Last week, Washington Post staffers raced each other by a car and public transportation along several typical commuter routes here. Today's report compares commuting by car and by subway and bus from the Brookland neigborhod of northeast Washington to the huge Suitland federal ofice center in Prince George's County .
Start: 7:30 a.m. at 10th and Evarts Streets NE.
Finish: U.S. Census Bureau building in Suitland Federal Center on Silver Hill Road in Suitland.
Car: 49 minutes.
Subway and bus: 85 minutes.
Bleary-eyed, with a bag of cinnamon doughnuts at my side, I had an uneventful drive along 10th Street NE and Rhode Island Avenue NE. Then, after I turned onto South Dakota Avenue NE, the souped-up sports car in front of me suddenly stopped.
I fumed while he leisurely got out of his car, took his gas cap off his back bumper and put it where it belonged. He looked up at me. I acted cool. He got back in his car but we still didn't move. The car in front of his had stalled. We finally wheeled around it and I was back on my way.
I made it onto New York Avenue NE before I hit a serious backup. Traffic heading east, as I was, toward the Kenilworth Avenue exit just inside the D.C.-Maryland line was stopped dead. A sign ahead on the roadway said, unnecessarily, "Maryland Welcomes You - Please Drive Gently."
As traffic creeped around toward the exit ramp, the cause of the trouble came into view. A Metrobus was stalled in the left lane. Behind it, sprawled across both eastbound lanes, a second Metrobus was lurching back and forth, trying to get over the curb and around the disabled bus.
I took a bite of doughnut and watched the action. After several minutes, the moving bus lurched forward and barely cleared the disabled bus. Traffic again moved ahead in the one open lane.
The drive south on Kenilworth Avenue was a monotony of moving automobiles against a background of droning all-news radio. Shortly after 8 a.m., I was heading east on the Suitland Parkway, watching a woman in a maroon Mercury Cougar weaving in and out of her lane of traffic, when, suddenly, what looked like the tail-pipe of the Ford in front of me flew back up into the air over my wind-shield. It clunked very loudly against the concrete walls of an overpass we had just passed under. I was now fully awake.
At 8:13, I reached the Suitland Federal Center, a string of seven cream-colored, brick office buildings along Silver Hill Road. I parked without charge in the lot there and walked to the Census Bureau building, reaching it at 8:19 a.m.
According to the blinking lights on the U.S. population information machine the building's lobby, there were 288 births, 180 deaths, 160 immigrant arrivals and three emigrant departures during the 48 minutes I was on the road. At 8:19, the U.S. population had reached 218,188,000.
I finished my doughnuts.