Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Some time ago I read that officials in Montgomery County were going to consider synchronizing traffic signals on the main roads to improve traffic flow.

What, if anything, has happened to that much-needed project? I wonder whether any of the officials involved have recently driven along, say, Route 355.

No matter what time of day, in light or heavy traffic, there are stretches on that road where a car has to stop at every single red light, no matter what speed it is going. It is an infuriating waste of time and precious gasoline. How difficult can it be to improve the traffic flow by adjusting the signals?

Beatrice Fitch


Please read on.

Traffic Light Backup

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The timing of the traffic light at Tildenwood Drive and Montrose Road in Rockville causes large backups on eastbound Montrose. Could you please investigate the situation? Thank you.

Richard Crosland


Write to: Thomas D. Pogue, Community Outreach Manager, Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, 101 Monroe St., Rockville, Md. 20850.

I suspect you will get a thoughtful response.

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 a traffic violation.

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.

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 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 woman 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.

Driver Training, the German Way

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 currently more than $1,800.

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 ($55), 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, which is 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 in which drivers have to come to sudden stops and then negotiate merging into other lanes of moving traffic. I have seen or been in many such situations, in which 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.

How to Report 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.

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.