My column of Oct. 16 contained a complaint from Linda Rabben about rowdy teenage behavior on Metrorail. Ms. Rabben suggested that teachers instruct students how to behave on public transportation. She made no mention of the role of parents in teaching manners.

That touched off some passionate letters from teachers, who say that they have enough to do and that this should be a parental responsibility. Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In reply to your column titled "Facing Metro's Precocious Terrors" [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], why would a teacher be with "15 screaming middle schoolers" during evening rush hour?

When did it become the job/duty/responsibility of teachers to ride public transportation with students at the end of the school day?

This apparently was not a school-sponsored field trip. It was evening rush hour! These children were on their way home, and the school day was over. Teachers were off duty. Their responsibility to teach had ended for the day.

Teachers have enough to do in the seven hours they have students at school each day. Why would the burden of teaching children to act appropriately on public transportation after hours be placed on teachers, or any school staff members?

Would this not be the job of parents/guardians? Metro police? Community leaders?

I am even more appalled by the Metro proposal to offer free passes to school staffers to baby-sit for children on public transportation before and after school.

Why not offer the free passes to the people responsible for these children: the parents? Let the parents get a firsthand view of how their children behave in public.

I am furious at the belief/assumption by some that teachers should carry this responsibility. How preposterous!

Benay Hawkins

Upper Marlboro

Of course the parents have the primary responsibility for teaching their children how to behave on public transportation. However, there are lots of home situations where parental supervision is inadequate.

It seems to me that teachers, although already carrying a heavy load, might take a moment to comment on the subject.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to Linda Rabben's complaint about being trapped with "15 screaming middle schoolers" on the Red Line during evening rush hour [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], I ask her to reevaluate the responsibility of those children's teachers for the misbehavior.

I find it laughable that Rabben suggests that "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation." The last I checked, I wasn't responsible for teaching children how to behave after school hours, though unfortunately it has become necessary in my teaching.

Teachers often witness outrageous behavior in their classrooms, including eye-rolling, name-calling, insubordination and bullying.

We work incredibly hard to teach and model appropriate behavior in between enriching our students' minds in a variety of subject areas.

I ask Ms. Rabben, where do parents fall into the equation? The last thing dedicated teachers need is another complaint lodged at them regarding the misbehavior of children ( after school) relating to their job performance.

I ask Ms. Rabben why she fails to point her waving finger at parents or, more accurately, the children themselves? Middle school children are capable of listening and choosing to correct and modify their behavior when asked.

What's more disturbing than reading Ms. Rabben's letter was the apparent absence of an adult on the train speaking up and addressing those students about their behavior. Amazingly, communicating with children can be done respectfully and assertively.

I hope that Ms. Rabben is not a mother herself, for I fear her expectations of her children's teachers would be absolutely ridiculous.

Crissie Traugott

Fifth-grade teacher

Valley Elementary School

Jefferson, Frederick County

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The letter from Linda Rabben about rowdy middle school students on Metro was way off the mark. Since when should schools be responsible for teaching Metro etiquette outside school hours? Doesn't she think schools are given enough curriculum material to cover?

What about those people who are supposed to be the most influential teachers in a child's life: the parents? Yes, the same people who your column says should be responsible for teaching driver education.

The message seems to be that parents should be in charge of teaching their children how to drive a big piece of machinery, but please don't ask them to teach their children manners.

Joanna Bopp


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've never seen groups of adolescents do anything really over the top, such as threatening passengers, vandalizing the train or physically assaulting one another, but "running around and screaming" seem to be common behaviors.

A group of two or three teenagers can get loud. But when four, five or more of them ride the train together, they feel like they have to put on a performance, for each other and for the benefit of everybody else on the train, and that's when it becomes a genuine disturbance of public order.

Glib use of foul language, shouting and shrieking are their way of making sure they're the center of attention, both within their group and among the general public. They're just putting on a show, mostly to show each other how cool, wild and crazy they are.

I don't think Metro police can do much about those disturbances. A police officer could sternly lecture the youths to keep the noise down, and they'd say "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am" and then redouble their antics as soon as the officer left the train. There's no stopping the exuberance of youth or an adolescent's desire to be the center of attention.

Christopher Schroen


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read the column about rowdy juveniles on Metro [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16]. I think most of the time teens unfairly get a bad rap.

For every young terror who attracts attention with his or her antics, there is probably at least one other youngster the same age who's just politely minding his or her own business and who, therefore, never gets noticed. And for every teen who is inconsiderate, there are several adults who are equally as bad -- just in different ways. Cell phone users, anyone?

Andrea Shettle


Dr. Gridlock understands teachers who feel that they already have enough to do in the workday and that parents should be the ones primarily responsible for educating children about manners on public transit.

However, some parents are not models of teaching or supervising. A teacher might take a moment in the day to underscore good manners on Metro.

The Blue-Bubble Exemption

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Two days ago, I was motoring at 9 a.m. on eastbound Interstate 66. HOV-2 regulations were still in effect. From Manassas to Nutley Street, I was in front of a four-door Ford with a male driver inside, one or two extra aerials on the car and a blue, bubble-shaped light on the dashboard.

Was this a policeman in a unmarked car? I would wager that it was. He was in the HOV lane, all by himself, all the way to Nutley. If he is a police officer, is he exempt?

Jed Duvall

Amissville, Rappahannock


The use of blue lights is supposed to be restricted to law enforcement. Fire equipment and ambulances use red emergency lights. Because unmarked police vehicles come in all forms (Prince William has used sports cars), I'd assume that was a police vehicle. And if so, yes, law enforcement is exempt from Virginia HOV restrictions, whether on or off duty.

If any of you are aware of a vendor who sells blue lights to the public, I'd like to know about it.

Unfinished Sound Walls

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What is the status of sound walls being erected along Route 29 in the Ellicott City area? After considerable activity, progress seems to have come to a standstill, and the project is only partially completed.

I suspect some sort of contract dispute or financial difficulties on the part of the contractor. There are at least two expensive cranes that have been idle for over two weeks.

Robert Hurwitz

Ellicott City

No contract problems; construction has been slowed by the abnormally heavy October rains, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

There are two sound wall projects along Route 29 in the Ellicott City area:

* Along southbound Route 29, between Frederick Road and south of Route 103, the state is constructing sound barriers for about a mile and a half to help protect the High View and St. John's Manor subdivisions. That project should be completed by the end of the year, weather permitting, with final landscaping done next spring.

* Along northbound Route 29, between Route 175 and Diamondback Drive, the state is putting up sound walls on a smaller scale, for less than half a mile. That project should be done by the end of November, weather permitting.

The cost of the first project is $6.5 million, and the second is $1.4 million. The state pays for 80 percent of these noise projects, with Howard County contributing 20 percent.

For more information about sound walls and how to get them in your community, log on to and click on "Improving Our Community," then click on "Sound Barriers."

Update on Arundel Projects

Here is an update on two of the largest state highway projects in Anne Arundel County:

(1) A new interchange at the junction of Routes 2 and 50 will provide easier access for vehicles traveling to and from the two roadways in the fast-growing Parole area.

The $13 million project also provides improved connections at the confluence of nearby Routes 2 and 450 and Jennifer Road.

Construction started in spring of 2003 and should be finished by the end of this year. The project is running a few months behind schedule because of inclement weather.

(2) New bridges on Rowe Boulevard over College Creek and Weems Creek, leading to the statehouse, are on schedule. This project involves the replacement of the crumbling College Creek Bridge and redecking of the Weems Creek Bridge. Both are about 50 years old.

The state has sought extensive community involvement and pursued an extraordinarily long (two years) design phase to be sure the bridges are aesthetically appropriate for the major entrance to the state capital. "The bridges will look fabulous," says Dave Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

You can view artwork of the finished bridges by logging on to and typing "Rowe Boulevard" in the search bar.

The new bridge work will include bike lanes in both directions, connecting to existing bike paths. It is good to see consideration of bike lanes in road projects. With rising gasoline prices, more and more motorists are looking for alternative transportation modes.

This $30 million project began in April of 2004 and should be completed by the end of next summer.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday 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.