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Get There: September 17, 2006 - September 23, 2006

September Shock, Or Not?

Back in August, I asked commuters to share their concerns and warnings about September Shock, the annual rude awakening that occurs when we rediscover how crowded the Washington area is. Daniel Korn wrote to me and offered his multi-faceted commute as one measure of September Shock and promised to get back to me this month and describe his experience. Here's what he said: "While I've commuted in the DC area for the last 12 years, until recently, I drove from Montgomery County to Columbia/Baltimore, essentially opposite traffic. Two months ago, I began commuting from my house in Potomac downtown to 19th and E. Since I've only ever known summer commuting into the city, I might be in for a real shock after Labor Day! "My commute looks like this: 1. 15 minute, 7 mile drive to Grosvenor Metro, starting around 7:30 or 7:45. I get on 270 at Montrose, either...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 22, 2006; 6:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Officials Promise Change at Lincoln Memorial

The District Department of Transportation and the National Park Service told me Thursday that they were working on improving the traffic flow through the Lincoln Memorial circle. The morning traffic backups across the Memorial Bridge into Virginia have generated many complaints from motorists. On Monday: Two new sets of lights back up traffic at circle. (Robert Thomson) Both agencies said they understand the concerns expressed by commuters over the new traffic lights. DDOT spokesman Erik Linden said the lights were modified today with the intent of getting more cars through the circle while still protecting pedestrians. Both he and Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, said their agencies would continue to monitor the traffic situation and would make further adjustments if warranted. Line said the park service would work with the park police to enforce the time limits on tour buses that discharge and pickup passengers in the...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 21, 2006; 5:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Congestion  
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The Fadeaway of the 5B

Just got back from a round trip this morning on the 5B Metrobus, which is among those that will be discontinued as of Sunday. I was curious about this route in particular, because it provides a rare transit link between two urban centers: Washington and Tysons Corner. Yet Metro says the ridership is so low that the resources should be diverted to enhance other bus routes that are more crowded. The thing that intrigues me is, Why wasn't this route more popular? I boarded at L'Enfant Plaza at 7 a.m. The bus is well-designed, with upholstered double seats on each side of the aisle, an overhead rack to support bags and briefcases, reading lamps -- more like an airport shuttle to the rent-a-car center than a city bus. There were about a dozen passengers with me for the trip, stopping only in Rosslyn before the drop-offs and pickups at the...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 21, 2006; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Metro Discusses Bus Service Changes

I talked with Jim Hughes, Metro's chief operating officer for operations support, about the two issues bus riders have been raising concerning the many service changes that take effect on Sunday: They didn't know about them and they don't like them. He doesn't dispute what some people have been saying about getting caught by surprise, but Hughes and other Metro officials note that this is the end of a lengthy process that involved public hearings about the schedule changes and approval by the Metro board as part of the budget that took effect in July. He said the transit authority intended to have notices posted in all buses and brochures available to riders, but acknowledges that this might not have been completely successful. Notices also were posted in the bus garages to alert drivers and other transit employees. Here's a link to the brochure that describes the impact of all...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 21, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Metro  
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Why Metro Escalator Fix Takes So Long?

I got a question during Monday's Live Online discussion about the status of the escalator rehab at Rockville Metro station. The length of time it takes to repair the escalators is one of the longstanding gripes we have about the system. This is the comment, in part: "At the beginning of May, the escalators at the Rockville Metro station were shut down for rehabilitation. Fine. Here's the rub. May, June and July were taken up for the rehab of the first escalator. Now the second one is scheduled for completion at the end of October. We will have been without a functioning escalator for six months at that point." "Does six months seem reasonable, and is this the norm? sheesh" Candace Smith, a spokeswoman for Metro, got back me about that project. Here's what she said: "The Rockville escalators should be back in service in October. Normally it takes about...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 20, 2006; 1:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Metro  
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Concern about Metrobus Changes

I'm hearing from some Metrobus riders who didn't realize that their last commuter trips on those lines will occur Friday. Metro is making many changes in routes throughout the region, effective on Sunday. These are the changes that Lena Sun, The Post reporter who covers Metro, wrote about in February. This was the first paragraph of Lena's story: "Metro officials proposed a major overhaul of the region's bus system yesterday, scrapping service on routes with few riders, reducing crowding on heavily traveled routes and skipping some stops to speed trips along certain congested corridors." Metro has a list of the affected lines on its Web site, along with a copy of the brochure that outlines the specific changes on each route. Some are gaining service while others are either losing service or being discontinued altogether. The riders I've heard from are upset not only about losing their routes but about...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 20, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Metro  
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Lincoln Memorial Traffic: There's Your Problem

I went back down to the Lincoln Memorial on Monday afternoon, because some of you advised me that the traffic on this major commuter route could be a bad scene in the p.m. as well as in the a.m. You were right. Four buses parked on Bacon Drive at 5:22 p.m. Monday.(Robert Thomson) Bacon Drive heading toward the Memorial Bridge was a snaggle Monday afternoon. Those Virginia-bound commuters I saw making the turn from Constitution Avenue onto Bacon between 4:45 and 5:30 p.m. thought there were two travel lanes ahead, but they eventually saw those big ole tour buses parked in the right lane. Then they had to squeeze over to the left. Drivers were being pretty polite about letting them in. But the merge to a single lane on Bacon Drive helped back up traffic on Constitution. Now, there are several signs along that right lane declaring in red...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 19, 2006; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Creative Solutions Still Possible?

As usual, I didn't get to all the good questions and comments that came in during the Live Online today. I'll try to answer some of those questions here on Get There throughout the week. But I thought you might like to chew on this Live Online comment and question that I didn't have time to post earlier: Ashburn, Va.: It seems that everybody agrees that D.C. has a traffic problem, and everybody agrees that it's getting worse. But nobody agrees about the best way to solve it. Are any politicians pushing out-of-the-box approaches to solving the traffic problems? What if the region invested in high-speed Internet to every home (the way the government helped land-line telephone adoption). Wouldn't that be worth is if it could remove 15-30 percent of the vehicles off the road? How about investing in remote tele-working facilities in the outlying counties? So Prince William County...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 18, 2006; 2:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Commuter Complaints About Lincoln Memorial Turn

I went down to the Lincoln Memorial this morning to check on the many complaints I've been getting about the new lights at the memorial circle and 23rd Street. These affect inbound commuters as they come across the Memorial Bridge from Virginia and either head up 23rd Street or travel along Bacon Drive to Constitution Avenue. Lights for left and straight at 23rd Street and Lincoln Memorial circle. (Robert Thomson) Here's one sample complaint from a reader in Alexandria: "I commute from Alexandria to NW DC each day for work and am speechless about the change in traffic pattern from Memorial bridge around the Lincoln Memorial, toward Constitution Ave. "They have added 2 new stoplights and changed the traffic flow to be even worse than it was." Here's the set up: As drivers come across the bridge from Virginia, they go about a quarter of the way around the circle,...

By Robert Thomson  |  September 18, 2006; 10:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Live Online Monday

Join me Monday at 1 p.m. for a Live Online discussion of traffic and transit issues. You can submit questions and comments anytime by clicking on that link. During last week's discussion, a reader asked about a Dr. Gridlock column item about the District's new law, now undergoing routine congressional review, that will authorize police to recognize out of state handicapped tags for parking in D.C. spaces for the disabled. The reader wanted to know what Metro's policy was at its parking facilities, and I said I would check. Metro says it does recognize handicapped tags, whether they are local or not....

By Robert Thomson  |  September 17, 2006; 11:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting  
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