Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been following traffic here in the Washington area for over 10 years, and it seems that one factor is ignored by almost everyone, even by the state transportation departments and our elected officials. They have been trying to lessen traffic congestion by widening roads, reconfiguring roads, etc. What they forget is that traffic is not made up of roads; it's made up of cars. If you don't reduce the number of cars on the road, all the road work is for naught.

Americans have to get used to the fact that we cannot continue to drive our vehicles everywhere we want to go, especially in this city. We have to come up with more and better mass transit, including expanding Metro inside the city, in the suburbs and into areas such as Woodbridge, Manassas and Frederick. Many residents of those outlying areas don't take the bus or mass transit because they would have to transfer too many times to reach their destination.

Another change we need to make is to live closer to our jobs. We are so pigheaded about choosing where we live. We drive in hours of traffic so our kids can stay at the same school, or so we can live in Maryland rather than Virginia. If we lived closer to our jobs, we would be much better off and less stressed.

Our kids are pretty resilient and can adjust to a new school. Why are people living in Rockville and above and driving to near Dulles to work? For God's sake, move. The money you save in gas and your time will be worth it.

Terence Heron


Plus, our children would gain needed nurturing and education time. The farther out our population grows, the more costly any mass transit options become. Alternatives to moving closer to one's job could include working at home, a four-day work week, satellite offices and staggered work hours. If gasoline prices keep going up, more people will be driven to use mass transit.

Alexandria's Dilemma

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read the latest woes about Alexandria traffic and chuckled. The city has crammed so much development from one end to the other. It is a free-for-all that has severely eroded the quality of life there.

I moved out of Alexandria because of lousy development decisions and the heavy traffic. And I don't visit Old Town much anymore because of the traffic.

Recent population statistics show that Alexandria is losing residents. Maybe they got fed up with the chaotic building and freakish traffic. I choose to live and spend my money elsewhere, and I bet others have, too.

Robert Casey


And Washington Street is a huge commuter avenue between the District and Fairfax County. Still, the city has been able to keep a number of historic sites and a historic character. For now.

Virginia Eligibility Ages

Dear Dr. Gridlock

Is it true that the age of eligibility for a driver's permit in Virginia is changing from 15 years, 9 months to an older age? If so, what are the new rules?

Herve Kopciak


The minimum age to obtain a Virginia learner's permit is 15 years, 6 months. The minimum age to get a driver's license is 16 years, 3 months. There are no changes afoot, according to Pam Goheen, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

A Mannerly Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In multiple trips to Paris, I, like other readers [Dr. Gridlock, July 7], have observed the manners of Paris Metro riders. In spite of the Parisians' reputation for rudeness, I found Metro riders there to be far more courteous than Washington Metro riders.

On one trip, I was using the Metro during one of the city's labor disputes, and the trains were limited and crowded. On more than one occasion, I was offered a seat by a young person. I am a senior citizen but have no disabilities otherwise.

Would the same thing happen on Washington's Metro? I don't think so!

Joyce Davis


Parking Impasse

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While driving one-way 18th Street NW between F and G streets during a recent morning rush hour, I noticed a car parked in the left lane, which is supposed to remain clear during rush hours. Any blockage of these rush-hour lanes can cause severe backups. When I noticed a police officer looking at the car, I thought, "Good! That illegally parked vehicle will be removed."

The next morning, what did I see but the same car parked in the same place, apparently unmoved since the previous morning! The car was not identified as a government or official vehicle, but it was displaying handicap plates.

Now, if it were up to me, I wouldn't give even the president a pass on parking illegally during rush hour. Do you know why this vehicle was allowed to remain in its illegal spot?

Rick Johnson


No, but you can report such chronic problems to the mayor's command center at 202-727-1000. Keep track of your report. If nothing happens in a few weeks, please write back to me, with license plate numbers and vehicle location, and I'll contact the police.

Illegal parking is the single biggest cause of downtown gridlock, and police should be all over the violators.

Build Roads, Too

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Are we trying to re-create Route 1 in western Prince William County? I count three 7-Elevens, one On the Run convenience store and a BP gas station in a half-mile stretch of Route 29 in Gainesville, and a Wawa store is on the way. How many gas stations/quick marts with entrances and exits on congested Route 29 do we need?

I am now watching the Madison Crescent mixed-use development going up at the corner of Routes 15 and 29, plus numerous other new subdivisions up and down Route 15, and traffic has to stop to let heavy construction trucks in and out of these sites.

How in the world do you think all the future vehicles are going to get in and out of their subdivisions and shopping centers without more traffic lights? Are we going to have a light on every block? Route 29 traffic is already backed up a mile in the morning from the light in Gainesville. The plan for the Interstate 66 Gainesville interchange is still years away.

Let's not even talk about the traffic disasters that Nissan Pavilion causes during its events.

I am not opposed to new subdivisions. I'm enjoying the increased shopping opportunities and property values that have come to an area that had little of either for most of the 28 years I have lived here.

But there does not seem to be any thought given to resulting road conditions or how many gas stations the area really needs.

I vote that every county supervisor approving these projects be forced to move into this end of the county and commute to Fairfax. That's already one hour away.

Lynne McClure


I feel your pain. It's only going to get worse. The problem is that the county supervisors believe their legacy is to develop land, regardless of whether there are any transportation improvements to accommodate the new growth. There aren't.

Perhaps you folks should go to County Board meetings with signs that say, "No Growth Without Transportation."

The state, as you know, controls the roads, and the county supervisors control development. The two sides aren't meshing. Hence, your letter.

Never Too Young

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Parents need to realize that they start influencing their children's future driving habits when the kids are about 3 years old. Like it or not, children tend to imitate the behavior of those around them. Parents who ferry their kids around are setting an example that no amount of driving instruction can overcome.

Jean Busby


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in Extra and Sundays in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.