Back in February, Metro's electronic signs began showing when the next three trains would arrive at a station. In doing so, Metro stopped giving the length of or number of cars in an upcoming train, information that some customers had relied on to know where to stand on the platform to be near the doors.
After a survey, Metro reinstated posting the length of trains over the Memorial Day weekend.
The new displays indicate the color of each rail line, the number of cars operating in a train, the train's endpoint destination and the number of minutes until a train is expected to arrive, according to Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman.
When a train is about 30 seconds away, the letters ARR will appear under the arrival section. When a train is at the platform, the arrival time for the train shows BRD for boarding, Farbstein said.
The signs will still display the next three trains coming into the station.
A number of readers wrote to encourage Metro to reinstate the length of train information. You have been heard.
HOT Lanes Site
The Virginia Department of Transportation has set up a Web site to post the latest information on the proposed construction of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on Interstates 395 and 95 between Washington and Fredericksburg.
The state is considering a partnership with the private sector to construct two extra lanes in each direction. Tolls would be collected via electronic transponders, much as with E-ZPass.
Beginning in mid-July, an advisory panel consisting of transportation experts and policymakers will review the detailed proposals. The meetings are open to the public. Meeting locations and times, and the proposals, are listed on www.VDOT.virginia.gov. From the home page, click on "What's New."
The public can comment by e-mailing HOTlanes@VDOT.Virginia.gov.
Widening of the I-95 corridor still would require an environmental impact study statement. Construction is years away.
Alternate Beach Route
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
With the beach season upon us, it would be nice to have an alternate route to avoid the Capital Beltway and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. You once gave directions using Interstate 395 through the District to Route 50 east. I would appreciate those directions again. Thank you.
All right. Take Route 236 east to I-395 north. Stay on I-395 into the city. Stay in the left-most two lanes to avoid being diverted to the U.S. Capitol, or the 11th Street Bridge.
Take a right turn at the Pennsylvania Avenue exit, then a right turn again at the traffic light and cross the John Philip Sousa Bridge, turning left at the east end of the bridge. The ramps carry you onto D.C. Route 295, heading north.
After a short way, take a right onto Route 50 toward Annapolis, and you are set for the eastward trek to the beaches.
Bypassing the Bridge
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In response to your recent request for alternative routes for commuting from around the George Washington Parkway south of Old Town: Sadly, there are too few routes. As you pointed out, one is to take Fort Hunt Road to Route 1 and then get onto the Capital Beltway. That route is worthwhile only if you are on it before 7:30 a.m., though, as Interstate 295 becomes extremely crowded after that.
The only other option that I have found is to take Route 1 north, turn right onto Slaters Lane and then left onto the parkway. That allows one to bypass Old Town.
Another tip: I have been returning home by taking I-295 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the Washington Street (177C) exit and have found that preferable to taking the 14th Street Bridge.
I understand that this exit will be closing soon for several years as part of the Wilson Bridge project. More fun for those of us who live south of the construction!
Thanks for your tips. If we don't help each other, who will?
Here's the timetable for replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge:
Completion of two new Wilson bridges (six lanes each way), and new Maryland interchanges at I-295 and Route 210 -- in 2008.
New interchange at Virginia Route 1 -- 2009.
New interchange at Virginia Telegraph Road -- 2011.
Dr. Gridlock feels sorry for you folks who have to commute around this massive project.
'Art on Call'
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was told that someone recently wrote to you about the 1,500 surviving emergency call boxes that are scattered across the city. The writer suggested that they are unsightly and should be removed.
Perhaps you have already heard that community groups and city agencies are working to spiff up the boxes. Depending on neighborhood tastes and preferences, art and local history are being added to our sidewalks.
"Art on Call" is a project of the D.C. Heritage Tourism Coalition, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District and the mayor's office.
In the Dupont Circle area, there are 22 boxes that will be renovated with local artists' views of the circle fountain and information about local history.
The unveiling of the Dupont Circle call boxes is scheduled for Sept. 10.
Mount Pleasant has already completed work on its boxes, and community groups across the city are at work on the boxes in their neighborhoods.
The D.C. Heritage Tourism Coalition can be reached at 202-661-7581 or www.dcheritage.org.
Gerald Allan Schwinn
Thanks for the links and the update on the beautification efforts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.