Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You referred to the new shopping center below Lockwood Drive on Route 29 as being "large" [Dr. Gridlock, May 26]. To me, a large shopping center is something like the Mid-Pike Plaza on Rockville Pike.

The new Route 29 shopping center, for which a developer has established a traffic light, is small by comparison. Once again, a moneyed developer can take priority over regular folks.

Now thousands of commuters will have to spend a few minutes more getting to work each day because of the interests of a few people.

Tim Helble


You don't want a lot of people trying to turn left off heavily traveled Route 29 without a traffic signal, do you?

Considering the number of traffic lights that are being removed by the state for overpasses and underpasses on Route 29, this one seems like a fair trade.

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 eligible for a driver's license. That will cost him 1,500 euros, or over $1,800 (one euro 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.

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.

A Very Wide Turn

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've noticed a driving phenomenon in this area: People swerve to the right before making a left turn, as if they're driving a bus and need a lot of room, when in fact they're just driving a car.

I've come close to being sideswiped a number of times as they swerve into my lane while I am legally and properly passing them on their right. What gives?

Howard Fenton


That's a new one on me. Are you folks seeing this also? Why do you think drivers are doing it?

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?

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.

Metro Parking Meters

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.

Last Tuesday 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.

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.