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Get There: January 25, 2009 - January 31, 2009

The Weekend and Beyond

Some suggestions for your travels this weekend and on through February. Metro Track Work There is none scheduled for this weekend, but the pace will pick up during February, causing delays for riders. Next weekend, work is scheduled for the Red Line. Add at least 20 minutes to the usual trip between Silver Spring and Forest Glen. Crews will be replacing fasteners that stabilize the tracks, so the trains will have to take turns using the track around the work zone from 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, to midnight Sunday, Feb. 8. D.C. Street Closings The Chinese New Year parade starts at 2 p.m. Sunday in the 500 block of I (Eye) Street NW and ends in the 600 block of H Street NW, in Washington's Chinatown. Police will close streets in the blocks around the parade route. Watch for traffic congestion in the area. The nearest Metro station is...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 30, 2009; 1:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Advisories  
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Downtown D.C. Street Closings on Sunday

It's the Year of the Ox. The Chinese New Year parade starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday in the 500 block of I (Eye) Street NW and ends in the 600 block of H Street NW, in Washington's Chinatown. D.C. police put out this list of street closures for Sunday: * H Street NW between 6th and 7th streets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. * I Street NW between 5th and 6th streets from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. * I Street, NW, between 5 th and 7 th Streets, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. * 7th Street NW between I and G streets from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. * G Street, NW between 7th and 9th streets from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. * 8 th Street NW between G and H streets from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. * H Street, NW between 8th and 6th...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 30, 2009; 8:07 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Advisories  
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MD Toll Authority Approves New Charges

The Maryland Transportation Authority today approved new rates for some types of tolls and new service charges for drivers who have E-ZPass accounts with the state. Tolls for cars stay the same. The authority says its income is directly related to how many drivers are using the bridges, tunnels and highways it tolls. The authority's revenue declined 6 percent from July to November, so it developed this plan to increase annual revenue by $60 million. It's the E-ZPass part that annoyed many of my readers. so let's look at that first. Starting July 1, a $1.50 monthly maintenance charge per account will be added. New and replacement transponders will cost $21 for the standard model. There will be a new charge of $3 accompanying a Notice of Toll Due. Toll violation charges will increase from $15 to $25. Also effective July 1, the duration of E-ZPass commuter plans will change...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2009; 2:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Driving  
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Metrobus Route Switching to D.C. Circulator

Metro is planning to end the N22 bus service in the District that brought many baseball fans to Nationals Park last summer and helps some people get to and from work around the Navy Yard. But the District government plans to replace that with a new Circulator bus route. The Metro board today authorized the public hearing that must precede the discontinuation of a Metrobus route. No date set yet for the hearing. But the thinking is that the route between Union Station and Navy Yard Station would transfer from Metrobus to Circulator on March 29. I hope the switch to the distinctive red, silver and black Circulator buses will help build ridership on this route, both in and out of baseball season. The route links the Union Station, Eastern Market and Navy Yard neighborhoods, which don't have a direct connection via Metrorail. It should help link employment centers by...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2009; 1:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Metro , transit  
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Metro Announces Weekend Track Work for February

After a lull for the December holidays and the inauguration, Metro is picking up the pace again on its schedule of weekend track work and maintenance, which always causes delays for rail riders. The highight -- or lowlight, if you're riding that weekend -- is the President's Day weekend work. That involves a major track rehabilitation that will close the Pentagon Station. During those three days, Metrorail will operate special service on the Blue, Yellow and Green lines and offer free shuttle bus service between the Pentagon City, Pentagon, and L'Enfant Plaza Metrorail stations to get riders around the closure. But there's something every weekend. See the full details in this statement from Metro. It's great to have these announcements come out before the month starts, so people can plan their travels, but note that they are subject to change. Metro puts out a fresh announcement each Thursday updating the...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2009; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Metro  
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Stimulating a Better Commute

The addition of more transit money to the House stimulus bill before it passed was well received locally. And transportation officials in the Washington region are preparing substantial spending plans based on the hope that the bill will soon pass the Senate. In fact, it is a lot of money, perhaps approaching $2 billion, as Post reporter Eric M. Weiss points out in his story today. But will it make your local travel a lot easier? Probably not. This is an economic stimulus package, not a transportation plan. The goal is to spend money now and create jobs, not to bring about a fundamental change in how we get from here to there and back. If the stimulus effort works, travelers will benefit. But the job of recasting the transportation system for the next few generations will remain ahead of us. Right now, our transportation officials, all of whom had...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2009; 8:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Springfield Plaza Park & Ride Losing Spaces

Commuters will lose 75 spaces at the Springfield Plaza as of Monday, because the property owner needs more room for plaza customers, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation says. Passengers on Fairfax Connector Routes 331, 332, and Metrobus Route 18E (Springfield Line) will still be able to park and use the buses at this location, but parking may fill up more quickly because there are fewer spaces available. And be aware of the posted parking restrictions, since cars can be towed for parking in the spaces for plaza customers. Here are some alternative park & rides: * Springfield United Methodist Church, 6501 Spring Rd., Springfield: 56 spaces, served by Fairfax Connector Routes 310, 321, 322, 331, 332 and Metrobus Routes 18E,G,H,J,P on Old Keene Mill Road. * Backlick North Park and Ride, 6831 Backlick Rd., Springfield: 279 spaces, served by Fairfax Connector Routes 310, 331, 332. * American Legion, 6500...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2009; 7:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  transit  
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Query: What's Your Dream Transportation Tool?

What online transportation tool do you wish existed for the region? Think of what might help you better understand transit issues or improve your commuting experience. Examples on our site are the taxi calculator and the traffic incidents map. Send us your ideas and later we'll hold a vote for readers to select their favorite. Either respond in the comments below or email us at tellus@washingtonpost.com. Once we get your input, we'll see about building the best ideas....

By Mike McPhate  |  January 28, 2009; 1:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Commuting , Driving , Metro , transit  
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Frosted by This Morning's Drivers

Here's a winter's tale. Dear Dr. Gridlock: This morning it took a half hour to get the ice off my Toyota Prius. I chiseled the ice off all the windows, then dutifully cleared the entire vehicle of the inch-thick sheet of ice and snow that covered it. I am 5'2", so clearing the roof of even my relatively small car is a challenge. But I did it because I didn't want to endanger people with ice flying off my car in traffic. And now I am frosted -- because I am apparently the only outdoor-parking car owner in the greater Washington area who did. The flying icebergs sailing off SUVs and minivans were a constant and frightening hazard on today's commute from Gaithersburg to the Watergate. At one point on I-270, my car was struck in the driver's side windshield by a huge ice slab, courtesy of a Chevrolet behemoth...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 28, 2009; 12:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Weather  
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Metro Reports Red Line Delays in Both Directions

Updated 10:30 a.m. An earlier disruption at the Bethesda Metro that had caused Red Line delays in both directions is now resolved, according to WMATA. Trains were sharing the same track between Friendship Heights and Medical Center and the entrance to the Bethesda station had been closed. Shuttle bus service was requested for commuters. A Metro spokeswoman tells The Associated Press that the smoke was reported at about 8:30 a.m. at the Bethesda station and that track workers were sent to the scene to investigate. Montgomery County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer says that if there was a fire, it was small. For live traffic updates, check the traffic alert page....

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 28, 2009; 8:57 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Get Out the Ice Scrapers

If your car is parked outside and you can safely reach it, you'll find it encrusted in ice this morning. In our neighborhood, the man who delivers the newspapers had to park his car and walk up the street. Freezing rain continues to fall in parts of the Washington region. Later today, it will change to plain rain. Right now, driving is hazardous on many roadways, especially on local streets that haven't been treated during the overnight ice storm. (See what the Capital Weather Gang says.) Walk and drive slowly this morning. Go in late, if you can. This is much worse than yesterday morning. It's going to take a long time just to get the car ready to move. See incident reports and traffic camera views on our Traffic page. Many school systems and governments are affected. Here's a link to our closings page. The temperature is below freezing,...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 28, 2009; 6:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Weather  
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P.M. Commute: A Break, Then More Trouble

The light snow is beginning to taper off for a while. Might be a good time to make an early getaway, especially if you drove to work. The break in the snow is likely to last for a couple of hours, but then the second system, the bigger one, is forecast to arrive in late afternoon. It will start with light snow, but then change to sleet this evening. That will give way to freezing rain later tonight, forecasters say. Beware of the Wednesday morning commute as well: The icy precipitation is going to change to rain tomorrow morning, then rain will continue into the evening....

By Robert Thomson  |  January 27, 2009; 1:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Weather  
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Fatal Crash Closes Route 15 in Both Directions

Maryland State Police say one person has died in a vehicle crash on snow-covered U.S. Route 15 in Frederick. Authorities are blocking lanes in each direction of the highway. Southbound traffic is being diverted onto Monocacy Boulevard and Northbound traffic is being diverted at Route 26 while police investigate the crash. Police say the wreck occurred at about 7:45 a.m., shortly after a snow emergency plan was implemented. Check the traffic alert page for live updates....

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 27, 2009; 10:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Morning Commute Was Practice Session

I felt a little sheepish earlier today when I posted the obvious advice that drivers should "slow down" in the snow. But now that we've seen the morning commute and know that conditions will worsen, I want to say SLOW DOWN! Washingtonians are showing the effects of seasons without serious snow driving. People are doing July speeds, then when they see the car ahead spin out, they hit the brakes, and either join the spinners or join a bunch of cars proceeding at 2 mph. With the snow continuing to fall, even treated roadways are inconsistent. You may well be doing fine on snow, then hit an icy patch. This is happening quite often on overpasses and bridges. Many of the highway ramps are "greasy," to use a term borrowed from the Grid Spouse. Cars are slithering along them. And this morning was supposed to be the easy part. When...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 27, 2009; 10:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Weather  
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How it Worked, Part 4: Rail System Was Key

The Inauguration Day transportation plan worked as well as it did because the planners fully exploited the Washington region's biggest transportation asset: the Metrorail system. Among the essential lessons learned last Tuesday was that we need to maintain this asset in top condition. That's a challenge right now, as Metro faces budget problems that could result in service cuts. And it will be a challenge for at least the next few years, because the transit authority needs a new plan -- and new money -- to buy new equipment. On Inauguration Day, the transit authority says, Metro provided about 1,120,000 rail trips. That was the highest ridership day in its three-decade history. (We don't know the exact total, even on rail, because many people were allowed through the fare gates without paying, just to ease the crowding.) Sunday through Tuesday of inauguration weekend, Metrorail took people on about 2.6 million...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 27, 2009; 8:19 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Inauguration  
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Travel Conditions Likely to Worsen Today

The forecast: There are two waves of precipitation entering the Washington region, the National Weather Service says. The first has begun, and the forecast calls for several inches of snow. Most of the precipitation that falls during daylight today should be snow. The intensity will vary, as will visibility. In the second wave, look for a change to sleet, ice pellets, and freezing rain. There could be a lot of ice tonight, perhaps more than a quarter inch, which could bring down power lines and tree limbs. Get updates from the Capital Weather Gang. The commute: The morning, with a little light snow, won't be too bad if the forecast holds. Watch for some slippery spots on the way in, especially in your own neighborhood, and take it easy. Some big school systems won't open, which should lighten traffic. The afternoon and evening could be messy, and there's a chance...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 27, 2009; 8:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Weather  
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Metro Invites Public to Help Improve Bus Service

The transit authority is nearing the end of a review on how to fix eight Metrobus lines that serve thousands of people across the region. Today, it announced a schedule for five public meetings during the next two weeks to talk about this Service Evaluation Study. Separately, Metro and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation are hosting two public meetings as part of the Metrobus Q2/Veirs Mill Line study. The lines under review serve many people who don't have easy access to Metrorail service. Some of the routes are very long and pass through some of the region's congested areas, two factors that often through off the schedules and result in crowding during peak periods. Metro says it hopes the study will result in more efficient service. To its credit, the transit authority is continuing an approach that draws on information from riders and bus drivers as well as planners....

By Robert Thomson  |  January 26, 2009; 2:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Metro  
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Tuesday Commute Looks Nasty

The Capital Weather Gang is warning us to expect snow, sleet and rain -- in about that order -- starting tomorrow morning and continuing into Wednesday. That sounds especially bad for drivers during the morning and evening commutes, since the forecast involves early morning snow and a possible switch to sleet in time for the afternoon trip home. In a Commuter page feature, we reviewed how the District, Maryland and Virginia prepare for storms. They have good plans, but Mother Nature doesn't always follow them. Mobilization for even an ordinary storm can cost a jurisdiction hundreds of thousands of dollars. As forecasting techniques and snow-battling methods have improved, transportation departments have tried to fine-tune their responses. As in the current forecast, however, Washington often gets several storms at once, with snow here, ice there and rain over yonder. On Feb. 12, 2008, the Virginia Department of Transportation thought it had...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 26, 2009; 11:42 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Weather  
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Online Discussion This Afternoon

Join me for a talk about transportation at 1 p.m. Here's a link to the discussion. We can talk about lessons learned from the Inauguration Day travel plan, now that we've had almost a week to think about it. But there are plenty of other current topics, like how we'll do in the snow forecast for tomorrow, the federal economic stimulus package and what could be in it for our transportation system, Metro's budget problems, or the latest bad behavior you've seen on the roads and rails. If you'd like to submit a question or comment in advance, use this link....

By Robert Thomson  |  January 26, 2009; 10:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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How It Worked, Part 3: Closing Roads Last Tuesday

One of the most important and controversial parts of the Inauguration Day Transportation plan was the closing of streets and highways in and around Washington. Police blocked inbound Key Bridge on Tuesday morning. (Thomson) It was a bold move: Faced with the task of moving an enormous number of people, planners chose to shut out the most popular instrument of travel, the private car. In the process, they promoted a shift to much less popular forms of travel: transit, walking and biking. I can raise several questions about that plan: * Did it underutilize our road network when we needed every transportation asset we could muster? * Did it require both the enforcers of the plan and the spectators to follow instructions that were far too complex? But there's no getting around the bottom line: It worked. Hundreds of thousands of people heading for one place at approximately one time...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 26, 2009; 9:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Inauguration  
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How It Worked, Part 2: Introduction to Walking

One of the reasons our transportation system performed so well under great stress on Inauguration Day was that people made their feet part of the transportation system. Perhaps it will become a habit. Walking Memorial Bridge. (Thomson) Rarely has walking for distance been such a widespread activity here. Many people did it because they knew that the roads and transit systems would be crowded on inaccessible. Some did it because the walk could be part of the day's experience. Many of the practical-minded got off Metro's Red Line at stations well north of the Mall and walked south. Metro had done a good job creating and distributing walkers' guides on how to reach the ceremonies from stations without having to transfer from train line to train line. And many people going to the ceremonies had done a good job getting acquainted with the walking routes ahead of time. But Metro...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 26, 2009; 8:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Inauguration  
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Closure Near Peace Cross Postponed

The Maryland State Highway Administration has postponed till Wednesday a street closure near the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, Prince George's County, that originally was scheduled to begin today. The highway administration plans to remove two sets of railroad tracks along Upshur Street between 46th Street and 47th Street. This will require a temporary closure of Upshur Street for up to four weeks. The detour will direct motorists to Tanglewood Drive and Buchanan Street, which run parallel to Upshur Street to the north. Here's map of the area. View Larger Map...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 26, 2009; 8:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Advisories  
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