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 is someone 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.

Count Her In on Metro

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 the Orange Line 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. Those passengers don't get counted using Metro's last-station counting method.

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

Parking at Reagan 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 spokesperson discussing possible solutions.

Will there be new parking facilities 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, a 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.

Unblock Airport Access

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you think the first access road to Reagan National Airport from the northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway out of Old Town Alexandria will 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 cut across a bike-hike trail. The main entrance passes over that trail via a bridge. That is from Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Reagan National Airport.

Some Simply 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 are already unable to find a seat.

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 language "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.

Metro Scores a Hit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Yesterday I made my first pilgrimage to RFK Stadium to see the Washington Nationals play. I dreaded the return trip by Metro, but, to my surprise, it went beautifully.

The crowds poured out of the stadium after the game. There was some congestion at the top of the escalators, but the crowd was in a good mood (the Nats had beaten the Pirates in a close game) and flowed smoothly into the station.

As I got to the bottom of the inside escalators, an empty train pulled into the station. I hopped aboard and was back in downtown Washington about 45 minutes after the last out.

Well done, Metro.

Buck Shinkman


Thanks. Remember, the closest exit to the stadium from the Blue/Orange Line's Stadium-Armory stop is at 19th Street and Independence Avenue SE. The other entrance is two blocks away on 19th Street between C and Burke streets SE.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Over the past several weeks, you have periodically featured some of the complaints people have about Metro; I have some of my own as well. But today, I want to give Metro a much-deserved commendation.

On June 26, a Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a Washington Nationals baseball game at RFK Stadium and used Metro to get there.

I was surprised to see such a high volume of people traveling with me from the Shady Grove station all the way to Stadium-Armory.

Metro did a magnificent job of shepherding passengers smoothly. It was clear that extra trains had been added; even eight-car trains were used.

Although the cars were crowded, and at some points even more crowded than a typical weekday rush hour, the experience was definitely a good one. Metro deserves a pat on the back for the great job it did.

William Saunders


And thank you!

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.