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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.

Bacon Drive buses.jpg 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 letters that buses can indeed park there, between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Single Lane.jpg
Parked buses forced traffic to squeeze into single lane before Memorial circle. (Robert Thomson)

Was my watch fast?


The buses could have pulled around that block and parked back on Constitution Avenue eastbound. That inbound route is relatively clear after the morning rush.They can park there from 9:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. But it's farther for the tourists to walk to the Memorial.

Bus Sign.jpg It says buses can park there, but not during the evening rush.(Robert Thomson)

When they disembark at the more convenient spot, closer to the Memorial, they use the crosswalks where the new lights are, the ones that so annoy you.

I'm not a traffic engineer and I'm not a police officer, but I'm pretty confident in saying that this isn't right.
Those tour buses ought not to be on the right side of Bacon Drive at rush hour. If no other space can be found for the buses along Bacon Drive and the tourists can't walk a block to the Lincoln Memorial, then maybe they should delay the experience till the evening. The Memorial is especially beautiful when it's all lit up.

I heard the driver of one of those duck amphibious tour vehicles telling his passengers over the speaker that he couldn't park that close to the Memorial at that hour because the National Park Service doesn't allow it. Bless him.

Commuters, it looked a lot easier to skip Bacon and go one more block on Constitution to make the left at the green arrow onto 23rd Street for the Memorial Bridge.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 19, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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or just ticket the buses. just one more dc traffic situation that would be solved if laws were enforced. if you ticket them, they will either wrap their tours up early or find somewhere else to park.

Posted by: jan | September 19, 2006 8:18 AM | Report abuse

You're absolutely right about the Lincoln Memorial traffic situation, both morning and afternoon. Two problems- the timing of the lights and the buses that park in that lane. But even on days when buses don't park in that lane, traffic gets backed up just because of the timing of the lights.

Posted by: acorn | September 19, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I agree on the timing of the lights. The one at the Memorial end of Bacon stays green, unless there is a pedestrian. The one before that (to go straight at 23rd) stays red until the left turn light turns red.

I did see a Park Service horse cop try to move some buses along last week. ...but that was only one day.

Posted by: Greg | September 19, 2006 8:58 AM | Report abuse

How about skipping the individual buses and fining the heck out of the tour companies?

Posted by: h3 | September 19, 2006 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Great job getting out and documenting this traffic nightmare! I hope you continue with these investigations.

Posted by: GhettoBurbs | September 19, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

What does a good citizen do when he/she sees a crime in progress?
Report the crime.

Parking in a no-parking lane and blocking rush hour traffic is illegal. I discovered this summer that citizens can call and report violations. Just call 202-727-1000, describe the location of the vehicle, the type of vehicle, the severity of the congestion.

So, "Some busses are parked in a no parking curb lane on Bacon Drive heading towards memorial bridge. They are seriously congesting rush hour traffic."

Someone should be dispatched to address the situation.

We're the citizens, dammit. Maybe law enforcement just needs a little helping hand once in a while- it might help to send the message to people that it is NOT OKAY to block rush hour traffic!

(remember to use a headset when in your car on the phone!)

Posted by: Jared | September 19, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

The illegally parked buses (as well as taxis and limos) on Bacon are a nuisance, but the real problem is still the placement and timing of the new stop lights. Before the stop lights were installed, traffic generally flowed smoothly along Bacon and the Lincoln Memorial circle, even though buses were frequently parked in the curb lane on the west side of Bacon. By the way, using 23rd instead of Bacon doesn't help much, since you still have to deal with the new stop light at 23rd on the circle, which causes long backup at both a.m. and p.m. rush hours.

Thanks for investigating this, and please let us know what the Park Service plans to do about this problem.

Posted by: Lincoln Memorial Bottleneck | September 19, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Jared's idea of reporting the buses to the cops is a nice idea, but remember, we're talking about a city whose idea of solving traffic problems is to tell everyone to take the Metro. I'm probably cynical, but I see the DC authorities saying, "Serves ole whitey from Virginia right for trying to drive in our city."

A bigger question is why we need all these stupid traffic lights at all when a roundabout might work better.

Posted by: Rich | September 19, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

The morning traffic for Beacon Drive now backs up to 110 when before the light it was a constant flow that actually moved. I see no reason for the long red light at 8:30 am for the right lane onto Beacon Dr. when there is no one there. It should stay green until a pedistrian activates the walk signal. Insanity!

Posted by: Karen | September 19, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

You are all right!!! This is a major problem and needs to be addressed by the park service as well as the Mayor of DC. The Memorial Bridge is a "MAJOR" artery in and out of DC and when this is backed up it causes delays everywhere. Have you noticed in the a.m. because of the lights at the Lincoln, the traffic backs up not only over the Memorial Bridge, yet is back up well past the Pentagon on Washington Blvd. This is a serious problem! Turn off the lights and let the traffic flow!

Posted by: Ann | September 19, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

In all of the planning, did they not think aabout putting in a Bus lane that keeps them out of the flow of traffic? This entire set up had to have come from the 1960s. The lights have added 15-20 minutes on to my morning commute. Where are the local Congressional reps on this issue? Who approved this plan?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Whom ever came up with this new traffic pattern should get an award. It's guaranteed to stop the terrorist hordes who want to drive a truck into the memorial -- no chance of doing that now. They'll give up after waiting in the traffic....

Not only has that project taken waay too long with a bunch of guys regularly doing nothing, but it's not an improvement. The commute just gets longer, engines idle longer waiting for the stupid lights, and the air gets worse near the mall.

Brilliant work.

Posted by: Dave | September 19, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I long gave up on Bacon, and take 23rd. Seeing the new lines to continue on Bacon in the mornings, stretching from the West shore of the Potomac, support that decision. The flip side is that now navigating to/from 23rd and Memorial Circle is now easier than it used to be. But that shouldn't come at the expense of motorists using Bacon. Tweak the timing of the lights, aggresively fine illegal parking. Also - after all that work on Memorial Circle, why not add bus parking, or even pedestrian underpasses to replace crosswalks?

Posted by: Dan | September 19, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm a licensed DC tour guide, and I always drop my folks off of the bus on Constitution Ave. instead of on Bacon Drive, just to avoid the passengers crossing Bacon Drive.

But no one mentioned that at the same time in the evening when buses can't park on Bacon Drive, they also are NOT allowed to park on Constitution Ave. by the Vietnam Wall. So you can't do a Linclon Memorial stop during those hours. And while the spring time brings all the 8th graders, the fall brings a lot of senior citizens, many of whom can't walk very far at all. That doesn't make it right to block the road, but some appreciation needs to be given to the fact that with a tight itinerary, sometimes there are few options.

My guess is that a lot of these buses that park there during rush hour do not have a licensed DC guide on board. We have a very strong Guild here that gets information like this out to our members. But unfortunately some tour companies either leave it all to the driver, many of whom have never been in DC before, or have someone from their own company who's not licensed in DC come along to lead the tour.

Remember folks, this is only a very temporary thing. After the construction is done, the tour buses will park over on Daniel French Drive where they've always been. I don't know if the signaled pedestrian crossing will also end at that time.

This should be a big reason for them NOT to build that un-needed and un-wanted Vietnam museum across Bacon Drive. If that happens, there will be a permanent traffic backup causeed by pedestrian traffic.

Mark Foxenberg

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I think it is rather myopic for mostly non-DC commuters to complain about roads and other transportation infrastructure that they do not support through taxes. As a District resident, I pay taxes that support those roads, and I am more sympathetic to the tour buses (and their professional drivers), whose business generates tax revenue for the district, than I am to speed demon hack-commuters who work in DC but pay no taxes. You generally pay for what you get, but in this case our ungrateful commuter friends get good roads and views for a song.

Posted by: DCResident | September 19, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

We pay no taxes? Really? I pay to park. There is a tax on that. I pay for lunch. There is a tax on that. Sometimes I go shopping. There is a tax on anything I buy. My employer pays D.C. taxes.


Posted by: No taxes? | September 19, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

If the roads are managed by the National Park Service, doesn't the NPS (i.e., the federal government) pay for the roads, and not the District? Therefore does it not come out of federal income taxes, not DC income or property taxes?

Posted by: nashpaul | September 19, 2006 9:47 PM | Report abuse

"[I]n this case our ungrateful commuter friends get good roads and views for a song."

"Good roads"? You haven't driven in the District of Columbia, have you?

Posted by: Rich | September 20, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Rich, if you don't like our roads, go back where you came from.

"No Taxes" -- sure, you pay a piddling amount of sales tax and parking tax. But DC is the only jurisdiction in the nation where non-residents are exempt from the income tax.

Posted by: DC taxpayer | September 20, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"DC taxpayer," learn some manners.

Posted by: Rich | September 20, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

DC Taxpayer - Federal funding supports these roads, so yes, we pay taxes. Also, our employers pay property taxes - much more than you do on your property. In addition, Washington is one of many cities which do not levy employment taxes.

Promoting a resident vs commuter attitude is counterproductive. Without residents, DC would be a commercial wasteland from 5pm to 8am. But without commuters, DC would be a suburb.

Instead of destructive debate, we should find ways to solve the problem, e.g. give the bus drivers better alternatives to blocking traffic, and then use enforcement if they willingly don't use them.

Posted by: Dan | September 20, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

DC taxpayer: Would you rather DC have no commuters? What would that do to the DC tax base and your subsequent tax bill then? Even if those who work in DC and live elsewhere do not pay a commuter tax, the companies we work for pay taxes. And I really don't think it's fair to say that commuters make no contribution -- DC sustains a larger number of restaurants and shops than the size of the DC population itself would warrant. Those people are coming from somewhere!

Posted by: Commuter | September 20, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I have taken to calling the bus companies of the ILLEGALLY parked buses and reporting the drivers to the company - and certainly I am in traffic long enough to make note of the phone number on the bus (handy) or tour operator and bus number. I nicely inform the company that the driver is illegally parked and impeding the flow of rush hour. For the most part the companies are nice about it, although one recently blamed the District for not liking tourist and not letting the busses go anywhere.

Posted by: Alexandria | September 20, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I repeat what I said above - bus parking on Bacon Drive is only a temporary arrangement until the construction work is done. After that tour buses will park back over on Daniel French Drive where they have been for years.

As for whether DC welcomes tour buses, I have heard the same sentiment from bus drivers. This comes largely from drivers and tour operators who only know where they can't park, but not where they can park. This is where a tour guide can help both the tour group and DC residents.

DC regulations require that all tour buses have a licensed guide on board, but some chose not to do this. I really think that these offending buses are ones without a guide on board.

Posted by: Tour Guide Mark | September 20, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"[B]us parking on Bacon Drive is only a temporary arrangement until the construction work is done. After that tour buses will park back over on Daniel French Drive where they have been for years."

That doesn't make it acceptable for the bus drivers to ignore the law and park on Bacon Drive if the signs do not permit parking. The fact that it's a bus with tourists is not an excuse. If the sign says no parking or no stopping, then you are not to park or stop there. If the traffic is backed up and it's taking forever to get through the light, people can't just say, "The traffic was too slow" as an excuse for ignoring the light when they get ticketed. The same principle applies.

Perhaps they should allow the buses to park in that separate lane that's off by itself on the south side of Constitution Avenue.

Posted by: Rich | September 20, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse


There is bus and also handicapped parking spaces on the south side of Constitution Ave. across from 21st Street but parking is not allowed there during morning and afternoon rush hours. Before all this construction around the Lincoln Memorial, tyically I'd drop my groups off on Daniel French Drive and have the bus meet the group on Constritution Ave. For now I just drop them off on Constitution Ave.

The root cause of all of this is the construction, which will be done soon.

I don't think I ever said or implied that it was OK for tour buses to violate the law.

Posted by: Tour Guide Mark | September 20, 2006 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Busses should park at exurb Metro stations and let tourists take the metro around downtown (with a guide of course.) **Evil Laugh**

Ahh, the wonder of competing resources. Some people get mad, some people ignore things, but the truly useful humans out there will do something creative to solve problems such as this so that everyone gets a cut of the pie. *Winks*

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | September 20, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Rich, thanks for showing your ignorance, but Henry Bacon is under the jurisdiction of the predominately white male Park Police and not the DC govt. Sorry to put a damper on your cross burning.

Posted by: I hate fools | September 21, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

DC Resident. First, you need to know what the Hell you are talking about. That area is not DC jurisdiction, but federal. As such, those were FEDERAL tax dollars. Second, I take it you never drive in Maryland or Virginia so never complain about traffic in those jurisdictions right? I mean, you do not want to come off like a pompous un-informed ass do you?

Posted by: I hate fools | September 21, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"I hate fools," you don't know much about DC roads and law enforcement, do you? The feds and DC have concurrent jurisdiction over traffic matters in almost the entire city. Recall the recent story in the news about Marion Barry getting pulled over for speeding by the Secret Service. The Secret Service is one of about 14 different law-enforcement agencies with authority to enforce the traffic laws in the District, even in areas away from federal government buildings. So yes, the city could indeed do something about the buses if they wanted to. Let's see if Fenty is serious about improving the roads and the traffic. I know he says he hates potholes, so if he makes progress on that score, I'll gladly acknowledge it!

Posted by: Rich | September 22, 2006 8:22 AM | Report abuse

To underscore my last post, the following is a direct quotation from one of Dr. G's more recent entry in the blog:

"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."

Notice the conjunction "AND." BOTH agencies are involved.

Posted by: Rich | September 22, 2006 8:34 AM | Report abuse

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