Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Do you know whether Metro has any plans to add a second entrance to the Vienna station similar to the recently completed King Street station improvement?
The Vienna station can barely handle its existing customers safely. It would not be possible to run full eight-car trains safely without the second entrance.
It appears that the station's design allows for a second mezzanine on the west side of the platform.
A second entrance is being considered for the expansion of the Orange Line to eight-car trains. That expansion has no timetable. Additional cars are coming on line this fall and well into next year. The Metro board has not decided where to use them. The first priority will be those lines with four-car trains, such as the Blue Line.
When all 184 cars are added to the line, all of the four-car trains will become six-car trains, and about one-third of the fleet will be eight-car trains.
Teens and Motorcycles
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 daughter will turn 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?
I would really appreciate your thoughts on this matter.
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, 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 centers of the cars that is impossible to get to when one boards at the end of a car and the cars are full.
It might be possible to get to the center priority seats through the center doors, but that would require the train cars to 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?
Metro has replaced the old signs with new ones with this approximate wording: "According to federal law, these seats reserved for persons with disabilities," according to Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman. That should give the restrictions more bite than the old advisory signs.
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.
Blue Lights Are Legit
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
It was with interest that I read your readers' accounts of law enforcement personnel using or misusing HOV lanes. As your reply clearly stated, those individuals are permitted to use the lanes by virtue of their employment, whether on or off duty. With that understood, I saw perhaps the most flagrant and puzzling example of the phenomenon this morning.
A driver of a black pickup truck, obviously inpatient with the flow of traffic merging onto Interstate 66, charged from his travel lane across two merge lanes. Within a few yards, the inevitable happened and he ran out of road. He then lit up a flashing blue strobe light mounted on his dashboard and merged -- or rather, bullied -- his way back into the lane he'd previously vacated. Later, when I was parallel to the truck, I noticed the driver was a young man wearing a ball cap and T-shirt.
Perhaps unmarked pickups are common among law enforcement fleets. And law enforcement agencies have taken casual-attire days to a whole new level. But something seems a little fishy here.
As drivers, are we to assume a flasher on the dash -- regardless of vehicle type -- equals law enforcement? Or are some bozos out there just sporting blue strobes to make better time?
You should assume that any vehicle with a blue light on a dashboard, visor, roof bar or rear deck, or within the front headlights, is a law enforcement vehicle. Only law enforcement is allowed to use blue lights, according to Officer Beth Funston of the Fairfax County Police Department.
It is possible that this officer was on an emergency call. If you wonder about the propriety of his driving, though, you can file an inquiry with the Fairfax County chief of police, Col. David M. Rohrer, at 4100 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax, Va. 22030.
You should get a response, Funston said.
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 email@example.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.