Dear Dr. Gridlock:

For several years now, my friends, colleagues and I have been discussing how much worse area traffic becomes after Labor Day. We understand a sudden increase due to school and work resuming after vacations, but why are September and October still even worse than the rest of the year -- say, November or January or April?

School and work are still factors through spring. I used to think maybe I was just having a tough adjustment to summer's end, but during the last few weeks I have timed several of my commutes at over two hours one way to 18th Street in the District. Several of my colleagues from varied locations in Baltimore or Virginia are also reporting record commutes.

Kimberly Marshall


I checked with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and one planner suggested that, while they have no studies on the matter, the months right after Labor Day may seem the worst because the contrast is so sharp between September-October and July-August, when so many people leave town.

And remember, students have breaks in November, December and the spring; colleges are getting out in May these days; and people are more likely to take vacations during those times than in September and October, when they have just finished vacations.

Also, factor in ever-increasing overall traffic as development continues to outpace transportation improvements.

Prince George's vs. Montgomery

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I just read the letter from John Binford of Silver Spring in which he said he would never live in Prince George's County [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29]. What an insulting letter!

Mr. Binford should review Montgomery County's crime rate (teen stabbing at Blake High School, etc.), cost of living and commuting alternatives.

I lived in Montgomery County from 1959 until I moved to Prince George's in 1979, first to Takoma Park and then to West Laurel in 1986. There is not much about either county that I don't know well.

I live in a terrific community. My son has gone to three award-winning public schools, starting in grade school and now high school.

Your suggestion to the couple who worked in Annapolis and Manassas to live in Prince George's County was a very good one, especially in the northern county. There are high-speed roads all the way to both Annapolis and Manassas.

I scoured the Northern Virginia area for an affordable home with a comparable community and to this day have not found an equal, and even if I did, my wife would have to suffer a horrible commute to Washington from Northern Virginia, and my son would be uprooted from a very good school and terrific friends.

Prince George's County certainly has some serious problems -- but so does Montgomery County. Prince George's, however, has plenty of neighborhoods that have a lower cost of living and are safe, affordable and convenient to mass transit and major work areas. Silver Spring has a fairly high crime rate, is traffic clogged 24/7 and is a very expensive place to live.

P.S. When gasoline was $2.89 in Laurel, it was $3.29 in Four Corners.

Tim Joliet


I'm happy to see someone so proud of where they live. Makes such a difference in quality of life.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm writing in response to the man who said everyone in Prince George's County should sell and move elsewhere [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29].

Two years ago, when I was looking to buy a house, I would have loved to have moved to Silver Spring, but the almost-new, two-bedroom, two-car garage townhouse I ultimately bought in Prince George's County would have cost three times as much.

Yes, there is crime, but it is concentrated on the District border, not in the suburbs, where I live. I feel safer at night here than I did during the six years I rented in Adams Morgan and Foggy Bottom.

In exchange for living in Prince George's County, I have an average 40-minute, 17-mile car or bus commute. Or, if I get to the Largo Metro station by 8 a.m., I can park and ride. Try that in any other Metro parking lot!

All is not perfect. I soon plan to move back to Washington, but only because I miss the D.C. nightlife and walking to work, not because of an irrational fear of crime.

In fact, my biggest concern about moving back is that, despite my relatively high income and a 40 percent increase in home equity, I'm afraid I won't be able to find an affordable, decent place to live in the District! To me, that's the real crime.

Mark Reilley

Upper Marlboro

That's the dilemma here. Home prices are rising in the metropolitan area, but if you sell and cash in, where can you afford to go next?

Accessing Arena Exit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I work at an office building in New Carrollton. Occasionally, my colleagues and I go to the Boulevard at the Capital Centre for lunch. It's new, clean and close by. We would frequent the complex even more if not for the trouble it takes to get there. We have to either take the Capital Beltway all the way to the Central Avenue exit and circle back or take local streets through some risky neighborhoods.

Why is the Beltway's Arena Drive exit for Boulevard at the Capital Centre always closed during the week? Using that route would allow us a much quicker trip, given that we have one hour for lunch.

Marci Weiskott

Silver Spring

It's because regular use of the Arena Drive exit would provoke the concern of highway officials, who think it is too close to its adjacent Beltway exits and thus could cause dangerous traffic, with drivers weaving to get on and off Arena Drive.

But help is on the way. Maryland has the funds to build access roads parallel to the Beltway, eliminating the concerns and enabling the Arena Drive interchange to be used full time. The date for completion is in 2009.

Towing Abandoned Vehicles

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am concerned about a very large truck carrying a lot of junk that has been parked at Fourth and C streets SW for the last couple of weeks.

It has been ticketed three times, but according to a meter attendant with whom I spoke, that is the maximum number of times it can be ticketed. The attendant also said the truck cannot be towed until a month has passed.

This is not just a meter violation, but also a violation of no-standing/parking rules during the morning rush hour (7 to 9:30 a.m.).

More important, this truck strikes me as a security threat, parked with unknown cargo next to a number of federal office buildings.

Heidi Sorensen

University Park

The city says to call the catchall complaint number, 202-727-1000. Get a tracking number for your complaint, and check back in a few weeks. If the problem remains, please contact me again.

Bikers Belong on Bike Path?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive on Rock Creek Parkway most days, and on occasion I am frustrated to come across cyclists using the road instead of the adjacent bike path. Their presence is dangerous in a number of ways, such as when drivers try to pass them on the winding, two-lane portions of the parkway.

Are cyclists required to use an adjacent bike path when one is provided?

David Morgenstern


No, not in any of our jurisdictions, according to Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

Many bicyclists eschew the Rock Creek bike path because it is cratered and cracked from tree roots and has too many puddles when it rains, Gilliland said. Can't blame them.

You may be interested to know that the Rock Creek bike path, from P Street NW to Broad Branch Road NW, is scheduled to be rebuilt. That project, involving the city and the National Park Service, is scheduled to start in January 2007 and take six to nine months to complete, according to the District government's bicycle coordinator, Jim Sebastian. That may take more bikes off the roadways.

D.C.'s Cell Phone Ban

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I believe that talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving was outlawed in the District about a year ago.

As a frequent pedestrian and occasional driver living near Dupont Circle, I notice more, not fewer, drivers in violation.

Have the police issued any tickets or made any arrests in the months since the ban went into effect?

It seems that when I spot a particularly dangerous driver, she or he is on a cell phone almost every time.

Thank you! I really appreciate your column. It is a genuine public service.

Bill Mould


Thanks. Since the law went into effect, in July 2004, District police issued 8,348 citations and 4,284 warnings through August, according to Kevin Morison, who handles such statistics for the police.

Based on those numbers, it seems the police are responding to the problem. Maybe the word hasn't reached everyone, or maybe this is a case where the police can't get them all. Do you have any suggestions?

Highway Driving 101

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am wondering if you have recommendations for driving schools in the Washington area. I previously took lessons with a District school and got my license, but now I'd like to take lessons on highways in Maryland or Virginia. How can I wade through the listings and know which company is reputable?

Stacie Marinelli


Lots of luck. I've had one letter of recommendation for the Potomac Driving School in Montgomery County, but that's about it. Be sure to ask providers what highways, if any, the school uses. A lot of them don't go on any interstate highways.

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.