Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As a resident of the Clifton area for 21 years, I would like to respond to your recent column about commuters from Prince William [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 3].
As I understand the situation, many people moved to Prince William County for a larger house, more land and a nicer neighborhood, among other reasons. Now, because their daily commute is inconvenient or time-consuming, they want us to degrade our parks, cut our trees and pollute our streams to build a mid-county connector so they can sleep later or get home earlier. They were aware -- or should have been -- that the main road system in the Clifton area has changed little since the Civil War and, as Dr. Gridlock pointed out, that Fairfax County rejected building such a mid-county connector 15 years ago.
My job occasionally takes me to Prince William, and I use the same roads for a reverse rush-hour commute. Most of the time I do not encounter another car going in my direction. Until there is a huge influx of Fairfax residents going to Prince William for employment reasons, I doubt very seriously a mid-county connector would be built.
The Prince William residents made their decision about where to live; they should stop complaining and live with that decision.
I ask the commuters to remember that our roads are winding, rolling and narrow, and we like them that way. There are hundreds of school bus stops, no streetlights and a lot of deer -- all the time.
Please read on.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I live off Henderson Road, near the town of Clifton. I am not a rich snob. Our home is very modest and probably smaller than those of all the complaining Prince William commuters writing to you. We do have five acres of land, but that amount is required because we live on a flood plain. One reason we were drawn to the area was the lower density.
When we moved here 14 years ago, we knew that commuters traveled through the area. We knew that Route 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway were to be widened to provide alternative routes for commuters. However, we also knew that local roads, including Clifton and Henderson roads, were not scheduled for widening.
Over the last 14 years, the traffic coming through here has increased exponentially. I do not mind people driving through, but when they are willing to sit in miles-long lines in a residential area, you really have to wonder.
How many more miles can those lines stretch before commuters decide that it is not good for them or for those of us who want to go on an errand a few miles away without having to plan for an hour-long trip and dinner to let the traffic die down?
I am disappointed at the anger shown toward people living in Clifton. I am disappointed that there is so little compassion and concern for others.
Mary Patricia Barry
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am a Clifton resident, and the Prince William commuters using our roads have a direct impact on me and my neighbors.
I live on a private road that is owned and maintained by the homeowners living along it. The road is barely wide enough for two cars to pass, is composed of chip and tar, has blind spots and has no sidewalks. Two signs at the entrance state that the road is for homeowners and guests only and that the speed limit is 20 mph.
Walkers, horseback riders, children on bikes and dog walkers can be found on the road at any time. There are several residents who take late afternoon walks.
Whenever there is a backup or congestion through the town of Clifton, our road becomes a speedway for commuters trying to avoid a few minutes' wait. I have actually stood in the middle of the road trying to slow these vehicles down, but to no avail.
My point is that not all Clifton roads are funded by taxpayers' money, so commuters, please don't use them. We are not snobs on our road, but are merely trying to preserve the tranquility and safety of our private road.
Here is my take on the Clifton situation. The problem is only going to get worse with more and more people moving into new subdivisions to the south and commuting north. As water follows the path of least resistance, so do commuters. They will continue to stream into the Clifton area in greater and greater numbers.
Seems to me Clifton residents have three options:
(1) With county and state approval, they can barricade the roads coming into the county in this area.
(2) They can allow a mid-county connector to be built, confining the commuter traffic to a narrow corridor and having no interchanges near Clifton.
(3) Residents can determine the point at which their quality of life is so ruined that they must move. In this case, better to move soon, while homes still have some value.
(4) They can tolerate the current situation.
What other options do you folks have?
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 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 by 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.
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.
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 work on laptops.
When you are trying to finish work under a tight deadline, the last thing you need is disruptive 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 prerecorded messages we hear daily. Another solution, used by some commuter rail lines, is to designate and label some subway cars as "quiet" cars. Plus, Metro could add signs reminding people to pick up trash, not leave a bag or briefcase behind and talk quietly.
In addition, Metro public relations materials could provide teachers with guidelines for taking students on Metro.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.