Imagine a downtown intersection where drivers take turns, halt for pedestrians and proceed only when there is room on the other side. And blocks where drivers don't park illegally.
No, this isn't heaven, but it might be part of a new order to downtown Washington traffic flow.
Two days ago, the District began stationing traffic police at 15 busy downtown intersections during rush hours. Between rush hours, they are targeting double parking, loading zone violations and illegal parking at curbs.
That is something readers of this column (and Dr. Gridlock) have been wanting for years. Many other metropolitan areas have long had police officers directing traffic at downtown intersections, but not here.
These new officers are employees of the Department of Public Works, trained by the D.C. police. They have badges, green vests, white hats and gloves (including a "Stop" sign painted on a glove) and are empowered to write tickets for moving violations and illegal parking.
Boy, do we need help with traffic flow. Many downtown intersections are clogged with intersection blockers who have become stranded and can't go forward or backward to clear a way for cross traffic. And many other arteries become capillaries when streets are narrowed to one lane because of illegally parked vehicles in the curb lanes.
I think this effort by Mayor Anthony A. Williams is going to be a huge hit. So many of Dr. Gridlock's readers want more order to downtown traffic "flow," and such steps could be a wonderful beginning.
To provide feedback on the program, e-mail Dr. Gridlock or call the mayor's hotline at 202-727-1000, or log on to www.dc.gov.
If you know of a block that has chronic illegal parking, call the mayor's hotline and report it, Department of Public Works spokeswoman Mary Myers said. Send me a copy, too, and I'll have no problem asking whether the new traffic force can get that block cleared.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We're hoping for the best.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I parked my vehicle on Second Street SW at an eight-hour meter. As I deposited my quarters, I noticed that the meter froze at one hour and six minutes, no matter how many coins I deposited. The meter, however, never displayed "Fail" or "Out of Order."
I immediately called in the malfunction and was told it was fine to leave my car parked there.
When I returned to my car at the end of the workday, I was dismayed to find a ticket.
I challenged the ticket, and my challenge was denied because the city said workers had been dispatched to the site and reported that the meter was in working order.
Since then, I have heard stories from others who encountered meters that have "frozen" at various times, but have not engaged the "Fail" sign.
My assumption is that the workers dispatched to check the meters are seeing that the meter is not displaying "Fail" and are noting, mistakenly, that the meters are operational.
Have you heard of this? Could you also please bring this to the attention of D.C. authorities? I feel my attempts to address this have fallen on deaf ears.
I ran this by a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation and the city's subcontractor that services parking meters. Joe Barrett, vice president for operations for the subcontractor, said the test of a reported broken meter includes running coins through the machines, regardless of any "Fail" sign, and that this test should reveal stuck time, as you describe.
The city says you are eligible to park at a broken meter for the time limit allowed on the meter. And that you should report a malfunctioning one to the number on the meter dome, or by calling 202-727-1000.
If any of you who are enmeshed in this problem will send me an ID on a meter, I'll run it by the people who service it. That way, we should find out what is the problem with the meter and whether there is a problem with the servicing.
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 to email@example.com or faxes to 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.