Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You frequently suggest that people live close to their work. That is the biggest laugh I have heard in a long time. I just saw a report where the average home in Arlington costs over $600,000, and in Fairfax it was $500,000.

I was out in Gainesville recently, and the building boom there is just incredible. I am guessing the traffic there is not bad enough that people are not willing to live there. Plus they have several neighborhoods where new homes cost in excess of $700,000, and there does not seem to be a problem selling them. So why would the prices get any better closer to the city?

The city has more jobs than there are homes surrounding the area. Just because the job is located in the city does not mean you get paid enough to live near the city.

Wyatt Miedema


You are correct. The more affordable homes are farther out from the District. New subdivisions are booming in places like Loudoun and Prince William counties, where buyers may find themselves in for a hellish commute due to too much demand on an inadequate transportation system. Gainesville to Washington is one of those awful commutes.

Supervisors who approve new residential developments without necessary road improvements are some of the congestion culprits. The Virginia General Assembly members, who could give local governments more power to regulate growth, are others. The buyers of these new homes are also contributors to commuting gridlock.

Some commuting alternatives are working at home; four-day work weeks; staggered work hours; regional office centers; slugging to use HOV lanes (; carpooling (call 800-745-RIDE for matches); Metro (try and click on "Trip Planner"); local commuter buses; or Virginia Railway Express (703-684-1001).

Blocking the Box

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Concerning Robert Van Epps's pet peeve about drivers who do not move into the intersection to make a turn when the light turns green [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 6]:

As the father of a sheriff's deputy and a volunteer firefighter, I can tell you that one of their pet peeves is people who move into the box, or the center of the intersection, when a light turns green, but a turn is not possible because of oncoming traffic.

I have been taught to stay out of the box until it is clear for me to complete my turn.

Thomas H. Brown


It is proper and accepted practice around here that the lead vehicle waiting to make a left turn can creep into the intersection and wait for a gap in oncoming traffic, even if the turn has to be made at the end of the green light cycle (on amber or red).

However, a second motorist should not creep into the intersection until after the first one has made the turn and the light is still green. Vehicles bunching up in the intersection can lead to the blocking that you describe, Mr. Brown.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Does Robert Van Epps [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 6] understand that the law states you are not supposed to enter the intersection until it is safe to clear the intersection? People who block the intersection to cross traffic because they can't complete a safe and legal turn are among my pet peeves.

Brian Rugen


It is legal -- and the custom here -- for the lead vehicle to creep into an intersection and wait for a gap to make a left turn, so long as you enter the intersection on a green light.

Since many traffic lights have a second or two when red is displayed in all directions before the light changes, that interval should allow the turning motorist to complete the left turn as oncoming traffic is halted.

On the other hand, there is no law that requires a driver to creep into the intersection to make a turn if they don't feel that is safe.

D.C. Traffic Enforcement

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Having read recently about the ineffectiveness of the District's red light cameras, I am wondering how long it will take the city to realize it is speeding that is the problem.

It seems that the police have completely given up on controlling speed in this city. Traveling 20 mph or more over speed limits in the city appears to be common practice and is the real danger on our streets.

Is policing speeders just an impossible task?

Bill London


Apparently it is an impossible task, considering the extent of the city's traffic enforcement. Do you know how many officers the Metropolitan Police Department assigns to traffic patrol in the downtown commercial center? Zero. They could be methodically enforcing traffic laws, such as speeding and intersection blocking, but they are not.

The Department of Public Works handles the parking control aides who write most of the parking tickets but do not issue tickets for moving violations. The two dozen traffic control aides who are posted at downtown intersections also work for the Department of Public Works and also do not write tickets for moving violations.

District police do have a dozen or so fixed speed cameras and mobile cameras in cruisers to cite violators. Those cameras record license plate numbers, and police issue citations by mail. And, the city has about 50 cameras at various intersections to catch red light runners.

Is that effort enough? If you drive in the city, you know the answer.

Beware Broken Meters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Challenging broken parking meters in Arlington is not a hassle at all [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 9]. I've done it twice, and all I had to do was call the Arlington County telephone number listed on the parking meter to first report the malfunctioning meter and later check on the result of my report. In both cases, the tickets were voided.

In the first case, the meter was eating the quarters faster than normal; in the second case, the meter was not working and the dome displayed a FAIL sign.

Antonio Russo


I'm glad your situations worked out. But I don't advise parking at broken meters. You can become hostage to a bureaucracy. That can be a problem, especially in the District, which issues some 2 million parking tickets a year.

I get e-mails from despairing souls who parked at a broken meter in the District, got ticketed, reported the broken meter promptly, took time off to appeal the ticket and still had the fine upheld, and in some cases doubled for failure to pay in time. Beware the broken meter.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in the 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.