Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Did you notice the proposal for linking Bethesda and Silver Spring by Metrorail in the Post on Wednesday [Jan. 8]? In an arc, it would connect the Orange, Green and both ends of the Red lines. Hopefully, Virginia will hop on board and support this beginning of a Metrorail beltway around D.C.

Although occasionally addressed in various publications, the public seems oblivious to the severe shortage of oil that will begin to appear during the 2020s as the world's oil reserves are depleted. Some think that fuel cells or hybrid engines will replace current engines, but most of us will find their cost beyond our reach.

Between then and now, every metropolitan area should have mass transportation lines nearing completion.

Consider, it was in 1976 that Metro took its first passengers for free rides on opening day. Think of it, 25 years to build the system, not including planning, arranging financing, obtaining the rights-of-way and contracting. And we are still trying to get enough cars for the system.

Some still think that more and wider highways are the answer, as another million people populate the area in the next 20 years. Since the 1970s, we tried that solution and proceeded to build and/or widen the Beltway, Routes 7, 50, I-66, I-270 and I-395.

I don't know anyone who thinks those efforts solved the problem. Metro lines, and ready access to them, appear to be the best answer. Time is running out.

Thomas S. Evans


Somebody needs to tell me why an elevated monorail system -- clean, quiet, taking up little room -- wouldn't work better and less expensively than either road expansion or more Metrorail.

Metro to Dulles? No Way

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding your Dec. 19 column about converting the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail back to a rail line:

Ever since the Dulles Metro extension debate began, I wondered why anyone was even considering extending Metro as far out as Dulles Airport. Metro is great for shorter trips inside the Beltway, but the travel times on Metro from most of D.C. out to Dulles Airport would be much longer than any business traveler or tourist would consider enduring.

An express train from Dulles to the city running all day, seven days a week, coupled with local commuter rail service as far as Leesburg using the Washington & Old Dominion rail line, would be much faster than Metro and, if properly implemented, could foster the kind of Smart Growth that Northern Virginia desperately needs.

A Metro line isolated in the canyon of the Dulles Airport Access Road would be a long walk from roadside park-and-ride lots, let alone any uncertain transit-oriented development along the corridor.

London's Heathrow Express, transit service to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, and the AirTrain being developed to serve New York-area airports are models for conventional rail service to an airport far removed from the city.

New York and London gave up pretending that their subways provided competitive service. Washington should learn from their mistakes instead of repeating them.

Brian ten Siethoff


Smooth Driving in California

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, have driven in California, Los Angeles and environs to be exact, and I agree with Nancy King, who said that drivers out there are more courteous.

I found there was not one incident of tailgating -- which is the local sport here -- merging was a breeze, drivers used their turn signals, and not once was I cut off even in exceptionally heavy traffic that would make the infamous Mixing Bowl look tame.

I minded my manners, like any good guest, and found the whole experience a wonder of smoothness in spite of all the mileage I put on the rental car.

Susan King


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments made by Nancy King of Woodbridge concerning California vs. metro D.C. drivers. When I was transferred here several years ago from California, I was amazed at the average metro D.C. driver's lack of courtesy toward other drivers.

As a result, I bought a condo two blocks from my office and walked to work for more than five years! Today, it still seems to me that most metro D.C. drivers were either aggressive -- tailgating, driving at inappropriate speeds -- or indecisive.

In either case, I feel that a great many metro D.C. drivers are oblivious to their role in driving safely in heavy traffic.

Mark Fiumara


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Nancy King is absolutely right about driving in California, where learning road courtesy remains a central component of driver's ed classes.

In our California high school driver ed classes, we were taught to change lanes when possible, to allow drivers to enter the freeway, to allow others enough room to change lanes and to always stop at corners and crosswalks for pedestrians.

Pedestrians in California always have the right of way at crosswalks and even unmarked intersections, and these rules are enforced.

I still remember my D.C.-bred husband's horror the first time he saw me step into a crosswalk on a busy California street. To his amazement, all the traffic stopped -- as it was required to do.

The roads are more crowded now in California, and some politeness has been lost, but the essential attitude of common courtesy on the roads still prevails.

I've lived in this area for many years now, but I still yearn for the politeness of California streets, especially as a pedestrian. Californians obey the rules of the road because they have been taught to do so and because the police make the effort to enforce the laws. This does not seem to be the case here.

Kathy Kavalec


I think you hit it in your last paragraph. Without the education and the enforcement here, it's every pedestrian for himself. Too bad.

Trucks Blocking Traffic

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At 20th and K streets NW, UPS trucks are always blocking a lane of traffic as I drive north on 20th Street between 6:30 and 7 p.m. during the week. Sometimes there's even two to three truck drivers blocking traffic as they unload their boxes. That's guaranteed revenue for the city every single night if a parking control aide just sat there and waited.

John Domen

Falls Church

I'll take these up with the appropriate city official, but I need to know which side of the street you are referring to, between which blocks, and what the posted signs say about parking or unloading.

I do not believe delivery services should be able to illegally block a lane of rush-hour traffic.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't often see the delivery trucks double-parked, but what I tend to see is trucks, cars and all manner of other vehicles parked in no-stopping zones during rush hour.

Washington is one city that really does have a legitimate need for those lanes at certain times of day. Various shuttle buses are also among the worst offenders.

I think an aggressive ticketing campaign would get someone's attention. I think it's probably rather halfhearted at the moment and is considered by the companies to be "just a cost of doing business."

Nik Trendowski


Flags for Funeral Caravans

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Yesterday, I survived a harrowing ride to a cemetery from a church funeral service. I wonder if there isn't a better way. Two police officers did a yeoman's job of stopping cars at the crossing intersections, but it just wasn't enough for such a long procession. Other cars entered the line even though the mourners' cars had their lights flashing.

My recommendation is that funeral directors pass out car flags with the word "funeral" imprinted on each, as I believe they did in the past. And the speed should be kept below the limit.

Mary H. Manno


It's a challenge to keep long funeral processions together in metropolitan traffic. Sometimes motorists don't realize they are cutting into one. Dr. Gridlock agrees with your proposal. Flags with suction cups attached over the front headlights or clamped onto the passenger and driver windows would help.

These flags, it seems to me, should be provided by the funeral director and become a cost of the service.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Alexandria Arlington 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.