Dr. Gridlock: Your traffic and transit questions

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Robert Thomson
Monday, April 12, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Robert Thomson: Welcome, travelers. Traffic was so calm this morning in downtown DC, despite the street closings and motorcades for the nuke summit. I think many commuters just stayed home. Anyone have trouble this morning?I see some questions that I want to post early because they would benefit from your comments.

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Summit parking issues?: I'm driving from Arlington into DC tonight (Monday) for a 7 pm appointment at 24th and M, NW. I'm hearing there are parking restrictions in that area due to the summit. Is this true? The map on the washington post website doesn't show anything this far west. I'm expecting traffic problems to fan out into this area but I don't understand why parking would be restricted so far from the event. Thanks.

Andrea Caumont: LIVE MAP: Real-time incident reports on the nuclear summit.

Robert Thomson: I know there are some parking restrictions outside the Mount Vernon Square security zone. For example, I saw some meters posted with signs along L Street NW. But I haven't heard of restrictions around 24th and M. Have others noticed restrictions in that area?I walked along many downtown blocks this morning and noticed a remarkable amount of street parking available. Lots also had plenty of spaces and I did not see any garage full.

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Behavior of DDOT trucks: When driving on Rhode Island Avenue on Sunday, I ran across a convoy of DDOT asphalt trucks, honking their horns and running red lights, ambulance-style.I suppose that it's important for the asphalt to be delivered and used quickly before it cools...but is it really safe for non-emergency vehicles to be running red lights in DC without the lights or sirens?

Robert Thomson: I have a feeling those trucks didn't have asphalt in their beds. Here's what I'm thinking: While walking around the perimeter of the summit security zone this morning, I noticed that several streets were blocked by DC trucks with their truckbeds full. My thought was they were loaded up to make them heavier, and more difficult to move if rammed.Maybe those trucks were heading toward Mount Vernon Square on Sunday?I know that DDOT trucks do deliver hot asphalt to pothole patching sites at this time of year, but I'm not used to seeing them in a convoy such as you describe.

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rush hour traffic snarls: I know this comment is going to seem political, but it is really more practical in nature. There are constant complaints about lack of sufficient police to help with rush hour traffic problems, such as blocking the box. But extra police costs money to the District which has plenty of other important needs for police (such as crime prevention) and yet the District cannot get tax revenues from the Maryland and Virginia commuters who want DC services such as extra police help with downtown traffic snarls. So one solution is to add a $2 tax to parking on weekdays to help with traffic and then those who will benefit directly from the service are those paying for it. Also, keep in mind that downtown parking in DC is cheap compared to other big cities (e.g., $40 in NY). And if a few more commuters opt for public transportation if parking costs go up a bit, well that's a good thing, too.

Robert Thomson: When I left New York City in 1988, parking in midtown Manhattan was costing me $20 a day. So I was amazed at how cheap the garages in DC were -- and it's still true. Parking in downtown DC has gone up just a few dollars since then.I think if the District said it was going to increase the tax on parking for the specific purpose of adding more traffic control officers, many drivers would be okay with that. We most certainly need more traffic control officers. They're spread too thinly among the downtown intersections.

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Traffic Lights at the Lincoln Memorial: Hello Dr. Gridlock, What is up with the lights at the Lincoln Memorial? There are two lights on the north side. Both are on Henry Beacon Dr. When leaving the city toward VA, the first light is for a crosswalk and the second light (only a few feet away) is at 23rd Street. The lights are always out of sync in the evening so that traffic backs up on Henry Beacon Dr. and eventually blocks traffic Constitutional Ave. Less of a problem, but also anoying, is that sometimes as early as 6:45 in the morning, the light will turn red at the tourist crosswalk and there is nobody in the crosswalk. Can DDOT do someting about these lights especially during evening rush hour? Thanks.

Robert Thomson: During my first summer as Dr. Gridlock in '06, I got a lot of complaints about the traffic signals on the north side of the Lincoln Memorial. I saw it was true what drivers were saying: The lights at 23rd Street and at Bacon Drive were going red when no pedestrians were present. The District adjusted the timing and things seemed to go better. I hadn't heard many complaints about the area since then. Have other drivers had a problem lately?

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Nuc Talks: Why is this summit being held in DC during the tourist season? Obviously the Obama admin doesn't care about DC area residents or folks who work in the area. I wasn't aware that our form of govt had changed to a dictatorship where the voters and the workers lives don't mean squat. Couldn't they have had this summit in some out of the way place? The Obama administration is a bunch of arrogant over educated liberals! Shame on them!

Robert Thomson: As far as I could tell from riding Metrorail and walking along many of the downtown street this morning, we had very little difficulty accommodating the summit. That could change in the next day and a half, but we were certainly off to a good start.It does not seem odd to me that Washington, DC, would host a world summit, tourist season or not. Do others think this is a weird thing to happen in Washington?

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Wilson Lane/Bradley light (not summit-related): Dr. Gridlock,This has nothing to do with the summit traffic (although I'll note my commute could not have been easier this morning), but with a traffic light that drives me crazy. I may be the only one, but I'll ask anyway. The offending light is at the intersection of Wilson Lane and Bradley in Bethesda. I drive Wilson Lane at all sorts of funny hours b/c of sports practice schedules. I wonder why the light, outside of rush hours, couldn't be fitted with pressure sensors to change the signals. For example, at 4:30am (yes, yuck, practice for some sports is really obscenely early) you can sit at the light for what feels like hours, but is certainly several minutes, although there is no traffic at all crossing on Bradley. It is set for a long cycle each way and it would be nice to keep traffic moving at lower traffic periods.BTW thanks for your work in keeping us all informed on traffic and transit issues.cheers,Chevy Chase MD

Robert Thomson: set up a system that responds to traffic demand at off hours. The types of senors I routinely see around here are not pressure plates but rather electromagnetic circuits that are broken by the presence of a vehicle. I'm not sure what it costs to modify an intersection in that way.

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Chain Bridge Approach: Since last week, the approach to Chain Bridge from N. Arlington in the mornings has been awful. Traffic has been backing up on Military Rd before the turn onto Glebe where it hasn't before.It seems that the traffic light syncing is off somewhere. At first I thought it might have been the intersection at N Glebe and Chain Bridge Rd but after a week or so it looks like that timing is the same, but the first half of the cycle the bridge is full ahead and thus cars on Glebe must wait for space to clear up on the bridge. Once it clears up only about 1/2 the cycle is left. After that, cars from Chain Bridge Rd have a clear ride their whole cycle and then fill up the bridge, with the process repeating over and over, adding 15-20minutes additional time to the usual delay due to construction.I'm thinking the problem might be with the syncing between the two lights at either end - one DDot and one VDot. Dr Gridlock, have you heard about this issue from anyone else stuck in this every morning? Can you talk to your contacts on this project?Thanks

Robert Thomson: I have heard from several travelers who say they've encountered unusual delays lately at Chain Bridge. I mean delays worse than the ones they've been experiencing since the rehab project started last spring and the third lane was taken away. There was a point early on when the lights were adjusted to match the new traffic pattern and that did seem to ease things a bit. But I'm asking DDOT if something has happened lately to make the traffic situation worse.

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Commuting: Starting May, I am going to be commuting from the Greenspring area of Baltimore to Dupont Circle in Washington DC, what is the best route? Is it better to drive or to take the train?

Robert Thomson: For that trip, I'm thinking MARC. On a drive, you've got several places along 95 and the Capital Beltway where you're going to get very annoyed. Then within DC it's going to be a slog to reach Dupont Circle. With MARC, it's the train to Union Station and then transfer to the Red Line to reach Dupont Circle.Anybody with another view on that trip?

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Arlington VA: I don't know if this was VDOT, Arlington County, or the DPW, but there was a variable message sign on Route 50 West (near Courthouse) warning drivers to "EXECT DELAYS"

Robert Thomson: First thing I'm thinking of is that VDOT or the county might have placed variable message boards to warn about the delays we expected in downtown Washington today because of the nuke summit. Those delays did not materialize -- perhaps because people saw the signs and other warnings during the past week.

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Summit Schmummit!: I did not notice a single motorcade or traffic tie up this morning on my way to work in DC. It seems the summit traffic had no effect at all. Of course, I was on my bike on the Mount Vernon Trail.Actually, I was expecting to see an increase in bike commuters, between the summit and the beautiful weather. It looked like a normal day on the trail.

Robert Thomson: It was a great morning to be biking or walking in dowtown DC. Everyone seemed so calm. I did see one motorcade coming south on 14th Street NW near Franklin Square, but there was so little traffic, the motorcade didn't seem very disruptive.Hope it stays that way, but there could be a lot more motorcades this afternoon while people are heading home.

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Washington, DC: The Red Line had 8-car trains this morning, for the first time in what has seemed like months. Did Metro decide that the summit warranted 8-car trains, but the Cherry Blossom/baseball/hockey/spring break influx did not, despite the crush of crowds?

Robert Thomson: When Metro was raising money from local governments for its capital budget, it promised that the money would ensure that half the trains at rush hour would be eight cars long. That never happened. And now, Metro is talking about eliminating eight-car trains competely at rush hour because of its budget problems. That shouldn't be on the table.But I'm not aware of Metro making any changes in the trains because of the summit. (Metro did announce plenty of other adjustments, mostly with the buses.)I haven't noticed any more or any fewer eight-car trains in regular service during the past several weeks.

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Olney, MD: My federal agency encouraged us to telecommute if it was feasible with our workload, and even though I take the red line downtown and didn't anticipate any problems, I chose to telecommute. I'm getting a lot done and hope to do it more often. I attended a town hall on telework for the federal government last week and am hopeful that more agencies will develop policies for increased telecommuting. I'm sure it helped smooth out the commute for everyone who needed to get in today. And it helped me continue to work during Snowmaggedon as well.

Andrea Caumont: Poll: D.C. area traffic still taking a toll on workers (Post, April 12)

Robert Thomson: I think the main obstacle to telecommuting is bosses. They're not sure if we're working if they can't see us. That has to change. Telecommuting can't be just for special occasions, like the nuke summit.

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How about some good news for once?: I just stumbled across this Delaware DOT press release and thought you might like to hear about it, given that the notorious tollbooth near Newark is the bane of many DC-area motorists driving north. Work is about to begin on the Express E-ZPass lanes!

Robert Thomson: Thanks, this is great news for many travelers from the DC area who must deal with the notorious backups at the Delaware tolls on I-95. I notice the work won't be done till mid-2011, though. Sounds like we'll be dealing with one more summer and one more Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.

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24th and M: I walked by this area this morning and the Ritz Carlton is crazy with delegation cars etc. Even if there aren't official restrictions, I wouldn't be surprised if it was nearly impossible to find parking in the neighborhood.

Robert Thomson: Thanks for this response to our earlier questioner coming into DC this evening.

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Traffic: Re. the comment about the increase to parking fees as an incentive for people using public transportation....I just have to wonder...Metro can barely handle the crush of commuters that it has now. If more people take public transport, how can we possibly expect Metro to handle it in its current state?

Robert Thomson: I think you're right to worry about how many more people Metro can handle. But I doubt the increase in a parking tax for the sake of financing more traffic control officers would divert a significant number of drivers to Metrorail. In our recent poll, we found that people drive because they like to, despite all the traffic. I think it would take a lot more inconvenience to get them to switch to Metrorail. What do you think?

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Summit: Hey, I think we should have one of these summits every week! The S4 bus was sparse at 8:30, it cruised down 16th, with most stops being empty, and the sidewalks were blissfully open.

Robert Thomson: I was on the Red and Green lines before 9 a.m. (If I'd had more time, I would have gotten over to the Orange Line, but I wanted to walk along some of the downtown streets as well.) I took the Green Line because I wanted to see if there would be a problem for riders with the train bypassing Mount Vernon Square. No problem at all on my train. There were announcements on the platform and on the train. No one seemed confused. Also, the trains weren't carrying as many people as I'm used to seeing at the peak of rush hour.

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24th and M: I work in an office near this address and can say that yes there are parking restrictions - most of the meters are covered. This is the area with the hotels hosting many of the dignataries. The parking is reserved for security vehicles and police.

Robert Thomson: Thanks. Another response for our driver coming into the M Street area tonight.

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Blocking the Crosswalk: What would you have done? Yesterday a group of us were in Pentagon City and crossing a street with the light. A massive black Escalade moved right into the crosswalk and made us veer into the street to get around it. I turned to the driver and thanked him for blocking the crosswalk to which he replied "Thanks for being an A**hole". That really shook me up and just continued on my way. I'd love to know what was going through his mind. Did he really think that he was doing no wrong? Did he even think? BTW, cars blocking a crosswalk is one of my biggest pet peeves because it is dangerous to peds. Also, the driver was not attempting a right on red when he stopped.

Robert Thomson: Listen, I know how you feel. I certainly encountered stopped vehicles in the crosswalks and vehicles turning right into my path at crosswalks this morning.I'm never sure about the value of pointing out the error of the driver's ways, or of the cyclist going through the red light, or of the jaywalker, or of the person dining aboard Metro. I never hear of those confrontations working out well. At the same time, there's something to be said for it: There's usually no other downside to most of this bad behavior.

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Do others think this is a weird thing to happen in Washington?: Of course not. It's part of the price for free museums.

Robert Thomson: I've got a few responses to my question about whether it's weird for Washington to be hosting a world summit, tourist season or no. I'll try to push them out quickly so you can see the whole batch.

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Summit: I agree with the previous poster. I see no reason for the nuclear summit to be in D.C. The entire D.C. area is overpopulated and congested to begin with and this doesn't help. Other than pure convenience for the White House, it would make more sense to have the summit somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Not only would it affect less people, but security for the attendees would be easier to handle.

Robert Thomson: Got some more.

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Always a good time to talk about nuclear policy: I strongly disagree that the President Obama was "arrogant" in scheduling the summit during "tourist season." I applaud the effort to safeguard our nation's security, tourists and all. I suspect that the writer would say the same thing if the summit was held in the middle of winter (interferes with snow removal?). I had an easy commute into work today. I have more concerns about tourists who stand two abreast on the metro esclators at rush hour than I do about a minor inconvenience for such an important issue.

Robert Thomson: I don't believe we should give up on being a world capital and hosting such events. We did fine today and can probably do it again tomorrow.

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For Nuc (sic) Talks : The only reason that there are residents or "folks who work in the area" or tourists here is because Washington is the capital of the U.S. Unlike every other major city in the country, it was created solely to be the Nation's Capital--it would not likely have existed otherwise. As we are the world's most powerful nation and have more nuclear warheads than anyone, seems like D.C. is the perfect place for this summit.

Robert Thomson: I do think law enforcement and the transportation planners did a real good job planning and executing this one. I know that could change in the next day and a half, but so far, they're looking pretty good.

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Tues Summit Traffic: Dr. Gridlock,Thanks for your info regarding today's event. I drove in extra early this morning from Tysons and it was a breeze. My fear is that tomorrow will be the real traffic disaster as the folks who chose to work from home today (and perhaps got less done than they planned what with the beautiful weather!) hear of today's easy commute and also feel antsy about getting back to the office. Tuesdays are always heavier than Mondays anyway. Your thoughts on tomorrow's morning commute? thanks

Robert Thomson: Yes, I have the same concern. The people who stayed away and worked from home today shouldn't feel like suckers because there was no bad traffic. They're the ones who bailed out the region by listening to the warnings about congestion. If they don't do the same on Tuesday, we could have the problems we originally feared.

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Gridlock: It does seem strange that people who are in Washington because that is where the Federal government is believe that the government is dictatorial because it holds meetings that conflict with their drive time. Whenever I am mildly inconvenienced by the hoardes of tourists and cars that flood the capital during this season, I recognize that it is their capital too and put up with the inconvenience.

Robert Thomson: When I lived in NYC, we had these same types of discussions during the annual sessions of the UN. We wanted it both ways: To be seen as an international city, but not to have all these visitors using our streets and trains.

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Where does Metro's money go?: There's a letter to the editor in today's Examiner in which the writer claims that, based on his own assessment of information publicly available from the WMATA, 77% of Metro's budget goes to salaries and benefits, and only 3% to repairs and maintenance. Can this possibly be true? Can 7.7 cents of the recent 10-cent fare increase really be going straight into employee pockets, while escalators seem to be broken at almost every station? With all the attention given to Metro's budget problems, I would like to read much more about how they are actually spending the many billions of dollars they have now.

Robert Thomson: I haven't seen the letter, but it wouldn't surprise me that most of Metro's operating budget goes to personnel. I'm angry about the state 0f the escalators -- among other things -- but don't associate the problems with personnel costs. For example, with the esclators, Metro has known for years that the number of escalators exposed to the elements and operating for so many hours is a problem. And it hasn't been able to solve that problem. It's a different issue from the proportion of the operating budget that does to personnel.

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Do others think this is a weird thing to happen in Washington?: Weird? No, not at all. At the Convention Center? yeah, kind of strange. Why not have it at Camp David or the White House, though that may not be big enough. Why not have it on a Saturday? Sure, business (especially world) must go on, but a little consideration would be appreciated, it is the beginning of tourist season in DC. If they had this is Feb or November, wouldn't be a big deal.

Robert Thomson: Now, first, I think DC is looking pretty good at handling this event today. But I'm also wondering about the idea so many have suggested today of sending all these world leaders off to Camp David or maybe the Greenbrier or some resort on the Eastern Shore. I'm not sure how we'd get all those carvans of leadership from Dulles out to the remote locations, or how well those locations would be able to accommodate the event. If I were planning the thing at that level, I'd be thinking about how the leaders need to be relatively close to their embassies to make this thing work.

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DC Trucks: Hi Doc - yes, there are legions of laden dump trucks blocking the designated streets around Mt. Vernon Sq., to prevent any terrorist attacks i expect. (I am one of the lucky MTA Route 950 riders - the ONLY route directly affected by the Summit security - so our bus went right past the area this am.).

Robert Thomson: Yes, and I think we can be pretty sure the trucks were not loaded with asphalt, or their next mission may be to serve as an artificial reef.Sorry to hear about the detour on Route 950 and hope that wasn't too bad for you. As you say, it was the only one the MTA felt it had to detour because of the summit, though others might be slowed. (Not much, if this afternoon is a repeat of this morning's experience.)

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NY NY: Heading to New York City Friday and don't want to drive or park in the city. Where would be a good place to park overnight and take the train in? Thanks

Robert Thomson: Metro has several lots and garages where it's officially okay to park for multiple days. Greenbelt is one of them. I think Franconia-Springfield is another. Send a note to me at drgridlock@washpost.com and I'll send you the full list. into DC so you can take a train or bus to NYC.)

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Bike Clubs Invade Fauquier : Could someone please tell the local bike clubs that lead rides in the Va burbs that they need to tell their members and riders to follow the rules of the road and to think? Riding three abreast and playing Tour De France upsets those of us who live out this way. And Please break your packs up into smaller groups. We don't mind sharing the road but come on now, having eight of you all around the a blind corner consulting route instructions could be fatal if I was driving any other car but a 911GT3 with carbon fiber rotors and pads. And then to give me grief. Excuse me I was not blocking the road. Those of us in Middleburg, Upperville, Warrenton areas have had it so don't be surprised if you have to share the road with very slow moving farm equipment bleching diesel fumes taking up the whole road. Elitist snobs.

Robert Thomson: I understand the frustration among drivers. Don't let that frustration get the better of you and make a bad move around the cyclists out of impatience. This could have more serious consequences than a few minutes' delay.

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Building construction and lane closures: Who controls when a builder can close lanes? A building is being built on 17th Street, NW between H and I. (west side of 17th). When they started the demolition of the old building, they closed the sidewalk, made the right lane a pedestrian "tunnel", and took the next lane for equipment. This has been the status for many months. Now, the building is built (well, it's enclosed but not finished). No more crane, no more concrete trucks, etc. The "equipment" lane is being used for random vehicles every so often but 2 lanes on a major road are still gone.Who in the government tells the construction company it's time to finish the sidewalk and reopen the 2 missing lanes?

Robert Thomson: I believe this is the District Department of Transportation. I recall that during the Fenty Administration, the standards were changed so that blocking through access got tougher -- at least, that was the idea.

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Length between cars: Could you please explain to me the rationale some drivers have of stopping a car length behind the car in front of them when at a red light? I've been seeing this recently - never had before in all my 30 years of driving. Thanks!And yes, our nation's capital is an appropriate place for a convention of world leaders. If the other poster doesn't like the inconvenience, I suggest s/he move to Omaha or Topeka.

Robert Thomson: From time to time, I get letters from drivers asking why some people stop so far behind other cars. A variation is to ask why some drivers stop so far behind the white stop line. When I've published those letters, other people write in with this explanation: The drivers are afraid of getting hit by the following driver and don't want to get pushed into the car in front of them, or the traffic in front of them. Or they don't want to get trapped in a lane if the car ahead of them stalls. Does that make sense to you?

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Sign Route 50 West (near Courthouse) "EXECT DELAYS": If the sign is westbound, it's been there for a few weeks and last week the left lane was taken away using jersey barriers.

Robert Thomson: Thanks. This is a response to the earlier question about the delay sign on Route 50 in Arlington.

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Funny: Dr G. I noticed a new sign inbound Rhode Island Ave at Logan Circle. There is a One Way sign directing you to turn right and go around the circle. Directly beneath that is an orange sign stating "National Mall" and an arrow pointing left, the wrong way, around the circle. I want to get a picture, but haven't been able to stop to get one.

Robert Thomson: Don't know what that's all about. Seems odd to have a one way sign at a traffic circle, doesn't it? Is there a traffic circle in this country where drivers do anything but go right?

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New commuter Baltimore to DC : I second the MARC/Metro recommendation. I have been commuting from the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore for 10 years via MARC and then taking Metro to Farragut North. One word of caution I give is that the return service on both the Penn and Camden lines of MARC ends about 10 pm (Camden even earlier, in fact), so if you think you might be regularly working late, having dinner, etc., you can wind up paying considerably more to get home via AMTRAK. I think the $175 monthly pass for MARC is a bargain.Also, if the new commuter is looking to park for free, some of the MARC parking lots fill up very early. The next one down the line from Penn Station, West Baltimore, is filled by 7:30, if not before.If you were going to drive to DuPont from Greenspring, however, I would take the Baltimore Beltway to the B/W Parking and go in NY Avenue, just to avoid the Capital Beltway.

Robert Thomson: Thanks very much for this good detail to help our new Baltimore-DC commuter.

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Expect Delays - Route 50 west in Arlington: The sign was put up for westbound traffic because of the utility work going on in that area, which has closed off one lane in each direction. (Announcing downtown delays in that direction would be kind of silly.)

Robert Thomson: Thanks for this further explanation about the sign, which I had thought might have been posted because of the summit.

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Capitals Playoffs: We're going to the Capitals playoff game this Thursday night at the Verizon Center, and we are taking the metro. What kind of delays or special provisions should we be planning for? Should we expect more people than a typical Caps game or fewer?

Robert Thomson: Stations are so close together in that part of downtown that fans might prefer to walk a couple of blocks to reach a less crowded platform at Metro Center, Judiciary Square or Mount Vernon Square.

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Lincoln Memorial and Bacon Drive lights: The problem with the lights that I've noticed is that they are not synchronized. The first light will turn green, but the second will be red, so that only a couple of cars can go through the first light. The first light then turns red when the second goes green, so the first couple of cars get through, but by the time the second goes red, . . . . over and over and over.There seems to be no synchronization, or no timing controls when a pedestrian pushes a call button for a light.Most afternoons the Bacon Drive traffic is backed up onto Constitution Ave., and then Constitution Ave backs up several blocks towards 17th street.

Robert Thomson: Yes, that does seem like a setup that needs adjustment. Those lights are very close together, and I can't think of any good reason for them not to be green at the same time for traffic heading onto Memorial Bridge.Would it not be best to make the left turn from Constitution at 23rd Street rather than Bacon Drive? Wouldn't that eliminate the need to go through one of the traffic lights at the circle?

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Summit Lessons: Hi Doc - Driving to 13th St. NW this morning, I was struck by how the elimination of delivery trucks and other double-parked vehicles made the ride so much smoother. Having all lanes open was like driving in a strange city, the landscape was so dramatically altered. If only there was enforcement and towing of double and illegally-parked vehicles every day, what bliss!

Robert Thomson: I totally agree that double parking, or just parking on commuter routes during rush hours, is a big problem in downtown Washington. Not sure that today is the best example of the solution for these reasons: The volume was so light; there were plenty of military and law enforcement vehicles double parked downtown today.

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Wilson at Bradley: No need to tear up streets anymore - intersections can be fitted with optical sensors on existing poles/wires and fix this problem rather cheaply. Montgomery County is the worst local jurisdiction when it comes to a lack of sensors at intersections.

Robert Thomson: Thanks for this response to the very early exchange about getting a sensor at Wilson and Bradley.

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tomorrow?: What's your sense on tomorrow? Will everyone who stayed home today be lulled into coming into the office tomorrow and the disaster commute we were dreading actually take place? I was in a bus in teh 395 express lanes watching the cars in the regular lanes just sail by while I was stuck in traffic this morning, and that made me think the reason this was good is that no one was going to the office.

Robert Thomson: Yes, I'm worried that Tuesday will be worse than today. Partly just because Monday tends to be a lighter day for traffic than the other week days and partly because people may think it wasn't really necessary to alter their plans. We'll keep watching for trouble.

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Lingering Summit Traffic: Hi Dr. Gridlock,Do you anticipate any lingering traffic issues into Wednesday? Thanks!

Robert Thomson: No, I think there may be some lingering parking restrictions but the streets should be open Wednesday morning.

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NY NY: If the poster intends to drive up to New York but wants to stop short of driving into the city, here's one thought: Park at the NJ Transit Metropark Station, which is a short ride into the city and served by trains throughout the day.

Robert Thomson: Thanks, I was wondering which "city" the poster had in mind. Metropark is a good idea if you're coming from Washington and don't want to drive into Manhattan.

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Considering a return to DC: I love the tourists and the "meetings". I miss the hubub of the city. You jaded haters of all things putting you off routine should really look around to see just why the tourists visit. I used to drive a van pool and the most fun I had was giving lost tourists directions... once they were wrong but that guy was a class-one jerk.Okay, to the question: If you wanted to live in a place that had shops/restaurants/library/post office within walking distance, public transportation to the city (DC), AND did not cost as arm, leg, and the majority of your torso, and throw in a low(ish) crime rate, where would you pick?

Robert Thomson: That's a great question. I'm not sure there's a place left in the DC area that meets your qualifications and doesn't cost an arm and a leg now. We need to make more places like that. People are trying to remake Tysons Corner into such a place.I'm hopeful that Maryland's Purple Line and DC's streetcar program are going to create more such places.Do Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue/Petworth still qualify in terms of living costs? Parts of Silver Spring might still work. Maybe Hyattsville?

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Weird? No.: I think most have hit on it - DC is the nation's capital. But also, summits are almost never held in a remote location. The leaders bring a huge entourage, who, um, spend some $$$ enjoying the host city. Not bad for DC. Who would want to hold a summit in Limon, CO or Aberdeen SD, or Altoona PA? Um, no one.

Robert Thomson: Yeah, I think that's the reality.

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Robert Thomson: I've really enjoyed our conversation today -- hope you have, too. I need to break away now. (I want to wander around a little this afternoon and make sure things stay as good as they were this morning.)Stick with me this week on the Get There blog, and write to me anytime at drgridlock@washpost.com.)


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