Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Reference: the letter from William Scheiderich about parking problems at the New Carrollton Metro station [Dr. Gridlock, June 15].

If Mr. Scheiderich doesn't mind driving to RFK Stadium and getting on the Metro at Stadium/Armory, he will find it much easier to park in the privately owned lot near the stadium. It costs $5 for all-day parking, and there is always plenty of space. The Blue and Orange lines go to Stadium/Armory.

My husband and I have given up trying to park at New Carrollton whenever we go into the District on the Metro. There is always a hassle.

MaryAnn Mennuti


Thanks for the tip. As I mentioned before, the parking facilities at Landover (Orange Line) and Largo Town Center (Blue Line) do not fill up, Metro said.

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, and generally when the oil looks really dirty, it's time for a change.

Manufacturers' recommendations are based on worst-case driving.

Bill Seabrook


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 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 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 Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over parking meters. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

Impatient With Laggards

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 stoodup, 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 that it might have been useful here.

Relief for Connecticut Ave.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Among the more egregious examples of unwarranted special privileges is the parking situation in the 8500 block of Connecticut Avenue. I think this is the only stretch of Connecticut Avenue within Maryland where parking is allowed.

The marked area, less than a block long, serves five small businesses. One has its own off-street parking, and all are well served by convenient access from Connecticut Avenue to a large, free parking area behind the buildings.

Traffic approaches this area over a slight rise that is high enough to block a driver's view, and that invariably results in last-minute, intemperate and dangerous merge efforts.

In view of the availability of ample free parking, there is no need for this hindrance to traffic, which is heavy throughout the day.

The very few steps saved for a few people is too high a price to pay for the inconvenience and delay suffered by the majority. Can this unnecessary roadblock be evaluated for elimination?

Eugene G. Kovach

Chevy Chase

You can ask for a review by writing to the Maryland State Highway Administration, 9300 Kenilworth Ave., Greenbelt, Md. 20770, attention Traffic Department. You will get a response, MSHA spokesman Chuck Gischlar said. Be sure to make your points about ample off-street parking for the businesses on the block.

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 can do more to warn riders that it is illegal to eat or drink on the system.

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 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.

Red-Light Transgression

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently I received one of those automated "notice of infraction" mailings with three color photos of the south end of my car headed through an intersection in front of Washington Hospital Center. It had all the details of my transgression and a form to complete.

Ouch! They got me.

But before I mail in my check, consider this, just for perspective.

In this town, where professionals account for time in hours and years, that 0.4-second, $75 infraction works out to an hourly rate of $675,000, or an annual rate (assuming a 2,000-hour year) of $1.35 billion.

We read about high-paid lawyers and lobbyists in this town, but we'd be hard-pressed to find one commanding those rates.

Where does this money go? Well, I got a slick notice. And it must have been approved by roomfuls of traffic enforcement representatives, lawyers, graphic arts professionals, computerized-optical-instrument geeks, equipment providers and consultants. So we can figure they got their cut.

Is Washington safer? Does traffic flow better? What about the octogenarian diabetic I was taking to her 10 a.m. appointment at Washington Hospital Center -- how is this going to help her?

It won't take too many more of these "gotchas" to discourage me permanently from volunteering this kind of help in the District.

Paul Slattery


Thanks for your unusual take on a red-light ticket. But the fact is, wherever cameras catch and ticket red-light runners, red-light running at those intersections declines dramatically. I'm all for the cameras. Drivers should not run red lights.

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.

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


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

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

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.