This being the holiday season, let's start off with that rare note when someone has something nice to say. Muriel Sumner, the District reader who had so much trouble with rowdy teenagers in the back of her bus, has found a driver willing to take control of gang behavior. It happened on Dec. 11, Sumner reported, on her D-2 bus bound for Ivy City.
As teenagers started "hollering and screaming so you couldn't hear yourself think," Sumner said, the bus driver stopped the bus at 11th and L streets NW. "He went back and talked to them, so quietly you could hardly hear him. When it was over, he went back to his seat and from then on the teenagers were quiet."
When she got off, Sumner, who has had to endure fellow passengers belting out obscene rap songs and drunks spilling beer on her, thanked the driver profusely. "I said I appreciate it because it's the first time in nine years I've seen a driver try to correct a wrong."
The name of the driver that night was John A. Easter, a 20-year veteran bus driver who lives in Temple Hills.
With 500,000 bus passenger trips a day, Metro can't begin to monitor the performance of its drivers, so it depends on passengers to be its eyes and ears, said spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg. "If we don't know what is happening on a particular route, we can't take any action to make it better," she said. Most often Metro gets complaints, making laudatory letters the more welcome.
The person to contact with comments is Metro's assistant general manager for bus services, LeRoy Bailey, 600 Fifth St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Before being too critical, keep in mind the drivers have to negotiate their unwieldy vehicles through rush-hour traffic AND deal with all kinds of characters in the riding public. Either chore might be enough to grind down most people.
A copy of this column will go into Easter's file, Silverberg said. Thank you, Mr. Easter. Chopping and Patching City Streets Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The complaint in your column about utility companies that tear into freshly paved streets ignited a long smoldering pet peeve with me. The reader who complained is right on the money. This pave and paw up is epidemic urban and suburban wide.
My view is this: Okay, let's accept the occasional missed communications and emergencies, BUT why not require utilities and builders or anyone else tearing up a street to be bonded so that the surface of the road is as good or better than what was originally in place. DAVID A. CLUNIES Bowie
It works like this in the city (or at least it's supposed to): If you see a utility or some other agency chopping into new asphalt, then the chopper is supposed to make a temporary patch (asphalt or a steel plate) and the city then contracts for the permanent repair and bills the chopper. If the asphalt sinks or a hole develops between the temporary patch and the permanent repair, then the city makes the chopper improve the patch.
The permanent repair may take some time to get scheduled, but if you haven't seen any permanent improvement in, say, six months, you can send an inquiry to the Bureau of Transportation Construction Services, Department of Public Works, Fifth Floor, Reeves Center, Washington, D.C. 20009.
Dr. Gridlock gets enough mail to know that a number of people believe that streets are cut into by various parties as a result of lack of planning and that the repairs are not sufficient. According to the city, what people are seeing is an interim situation. The doctor would be interested in any particularly egregious examples, city or suburbs. More Frustration on Beach Drive Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Having lived through the protracted National Zoo tunnel reconstruction project earlier this year, I was among the many who cheered the reopening of Beach Drive, particularly when the primary alternative is that stretch of potholes, double parking and unsynchronized traffic lights known as Connecticut Avenue.
Now, new signs have ben erected on Beach Drive, informing that Beach Drive will be closed between 7 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
A call to National Park Service headquarters yielded only the information that the closure was permanent, and that "as a matter of public policy, no reasons are being published."
I am dismayed. I thought I was part of "the public," whose taxes contribute to the park operation.
My trips downtown are infrequent, but almost always in the evening. My house stands just feet from Rock Creek Park. Frankly, if Beach Drive will no longer be an option for those trips, I'll simply cease trips to Washington. Period.
Can you tell us what accounts for this change? J.B. COYLE Chevy Chase
The condition you described in your Dec. 7 letter has ended -- temporarily. Beach Drive was reopened Monday, after having been closed for 1.5 miles between Klingle Road and Calvert Street since late October. It will probably be closed again sometime in April for about 45 days.
The reason is that the District is redecking the Duke Ellington (Calvert Street) Bridge over the parkway, and needs to close Beach Drive while working on the center arch supports to protect traffic from possible falling debris. The project should be done by next fall, and the next 45-day closing of Beach Drive should be the last.
One reason you may have gotten an odd answer is that Park Service officials hadn't gotten the word to all its employees when the new signs went up. The Park Service was flooded with calls, and some employees didn't know what to answer. That's a possible reason, not an excuse, said Park Service spokesman Earle Kittleman. "If that was the answer, we apologize," Kittleman said. Public Support for Public Transit Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In your Oct. 26 column, you commended Thomson Hirst's initiative in funding a bus shelter in front of his office in Reston. This prompts me to write you about the Adopt-a-Shelter program we have operated in Montgomery County since 1987.
As a minimum, developers, employers, civic associations, or residential complexes are requested to donate the concrete pads on which the shelter is placed, at a cost of approximately $650. The county then installs the shelter and the adopter agrees to keep the shelter free of graffiti and litter. If an individual or organization wishes to underwrite the cost of the entire shelter (about $4,000), we will place their name on our new Adopt-a-Shelter road signs that are modeled after those used in our successful Adopt-a-Road program.
With seven bus shelters installed under the program, we are pleased with the program's success. Anyone wishing more information on the program should contact Tom Pogue at 217-2814. ROBERT C. MERRYMAN Acting Director Department of Transportation Montgomery County
Anything that promotes the use of public transit, and that includes keeping bus patrons dry, is a welcome gesture to help reduce gridlock. Good for your department in getting behind this, Mr. Merryman. Now, if you can do as well for the reader below, you may help save a life. Please read on. Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Walking to the new Metro station at Forest Glen is dangerous. You have to walk past the Georgia Avenue entrance and exit to the Beltway. Older people and those with children could encounter life-threatening acts by drivers rushing off and onto the Beltway.
I'd like to propose that Metro arrange a courtesy ride to the shopping center where the People's drugstore is. A small carrier with about 20 seats would work just fine. That short run for those few blocks could prevent a tragedy. RAY PARKER Silver Spring
One of the editors here at The Post, Peter Perl, also is a resident of the Montgomery Hills section of Silver Spring and likewise fears some pedestrian is going to get killed walking that route. Metro is not going to start a shuttle because the agency feels there is ample bus service already on southbound Georgia Avenue to the Silver Spring Metro station. Perl notes that people will walk to the Forest Glen station instead of bus south to Silver Spring because it's faster. But, it's also more dangerous.
The state has installed some signs that warn motorists they are approaching a pedestrian crosswalk, but Perl notes that cars still speed, particularly those coming from the Beltway offramp. An overgrown yard surrounded by a chain-link fence makes it particularly difficult to see approaching traffic. He suggests rumble strips on the offramp, at least.
John Clark, a senior county transportation official, says the need is recognized. "We need to look at some traffic-control devices there. Pedestrians have the right of way, but that doesn't give you a lot of comfort if you have cars coming at you. Pedestrian safety and access to Metro stations is a very high priority to us."
Mr. Merryman? Parking Permits and the 72-Hour Limit Dear Dr. Gridlock:
This is in reference to your item about the gentleman who was ticketed for parking in front of his house for more than 72 hours.
The residents on my street and in the surrounding neighborhood have residential parking stickers that entitle them to park indefinitely. These stickers cost $5 and are good for one year. I am certain that these stickers are available to other areas within the District.
When you spoke to Tara Hamilton, didn't she mention residential parking permits, or stickers? SYLVAN M. DUBOW Washington
You may be confused because it can be difficult to sort out how the city regulates those precious curbside parking hours. Hamilton says this: The sticker you're referring to, Ms. Dubow, is known as a residential parking permit (RPP). Signs are posted that prohibit curbside parking between 7 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. for more than two consecutive hours unless your car has an RPP. An RPP allows you to park in the area beyond the two-hour restriction, but still does not exempt you from the prohibition against parking in one place for more than 72 consecutive hours.
The RPP is designed to protect District residents from commuters who might tie up parking space all day; the 72-hour law (usually enforced only after a complaint) is designed to give city officials grounds to remove abandoned vehicles. Hope this helps. Speaking Up for Spiders Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Could you please pass on to Scott S. Ellis, the man who wrote about his fear of spiders in the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station:
As a former arachnophobe, please let me assure you the chance of spiders falling from webs and attacking innocent humans is not nearly as likely as being the victim of a human aggressor.
I invite you to visit the invertebrate exhibit at the National Zoo. Perhaps I or my fellow volunteers could help you learn about the positive esthetics of spiders, insects and other spineless wonders. LINDA J. DENSMORE Alexandria
As a person with chemically induced asthma, the thought of Metro pumping poisonous insecticides into the air to rid a station of spiders is rather apalling.
The day spiders start biting people without considerable provocation is the day we should all lock ourselves in our homes.
P.S. Can you get Metro to stop washing the floors? My asthma is triggered by their cleaning solution. ANN K. STEPHENS Germantown
I thought I'd heard everything after the original spider letter. Obviously not. New Year's Resolutions
Got any New Year's resolutions for local transportation officials? A line or two will do. Tips for Being a Good Host
The American Automobile Association advises that those having holiday parties might help prevent guests from becoming traffic accidents by observing some tips: Never force drinks on a guest -- first a friend, then a host; watch for those overindulging; slow down those drinking too much by encouraging them to eat; put away alcohol early and serve plenty of food, coffee and dessert; protein-rich and starch foods helps minimize the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.
If you need a ride, or someone else does, from now until Jan. 2 you can call 703-AAA-TAXI and a taxicab will be dispatched to your location. The trip will be paid for by Anheuser-Busch. Happy holidays.
Dr. Gridlock appears in Metro 2 each Friday. You can suggest topics by writing (please don't phone) to DR. GRIDLOCK, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.