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Get There: July 13, 2008 - July 19, 2008

The Weekend and Beyond

Here are some travel advisories for this weekend. You'll also find some information about transportation issues coming up in the weeks ahead. Metrorail Weekend Delays Track maintenance may significantly delay travel this weekend on the Blue and Yellow lines. Trains share a single track to get around the work zone and proceed at 10 mph through the area to protect the workers. See the full details here on Metro's Web site. Red Line Parking Lots The Shady Grove Metrorail station's West Kiss & Ride Lot will be closed Saturday to prepare for the resurfacing of the lot. This shouldn't hurt too much, because it's just 20 spaces and will be open again on Sunday, according to the schedule. At Grosvenor Station, the surface parking lot is scheduled to be closed this weekend for maintenance. That's 412 spaces shut off, but the station has a grand total of 1,894. New Metro...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 18, 2008; 11:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Free Buses on Friday

Forecasters say Friday will be a Code Red day for air quality, which means most buses in the suburbs will be free. The District does not participate in the program, designed to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take transit, to help reduce pollution. While Code Red forecasts are not what we want, since they indicate the day's air is likely to contain unhealthy levels of ozone, they do present a chance to try a bus and see if it might work for you on other days as well. At CommuterPage.com, you'll find a list of the region's bus services, along with more helpful information on transit use. What a Code Red forecast means: Don't run to the bus stop. Children, the elderly and people with heart or respiratory ailments, emphysema, asthma or chronic bronchitis should reduce outdoor activities. Healthy people should limit strenuous outdoor work or...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 17, 2008; 4:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Calculating the Commute

I'm going to ask for your advice on this. Dear Dr. Gridlock: I can't seem to find a good commuting calculator to show the cost of driving to work versus taking mass transit. Can you recommend one for the D.C. area? I'm starting a new commute from Reston to the District, versus Reston to Dulles, and would like to know what it might cost and how long each option might take. Eric Hill Reston Very timely, right? Metro's ridership numbers this summer suggest that a lot of people are engaged in similar calculations, because of the gas prices. There are many online calculators. I think the ones that would work best for us are locally relevant, simple and up to date on car costs. I've used three, for various reasons. They are: -- Arlington 's Car-Free Diet calculator (You don't have to be commuting in Arlington to use it.) --...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 17, 2008; 11:34 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Again With the Metrorail Records

It used to be a noteworthy event when a day's Metrorail ridership broke into the all-time top 10. Now, Metro's cranking out an annoucement about a new landmark just about every day. So here's the latest: Tuesday's ridership of 830,307 was the ninth highest in the 32-year history of the Metrorail system. The transit authority says it was 32,295 more trips than on the comparable day last year. Usually, transit authority announcements note any events on the date that might have contributed to a higher ridership. Not this time. There were no baseball or basketball games, no festivals or rallies. [I originally said here that there was no soccer game either, but Alex B. corrected me: D.C. United did play at RFK on Tuesday night.] In July, Metrorail ridership has topped 800,000 trips eight times. In June, ridership was higher than 800,000 on 12 dates. While June is usually a...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 16, 2008; 2:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Metro  
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Heat Restrictions on MARC

MARC commuter trains will have the slows this afternoon. Heat restrictions are in effect for the Brunswick and Camden Lines, the Maryland Transit Administration says. Commuters should plan on 10 to 15 minute delays. Here's the MARC train tracker page. Heat restrictions are imposed on the lines by their owner, CSX, on hot summer days when concerns rise that the rails might develop kinks. Such kinks have led to derailments. The heat orders are not the only issues that delay MARC riders. This has been a pretty typical summer for slowdowns caused by equipment failures and stalled CSX freight trains. Meanwhile, ridership demands are increasing as people take to the trains to avoid the rising gas prices. The MTA says the average daily ridership on MARC's three lines -- Camden, Brunswick and Penn -- was 32,604 in May, up 6 percent from May 2007. MARC is looking to increase parking...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 16, 2008; 1:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Rebuilding a Bus Line

Metrobus's 16th Street Line is the third most heavily used in the system, after the 30s Line across Pennsylvania Avenue and the 70s buses that run up and down Georgia Avenue. About 45 of those riders, speaking for many more of the 16,000 who use the route daily, met with planners in a church basement on Tuesday night to talk about how to correct some of the problems troubling the line. Metrobus route map Many readers will recognize them: The buses are crowded, the printed schedules for the S1, S2 and S4 don't match the arrival times, and when the buses do arrive they tend to come two or three at a time. Those complaints were voiced frequently at the meeting in Columbia Heights, but they weren't the only ones. Riders also talked about the design of the buses and the design of the route. Some would like to have...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 16, 2008; 11:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Metro  
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Questions Raised About Streetcar

The District's ambitious plan to create a billion-dollar network of streetcars and rapid buses over the next two decades is supposed to begin next year along a 1.3 mile track in Anacostia. But some District leaders are questioning whether they've picked the right place to start. Streetcar desired for DC. Cars now in Czech Republic. (DDOT photo) At $45 million, the Anacostia line represents a tiny portion of the overall cost of the network, but it's still a hefty hunk of change as the District government looks ahead to some lean years on revenue. So it's worthy of attention all across the city. And for transit advocates regionwide, the debate over this streetcar plan offers some insights into issues they will face repeatedly over the next 20 years. Here are the sides of the argument, in very reduced form. The District Department of Transportation and some D.C. Council members: --...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 16, 2008; 6:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  transit  
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Traffic Advisory for Gainesville

Here's what's coming for Route 29 and Interstate 66 drivers, as part of the I-66 reconstruction project. From midnight tonight to 2 p.m. Wednesday: Northbound Route 29 between Heathcote Boulevard and Route 55 will be closed for bridge demolition. Detour: Southbound traffic will turn left at the Heathcote light to use the Interstate 66 ramp, then return to southbound Route 29. Northbound Route 29 traffic will be detoured to the closed lanes on the southbound side, then use the median crossover just beyond the bridges to return to northbound Route 29. Same time period: The I-66 eastbound ramp to northbound Route 29 (Exit 43B East) will be closed for the bridge demolition. Detour: Drivers who would normally take Exit 43B should use Exit 43A instead and make the designated U-turn to get back on the northbound side. From midnight Thursday to 2 p.m. Friday (July 17-18): Southbound Route 29 between...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 15, 2008; 2:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Makeover Planned for 16th Street Metrobus

Metro and the District want to fix the problems with the 16th Street bus line, a longstanding source of complaints from commuters. Service on the heavily used route between Silver Spring and downtown Washington is erratic. The schedule for the S1, S2 and S4 can seem like a tissue of lies. People wait a long time for a bus and then three show up at once. There's a public meeting tonight to start talking about it: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, 16th and Newton Streets NW in Columbia Heights. (Directions.) From 6:30 to 7 p.m., people can review some information about the scope of the project and talk to the study team. Then there's a slide presentation at 7 o'clock and more talk. This effort by the transit authority and the District Department of Transportation still is in its early stages, but it looks...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 15, 2008; 11:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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D.C. Considers Higher Fines for Drivers

Fines for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians crossing legally would be significantly boosted under a proposal before the D.C. Council. Right now, the fine is $50 and no points on the driver's license. That's not providing much protection for pedestrians legally crossing the street, said Council Member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) at a Monday meeting of the Committee on Pubic Works and the Environment, which he chairs. The proposal, approved unanimously by the committee and sent to the full council, would increase the fine to $250 and three points on the license. Hit the pedestrian, and the fine goes to $500 and six points. Council Member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), sponsor of the measure, said she has "no illusion about this being a silver bullet, but it's a critical piece" in improving pedestrian safety in the city. The District's traffic control officers would be authorized to write tickets...

By Robert Thomson  |  July 15, 2008; 6:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Safety  
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Commuter Graphic: Beating Gas Prices

With gas prices at record levels and traffic congestion only worsening, this week's Commuter graphic offers tips on how to save your time and money. Whether you want to carpool, bike, take transit or telecommute, the Washington region offers a variety of choices....

By Mike McPhate  |  July 14, 2008; 4:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Metro Sets All-Time Ridership Record

Metro announces some ridership landmark almost every weekday, but Friday turned out to be extraordinary: The 854,638 trips taken was the highest total ever in the 32-year history of the rail system. It was about 4,000 trips higher than the previous record holder, the date of Ronald Reagan's state funeral. The transit authority says it got a boost from Nationals baseball and the Women of Faith Conference, but clearly there's something more going on here than a couple of special events. The ridership was 62,985 trips higher than the comparable day last year. And practically all of the top 10 ridership dates are now from 2008. Hundreds of thousands of people helped Metro set a new record for the transit agency's highest ridership day in the history of the 32-year-old rail system on Friday, July 11. Riders took 854,638 trips,which were 62,985 more trips than the comparable day last year....

By Robert Thomson  |  July 14, 2008; 3:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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