Yo, Adrian!

Reverse the Reversible Lanes

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Dear Mr. Mayor:

It's time to get rid of the reversible lanes on Connecticut Avenue. In my neighborhood, Cleveland Park, all they do is increase traffic congestion, add to air pollution, endanger pedestrians and even prevent residents from driving to places we may need to go. The only people they help are suburban commuters.

On the stretch of Connecticut between Woodley Park and Chevy Chase, four of the road's six lanes are dedicated to southbound traffic heading downtown during the morning rush; in the afternoon, it's the reverse, as four lanes carry traffic north out of the city. Drivers in these lanes go as fast as they can, taking advantage of the fact that they're not likely to get caught speeding. Stand on almost any corner along Connecticut -- I've done my viewing from Connecticut and Ordway -- and you'll see cars plowing through red lights at high speeds. We Cleveland Parkers have all seen drivers play chicken around the time the lane shifts occur, and we've seen drivers in the wrong lane at the wrong time because they don't know what's going on. In this confusion, the last thing they're thinking about is pedestrians.

If there were no reversible lanes, traffic would move more slowly, but over time many people would find alternate routes into town for work. We locals call those ways "Metro." Fewer cars on the road would translate very quickly into less air pollution and reduced pressure for additional parking, which is becoming scarce in Cleveland Park.

Fewer cars would also make the side streets navigable. The crush of traffic at rush hour spills over into those streets as commuters seek alternate routes. But Cleveland Park's streets aren't designed for a lot of cars, especially the suburbanites' beloved SUVs, which have a tendency to shear off the side mirrors of parked cars as they whiz by.

The demise of reversible lanes might make commuters angry, so here's an idea to soften the blow: Equip Metrobuses with WiFi. Given a choice between spending 30 to 60 minutes in traffic and spending the same time checking the morning's e-mail before reaching the office, many people will choose the latter. For a mayor who sports a pair of BlackBerries, this idea should be a natural. What do you say?

-- Bill Adler, founder and moderator of the 4,700-member Cleveland Park e-mail group list

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