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Welcome, my fellow commuters and traffic sufferers, to Get There, the blog that helps you, well, get there. We here have dedicated our lives to dealing with Washington's traffic mess and offer our humble selves to tell you everything you want to know about the daily commute, transportation debates, projects, theories and myths. Basically, we'll tell you why traffic in this area bites. (Short answer: that jerk in the BMW in front of you.)

But who are we kidding? We know you just want to vent about the guy in the condo-sized SUV who cut you off this morning. We welcome that too, especially if you make us laugh. After all, if you didn't laugh about traffic then it would just be an awful, time-wasting, family-ruining, sanity-killing, rat-maze of a thing to do and we know that can't be the case.

So talk to us. We'll be here every day, as sure as the Beltway is jammed and the Orange Line is crammed.

By Washington Post Editors  |  May 11, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
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Everyone in my office is talking about how since the Orange Line switched to 8-car trains, the morning commute seems to take much longer for whose of us who arrive at the Metro around 830am. I used to be able to reliably count on a total commute of 25-30 minutes, door to door, and was always in the office before 9am. Now, arriving at the Courthouse Metro at the same time as normal, I am getting off at Farragut West 5-10 minutes later each day. The trains seem to be coming less frequently (a lot less 2 minute waits and a lot more 5 minute waits), there is more holding at stations for a minute or two, and the stop-and-go is way worse than prior to the 8 car trains.

I talked with a Metro official who was on the platform the other day, and he said that though they've taken other cars out service in the 730am timeframe, it shouldn't affect my commute that much. But I know so many people - almost all of us Orange Line riders in my office - who are frustrated because the delays and inconsistency are forcing us to shift our commute up by 15 minutes. It's not a big deal, but still, shouldn't Metro at least make an effort to fix it?

Posted by: Arlington Guy | May 11, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious as to why the Blue Line seems to get short shrift during the evening rush hour. Specifically, getting on the Blue Line at Farragut West towards Franconia/Springfield, anytime during the evening rush, there are 2 6-car Orange Line trains for every 4-car Blue Line train. I know the Orange Line is typically overcrowded, but come on! That's 12 Orange cars for every 4 Blue ones! It's packed to the armpits on the Blue Line while the Orange Line trains are crowded but not nearly as bad as the Blue ones. How about running, at the VERY least, 6-car trains on Blue during the evening rush?!

Posted by: Blues Line | May 11, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Would anybody like to comment on one local mess, which is symbolic, in miniature, of why we cannot Get There in good old Virginia. Several years ago, the voters approved state bonds to widen and improve Route 234 in Prince William County. After a long, long delay in even getting started, this project is still going on (only 11 miles left to go). Meanwhile, traffic has doubled, so many of us sit in stop-and go traffic and observe the "progress" on our new road. It is a mystery. Why do we see in one stretch, new pavement bare dirt gravel etc, not necessarily inn that order? Logically you would think that one entire segment would be in the same stage of development. My theory is that the same three guys are working on this project as well on the never ending interchange in Springfield.

Posted by: john downey | May 11, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Just returned from a weekend in Norfolk, VA. I was struck by the fact that so many tunnels, bridges, and roads there are toll-free. Why are we, in Northern Virginia, even considering establishing HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes? Those toll collections can really slow the traffic down, and anyway, why can't government get its act together and just put up free roads for all to use, raising revenue to pay for them as necessary? We are assured that the HOT lanes will not become "Lexus lanes" (where only the rich need apply), but I'm not so sure. And those extra lanes on the Beltway will feed into far fewer lanes in Maryland. I see a big mess a-comin'!

Also, does anyone agree with me that the nation's capital should have uniformly free access for all citizens? I just hate the thought of our city becoming a Chicago, full of toll roads everywhere you turn.

Posted by: Gene | May 11, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Any news on Ride On getting Smarttrip?

Or on bus to train transfers getting the discount given to train to bus transfers?


Posted by: Red Liner | May 11, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Rules for a better commute:

(1) If you're turning left, let oncoming traffic know -- use your turn signal.

(2) You want into my lane? You are welcome. I just want to see your turn signal.

(3) If you pull out in front of me, kindly make an effort to get up to my speed. Otherwise, wait till I pass. Thank you.

Posted by: Gene | May 11, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on legalizing lane-splitting for motorcycles and scooters -- a solution to traffic problems adopted in California and most of Europe.


Posted by: DC moto | May 11, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Does anybody know how democratic candidate Martin O'Malley stacks up on mass transit? Erlich has made it clear he could care less - he's all but scrapped the purple line in exchange for the ICC. Duncan isn't much metter.. his talk about the purple like is cleary nothing but talk. And again, every dollar towards the ICC is a one dollar subsidy to rich folks who wanna live in a McMansion and burn lots of gas, causing the price to go up for the rest of us... so heck with duncan too. I've been unable to find much info on where O'Malley stands on the issue.

Posted by: Mass Transit | May 11, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey all,

Let me take a shot at answering a few of these questions.

Orange Line -- The experiment was suggested to Metro by some outside experts maybe a year or so ago. It seems to make some sense, but there are clearly issues. We've heard tons of complaints about it since it was instituted.

Blue Line -- It gets short shrift simply because there's less riders. There's a limited number of cars so they put them where the need is greatest. More cars are supposed to be on the way, but man it seems like that's been the case for a long time now.

Rt. 234. -- Now there's a mess of a road. Your facts about it are dead on. Prince William has been pushing the state to finish this job for years and years and years, but the state either hasn't had the money or doesn't consider it a top priority. You'd guess that this would be one of those roads that would get built if all the money wasn't used on mega-projects like Springfield.

Norfolk -- There are two toll roads in Northern Virginia and two in the Norfolk area. So they've got as many tolls as we do. And they may get more so they can build more tunnels. Basically tolls are the way most everyone wants to pay for new roads. You asked why we can't just have free roads and raise revenue when necessary. Well, tolls are a way to raise revenue. The other option is taxes, which appeal less to a lot of people. Conservatives dislike them on principle and many liberals think tolls are a better way to pay for roads because the costs discourage people from driving. And EZ-Pass make it all work pretty easy for drivers. If I were you, I'd get used to the idea of more tolls, not just here but around the country.

Lane-splitting -- I don't have any problems with lane-splitting. Just don't be a jerk about it.

Posted by: Steven Ginsberg | May 11, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

my husband regularly has to remind me that not everyone was raised by my parents, so i should not expect people to follow the same rules of etiquette on metro, but COME ON!

there are countless times i have seen hugely pregnant women, people on crutches, and rather elderly people standing on metro in front of riders sitting in the seats reserved for said people. yes, there are even SIGNS to remind these people to give up their seats for such folks. (even info about a law.) in fact, it appears that metro started an ad campaign that included a plea for such people to give up their seats for people who actually need them.

and yet i don't see these butts getting up and offering seats to anyone. (i hate to sound wildly sexist, but anecdotally speaking, more often than not, the few who i've seen get up and offer seats are women. and i have been especially shocked the multiple times i have seen men in military garb basically ignore the challenged standers.)

can someone point out to the metro riders of the world that while they may be dog-tired from a long day at the office, someone who is very pregnant is probably 10x more in need of the seat; that someone who is frail should be offered the seat; and that for G-d's sake, someone on crutches better have the opportunity to sit down?

there are days i am tempted to send my mother onto metro and have her lecture ;-)

Posted by: sher | May 11, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I can no longer stand the mess that is New York Avenue and its interstections at Florida and 1st St., NE. Ever since the metro station was opened, something went horribly, horribly wrong with the light settings. Traffic backs up in both directions no matter what time of day.

It wasn't that long ago that I could get through those intersections without really even thinking about it. If I had a red light, I'd only have to wait for one cycle. Now, I age just thinking about the time I waste sitting through multiple cylces.

Surely something can be done to alleviate the backups. Can't it?

Posted by: Karol | May 11, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

There are two groups who bug the heck out of me each day.

(1) People who think that the merge area of an on-ramp, or a left-turn lane, is a passing lane. Examples are inbound I-395 passing Macy's and the Pentagon in the morning, or northbound Van Dorn Street just outside the Beltway, also in the morning. You always get some hotshot who thinks he's more important than everyone else who changes lanes to the right into the traffic merging onto the highway, then races down the end and tries to cut back in. Some of them don't bother and just continue on down the shoulder. Van Dorn is similar in that the left lane becomes two left-turn lanes at the Beltway, so some turkeys race down that lane and then assume that everyone will happily let them shove their way into the two thru lanes that go down the hill into Alexandria.

(2) People who willingly allow the people described above to do these things! OK, in fairness on the highway you can't always tell who is using the merge lane properly and who is using it to cut. Fair enough, and if you don't know, then you should allow ONE person to merge (but at the END of the merge lane, not at the beginning). But if you can see that someone was already on the road and is using that merge lane to cut, then why the bleep do you let that person back in???? It just rewards these jerks and encourages them to keep doing it (because they know they can). But some people say, "Oh, but what if they have a personal emergency?" I call BS! You see some of the SAME people doing it, day after day, and you think they have an "emergency" each day? I don't buy it.

I am having a hard time not cursing and violating certain other aspects of the rules, so perhaps I should end this post!

Posted by: Rich | May 11, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

OK, I remembered one other: pedestrians who won't obey the "Don't Walk" sign. If you have a walk sign, then go. Drivers must stop for you. If you're a driver and I have a walk sign, you bloody well better yield. BUT if the sign says "Don't Walk" and you are a pedestrian, then park your sorry rear end on the curb and WAIT until you get a walk sign. It is not your turn to go! As a pedestrian, if you expect the drivers to yield to you, then you must do the same. Likewise, as a driver, you must yield to pedestrians WHEN it is their turn, because otherwise you just encourage them to act like morons who walk wherever they want.

Bottom line for everyone, including the people in my other post: WAIT YOUR DARN TURN!!!!

Posted by: Rich | May 11, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see some Post coverage on the Smartrip-related issues Red Liner mentioned. I tried to look into another yet-again-delayed Smartrip question, spent a while exploring WMATA (no help), local govt (scanty words), and other public agency (still pretty thin) websites. My picture is very fuzzy, but looks like there is a software project at Metro that just cannot seem to ever get done. Best I could tell, this is needed to sort out or reconcile more sets of fares and divvy up the proceeds to the different agencies(?) and the last I heard, now maybe it will be done in November - unless it isn't.
How many projects are held up by this? I think many. I suspect that adding money to a Smartrip card from a web page is probably one of them.
Our local transportation departments meanwhile each pay someone's time, typically a consultant I think, for "implementation oversight" until, well, whenever.
I'd like to know what's really going on, whether there's an end in sight, where the project management went wrong, and has the management gotten any better or is it still broken? What do the Metro board members think, or are they even told what's happening? A little media attention might help get useful things done.

Posted by: WW | May 11, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I understand the concerns about sitting passengers not yielding to other, more deserving riders, but from a pure etiquette point of view, at what age is it polite to offer a person a seat? That is, how old do they have to look to have it not be impolite to assume they are senior citizens? I have seen women in their late 40s mortified by someone offering them the "elderly" seat, just because they had a particularly bad day and looked a little haggard.

Posted by: metriquette | May 11, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

This is a ding on the boys and girls in blue-- our MPD. You folks have got to be the laziest, most apathetic police department in the country. Yesterday on Pennsylvania Avenue I watched two uniformed police officers on bikes sit and drink a coffee as the intersection at Pennsylvania and Branch became so congested that Pennsylvania bound traffic missed eight lights in front of me-- as I watched them drink their latte and joke. Things that make you go hmmmm.

Posted by: Randy, Arlington | May 11, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Gene (who hates tolls),

Where do you think the money comes from to bulld "free" roads? Microsoft? No, from taxes. Taxes you pay when you fill up your gas tank or buy something or get your paycheck. And what happens when a politician proposes more taxes for roads? He or she is vilified - just look at the mess in Richmond right now. And who wants to pay more money for gas when the media is all over our $3/gallon prices and Bill Frist wants to give $100 back to everyone to make up for it?

A toll is another way to pay, and at least it's the user who is paying for it. Last I heard, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch (or road).

Posted by: Commuter | May 11, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

When I tell people about my commute, they usually assume I'm joking. Because how exactly does it take 45 minutes or more to drive 9 miles from central Rockville to downtown Bethesda?

I've tried 4 different routes and combinations so far, and can't trim it, especially on the drive home. Every road is a mess, and most drivers are discourteously dangerous. Last night was over an hour; no accidents, just ploddingly horrible traffic.

The metro is no better; if I walk a half-mile on each end, and take the metro in the middle, it's still 40 minutes minimum, and I have the added bonus of carrying a load on my back in rain, heat, or whatever passes for (poorly predicted) weather du jour.

Here's my most bizarre observation: Sitting in traffic waiting to cross over the Rockville Pike, I heard jazz music. A glance toward the van next to me revealed a gentleman playing a trumpet. Yep. In the drivers seat. I listened while we waited, and had to peek again when the light changed. And yes; the gentleman continued to play the trumpet while he crossed 4 lanes of highway. That 'trumps' all of the make-up appliers, newspaper readers, shavers, and cellphone blabbers I've seen so far.

Posted by: ABS in MD | May 11, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Why do slow people drive in the fast lane? It seems to be happening more and more lately, and it creates unnecessary traffic problems.

I thought that driving school and transportation laws taught us to use the far-right lane for slow traffic and far-left for fast traffic. I studied for my driving test and passed with flying colors. In fact, I make it a point to cut in front of a slow driver in the fast lane. Hopefully they'll get the point that I'm one of the faster drivers...

Posted by: Jenny | May 11, 2006 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I have no sympathy if Metro is an option for you and you can walk to it from you home, sorry. Yes, Metro is an option for me but I must first drive 17 miles (45 - 60 mins) from my house (off 234) and then park at the closet metro (Vienna) and park in the nightmare of a parking structure and then spend another 30 - 60 mins to get to Ballston. I chose to drive my daily commute of 41 miles which on a good day is an hour or on a typical day 1.5-2 hours.

I wonder though, why no sluggers going on 66.

Posted by: 66 Hell | May 11, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

You need to chill man. Those people that are making a mad dash around traffic all have false hopes.

1) How many cars are they really passing?
2) How much further ahead of you are they really getting?
3) If you let 1, 2, 3, 6 people in front of you how much longer is your commute really gonna be?

I know it seems very frustrating when people seems to be "cutting" in line, but when when they are getting NO benefit from it don't let it bother you.

I ALWAYS let people in front of me. Don't let it bother you, you will live longer. :-)

Posted by: Chill Driver | May 11, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

"I studied for my driving test and passed with flying colors. In fact, I make it a point to cut in front of a slow driver in the fast lane."

Did you learn that in driving school?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

THis has been going on for YEEEAAARS!!!

Every rush hour evening when I try to catch a train at Metro Center, I see the usual "parade" - TWO 6 car Orange trains ONE AFTER THE OTHER -- and the second one is HALF EMPTY. THen...-- ONE FOUR CAR BLUE train EXTREMELY CROWDED -- how generous of you Metro!!!!! (NOT!!!) Then the pattern repeats itself, but this time after the next TWO SIX CAR ORANGE TRAINS come, we get a (WOW!) SIX CAR BLUE TRAIN -- and then the SAME STUPID PATTERN REPEATS itself over and over again!!

WHAT's the need for ALL THOSE ORANGE LINE TRAINS? Don't tell me it's overcrowding - the second train is usually HALF EMPTY with PLENTY of seats!! In fact, the First of the two 6 car Orange trains stil has plenty of seats!!!

I have complained NUMEROUS times to Metro about this idiocy, and get -- the usual - NOTHING.

And as for the "generous" 8 car Orange line trains in the morning -- what Metro has done now is to SPACE OUT the intervals between trains - so there is NO ADVANTAGE gained by putting the 8 car trains in service!!!

Posted by: GeekAce | May 12, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

hey commuters...

up until very recently i used make the PAINSTAKING trip from Silver Spring to the Dulles Toll Road everyday. i found that checking and using the traffic cameras to map out my exact route and automatically sending me hourly updates helped me plan my "wait" better... at least gave me some more much need patience to deal with the ugliness called a commute.

anything that happens on the beltway, even if it is at 2 in the afternoon, esp. crossing the American Legion Bride will make for an UGLY commute.

I would also suggest, that if you are driving a hoopty, raggedy car, please show your fellow drivers some consideration and not get in the two far left lanes during rush hour ;-)

Posted by: former beltway diva | May 12, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

oh and might i add about those "priority seats" on metro... just because someone is young (or appears to be) doesn't mean they are healthy or able to give up thier seat. they good be feeling just as week as the elderly person standing in front of them. i am also quite appalled about the so-called men on metro who don't give up thier seats...

Posted by: former beltway diva | May 12, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

To respond to Chill Driver: While the line-cutters aren't saving themselves much time, what I resent about it is that inevitably there is at least a one- or two-light-cycle backup on Van Dorn every morning as traffic slams to a stop due, in no small part, to the people who want to cut over from the left turn lane. I don't particularly appreciate sitting there through extra light cycles just because some self-important cell-phone-yapping moron thinks he's entitled to make his own lane.

Posted by: Rich | May 15, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

For user I-66 Hell: One oft-cited reason for why slugging hasn't taken off on I-66 is that it's HOV-2. Apparently people feel safer getting into a car with two strangers because the presence of the extra person reassures them that nothing bad will happen, whereas if you don't have that third person there's no witness if you get mugged or worse.

Posted by: Rich | May 15, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps if we got rid of the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants around here traffic would ease up just a bit...

Posted by: Bill | May 23, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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