Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I noted the letter about the crowded four-car trains on Metro's Blue Line and Metro's response that the Blue Line is the "least crowded" [Dr. Gridlock, June 30]. Metro has been saying that for years, and it's just plain wrong.

Metro apparently counts the number of people using the various subway lines only at the last stop on each line.

It is true that by the time a Blue Line train gets to Springfield, there are relatively few passengers left on board, compared with, say, the number who ride all the way to Vienna. But what about the intermediate stops?

The Blue Line disgorges most of its Virginia passengers at the Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City stations, and in Alexandria. With Metro's last-station counting method, those passengers don't get counted.

Anyone who rides the Blue Line knows that between downtown Washington (say, McPherson Square) and the Pentagon, it's absolutely packed; in fact, it's impossible for anyone except maybe a linebacker even to board a four-car Blue Line train at Farragut West. But of course, the people who count passengers and allocate cars for Metro never actually ride the trains!

Lynda Meyers


Metro does count customers from the most crowded points on the line, according to Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman.

The Blue Line count is taken at its most crowded station, which is Rosslyn.

The staff tallies the numbers according to passengers per car. By that count, here are the most heavily traveled lines, from most crowded to least:

* Green Line (103 passengers per car).

* Orange Line (96).

* Yellow Line (96).

* Red Line (91).

* Blue Line (86).

The Blue Line now has four-car trains. This fall Metro is to begin receiving the first of 184 new cars that will be deployed through next year.

The first priority, Farbstein told Dr. Gridlock, is to upgrade four-car trains to six-car trains. Then some trains will be expanded to eight cars.

By the end of the new deployment, about a third of the fleet will consist of eight-car trains.

Getting to the Airport

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Will the first access road to Reagan National Airport from the northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway out of Old Town Alexandria ever reopen?

It seems rather silly to keep driving and take the new entrance, halfway past the airport, to gain access to the airport.

The old access has been blocked by Jersey barriers since Sept. 11, 2001, I believe.

Jonathan Deutsch


The federal government closed that entrance because a better traffic pattern around the airport is accessed from the main entrance and because the now-closed entrance had cut across a biking-hiking trail. The main entrance passes over that trail via a bridge. That is from Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for Reagan National Airport.

Some Must Sit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Whoever proposed removing seats in up to 16 Metrorail cars in a pilot program to expand capacity does not ride Metro. Those of us over 65 already can't find seats.

I am recovering from cancer, and the chemotherapy causes neuropathy. Standing is no longer simple, especially when there are no grip bars to help with one's balance.

There are no more seats for the disabled and seniors.

Jim Winslow


I've got Metro saying there are set-aside seats for the disabled, with new signs that include the words "Federal Law." I've also got passengers who say there are no signs. Try this: If you see no signs for disabled seating, please send me the car number, the color of the line, date, time and direction, and I'll sit down with Metro and try to figure this out.

Parking at National

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The problem of the dearth of parking at Reagan National Airport has been covered by the local media. However, none of the stories includes a representative discussing possible solutions.

Will new parking facilities be built? Or off-site parking with shuttle buses? Or nothing?

Mark Rosen


Officials at National are looking at building parking garages or making the existing spaces smaller to fit in more vehicles, but they haven't arrived at a conclusion.

The problem is available land: National sits on 860 acres, compared with 12,000 acres at Dulles. National has 7,700 parking spaces; Dulles has 25,000. National parking is full Tuesdays through Thursdays; Dulles does not fill up.

Adding to the problem is the elimination of some off-site parking along Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1). You used to be able to park there and take a shuttle bus to National. Those spaces are gone, replaced by redevelopment.

Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for National, says motorists can call 703-417-PARK and speak to an employee 24 hours a day to determine parking availability.

National has the highest percentage of arrivals by mass transit -- 20 percent -- of any airport in the country, Hamilton said. So consider Metro as an alternative to driving. Blue and Yellow Line trains stop there.

Sell SUV, Save Gas

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'd like to comment on a letter published June 30 and your accompanying suggestion. The writer had adopted a strategy of driving 5 to 10 mph below the posted speed limit to save gas, and you generally supported the strategy except on select beltways and interstate highways.

Driving significantly below the posted speed limit during rush hour on any road that is moderately or well traveled is inviting trouble.

We are all painfully aware of the increasing congestion on commuter routes in the region that leads to increased driver stress and anxiety.

The last thing commuters need are motorists driving way below the speed limit because they think they will actually save gas.

More likely, that strategy will lead to an incident, which would result in other drivers sitting in traffic and burning gas to go nowhere while the mess gets sorted out.

A better suggestion for the writer would have been to sell that 15 mpg Toyota Sequoia SUV and buy a fuel-efficient Toyota Corolla or equivalent American car. That way they could do the posted speed limit and double their gas mileage at the same time.

Misha Ptak


I think the writer was recommending driving 5 to 10 mph slower than posted speeds, in the right lane, to feel safer. I suggested staying off interstate highways. It's a commentary about our driving culture that such a suggestion evokes criticism.

Trucks Aren't Truckin'

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive from Gainesville to Warrenton daily on Route 29. The speed limit on this stretch of road is 55 mph most of the way, and the travel time usually is less than 20 minutes.

Lately, however, I've noticed an increase in the number of construction vehicles and dump trucks on the highway.

Many mornings the trucks can be found occupying both lanes, traveling around 40 mph, with the drivers having no intention of turning onto side streets or changing lanes.

Are trucks allowed to travel below the posted speed limit on Route 29 in the left lane?

If they're all traveling at the same slower speed, they should do so in the right lane so commuters can pass them on the left.

Jason Smolinski


Unless signs are posted prohibiting trucks from the left lane, as on the Capital Beltway, I believe they can use that lane. However, there is a Virginia law that if an overtaking vehicle signals an intent to pass, the slower vehicle must pull to the right and let the overtaking vehicle pass.

Of course, if you're honking at truck drivers, that might get you crunched between two dump trucks.

The construction vehicles are another sign that your supervisors are irresponsibly approving more development that will attract more drivers who will need more road capacity that isn't there.

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.