Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently moved to Columbia and commute for work to Georgetown. I've been taking the MARC train and then the Metro to Foggy Bottom, but the two trains take one hour and 45 minutes each way!

I had no idea that it would take that long! Driving didn't seem like a great option, with high gas prices and the hassle of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Any suggestions to speed my commute?

Sarah Short


Columbia to Georgetown is a rough commute, but it should not take that long. Here are some possible alternatives: Drive to the Metrorail station at College Park (Green Line), Landover (Orange Line) or Largo Town Center (Blue Line). Those are all in Prince George's County, and all have ample parking, I'm told. The Landover and Largo stations offer direct connections to the Foggy Bottom station, from which you can walk to Georgetown.

Or, look for car-sharing options by calling Commuter Connections at 800-745-RIDE or visiting Commuter Connections, which helps connect riders and drivers who may have similar commutes, is a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Or, you can drive. Take Route 29 or Interstate 95 south to the Capital Beltway's outer loop, and then Wisconsin Avenue inbound to the desired location in Georgetown. But unless you have free parking, that would be an expensive, tiring way to go.

Anyone out there have any other suggestions for Ms. Short?

Lumps in the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What's with the asphalt lumps every 45 feet or so across all lanes on the Capital Beltway outer loop between St. Barnabas Road and Route 5?

Like minor speed bumps, they are extremely uncomfortable, and you can't avoid them.

Michael R. Kelley

City of Fairfax

What you're seeing and feeling is patchwork on the Beltway. The Maryland State Highway Administration is going to resurface the inner and outer loops of the Beltway between Routes 210 and 5. First comes the patching, then the overlay.

Elsewhere on the Beltway, the highway department is doing the same work from the Prince George's-Montgomery county border to Route 193 (Greenbelt Road).

Each of those projects is about three miles long and scheduled to be finished next spring.

Drivers, Be Patient

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm responding to the letter from the driver who was annoyed at children dawdling while entering and exiting school buses [Dr. Gridlock, July 7]. That driver should chill out. Maybe the children in his area are getting on the bus slowly, but perhaps there is more than meets the eye.

My son looks like any other young child waiting for the bus, but looks can be deceiving. He is autistic and requires a few extra moments when getting on the bus.

My son is unavoidably delayed in boarding the bus by our efforts to improve his social skills and secure him in his seat. The bus is not legally allowed to move until he is strapped in.

Those two efforts take little time, but there have been several instances when drivers have honked at the bus and, on at least one occasion, the bus driver was reported to the Anne Arundel County transportation office for standing too long.

I ask all drivers to be patient. Please allow yourself a few extra minutes when you know you're going to encounter a bus along your route.

And in the end, treat each bus as if it is carrying your own most precious cargo, your children, and give the school bus drivers a break.

Lori Skalitzky


Amen. Here's another view.

Adjust Priorities

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I suppose that after decades of watching the increase in aggressive driving and biking in the Washington area, nothing should surprise me. Every rush hour is a circus of drivers who refuse to use turn signals or who make "interesting" maneuvers with a cell phone pressed to their ear.

However, James Evans's complaints [Dr. Gridlock, July 7] about students who "just take their sweet time" boarding a school bus, "not caring about the drivers they are delaying," was more than a little over the top.

You were absolutely right in your advice that Mr. Evans explore an alternate route to work. But I am disturbed that a commuter took offense at such a situation, where the law is clear and the safety of youngsters is at stake.

Please, folks! If the timing of your commute is so strict that a delay triggers an aggressive response where children are present, think about leaving home 10 minutes earlier, changing your working hours, telecommuting and, most of all, adjusting your priorities.

Lee Nesbit


Thank you for a solid response.

Anti-Theft, to Boot

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here's an idea to discourage car thefts that's no more odd than others I've seen. I wonder how much it would cost to buy a "boot" such as the ones the District government attaches to one of your vehicle's wheels if you're too much of a scofflaw.

Seems to me that it would be bulletproof and ought to discourage a car thief.

Mark LaBarre


That's a novel approach. What does it say about the number of cars stolen in our area that we now have to boot ourselves for protection?

I haven't heard of citizens booting themselves to keep their vehicles from being stolen. Anyone out there have any knowledge of that?

Drop the Coins

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metrobuses recently started using fare boxes that require more careful, one-by-one depositing of coins. Fare paying with coins now takes longer.

Metro might prefer that people use SmarTrip cards on buses, but some of us don't want to. It would be helpful if Metro resumed selling bus tokens and tickets that can be used for the regular and the elderly/disabled fares. Those slip into the fare box more easily.

Rachel Hecht


Here is a response from Candace Smith, a Metro spokeswoman:

"Metrobus fare boxes were outfitted with a new coin insertion slot last month to eliminate coin jams. Just like vending machines, riders have to insert coins one at a time. Previously, riders would dump a handful of coins in the fare box coin cup, which caused the machines to malfunction and caused delays for passengers waiting to pay their fare.

"Metro encourages customers to use SmarTrip cards, because of the security, speed and convenience. However, we still sell and accept Metrobus tokens for regular-fare customers and students.

"Tickets were discontinued over 18 months ago, as they cannot be inserted into the new fare box. Seniors and people with a disability can purchase a weekly $6 Metrobus flash pass that provides unlimited travel on all Metro buses for that week.

"Information about these passes, and tokens, can be found by clicking on this link:

"Seniors also can pay half the one-way fare upon presentation to the bus driver of their WMATA Seniors card, or a Medicare card."

Thank you, Ms. Smith. I hope that covers your questions, Ms. Hecht. It sounds like a flash pass would be the quickest way to board if you are a senior citizen and/or disabled.

Otherwise, tokens could be the way to go. Let Dr. Gridlock know how this works.

Accident Cleanup

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who pays for cleanup of road accidents?

A recent accident on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg closed the road for many hours and required extensive cleanup and pavement repair because a large amount of pesticide or herbicide spilled onto the road.

This accident was caused by a truck rear-ending two other trucks.

James Ireland

Great Falls

The cost will be the responsibility of the trucking company that caused the accident, according to Ryan Hall, a Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman. The accident occurred about 1 a.m. on July 7 when a tractor-trailer truck rammed into another truck. The driver of the tractor-trailer was killed, and his load of corrosive chemicals was propelled through the cab and onto the pavement.

The accident closed southbound I-95 for 28 hours and the northbound lanes for nine hours. A VDOT contract crew worked overnight in the rain to repair the road surface, Hall said.

Once the cleanup contractor submits a bill to VDOT, the department will send it along to the insurer of the tractor-trailer, Hall said.

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.