Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Some friends and I decided that we would go to an Orioles game on a weeknight. We figured if we left by 4:30 p.m., we could make it in time to see the first pitch, around 7:15 p.m.
Well, it took us two hours just to get from Tysons Corner around the Montgomery County side of the Beltway to Interstate 95 and then another hour to get to the park.
If this is considered a typical commute around the inner loop, is there any hope of getting relief sometime soon? Or do our local officials just mark it up to another bad traffic day?
The construction crews were gone, we didn't see any accidents, but the traffic was just unbelievable.
Maybe the new baseball stadium in D.C. is not a bad thing after all. We wouldn't have to drive three hours one-way to see a "local" ballgame.
The Montgomery side of the Beltway should be avoided at all costs, especially during evening rush hours. It's not just that it carries much more traffic than the Prince George's side, but there seem to be construction projects there year after year. This time, it's work on the Beltway bridge over Old Georgetown Road (completion: June 30) and resurfacing between Georgia Avenue and the west spur of the Interstate 270 split (completion: fall).
You drive into this and you sit, as you found out the hard way.
Here's an alternate that avoids the Beltway: Take the Dulles connector to Interstate 66 east. Get off at Route 110 on the exit for Interstate 395 north; cross into the District and get off at the Pennsylvania Avenue exit. Turn right at the stoplight onto the John Phillip Sousa Bridge. Turn left at the end of the bridge onto Kenilworth Avenue (Route 295) north and merge left onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
It might be a bit longer, but it's better than sitting in Montgomery's traffic.
Having provided this alternative, Dr. Gridlock does not recommend going from Northern Virginia to an Orioles game during weekday rush hours. It can't be worth it, especially to see a team that seems headed for another losing season. Go on the weekend, if you must.
Change Cars, Then Make Report
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Last night, I was on a late Red Line train to Shady Grove. There was a loud, agitated passenger who had probably been drinking. As he talked out loud about current events, he got louder and more agitated and seemed capable of violence.
Another passenger eventually calmed him down.
What should we do if a passenger gets violent? I was thinking about getting up and using the emergency call button at the end of the train but thought that might cause the man to focus his wrath on me.
Should we move to another car and then use the call button? How quickly could transit police respond, anyway?
Your instincts were good. If you feel threatened by another passenger, get off at the next stop and board another car.
Report the bad behavior using the car intercom. Give the car number and its position from the front (i.e., the third car). Police can be on the scene in a matter of minutes, according to Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.
If a passenger is simply annoying -- such as eating, drinking, applying makeup, clipping toenails, exuding heavy perfume or cologne -- simply change cars. Better than stewing.
E-ZPass Expected by December
A number of readers have asked about the progress of Virginia's effort to join the E-ZPass system. Member states allow motorists the chance to zoom through tollgates, using E-ZPass transponders, in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and West Virginia.
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) is leading the effort to join the system. Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Joan Morris said she expects E-ZPass to be in place by the end of this year. Users of Virginia's Smart Tag system will be automatically enrolled. Stay tuned.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at email@example.com or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.