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Gripes About Traffic Reports

Are commuters in any portion of our region deprived of traffic reports? Here's one commuter who thinks so.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I'm writing to vent on my pet peeve, which is the complete lack of traffic coverage for commuters coming in and out through the southeast area of DC.

As everyone knows, there are only three ways to get into the city from Southern Maryland: I-295, Suitland Parkway, and Pennsylvania Avenue. Day after day, we are stuck in horrific delays, with no mention at all on the traffic reports, or, if there is a mention, it is usually too little too late.

Don't we deserve equal coverage and consideration? Is it a case of snobbery or racism? How can WTOP brag about their coverage when they consistently ignore 1/4 of the pie that the D.C. metro area is comprised of?

In addition, even those commuters who try to do their part by riding the commuter bus, are being shortchanged. The only area that does not provide HOV lanes for commuters is the southeast. Doesn't anyone look at the ridership statistics for these commuter buses? If we can provide HOV-2 lanes in Virginia and Montgomery County, why don't the southeastern commuters deserve the same?
Anne Lubinsky

I've heard similar complaints from time to time about lack of coverage, but they've come in from all quadrants. Certainly, commuters from southeastern points have a tough slog along just a few crowded routes with little transit service. But it's hard to tell whether one particular area is deprived of traffic information, or whether everyone could use more. Here are a couple of observations.

Radio: Listening to WTOP's 7:28 traffic report one morning last week, I heard about the Sousa Bridge, Pennsylvania Avenue, Branch Avenue and Minnesota Avenue. (I was thinking about this letter and paying attention to the radio at that particular moment.) During the Douglass Bridge shutdown last summer, I found WTOP to be very helpful with reports on the crowded routes.

Wherever I am, I do have the typical experience of thinking, How come they're not talking about the slow traffic I'm in right now? But then, how could traffic services possibly do that in a region as large and busy as ours? To provide blanket coverage on roads and rails, plus updates on situations already mentioned, they'd have to take over the entire news cycle, wouldn't they?

Online cameras: Look at our traffic page. The first thing that leaps out at me is that the southeastern portion of the region has the least coverage. But outside the District, most cameras are on interstates, which the southeastern region lacks, or on top commuter routes in Montgomery County, which has its own camera program. Within the District, cameras are spread out along prime commuter routes. But there's not too much District between the Anacostia River and the southeastern border.

Online incident reports: Sources of information for the traffic services include the cameras, the transportation departments, the police and drivers who call in. Looking again at the traffic page at, there seem to be as many incident reports for the southeastern region as for anywhere. (And I know that's a snapshot of the moment and not difinitive on the basic question.)

Many of you have consistent experience on the region's commuter routes, so I'm very interested in getting your thoughts on the quality of traffic information, the best sources of it and how it should be expanded.

[Also, please join me at 1 p.m. today for an online discussion about all our local transportation topics. We can talk about traffic reporting, Metro's new fares, the prototype for the new rail cars, transportation issues in the Maryland and Virginia legislatures, driving habits, or whatever else is on your mind. Here's a link in case you want to submit a question or comment before the discussion starts.]

By Robert Thomson  |  January 14, 2008; 8:07 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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