a reliable trip. Don’t count on saving a particular number of minutes or beating some guy you can see off to the right in the regular lanes.

Red-Line blues

As part of its rebuilding program, Metro is planning a major disruption on the Red Line through downtown D.C. next weekend.

From 10 p.m. Friday through the midnight closing on Sunday, Oct. 6, free shuttle buses will replace trains between Dupont Circle and NoMa-Gallaudet.

Farragut North, Judiciary Square and Union Station will be closed. Gallery Place will be open only for Yellow and Green line passengers. Metro Center will remain open for riders on the Blue and Orange lines.

Route 50 paving

The Maryland State Highway Administration is starting a resurfacing project along 1.6 miles of heavily traveled Route 50 between Cheverly and Landover Road.

The project is scheduled to be done next summer. The work also will include improvements in the storm drainage.

Plans call for closing a single lane and road shoulder in both directions between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays. There’s a lot of work associated with this project, such as the replacement of the guardrails. The resurfacing phase won’t start till next year. At that point, watch for lane closings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

Fairfax connector

Monday’s commuters will find that the Fairfax Connector bus system has modified 12 routes, adding some service and making some schedule changes to reflect traffic conditions. These are the changes:

Routes 151/152. Adjustments to the weekend schedule.

Routes 161/162. Adjustments to the weekday schedule.

Route 301. Addition of earlier trips for the afternoon rush.

Route 371. Trips start later in the evening to tie in with added service on Routes 372 and 373.

Routes 372/373. Addition of later trips in the evening.

Routes 621/623. Extension of the “short trips” that ended at the Fairfax County Government Center to Post Forest and West Ox roads.

Routes 631/632. Adjustments to afternoon rush schedule.

For more transportation news, visit washingtonpost.com/transportation.

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