Dr. Gridlock: Washington could beat the rush on defusing rush hour

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The Washington area, with its large government presence and influence, has a unique opportunity to eliminate rush-hour gridlock and set a national example.

Area rush-hour energy waste, congestion and heavy pollution and energy consumption can be reduced readily and inexpensively if federal, state and local governments and their contractors take the steps below. This also can set the tone for the private sector:

-- Switch to four-day workweeks. This saves 20 percent of rush hours, the periods of heaviest energy use and when most pollution is generated.

-- Open offices from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays.

-- Allow extensive flextime and expanded work at home, which technology increasingly facilitates.

These will provide workers, customers and clients with the means to shift from the most-congested hours.

The already serious rush-hour problems in the Bethesda Medical Center area, for example, will soon be worsened by the addition of Walter Reed Medical Center unless the medical centers and the National Institutes of Health, all under federal control, adopt these measures.

-- Paul Seder, Bethesda

The federal base-realignment program is going to shift thousands of workers to new locations. The sites, such as Bethesda Medical Center, Fort Belvoir and the Mark Center, have created enormous challenges for transportation planners, challenges that many commuters are not yet confident they have met.

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