Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You recently printed an item about Metrobuses not stopping for people who are in a bus shelter but are sitting, not standing, when the bus arrives [Dr. Gridlock, May 15].

It's true that some people occupy bus shelters for extended periods with no intention of getting on a bus. For that reason, would-be passengers need to communicate a recognizable visual signal to the driver of an approaching bus.

I don't think, however, that Metro realizes how difficult it is in some cases to see an approaching bus from inside a bus shelter. I have even thought of doing a photographic study of what people can see from inside bus shelters. The view is often blocked by signs, trees, bushes and other obstructions.

I would be very surprised if anyone at Metro can truthfully say that bus shelters are planned for the customers' view of the approaching bus or unobstructed boarding of the bus once it arrives.

David White


That's a good point that Metro should consider. Please send me a location or three where bus passengers cannot see arriving buses.

Considerate Bus Drivers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A bunch of us -- ages 18 to 48 and immigrants to the area from Hong Kong, Chicago and Connecticut -- were talking about mass transit in Washington. One thing we agreed on is that the District has the most considerate bus drivers in the world.

They will hold the bus for you if they see you running to catch it and will drop you off mid-block if the official stop would be more difficult due to weather or heavy luggage.

Most drivers also enforce decent behavior on their bus, taking pride in their role as captain of the ship.

We would like to set up a small fund for drivers to thank them. What do you think? Would the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority allow that? Would you administer it?

Willy Wilson


This letter nearly knocked me off my bus stop bench. I'm glad to have it. Check with Metro about your fund idea at 202-637-1328.

D.C.: Ticket or Tow

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why is it, during the morning and evening commutes, that 19th and 20th streets NW are full of illegally stopped or parked cars that are neither ticketed nor towed? I travel from Arlington to Dupont Circle every workday, and the gridlock caused by these blockages can be significant, lengthening the trip by as much as 30 minutes.

Illegal parking around George Washington University seem to be the worst in the morning on 20th Street, but in the afternoon, stopped cars from Pennsylvania Avenue to E Street are causing horrendous backups. I have called the university and District police, to no avail.

Francesca Fierro O'Reilly


The city really must address these problems to relieve downtown gridlock.

Try lodging a complaint with the mayor's hotline at 202-727-1000. Then try 18th Street NW northbound in the morning and 23rd Street southbound in the evening. Both connect with Constitution Avenue.

Baby on Board

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The other day I was in line at a store behind a woman who was carrying an infant in a sling close to her chest.

When I got out to the parking lot, I was appalled to see her backing out of her parking spot with the tiny infant still in the sling, between her and the steering wheel!

James E. Halpin


I would call 911 on that one, then get the license plate and phone child protective services for that area. With all the emphasis on child safety these days, it's astonishing that you would see something like that.

Driver Training

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

From time to time, you have provided information on defensive driving courses for teens. I have been searching the Web without much luck in finding the one I sent two grandchildren to in the past. The course was particularly good, with hands-on training and solid tips that have helped both my grandkids in tough situations during the past few years.

I would like to refer others to the group but have given away all the literature received online, and I changed computers without keeping the Web site in my favorites file.

I would greatly appreciate a list of the best ones you have listed in the past, as I am certain I will recognize the organization and be able to go to its Web site for information.

Walter Ochs


I have mentioned three companies:

(1) Car Guys Inc., of Rockville, 800-800-GUYS.

(2) BSR Inc., of Summit Point, W.Va., 304-725-6512.

(3) Driver's Edge, of Las Vegas, which has touring clinics that come to this area, 702-896-6482.

I've received positive feedback on all of them.

Completing I-95?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been asking one question for many years: When will Interstate 95 be completed?

As you know, traffic from I-95 in Maryland gets off onto the Capital Beltway, circles halfway around and then exits back onto I-95 heading south to Richmond.

That phenomenon occurs only here, in the Maryland and Virginia corridor. Interstate 95 traffic bypasses the Baltimore Beltway.

When will our transportation planners complete the I-95 project?

Walter W. Woo

Upper Marlboro

Not in our lifetime, if ever.

I-95 was to have run right through the District, bypassing our Beltway, but city officials didn't want it. The federal money was transferred to the Metro system.

Speedometers and Speed

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why do speedometers go up to 140 mph when, in general, speed limits do not go above 70 mph?

Isn't having a speedometer with 140 mph a temptation for drivers to speed? Why can't car manufacturers limit the speedometer to 80 mph? It might help.

Scott Schneider

Silver Spring

I agree with you. My Toyota speedometer at the 12 o'clock position reads 80 mph. It then continues to 140 mph. Those higher numbers are useless. The space would be better utilized indicating five-mile intervals of the lower speeds we all usually drive.

When to Change Oil

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You recently published tips from readers about how to keep their cars running longer. One was to change the oil frequently.

Several years ago, Consumer Reports published an article describing how the magazine had intended to rate motor oils. What the magazine discovered was that all oils that met certain standards appeared to perform equally.

Despite meticulous tests conducted on New York City taxicabs with specially rebuilt engines and carefully calibrated pistons, the testers could not document any wear after 10,000 miles.

So they instead tested for the optimum frequency of vehicle oil changes. After running up another 10,000 miles or so, they simply gave up and advised motorists to change the oil per the manufacturer's recommendations.

From the Web site today:

"Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.

"Reality: Although oil companies and quick-lube shops like to promote this idea, it's usually not necessary. Go by the recommended oil change schedule in your vehicle's owner's manual. Most vehicles driven under normal conditions can go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Some models now come with a monitoring system that alerts the driver when the oil needs changing. Depending on driving conditions, these can extend change intervals to 10,000 or 15,000 miles."

Jay Anania

Chevy Chase

All that may be true. However, of the dozens of readers who explained to me how they kept their vehicles running for hundreds of thousands of miles, the number one reason given was oil changes every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.

Crossing at Mid-Block

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You had it exactly wrong when you objected to the reader who suggested crossing streets mid-block instead of at intersections, where more traffic from different directions poses a greater threat.

At intersections, Montgomery County motorists, who aim to maim, occupy crosswalks, run red lights and turn right on red without either stopping or looking at who is trying to cross. In Montgomery, it seems that a red light means it is permissible to stop.

To be safer, pedestrians need to cross mid-block, where they have a clearer view of the motorists who are trying to run them down.

One of the reasons I am quitting work is that to get there I have to walk across Rockville Pike. I don't want to die in a hit-and-run.

Charles Kelber


Tell the Parents

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Almost every day, just after the local high school was dismissed, a young driver would drive down our street and gun his motor, making a very loud noise with the spinning tires.

One day I saw his parked car and got the tag number. With that information, I went to the front door. His father answered. I told the father what was happening, and said I was not going to do anything at that time, but would report it to the police if it happened again.

He never pulled that antic again.

Patricia Bailer

Silver Spring

Bumper stickers with the parents' phone number also might help correct bad behavior of young drivers.

Avoiding I-95 North

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your column once provided an alternative route around the Interstate 95 corridor to New England. I thought I had saved the articles, but they are lost. Is there any way I can get that information again? Thank you.

Tom Fox

Silver Spring

Here's an alternative route for driving to Boston, Cape Cod or Maine:

Take Interstate 270 north to Frederick and catch Route 15 north to Route 581 east, just south of Harrisburg, Pa.

From Route 581, connect with Interstate 83 north and then Interstate 81 north toward Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pa.

At Scranton, take Interstate 84 east across New York and Connecticut, merging into Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Take the turnpike east to Boston.

For Vermont and New Hampshire, take Interstate 91 north from Interstate 84 at Hartford. Note: Readers advise avoiding Hartford during rush hours.

That way may be a little longer than the Interstate 95 corridor, but it is cheaper and much more scenic, and it avoids New York City.

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 or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.