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      Metro Facts Machine
    Send your questions.
    Where to Live,
    Where to Camp
    And How to Celebrate Y2K

    Updated Monday Aug. 23, 1999

    Welcome to's Metro Facts Machine, a human search engine delivering the information you want about the Washington region. Have a question about something in the news? Just ask us at

    Q: What is the real bottom line deal on the overall cost of living comparing D.C. and Arlington? We make $100,000 as a married couple and want to buy a house and we'd like to be close in.
    Bart E.

    A: Traditionally, Virginia has boasted the region's lowest tax rates for homeowners, as much as 50 percent lower than the District's. But with major construction planned for Interstate 66, for the Capital Beltway and at the Springfield Interchange, congestion might make commuting a price too high to pay. A Post story in February looked at the tax disparity.

    Cost of living is another measure, and the Web is full of COLA calculators, though most consider only the Washington region, not locations within it. One, at, offers a salary calculator that lets you compare the cost of living in the District to suburbs such as Arlington, Rockville and Vienna.

    Q: I'm looking for a public campground where I can take my toddler daughter. I want a place that I can drive to in 2.5 hours or less, that has a source of potable water, that we can park next to, or would only be a short walk from the car. Can you suggest any?
    David S.

    A: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources compiles a comprehensive list of campsites with descriptions, maps, amenities, Web links and contact numbers. Virginia's tourism department offers its own list, though it's a little more difficult to navigate.

    And always check out our own travel section, which includes a weekly Q&A on travel issues.

    Q: Is it true that the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is no longer charging an excise tax to register an out-of-state vehicle in the District?
    Jennifer S.

    A: Only if you have a valid out-of-state registration. It's one of the exceptions to the excise tax listed on the DMV's new Web site. If you want a real person, try the new D.C. call center, 202-727-5000, but we can't promise you won't endure a wait.

    Q: Is there a guide of any sort about events planned in D.C. for Dec. 31, 1999, to ring in the new year/century/millennium?
    Greg R.

    A: Not a guide, but plenty to do. Federal and local officials have planned a three-day festival and a Dec. 31 all-night party, according to The Post. Events on the Mall will include a short movie by Steven Spielberg, a concert orchestrated by Quincy Jones and a "teach-in" during which American athletes, artists and other professionals will man tents and talk to children about their lives.

    Donna Desormeaux, of the Washington Convention and Visitors Association, said the District has planned a giant block party along Pennsylvania Avenue for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. No announcement has been made about how the stroke of midnight will be celebrated. As with the Y2K computer problem, local preparations are still far from finished. associate producer Patrick Cooper and staff writer John P. Martin contributed to this report.

    Send your questions.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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