Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Around 6 p.m. on a recent day on 25th Street NW in the District, I watched a man park in a metered spot, place a plastic bag over the meter and proceed into a building. He was in the building for at least 15 minutes.

I had many thoughts about how he was trying to trick parking enforcement. Then I wondered whether he was a food delivery person and this was an acceptable means of identifying himself to ticket writers. Do you have any insight?

Ryan Grover

Washington

I've never heard of this, and neither has Bill Rice, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over parking meters. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

Police and Parking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Gallery Place during the evening rush hour seems to be the new congregating corner for police, who park anywhere they like, anytime they like. We recently saw four of them park in front of Legal Sea Foods, a location that you and I would be towed from, and go over to Chipotle.

I have seen police motorcycles parked on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks.

I regularly see Metro Transit Police cars parked at bus stops, D.C. police parked in front of fire hydrants, and police from the U.S. Mint parked alongside clearly marked yellow curbs.

I think people might be less enraged about parking enforcement if police throughout the city made at least a minimal attempt to comply with the laws we all have to follow. I challenge anyone in charge to visit either Gallery Place or Capitol Hill any evening at rush hour. They'll see police equipment blocking traffic.

Vicki Sullivan

Washington

Police officers responding to a crime park where they can. But when not responding to a call or while off duty, they are supposed to obey traffic regulations. That's what they say, anyway.

Let's try this: You write them up. Get the car or scooter number and send it to me along with the date, time, address and details of improper parking. I will ask police to investigate.

Lesson From Paris's Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in Paris and used its Metro frequently. The solution there to seating near the doors seemed quite intelligent.

There were eight hinged seats near the doors that were used when the car was not crowded. Then, when a large group entered, the people on those hinged seats stood up, making room for the other passengers. When it became less crowded, they sat back down.

It worked well and provided flexibility within the cars.

Cathy D. Knepper

Kensington

Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said Metro considered the Paris model but decided not to use it. Seems as if it might have been useful here.

Relief Near on N. Capitol

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What is going on with the never-ending construction on North Capitol Street north of Michigan Avenue? Will it ever be over? The multiple unpredictable lane changes are really confusing and are not well marked in advance.

Allan Glass

Bethesda

The project should be completed by the end of the summer.

The city began the 18-month reconstruction of North Capitol Street, from Michigan Avenue to Harewood Road NE, in December 2003. It is on schedule, District Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Rice said.

Eating on Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro's overreaction regarding its policy about food made headlines last year when a customer was arrested for finishing her snack as she entered a Metro station.

Imagine my surprise at the situation I encountered when I took the Red Line from Glenmont to Union Station on a recent Monday. Sitting on the train was a teenager sipping a big can of fruit juice. Across from him stood a Metro employee in uniform, watching. That continued for several stations, until the employee left the train.

The policy is enforced in some cases, but not in others.

Sonja Dieterich

Alexandria

In such a case, get the employee's name and report the incident to Metro at 202-637-1328. Metro should launch an inquiry and caution employees to warn offending passengers.

A Hole in the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Washington seems to allow contractors to block lanes for no apparent reason, but the situation at 19th and H streets NW, a major traffic artery in the evening, reaches a new low.

For at least two weeks, there has been a trench about six inches deep and a foot wide all the way across 19th Street at H Street, causing drivers who know it's there to slow to a crawl and exposing drivers who don't see it to alignment or tire damage.

There appears to be fresh concrete at the bottom of the trench, and all it needs is to be filled in, or at least covered when no one is working on it. Whom can I call in the city who might care?

David Straus

Alexandria

That is a D.C. Water and Sewer Authority project, and the D.C. Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the road, appreciates your bringing this matter to its attention, spokesman Bill Rice said.

Apparently this trench was left behind from the project. The Transportation Department will work with the Water and Sewer Authority to have the road surface fixed, and that should be done by the end of this week.

Report such problems to the city's catchall complaint number, 202-727-1000.

Car Care 101

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A car's life span depends on how the vehicle is used or abused. The oil will keep the engine clean, but frequent short trips will overload the oil's detergents with water, acids and other byproducts of combustion.

A poorly tuned engine might dilute the oil with unburned fuel. On longer drives, the oil gets hot enough to evaporate some of that.

Hard engine use when the oil is cold will cause increased wear. The interval between oil changes should be adjusted to the vehicle's usage. Manufacturers' recommendations are based on worst-case driving.

Bill Seabrook

Dunkirk

Thanks for the tips.

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 drgridlock@washpost.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.