Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After parking at a Rosslyn meter, I discovered that it wouldn't take my quarter, which jammed in the slot. I tried to push it in with another quarter, to no avail. The display on the meter said "FAIL."

I assumed that I had lucked out and rushed off to my meeting. When I returned -- you guessed it -- I had a $25 ticket. Surely the ticket writer saw the word "FAIL" on the meter, and the jammed quarter was clearly visible in the slot.

What are the rules about parking at a broken meter?

Arthur F. Manfredi Jr.

Falls Church

You're not supposed to do it, although I'm not aware of any signs that notify a person of that rule.

Arlington transportation official Terry L. Bellamy suggests that if you get cited, phone the number on the ticket to report a malfunctioning meter. The county will investigate, and if the meter is found to be faulty, your ticket will be voided.

This is also the way it works in the District, I'm told, although some readers tell me the adjudicators may not void the fine even if the meter was broken.

My advice is to not park at broken meters. The hassle isn't worth it. But if you do and get ticketed, be sure to phone in a broken meter report immediately.

Show a Little Courtesy

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Re: The proposals in your recent columns about charging extra for overweight Metro passengers:

There should be an extra charge on Metro for all sorts of people taking up more than "their fair share" of room.

A double fare should be charged to those riding with enough baggage to serve them on a world cruise, along with those passengers pushing, pulling and generally struggling with baby carriages, strollers, bicycles and the occasional skateboard or scooter.

Extra fares also for the skinny people toting their huge gym bags, along with backpackers who take up two spaces even when standing.

And what about shoppers laden down with purchases along with purses, plus designer bags from Whole Foods and Hecht's whose glares dare you to ask that they hold their possessions instead of spreading them across two seats.

Also, a surcharge for individuals who read newspapers and use grandiose sweeping motions to turn the page, and of course for those gentlemen who must sit with their legs spread-eagle.

A tax, as well as a pox, on tourists who stop dead in their tracks upon entering or exiting a Metro car, or an escalator.

And, if a slightly larger passenger is a major complaint in anyone's life, then I suggest they need to get one.

K.B. Forney


Confusion on the Rails

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

When did the colored placard in the front window of Metro trains become optional? Oftentimes, when coming down an escalator, this is the only indicator of train color that is visible.

Just this morning I missed a train I might have made had I been able to see that it was, in fact, the Yellow Line I was looking for.

Jack Esteve


The colored placards are supposed to be placed, front and rear, on the older cars. The newer ones, making up about one-third of the fleet, use digital readouts instead. Such as "Y-e-l-l-o-w."

If you see a front or rear car without this information, call Metro at 202-637-1328. Get the car number (from the side), date, time and direction.

Chat With Dr. Gridlock

Dr. Gridlock will host an online chat from 1 to 2 p.m. tomorrow. Bring your questions and comments about local transportation matters. Log on to

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 to or faxes to 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.