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 Real Problem?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your response to Francesca Fierro O'Reilly's complaint about illegally parked cars on 19th and 20th streets in Northwest was that she should call the mayor's hotline at 202-727-1000 and use 18th and 23rd streets instead [Dr. Gridlock, June 2].

My response is to ask O'Reilly why she really needs to drive "from Arlington to Dupont Circle every workday." Because she has chosen not to travel by readily available public transportation, she is contributing to the problem she bemoans.

I have no sympathy for Arlingtonians who complain about the traffic problems they encounter while bringing their cars into our fair city.

Jim Deutsch


I suspect that Arlingtonians, more than all other suburban dwellers, use mass transit to come into the District. That is because their high-rise residences are built along Metrorail corridors. That's what makes Arlington an attractive place to live.

Perhaps O'Reilly has a genuine need to drive in rush-hour gridlock and endure horrendous parking prices.

Free Newspapers Flying

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?

William O. Craig


Metro doesn't sort trash by publication and thus has no answer, according to spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. The Examiner and other handouts are also mixed in with the Express. (Thanks for letting me get out of that one, Steven.)

Teens and Cycles

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

From reading your column over the years, I am aware that you are a strong advocate of thorough driver training for teenage drivers. My teenage daughter will be turning 16 in March, and she is already taking classroom instruction at her school. 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?

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.

Motorcycle training courses are offered at Northern Virginia Community College campuses in Loudoun County, 703-450-2551, and Alexandria, 703-845-6110.

Good luck. Keep me posted.

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: "It's very expensive, but it's something we will do, definitely."

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.