Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The HOV-2 lane on Washington Street going through Alexandria is in effect from 4 to 6 p.m. With the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction, traffic is at a standstill. When HOV hours end at 6 p.m., you have cars parking in the HOV lane, which makes traffic much worse.

Can they extend the HOV hours to 7 p.m. for the next couple of years? It might get a few more folks to carpool and eliminate the problem with parked cars.

William J. Brown


Extending the evening rush hours of the curb (HOV) lane would adversely affect the many restaurants along Washington Street, said Richard Baier, head of the Alexandria Department of Transportation.

Extending HOV hours would also discourage cross traffic and people trying to get out of Washington Street alleys and driveways, he said.

I know commuters are going through agony in that corridor, what with all the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction. But Alexandrians have a right to that road, too, and it shouldn't be turned over to commuters entirely.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In the evening, the Beltway construction sometimes affects traffic through Alexandria.

In the morning, the Beltway construction has nothing to do with the problems through Alexandria. The problem is entirely in the timing of the signals. I have called the Alexandria city government several times over the past several months concerning those problems, but the city doesn't seem to be able to get its act together.

The signals along Washington Street need to be synchronized correctly all the way through Alexandria, but the city only seems to change a few at one end of Washington Street or the other. The result is a bottleneck.

Robin McClure


Alexandria's director of transportation, Richard Baier, asked, "Synchronized for whom?"

Earlier this spring, the city re-timed some Washington Street traffic lights to give more preference to east-west streets, such as Duke and King streets. The city had been receiving complaints from some city residents about the difficulty of crossing Washington Street.

Although north-south Washington Street had been given preference for traffic flow, some east-west streets have now been given more of a turn, Baier said.

He suggests that commuters use interstate highways instead of Washington Street.

I concur. Do you accommodate commuters or your residents?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Are you aware of the status of the traffic lights on Washington Street in Alexandria, and what is being done to remedy an unsatisfactory situation?

In the last few weeks, they have changed from being one of the most nicely synchronized lights anywhere to being a major impediment to traffic flow.

In the early morning, it used to be that I'd stop at a light on the south end of town and then, if I'd drive about the speed limit, I'd just roll through. Some days, no stops.

In the last two weeks, the best I've done is five stops. I had one morning with eight, and averaged six lights . . . and they're one-minute lights.

Is Alexandria trying to support the oil companies by making us drive an extra five minutes?

John Wright


Why do commuters from Fairfax County and those farther south think they should have pass-through priority on a street owned by the City of Alexandria? Where do these commuters get that entitlement? And then they criticize Alexandria officials as incompetent for not giving them all the green lights they want.

I think Alexandria officials have shown restraint in allowing this commuting corridor to exist on downtown Washington Street, with an HOV-2 lane yet. I might be tempted to block it off altogether from these ungrateful, me-first commuters and turn it over to city residents.

A Rule for Some

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


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.

Free Meter Parking?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On 25th Street NW in the District on a recent day, around 6 p.m., I watched a man park in a metered spot, place a plastic bag over the meter and proceed into a building. He was inside 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 any potential ticket writers. Do you have any insight?

Ryan Grover


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

Laggards Not Tolerated

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have no problem stopping for a school bus that is discharging or loading kids; it is the law.

I do, however, have a problem with the kids. On my way to work, I have had to stop for a school bus, and the kids just take their sweet time walking to the bus.

On most occasions in the morning when they are loading the buses, the kids just saunter toward the bus as if they have all the time in the world, not caring about the drivers they are delaying. After a few minutes of this insanity, I find the car horn on the steering wheel! Enough is enough.

I think the school system should educate kids to be more considerate of those they are inconveniencing. After all, assuming that a motorist doesn't run them over out of anger, they will one day be behind the wheel of a car on their way to work.

James Evans

Silver Spring

If a stopped school bus is using its flashing red lights, motorists have to stop. If the bus is slowing, flashing yellow lights signal caution. I'm not sure what the status of the bus is when you are encountering the described loafers.

I would say generally that you should respect their loading and unloading process, even if it seems slow to you, and the students, of course, should be mindful of traffic needs. If this is a constant problem, another route might make sense.

A Lesson From Paris

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in Paris and used its Metro frequently. Their solution 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


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

Eating on Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Wow! People are so afraid that they fear speaking to eaters on the subway [Dr. Gridlock, June 23]. When I see Metro riders eating or drinking and I am near them, I always tell them that is forbidden.

Most are tourists who immediately put the food away. No one has ever told me to mind my own business or has gotten nasty. Quite the opposite: They thank me.

I always mention the incident of the young girl who got arrested for eating french fries a few years ago.

In defense of innocent eaters, Metro does very little in providing large signs for all to see easily. On the ends of the trains, there's a small sign advising what is not allowed. Metro should place larger signs throughout the trains if it is really serious about this rule.

Linda M. Cajka

Lake Ridge

I agree: Metro could do more to warn riders that it is illegal to eat or drink on the system.

Road Work Headaches

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 approximately 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


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, which should be done by the end of this week.

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

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.