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More Than Tolls, Bus Lanes Needed To Ease Traffic

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Has there ever been discussion about making one lane in each direction on the Key Bridge into a bus-only lane or making the bridge a toll bridge?

Rosslyn and the Key Bridge are absolute disasters at rush hour. And very rarely do you see more than one person in a car.

There is little incentive to take the bus because there are no tolls on this bridge, and the buses sit in the same traffic that the cars sit in.

With the creation of a toll or a bus-only lane, there would be incentives to leave your car at home. Someone utilizing public transportation should have a means of getting through the city more quickly than those who decide to clog the roads with their cars.

Ryan Senft

Arlington

Would-be congestion-busters nationwide are talking a lot about adding tolls and transit lanes. We're seeing that in plans for the intercounty connector in Maryland and high-occupancy toll lanes in Virginia.

Those will be new lanes. Although many transportation experts also like the idea of turning existing lanes into toll lanes to reduce congestion, that is not a popular notion with the public or with local leaders.

The Rosslyn and Georgetown approaches to the Key Bridge and the bridge itself are notorious for congestion. There are too many solo drivers and too few lanes. There is little incentive to use a bus such as Metro's 38B, which connects Ballston and Farragut Square, because it gets stuck in the Key Bridge traffic.

Still, it's tough to envision a bus-only or toll lane on that relatively narrow span. Tolls would have to be collected electronically to avoid greater congestion.

We should look at a broader program, such as creating a congestion zone in the heart of Washington, where tolls would provide an incentive for thousands of commuters to carpool or take mass transit.

New Turn Arrows

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My commute home includes a Montgomery County Ride On bus trip north on Colesville Road from the Silver Spring Metro station.

To get onto Colesville Road, my bus first takes Wayne Avenue east to Georgia Avenue, then turns left onto Georgia Avenue northbound and then turns right onto Colesville after one block on Georgia.

It can take up to five minutes to get through the intersection at Wayne and Georgia because there is considerable oncoming traffic on Wayne and no protected left turn.

Lorin Kusmin

Silver Spring

That traffic signal was recently upgraded to include a left-turn arrow. Our writer noticed it, too, but only when he and his wife were driving by in a car. It's tough to tell from on a bus because the traffic still backs up to make that left. But it is safer.

I hope construction of the Silver Spring transit center, scheduled to begin next year, will ease congestion around there. But Silver Spring streets are becoming more crowded as the downtown develops.

At another congested intersection, Colesville Road and Spring Street, the Maryland State Highway Administration plans to add a right-turn arrow to ease the heavy traffic flow onto northbound Colesville. The modification will let traffic southbound on Colesville turn onto eastbound Spring Street. That's a congestion-fighting change, and it's scheduled to be done by mid-November.

Metro Parking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Will I get ticketed or towed if I park in the lot at the Vienna Metro on the afternoon of Nov. 9 and don't remove it until the evening of the federal holiday [Veterans Day] Nov. 12? The car would be there longer than the statutory 24 hours, but the next three days are free-parking days.

Dennis Wolf

Fairfax

You could probably get away with it, but Metro doesn't recommend it, and neither do I. Metro offers extended parking at only three stations: Greenbelt, Huntington and Franconia-Springfield. Each has 15 to 17 spaces for stays of up to 10 days; they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

You can see from that roster that the transit authority isn't into extended stays. But I'd be more concerned about the safety and security of your car than the possibility of getting ticketed or towed. It's going to be pretty lonely over the long weekend.

Metrorail is back to treating Veterans Day as a holiday after experimenting last year with weekday service on a few Monday holidays. The transit authority found that there was not enough demand to justify the cost of providing full weekday train service.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in the Extras and Sunday in the Metro section. You can send e-mails todrgridlock@washpost.com. Include your name, home community and phone numbers.

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