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Summer Eases Commuter Strain

We printed very brief excerpts on our Sunday commuter page from your letters about the August commute. But I thought you'd like to see the full comments. Notice that our commuters see the summer commute as a chance to break the pattern. Notice also the sense of liberation when they don't have to take transit. They're simply doing what works best for them in these circumstances.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I noticed that my commute to work from Germantown was much quicker than usual back in June, as soon as Montgomery County schools ended their year.

The drive to the Shady Grove Metro takes only 15 minutes as opposed to 25 or 30, and I feel like I have options to use as well; I dare not try I-270 during the school year at even 7:15 a.m. I even tailor when I leave home during the school year to avoid school buses stopping traffic to pick up children. And parking is still plentiful even I get there at 8 a.m.

This week, I've actually been driving to my job on Capitol Hill using 270, 495, the GW Parkway and 395. The only delay I regularly hit in the morning is on the ramp to 395; in the afternoon it's on the inner loop on 495 to 270. It's been much faster than I thought, and if I thought it was that way year-round I'd consider abandoning Metro and driving instead because of its recent poor service.

Chris Lynn

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I live in the West End of Alexandria and work right by Union Station. I regularly get to work by taking a Metrobus to the Pentagon and then Yellow Line to Archives, followed by a lovely 20 minute walk (well, lovely when it's not 100 degrees outside).

When August rolls around, I check things out the first few days from my bus ride on I-395 in to the Pentagon. When I start to see the regular lanes open up (right around Seminary Road, where they're usually a parking lot) after the first week, that's when I give up public transportation for my car. I can get to work most days in August, in under 20 minutes -- that means I get to sleep an extra 30 minutes each morning. Almost like a vacation in itself!

I find that I'm happier when I get to work, more rested, and not as stressed already worrying about my commute home and if I have to beg out on an evening activity because of my bus schedule. I know, I shouldn't be touting giving up public transit, because it's a good thing. But for two weeks in August, I treat myself, knowing I'll be a little happier because of it.

Oh, and if I do take Metro, it's so nice to actually get a seat on the Yellow Line in the morning. Usually, the trains are packed by the time they get to the Pentagon.

Enjoy your August!

Laura Vogel

We noted on the Sunday page that during August, there are more vehicles on the highways than at virtually any other time of year, but there is less rush-hour congestion than in any other month. (And in case you missed it, here's a link to the Sunday story by Lena Sun and Jonathan Mummolo about the possibility that Metro will cutback on the weekend's late night rail service and substitute buses to save money. Also interesting was Eric Weiss's story about engineering overconfidence in post-World War II bridge design.)

I hope you can stop by at 1 p.m. today for a Live Online chat about these and other local transportation topics. Use this link to get to the chat. Here's one that takes you to a form for submitting questions and comments right now.

By Robert Thomson  |  August 6, 2007; 7:31 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Metro GM Apologizes For Delays
Next: Travel Tips for Hot Days


Where was the Va trooper this morning on Eastbound I66 at 540am this morning? Under an overpass waiting to nail HOV violators at Nutley street. Trooper Donut was pulled off to the left and all light were out in his car. Napping? Working? Who knows but less thna 2 miles up a head was a 5 vehicle pile up which inlcuded an 18 wheeler. At 605am when I rolled through and yeah it took 20 minutes to go less thna 2 miles there was no emergency response. Trooper Donut was still trying to make his quota! Great work Trooper. Thansk for the great job. Shame I didnt get you car number bu I am sure your bosses know who you are!

Posted by: Upset Va taxpayer | August 6, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Chris Lynn -- Try taking GW Parkway to the TR Bridge -- you can get on Independence Ave and take that to 395 which might help you beat the ramp by the Pentagon.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 6, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

This is madness. Has anyone taken the Metro lately? It is worse than ever! The red line has significant delays nearly every day - and I mean that literally. In the last 2 weeks I counted 10 days where there was a significant delay in at least one direction during my daily commute. Last Friday I spent over an hour sitting in the Cleveland Park metro station waiting for a train to be taken out of service. A few days before that, we'd gotten stuck in the tunnel near Dupont circle.

It's gotten to the point where I'm glad if the only thing wrong is a complete absence of air conditioning in the 90+ degree heat cars (this morning). The reason your drives are probably easier is because everyone is trapped in a subway tunnel somewhere.

Posted by: Rory | August 6, 2007 4:22 PM | Report abuse

It's weird....I've been back from a vacation for three days, gone to work on two of them (yesterday and today). I-395 is much lighter than it is for most of the year, much more pleasant, but for some reason Van Dorn Street heading up into Alexandria is no better than usual except maybe that the big backup forms about 10 minutes later than it usually does. In previous years Van Dorn has been lighter. Wonder if it's just changed commuting patterns, or people avoiding the Wilson Bridge, or what. I guess the extension of Van Dorn to Telegraph Road will have changed the traffic patterns for a lot of people down towards Fort Belvoir.

Posted by: Rich | August 7, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I know this is off topic, but why no discussion regarding metro's new proposal to possibly get rid of late night service on weekends? I'm sure it is a topic a lot of people would like to comment on.

Posted by: Laura | August 7, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Doctor, indeed you have found the remedies for every other road in the area EXCEPT I-66 from Centreville to the Beltway which is the same if not worse than it usually is. I say the same because the back-ups occur at the same points, day in and day out and it takes just as long to get to work in the snow as it does the high humidity. I say worse because of the number of tourists and other I-66 ignorants who need to look at maps, phones, etc. instead of the open road in front of them.

I don't travel inside the Beltway much, if at all during the summer, on I-66 but can tell you that outside it's just as bad as it ever was. In the mornings, bad. In the evenings, bad. Give it a shot for a week, I leave my house at 7:30. Yesterday I got in to work at 8:15, the day before 9:45, today I did it in 35 minutes though I did leave much later than normal but was still late getting in.

Posted by: Centreville | August 8, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

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