Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Does Montgomery County provide guidance to its school bus drivers regarding length of time to sit with the engine idling vs. turning the engine off and restarting?

I am out walking every morning and constantly see buses that apparently have arrived ahead of schedule to pick up students. They sit by the side of the road for 10, 15 or more minutes with their engines on.

That wastes expensive fuel and pollutes the atmosphere.

I know that in some situations, it's more economical to sit with the engine on rather than turn it off and restart it, but I would think that 10 or 15 minutes or more must be over that line.

Nancy Chapman


It is. "We have a very strict policy that doesn't allow idling for more than five minutes," says Montgomery County schools spokesman Brian K. Edwards. "Drivers are regularly notified of this, and it is part of the code of conduct for drivers."

When spotting idling beyond five minutes, Edwards says, citizens should note the four-digit number on the side of the bus and report the situation to the county schools transportation department at 301-840-8130.

Let me know if this continues, and note the street, date and time of day.

Problem With Panhandling

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Every day we see numerous panhandlers on Rockville Pike and connecting streets carrying cardboard signs saying they are "homeless." They are dangerous and distracting to motorists.

They litter the median strip and surrounding area and have worn out the grass where it once existed.

They are an eyesore and an embarrassment but are experts at making the motorists feel guilty to collect money.

A bill that would prohibit panhandling in medians has been before the Montgomery County Council for quite some time, but council members apparently consider it a dead issue.

Why don't they pass legislation prohibiting panhandling? I understand there is a law prohibiting "aggressive" panhandling. That law is ludicrous, as police officers would have to be on the streets watching for it.

If it is necessary for a legitimate group to solicit for donations, such as the firefighters' annual "fill the boot" campaign, then write exemptions into the law. Our council members should be aware that many of their constituents do vote.

Ethel Klavan


This is a continuing nuisance in Montgomery County, and dangerous, too. You've got students out in the medians and along shoulders soliciting money for charity, as well as firefighters holding out empty boots in traffic.

I have suggested before that those folks should stand by the ticket lines at high school football games, or at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium or MCI Center, where they could raise money in a safer way, look potential donors in the eye and not interfere with traffic.

County Pride?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is in response to Jean Winters's comment about the high crime rate in the Silver Spring area [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 10]. Week in and week out, a great deal of the bad news that is reported in the Washington area occurs in Prince George's County, where Winters lives, whether it be carjackings, murders, government officials being indicted, a nonfunctioning school board, terrible test scores for the kids, etc.

It has only gotten worse in recent years, not better.

Bruce Abernethy


This is kind of a dreadful stone-throwing version of community pride. I doubt anyone is being converted. Clearly a number of people in Montgomery and Prince George's counties believe their county is the better place to live. Good for them.

Blue Lights Special?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Northern Virginia and drive into the District for work. On a number of occasions lately, I have seen individual Metropolitan Police Department cars running their blue lights without their sirens.

A few times, I have pulled over to let them by, but they are almost never driving faster than usual and in fact don't seem to be in any hurry at all (they wait in line at a red light like other cars, for example).

What's up with that? Am I still required to pull over and make way for them when I see them? Or is there just some new policy that has them running their blue lights even when they're just tooling around town -- a policy that doesn't require me to get out of the way?

Rebecca Davis-Nord


D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey noticed that Israeli police used their emergency lights just to let citizens know that police were around. So a couple of years ago, Ramsey directed cruisers on patrol to display flashing blue lights.

You don't have to pull over for them, according to police spokesman Quintin Peterson. You need to pull over only if you hear a siren.

That seems confusing to me. I can see why you'd be puzzled, Ms. Davis-Nord.

Free Trip Both Ways

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have always been a fan of your articles. They are insightful and thought provoking. But there is one subject that I do not remember reading about.

If I am dropping someone off at Dulles International Airport, I know that I can cruise all the way to the airport on the Dulles Access Road without thinking twice about getting a ticket.

My question: Am I allowed to use the Dulles Access Road after I drop someone off in order to get back to the Capital Beltway, or do I have to take the Dulles Toll Road and pay the tolls?

Bernard Bundy Jr.


You can use the Dulles Access Road going to or from the airport. It might help if you keep a copy of a flight itinerary or passenger receipt in case you are stopped, but police can usually tell whether you have been to the airport by the way you answer their questions.

District Road Work

The District Department of Transportation has announced that it will close a stretch of Good Hope Road SE during daytime hours and reroute traffic on part of Reno Road NW.

* Good Hope Road will be closed from Martin Luther King Avenue to Naylor Road from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays until sometime early this month.

* Southbound Reno Road traffic will be detoured between Nebraska Avenue and Military Road until spring 2007. That stretch of Reno Road will be one-way northbound only; southbound traffic will be detoured to Connecticut Avenue, either via Military Road or down 41st Street to Huntington Street.

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 e-mails, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.