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Waiting for 'September Shock'

For many commuters, the move from summer to fall isn't as swift or surprising as it used to be.

School starts, which were a big factor in traffic and transit congestion, come more gradually than they used to for the Washington region. Northern Virginia schools are starting up this week, but many students in Maryland and the District have been back at their desks since late August.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill remains quiet. We're still in road construction season. Since few people have the luxury of taking summer-long vacations, the current set of road projects isn't a surprise to commuters who drive.

In transit, Metrorail continued to set ridership records through the summer. I see nothing much has changed on MARC: Train 506 was delayed because of problems problems, and there's a slowdown on the Brunswick Line this week, because CSX is working on the tracks. Train 894 left Frederick 40 minutes late.

The Bay Bridge situation is not new, but here's a reminder: Starting today, the left lane of the eastbound span is temporarily closed to traffic while inspectors check the parapet along the left side of the span for corrosion. Trucks wider than 12 feet are prohibited from traveling the bridge in the eastbound direction. Commuters still have three westbound lanes available during the morning rush.

Here's one annual event to watch for: Plenty of people are finding their way to new schools or new jobs. They may be a little unsure of their routes. Those that are driving aren't used to the traffic and the turns. Those that are using transit may not have figured out which track or bus bay they need. Those that are walking may stop and turn suddenly.

Sure they can be annoying, but most of us were in their shoes at one time or another. Watch your following distances -- on the road or on the sidewalk -- and be alert for surprise moves.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 2, 2008; 7:59 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Congestion  
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Next: Montgomery Planning Pedestrian Improvements


I hit september shock this morning. Didn't think I'd ever make it out of Olney! Everyone's back from vacation apparently, sigh.

Posted by: olney | September 2, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I was surprised that my commute was as easy as it was. Van Dorn Street wasn't bad. The 14th Street Bridge backup had returned, although it wasn't as bad as it will be next week, and people had already started backsliding into their rude ways (driving on the shoulders, using onramp merge lanes to pass), but on the whole my trip wasn't too bad. I had expected a lot worse.

Posted by: Rich | September 2, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Multiple car accident on I-66 inside the Beltway around Glebe at 8am which went unreported on XM/WTOP, backed up all the way to the Toll Road. Always good to start September off with a bang!

Tangential aside: Virginia could instantaneously fund its transportation budget deficit if they'd actually enforce their existing HOV rules.

Posted by: BOHICA! | September 2, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Virginia could instantaneously fund its transportation budget deficit if they'd actually enforce ANYTHING

Posted by: Anonymous | September 2, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

hardly noticed anything in central MoCo going to Shady Grove this morning. In fact, the one thing I did notice was the lack of plaid capri pant-wearing tourists at the station this morning, and the "Attention customers, the one day passes are not valid until 9:30!" announcement was missing.

Posted by: Birdie | September 2, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The link to this page off the local front is broken (has an extra slash)

Posted by: combs | September 2, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

What was going on in Dupont/West End this morning? All sorts of roads were shut down and blocked off by fire and rescue.

Posted by: Dave | September 2, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Nice commute this morning...everyone was going the speed limit or just a hair above. Made for smooth flowing traffic on Duke Street.

Also had a decent return from a mini-vacation last night, as the PA turnpike and 270 were relatively free-flowing, with just a few exceptions.

I'm actually expecting a turn for the worse tomorrow, as many people take an extra day off after Labor day. At the latest, the brunt of "everyone on the road at the same time" will be felt full force next week. At least in my experience...

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | September 2, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Orange line is PACKED. Folks could not board this morning's train New-Carrollton bound train at Clarendon at around 8:15 this morning. This did not happen last year.

Posted by: RD | September 3, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

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