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Metro: Roads and Rails

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Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 15, 2006; 11:00 AM

Do you think Metro has grown unreliable and become downright unpleasant? Or are you happy with your commutes on rail and bus? Does the thought of the intercounty connector (ICC) keep you up at night or does it seem like it's long overdue? And what of the moves by Maryland and Virginia to encourage the private sector to build road projects, such as widening the Capital Beltway?

Washington Post staff writer Steven Ginsberg was online Monday, May 15, at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions, feel your pain and share the drama of getting from Point A to Point B.

Steven Ginsberg's Blog: Get There

A transcript follows.

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Steve Ginsberg: Howdy chatters. I'm going to get right to your questions, but first want to alert you to my new blog, Get There, which launched last Thursday. I post every weekday and try to find time to answer comments throughout the day. So you don't have to hold on to your road and rail comments, thoughts and questions for two weeks. The wonderful producer that is Katie McLeod is going to provide a link.

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washingtonpost.com: Steven Ginsberg's blog: Get There

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Steve Ginsberg: Also, not sure if we've posted this yet, but here are some answers from Metro to questions from earlier chats.

One writer complained about a constantly broken escalator at the Gallery Place station. I believe the escalator the writer is referring to at (unit F01N09) is a platform to mezzanine unit on the Chinatown side adjacent to stairs and an elevator. This unit has been out of service since 4/2/06 for a split handrail. The new handrail arrived

yesterday and the unit should be back in service in a few days. That is the only unit that has been out of service for a long period of time.

Another writer sent in a question about a problem with the elevator in the New Carrollton garage. In finding out the answer to this one, I learned something I never knew about elevators until today (always a bonus on this job).

The elevators, by design, under certain circumstances are supposed to cancel car calls. For example , if someone presses all eight floors in an empty car the "nuisance call function" would extinguish the car calls after the car has stopped at the first few floors if no one gets in or

out of the elevator. The elevator "knows" that someone exits at a floor if the beams located at the door edge are be broken when someone passes through them. Apparently the "nuisance call function" was not operating

properly. The elevator warrantee contractor was notified of the problem and the elevators have been adjusted and are working properly.

"Nuisance call function" interesting stuff.

And finally, the elevators in the new New Carrollton parking garage have been inspected by the State of Maryland, and Metro's Office of Elevator and Escalator Maintenance holds the certificates. Our Elevator

office will place a notification inside the elevator cabs as to where the certificates can be found.

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Washington, D.C.: In 2005, how many citations did Metro hand out for each of these offenses: spitting; smoking; eating/drinking; littering. I'd like separate numbers. If Metro has a breakdown separating citations on MEtrobus and Metrorail that would be preferable. thanks.

Steve Ginsberg: Speaking of Metro...Perhaps they can answer this one for us today.

Lisa, you out there?

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Special bus to Georgetown: Hi, I would like to go to Georgetown and would assume I would get off the subway at Foggy Bottom and then catch what?

Can I get it at the Foggy Bottom metro exit? Thanks for any info.

Steve Ginsberg: Where are you coming from? It might be easier for you to take the Circulator bus, which runs from Union Station to Georgetown. It's nice, clean and, say it ain't so, timely.

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Fairfax Cnty: I find the new announcer voice on Metro to be really annoying. The announcements go on too long, and no one pays any more attention now than before. They should try having NO announcements for a change!

Steve Ginsberg: huh. I kinda like the new sounds. It's true that the voice isn't that different, though, and I don't see that it's made any difference. I was pulling for that deep-voiced guy who talked reaal slow when Metro held the competition.

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Arlington, Va.: Did Metro install in-tunnel advertising near Metro Center recently? Or was I seeing an Acura commerical in my mind??

Steve Ginsberg: They did. I caught it myself for the first time last week. Kinda funky, huh?

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Arlington, Va.: I'm a little surprised not to see any follow-up (not even a "yesterday's service" notice on the WMATA website) from a Metro incident after last Friday night's Nationals game.

An 8-car train packed with Nationals fans signed and announced as an Orange Line train to Vienna mysteriously turned left down the Blue Line track towards Pentagon as it left Rosslyn. That means every single passenger on this full 8-car train had to exit at Pentagon (causing a huge pile-up at the escalator), catch a Blue Line train back to Rosslyn, and then pile on a real Orange Line train to Vienna.

Needless to say, this added at least 30 minutes to the trip home.

Can someone from Metro tell us what happened here. Was this a technical error or operator error? In any case, what's the fallout?

Steve Ginsberg: Someone from Metro? This sounds like a total and unnecessary pain in the rear.

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Arlington, Va.: I hate to sound petty, given the circumstances, but was it really necessary to close the westbound Dulles toll road for an hour on Saturday? I got on the road coming off of I-66, paid my toll, and then proceeded to sit in traffic for over an hour so that the hundreds of attendees from the police funeral could slowly roll by. At no time before I got on the road was I warned that there could be a problem. I didn't know until I turned on WTOP that the road was blocked for a funeral and not an accident. There were helicopters everywhere, fire engines blocking the overpasses, all kinds of stuff. Was that really necessary, and couldn't the authorities who saw fit to shut down a major traffic artery have given a bit of warning?

Steve Ginsberg: I was also on the roads around that time and found the warnings woefully ineffecient. The overhead signs said that there would be delays on I-66 between 1 and 4, but they didn't say where on 66 or why. Even if it was the whole highway, it would have helped to know that. VDOT sent out a release about it at 4 on Friday, which seems on the late side. Nonetheless, I have absolutely no problem with the procession going down the highway. I just wish we had a little more of a heads-up.

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South Riding, Va.: I try to do everything within reason to avoid getting stuck in traffic. I have a 25 mile commute from South Riding, VA to Arlington, VA. Most mornings are fine as I get into work by 6:15 am, but afternoons can be a different story. I don't like going out miles of my way, but a few times I have taken the Dulles Toll Road instead of I-66 to get home. The trip costs an extra $1.25 in tolls and is seven or eight miles (of gas) longer, but to my surprise, I can get home just as fast on the toll road as the best traffic days on I-66.

Is there a good way to determine when a longer route is actually the better route to take? I like knowing that I have an alternative when I there is a major accident on I-66, but I don't want to make it a regular route because of the extra costs in gas and tolls.

Thanks

Steve Ginsberg: I wish I knew of one. www.trafficland.com is the best option to check before you get into your car, but it's still hard to tell what conditions will be like on your drive. I find radio traffic reports to be spotty at best and they often don't include the road you're on. Generally speaking, though, I find any alternative at most any time to be better than I-66.

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easy way to camden yards?: I know this is a pretty laughable question, but is there a super-secret no-traffic way to get from the Alexandria area to Camden Yards? And assuming not, is 495/95 better than 295? With 295 I've been burned by accidents that shut down half the road, but it's more direct.

Steve Ginsberg: Shew, that's a tough one. I stopped going to Orioles games a few years ago when that city about 30 miles up the highway became two hours away. I prefer 295, but have been burned a couple times myself by it getting shut down. Any O's fans that can offer some advice?

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Alexandria, Va.: On Friday, John Kelly's online chat dealt with the issue of giving up seats to women who are pregnant and others who might need seats. I was really disappointed by some of the "excuses" people came up with for not getting up. I missed weighing in on his chat but since your column also deals with Metro, I am hoping you will let me provide my two cents here. I am sure there is some cross over readership.

For the people who said that pregnancy is a choice and doesn't deserve special compensation. Yes, pregnancy is a choice. However, it plays a significant role in keeping our species going. I am a female close to 40 and have chosen not to have children. I applaud those women who choose to put up with nine months of carrying a child and then 18+ years of raising that child. The choice should be honored not punished.

For the people who indicated that if they were only asked, they would give up their seat. Come on. If you saw someone being hurt or someone's house burning down, would your excuse for not calling 911 be that you weren't asked? Either call 911 or give up your seat or don't. Take responsibility for your own actions and don't shift the blame to someone else.

For the people who stated that they spend all their time reading and don't notice others near them. First, that's a lame excuse. Second, get your head out of your book. In the case of an emergency, you are going to be a huge liability to yourself and others.

Lastly, for those people who are afraid of offering a seat to someone because that person might rudely refuse - another really lame excuse. It does happen and in fact, it's happened to me a couple of times. All you need to do is say either "Anyone else want a seat?" or "Ok, just let me know if you change your mind." Then move on. You have tried to do a good deed and that's what is important.

Let's not blame feminism or anything else for not being kind or helpful to your fellow man or woman. There are so much better things we can do. Being kind and being nice to one another should be the norm not the exception.

Steve Ginsberg: Any excuse in keeping a seat from someone who would greatly benefit from one is beyond lame. Stop making them riders and be a good human being, if only for a few stops.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Good morning. Has Metro ever considered simply taking out most of the escalators? (Certainly I wouldn't include Wheaton's or Dupont's.) New York's subway doesn't use them nearly as much as we do, and everyone there gets along fine. It seems that our escalators cause more problems and cost more money, and it's not worth the added convenience. Plus, Americans would get more exercise. Thanks.

Steve Ginsberg: I don't think they've ever considered it, but I agree that they should. Nothing wrong with a few stairs in your daily routine. I do wonder if that would chase away a lot of riders, though, and I'm sure Metro managers wonder the same thing.

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Washington, D.C.: I'd like to report a sight rarer than seeing the ivory-billed woodpecker--a Metro employee telling someone not to eat/drink on the system. I actually witnessed this twice in the past few weeks; I've never seen it in my prior decade using Metro. At the Takoma Park station, an employee (the station manager perhaps) told a man he could not eat in the station. The man stopped eating. On the F4-Silver Spring bus, the bus driver told a girl getting on drinking a soda, that she could not drink on the bus and needed to put the top on the soda. It worked. This is in contrast to seeing most Metro employees, including transit officers, ignore offenses (or violating the rules themselves). I actually overhead a Metro employee who was training another employee tell him never to say anything to a customer violating the rules. And I recently was next to two transit officers ignoring a man drinking a bottle of soda next to them. When I asked why they weren't doing anything, they ignored me. So these two sightings are rare indeed! It proves that if more Metro employees just said something to violators, it would work.

Steve Ginsberg: A view from the front lines...

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Metro to Georgetown: To the person looking to get to Georgetown:

The easiest way to to take the Orange/Blue line to Rosslyn; then hop on the 38B Bus towards Farragut Square. It's a 5-minute ride from the station to Georgetown. Enjoy Georgetown!

Steve Ginsberg: Another option for our G'towner.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I just spent a weekend in New York, traveling quite a bit on the subway, and gained an entirely new appreciation for Metro--quiet, clean, well-lighted. I'm sure I'll have plenty of complaints before too long, but this morning, at least, it was good to be back. Except for that repetitious new "doors closing" announcement. Arggh!

Steve Ginsberg: I always end up feeling like that when I travel to another city and take their subway, which is invariably dirty and disgusting. Ours is definitely much cleaner and an overall more pleasant experience. But that's partly because we demand so much from our system. We should be grateful for what we have and maintain our vigilance so it gets even better.

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Tell that O's fan: There is a baseball team in Washington, DC just across the river from Alexandria. No need to travel to Baltimore for baseball!

Steve Ginsberg: Every town has its sucker who just can't get enough of mediocre pitching, sub-standard hitting and 10 years of stupid free agent moves. We must have sympathy for the denser among us.

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More on Getting to Baltimore: Would you say it's better to try to drive up to Baltimore from the Capitol Hill area or to take the MARC train? (This would be on a weekday afternoon around 4 or 5 pm) Many thanks!!!

Steve Ginsberg: I'd take MARC and bring a newspaper. This would give you a chance to wear the smug smile of the transit rider as you look with pity on the jammed highway out your window.

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Kensington, Md.: Where do the radio stations get their traffic reports? A few nights last week I heard reports of a backup from the 495-270 split to Wisconsin Ave. As I drove through that area a few minutes after hearing the report, traffic was moving pretty good. What's up with that?

Steve Ginsberg: This happens all the time. I don't really trust the reports that much any more. And they all come from the same place, a company in Maryland, I believe. My colleague Paul Farhi wrote about them recently. Perhaps we can dig that up for ya.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: I commute from the Cleveland Park metro stop to the Dupont Circle metro stop every day. I was really sad to hear about the metro worker who was killed on the tracks this weekend. The saddest part is that his death could have (should have) been prevented!

We don't know yet exactly what happened, except that Jon Wong Lee was doing a routine track inspection when he was hit. Workers are in the tunnels all the time, apparently, while trains are running and a signal is supposed to flash when a train is approaching. If this man's death was caused by an error on the part of Metro, that is UNACCEPTABLE. And it's the second worker death in the last year!! Thought?

Steve Ginsberg: My thought is that my colleague Lena Sun is on the case and if anyone can dig out the truth, it's her. As soon as we know more, you will too.

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Washington, D.C.: You know the new "canopies" that Metro is adding to stops all around town? I guess the theory is that they will help the escalators run better (by preventing too much rain from harming the machinery??) but they seem like a waste of money is some cases. Why not use the money to better uses.

Steve Ginsberg: Some of those canopies, like the one at 13th and U, look pretty odd. They're crammed into places that they don't seem to belong. But I still kind of like them. Gives a kind of random feel to a city where eveything seems so planned.

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Arlington, Va.: I don't know how much of I-66 was closed on Saturday or for how long, but the westbound Dulles toll road was completely shut down for over an hour, with no warnings at all. A little notice was called for.

Steve Ginsberg: A little notice is always called for whenever you know about anything in advance. It was a poorly handled situation.

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Washington, D.C.: Can I just throw this out there please, since it's supposed to rain most of this week...People, if you're going to carry those big umbrellas with the pointy ends (and you really don't need to, since you're not walking on a golf course but narrow sidewalks), PLEASE be aware and carry them point down. I got jabbed several times by one oblivious woman today getting out of her seat on the metro, before I grabbed the end and pushed it down. Numerous times I have come close to being jabbed by someone carrying the umbrella tucked under their arm horizontally. Thanks for letting me vent - I'm going to go heal my bruises from this morning.

Steve Ginsberg: Got that umbrella people??!!

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Metro to Georgetown: The 38B bus from Rosslyn is not the easiest way -- the Georgetown shuttle runs from Rosslyn, Foggy Bottom, and Dupont Circle Metro stations every ten minutes, much more reliably (and pleasantly) than Metrobus. The person who wrote the original question should spend a minute doing a web search -- I'm sure they would find the web site for the shuttle. They can also check Metro's Ride Guide for Metro-only suggestions (not including the Georgetown shuttle, I believe), or commuterpage.com for all kinds of options.

Steve Ginsberg: another thought...

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Washington: I don't have a problem with the new Metrorail announcements, and frankly wish Metro went to a more automated systems for announcing station stops. Underground, it's very hard to read station signs through the tinted glass. Unfortunately, it seems that for every clear annoucement (I've heard one driver out there who sounds like a Shakespearean actor), there are several others that are mumbled, slurred or otherwise inaudible. Some buses do have recorded stop announcments, and they're very helpful.

Steve Ginsberg: No, not more automation! What our city needs is more randomness, the kinds of things that add to the experience, even if it costs you a Metro stop or two. We want some personality from our Metro operators.

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Re: Metro to Georgetown: Oh, if we're throwing out all the options, allow me to add a suggestion: if you're coming from Virginia, grab a transfer when you get on the Metro. Get off at Rossly and get on the blue Georgetown Connector bus. It leaves every ten minutes, is fast, and is free with a transfer (I think). Can't be beat.

Steve Ginsberg: okay, these should solve any georgetown connections.

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Taking Out Escalators: That's great, until you have luggage or much other stuff to carry. I'm very strong - I lift weights and all that - but even I appreciate being able to ride up with a suitcase when bogged down with bags.

Schlepping baggage up the stairs of, say, Woodley Park? No thanks.

(I'm sure the area taxicab commissions would just looooove the idea, though!)

Steve Ginsberg: No one is suggesting taking most of them out. Metro was dug deep and escalators are a must in a lot of places. But there are countless short stairs where escalators seem more of a luxury than a necessity. I agree it's nice when you have a bag and it's necessary for many riders, but there are elevators. And I can't help but think that riders in New York, London, Paris and loads of other places also carry bags and somehow they seem to manage.

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Arlington, Va.: I was in Boston last weekend and would you believe they have not just a snack stand on the tunnel platform, but a Dunkin' Donuts as well??? Of course, you should see the Boston "T" system, too----icky, run-down, cars like badly-built shells of buses on tracks. We can't allow Metro to put anything selling food anywhere on the station properties. People already carry stuff from the Union Station food court onto the trains, like the guy carrying his big open plate of nachos one day! Fortunately, there was a Metro cop there that day who stopped the man. Union Station should have huge signs right outside the doors indicating the restrictions on food. Instead, they're at the tops of the escalators inside the gates, where you can't see them--especially in a crowd-- 'til you go through, and that's too late.

Steve Ginsberg: There's a Dunkin Donuts EVERYWHERE in Boston. Those people must not be able to function without fried dough.

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removing escalators: I'd be all for removing escalators - if Metro could make it possible to locate elevators (oh yeah, and keep them running, too).

Ever heard of the Americans With Disabilities Act?

Steve Ginsberg: Yes, we've heard of it. And, of course, the elevators should be kept running so that no one is stranded or caused undue hardship.

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RFK : Section 213, Row 12: Going from Arlington to Camden Yards? Just listen to the Orioles' Ads - "It's closer than you think" and repeat that mantra while you idle in traffic.

Why give any more of your money to Peter Angelos who is (still!) against MLB in DC. What has he given you besides 8 straight losing seasons!

VIVA LA NATS!

Steve Ginsberg: You better be bringing that 'tude to this weekend's series against the O's!

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Alexandria, Va.: The idea of automated station announcements on Metro sounds like a good idea to me. Atlanta has that on the MARTA and it's nice; their announcements also include tourist info (example: "North Avenue. Exit here for Georgia Tech and the Varsity."). Plus they can make sure they aren't mispronounced. Metro's train operators insist on saying "LaFont Plaza," "Brad-DOCK Road," and "Joo-dish-er-ary Square," and I always shake my head when I hear it.

Steve Ginsberg: Yeah, maybe. But for my money I'd rather live in the city where you remember the odd way people say station names rather than the city where you remember what the automaton sounds like. Tourist help would be a nice bonus.

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Arlington, Va.: As a currently-pregnant woman, I am always grateful to anyone who offers me a seat (for the record, it is usually young women). In my case, I'm obviously pregnant, so no one is going to mistake it as excess poundage as opposed to incubating another human. That being said, I assume those who don't offer probably don't notice - not that they are intentionally ignoring me - and if I need a seat, I will ask.

Steve Ginsberg: I'm sorry, reasonable people are not allowed in our chats. You sound too normal and practical. Don't you realize all we do here is complain and blame others for our misery?

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NYC Subways: In response to the traveller who just got back from NY. I moved here from the NY area, and I can't help but offer a differing opinion to this one. I'd HAPPILY give up a little bit of cleanliness for a system that runs 24/7, a system with express trains, a system that actually has stations within a 1/2 mile of MOST of the landmass of the city, a system that is designed like a city subway, as opposed to a suburban commuter rail (isn't that what MARC and VRE are for?) I do love the fact that metro exists, and realize that it's better than ALMOST every other city in the country. But it is only a small fraction as convinient as NY.

Steve Ginsberg: New York is definitely more convenient. We can only hope to have that kind of expansive system some day. Hard to find the people to pay for it around here, sadly.

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Baltimore, Md.: To the poster wanting to get to Baltimore from Capitol Hill: yes, the MARC train is great for avoiding traffic jams. However, if you are coming back the same night, be aware that the trains stop running quite early. (It is a commuter service, after all.) Last Penn Line train is 9:30. The last Camden Line train (the one closest to the stadium) leaves at 6:10 p.m. (That's not a typo.) You can get an AMTRAK train back, but only from Penn Station and it costs a lot more.

As for the poster who said stay in DC and watch the Nats...that's fine, unless you happen to be, say, a Red Sox, Yankee, or White Sox fan and want to see American League ball.

Steve Ginsberg: Thanks... and the Yankees will be here June 16 for a three day series. Please don't ask me who I'm going to root for.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm driving to BWI from downtown DC for the first time this week, and unfortunately, it has to be on Friday afternoon. Need to get there by 4, and too much luggage for public transit. How early do you think I'd need to leave DC? Thanks for your help.

Steve Ginsberg: leaving around 2:45 would probably give you plenty of time.

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spent a weekend in New York: Of course, the NY subway gets you practically anywhere quickly. But let's not quibble over practical issues when we can have suburban luxury liners!

Feh.

Steve Ginsberg: Our first "feh" ever!

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MARC-ing for the first time: Hi, all. I need to go from Union Station to Baltimore after work today. I know I'll need a cab to my hotel near the Inner Harbor, but which MARC line is best? Any input from experienced users would be appreciated.

Steve Ginsberg: Experienced users?

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going from alex. to balt.: ps--I'm not going to see The Orioles (gack!) the Sox are in town!!!

Steve Ginsberg: Like that's supposed to make us feel better. We here in the Roads and Rails chat pity the poor Orioles, but we despise the Red Sox.

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Re: Dunkin' Donuts: Steve,

It's not the donuts, it's the coffee! It's cheap and good and puts Starbucks to shame. I miss Dunkin' Donuts.

Steve Ginsberg: Alright, alright lots of people are saying it's about the coffee. So...it's apparently about the coffee.

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Washington, D.C.: Local color and pronounciation in Metro announcements is fine, but not when announcements are mumbled or slurred. Some clear enunciation would be nice.

Steve Ginsberg: I agree. Clear enunciation is definitely preferred. I'm just not willing to give up character because a few people can't pronounce L'Enfant.

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Arlington, VA: Yes, yes, yes: Steve Ginsberg: No, not more automation! What our city needs is more randomness, the kinds of things that add to the experience, even if it costs you a Metro stop or two. We want some personality from our Metro operators.

I LOVE the Metro operators who add random thoughts to my day, such as the one who said the other day, "Come on, folks, smile, don't let Metro do that to you..." I like the ones who lecture the tourists and the ones who add their own flourishes. I remember one of my childhood friends dreamed of becoming a Metro operator just so she could spread her own little cheery messages to Metro's ridership. All the unsmiling, humorless folks with their ears Ipodded up and their newspapers hiding their faces NEED it.

Steve Ginsberg: Sing it sister! (or brother!)

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You're awfully punchy today: Too much of that fried dough, perhaps?

Steve Ginsberg: Maybe not enough.

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Adelphi, Md.: I have a question for the chatters....I'll be leaving the Baltimore area on Wednesday for the Outer Banks. It has been suggested to us that taking 301 as far as Richmond might be an easier drive than 95, but we won't be leaving Baltimore until around 10 am so I am not really sure if that will be the case. I'm wondering if anyone who does the D.C. to Richmond route more regularly than I do has any thoughts on this.

Steve Ginsberg: That's a tough one. On many days you'd be fine leaving Baltimore at 10, but on many other days you'd be sitting for a long time in Springfield, and possibly elsewhere. So I don't know what to advise. I reckon I'd say take 301 just for the adventure you'll get out of it, but timewise it's a toss-up.

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more from alex to balt.: ...AND to all the rabid Nats fans...I have a 20 game pack too. What can I say, I just like my baseball!

Steve Ginsberg: Sure, try to get back in our good graces.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a pregnant wife and a toddler and I value being able to drive to her office and driver to daycare so much that I'm willing to pay for a $200 a month parking space and $3 gas. What can metro offer to make me change?

Steve Ginsberg: Probably nothing. But what's your point?

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Re: MARC-ing for the first time:: I'd take the Camden Line if you're headed to the Inner Harbor. It's just a two or three blocks away and taxis are fairly plentiful, plus, the Penn Line is a good fifteen to twenty blocks north of the Inner Harbor.

Steve Ginsberg: there you go

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Alexandria, Va.: Having lived in DC/Northern Virginia my whole life and also being a daily Metro passenger, are there really more Metro riders in Maryland than Virginia? I've recently wondered why Maryland has two lines (Green and Red) that start and end in Maryland without even going through Virginia? And Virginia has ZIPPY?!?! With all of the congestions on 395, 66, 50 East.....Why?

Steve Ginsberg: All of that congestion in Virginia is a relatively new thing, mostly coming in the last 10-15 years and well after most of Metro was designed and built. The proposed line to Dulles airport and through Tysons Corner is a recognition of that. Other plans, far off into the future, include extending Metro west on I-66.

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Springfield, Va.: "We here in the Roads and Rails chat pity the poor Orioles, but we despise the Red Sox."

Is that the royal "we"? I watch baseball. The teams you just named are in the American League, which is not real baseball. (I confess that I didn't appreciate how much better the National League game really is until the Nationals came to town, though.)

But for the people heading north to the city of National Anthem profaners, perhaps US-29 might be an alternative to I-95 and the BW Parkway? It has fewer lights than US-1.

Steve Ginsberg: 29 is an alternative, but I don't know that it's any faster.

And I'm going to disagree on National League ball being better. It definitely gets you home faster, but I can't count how many times I've gotten excited about a potential rally only to quickly realize that it will inevitably end when the bottom of the order comes up. The automatic out of the pitcher is more of an affront than the power of the designated hitter.

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Waldorf, Md.: To the Richmond driver, I would stay on 95. At 10AM on a Wednesday, you should be ok. There could be small hiccups here and there, but I would prefer that than all the stoplights on 301. That said, if your timetable changes, 301 is almost always better during holiday weekends or rush hours.

Steve Ginsberg: another thought.

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Baltimore to Outer Banks: Another possibility for this trip would be to go over the Bay Bridge and then down US-13 to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Then go west to I-64 and south to VA-168. The original post said it was to be a Wednesday drive, so I imagine there wouldn't be a lot of traffic on this route, and it's more scenic than the other options.

Steve Ginsberg: That's a good idea and should have thought of it myself being from the Eastern Shore and all. There will be some stoplights but little traffic across Virginia and Maryland's Eastern Shore. The ride is scenic too, especially if you like flat and open. And if you like fried chicken, you have to stop at Tammy and Johnny's in Melfa, Virginia. It's right on Route 13 and worth every oversalted, overfried bite.

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Driving to Camden Yards:: Just a heads up to the person looking for the best route into Baltimore to Camden Yards - 295 N is currently under construction and has 2 lanes closed just before you hit the city. So I would recommend taking 95!

Steve Ginsberg: That's a great point. I keep forgetting about this and have gotten stuck a couple times.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I can get to Camden Yards quicker than to RFK, thanks.

Steve Ginsberg: I guess you don't like Metro?

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Love the punchiness: I love this chat. You're fast, witty and full of good info. AND despising of the Red Sox!

Steve Ginsberg: Well thanks Mom!

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Chevy Chase, Md.: No more robot metro voices! Anyone else remember the Red Line operator who would announce, with unthinkable gusto at 7AM, "Gallery Place, home to Michael Jordon and your Washington Wizards"?

Steve Ginsberg: Remembering different Metro voices is the whole point. We want character, we want wit, we want some sense that the people driving the train live in the city we're in. We don't want automated nothingness.

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Alexandria, Va.: There really are plans to extend Metro west on 66? Didn't think such good ideas were even on the drawing board!

Steve Ginsberg: Don't get too excited about "plans." I can show you loads and loads of transportation plans for this region and I can show you just as many politicians who aren't talking about doing any of them.

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"The automatic out of the pitcher is more of an affront than the power of the designated hitter. ": I don't necessarily agree with that. Some of the Nationals' pitchers are actually pretty good hitters (look at Livan Hernandez having a successful appearance as a pinch-hitter last week, even though they lost the game).

Steve Ginsberg: Livan excepted, of course. Remember, though, that even the best DHs get out 70 percent of the time. There's nothing automatic about them getting a hit, but at least there's a chance. Pitchers probably get out about 90 percent of the time and there's just never any hope about it.

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Steve Ginsberg: Okay, chatters, that's all for today. Thanks for tuning in and sending all the questions. And remember, if you need me between now and, gasp, four weeks from now (no Memorial Day chat) you can find me daily on the Get There blog.

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