Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Regarding SUVs and their size, I would like to throw in my thoughts. First, I have one, and I love it. I also have a minivan, which I do not care for much. I am 6-foot-4 and have two children, so space is an issue.
With an SUV there is simply more space for occupants. I would like to have a Chevrolet Suburban and may trade in the minivan for one shortly.
I could care less about the gas mileage since I do not drive that much. I use commuter trains for work.
As for the size and irritating other folks, I love that. In fact, I frequently check my rearview mirror to watch for folks who try to speed up and pass so they can see. I then speed up to block them -- nothing gives me more joy.
The D.C. area has the jerkiest drivers on the planet, I am convinced of that.
So, when I get my chance, I block people in. I really do hope on some level that people get so amped up to pass that they wreck their car in the process and wipe out themselves and their entire family.
I view that as a form of natural selection . . . the dopey don't survive.
People need to relax here. Stay in your lane and stop trying to speed up just to irritate everyone . . . that is what I say.
One of your comments resonated, Mike: "The D.C. area has the jerkiest drivers on the planet."
Be careful about blocking cars and trying to destroy other drivers and their families, lest the crash you cause harms you and/or your children, to say nothing of other innocent parties.
Yielding to 'Entitleds'
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
You requested comment on the letter complaining that area drivers don't recognize yield signs.
It is, of course, not just yield signs. Or that many area communicators could care less that their wireless call is really obnoxious to all within hearing distance (made large by the caller so as to impress as many as possible with their worthless prattle).
The good news is that this problem is confined to a group of persons I refer to as the "Entitled Generation." They are 35 to 50 years old; usually dual-income families; drive new, more expensive cars and SUVs (not over three years old); very active in travel, sporting events and nightlife events; and consider themselves wealthy (although very few really know how to compute wealth and actually are busted).
The "Entitled Generation" takes whatever they want because they consider it theirs for personal use; sort of grown-up spoiled brats. Pity.
The only useful suggestion for your complaint about failure to obey yield signs is to wait it out. The generation behind this ugly one appears to be more caring. During the wait, remain alert for dangerous persons.
In the past two weeks I've been passed on two occasions when the person behind me used an Interstate 66 exit ramp to zip by me and merge in front of me on the through lanes. It just burns me up.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Your column Jan. 19 asked for someone to tell you why an elevated monorail isn't quieter, cheaper and more efficient transportation than widening roads or expanding Metro. Having recently come back to the East Coast from Seattle, I can only say that I believe our current Metro system, with needed improvements and extensions, would probably cost the same or less than building a new monorail system here.
Mr. [Bill] Cook's suggestion that we need a monorail to "string together" with our already existing system would be terribly costly. The monorail is not quiet, and the bond levy recently passed in Seattle to extend the monorail downtown through Seattle as well as other neighborhoods will tear up neighborhoods and already existing businesses, increase the car tax as well as other taxes, and establish a Monorail Authority paying high salaries to its administrators.
In fact, the new extended monorail doesn't go outside the city, is not underground, and will not serve all neighborhoods, yet alone transport folks to the airport.
I would suggest that Mr. Cook check out the price tag for Seattle's extended monorail against the cost of extending our Metro system linked with an already existing bus system.
Seattle has no rail system, and even though an initiative was passed in 1996 to build light rail, the project cost has far exceeded the amount of money approved and is being challenged, with no money coming from the feds. I guess the saying that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here.
But I would like to know how much it would cost to build a monorail here compared with Metro improvements and extensions.
Me, too. Metrorail extensions now are so expensive that desired ones may never be built.
The cost to extend Metro from the Falls Church stations to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County is about $4 billion. The federal government has bowed out, and with the financial crisis in Virginia, it's hard to see how that route will be built.
Has anybody got an estimate to build monorail?
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Some points to consider:
Monorail probably would work better than road expansion if it were well implemented. Particularly if it went where people want to go.
The trouble is that the politicians and professional planners who have kept Tysons Corner, Georgetown and other such places rail-free would probably be involved with monorail. I don't trust them to do the job competently.
On the other hand, they haven't done too great a job with roads or Metrorail either, so this is probably a wash.
As to the comparison between Metro and monorail: If you point your Web browser at a search engine you'll find a lot of information about these systems with plenty of bias on both sides. It does seem, though, that the benefits of monorail (mostly projected because it's surprising how little monorail actually exists) are probably grossly overstated.
Finally, I'm wondering about the specific advantages you see in monorail. Why should it be cleaner or quieter than Metrorail and how much use would be made of the land underneath its right of way?
Whatever the form, I'm convinced that if a city cares about its future, an excellent public transit system with dedicated right of way is the best investment it can make.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In your column, you asked for "somebody to tell [you] 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."
Monorail does not operate well or cheaply. The Seattle monorail costs a dollar per passenger mile, when Metrorail here costs only 35 cents. BART in San Francisco costs only 29 cents per passenger mile.
Monorail is also less safe than Metrorail, which has about 0.75 injuries per million passenger miles, whereas monorail suffers about twice that many.
In slippery weather, the rubber tires may slide unless the guideway is heated, which is prohibitively costly. Monorail will not be quiet unless the tires are bald, without tread. I am sure you would not approve that.
Both Seattle monorail trains have smashed up. Last fall, a train was disabled and the fire department had to evacuate the passengers by hook and ladder, a frightful experience from so high up.
Monorail needs just as much room as Metrorail for the same number of passengers. The guideway is narrower, but the safety catwalks require just as much space as Metrorail. Disney does not provide large cars or catwalks.
Thanks for the details. I would not like to be in a position to have to be rescued by a hook-and-ladder truck. Still, I'd like to hear of any cost comparisons.
Yes to Hybrids and HOV
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In response to Karen Burcham, "Green Light for Hybrids" [Dr. Gridlock, Jan. 30], I have to wonder why, if she is so worried about the environment, she doesn't bother to pick up slugs or carpool to even further lower the amount of pollution?
I firmly believe that hybrid vehicles are a great thing for the environment, but allowing hybrid drivers to drive one person to a car is not going to solve any long-term problems. That's why I'm glad that the HOV exception for clean-fuel vehicles is scheduled to expire sometime in the next couple of years.
We need to ask ourselves a simple question: What pollutes more, three people sharing a ride in a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, or three people each riding in their own hybrid getting 40 mpg? The answer to that should be pretty obvious.
Hybrid owners already receive a federal tax break and save by not having to pay as much for gas. This should be enough incentive to buy one.
I own a diesel car that gets 45 mpg, and the only perk I get is lower fuel costs. That was enough for me to buy it! Plus, I don't have to worry about what happens to all the old batteries that will need to be disposed of from the hybrids.
Why should these hybrid owners get special HOV exemptions when I don't? The answer to that is they shouldn't.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Prince William Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at email@example.com, 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.