washingtonpost.com
Dr. Gridlock tackles your traffic and transit issues

Robert Thomson
Washington Post Columnist
Monday, November 2, 2009 1:00 PM

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock. He was online Monday, Nov. 2 to diagnose all of your traffic and transit issues.

The transcript follows.

The Dr. Gridlock column receives hundreds of letters each month from motorists and transit riders throughout the Washington region. They ask questions and make complaints about getting around a region plagued with some of the worst traffic in the nation. The doctor diagnoses problems and tries to bring relief.

Dr. Gridlock appears in The Post's Metro section on Sunday and in the Local Living section on Thursday. His comments also appear on the Web site's Get There blog. You can send e-mails for the newspaper column to drgridlock@washpost.com or write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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Robert Thomson: Hello, travelers. Welcome to our weekly chat about all things in local traffic and transit. I see a bunch of Metro questions to start off with, but we can talk about driving, walking and biking issues as well.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Any info on what is the construction starting up at Randolph and Georgia near the Glenmont metro? Signs alert us that it will go on for months ... but I haven't been able to find anything about it.

Robert Thomson: I think what you're seeing are the warning signs about upcoming construction of 1,200 garaged-parking spaces for the Metro station. This will be a $26 million project, intended to relieve the parking problem there for Metro riders. Glenmont is one of those end of the line stations that routinely fill up very early on weekday mornings.

I know parking garage expansion makes many Metro riders happy. (At least, happy once the construction is done.) But I'm worried about how many more huge concrete parking structures we can build around the stations. Yes, they keep cars out of the central city. But the most sensible way to do this would be to collect commuters by bus and drop them at the stations. Or develop more densely populated communities right around the suburban stations so plenty of people can walk to the trains.

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20016: Dr. G:

Thanks for taking my question. Last Monday I was riding the Red Line to Friendship Heights (at 3:50pm). At Tenleytown the conductor made some announcement that I could barely hear -- something about Friendship Heights and Bethesda. Literally, a second later the doors closed and off we went. It turns out the conductor said that we were skipping Friendship and heading directly to Bethesda. This was the only announcement, it was barely audible and the conductor gave riders basically no chance to think about what was said, much less get off the train.

At Bethesda there were at least a dozen of us who got off and walked to the other side to take the next train to Friendship. I asked the manager at Friendship why the train skipped the station; her response is that sometimes "Central" has a train skip stations because it is behind schedule.

My questions are many.

-- Why do they skip stations? The trains (judging from the monitors) were evenly spaced; the trains weren't right on top of each other as sometimes happens.

-- Shouldn't the trains slow down as they move through the station? Every other time I have seen a train move through a station it slows down but this one barely slowed at all.

-- Why didn't the conductor start making announcements sooner? By this I mean that announcements could have been made at other stops (Van Ness, Cleveland Park) and could have been made as we were pulling in the Tenleytown instead just before the doors were closed.

-- How often does this happen? I can imagine the riot if they did this at the height of rush hour.

Yes, I realize that this is a relatively small thing. But I think it adds to the overall lack of confidence that seems to be building in Metro. For the record I am a big supporter of public transit and I'm one of the few people who favors increasing fares to improve on safety and reliability. But part of that reliability means stopping at all the stops and not skipping them because someone decides that those stops aren't important.

Thanks for all your hard work.

Robert Thomson: The most likely explanation for the skipped stop is the one the station manager gave: The operations control center does occasionally tell train operators to bypass stations if the trains somewhere along the line have gotten out of sync. They're either too close to each other or too far apart.

You might not necessarily be able to tell what's going on along a big stretch of the line ahead of you by looking at the electronic board on the platform. (There's nothing on Metro's service report for last Monday afternoon that indicates any special problem on the Red Line, such as a mechanical problem with a train up ahead of you.)

Metro trains can't do much stop skipping, especially during peak periods, because of Metro has just the two tracks to work with. But many riders do experience this. For riders up the line, it's a fine thing, but for those aboard the train who want to get out, or for those who are waiting on the platform to board, it can be very annoying.

The worst part is when you're aboard the train and you don't know what's about to happen, because the announcement wasn't made early enough or clearly enough.

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Bowie, Md.: Metro was going to get a bunch of stimulus money to upgrade, among other things, the PDIS (passenger display?) signs that tell when the next trains come. Have any been installed yet, and if so which stations? What do they do that's better than the usual signs?

I notice that the station managers have a cool ROCKS map on their Kiosk PC showing where all the trains are. Is Metro going to be giving the public access to this map on the new PDIS signs or on PDA's (now that my cellphone works in a lot of stations)?

Robert Thomson: I think this particular stimulus project -- upgrading the Passenger Information Display System -- may not be as sexy as you're hoping. It's a $2.5 million upgrade to the electronic displays we see on the platforms and in the mezzanines.

It will be the same system. It's just that a lot of the pieces and the software were getting old. The contract has been let, but the work isn't scheduled to be done till summer 2011.

I think what we really want to see is what the transit authority calls The Metro Channel, which will be a video display on platforms that is able to convey a lot more information -- especially in emergencies -- than what we're seeing now.

Right now, you can get information about next train arrivals at stations on your PDA by using the WMATA mobile site. There are iPhone apps that do that too. (There's also the Next Bus system tracking the buses.)

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Baltimore: I know I should write to the Vice President's office, but I hope Dr. Gridlock will let me vent on MARC and VRE train delays caused by Joe Biden. On probably a half dozen occasions since he was elected, the Vice President has caused some pretty significant delays during the evening commute at Union Station by arriving by Amtrak (presumably from Wilmington?). Limousines and SUVs block the train platform, people are prevented from boarding, the boarding area gets jam packed, etc. I applaud the fact that Senator Biden has been not just a supporter of Amtrak, but a regular rider, too. Now, however, when he must meet the demands of the Secret Service, I wish he would consider taking a motorcade to Delaware. It's not that far by car.

Robert Thomson: Normally, I get complaints from drivers about the roadblocks around town when dignitaries are moving. This is the first time I've gotten a transit complaint in that regard. (Oh, memo to self: I've got to check the date of the annual Christmas tree lighting on the Ellipse. That event, always scheduled for an evening rush hour, is really popular with my commuters.)

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Wheaton, Md.: I'm going to the Springsteen concert tonight at Verizon Center and plan to take Metro. The Metro website says "Normal events - at Verizon Center" are scheduled to end before midnight, allowing adequate time to use Metrorail. When the occasional delay or overtime game occurs, Metrorail service will be extended."

Are peoples' experiences that this is true? I prefer not to drive and pay to park but I'd rather do that than get stranded at the Verizon Center.

Robert Thomson: Thanks so much for this reminder, which we'll now share with all downtown travelers. Bruce and the E Street Band have a show at Verizon scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. (It's sold out.) Even with a Bruce show, that should leave plenty of time to catch a Metro train from the Gallery Place station below Verizon Center. (Or to walk over to Metro Center or Judiciary Square if Gallery Place is too crowded for you.) But it is likely to crowd the Red, Green and Yellow lines approaching Gallery Place, as well as the Chinatown streets around Verizon.

But have people been experiencing transit problems leaving Verizon?

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Springfield, Va.: What should drivers do when they are involved in a fender bender on the beltway where the Hot Lane construction is going on? Since most of the shoulders have been taken away, should the vehicles drive to an exit or to a designated pull off area? It is frustrating to see two people exchanging insurance info while they are blocking a lane of traffic.

Robert Thomson: I'll bet that's frustrating. It's a crazy thing for drivers to be stopped in a travel lane if their vehicles can be moved. It's dangerous for them and for other drivers. Plus, blocking a lane has a huge impact on traffic flow.

The HOT lanes project on the western side of the Beltway in Virginia has been good about keeping all through lanes open during peak periods, but the lack of shoulders in some areas can be a problem.

The most serious traffic issue I've heard about -- and experienced -- because of the HOT lane construction is the new configuration on the ramp from eastbound I-66 onto the Beltway inner loop. VDOT has tried to deal with that, and I think eased the problem somewhat, but it's still very congested.

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Arlington, Va.: Is Metro doing something that disrupts the yellow and blue lines in Virginia on weekday mornings? I ride yellow inbound from Crystal City between 8 and 8:30, and train scheduling has become very erratic the last three weeks or so. Often, we're seeing consecutive yellows 2-3 minutes apart, then a 10 minute gap with consecutive blues, etc., leading to a mix of empty and overcrowded trains. There are only two stops on each line before the lines merge -- why is this so hard?

Robert Thomson: I don't know of any work on the lines that could be responsible for this, or any experiment with the configuration of trains. Are other riders noticing the same?

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Washington, D.C.: Dr. G,

Love the chats. Love your work.

Could you please put in a note to Metro for me. Please, please please tell them to stop saying "it will be a few moments" or "we'll be moving in just a moment." They are always wrong. A few moments is two minutes, not 20.

If they don't know how long it will be, they can say that. It's ok. We're big boys and girls and we'd prefer to know.

Signed, Someone who wants to keep the word "moment" appropriate.

Robert Thomson: Waiting for a train to move, waiting for a train to approach the platform, waiting for a bus to arrive at the stop, waiting for the chance to merge into another lane of traffic ... these are among the longest "moments" of a commuter's day. They combine anxiety with a sense of wasted time.

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14th Street Bridge Work: Seems like there's more machinery/work on the 14th Street Bridge northbound. What's the status of that/what are they doing? An entire rebuild? Will lanes be closing?

Robert Thomson: They've got a lane -- the right lane -- closed now. It's been used as a staging area. When we first heard about this rehab project on the 14th Street Bridge, back in late spring, the scheduled called for work to move out into the other travel lanes by now. But the project managers reworked their plan so that the way you've been seeing it is the way it's going to be for the rest of this year.

That's good, because this is probably the least disruptive configuration for traffic. But eventually, they're going to have to move out and block middle lanes. (They'll always have four open to traffic during peak periods. But the open lanes will be in different places.

This is a necessary job, to protect the bridge. But not that much of the preservation work is going to be visible to drivers.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm headed to the Strathmore (on Rte. 355 in Bethesda) tonight from downtown (7th & E). Any thoughts on the best route? Mapquest says to head out to the GW Parkway and go up around the inner loop of the Beltway. Google Maps says go up Georgia Ave to the outer loop. Or I could take Wisconsin Ave. all the way.

Robert Thomson: I'd just go straight up Wisconsin/Rockville Pike. I wouldn't want to be using the inner loop north of the Legion Bridge during the late afternoon or evening. What a bummer. And I don't see any advantage in going up Georgia during the same time period.

Others?

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Somewhere in Md.: I got tossed off the train by the Secret Service lunatics when I refused to relinquish my seat for security concerns when VP Biden was boarding.

Told the Special Agent guys, "No I was here first," and she copped an attitude. Sorry, show me your creds and where it says I have to listen to you. Incident turned real ugly.

And I was correct, they don't have the authority to do that.

Robert Thomson: I think I'd feel the same way you did. But practically speaking, was it worth it?

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Christmas Tree: Thursday, 3 December. Yay!

Robert Thomson: The unhappiest day of the holiday season for commuters: The annual Christmas tree lighting.

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Chantilly, Va.: You referenced the I66/Beltway Interchange - any idea when this work will be completed? In its current congig its a true cluster you know what.

Robert Thomson: I'm afraid it's going to be like that until 2011.

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Tysons Metro: I work in Tysons, so I am awed and amazed at the amount of progress made so far on the metro expansion and hot lanes projects. It's sometimes hard to tell which is which (around 123 and tysons blvd).

Are the projects on schedule? ahead?

Robert Thomson: I believe everything is on schedule. And yes, it's difficult to keep straight which project is which as you're just driving by. The Metrorail construction has not had much impact on Route 123. That's off to the north side. It's about to have more impact on Route 7. There, the construction will be in the median. The service roads will be permanently shut and traffic will be shifted.

The HOT lane project shut the left lanes on Route 123 near the Beltway. Those will open again before the holidays. Then afterward, they'll close again. (That's about building the new Beltway bridges over Route 123 that are part of the HOT lanes project. It's amazing to see changes around there from week to week.)

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Dr. G, Any more word on the new "three purse" system for Smartrip cards for people with the transit benefits? My understanding is that the readers will know whether to deduct from transit or parking based on the type of gate you are going through. And I heard that metro faregates will deduct from transit first and not go to personal until transit is exhuasted. But I would like confirmation on that from metro!

As a fed employee, I'm not that worried by the new system because my transit benefit is not deducted from my salary. But I understand there are some possible glitches for people who set aside their own money pre-tax. Any word from metro on this?

Thanks.

Robert Thomson: Your understanding matches my understanding of how the SmartBenefits to SmarTrip card program will work as of Jan. 1, but I also would like to learn a lot more about it. My hope is that I'll be joined during next Monday's chat by one of the Metro officials who knows the most about the changes in the SmartBenefits program. As soon as we've got that locked in, I'll post something on the Get There blog to confirm it for you and you can start formulating your questions.

From what I know so far, I think the transition will be okay for most people. It means you won't have to line up at the vending machines at the start of each month to download your transit benefit. The transaction will occur at the fare gate, the bus fare box or the Metro parking exit.

The most confusing thing to me is what happens to the unspent benefits at the end of the month, when they revert to the employer. Even some employers don't seem sure.

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Bowie, Md.: When is the Minnesota Ave Station parking garage going to open? It's been built for a year, but it is fenced off.

Robert Thomson: I think we should be hearing something from Metro pretty soon about an opening date for the garage.

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Virginia: Recently I have driven the Maryland part of the beltway from the Wilson Bridge to 1-95. Am I seeing things, or is the posted speed limit really 55? If so, not a single car was coming close-most were driving at 65 or above. Does Maryland have any plans to increase the speed limit?

Robert Thomson: No. That's the most dangerous part of the Beltway. And speed is often a factor in the fatal crashes there.

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Springsteen tonight: On this tour Springsteen has normally been hitting the stage between 8:15 and 8:25 and playing for about 2 hours 45 minutes (some shows have gone longer). That puts ending time shortly after 11:00 tonight. Metro users ought to be fine.

Robert Thomson: Thanks. They're always great shows, so I hope travelers will be in a good mood coming out and heading for the trains and their cars.

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Robert Thomson: The question about the Beltway speed limit got me thinking about the new Maryland speed camera program in the highway work zones, like the one on I-95 where the Intercounty Connector will come across.

The Maryland State Highway Administration just issued this announcement about extending the grace period in the work zones:

The warning period for drivers who exceed the speed limit within automated speed enforcement work zones will continue for at least another two weeks. Since the pilot began in early October, more than 900 warning notices are in the hands of drivers whose excessive speed could have caused injuries and fatalities in highway work zones. Once the warning phase of the program ends, police will issue citations at a cost of $40 for each one.

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Verizon Events: Riders on the Orange and Blue lines may want to walk to Metro Center in any event. The overnight track work schedules start at 9:30 pm Sunday through Thursday -- this can mean a long wait getting a connecting red line from Gallery Place to Metro Center.

Robert Thomson: Good point. One benefit of locating a big sports and entertainment venue in the middle of a city (as opposed to say, where FedEx Field is) is that it gives people a lot more options for using transit.

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Downtown, Washington, D.C.: Ditto the comment on VP Biden gumming up the MARC/VRE commute at Union Station. Most recently last Wednesday evening, I think. I'm an Administration supporter, but come on. He has a helicopter and plane, for goodness sake. Or figure out some what to get him on a train with out closing all the platforms.

Robert Thomson: Got a couple of comments about the VP disrupting Union Station. Another one coming up.

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Biden: Is this post a joke? You live in D.C.! Get used to it. Plus, Biden is on the record as saying he takes rail whenever he can because he never really got over the fear of car accidents engendered by the one in which his wife died and his sons were severely injured.

Robert Thomson: We want them to be men of the people, until they start getting out with the people.

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Silver Spring, Md.: The message board at the entrance to Glenmont rarely says when the next train will depart which is the point of the board (instead of telling us what elevators are out in Virgina). It's time that the Metro started treating us like customers instead of taking us for granted.

Robert Thomson: I often get complaints about the amount of information being displayed -- though for a long time, people were asking Metro to put more information on them, and people generally complain that Metro doesn't provide riders with enough current information.

Last year, the signs were upgraded so that more information could be pushed out on them more quickly.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dr. G, I fully support your argument to develop livable communities where people can walk to public transportation. I'm a new resident of the Capitol View Historic neighborhood and would love to be able to walk either to metro or MARC, both less than a mile from my house, but can't because there are no sidewalks along Capitol View Avenue.

Attempting to walk that road would be a suicide, although, I regularly see people doing so. One of my neighbors described sidewalks as "controversial" and said it in a way that made me not want to question further. Do you know or how would I go about finding out more about why Montgomery County hasn't added sidewalks to this major road?

Robert Thomson: You're talking about Capitol View Avenue just north of the Beltway in Forest Glen? I hadn't heard about any local controversy over sidewalks. Generally, the addition of sidewalks has been pretty popular in Montgomery and our other local jurisdictions. County Executive Ike Leggett is a major supporter of pedestrian safety programs. His administration has initiated a bunch of improvements, but he says he's still not satisfied and wants more done.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Dr. Gridlock, Never miss a column. You're the best!

I have a question about the new IRS/SmartBenefits announcement. I am a Fed so I get a monthly allowance that partially covers my commuting costs on Metro and Ride-on. Usually I add about $45 to the Smarttrip card out of my own pocket and I always carry a balance on my card even at the end of the month. How will they be able to tell if what I have left on my card is from SmartBenefits or my own money? Or will I have to zero out my card each month?

I get the feeling a lot of people are confused and frustrated about this new change.

Robert Thomson: First of all, thanks for sticking with me.

SmartBenefits: Yeah, that is confusing. I'm going to try a couple of things: I've invited a Metro person to come on next Monday's chat and answer your questions. I'm also planning to write a Post Commuter page feature to appear in December and try to go over the whole plan and do some FAQs.

But basically, the money you add to the SmarTrip card at the vending machines is going to stay there. The transit benefit is going to be held centrally, and downloaded to your card each time you use the card. (It would work like a debit card, people tell me.) Once you run out of benefit money, then the card starts drawing from the money you loaded onto it at the vending machine.

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Alexandria, Va.: Dr. G, I'm wondering if you have any updates on the new roundabouts at Gilbert's Corner, specifically how well the redesigned intersection has been working since the final roundabout opened.

I don't get out that way too often and I'm never out there during rush hour, but I've followed the project with interest because I am a supporter of expanded use of roundabouts because they theoretically keep traffic moving better than red lights and stop signs do.

Robert Thomson: I love the VDOT roundabout plan out in Gilbert's Corner in Loudoun County. I need to get back out there and see how it's working since all four roundabouts have been open this fall. I'm hoping to do a Commuter page feature about that.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Strathmore--the Metro would be more efficient than anything. Wisconsin/Rockville would beat either Beltway facilitated route, but the problem would be getting to Wisconsin in rush hour.

Robert Thomson: Yep, I agree with that. But this sounded like it might be a special occasion where the rider already was committed to a car. If it were question of a routine trip, or a regular commute, I'd certainly go with the Red Line.

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PIDS: Why can't they have separate displays: one for arrival times, and one for all of the elevator outages, maintenance alerts, etc.?

Robert Thomson: I think we're stuck with this system until the transit authority introduces those Metro Channel video displays onthe platforms. They should be able to convey lots of useful information in a timely fashion.

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Avoiding Beltway into Silver Spring: Is there an easy way into downtown Silver Spring wtihout going on the Beltway? I recently moved here, but my mother is afraid of driving on the Beltway alone to come visit. She would be coming down I-81. When I first moved here we came down 81 to 70 to 270, then the Beltway. Is there a less busy/intimidating route that I could recommend for her?

Robert Thomson: No. I understand what you're saying. You're reminding me of a very interesting story my colleague, Katherine Shaver, did a few years ago about the trauma some drivers experience in driving on the Beltway.

Certainly there are alternatives approaching Silver Spring from the west. But every route I can think of that gets off I-270 and uses local roads, or gets off the Beltway early and takes local roads, offers it's own set of traffic jams, intersection congestion and left turns. I would stick with the Beltway as the least bad option.

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re: Strathmore: Google Maps has a peculiar affection for Georgia Ave. A couple of weeks ago it sent me down GA to get from the corner of 16th St. and E-W Hwy to get to Embassy Row -- which, that's right, had me crossing 16th once it let me turn off Georgia. If I'd taken longer to plan I'd have gone down 16th Street in the first place.

I think the least-gross way to get to Strathmore is going to be to go up Wisconsin the whole way, but man, it won't be fun at all getting through Tenleytown/Friendship Hts/Bethesda. Ugh. Why not split the difference and go up Connecticut? One exit on the Outer Loop shouldn't kill you, or if you don't want to go all the way to the Beltway you can cut over on 410 (but this will leave some of the Bethesda ugliness in front of you).

Robert Thomson: You make the good point about how all these driving routes have problems. About Google Maps: I generally find them extremely helpful. But it's interesting to see the variations among the online map services in plotting the same route -- and the variations between the online map routes and the route your GPS will tell you to follow.

One interesting thing I've noticed on Google lately is that the calculation will propose a route, but offer a couple of alternatives.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi, Dr. G--don't know if this is your area or not.

Who is responsible for the roads over railroad crossings? There is a terrible bumpy one in Forest Glen near the National Park Seminary (Capitol View Ave., MD-391). I've been over much smoother crossings in small towns around the country, and can't believe this is the best that can be done in the U.S. Capital area. Would it be a state responsibility, or CSX?

Robert Thomson: Any numbered road like that, MD 391, would be under the jurisdiction of the State Highway Administration. (That's two about Capitol View Ave today, isn't it?)

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Earlier this year the Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased the monthly transportation subsidy to $230. I believe this is supposed to last through 2010. Have you heard any talk of extending this? Thanks for your work!

Robert Thomson: Haven't seen anything about that yet, but once governments offer these things, it's rare they go away.

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Rockville, Md.: I've read with great interest all I can on the SmarTrip changes set to occur on January 1, 2010 but some info is missing. As I understand it, there will be three different "pools" of money on you card. They are work-provided transit money, work-provided parking money, and self-added money.

Questions I would like answered are: 1) When you see your balance after swiping your card, what is that? Total of all three or the amount left in the pool used at that time?

2) In what order are the pools used? For example, if I have $50 of work-provided transit money, $0 of work-provided parking money, and $100 of self-add money, and I go through the turnstile, does the metro fare come out of work-povided or my money?

Thanks for your time.

Robert Thomson: Thanks for the good questions about SmartBenefits changes -- thanks to you and to everyone asking them today -- and I'll try to come back with a polished presentation responding to them. But I'm pretty sure that the answer to your questions is this:

The transit benefit won't be stored on your card anymore. It will be downloaded as you demand it -- demand it by passing through a fare gate or boarding a bus, or exiting a parking area. That's what will be tapped first each month. When that's exhausted, then the money you loaded onto the card at the vending machine will start getting tapped. You'll see that start to diminish then in the electronic display.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Doc,

Has there been any more discussion of adding another Potomac crossing between the Legion Bridge and Point of Rocks? When this argument has come up in the past, the excuse from both Md. and Va. has been that building a new crossing would only encourage development and add to more strain on the region's roads. Yet if the bridge connects with VA-28, that section of Loudoun is already built out (for the most part). On the other side, Montgomery County has its agricultural reserve, so even if you built a 20 lane mega highway, there won't be development.

Given the strain on both the Beltway and U.S. 15, isn't this an idea whose time is long overdue?

Robert Thomson: I know many local travelers, and groups like the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, would love to see another crossing, but I've heard no serious talk of this in the past couple of years. The state of Maryland would need to sign on, and I don't see that happening. Also, our local congressional delegation would need to push for federal funds, angering the portion of their constituents who live along whatever the exact route turns out to be.

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In awe of Somewhere in Md.: I don't know if it was worth it for them to get tossed off the train, but I think it's fantastic when people stand up for themselves, possibly paving the way for the next person in that situation to not get harassed.

Nicely done, Somewhere.

Robert Thomson: Yeah, I kind of felt that way, too. "Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." Still, I don't want to get my travelers tossed off trains. They've got enough problems getting where they're going.

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Rockville, Md. : are there any updates on when the pedestrian bridge linking Rock Creek park across Viers Mill Road will be completed? Is it still set for September 2010 or has that been moved up?

Robert Thomson: Thanks for the reminder. I've got to check. That's certainly an eye-catching structure, isn't it? Looks like it could handle two lanes of auto traffic.

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Metro Communications: Any comment on the location of Tuesday's session? I can't make it because of a prior commitment, but in looking at Google maps, it's not exactly accessible via Metro. Glenmont plus a half mile or so walk? That's just asking the riding public not to come.

Robert Thomson: We're talking about the first of two forums coming up in Maryland where riders can talk with Metro officials about the future of the transit services.

The Montgomery County forum will be held on Tuesday at the Kennedy High School cafeteria, 1901 Randolph Road, Silver Spring. The Prince George's County forum will be held on November 18 at Prince George's Community College Rennie Forum, Largo Student Center, 301 Largo Road, Largo Both programs will begin at 7 p.m.

Neither one is in a real sweet spot for Metrorail, but there are some Metro and local buses that would help if you need.

I went to the one in Falls Church sponsored by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. It was about four-tenths of a mile from the Metrorail station, but the session was important enough that many riders who are disabled showed up for it.

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Robert Thomson: Travelers, I just looked at my clock and wondered if I had adjusted for Standard Time. You've asked so many good questions and made so many good comments today that I got completely lost and hope my producer isn't mad at me.

I've got to break away now, but will copy all the remaining questions and see what I can add to the Get There blog this week. (Ex.: Lots on SmartBenefits, a question about Thanksgiving travel, good responses on several themes from today.)

Every day, you can reach me via e-mail at drgridlock@washpost.com.

Till we meet again, stay safe out there.

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