Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I agree with your reasoning about allowing a lead vehicle to creep into an intersection to wait for a gap to make a left turn, as long as it enters the intersection on a green light. However, I recently had a related experience that gave me second thoughts.

I was traveling north on Hunter Mill Road. After passing under the Dulles Toll Road, I planned to make a left onto the ramp to the toll road. I entered the intersection on a green light and waited for oncoming traffic to clear.

My light turned yellow and then to red. A car was approaching from the opposite direction, but it was far enough away from the intersection that I expected the driver to stop.

So I turned, and the driver slammed on his brakes and honked. Thankfully, there wasn't an accident.

Bob DeLuca


I recommend waiting until you can clearly see that opposing traffic is slowing to stop before you make a left turn in such a situation. We can't assume that speeding traffic will stop, even if it has a red light.

In many cases -- including, as it turns out, this one -- opposing traffic can still have a green light while your own light is turning red.

So many drivers in the opposing traffic are turning right onto the Dulles Toll Road that they have a green light while you have a red one, according to Mark Hagan, regional traffic signals chief for the Virginia Department of Transportation. Next time, if you choose to wait behind the stop line, you will get an exclusive left-turn arrow for your turn, Mr. DeLuca.

Avoid Angry Drivers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live out in the western Fairfax County suburbs and often commute on Interstate 66.

The HOV-2 lane is a wonderful thing, but it seems to be causing a lot of stress for its users. I admit I feel a lot of glee when I see HOV violators pulled over by police. Stopping violators eases the commute for drivers legitimately using the HOV lanes.

What bugged me the other day, though, when I was driving home with my 13-month-old daughter in the HOV lane, was the driver behind me who held up two fingers, which I took to be an attempt to remind me of the two-person requirement for our HOV-2 lane.

I resisted the urge to reply with a single finger of my own, but it struck me as an inappropriate concern for this person.

I would much rather he had simply concentrated on his own behavior, or, if it really bothered him, had his passenger call the police.

Perhaps you could suggest to people that they pay attention to their own behavior, rather than policing other people's.

Eric Anderson


I'm afraid that some drivers' tempers boil over at the number of cheaters in the HOV lanes. Lack of both police enforcement and voluntary compliance aggravates the situation. The driver clearly thought you were a solo driver ignoring the HOV-2 rules.

If you sense anger behind you, I recommend that you simply move out of the HOV lane momentarily, let the Aggrieved One pass, and then slide back into the HOV lane. Perhaps the angry one will see your child safety seat when he passes. Either way, wish him well and forget about it.

All-Day Gridlock

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've read with interest all the talk in your columns about how people should live closer to their jobs. Frankly, getting to and from work is just one piece of the problem.

We live barely six miles from a shopping center that has most of what we need, but those six miles are arguably the most painful. We live barely three miles from a Virginia Railway Express station in the other direction, and those three miles often take 30 to 45 minutes to navigate in the evening.

Telling people to live closer to their jobs isn't going to cover up for a complete failure to keep up with the population growth in this region. The state and local governments have to be held accountable for keeping up with infrastructure. You can't have a skyrocketing population without equal growth in infrastructure.

We have thousands upon thousands of people pouring into the region. They need access to schools, shopping, recreation, public transportation and much more.

Todd Skiles


Yes. Local governments continue to approve new growth even though there are no transportation system improvements to accommodate that new growth. Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket are ground zero in the new suburban gridlock.

I am amazed that any local officials get reelected. But they do. So voters must want more of the same, right?

Conversation as Noise

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Rowdiness on Metro is not practiced just by teenagers during rush hour. I have experienced young and older adults engaging in loud conversation. It is disruptive to other riders who are trying to read, catch up on work material or working on laptops.

When you are trying to finish work under a tight deadline, the last thing you need is disruptive behavior by adults or teenagers.

I find it ironic that we prohibit people from playing music without headphones and glare at people with ringing cell phones, but we permit loud conversations in all languages.

But not all subway systems are the same. I have been on the London subway, and people there speak in lower tones or not at all. I learned that it is considered impolite there for riders of any age to talk loudly on the subway.

Maybe Metro could encourage polite behavior in its recorded messages we hear daily. Another solution, used by some commuter rail lines, is to designate and label some subway cars as "quiet" cars. In addition, Metro could add signs reminding people to pick up trash, to not leave a bag or briefcase behind and to talk quietly.

In addition, Metro public relations materials could provide teachers with guidelines for taking students on Metro.

Terrence Smith


Some people are just loud. We try to get away from them but can't in an enclosed environment. So what is Metro to do, assign "sound police" to roam the cars with decibel meters? Where do you draw the line on what is acceptable volume and what is not? Quiet cars? Do we think loud passengers in need of a seat will suddenly become respectful and stay out of quiet cars?

I sympathize with you. I once had a dinner at New York City's Russian Tea Room that was ruined by a loud talker at the next table. And, of course, talkers sitting behind you are the bane of serious movie- and theatergoers.

But Metro is mass transit, with 600,000 passenger trips a day. Other than changing cars at the next stop, I'm not sure what can be done.

Won't Stand for Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't think we need a test to find out the results of taking away seats on Metro trains. I ride 45 minutes to and from work, and I have a bad knee and sciatica, which make it very uncomfortable for me to stand for long periods, no less on a moving train.

If I have to stand for 45 minutes each way, I will stop taking the train and will start driving to and from work. Many other people like me will do the same, and our streets will become more and more clogged with traffic. Metro is making a big mistake taking away seats.

The only way around this is to leave the first three or four cars of a train with the current seat configuration and allow people traveling longer than 30 minutes to sit in those cars. People with health problems and children would also be permitted to travel in the cars. All of that would require special ticketing, and it sure would complicate matters.

Metro should leave the trains as they are and just add cars. I would be willing to pay a slightly higher fare to pay for that. The price of gas has risen, so driving is no bargain.

Diane Hrabak

Silver Spring

I can't imagine how you would enforce priority seating for the needy. Metro "seat police" standing at each door to turn away the unworthy? What about the disabled people with no sign of disability? Should a doctor's certificate be required to show the seat police?

One of the biggest problems with Metrorail involves people trying to get on and off the trains. Right now, it's a free-for-all, with pushing and shoving. Exiting passengers congregate at the doors because that's where they have to be to get out.

Metro is trying to spread the passenger load down the aisles and away from the doors by installing new aisle grips for those standing, removing some seats and removing the vertical bars near the doors. Metro will test one or more seating reconfigurations starting next spring.

People are complaining to me that they sometimes can't get onto or off a crowded train before the door snaps shut. Metro wants to accommodate even more passengers in the years ahead and, through possible car redesign, to get them on and off more efficiently.

E-ZPass Expands

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

For your information, the E-ZPass system has been enhanced. New Hampshire has been added to the system. This is particularly helpful on the Everett Turnpike (Route 3) running north from Nashua.

Stu Newman


Thanks for the update. There are now 11 states that accept the E-ZPass transponders, allowing for the electronic deduction of tolls and eliminating the need to stop and pay.

The states are: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Illinois.

To purchase a pass, log on to

Item 8

Slow Doesn't Always Save

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'd like to respond to Tom Wiedemer's "Slow Down, Save Gas" letter of Oct. 20. While I agree that fast starts and high speeds will reduce gas mileage, the speed limit does not necessarily indicate the best speed for maximum fuel economy.

With the exception of hybrids, most cars today with overdrive transmissions have their sweet spot for gas mileage when cruising between 50 and 70 mph, depending on gearing, coefficient of drag, temperature, load and tire inflation, among other things.

If driving more slowly conserves fuel, more power to you. However, I would remind those driving below the speed limit around here (or even at the speed limit on many roads) to stay to the right wherever possible. It will certainly cut down on the reckless passing.

Right or wrong, people don't have the patience for environmentally conscious driving if it impedes their progress.

Wesley George


So true. Sometimes, one person's conscientious driving means another person's road rage.

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.