Last week, Washington Post reporters and editors became commuters and raced each other by car and public transportation along several typical commuting routes. Today's report compares commuting by car, car pool, bus and subway along Northern Virginia's heavily traveled Shirley Highway.
I was able to average about 60 m.p.h. (in the regular Shirley Highway lanes because I was the only person in my car) until the King Street exit, where traffic became heavier and the best I could do was about 50.
There were no police patrols until the Shirlington exit, where an officer was parked in the car pool lane and wasn't bothering anyone.
Things were zipping along pretty well until I reached the top of the hill near the Pentagon at 8:21. Then, cars screeched to a halt and the downhill view of bumper-to-bumper, metal-and-glass was disheartening. An old Mercedes in front of me hadn't had an oil change in a year and was spewing nauseating fumes, but there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck.
The other drivers seemed to be resigned to the fact that they do this every day. Only three cars tried to change lanes. No horns honked. I began to develop the thigh and calf muscles in my right leg by pressing the brake, releasing the brake, pressing the brake, etc.
I still had not made it to the Pentagon. I had plenty of time to read The Post, polish my fingernail without smearing them, and count the top row of Pentagon windows. (I got to 36 before traffic picked up.) Drivers began to frown as the morning sun glared through windshields.
By the time I reached the 14th Street Bridge, traffic had picked up to about 15 m.p.h. From there I proceeded pretty handily up 14th Street NW and on to The Post. It took me three minutes to wait for the parking attendant at the commercial lot across the street (cost: $3.30).