Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to one reader's expressed hatred of SUVs [Dr. Gridlock, April 17], one must remember it is only her opinion. To be honest, I couldn't care less about her opinion as I happily drive my Volvo XC 90.

I do resent her implication that SUVs typify everything that is bad about America.

If you don't like SUVs, fine; I can respect that. But please don't tell me what kind of vehicle I can or should drive. Ain't none of your business.

If, on some snowy day on Route 3, I see you sitting in a ditch in your politically correct vehicle, I will wave as I drive by.

Mike Hricik


Railroad Crossing Rx

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I remember reading in one of your columns a few years back an address where one could report railroad crossings in need of repair.

What is that address?

The railroad crossing on Route 6 in La Plata is absolutely atrocious and in need of immediate attention, with many pieces of metal lying about and holes to suck up tires.

To whom can we complain?

Andy Andrews

La Plata

CSX Corp. headquarters is in Jacksonville, Fla. Call 800-325-8182 with complaints. Please clip this out and put it in your vehicle. You may need it again.

Behind the Times

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro extended the Blue Line to Largo in December. However, the brown pylons on the station platforms and the large signs over the escalators still list Addison Road as the final destination.

People who are unfamiliar with the system are constantly asking other riders whether the Largo train is the same as the Addison Road train.

When is Metro going to update the signs?

Eric Jackson

Silver Spring

Says Lisa Farbstein, spokeswoman for Metro: "We have not updated the signs. It's very expensive, but it's something we will do, definitely."

Slow Down to Save

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

With gas prices making operating my 2002 Toyota Sequoia more expensive, I have adopted a strategy of driving 5 to 10 mph lower than the posted speed limit to improve gas mileage.

I have noticed that navigating is much smoother, and I feel safer.

But I frequently notice that vehicles drive up close behind me and then speed around to pass on the left, as if I am impeding them.What should I do?

Drew Asher


It depends on whether you are on an interstate highway or secondary road. I don't recommend driving 45 mph on the Capital Beltway, which has a 55 mph speed limit, because people actually drive 70 to 80 mph there. I have the same advice for Interstate 95 between the Capital and Baltimore beltways.

You should be able to drive more slowly on secondary roads, as long as you can put up with the tailgaters who want to pass you.

I'd map out roads that are the least traveled and proceed with the moderate method.

Create a Crosswalk

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am very glad you are publicizing the dangerous conditions for pedestrians crossing between the Mall at Prince George's and the Prince George's Plaza Metro station.

I live nearby and often drive or walk along East West Highway, and almost every day I see a potential accident.

I think the solution is simple: Make the area under the pedestrian bridge a ground-level pedestrian crosswalk.

Traffic signal lights could be hung below the bridge, and the lights could be timed so drivers would not have to sit through an additional traffic stop.

The pedestrians crossing between the Metro and the mall have spoken with their feet. They want a ground-level passage. Why not give them what they want?

I am amazed that letter writer John M.B. Essex [Dr. Gridlock, June 16] was mostly concerned with the danger to "those driving down East West Highway."

When pedestrians and cars collide, the pedestrian inevitably gets the worst of it. Do we need to wait for a fatality before something will be done?

Martin Burke


First, it should be noted that during a recent state survey of 1,600 pedestrians crossing East West Highway at that point during rush hour, 90 percent went across a median, and 10 percent used the overpass.

Dave Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said there are pedestrian signal lights a few hundred feet from the overpass, at Belcrest Road to the east and at the main entrance to Prince George's Plaza to the west.

Plus, there is the overpass at mid-block, with signs around it warning of the danger of crossing the road there and urging use of the pedestrian overpass, Buck said.

"We try not to put mid-block signals on any road, especially one that would be right under something that is working fine," such as the overpass, Buck said.

You have a point, Mr. Burke, but so does Dave Buck. Pedestrians wanting to cross East West Highway have safe options and should reconsider the dangerous mid-block crossing.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Yes, the pedestrians crossing East West Highway to get from the Prince George's Plaza Metro to the Mall at Prince George's create a hazard for themselves and drivers. But the enclosed overpass feels unsafe and forces people with baby carriages and packages to climb up and down many steps. It's no wonder that 90 percent of the 1,600 people crossing in a single rush hour chose to remain at the street level.

Sheila Bernard


Dave Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, says that if strollers and packages are a burden, pedestrians should go to one of the signal-equipped intersections on either side of the pedestrian overpass.

Trains Too Short

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I use the Blue Line to get to and from work and am astounded that at the height of rush hour, either 8 to 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m., Metro runs four-car trains.

Besides overloaded trains, this causes waiting passengers who spread out on the platform to run after the train and tackle other passengers who are positioned in front of the train doors.

What criteria does Metro use to determine how many cars run on a particular line? Also, who in their right mind would run four-car trains during rush hour?

Kristin St. John


"We don't have any more cars," said Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman. "Right now, the Blue Line is the least crowded, so four- and six-car trains are all they need right now.

"More cars are due to arrive later this year, and on into 2006, and we will decide where they go.

"Our first priority is to make all four-car trains into six-car trains, and some of those into eight-car trains."

So, by that standard, you should see those four-car trains turned into six-car ones by the end of the year. Good news, I think.

The Cost of Free Paper

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As I pass the piles of discarded Express newspapers every morning in the Farragut West Metro station and see loose sheets blowing around the premises and left on the trains, I wonder how much The Washington Post's free distribution of this publication is costing the Metro system in extra cleaning expenses?

William O. Craig


Metro doesn't sort trash by publication and thus has no answer, according to spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

Teens and Motorcycles

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My teenage daughter will be turning 16 in March, and at her school she is already taking classroom instruction on driving. She has her learner's permit and has proven to be a sensible and cautious driver.

She drives defensively, follows the rules of the road and treats other drivers courteously. If only all drivers were like that!

Now for the problem. Her father, my ex-husband, wants to get her a motorcycle for her birthday. I objected very strongly, but I realize that other than forbidding her to ride it in my presence, my hands are tied.

It has been suggested that I am overreacting to this matter, but I truly am not trying to rain on her parade. The thought of this terrifies me, but my main concern is not her driving ability. It's the driving ability, or lack thereof, of everyone else on the road.

I am honestly concerned for her safety. Her father has a motorcycle and occasionally takes both our children riding, but he has been driving for 35 years.

Am I overreacting? Are there any statistics that support my belief that common sense says this is a bad idea? Are there any parents out there who have been through this? And, lastly, if she gets the motorcycle, are there any specific motorcycle training programs?

I would really appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Nancy Jennings


I'm with you, Mom. A 16-year-old operating a motorcycle scares me to death, and I wonder, if you have custody, why you couldn't prevent it until she turns 18? Don't you have to give your permission for her to get a driver's license?

Here's more from Norman Grimm Jr., a safety expert for the American Automobile Association:

"You have an inexperienced driver who needs to learn, and any parent should want to surround that child with as much protection as possible, and here they are on two wheels, with no protection other than a helmet," Grimm said. He said he wouldn't allow it, either.

Good luck, Mom. Keep me posted.

No Longer a Priority?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing to see if you know why the priority/handicap seating signs have been removed from the ends of the cars on the Metro trains. There is still priority seating at the cars' centers that is impossible to get to when one boards at the end of a car and the car is full.

It might be possible to get to the center priority seats through the center doors, but that would require that the train cars always come to a stop at the same location, which I don't think I will see in my lifetime.

Is the sign removal a policy change?

Richard Puckett


Metro has replaced the old signs with new ones with this approximate wording: "According to federal law, these seats reserved for persons with disabilities," said Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman. That should give the restrictions more bite.

Farbstein said she is not aware of any signs that have been removed and not replaced. If you find any, send me the car number, line, date, time and direction.

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.