Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: Metro riders’ council asks for repair timelines

Columnist July 27, 2013
Metro repair timetables

Ben Ball, the chairman of the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council, urged the transit authority on Thursday to give its customers a better idea of how long various phases of the rebuilding program will take.

While Ball said it’s good to know that the most aggressive parts of the program launched two years ago will end in 2017, “there are 179 weekends between now and the start of 2017,” he said.

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

“That’s at least 179 weekends of track work and delays, 179 weekends of Metro thanking riders for their patience, and 179 weekends of riders asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ I’d like to encourage Metro staff and the board to be more forward-leaning with the riding public on what it can expect over the next three and a half years.”

Riders have indeed shown a great deal of patience with the rebuilding effort. But other than the 2017 date for an end to the most aggressive part of the program, the transit authority has given them little information about what’s going to be completed when.

Ball said: “I want to urge Metro staff and the board to realistically consider the release of a more detailed track work timeline, one that helps to set rider expectations.”

Transit strategy

I’ve invited Shyam Kannan, Metro’s chief planner, to join us at noon Monday for our weekly online discussion. Kannan can answer your questions about the agency’s long-range strategy and the transit authority plan called Momentum.

Readers can submit questions now by going to this Web page: wapo.st/0729gridlockchat.

bad commute

The worst new commuting problem beset drivers using the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to the Third Street Tunnel this past week. The lane closings they encountered are for a District Department of Transportation project that will erect new variable message signs.

Morning delays affected traffic back to the 14th Street Bridge and along the George Washington Parkway.

The lane closings are scheduled to continue until the end of August. A new phase got underway this weekend.

Until Aug. 11, look for the closing of the right lane on the westbound side of the freeway approaching the Third Street Tunnel.

After that, watch for the closing of the right eastbound lane from the South Capitol Street exit to Sixth Street SE.

Traffic surges

Travelers write in from time to time to say that they think traffic is increasing along their route. Often, there’s no obvious reason for it. There’s no road work blocking lanes.

Here’s the latest one that came in during Monday’s online discussion: “Is there any reason you can think of to cause increased traffic on I-495 headed north from Virginia into Maryland in the late morning rush?

Another commenter agreed that this was happening near the American Legion Bridge and suggested a cause: “I think it has to do with the increase in efficiency in getting vehicles through Tysons. . . . With the redesigned I-66/I-495 interchange and the express lanes, more vehicles are getting to the bridge than before.”

Metro parking

A traveler asked for an explanation about Metro’s long-term parking rules. This question comes up frequently among people trying to reach the Washington region’s airports by transit.

Metro has just three areas where it authorizes parking for up to 10 days: the Greenbelt, Huntington and Franconia-Springfield stations. The areas are quite small, with no more than 15 to 17 spaces set aside for long-term parking, and it’s first-come, first-served.

On exit, you pay only the daily parking fee. For example, the daily parking fee at Greenbelt is $4.50, payable with SmarTrip or credit cards. A parker who stays three days in the long-term area pays $4.50.

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

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