Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am writing in response to James Evans of Silver Spring [Dr. Gridlock, July 7], who wrote expressing his frustration with children boarding school buses too slowly.
Kids will be kids. They live in their own world, free of concerns about such things as waiting motorists, and rightfully so. Leave them to think of more important things, like whether or not their peanut butter and jelly sandwich is cut into squares or triangles that day.
As I'm certain every parent will agree, Mr. Evans would be wise not to resort to his car horn to speed the children along. He would surely be frowned upon by the entire community, if he has not been already.
Certainly waiting motorists are entitled to a view that departing schoolchildren should not tarry in the roads.
Thanks for your opposing view, Mr. Smolinski.
Parents Are Best Teachers
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My 15-year-old son recently finished a driver's education program with a well-known driving school to satisfy a requirement for obtaining a driver's license.
Imagine my surprise upon hearing that his teacher had not taken him on the Capital Beltway or Interstate 270, both of which are less than five miles from where we live.
That experience, it turns out, is not unique to my son. Almost all of his peers received the same inadequate driving instruction.
Granted, the responsibility for ensuring that a teenager is ready to drive does fall predominantly on the shoulders of parents, but in light of the current spate of teenage deaths due to poor driving skills, it would behoove driving schools, and the authorities who should oversee them, to take their jobs more seriously.
Mercia Ordman Rindler
You would think the state legislatures would require such schools to provide certain basic instruction, such as practice on an interstate highway, but that's not the case. The legislators are asleep when it comes to driver education standards.
For years I've cautioned readers to expect little from these commercial driving schools. By all means, do not think your teenager is ready to drive solo just by "graduating" from one of these schools.
Teenagers should receive their primary driver's education from their parents, over a long period, with training in every conceivable driving situation (including interstate highways). Only when parents feel their child is ready to drive solo should they allow a driver's license.
The commercial driving schools provide certificates necessary to get a license. Expect nothing more.
Metro on Parking Spaces
With regard to Metro's parking lot procedures, Metro's parking customer service representatives survey each facility by 9 a.m. weekdays to see if a lot is full. If it is, with the exception of the reserved spaces, the representative will place a sign at the entrance that says the lot is full except for the reserved spaces.
Reserved parking spaces for permit holders are held until 10 a.m. After that time, all unused spaces are available to general parking customers. If a customer enters a parking facility and cannot find a space, the representative can let the driver exit without paying.
Metro is working on a pilot program to install "Lot Full" signs and associated equipment at several parking facilities by the end of the year.
Public Affairs Specialist
Area Transit Authority
So, there you have it. If the lot is full, a sign should be posted at the entrance. If you are inside and can't find a parking space, a customer service representative can let you out without paying.
Let me know how this is working out.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Law enforcement officers in our city certainly don't deserve to be reported for parking illegally to grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee [Dr. Gridlock, July 7].
I support any type of police presence, even a double-parked police presence.
It is ludicrous to expect officers to park legally while conducting non-emergency business. If, by parking illegally, officers are able to patronize local establishments and increase their on-street presence, I fully support the practice.
We should be doing everything we can to support these officers -- not griping about a motorcycle on the sidewalk.
And your request to readers to pass along information about offending vehicles for police to investigate? Please. These men and women deserve far more respect, support and accommodation.
Well, that is certainly a counterpoint. The voices I have heard on this subject are mad that police park illegally. They don't like police doing something they can't do, especially when police are not on an emergency call.
However, now that you mention it, if I were a downtown merchant, it would be okay by me if police parked on a sidewalk near my front door or picked up a cup of coffee nearby.
We disagree over the matter of double parking, however. We don't want police on a non-emergency call blocking a lane of traffic. We want police to move traffic along, not block it.
Thanks for your views, Mr. Farley.
Loudoun County Parkway
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
It makes no sense to me that Route 606, where it intersects with Route 50 behind Dulles International Airport, is called the Loudoun County Parkway. At that point, it does not connect with the existing parkway at all. It does connect, and has always connected, with Old Ox Road, as it was always called.
What are those highway guys thinking?
I'm glad to get this question, because it prompted me to go to Leesburg and get a status report on the Loudoun County Parkway.
Most of the 13.5-mile road is built or under construction. It will run from Route 7 south to Braddock Road near South Riding, where it may one day link to the tri-county parkway, a different project under study.
The Loudoun County Parkway will be four or six lanes divided and will provide a north-south artery through residential areas and office plazas between Routes 28 and 15.
As to its intersection with Route 50, Mr. Riley, the Loudoun County Parkway is now completed on both sides of what used to be the Route 50 intersection with Route 606, so county officials believe it is logical to designate that cross street as the Loudoun County Parkway.
Here's where we stand, starting from the north at Route 7.
* From Route 7 to a half-mile south: completed.
* From there, 1.4 miles south, to Redskins Park: under construction, scheduled for completion in midsummer 2006.
* From there, 4.5 miles south, to near Ryan Road: completed.
* From there, 3.5 miles south, to Evergreen Mill Road: not funded.
* From there, three miles south, to Edgewater Street in South Riding: completed.
* The last half-mile, from Edgewater Street to Braddock Road, will be built as a proffer by developer Toll Brothers: spring 2006.
The cost of those segments has been borne by the county, the state and developers.
Given that Loudoun is one of the fastest-growing counties in America, it would seem essential to complete the parkway, but there's no timetable for that unfunded segment in the middle.
My briefers were Charles E. "Chip" Taylor and Arthur J. Smith, senior transportation officials for the Loudoun County government.
For more information on county transportation, log on to www.Loudoun.gov/transportation.
Signs Slowing Traffic
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was driving south recently on Interstate 95 in Howard County in freely moving traffic, but as I approached the exit for Route 198, traffic came to a very sudden stop. Lots of screeching tires, and one car even veering off onto the shoulder to avoid hitting another.
The apparent cause of the sudden slowdown was an electronic overhead sign warning of delays and slow traffic approaching the exit for Interstate 495.
I took note, as that was my intended destination, and continued on my way.
Immediately after the sign, traffic picked up again and was moving freely . . . until another electronic overhead sign appeared right before the exit for I-495 with the same "traffic warning."
Once again, traffic came to a drastic halt as motorists hit the brakes to read the sign. And, just as before, as soon as I had passed under the sign, traffic resumed its easy flow, even as I exited onto I-495.
So, my question is, who is in charge of deciding when and what messages should be posted on those overhead signs? I can certainly see their utility in alerting motorists of accidents and road closures, but in this case they seemed to cause more traffic problems than they prevented.
The Maryland State Highway Administration is in charge. The agency monitors state highways from a command center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. This matter has come up before, and the state says the signs are serving their purpose in getting drivers to slow down.
I'm not sure how the state could do it better. Thoughts?
Mind Medical Needs
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I read the letter from Sonja Dieterich [Dr. Gridlock, July 7] regarding the teenager who was drinking juice on the Metro under the watch of a Metro employee.
My daughter has Type I diabetes, which she treats with insulin and regularly timed meals and snacks to prevent low blood sugar.
A side effect of insulin is a sudden drop in blood sugar that can rapidly lead to coma and death. The treatment is a drink of juice, sometimes followed by food -- immediately, whenever the problem strikes. It is dangerous to wait.
Perhaps the teenager had sought the help of the Metro employee while she got her blood sugar under control. Perhaps the employee was monitoring her to be sure Metro didn't have a medical emergency on its hands.
A diabetic experiencing low blood sugar may be irritable or unable to communicate. Because of my personal experience, when I see someone eating or drinking inappropriately, I give them the benefit of the doubt.
That's a good way to cope with eaters and drinkers who drive some Metro riders bonkers. I am so sorry about your daughter's disease. It's pernicious and common. I have it, too.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My most recent experience with people eating in the subway system was unfortunately not as benign as Linda M. Cajka's [Dr. Gridlock, July 7]. On the Union Station platform a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a woman and two teenagers consuming sodas and snacks. When I asked if they realized that this activity was illegal, the woman became defensive and hostile.
I did not alert the station manager, which I have done on previous occasions, as there was a delay on the Red Line at the time, and I figured the staff already had enough to deal with.
I do not intend to ignore future scofflaws, but there are reasons for hesitating to approach them directly.
I understand your frustration, but it might be better to alert Metro personnel. You might get into a confrontation that ends badly.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.