Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Too many passengers congregating by the doors on Metro trains is not the problem.

That happens during rush hour in every city that has an underground train system. The problem with Metro is that so many of its train drivers close the doors far too quickly.

If you surveyed rush-hour passengers, I think you'd find that they would agree. When I have asked train drivers why they close the doors so quickly, I have been told to mind my own business.

So why on earth would we move to the center of the train and then possibly miss getting out at our stop?

Removing the seats would be a huge mistake, and such a proposal only proves that Metro is interested in more passengers and revenue, not in the welfare of its present passengers.

Val Holmes


That is an important question. Metro doors now open automatically and are closed manually by the train operator. When a train and a station are crowded, and access is every man for himself, some passengers are unable to board or get off the train.

Metro will have to address the issue of doors closing too quickly as part of its study on the reconfiguring of cars.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In order to stop the crowding at the doors of Metro trains, make the doors on each train one way, such as reserving the end doors for entering and the middle doors for exiting.

Why won't that work?

Nick James


For a long time, Metro officials told Dr. Gridlock that marked entry points couldn't be used here because the Metro trains didn't have precise enough braking systems to halt at a specific place on the platform; hence, lining up wouldn't work.

Now, however, Metro has made braking adjustments and plans to test platform markers at three stations: Union Station, Metro Center and Gallery Place-Chinatown. Test results could be ready by spring. A new, more urgent "Doors Closing" announcement also will be tested.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

So the latest idea from Metro is to remove seats so people will fill the gap in the middle of the train [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 17]? Won't happen.

Anyone who has ridden the New York subway, the PATH trains between New Jersey and New York City or the Chicago subway at rush hour knows that regardless of the seating configuration, people stand by the doors. In fact, some people stand by the doors even when there are empty seats -- and even if they are traveling long distances.

New riders have to fight their way through those standing to get to empty seats in the middle of the train, much less to get to standing room in the middle of the train.

Metro does need to plan for more riders. It can do that immediately by adding more cars, so every train is eight cars long, and reducing the times between trains during peak periods to three minutes (which is what the PATH system does).

On a long-term basis, Metro needs to figure out how to double track the system -- how to do that, I don't know, because the system was poorly planned, with only a single track in each direction -- and to provide more parking spaces.

Finally, no one in Metro's management or its board of directors should be permitted to drive to work. It's easy to dream about making people stand when you're riding in your car. It's another thing entirely to dream about standing when you're the one doing the standing.

Joel Whitaker

Silver Spring

Here is the timetable for expanding Metrorail to eight-car trains:

* By the end of 2006, 20 percent of trains will have eight cars.

* By the end of 2007, 30 percent of trains will have eight cars.

* By the end of 2008, 50 percent of trains will have eight cars.

The question of which lines get the eight-car trains has yet to be determined.

That is all that is in the pipeline. Eight cars is the longest train a Metrorail station can accommodate.

It would be nice to have an extra track to allow for express trains, as in New York, but the cost of installing a track would be prohibitive.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

No other subway system in the world besides Metro has train entrances and exits that routinely are blocked by riders. This is not a new issue.

The problem has existed since the system opened in 1976, but the system has always been run, and is still run, by people who don't use Metro.

Metro is proposing to respond to the doorway crowding problem by removing some seats and the aisle poles, as if the two features are related. The stupid pole, which is in the way of foot traffic, has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of seats. We could get rid of the pole and have more, fewer or the same number of seats.

William Samuel

Silver Spring

New Metro trains, arriving now and over the next three years, will not have poles. I suspect the poles in existing cars will give way once the various car reconfiguration plans are evaluated.

Bridge Is Incident-Prone

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Does the Wilson Bridge attract incidents such as breakdowns, stalls or fires? I'm not asking about accidents; it makes sense that they're more likely to occur on the narrow, rickety bridge. There are typically several of these other incidents each week on the bridge. For example, there was a car fire on the bridge this morning, Nov. 21.

Obviously, traffic reports are more likely to focus on an incident at a chokepoint, where there will be greater impact, than on an incident where there is more room to maneuver. I don't hear nearly as many reports of incidents on the Capital Beltway near the bridge. So, does it seem as if there are more incidents on the bridge than on roadways?

I don't drive over the bridge much anymore.

Andy Feltman


The bridge attracts a lot of attention because there are no shoulders, and minor incidents can create long backups. What shoulder space there is, to the left and right, is just four feet wide -- not big enough to let a rescue vehicle or a wrecker get through, according to John Undeland, spokesman for the Wilson Bridge project.

The new bridge, which will be completed in 2008, will have 10-foot-wide shoulders on both the right and left. Plus, it will have five lanes in each direction, instead of the three in each direction we have now.

Those improvements should reduce the number of serious incidents on the bridge, which was built to accommodate 75,000 vehicles a day and now carries more than 200,000.

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.