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Let's Talk Transportation This Afternoon

Join me for an online discussion at 1 p.m. about all our local traffic and transit issues. Use this link to reach the discussion. And here's a link if you'd like to submit a question or comment in advance.

Transit users, I'd like to hear what you think about Metro's efforts to balance its budget. It matters to you as taxpayers, because the local jurisdictions heavily subsidize the transit authority. And it matters to you as riders, because the Metro board could decide on Thursday on a set of service cutbacks to discuss with riders at upcoming public hearings. I wrote about that on The Post's Commuter page in Sunday's Metro section.

Drivers, see what you think of this letter writer's complaint, which appeared in my Dr. Gridlock column on Sunday.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I drive Interstate 270 twice daily, and I am appalled at the fundamental lack of decent traffic reporting by any TV or radio news stations.

My least favorite word has to be "volume," which can mean anything from "packed but traveling at 55" to "packed but traveling at 5 mph." Could someone please provide us with more details? How about average travel speed? How about estimated travel time from point A to point B? How about covering all six major arteries into the District each and every time you report on traffic?

WTOP can go a full 30 minutes and never mention 270 once, all while I am sitting in the middle of 270 wondering what the heck is going on.

And one more thing on my wish list: Next time an accident ties up 270 or any major artery with an HOV lane, let's make it mandatory to open up the HOV lanes and stop punishing the majority for the stupidity of one.

My taxes pay for all lanes, HOV or not, and if someone cannot drive in a straight line on 270 without running into someone, I should not be penalized further by not being allowed to use the HOV lane as a backup because one of my lanes of traffic is now out of commission.
P. Hoekstra
Germantown

You also can send an e-mail to me at drgridlock@washpost.com. That's the mailbag from which I draw the letters published in The Post. If you write to me there, please include your name, address and phone number, so I can contact you. (We publish the names and home communities of the writers at the ends of the letters, as you see above.)

By Robert Thomson  |  March 9, 2009; 8:36 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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Next: Are Bake Sales for Transit Next?

Comments

What is this person for Germantown smoking while in the car? I hear about 270 on EVERY break. Lisa Baden is in love with 270. It's also on Fox 5, NBC-4, etc. It's 270 this, 270 that and the top side of the Beltway. You're lucky to find out about anything in Virginia, unless it's 95. I-66 is finally getting some coverage and forget about the Dulles Toll Road.

I do agree that the term "volume" needs to be better defined. They also need to tell you that traffic slows at the entrance ramps because too many people are trying to push over instead of allowing traffic to flow freely, just stay in your lane and everyone will get through quicker.

What did happen to them telling you how long it would take from one point to another? XM used to do that, but now they cover Baltimore more than the DC area. Heck, Virginia is an afterthought after they tell you about the guy who ran over his mailbox pulling into his house in Upper Marlboro and that it's going to cause a 9 second delay passing the scene.

I could do with less fluff reporting like I saw today on FOX-5 and more traffic reporting. But then again, Tony and the traffic lady seem to have something going on because they both flirt more than they report. Very frustrating.

Posted by: dj1123 | March 9, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Well, big whoop-dee-doo that the writer's tax dollars go to HOV lanes. So do mine, but I don't have a car, so I never get to use them. I suppose he's also one of those people who complains about his tax dollars going to Metro and other transit. If it doesn't directly benefit him, NOW NOW NOW, it must be bad and awful and wasteful spending and how dare tax dollars be used in such a way!

Posted by: RedBirdie | March 9, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

My tax dollars pay for public parkland too. Can I use the picnic tables whenever I want or plant crops on the soccer fields? No! Just because it is publically owned doesn't mean the government can't place rules governing its use. So long as the rules are simple and fair for all (HOV is pretty simple...have a second person in the car), then that's life.

Posted by: thetan | March 9, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

There's roads/routes in this region that are backed up every rush hour. And isn't I-270 inbound in the morning one of those routes?

Why waste time reporting it? "Well, folks, I-270 is baked up again today, that makes 12 years running...."

Posted by: comish4lif | March 9, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

The writer makes a lot of sense. Why should traffic be allowed to backup for miles behind an accident while the HOV lanes-for-a-few remain off-limits?

This is mnot a matter of "who pays for what". It's a matter of common sense. Traffic congestion causes more than frustration and wasted time. It costs businesses and money in lost productivity and fouls the air with emissions from vehicles stalled in traffic.

The smart alecks here who try to use transit and parks as a way to ridicule the writer's position are apparently oblivious to the fact that vehicles moving freely pollute less.

Then again, they're probably the ones who oppose the new roads that would help the situation because they "use transit, ride bikes and don't live in McMansions out in the sprawl".

Posted by: ceefer66 | March 9, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The writer makes a lot of sense. Why should traffic be allowed to backup for miles behind an accident while the HOV lanes-for-a-few remain off-limits?

This is not a matter of "who pays for what". It's a matter of common sense. Traffic congestion causes more than frustration and wasted time. It costs businesses and government agencies lost productivity and it fouls the air with emissions from vehicles stalled in traffic.

The smart alecks here who try to use transit and parks as a way to ridicule the writer's position are apparently oblivious to the fact that vehicles moving freely pollute less.

Then again, they're probably the ones who oppose the new roads that would help the situation because they "use transit, ride bikes and don't live in McMansions out in the car-dependent sprawl" and therefor think they don't need to help pay for roads. I'm waiting for one of them to start yelping about how "driving is subsidized".

Posted by: ceefer66 | March 9, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

HOV is meant to encourage people to carpool by providing a faster trip. And it also just so happens that on some roads (I-95/395 in this area is the perfect example), fewer HOV lanes carry more PEOPLE than the more numerous general purpose lanes. Yes, they carry fewer vehicles, but the point of transportation is to move people, not cars. Thats why all of the travel forecasting that takes place in this region is based on people throughput, and not vehicle throughput.


So lets say there is an accident. That means there is less capacity on the road that day, which means we should REALLY be encouraging people to carpool that day. There is no incentive to carpool if the powers that be allow carpool lanes get clogged up with non-carpools everytime someone gets into a little fender bender. In cases where there is a very serious accident, then I'd make an exception, but that should happen maybe once a year at most.

Posted by: thetan | March 9, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

With few exceptions, accidents tend to get cleared relatively quickly. When that isn't possible (e.g., major multi-vehicle accidents, fatalities, HAZMAT spills), VDOT will typically take the extraordinary step of opening up HOV to all traffic. That decision is clearly their last resort and for good reason. When VDOT has allowed regular traffic into the HOV lanes on I-395/95 those lanes become as leaden as the rest. The lanes are not designed to handle that volume of vehicles because the terminus points (14th st bridge offramps and Dumfries merge) empty into traffic jams during rush hour.

Posted by: reader013 | March 10, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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