Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A letter to Dr. Gridlock on June 30 asked about the lack of signs for the new Largo Town Center Metro station. In response, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein explained that "it's very expensive, but it's something we will do, definitely." I have but two simple questions:

1. We know they are expensive, but why weren't they budgeted when planning the new station?

2. How long would it take if the stop were named Reagan Largo?

That was not an explanation, Ms. Farbstein, but rather a poor excuse. No wonder Metro is in such alleged dire financial straits; it can't even budget properly for signs.

Mike Huddleston


A reader had pointed out that Blue Line signs on the brown pylons inside the stations have the line ending at Addison Road, rather than at the new Largo Town Center, three miles farther out. Metro says it will get around to it.

Parking at Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The parking garage at the Green Line's Suitland station was unusually crowded this morning.

At 6:30 a.m., the entire first level was full, something I haven't seen in my three years of using the garage.

Is the construction at the federal center next door forcing government workers to use the Suitland garage? If so, it would be unfortunate, since the garage is supposed to be for people who use the Metro.

David Campbell

St. Leonard

Here's what Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein says: "The Suitland Metrorail station parking facility has room for 1,890 vehicles. It usually fills between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m. People who park there are Metro customers.

"We have contacted local contractors who are working on projects in the area to remind them that their employees are not to park in the Metro facility.

"We do monitor the lot, and any instances of non-Metro customers using the parking facility are rare."

Dr. Gridlock here. I'm not sure how they can monitor nearly 2,000 drivers. Keep an eye out and report back to me, and I'll forward any information to Metro.

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 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, 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.

Count Her In

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. 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.

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 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 onboard 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!

A Helping Hand

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Life is so full of complaints that it is refreshing to see someone who cares. May I add Tom Adams at the Walnut Hill Chevron in Gaithersburg to your list of helping hands?

I was hurrying out Interstate 270 and could not avoid a large piece of tire debris in the road. I continued to drive with a worrisome sound persisting.

I stopped at Walnut Hill Chevron, and Mr. Adams quickly put the car up on a lift, managed to reattach a broken shield on the front underside and had me on my way to my granddaughter's award ceremony in 10 minutes.

He refused any payment and just asked me to remember him when I need service in the future. I don't live in the area but feel those who do should know what a helping hand Mr. Adams was to a very grateful grandmother.

Ruthann Arnsberger

Silver Spring

I like these e-mails.

Pedestrian Responsibility

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My goodness! All of those people who dash across the eight lanes of East West Highway between the Prince George's Plaza Metro station and the Mall at Prince George's and have never used the nearby pedestrian overpass!

The reason the piers of the bridge look as if they were designed to hold tanks rather than foot traffic is to accommodate the elevators inside them. So people with strollers or packages have no excuse for not using the bridge.

What is needed under the bridge is a long, high fence or berm rather than the anemic plantings of pyracantha, also known as firethorn.

Such an impediment would stop the people who endanger their lives and those of the drivers speeding along East West Highway.

Paul D. Motzenbecker Jr.

University Park

A fence barrier the state installed along Route 202 near Largo High School was vandalized.

With pedestrians able to safely cross East West Highway at signalized intersections on either side of the overpass and on the overpass itself, I sense the state is not going to put up a fence to dissuade jaywalkers from making this dangerous crossing.

There are warning signs. At some point, the pedestrians have to take responsibility for themselves.

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.