Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently my husband and I decided to remove my name from the title of our Toyota MR2. We arrived at the MVA [Motor Vehicle Administration] in Gaithersburg and entered the building, expecting a long wait. I am temporarily using a cane, so I sat down, intending to move along from chair to chair as the line moved forward.

In a few minutes, a smiling MVA employee named Bonnie Nicholson came up and told us we could go to her window immediately. She helped us complete the necessary forms and, within a very reasonable period of time, we had paid the fees and were ready to leave.

Things have certainly improved in Gaithersburg. Incidentally, I have e-mailed Bonnie Nicholson's supervisor. She is doing a great job.

Barbara Videll


Good to hear of such deeds. The MVA today is a far cry from the days before automation and chairs.

One-Plate Mystery

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The number of Maryland registered vehicles carrying only a rear plate is a widespread problem. I have probably seen a dozen Maryland vehicles each day with only one plate.

I have also seen several vehicles with expired tags, only one registration sticker or no stickers.

Tom Lansford


The Maryland MVA says it is not aware of such problems. I wonder if readers could get more details, such as the license plate number, which plate is missing and where the vehicle was spotted. I can then ask the MVA to look into the matter.

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 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, and 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 knows where all of its 1,400-plus buses are at any time because of an automated vehicle locator system that works like the LoJack car recovery system, according to spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

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


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.

Route 5 Intersections

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What happened to the plans to upgrade Route 5's intersections with Surratts, Brandywine and Accokeek roads to overpasses and underpasses? Are there still plans to go ahead with these upgrades?

Darrell Francis

Fort Washington

No small question with 80,000 vehicles a day passing through those intersections, but the state has not funded interchanges at Surratts, Brandywine and Accokeek roads.

The state did install some turn lanes at Surratts a couple years ago. A developer is installing more turn lanes, and the state is trying to get the developer not to work during morning rush hours. His work is causing additional inbound traffic congestion, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

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.