Why Postal Trucks Park in Traffic

By Ron Shaffer
Sunday, April 2, 2006

D ear Dr. Gridlock:

I would like to respond to a reader's complaint about a postal vehicle illegally parked in front of 2633 16th St. NW during an evening rush (Dr. Gridlock, Extras, Jan. 19).

As a former letter carrier in that same area, I can elaborate on the city's policy of not ticketing postal trucks. As much as we all would prefer mail to be delivered before the evening commute, it is a difficult endeavor in this era of increasing amounts of bulk mail, such as catalogues, and the lengthening of carrier routes that postal management insists will decrease costs.

The 2600, 2700 and 2800 blocks of 16th Street NW contain three or four embassies, an eight-story dormitory belonging to Howard University, several high-rise apartment buildings, a Masonic temple and a church.

This area cannot be served by a foot carrier because of the volume and type of mail to be delivered: letters, magazines, catalogues and an enormous number of parcels.

The temporary parking [in a lane of traffic] is unfortunately necessary as there are no legal parking spaces on either side of that part of 16th Street at any time. The embassies are gated for security reasons; the dormitory has to keep its small driveway clear; and the other buildings have no parking, even for their residents.

It might be of some comfort to know that the postal trucks are there for a short time. Any letter carrier still in the street at that hour is moving as fast as possible. You can be sure he or she is just as anxious to get home as are commuters.

The U.S. Postal Service does not have the option of serving mail on a pick-and-choose basis; it must provide every address in the city with delivery . . . and must keep personnel in the street until it is complete.

This is a problem with no easy remedy. Can you imagine the uproar if residents . . . had to travel to the post office to pick up their mail every day? Traffic would be even worse, and those without cars such as disabled people or those who work outside the city would suffer even more than the commuters trying to negotiate rush-hour traffic.

Any ideas, Dr. Gridlock?

Jane Adams


Thank you for such a thoughtful, articulate explanation of the other side of the matter. Many of us grind our teeth at postal vehicles parked in traffic with impunity; now we know more about why.

Here's an idea: Many of the city's downtown sidewalks are wide. How about cutting into the sidewalks enough to accommodate one delivery van -- post office, UPS, FedEx and the rest that depend on pickups and deliveries during rush hours -- and post that space with a fine of megabucks for interlopers. And write tickets. That might get some of the deliveries out of traffic and ease gridlock a bit.

I'm open to other ideas.

Singin' on the Train

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was wondering if you had received any complaints about a man singing religious hymns on Metrorail. For the third time now in recent months, a man in my car stands near the doorway, opens a hymn book, announces "excuse me," and starts singing a Christian hymn in a loud voice. For example, "Yes, Jesus loves me . . . "

Everyone in the car goes quiet and looks embarrassed while he sings. One woman shouted "Enough!" when he finished.

It is hard to talk or think over him. Does Metro have any rules against loud singing on the train?

I am not anti-Christian; I just hate being a captive audience for loud singing.

Kathy Franklin


I can understand the irritation, similar to my annoyance with loud cellphone talkers in restaurants and theaters.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel says there is no law against singing on a Metro subway car or bus. You might switch to another car or a bus at the next stop, or rise above it and enjoy (?) the performance.

Anyone else run into this problem?

The Doctor Is Out

Dr. Gridlock will resume online chats April 10.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in the Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, atdrgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county, and day and evening phone numbers.

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