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Your August Commute

We have begun the month in which we're supposed to have the easiest time getting to and from work. It's August, that pleasant period before vacationing families return and school resumes. Your commute is less unpleasant than normal.

I hope that's true. Or is it just different?

The Douglass Bridge shutdown was planned for the time when commuting plunges by about 12 percent, thanks to vacationers. That made sense, unless, perhaps, you're stuck on I-295 heading for the 11th Street Bridge detour. Metrorail's ridership also drops off in August, so you may be waiting on a less-crowded platform, but one that's much too hot for office attire.

Help us understand these variables, as part of a feature we're planning for The Post's commuter page, on page 2 of Sunday's Metro section.

I'll bet many of you keep track, and have some long-term perspective on what happens to the commute as July shifts into August. When I was commuting every day to The Post's downtown newsroom, I calculated congestion based on the level at which I could park at the Metro station garage, like it was the changing water line on a ship. Parking on level 5 meant everyone was working. Parking on level 3 was common for August or Christmas week.

Are you looking forward to the next couple of weeks of travel, and if so why? Or does one thing get better and another thing get worse in commuting? Do you plan to flee the scene, like so many others, or do you stick around to take advantage of that easier traffic?

As always, we'd like to see your thoughts here on the blog, but we're also hoping that some of you can send e-mails on this theme to drgridlock@washpost.com and include your name, home community and a contact number. We hope to combine some traffic statistics about the summer lull along with your comments on the Sunday page.

By Robert Thomson  |  August 1, 2007; 5:19 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Next: Progress on Douglass Bridge

Comments

I am a Metro rider and I see the drop in congestion in my commute. In the mornings, I can actually sit on the orange line going into downtown. Luckily, traffic snarls are not my problem!

The only tradeoff I've seen is that there seems to be a higher instance of trains running with one car out of power in the peak of summer. It's very frustrating, especially during rush hour and/or on a 4 car train.

Posted by: CDell | August 1, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I take the Orange Line from Ballston to Federal Triangle every morning, around 7:30-7:45. Yesterday, I was running a little late, and got to the platform around 8am. I need to sit, to avoid motion sickness, so I don't get on unless I can get a seat. Usually this means skipping the first train, but the next one will be pretty empty. Yesterday, I had to wait for the fourth train. And they were all pretty close together. Definitely didn't look like a drop-off in commuters to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 1, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Traffic is definitely much lighter for me. I reverse commute from DC to Tysons, and normally I'll hit heavy traffic on GW Parkway near Key Bridge, and on 123 heading into and out of Tysons. Traffic is so light that I've actually been staying on GW Parkway past 123 to the Beltway to Route 7 on a fairly regular basis now, and haven't been screwed over by the Legion Bridge backups onto the Parkway and heavy Outer Loop traffic except for a couple of times. In the afternoon, sometimes the inner loop is free-flowing so I can take that up to GW Parkway to avoid the lights on 123 as early as 6:30. I'll take 123 towards the Beltway and make a determination based on how fast traffic is moving on top of the overpass....usually I'll get caught in a little Legion Bridge traffic regardless, but it is still slightly faster than staying on 123 (that light at Great Falls St/Lewinsville Road manages to back up traffic quite well on a regular basis).

But the real indicator for me of how many people are away on vacation, and therefore how easy my commute will be, is how easy or difficult it is to find a street parking spot in my neighborhood. Normally if I'm not home and into a spot by 9 or 10 PM on a weeknight, I'll have to park way over on the other side of Connecticut and walk 10 minutes back home. Nowadays I'll come home at 11:30 PM and find plenty of empty spots within a 3 minute walk of where I need to be. Guess all those cars are parked at Rehoboth instead (actually, probably more like Duck or Dulles Airport).

Posted by: Woodley Park | August 1, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

My bike ride is still hot and humid. Looking forward to September and October.

Posted by: VC | August 1, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I live in McLean and work at Dulles Airport. My commute (20 minutes, door to door) hasn't changed a bit.

Posted by: wiredog | August 1, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I need to go to W. Chester PA on Sat. I usually go I-95 to Rt. 202, but have heard somewhere in DE it gets jammed.

Can anyone suggest an alternate route, or is it good to go?

THanks!

Posted by: Help to DE | August 1, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

US 1 to US 202. It takes longer, but there aren't any tolls.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 1, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

At what point on 95 do I pick up Rt. 1?
Also, how much longer will it take?

Thanks!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 1, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Get off I-95 in Cecil County, MD at Exit 100 (Route 272 I think) and take that north and actually into PA. Right over the PA line, you'll hop onto US 1. At this point, US 1 is a controlled-access freeway with relatively light traffic. With this route, you also avoid the hefty Delaware tolls (the toll plaza is at about Exit 109).

If you want to avoid the MD tolls as well, you can get off I-95 even sooner and get out into the Harford County, MD countryside. Exit I-95 at either Route 24 (Exit 77) or Route 543 (Exit 80). These routes will be a little longer than the first one I suggested though.

Try I-95 to Exit 100. I don't think it's that much longer. Best of all, it costs less and its MUCH more predictable in terms of traffic and level of congestion.

Posted by: xyv1027 | August 1, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

August in the DC region won't be an issue for me this year.

I'll be on vacation the first half of the month and on travel for the remainder.

On all three trips, I'll be in cities that have actually found ways to address their traffic congestion issues besides building rail lines and indulging road opponents as we have done for over 30 years.

Have fun.

Posted by: CEEAF | August 2, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm just back from a two-week vacation in Europe (where the warmest weather we encountered was 72F in Denmark on Wednesday). The thing that makes me shake my head whenever I come back to the USA is our incorrectly-designed traffic lights that don't have the combined red-yellow cycle to tell you that the light is turning green. In every city we visited (with the exception of St. Petersburg, Russia) the traffic moved off the line more quickly and efficiently than traffic does in the USA when the lights turned green.

Posted by: Rich | August 3, 2007 12:56 AM | Report abuse

In Europe, I would presume that they also better understand the concept of a yellow to red light...that's the problem I would see here. Efficient start-up doesn't do much good if the cross-traffic hasn't stopped.

Posted by: cb | August 3, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh, yeah. I also have noticed traffic to be a little lighter.

Posted by: cb | August 3, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm out of town so far in Aug. but July was about a 25% time reduction from normal, where normal now includes the Legion bridge work. I time my commute (Rockville to Arllington) every day but haven't been writing the numbers down, so this is just my recollection of what the numbers typically are.

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