The Rantings of a Lunatic Mom
We all have our peeves with getting around this region, but we're also all used to it. We generally know where to go and what to anticipate -- District traffic circles excepted, of course. What we don't know is what it's like for an outsider to get around. That's where my mom comes in. She was here all last week, staying in Falls Church with my brother so she could see her grandkids. Her main travels were between Falls Church, Old Town and Adams Morgan, where I live. These are her rants, with more than a couple suggestions for VDOT and DDOT:
DC drivers are low-rage, courteous, and understanding of the need to allow others to enter lanes, whether for merging or the not-so-rare last minute error.
However, the last-minute-error situation is to be expected, as it is impossible to safely drive in DC and read all the signage.
Routes are labeled, but without any indication where they may take you. In most major cities in this country and in Europe, route names also indicate destination names, giving the end of the route and some localities along the way, similar to Metro indicator poles, but not naming every stop. In Europe, all cities include "town center" signs along with all other listings. You can always get back to the center and try again (without crying).
At least on the bridges leading out of the city it would be helpful to know where that bridge is taking you. Then perhaps you would know which to take.
The hours of street limitations (no left 4:00 to 6:30) are not possible to see if you are lined up behind a string of SUVs. Some are also too low on the poles and are obliterated by pedestrians and vehicles. The lettering is too small for those of us older than 50.
If you err, and have no choice but to take a route out of the city, there are no signs to help you return. There are way too few "downtown DC" signs.
The digital second clocks under traffic lights are fantastic. They allow drivers to gauge whether to enter the crossing grid when congestion is high.
Now to my favorite, Interstate 66. An outsider cannot possibly understand the restrictions on this route. Entering from DC to 66W, there is one sign on the right, around a bend, to the side of about 4 or 5 lanes of merging and crossing traffic. By the time you see and interpret this sign, you have already had to commit to entering the route, or get hit in the rear. The diamond HOV symbol does not clearly explain that the ENTIRE route is limited. In most other places, particular lanes are restricted, not the entire highway. Obviously occasional visitors would be confused, and trapped. It cannot be ASSUMED that all drivers know the limitations of a route. The signage should provide fair, adequate, and advance information.
Entering DC on the Key Bridge, the right lane has a turn right before M street. It lists the name of the street, but not where it takes you. How would you know? And how would you know NOT to take it? No advance signage.
On GW Parkway from Alexandria to DC. Locals know that up ahead there will be a right turnoff for 395 into DC. But only locals know that. Visitors, trying to stay out of trouble, often do the smart thing and stay in the right lane. In this case it would cause much lost time if the driver did not want to exit at 395. There is no way to know that the slow moving right land is due to the 395 exit. The signs for 395 are too near the exit for those stuck way back and not knowing what is ahead.
I should add that her son, the transportation reporter, directed her right into the construction on the Roosevelt Bridge one day, sentencing her to more than an hour of sitting in traffic. I should read those press releases more closely.
I should probably also clarify the part where she says "DC drivers are low-rage, courteous, and understanding." She comes from northern New Jersey, so basically anyone on any other part of the planet qualifies as low-rage, courteous and understanding.
She makes some good points (and cooks a mean chicken). So what are y'all's peeves? What else do we need to tell the local DOTs to do?
Posted by: Leroy | May 25, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse
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