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 even give 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; police should be all over violators.

Buses Won't Be Stranded

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why in the world doesn't Metrobus use a silent alarm that can be triggered by bus drivers? With Global Positioning System technology, such an alarm could alert the Metro police to the location of a bus sending out a distress call.

Chris Miller


Metrobuses do have such alarms, plus a bus's overhead sign can be adjusted to read "Call 911." Metro always knows where all of its 1,400-plus buses are because of an automated vehicle locator system that works like the LoJack car recovery system, according to spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

Body Heat

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been traveling a lot by Metro this summer, and it seems that the temperature in the underground stations is warmer than it was in previous summers.

Is Metro skimping on air conditioning to save money? It sure seems that way to me, and to friends and co-workers who report that they also have noticed the change.

Or might it just be aging air conditioning systems in stations built in the 1970s and 1980s?

Eric Rubin


Metro says it is none of the above. Instead, it says, the warmer stations are the result of record numbers of passengers -- 800,000 a day or more on a number of occasions -- and the resulting crush of bodies in the stations.

Adult Refresher Courses

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You've often observed that many commercial driving schools in our area are little more than certificate mills, and you have warned that parents need to take direct responsibility for properly teaching their children how to drive.

What about middle-aged adults who lack confidence in their own driving ability, are terrified of Washington-area traffic and could benefit from a good behind-the-wheel defensive driving course? I have a friend who admits she could use a good accident avoidance skills program but has been able to find local courses geared only to teenagers or traffic court defendants.

Are there any programs in the Washington area that you would recommend for an adult refresher course?

My suggestion that she look into the well-regarded BSR program at Summit Point, W.Va., was shot down as being "too far away." Any advice you might have about more accessible options would be most appreciated!

Ken Gaul


BSR is just over the Virginia border, near Charles Town, W.Va. Another program is run by Car Guys of Rockville (800-800-GUYS). A reader recently recommended the Potomac Driving School in Rockville. Good luck!

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.