Dr. Gridlock: Your traffic and transit questions

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Robert Thomson
Monday, March 8, 2010; 12:00 PM

The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock, Robert Thomson, was online to take all your questions about Metro, traffic throughout the region and other transportation issues.

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Robert Thomson: Thanks for joining me today for our weekly discussion. We've got a variety of questions and comments on traffic and transit topics.

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Handicap Seat Etiquette: I've been debating with myself for a few weeks on this issue and thought maybe you could help me come to a conclusion. I had a shoulder surgery back in January. I just started strength physical therapy, my range of motion is 90 percent or so. I've been using the handicap seats on longer distance trips as getting the arm up to grab the bar is still a little difficult. At what point should I stop taking up a senior/handicap seat: when I'm 100 percent, when someone more physically challenged needs it, do I give it to an able bodied senior? I haven't encountered the issue yet, but have been thinking about it in an effort to be a conscientious rider. Thanks for your opinion.

Robert Thomson: I think the fact your asking the question is great. There are plenty of healthy people who sit there mute when a clearly needy person is standing nearby.Don't get up because you feel some sort of peer pressure about whether you look disabled enough to your fellow passengers. That would be the wrong reason.I have a feeling that when you're in the situation, you'll know what to do at that moment. Sounds like you have the right instincts.For the rest of us, I think, when in doubt, get up. But I do think it's fair for people who took the seats because they need them to assess whether they'll be able to stand for the rest of their trips. That's not an issue of, Do I need it more than this other person? It's simply a personal judgment.(Of course, anybody sitting anywhere in the car can give up a seat to a person in need.)

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Metrorail Evacuation Plan: One day while I was sitting on a stalled Metrotrain, I read the instructions explaining how to evacuate the car in an emergency. The plan involves manually opening one-half of the center door of a train car. As I surveyed the crowded train and the large size of some of the passengers, I could not help wondering how quickly 100 or more people, including some with mobility problems, could evacuate a possibly darkened or smoky train car through half of a single door.I suppose some safety experts have confidence in this system, but I have my doubts. What are your thoughts?

Robert Thomson: I think it's a good reason to await the instructions of Metro personnel before opening the door. Getting out into the dark tunnel has its own set of problems.In fact, I can't recall a time when passengers had to self-evacuate a Metrorail car. Usually, Metro can move the passengers to other cars, or drag the whole train back to a platform before evacuating it.Any historians recall a self-evacuation?

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Midcounty Hwy closed 5+ hours on Sat. March 6 ?: Do you have any detail as to why Mid County Highway was closed most of Saturday evening between Shady Grove Rd and Rte 124? I live in that area and couldn't get home.

Robert Thomson: No, I didn't hear anything about that, so I'm tossing it out in case one of the readers knows of it.

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Rail to Dulles: Dr. G, the last nine months have highlighted the significant design flaws of Metro. Things that immediately come to mind are the the inability to operate during snow and the lack of a third rail to keep the system functioning in the event of a problem with a train. Have any of these flaws been address as we spend billions to bring Metro to Dulles or will it just be more of the same?

Robert Thomson: No, it's basically the same system with newer cars.

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Traffic: I commute from north of the city and take 95 South to 495. On 95 they have those traffic signs that light up with messages. Why in the world do they insist on lighting those up every day? Traffic slows down to read them causing a delay where they didn't used to be one!

Robert Thomson: I don't mind if there's a message related to the traffic ahead. I like the recent addition on some of the I-95 signs in Maryland of distance and estimated time to a point up ahead. That's useful.What I don't like are the messages that have nothing to do with traffic flow, like "Report suspicious activity." As you note, messages often slow down traffic, as drivers try to read them. And worse yet, sometimes there are enough garbles in the message board to make reading extra difficult.

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SmarTrip upgrades: With all the recent attention on the budget crisis, I am wondering if Metro is still on track to introduce the SmarTrip upgrades later this spring (as they promised back in December). They have put these off so many times and for so many years now. Have you heard anything on this recently?

Robert Thomson: No, I haven't heard anything very recently, so I'll check. As you note, we're do for an upgrade this spring. It would allow riders to put the value of some passes onto the SmarTrip cards.Metro is likely to lose revenue by doing that, so in a way, it does relate to the budget problems. That money would have to be made up somewhere, and we already know that Metro must close an anticipated gap of $189 million between revenue and expenses for the budget year starting July 1.

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Your column in Thursday supplement: Sometimes this supplement doesn't list articles and page numbers at the start of the supplement, and you have to flip through the entire thing to find you. Could that be corrected? Thanks.

Robert Thomson: Yes, that's been pointed out to me: That Thursday's Local Living section doesn't have a table of contents. I'm very pleased to have a little headline on the cover of Local Living noting that my Thursday column is inside, but it would be swell to give readers a bit more guidance with a page number.(Thanks for following my Thursday column.)

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Metro Safety No. 1 ?: Just a comment. All the proclimations about Safety being the number 1 objective for Metro seem somewhat off base. It is supposed to be a transit system. Therefore, getting people from point A to point B is the primary objective, albeit safely. The frenzy over safety is certainly important and necessary in light of recent problems, but let's have some perspective. Otherwise, just park the buses and trains and no one gets hurt--or to where they need to be.

Robert Thomson: One of the senior Metro people -- I think it was Dave Kubicek -- noted that the safest railroad is one that doesn't move.In other words, we're never going to be 100 percent safe. But if you look at the federal report to Congress reviewing Metro safety, it's got to get your attention. Metro has a long way to go in reassuring riders that it's protecting us as well as humanly possible.I've got a few thoughts to offer about the safety priority:-- It's right that this should be the No. 1 thing on the minds of Metro officials and oversight groups.-- During his first press conference on Thursday, interim general manager Richard Sarles didn't say anything different about safety than what John Catoe has been saying since he came in as general manager.-- Safety isn't the only thing that Metro riders are concerned about right now. They're pretty sure they're going to get where there going safely. Otherwise, they wouldn't be riders. They're not stupid. They have a separate set of day to day concerns about schedules, crowding and conditions that they feel aren't being addressed.

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Living the metro life...: Dr G, Submitting early but I have two things my good sir:t time them better at MC to make sure people can be loaded on? Living the metro life in Virginia.

Robert Thomson: In a way, these comments follow on my last comment. When Metro riders share their complaints with me, it rarely concerns a fear that the train or bus is going to crash -- though that's certainly a legitimate concern.No, it's more often about what lots of riders think is an overall deterioration in service. Metro says it has not altered the number of trains in service or the schedules. But it sure feels that way to many riders.On safety: The type of safety issue I'm most likely to hear about from riders is not a concern about a terrorist attack -- though again, it's a legitimate thing to be concerned about -- rather, it's about whether their cars are safe in the parking garages, or they're safe returning to their parked cars, or whether they're safe when the school kids are riding the trains and buses.

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270: Can you find out when the bridge project on 270 north of 121 will be finished? Is it me, or have they been doing this for five years? AAAAAUUUUGHGHGHG!

Robert Thomson: I'll find out and post something on our Get There blog.

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Traffic flow mystery: Every afternoon around 5:30 as I leave DC via I-395 for Alexandria, I am amazed at the number of vehicles going the opposite way, heading into the city -- there is often a miles-long backup of cars creeping their way into DC. It's pretty well established that there's a morning push into DC and an afternoon exodus from it, right? So... why are all these thousands of cars heading into the city at this time? I know it may not be answerable, but I'd love any insight you might provide.

Robert Thomson: A lot of them are heading home to Maryland. They might work at the Pentagon, or in Rosslyn, or Crystal City. They go to work on 295, the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and the 14th Street Bridge, then reverse the pattern in the afternoon.

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D.C. meters: I'd like to know whether the imposition of Saturday and late evening meter fees in D.C. is bringing in the predicted revenue. I live in a neighborhood with residential and commercial buildings, but not much retail. Some parking spaces are metered and others are residentially zoned. In the past I have typically parked at metered spaces in the evenings and on Saturdays if they happened to be convenient. Now I drive around farther from my building until I find a residential space -- I don't park at a meter, though I see numerous empty metered spaces. I have noticed that outside the downtown core, a lot of metered spaces all over town just aren't being used at all at night and on Saturdays.In effect, residential neighborhoods have lost the use of metered spaces at off hours, but the city isn't getting any revenue from them. Will a time come when this idea will be revisited? If the city isn't making money why inconvenience thousands of residents? I have thought that a potential compromise would be to allow drivers with residential parking permits to park free at meters in their home zones evenings and weekends but require them to pay everywhere else. But I haven't heard that this might even be considered.

Robert Thomson: I heard the District is doing fine on revenues since the late night enforcement started in January. But that wasn't the sole point for the changes, which also included raising the fees for many meters and enforcing the parking rules on Saturdays in many areas. The new rules were also supposed to encourage turnover of spaces in commercial areas and ease traffic congestion.The District Department of Transportation can revisit the rules on individual streets at any time if things aren't working out for the neighborhood. In fact, I've found DDOT pretty responsive to such concerns. (There's also the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and your council member.)

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Rockville, Md.: Hi. I live near the end of the east side of the Red Line. I'd like to take my son downtown some days, but feel like I either have to leave at 6:30 or I won't get parking. Can you tell me if any of the parking lots on that end have parking available later in the day? Could I park in Wheaton Plaza's lot? Thanks!

Robert Thomson: Answering the midday parking questions is very difficult because Metro has no system for telling travelers about the state of fullness at the garages and lots. I can tell you one thing that I hope could be helpful: The Montgomery County garages near the Silver Spring Station never seem to fill up. But you either need a monthly permit from the county or you need to bring a lot of quarters for the meters. Parkers don't use SmarTrip cards there, since they aren't Metro garages.

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Roads vs. Metro: Mr. Thomson, It's time for you to officially change your name to "Dr. Metro." By my count on the Post's website, your 2010 columns are running at about 90 percent Metro train related subject matter vs. road related subjects.From Metro's own February 2010 numbers they carry on average 670,000 rail passengers daily and 450,000 by bus. When one considers an estimated 1.2 million auto commuters in the area daily, not to mention the "passing through" car and truck traffic, it's clear to me that the balance in your columns should be tilted toward far more concern for road related subjects. Such a shift is also supported by the fact that the vast majority of changes ("improvements" in transportation terms) for local commuters are occurring on the area's roads. Metro rail is a fairly stable transit provider -- the roads around here are anything but.In fact, our area routinely ranks second behind only Los Angeles as having the nation's worst road traffic. My point is simply this: you can provide your readers better service by increasing your focus on road commuting in the D.C. area after all "Dr. Gridlock" earned his name because of the problems on our roads.

Robert Thomson: I have a feeling that many transit users choked when they read that "Metrorail is a fairly stable transit provider."But I understand your concern, so let me make a couple of observations:I'm the Dear Abby of transportation. I respond to the concerns of my readers. Right now, more than half of the letters and comments I'm getting -- including the comments and questions on the chat -- have to do with Metro. But another is that Metro is really in trouble, in a way that the Maryland, Virginia and DC transportation departments are not right now.Also, I'm really worried about Metro. It's partly the safety issue, which is an acute concern, but it's also the day to day deterioration in service that so many people feel they are experiencing. I think that the state of Metro is likely to be the transportation story of 2010.That said, you're certainly correct in noting that most people around here drive. Those people are as important to me as any other travelers.

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Cameron Station to Navy Yard: Dear Dr. G and fellow chatters,I have to start commuting to the Navy Yard from Cameron Station (near Landmark Mall(.The trip up 395 seems like the surest shot, but I don't want to overlook the option of taking 495 to 295 instead. The 14th St bridge appears to be tremendously backed up every morning--would driving an extra 3 mi to use the 495-295 route be better?Thanks so much!

Robert Thomson: I apologize for not spotting this question earlier and giving readers more time to offer their opinions.Here's a couple of thoughts:If this is going to be a regular thing, then experiment with the different routes and see which is working for you. Play around with your departure time, too.And you might find that one way works best going to work and the other works best coming home.The Wilson Bridge has been tending to get better for commuters as construction progresses, while the 14th Street Bridge is in the midst of a major rehab project. So far, only the far right lane of the 14th Street Bridge has been blocked, but in May, if the timetable remains as I heard it, the lane closings will start to move out into the middle of the northbound roadway. That's likely to be more disruptive, even though there still will be four lanes available.

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Driving in the City: Will you remind your readers that the lines painted on the roadways have meaning, and are not simple artwork?! Every day I see drivers crossing solid lines to turn at the last second, in front of cars that have moved over properly. Also, what do feel about how one should act when there is an obstruction, i.e. road construction, that is clearly marked with signs/notices way before the actual obstruction? Should one get over as early as possible, immediately upon seeing the sign, or is the "go to the head of the line" mentality okay by you? Personally, after getting over as soon as I am made aware of an obstruction I do not typically let drivers over after I get close to the obstruction.

Robert Thomson: Traffic engineers split on the question of when to merge. I love to raise the issue in my column, because there's no right answer -- or at least no official answer -- and it lets us talk about all kinds of driving issues that people deal with every day.But here's something the engineers tend to agree on: Traffic moves more smoothly for everyone if you just let the knuckleheads in when they try to merge at the last minute. Keeping real close to the car ahead -- aside from being risky -- means that you're going to brake a lot. Hitting the brakes slows down everybody.

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Self-evacuating a Metro train: Weren't the rear cars of the train in the Fort Totten crash initially self-evacuated? And wasn't the same true for the Federal Triangle derailment in 1982 with much less instructions/precautions than are now?

Robert Thomson: Thank you. I'm almost certain you're right about Fort Totten but don't recall the circumstances for Federal Triangle in '82.At Fort Totten, you certainly can't blame people for acting on their own. The train operator was killed in the crash and it took a while for emergency personnel to reach the scene. Still, I'd feel safer inside the rail car -- as long as it wasn't smoking -- than I would wandering around the tracks, even the above-ground tracks.

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Commute from D.C. to Baltimore?: Hi Dr. Gridlock - I'm entertaining the idea of taking a job in Baltimore and commuting from my home in Chevy Chase. How bad would this commute be if I needed to arrive at the office at 8:30? Is 95 my best/only option? Do the MARC trains run north, or only into D.C.? Moving isn't an option right now, but could be in the future. Thanks.

Robert Thomson: I-95 has been getting heavier northbound in the morning. One alternative is to get off the Beltway inner loop at Route 29 and take that north. You could cut back to I-95 north at Route 100, among other places.MARC is not a bad idea. You can do that as a northbound commute in the morning. But that probably means you're going to start on the Red Line to reach Union Station. The drive might well be quicker for you than the combined Metro-MARC trip.

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Bus service reductions: Dr. Gridlock, Will you write about the proposed bus service reductions in Fiscal Year 2011 on Fairfax Connector? They just handed out flyers to passengers last Friday, and the cuts seem significant as they also intend to raise fares too. The flyer says it is caused by the discontinuance by the MWAA of $6.645 million in annual operating support for the Dulles Express Bus Service from Dulles Toll Road revenues. Most reductions seem to be around the Dulles Corridor. Why is the Toll Road allowed to discontinue the grant, particularly since road congestion on the Toll Road will get worse until the completion of the Silver Line? Toll users, I thought, assumed that a small portion of their tolls go to these bus services?

Robert Thomson: Good topic. Thank you. I will write about the proposed cuts and fare increases. Will do same for other suburban bus systems as well.

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Parade: I was at the St. Paddy's celebration in Old Town Alexandria this Saturday. We had to leave before the parade started. We got to our car over a 1/2 hour before the parade was to start. They had already closed off the roads (which was fine, should still be able to get out), but the police officers at the intersections wouldn't let us turn onto streets that were open. They only allowed us to go straight which caused us to take 45 minutes to get to the north side of Alexandria. I told my husband to turn anyway...what were they going to do, leave the intersection to run us down? In many cases the cops were worse than the lights. One kept forgetting about our street and skipped our turn to go twice before we got to go through the intersection. It was a total lack of logic and helpfulness.

Robert Thomson: I apologize to my readers for failing to mention this event in my traffic previews last week. I try to note the upcoming construction delays and the Metro maintenance projects, but I also look around for events that are likely to disrupt traffic -- and missed the parade. If anybody has a tip about an upcoming event likely to cause traffic congestion or just wants to ask for some more information about one, please e-mail me at drgridlock@washpost.com.

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Metro and safety: No, safety should not be the primary concern--it should be a given. However, the NTSB report detailed how Metro had no viable system in place for dealing with safety concerns and seemed to simply assume that trains would not run into one another. As we learned in June, that was a shortsighted attitude. It's a little like this--you want your car to get you from point A to point B, but if you never check that your tires are bald and one of them blows on the Beltway, safety is suddenly going to be very much top of mind.

Robert Thomson: And it's not just an issue of whether some people are getting careless. The transit authority doesn't have the structure to ensure safety and the necessary oversight isn't in place.

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South Dakota Avenue: Good afternoon Dr. Gridlock,I submitted last week, but my question wasn't one of the lucky published ones so I apologize for the repeat question. Do you have any idea what is happening on South Dakota Avenue, NE right before it crosses Rhode Island Avenue? it's been under constant construction for what seems like close to 12 years and it just keeps getting more confusing and time consuming to navigate.

Robert Thomson: I'll check on that. I thought there was some street reconstruction in that area, but my memory on it is vague. The most recent thing I heard about concerning South Dakota was a lot farther up, at Riggs Road, where the District is starting a reconstruction project this month.

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Metro's Ludicrous Security Announcement: Metro currently has an announcement in which its Chief of Security (or some such official figure) states "This is Metro's Chief of Security. In order to avoid DEATH, please secure all personal belongings...yadda yadda" Is it just me, or does anyone else find this announcement jarring and absurd? It's unfortunate because every time I hear it, it brings to mind each of the recent, unfortunate Metro-related deaths that have occured and I KNOW that not ONE of them was caused by someone's unsecured IPod or Smart Phone. Does Metro test or give any thought whatsoever to how these annoucements actually come across to the public???

Robert Thomson: I don't recall hearing that one -- and it certainly sounds memorable. One lasting memory I have of the Paris Metro is the Danger de Mort signs by the train doors.

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Snow Storm Sand: Doc,Who if anyone is responsible for removal of all the sand dumped on the roads during the snow events?I was recently in Colorado and saw CDOT trucks on the shoulders of I70 sweeping up all of the sand.Its going to clog up all of our streams if it ever makes it to the drains.

Robert Thomson: I'm not sure anyone is responsible for that in the sense of there being a deadline for removal of sand, but what happens in many jurisdictions is that the street sweepers pay us a cleanup visit each spring.

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Silver Line: Since Metro is having many problems providing service to its existing lines how do they expect to support the Silver line?

Robert Thomson: Well, that's interesting. Metro isn't building the rail extension to Dulles. That' s Virginia's idea and Virginia's job. Virginia will hand the keys to Metro in 2013 and Metro will drive the trains. This is the first time in Metro's history that it hasn't built a part of the rail system. There are plenty of operational issues that are unresolved.

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Slug lines on 19th street in the evening: Why are slug lines allowed to form on a major evening rush hour thoroughfare such as 19th St? I take the 3Y home sometimes, and its amazing how many cars are stopped in the right lane in the F/G St. vicinity....it really slows down traffic a lot. Can't people get picked up on cross streets and then turn onto 19th st?

Robert Thomson: I think slugging is one of the great success stories of our transportation system -- not that we have many to choose from. But it would help traffic in DC if we could have some more formal system for accommodating the afternoon pickups.

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Pedestrian safety: I'm still bummed out that so many county and city governments failed to plow sidewalks and keep them clear during snowstorms. I understand that homeowners and business owners are required by law to keep their sidewalks clear in most jurisdictions and there is the threat of fines. But does that apply to the city and county governments as well? Because they have failed miserably in that regard!

Robert Thomson: You sure can hold a grudge. But you're right. It's not like they're going to fine themselves. I also got many complaints about sidewalks and trails on National Park Service property.

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Parking in D.C.: Building on what the earlier questioner had said, I also live in a mixed commercial/residential neighborhood and have to drive around quite a bit to find parking on Saturdays, where it was usually available before. Non-residents can park in the zone spaces for free on Saturday, so, why in the world would they pay the District rates for parking?Did the District government even consider this? Seems like elementary unintended consequences.

Robert Thomson: I do think DDOT will respond to street by street concerns if the neighborhoods will let the department know about them. Changing the rules on particular streets would be relatively easy. It just means adjusting the street signs and the decals on the meters.

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Silver Spring garages: "But you either need a monthly permit from the county or you need to bring a lot of quarters for the meters." At least some of the Silver Springs garages have "honor system" machines that you can pay with bills or even credit cards. For instance, the one at 2nd Avenue near the Post Office.

Robert Thomson: There's lots of public garage parking in Silver Spring and several different types of payment systems. The area you're mentioning is a bit more of walk to the Metro station entrance, but still within easy walking distance. I've heard from people who forgot to pay or didn't pay the right amount to cover their time and got tickets.)

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Metro's budget: I like to understand why eliminating eight car trains can save Metro money.

Robert Thomson: Dave Kubicek, who's in charge of the rail system, says it would save on power usage and maintenance of rail cars.I think elimination of eight-car trains should be off the table. The capital program -- the Metro Matters program that all the jurisdictions contributed to for the past few years -- was in part based on a promise that in 2010 half the rush hour trains would be eight cars long.If that promise was worthless, why should the taxpayers contribute to a new round of capital financing?

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For "Cameron Station to Navy Yard": I would suggest learning the routes through the streets in addition to the highway routes. For example, I-295 is subject to backups just like other roads, and the 11th Street Bridge replacement work is likely to exacerbate that. If you want to take I-295, make sure you know how to exit at Blue Plains and then cut across to South Capitol Street or Martin Luther King Avenue in the event I-295 backs up. Likewise, if you go over the 14th Street Bridge, it might be best to cut into the express lane bridge, then immediately cut back across to take the Maine Avenue exit from the SW-SE Freeway and then take M Street across town.

Robert Thomson: Thanks very much for the advice on the Navy Yard commute. (If that 11th Street Bridge construction goes the way it's been described, we shouldn't have too much delay for commuters till near the end, a couple of years from now.)

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Regarding the "Roads v. Metro" comment: I know that as the host of the chat you can see our washingtonpost.com login IDs, so you know from my login ID that I drive a lot more than I take the Metro. However, I think people who drive shouldn't be as quick as the prior commenter to discount the importance of Metrorail. I look at it this way: The Franconia-Springfield Metro (near where I live) has a very big parking garage that is usually close to full on weekdays. Take all those cars and then add in those parked at the big garages at Vienna, West Falls Church, Huntington, and probably some of the stops in Maryland. Dump all those cars onto the road. How bad would things be?That's why I think it's important for drivers to recognize the importance of Metro even if we're not necessarily heavy users ourselves. (Another reason for the greater focus on the Metro is that, with the exception of the HOT lane project, the completion of the Beltway work near the Wilson Bridge, and the Intercounty Connector project, there doesn't seem to be much to report on with respect to roads right now, and there's only so much you can say about ongoing construction.)

Robert Thomson: Hi, regular and valued contributor.As you note, there doesn't seem to be any one big road project right now that's likely to dominate our conversation the way Metro's problems do. And you're reminding me that I get a lot of hybrid questions involving trips that combine driving and transit.But also, as you note, Metro is a huge asset to all our travelers, just by existing as an alternative to driving. The more people who give up on Metro because of the service, the more crowded the roads will get. (We still don't have enough telecommuters.)

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The passengers are the problem: I am one of John Catoe's peers in the mass transit management community. In fact, I pushed his candidacy to be named the Public Transit Manager of the Year for 2009 by our national organization. Fact is, John Catoe was the best thing that ever happened to D.C.'s Metro system. He understood that nobody gives you credit for the good things you do unless they know about them. So he beefed up the public relations department to tell the story about the successful Inauguration, clearing the crowds after the Fourth of July, and so on.The thing is, he can't control the passengers overcrowding the trains. He can't control people who jam the doors to get onboard. And he can't control passengers who think they're all that and try to talk to operators while they're driving the train. Passengers do those things, and you're going to have trains derail and run into each other. It happens. But don't think the "government" is going to have some kind of magic fix.Ultimately, it's the passengers who have to start shutting their mouths and accepting what they're given, before a good man washes his hands of the stench emanating from your customers.

Robert Thomson: I don't believe Catoe should have resigned. I don't see how that helps us. I do believe the thing most likely to help us would be an infusion of money to fix the transit equipment. (I said the one thing. Not the only thing.)But I have to disagree with you on this: Metro riders should never shut up and accept what they're given.

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Metro vs. Roads: "Metro rail is a fairly stable transit provider -- the roads around here are anything but."Ha! Clearly spoken by someone who does NOT ride the Metro.

Robert Thomson: I knew that particular phrase would get some attention.

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Merging: "Personally, after getting over as soon as I am made aware of an obstruction I do not typically let drivers over after I get close to the obstruction."If this were the rule, then why even have the lane that's ending? Essentially, the argument made above is that the lane that's ending should not be used at all. That doesn't make any sense.

Robert Thomson: That's a good expression of the argument made by man traffic engineers: Use both the lanes up to the very last moment. It works best, though, in traffic that's already slow. If traffic is moving well, and drivers run up to the merge point, hit the brakes and start looking for a place to move over, it's not going to move well for long.

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15th St: The geniuses in D.C. spent the money to put up digital signs about the conversion of 15th St. between K and Mass back to two ways...but didn't think to take down the yellow-and-black one way signs.

Robert Thomson: Be careful. The end of the one-way at rush hour system on 15th Street won't occur till March 15.

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re: Road vs. Rail: Wow, since he brought it up I decided to go through and see what your question breakout was today (as of 18 questions answered). You had 8 "Road" questions, 8 "Rail" questions, and 2 that can't be put in either (including the whine by Mr. Road v Rail). Keep up the good work, and when you take questions about the people clogging our roads, I'll just skip by them since they don't apply to me. Seems like the thing to do in a large complicated region like this. I don't expect you to deal only with my concerns.

Robert Thomson: I'm going to have to break away now, having lost all track of the time while dealing with many interesting comments and questions today -- questions and comments on what I think are a good variety of transportation topics affecting many travelers in our area.I'll try to be on guard for everyone's concerns. Write to me anytime at drgridlock@washpost.com, whether you drive, take transit, bike or walk.


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