Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Has there been, or will there be, a public comment period on the proposed seat reconfiguration of the Metro rail cars?

The cars are currently configured properly considering (1) the mix of rush and non-rush-hour service; (2) the coming of eight-car trains; and (3) the varying length of commutes.

Philip Garst

Chevy Chase

Sorry, no diagrams on Metro's Web site and no public hearings. Too bad, because I am getting anguish in my mail, and I know passengers are concerned.

Here's what I can tell you: By the end of this month, the Metro board is expected to approve three test configurations of its rail car seats. The first will have four fewer seats than the cars now in use, the second will have 12 fewer seats and the third will have 16 fewer. In all, 24 cars will be tested -- eight with each of these configurations.

All the designs eliminate the floor-to-ceiling poles and instead feature poles from the seat backs to the ceiling. All the designs also include spring-loaded metal handgrips attached to overhead bars.

The purpose of the redesign is to encourage passengers to stand farther down the aisles rather than bunching up at the doors. This bunching tends to block people getting on and off, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Metro also has 184 cars arriving to add to its fleet of more than 900 cars, and they will be configured to the first test option.

I must say, with Metro apparently trying to reach out more to its customers, such a radical change should be the subject of public hearings and a detailed presentation on the agency's Web site. What do you think of these proposed changes?

Vendor Parking During Rush Hour

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You've written several times about cars that are illegally parked on streets during rush hour. I drive from Dupont to Arlington via 23rd Street NW and the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Cars that remain on the street are certainly an annoyance, but they usually -- and I stress usually -- get ticketed. But I've noticed another problem.

Street vendors close up shop around 5 p.m., and they park their vans or trucks right next to their booths while they pack up their supplies.

I don't think I've ever seen them get ticketed, and I've seen cops drive right past them and not do anything. Like all others, they shouldn't be parking or standing there, should they? It seems like the city turns a blind eye toward them.

Chris Mika


Dr. Gridlock referred your complaint to District officials. Here's the response from Teri Doke Adams, Parking Services administrator:

"It is not our policy to provide exceptions for street vendors who violate parking regulations. As a result of your reader's request, our evening shift supervisor has reminded personnel of the critical need to cite all vehicles in violation of rush-hour guidelines.

"Ticket writers have also been instructed to increase enforcement at this location in order to deter chronic abuse of parking regulations." (Doke said exceptions are made for U.S. Postal Service vehicles.)

That's a clearer and more caring response than we've ever received from parking authorities. These vendors parking abreast in evening rush hour have no right to block traffic and should be ticketed. We can hope the stepped-up enforcement will apply to illegally parked vehicles on traffic-choked 21st Street NW as well as 23rd Street NW.

All HOV Users Created Equal

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I heard that out-of-state drivers, because they are not commuters, can use your HOV lanes even with only one occupant. Is this true?

Vivian Gray

Hockessin, Del.

No. If it were, you'd have locals rushing to get out-of-state tags.

Seeking Samaritans, Resolutions

I'm collecting your nominations for good Samaritans who helped you on our transportation system. Also, I'm looking for your New Year's resolutions for our transportation authorities. For instance, VDOT should resolve to install overhead street signs at every intersection with a traffic signal, so we can better identify crossroads at night.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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.