Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live and work in Anne Arundel County, but I have to periodically go into the District, Northern Virginia or northern Maryland to see clients, go to meetings, etc. I try to do the right thing and use Metro out of New Carrollton, and I try to schedule my activities outside of rush hours.

New Carrollton is the end of the Orange Line and a major commuter stop. Accordingly, the garage and surface lots are always full with monthly permit parkers when I get there, so I use the metered lot.

One day last week I had to go into the District, and I arrived at New Carrollton around 12:30 p.m. I put enough money in the meter to allow for six hours, and I returned about 5:45 p.m. Pretty standard timing.

However, I found out the hard way that I am now no longer allowed to park after 3:30 p.m. or before 8:30 a.m. What is the point of that? Particularly if I change trains, I need to allow for 11/2 hours of transit time each way, so now I cannot schedule anything before 10 a.m. and everything must end by 2 p.m.?

I am willing to endure the inconvenience, but clients are not that flexible.

William A. Scheiderich


Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel says: "At the New Carrollton Metrorail station on the Orange Line, metered parking is available for patrons from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and after 7:30 p.m. weekdays. This allows patrons to use these spaces for off-peak discretionary travel via the Metro system during the day.

"The metered parking spaces are not available during the morning and afternoon rush hour periods. The spaces are used as a kiss-and-ride lot, meaning people can be picked up or dropped off at those locations.

"This is a standard policy which applies to all parking facilities where metered parking is available."

Taubenkibel had a suggestion: The nearby Landover (Orange Line) and Largo Town Center (Blue Line) stations have parking facilities that do not fill up. Use one of them, and you needn't worry about getting back to your station. The cost at each is $3.50 a day.

And, in October, an eight-level garage with 1,850 more parking places is scheduled to open at the New Carrollton station.

Fighting a Fine

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you have any idea if it is possible to fight the doubling of a fine for a photo-enforcement speeding ticket after a first notice was supposedly ignored? In fact, I never received it.

I suspect the first notice was never even mailed.

If you hear of many complaints like this, I would wonder if it might be a common practice by the District government as a way to double its traffic ticket income.

Lee Breakiron

Fort Washington

I hear about this from time to time, but not enough to see it as a systemic problem.

What you have to do, unfortunately, is go through the ticket adjudication process. The hearing examiner will decide whether your story rings true enough to warrant dismissal, according to Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

How Germans Train

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Can you stand another letter about driver training for teenagers?

My nephew in Germany mentioned in an e-mail that his oldest son will be turning 18 and will be eligible for a driver's license. That will cost him 1,500 euros, or over $1,800 (one euro currently equals about $1.23).

Driver education students take 14 units of theory, each one lasting 11/2 hours. Theory includes traffic laws, the basics of how your car works, how to identify simple problems and how to change tires.

Then there are 12 mandatory driving lessons, and each one lasts 45 minutes. The lessons include practice on suburban and country roads, on autobahn expressways and at night. The instructor determines if additional practice is needed in city traffic.

Each lesson costs around 45 euros, depending on the location.

That costly process, in time as well as money, can be a deterrent to getting a license unless really necessary.

Sigrid Washington


Thanks for the breakdown on the German system -- expensive and intensive -- as opposed to our system -- cheap and cursory. We need to find a better way than flipping the keys to the SUV to poorly trained teenagers on their 16th birthdays.

Eating on Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What should be the appropriate action for me as a passenger when I see someone eating or drinking in the Metro system? It happens very frequently.

I am loath to approach the individual as it might prompt a verbal or physical confrontation. I asked a station attendant once. He shrugged his shoulders, saying there was not much he could do.

I am a Foreign Service officer who returns to the city about once a year and finds that one of the best features of the Metro system is its general cleanliness. Much of that must have to do with Metro's policy of not permitting passengers to eat inside the system.

However, many people openly ignore the station entrance signs banning eating and begin chowing down once they are inside.

Maybe some of your readers have suggestions. As I mentioned, I prefer not to approach someone when the outcome could be a fight.

Dennis McCann

American Embassy, Athens

Your instinct not to challenge the person is a good one. One option is to duck out of your car during a station stop, enter another car and use the intercom to notify the operator. Do you folks have other suggestions?

Ticket -- and Tow

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In past columns, readers have wondered why illegally parked cars are not ticketed during rush hour. I commute daily on Connecticut Avenue and often see cars with one or more tickets blocking needed lanes.

I question why the towing laws, which are clearly marked on a multitude of signs, are not enforced!

The parked cars often create a dangerous situation where drivers have to come to sudden stops and then negotiate merging into other lanes of moving traffic. I have often seen or been in many such situations where accidents were narrowly avoided and traffic flow was severely disrupted.

Either these cars should be towed or the signs should be removed for a less obscured view!

Mark McCullough


Illegal parking during rush hours is the number one reason for gridlock in downtown Washington. Not only is a lane of traffic taken up by one miscreant, but drivers trying to get around the obstacle have to make risky merges.

First comes the ticket, then the tow. The city will ticket and tow illegally parked cars that are reported by the public, according to Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

The way to report them is to call 202-727-1000 and get a tracking number. If you report chronic situations and see that nothing is done, send me an e-mail in a month, along with your tracking number.

Whatever the city's approach to illegal parking, the amount that goes on suggests it is not working very well.

Stop for School Buses

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A recent letter in your column pointed out local drivers' disregard for stopped school buses. You mentioned that, in your 33 years of driving in the area, you had never seen a car blow by a stopped bus.

I, unfortunately, have seen far too many.

I walk my grandson to a school bus stop in our neighborhood each morning and meet him each afternoon. During the past school session, I gave the Montgomery County Department of Police the license numbers and vehicle and driver descriptions of five different cars that failed to stop for a school bus with flashing red lights.

There have been at least five others whose license numbers I didn't get.

The latest was a young female who, while talking on a cell phone, blew by a stopped bus at a high speed. I don't think she ever saw the bus.

When I have requested that the police put a patrol car at this particular bus stop, I have been told that they don't have the resources. However, they do seem to have the resources to have one and sometimes two patrol cars parked half a block away, writing tickets for drivers making illegal turns.

It seems that police priorities need to be changed.

Doug Milton


Other than an outlaw speeding down a street with guns blazing, it's hard to imagine a higher police priority than protecting our children from reckless drivers at school bus stops.

Bus Blocks Box

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At 6:20 p.m. June 2, I was heading south on 30th Street NW in Georgetown, approaching M Street. Traffic kept blocking the intersection, and as I approached it on a red light, a Metrobus stopped right in the intersection, blocking it almost completely.

The light then turned green for me, and a taxi driver behind me started blowing his horn and tried to cut around me, which he couldn't do.

The light turned red again, the bus finally moved and the cabbie cut around me and crossed M Street on a red light.

The bus never should have entered the intersection, and the taxi, with a passenger, could have killed someone.

Where are the police? I wish I had been able to get information about the bus and cab, but I couldn't believe what I was experiencing.

Judy Karo

Silver Spring

Metrobus drivers are supposed to follow traffic laws. Proceeding through a red light or getting stuck in an intersection can be traffic violations.

You can report them by calling Metro at 202-637-1328 with as much detail as you can get, including the number of the bus (a four-digit number displayed on all sides), street, direction traveled, time, day and violation.

Metro promises to look into such complaints, according to spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

Protecting What?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why don't states outlaw so-called license plate protectors? Their design blurs a plate number, making it harder for traffic cameras and other drivers to register a number.

Marc Hoberman


I agree. What's the point of license plates if they are obscured?

Tinted covers are outlawed in Virginia. Clear ones are outlawed if they obstruct any part of the plate, such as the state name, the number or decals.

Some auto dealers send new-car buyers off with thick frames that obstruct vital information. Buyers should leave those frames at the dealer. Not only are they free advertising, but they leave the buyers liable for a ticket.

The fine and court costs total $82. I hope police are writing those tickets.

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.