Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Okay, after all these years living in the District, I finally got my car pinned in by double-parkers. Not just one, but scores of double-parkers.

I live in the Logan Circle-Shaw area of the District, and there are about a half-dozen churches within several blocks of my home. The other day, I left my car parked on the street and took Metro to work.

I had an evening dinner engagement in the suburbs and planned to pick up the car and drive. Well, to my surprise, when I got to my parking spot, the car was pinned in by the double-parked cars of people attending a function at one of the churches.

I was irate, but there was nothing I could do. Needless to say, I did not make my dinner engagement.

Interestingly, this happened during a weeknight. Take a look at Vermont Avenue NW on a Sunday morning. Cars are double-parked everywhere and parked in the median areas.

Are church attendees immune from normal parking regulations?

The last time I double-parked for a few minutes to pick up a package, I was greeted upon my return by one of those little pink tickets and a fine. This is not just a Sunday situation for those of us who park in the neighborhood, but a problem that happens any day the church has an activity.

Gary Satterfield


D.C. residents getting trapped by churchgoing double-parkers has been a problem for years. The normally aggressive parking control aides do not work on Sundays -- they should. D.C. police do not seem interested in cracking down on the practice.

Ministers I have talked to say the person trapped should interrupt the service to explain the problem, and the worshiper will move the offending vehicle. That doesn't seem right.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams could make a bold step forward in his second term by ticketing these double-parkers, freeing his constituents. Churchgoers are not exempt from D.C. parking regulations.

Road Rules in Snow Emergency

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was compelled to respond to the Dec. 26 letter from Julia Taylor and her unfortunate receipt of a $250 ticket for illegally parking on Seventh Street SW, a snow emergency route.

I've lived in the District for over 15 years in Northwest, Northeast and Southwest. I also work for the D.C. Department of Public Works and know how committed our staff is in clearing snow and addressing public safety concerns.

Anyone living in the District has parking challenges from time to time. This is my advice when there is impending snowfall:

1. Be aware of snow emergency route signs, then have a backup parking location. When any local weather station predicts snow, move your car before the first snowfall.

2. If you have a residential parking permit, scout around the neighborhood for locations where you can safely park your car. I live in the same neighborhood at 700 Seventh St. SW. There are spaces within two to three blocks of the building where your car can be parked.

3. Ask a friend with parking space (and no car) to lend you her space for a couple of days.

4. Ask your building (apartment or condo) authorities if they know of space to park temporarily.

Sabrina Williams


Thank you for those tips.

Look Where You're Going

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is in response to Veronica Clarke's Jan. 2 request for concerns regarding vehicles leaving the highway and striking vehicles stopped on the shoulder.

There is a perceptual condition called "target fixation," which causes the driver to follow their line of sight toward the object of their focused attention. We go where our eyes tell us to go.

Motorcyclists learn to focus their eyes far into turns knowing their momentum will follow this sighted trajectory.

Artists know that to draw a straight line from point A to point B, if you start the line at A while keeping your eye focused on B, your hand will pull the line directly to B.

All this underlines the importance, while driving, to keep our eyes moving and alert to traffic conditions.

Tom Green

Cabin John

Some Can't Drive, Period

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It's not so much that area residents don't know how to drive on snow and ice. It's that they exhibit the same thoughtless, rude, dangerous and often illegal behavior that they do on dry pavement.

Check out the traffic problems during the next gentle rain. You can't say we don't have enough experience driving in rain, but you'd never know it.

Michael F. Conlan


A Clear Signal

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

When I want to change lanes, I engage the turn signal. This is a cue for all drivers in the next lane to speed up and forbid me to make the lane change. After the speedsters pass me, there is always a clear and abundant space for me to pull over leisurely to the next lane.

I also use turn signals to clear the road behind and near me. For example, cars usually travel in groups -- or, as I refer to them, in herds. While traveling on a two-lane highway amid the herd, I use my turn signal. This is the stimulus for the herd to (1) not let me change lanes and (2) speed up and pass me.

Always works, never fails.

Salvatore N. Desimone

Fort Washington

Thanks for the tip.

Governing Traffic Violators

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If we want to get serious about speeding and reckless driving, when someone is convicted of driving at least 15 mph over a speed limit (even once), or of any type of reckless driving, put a governor on their car to limit them to 55 mph.

Leave it there for a year.

The government can order drunk drivers to breathe into a Breathalyzer before starting the engine; why not a governor on reckless drivers or speeders?

With today's computer-operated engines, it could even be mandatory standard equipment for all cars to be turned on and off by a court order.

A question regarding the new HOV lanes on Route 50: Because they are on the left, are they "passing lanes" in which one has to do well over the speed limit?

Brian Tierney


The governor would be a mighty sobering reminder to a traffic violator to obey laws. What do others think?

The Route 50 HOV-2 lane is not a passing lane. It is for vehicles with two or more occupants 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I haven't seen anything from the Maryland State Highway Administration to justify restricting those lanes to that extent. Seems like restricting the lanes to HOV-2 during weekday rush hours, and opening them to all traffic at other times, makes more sense.

Bus Woes on Parkway

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One of the biggest reasons for the bottlenecks on the Suitland Parkway are Metrobuses turning and blocking the parkway. Some mornings, only three or four cars will get through each green light on the parkway because a Metrobus has turned and blocked all three lanes.

Metro needs to educate its drivers about not making a turn if they are going to block traffic on the Suitland Parkway.

Colleen Sundstrom


This is a problem that can be addressed, but I need more information. At what intersections are you seeing this? What are the buses trying to do? Can you get some bus numbers?

It may be that they are moving across all lanes of traffic to get from a bus stop to a turn in the route. It may be that the route needs to be changed. More details, please.

Metro Car Proposals

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am a senior citizen rider of Metrorail and have a 30-minute ride from West Falls Church to L'Enfant Plaza. If I have to stand up, I do not want to hold an overhead rail because my arm gets numb. My votes on proposed Metro car changes:

* Bench seating -- no, no, no. Don't take away comforts. Cheaper than buying more cars, but raise fares instead.

* Remove vertical stanchions near the doors. Okay, but leave at least one. When moving toward a door with the train in motion, I want something to grab hold of when the train lurches.

* Seat-back-to-ceiling handrails. Yes.

* Elimination of windscreens near the doors. No. Would not improve access very much and allows cold blasts at above ground stations.

It seems almost impossible to keep passengers from standing near the doors. People going one or two stops do not want to struggle to get back to the door a few minutes after boarding. Have any other rail systems had any success with this problem?

Better maintenance is needed with the public address systems. They are loud and clear on some cars and inaudible in others.

Bill Doole


I also would like to know how other rail systems prevent customers from bunching near the doors.

Escalators on Demand

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

When I was in a German train station, they had escalators that turned on when a person stepped on a large floor panel on approach to the top or bottom. Otherwise, during long periods of unuse, they would automatically shut down.

I know there might be maintenance issues of turning on and off the power, but there have been plenty of times I've seen a Metro escalator running into the night with no one around.

Christopher Dwyer


A reader cited the same in Italy. Metro said it is against federal law to use such escalators. Seems like an energy and wear-and-tear saver to me. Has anyone seen them in this country?

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in District Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.