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Eric Weiss and Lena Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 15, 2008; 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 inter-county 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 writers Eric Weiss and Lena Sun were online Monday, March 2 at 11 a.m. ET to answer your traffic and transit questions.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Discussion Archive

____________________

Eric Weiss: Good morning hearty commuters!

So you made it through the snow and the wind and the muck?

Or are you reading this in your p.j.s at home with a mug of cocoa, getting vicarious thrills from all those folks who had to fight the weather?

BTW, how is out there? Hit us with your comments, complaints and questions starting...now!

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Houston Bozo: I may still just be a bozo originally from Houston, but even I know a few things that a number of drivers are ignoring:

1. Please clean off your car. If you are 5-2 and have an SUV, get a broom. Your mobile blizzard machine is not helping traffic.

2. Turn your lights on. When blowing snow reduces visibility to a half-mile or less in places, being able to spot cars ahead and behind you at a distance allows for greater safety.

3. If someone is going 15-20 miles an hour on a half-plowed ice and snow covered street, passing them in the unplowed lane to the right while doing 40 with no lights and snow blowing off your unbrushed car isn't just moronic, it's reckless endangerment.

4. Watch for pedestrians. I hate that they're in the road too, but I wouldn't want to wade through six inches on an uplowed sidewalk either. Give the a break today!

5. Pedestrians: Be aware of your surroundings. Also? Sledding on a hill that drops off onto a street (I'm talking about you, man pushing your child down the Masonic Temple slope onto King Street) qualifies as reckless endangerment as well. I don't want to hit your kid when he goes flying over the sidewalk into the street.

Anyone else have suggestions, or am I totally off-base?

Eric Weiss: We know we are in trouble as a region when we start taking (smart) advice on snow from some bozo in Houston...

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Eric Weiss: While officials were patting themselves on the shoulder for snow removal, lots of folks seem to differ...

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South Riding, Va.: Where were the snow plows? I left home at 6 a.m. and can normally count on US-50 being plowed. This morning, it was covered with snow. Traffic was at moving around 20 mph.

Eric Weiss: ...like on Route 50

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Herndon, Va.: What happened on the Dulles Toll Road this morning? We got on around 8 a.m. and were fine for about 2 miles, then it stopped, and stopped and stopped. I didn't touch my gas again until the hill after Hunter Mill Road and there was nothing to indicate on the radio what was going on. Why didn't they open the Access road (which was completely clear, by the way...the whole way in) to people try to get to DC? Also, why was the Access road completely clear for the two hours we were stuck on the Toll Road, while only the shoulder of the Toll Road was plowed. I understand getting trucks out there, but get a line together and keep everyone else back. Clear the road but that wasn't what was going on.

Eric Weiss: The Dulles Toll Road is for commuters and the Airport Access Road is for airport customers. And the powers that be say never the twain shall meet.

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Alexandria, Va.: So. Should I try to get to work this afternoon or do I have a plausible excuse for staying home?

Eric Weiss: Depends on what you have in your Netflix queue...

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Eric and Lena. I want to put the word out to all my fellow pedestrians -- please do not cross against the lights or dash out in front of oncoming traffic today like you do when the weather is nice! It's a risky maneuver even in nice weather, but on a day like today it's insane. Today, near the Silver Spring Metro, I saw two people start walking across Wayne Avenue when their light was yellow. A metro bus was just starting to move and it honked at them to stay on the median and wait, but they just kept on going -- right in front of the bus. Luckily, the bus was just starting to move, and it was able to stop. Another person stepped off the curb as if to cross on a red light. An oncoming car stopped, not sure as to whether the pedestrian was going to cross, and the pedestrian stopped, and another car came in the other lane. She could have caused a multi-car pileup, not to mention winding up in the hospital, but instead, she just made a rude hand gesture and walked on across the street. Had she waited another 15 seconds, the walk sign would have been on. Please people, use a little common sense!

Eric Weiss: More advice from someone closer to home...

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NoVa: Hi folks. Just an observation here: It took me 1 hour, 20 minutes to get from downtown Silver Spring to Tysons this morning. I think MDOT and VDOT were woefully unprepared for this snowstorm. Major roads (E-W Hwy, 16th St., and Georgia Ave) were untreated. 495 was barely treated and only 3 lanes were passable. The nearer I got to VA and the Legion Bridge the worse got. I also saw SUV after SUV in the jersey wall; 123 was untreated as was Lewinsville Rd. I would be surprised if more than 4 or 5 inches of snow were actually on the ground. All in all, a 2 or 3 out of 10 score for local jurisdiction response.

Eric Weiss: Another report of not-so-good plowing efforts...

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Greenbelt, Md.: Do you think they dropped the ball on snow removal today because local media played this storm down last evening? Sure the conditions changed on them (and it was the windy variety blowing snow back on the roads) but it seems the snow removal effort got stumped by an "it's-not-coming... oh wait, yes, here it is."

Eric Weiss: Interesting. All the officials in the jurisdictions were bragging about how good their snow removal efforts have been.

Anyone who has had a tough commute and wants to talk, please shoot reporter Mike Ruane a line. He's at ruanem@washpost.com

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Washington, DC: Why does Metro have such a difficult time keeping the 70 buses running on time? I frequently travel between Chinatown and Shaw, and these buses always seem to come one right after another, and if you miss one, it is 30-45 minutes before another one comes. It is particularly bad going toward Chinatown (rather than toward Silver Spring). Where is the hang up occurring?

Eric Weiss: This is a chronic problem on some of the longer routes, such as those on 16th Street. Metro bus supervisors need to do a better job in separating buses that get clumped up in traffic. John Catoe, the general manager of Metro, is a bus guy and has been paying more attention to the long-neglected bus side of things at Metro.

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At work in NWDC : Good snowy morning! I drove in to work this morning, leaving Shirlington around 6:15 to get into NW DC. What, by chance, is VDOT's excuse for not having I-95 salted/plowed? Do they not work at night? I can understand (just slightly less) not having 110 cleaned, which was a mess, but, 95!? They knew about this snow for at 24hrs so I don't see what the reasoning could be. You plow the roads, then you have another line of trucks right behind it that drops heavy salt. Seems simple enough. The large amount of salt dropped and the increase of cars on the road warm the road, preventing it from cooling down and sticking again. Simple.

Eric Weiss: The Virginia Department of Transportation said they have been aggressively working the highways, including I-95. Perhaps the snow is just getting ahead of them.

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State of Dyspepsia: Is there some reason not to drop HOV restrictions on a day like today? My commute is through the neighborhoods of Arlington and McLean, on roads clearly not ready for much traffic, but with the restriction, people have no option to stay on better tended roads.

Your thoughts?

Eric Weiss: Pick up a co-worker or two and use the HOV lanes.

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Washington, DC: What are the rules for parking in DC under the current snow conditions? We all know that the parking attendants are itching to hand out some parking tickets... how can we avoid this nuance?

Eric Weiss: Don't park on snow routes. You can tell whether it is a snow route because there should be signs. They are generally major thoroughfares.

I wonder if as many tickets are handed out in bad weather. Any guesses?

_______________________

Gaithersburg, Md.: As a former Detroiter and seven-year D.C. resident all I can say is WIMPS! Suck it up people...I factored in a little extra time to walk to MARC and actually caught an earlier train. I hate how spoiled this region is...how do you think Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis function?

So my question for Lena is, federal agencies have yet to determine how to implement the higher transit subsidy...given I'm coming from Gaithersburg, it would really help me out, even if I had to use pre-tax to subsidize myself, but our agency contractor doesn't know how to do that. Where do I turn?

Eric Weiss: Is Detroit functioning?

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Arlington, Va.: I wanted to report an unusually positive Metro experience. Last week, I was on a Red Line train moving toward Shady Grove at about 5:30 p.m., peak commute hour. The train stopped at Gallery Place because a door wouldn't close, and the train conductor was asking passengers to help out to close the door. I noticed that the problem door was on my car, and I went to check it out along with another passenger. We couldn't get the door fixed, but within minutes a Metro mechanic came on and fixed the door, and the train proceeded.

I know what the consequence would have been if the door hadn't been fixed: the train would have offloaded and the evening commute interrupted for hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I just wanted to commend Metro for the quick handling of the situation. Sometimes I think that the headline news with Metro should not be how poor Metro service is but how much of a miracle it is that the aging system moves so many people each day without incident. I love to grumble about Metro just as much as everyone else but I felt grateful for the service that day.

Eric Weiss: Wow, that's great! Metro door problems is a system-wide problem. Maybe you should carry a wrench around--just in case.

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Germantown, Md.: I've recently started a new job in Northern VA and either had to take a day without pay or go into the office. 270 and 495 are horrible and look like hardly anything had been done to them. I drive an AWD vehicle and was skidding all over the place. I'm praying that things stop soon and the plows really work on getting these roads clear. It was a very scary commute this morning.

Eric Weiss: Shoot an email to mike ruane, who is working on our storm story at ruanem@washpost.com

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Rockville, MD: I live right along Shady Grove over by Fallsgrove, and it looked like the plows were coming by about once an hour or so this morning. I think they woke me up a couple times during the night.

Eric Weiss: Mixed reactions throughout the region...

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Arlington, Va.: Out of curiosity, did Metro extend rush hour service (or something like it) past 9:30 this morning to accommodate the delayed opening of the federal government?

Lena Sun: Not that I know of.

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Mountain View, Calif.: The emphasis should be on expanding mass transit everywhere. It is so pleasant to travel in Europe where a car is mostly unnecessary. The train system can take you most places you would want to go. So the question is, what is the plan in the stimulus bill for expanding mass transit and Amtrak passenger facilities?

Eric Weiss: The stimulus package contains $8 billion for high-speed rail. The president's budget adds an additional $1 billion per year for five years. There is also more money for Amtrak.

Still, we are never going to reach European levels of service. We like our cars here.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Regarding advertising and the need for revenue in the Metrorail system, does Metro have a time limit for any advertising that is placed on the various surfaces on station platforms? Thanks.

Lena Sun: That's up to the advertiser as to what they want to pay for. If the advertiser wants to buy three months worth of ads to plaster in the stations, on the pylons, on the floors, etc., they can do so. But that's a loooong time for static ads. Think of how sick you would be of looking at them. Many of the advertisers who do buy space now seem to buy in one-month chunks.

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Fairfax, Va.: So i thought the roads this morning were fine. I took route 7 to I 66 to 123. Considering it is STILL snowing and it is windy of course the roads are not going to be all nice clear. Just slow down and you will be fine.

Eric Weiss: Thanks for the advice, Fairfax.

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Alexandria Again: Lots of great stuff in Netflix stack and on TiVo. But my office is only about 15 minutes away...tell me the roads are dangerous and I must stay home!

Eric Weiss: Boo! Scary, scary! Hide under your comforter and don't emerge til dinnertime.

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Another Silver Springer: Storm Drains & Bus Stops, I think the sidewalk & curb at storm drains should be shoveled first. I always fear sliding into one. Also, I shoveled out a bus stop on MD 410 and quite a hunk of sidewalk leading to it. I also shoveled in front of my house, of course.

Eric Weiss: Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the quiet heroes of Silver Spring!

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Chantilly, Va.: It took me over an hour and a half to do my Chantilly to Gaithersburg commute this morning...over half an hour to go the 5 miles from my home to I66, because Rt. 50 wasn't plowed at all. I66 and 495 in VA were almost as bad. I saw one plow, blade up, that entire stretch. Almost rear ended the car in front of me because some idiot decided to stop at the bottom of a hill (I had left about 20 feet between me and the car ahead, and if I hadn't had anti-lock brakes, I would have hit them sliding down the hill from trying to stop).

Fairfax Co. needs to learn how to plow and salt when it snows. It snowed and sleeted off an on all day yesterday, and the sleet froze under the snow. The roads should not have been as bad as they were, MD was better, but not by much.

Lena Sun: Dear Chantilly: We are doing follow-up stories on the snow removal effort today and the reporter who is handling that is Mike Ruane. Please send him an email at ruanem@washpost.com and let him know how to contact you during the day.

_______________________

Fairfax, Va.: I'd have to go with the consensus here that the plowing efforts are not as great as officials would lead us to believe. I-495 through Annandale and Tysons was just terrible. The inner loop ramp to I-66 and the lanes through the I-66 interchange were completely snow-covered at 8:30. I was utterly surprised at the amount of snow on the beltway.

Eric Weiss: Interesting, especially at 8:30 a.m. on the Beltway. That speaks to the extremely light traffic this morning.

_______________________

Rockville, Md.: In case somebody's reading this out at WMATA, can somebody please work on clearing the area outside the White Flint garage? I saw multiple people (including me) fishtail in and out of that garage this morning because of insufficient clearing.

Lena Sun: Roger that Rockville. That might be Montgomery County personnel as well. I bet your walk up the hill to the Metro was no piece of cake either. The wind gusts are always much stronger on that walk.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I just want to take this opportunity to explain to the transients that "snow panic" is a beloved Washingtonian tradition. We LIKE the panic!

Even as an adult I still get a thrill from hearing on the radio "...Fairfax County schools closed..."

Eric Weiss: True, true, true!

One time they closed schools because a light wind blew some acorns off a tree...

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Oakton, Va.: I am supposed to be back at work in Philly tomorrow, but am wary of the snowy roads. How will conditions on 95 be tonight? You think I'm wise to drive back tonight, or should I wait till tomorrow call in a personal day?

Eric Weiss: Forecasts call for very cold conditions tonight, so I would be afraid of icing if driving home tonight. Call in a personal day.

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Courthouse: What's going on with the Court House mezzanine escalators? One is undergoing repair through April, the other is going up, and the third is, well, just stairs. I'm perfectly capable of walking down the immobile escalator, but I've seen a lot of people struggling. It's a long way down! Is this part of the repair or something?

Lena Sun: There's a place on Metro's website where you can check for the elevator and escalator rehab projects: http://www.wmata.com/rail/elevators_escalators/rehabilitation_projects.cfm.
There is one listed for the Courthouse escalator #6 that is listed to continue until april 2009. So maybe that's the one you're talking about. It started in December.

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S. Arlington, VA: Eric & Lena,

Native Metro Washingtonians are used to not going to work in the snow. We became accustomed to not going to school during snow and we are now accustomed to not going to work in the snow.

I arrived in my office at 10:30 a.m. -- only four of forty are here. But I least I made the effort - two miles is a lot of driving in the snow ;)

Of course, I'm getting kudos for coming in at all. But natives want to either play in the snow with their children or sleep in. We're used to it.

For those from those colder snow centers such as Chicago, Boston, etc. - enjoy your DC "I'm working from home today" day off.

Eric Weiss: It's part of our culture. It's also part of our culture for all the people from Minnesota to make fun of us. And now the President of the United States is joining in.

_______________________

Kudos for Metro: Had a shorter commute than usual today. Both Metro trains came within a minute of my reaching the platform (1 transfer) and thanks to all the suburban dweebs staying home I actually got a seat! Yay, bring on the snow!!!

Lena Sun: I had a smooth ride too. Except for the extra time to shovel out my long driveway, commute was easier than normal because my main streets were fine (and empty), the Metro parking garage had plenty of spaces, and I got lucky and only had to wait one minute for my train. And got a seat.

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Maryland: I'm getting tired of these comparisons with snowy Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, etc. Those places are flat as a pool table. We have hills and it makes a lot of difference.

Eric Weiss: Never considered topography, but I guess I agree with you. But I think it has to do more with practice. If you want to live in a city next to a miserably cold and windy lake, you will have more experience with snow.

Maybe we should start bragging about our miserable summer humidity.

On second thought, never mind.

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20190: Fairfax County Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive were horrible! I have a heavier car, and I was skidding all over the place. I didn't notice ANY plowing on the Parkway at 8:30 this morning!

Lena Sun: VDOT officials said yesterday that they were going to be plowing the interstates and major highways first, then move on to the other roads. Also, the storm appeared to hit later than forecasters had predicted, so the heaviest snowfalls were much closer to rush hour. And that always makes it more difficult for everyone.

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Washington, DC: Why do the DC speed/right-light cameras have such a bright flash? I live about a block from one, and it goes off at least 3 times an evening. Even with the blinds drawn, it is really obnoxious, especially when it takes me a minute to remember what it is. Is it even worth complaining to someone (MPD, Dept. of Transportation, etc.) about this?

Eric Weiss: They need a flash to light up the reflective background of license plates.

I would complain to all of the above.

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Snow Plow?: Why does VDOT not actually plow the roads?

All they ever do is put down a mix of sand and "salt", they never use the blades. On the rare occassion when the blades are down they are 2-3 inches off the road.

Treating the roads is all well and good (and needed), but actually moving the snow off the road works better.

Eric Weiss: David Buck of the Maryland State Highway Administration called up and made a good point intended for all those who are complaining about the non-plowing of key roads. He said that when it is snowing an inch an hour, it is difficult to keep up with. So, let's have a bit of patience.

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Woodbridge, Va.: I may be a native of this area, but I'm not a snow sissy. Thanks to VRE, I made it to work with only a minor delay. Suck it up, people!

Eric Weiss: Thanks, tough guy.

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Washington, D.C.: I was just on a Metro rail car with fabric seats; they seem like there will be substantial upkeep costs. Has Metro made a decision on their seats? I visited Atlanta recently and their MARTA system seems to have cars from the same manufacturer. They have plastic seats and flooring. I did not like much about MARTA, but plastic seats like a smart idea--durable and easy to clean. I am frustrated that Metro seems to make very bad financial decisions. Expensive, slippery tiles; a big expensive plan to (not) solve the deliberate bus bunching on the 30s line, when the simple solution would cost under $1000; rail car seating and flooring that is expensive and difficult to maintain; expensive studies on rail car design (for $5 I'd tell Metro the answer--bench seating on one side of the car, regular seats on the other--more floor space and more accessible seating). Sigh.

Lena Sun: Here's what I know: Metro is switching over to a new fabric seat. They haven't picked which design yet. There are several rail cars running out there with different designs. Depending on feedback from customers like you, and assessments by maintenance people on how well the new fabric holds up, Metro will pick one design to go with.
I've been on the MARTA system and didn't think it particularly attractive and the days I was there, the station platforms were strewn with trash.
On the platform tile: Yes, definitely slippery and dangerous. And the six-sided tile is expensive. I seem to recall Metro officials saying they will switch to cheaper four-sided tile (in the same color) when they run out of this kind and when they redo and rehab entire station platforms.

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Crystal City, Va.: They must have extended rush hour. I caught a Yellow line to Mt. Vernon Square at 9:40 a.m. this morning, and the last train to Mt. Vernon usually comes by 9:05. After that they're all Ft Totten. Yea for longer rush hours!

Lena Sun: You just got lucky. They did not extend rush hour.

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Fairfax county: for the person complaining about Fairfax county's plowing abilities, its actually VDOT that handles all the counties streets and roads. Makes me wonder if the counties took care of it if it would be any better?

Anyway, everyone should keep in mind its WINDY out there. We shoveled out sidewalk this morning and it was snowed over within 15 minutes; did not look shoveled at all...

Eric Weiss: I think you hit on the major problem with this storm--the wind.

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Falls Church, Va.: Route 7 from Tysons to Falls Church was a mess, even at 10:30! This is a major road; I'd hate to see what the neighborhoods are like (I live right off of Route 7). I agree with my fellow Virginians that VDOT has fallen behind on the job. And I'm also one of the few who actually made it in to work today (downtown).

Eric Weiss: See above.

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Successful commute from alexandria at 7:30am: I made it into work only 1/2 hour later than normal and that was due to my reluctance to stand at the bus stop in the driving-yes it was driving-snow. But my dash bus was on time,despite getting stuck twice and a some sliding incidents and the trains were running despite -- yes again the driving snow.

Lena Sun: Good for you. And good for the DASH bus.

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Kingstowne, Va.: I work in DC and didn't have trouble getting to work - it just took a LONG time. I walked to the metro. Manchester Lakes Blvd/Franconia-Springfield Pkwy was AWFUL. It looked like it hadn't seen a plow in a very long time.

I got on a Franconia and decided to stay on the blue, rather than switch to yellow as usual since the sign said there were delays on the yellow. Things were fine until Arlington Cemetery where we just stopped for a while. Then we limped into Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. Next, we sat at the platform at Farragut West with the doors open for about 15 minutes. Apparently a train died at Federal Triangle. So, in the end it took me 1h and 40m to get to work.

It sounds like there were train breakdowns all over the metro system today. Do you think it's weather-related or the usual woes that we just notice more on days like this?

Lena Sun: There seem to have been a bunch of breakdowns and malfunctions today. I see there are still problems on the Blue Line.

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Detroit/Gaithersburg: The Detroit metropolitan area functions better in snow than the federal government functions any day of the year. How's that for snark?

Now how about addressing my question about the federal transit subisdy and getting my Agency to figure out how to do pre-tax contributions?

Lena Sun: Hey, I went to high school and college in upstate New York so we know about snow. What was your question about the federal transit subsidy? It went up from $120 to $230 as of Sunday. For many people who use Metro's SmartBenefits program, the allocation needs to be done this month so the transit benefit can show up on the SmarTrip cards next month.

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Rockville, Md.: Tell all the knuckleheads from the NE and midwest, that it all has to do with BUDGET!

The city of Chicago has a higher snow budget than the entire state of Maryland. that makes it easy to buy the plows, buy the salt, and pay the people to use them.

And I was born and raised just north of Boston. I know about snow. People drive the same in all regions - it just that our area doesn't allocate the money to snow removal. Nor should it, considering we only get these storms once every three years.

Lena Sun: More on the snow debate.

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Alexandria, Va.: I too want to shout-out to the Dash Bus. Not only was it running no more than 10 minutes behind today and by 8:20 am, it was on time, but it always runs on time (i.e. no more than 5 min. past the scheduled time, you have to give some leeway to traffic) and the drivers are nice. My Dash bus driver today made a special effort to get really close to the curb to make it easier for people to get on and off the bus with out sliding.

Lena Sun: Another shout-out for the Dash bus.

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Alexandria, Va.: What is the Park Service's problem. On the GW Parkway, just south of the Beltway, an eagle's nest has been a source of interest for residents and commuters. Drivers frequently would pull onto a large gravel parking area, used for years by traffic cops, lost motorists and snoozing bus drivers. But, last week, the park service put up ugly fencing and barricades to keep people from using the spot. Not only did it create an eyesore, it's created a dangerous situation where people now slow down and look at the eagles while they're driving; or else, they park at the Belle Haven park and try to cross the parkway by foot. This seems more dangerous than the situation they were trying to correct. Do you know why the Park Service took this action? Who do we complain to about this (besides you!)?

Lena Sun: Did you try calling the National Park Service? Their office of communications and public affairs is at 202-208-6843.

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Arlington, VA: Regarding lack of snow plows. Face it, we are on the "snow line". Snow is still a rare event in this part of the country. We save money by NOT being able to handle every big snow event. Only when it starts being a cost liability will the governments increase funding. Getting days off from work are a sweet bonus too!

Lena Sun: You are supposed to be working from home today!

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I hate how spoiled this region is...: and the region doesn't like you either. Go back to Detroit.

Lena Sun: No need to get nasty out there.

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Washington, DC: Do you think the HOV restrictions on 66 will be in effect this evening? Please say no.

Eric Weiss: I'll say 'no' if you want, but that wonn't prevent you from getting a ticket because the HOV restrictions will very much be in force...

_______________________

Let's hear it for the non drivers who made it into work!: You never see reports on how miserable it is to wait for a bus or at an outdoor metro station, walk on an unshovled sidewalk or unplowed street and skating along icey pavement. Just what was plowed, not plowed. Give us walkers, bus riders and train riders some love!

Eric Weiss: XOXO

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Thank Goodness for Neighbors: Between three neighbors and two teenagers our road is plowed, John Deere and lots of pushing, the trees that have fallen onto the roads have been chainsawed and drug into the woods and we pulled together our collective rock salt and sprinkled the road. Not sure when if ever the county plans to help us but clearly folks around here know not to wait for the government just do it themselves. SO strange after years of city living where everything was just done for you and if not you just complained.

Eric Weiss: What city did you live in where "everything was just done for you"?

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Det/DC: Lena, my federal agency gave us an additional $5 for Smartbenefits this month. When I inquired about pre-tax withholding, the contractor who handles our Smartbenefits said "What?" I know it went up to $230 and I could desperately use the Transit Link pass, but my Agency does not know if they will increase the amount we can get nor does the contractor know how to address pre-tax withholding for me to do it myself. Where do I turn?

Lena Sun: I think you may have emailed me already about this. Send me a message to my email, SUNL@washpost.com and tell me the name of your agency. If I can't answer it, I'll forward to Joe Davidson, who is supposed to be looking out for your federal workers.

_______________________

Arlington, VA: The comment about the hills is correct. The DC area is a valley carved out by the Potomac.

Our bus driver used to make us get all one side of the bus when she got stuck in a ditch.

Eric Weiss: Teamwork at its finest.

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Upper Marlboro, MD: Hi! We got lots of nice snow overnight and again this morning. What's your recommendation: shovel the long driveway or let the snow stay? I park in the garage, so the car's fine. There's a bit of a hill to my driveway and if it ices up I can't get up to the garage. If I leave the snow will I avoid the ice? Thanks!

Eric Weiss: Oy! Such problems!

The smart answer is shovel and then apply some salt or sand on the hill. Or you could just crawl under the comforter and hope for the best.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Come on Lena!! Trash on the Marta platform has NOTHING to do with whether Metro should pick a plastic seat over fabric. And the appearance of the seats matters less than cost, especially for a system that seems to perpetually have budget issues (even after repeatedly raising fares to address budget shortfalls).

Lena Sun: I agree with you. That was just my observation about the MARTA system. If riders out there let Metro know you want a plastic seat rather than something soft for the tushy, by all means, let Metro know. Would save a ton of money.
But Metro has been reluctant to do that because riders have protested in the past.

_______________________

DC: DC did a great job, roads were slushy this morning, but to be expected. Sidewalks were piled up with snow, also to be expected. I got to work ON TIME by way of the metro bus, that came on time, and was perfect.

Yes, everyone needs to toughin up, and stop tryin to get out of a day of work.

Eric Weiss: Kudos for the District!

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Reston, VA: Clearly officials were caught off guard by the 5 am - 8 am blizzard out here in Fairfax/Loudoun counties. The roads were unbelievably bad around 8.

Oh, and to add on to Houston's list...if you have a rear-wheel drive 2 seater BMW convertible coupe, it's probably not going to get you where you need to go when there are multiple inches of snow on the roads. Better to stay at home rather than make a hazard of yourself.

Eric Weiss: VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris agrees that conditions were terrible at 8 this morning. But that wasn't because VDOT didn't pretreat the roads and plow. It was because the snow was too fast coming down.

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Lena Sun: Okay folks. My arms are kinda tired from shoveling out my driveway this morning so we're signing off. Watch out for freezing temperatures that will make for icy conditions on the sidewalks and roads on your commute home. See ya next time.

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