The Washington Post

Dr. Gridlock

Mar 20, 2017

The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock, Robert Thomson, will be online to take all your questions about Metro, traffic throughout the region and other transportation issues.

Welcome, travelers. I'm going to retire on March 31, so this is my next to last chat. I've been at The Post for almost three decades, but I think the most fun I've had is since 2006, when I got to be The Post's second Dr. Gridlock.

I will miss my conversations with you a great deal. It's not just that I love to chat. I also learn a lot.

But I turned 65 last October, and think it's time to get going on the bucket list, which I hope will include lots of travel -- local and long-distance -- with my wife, Candy.

I'm going to start today with a question about drivers' behavior and ask that you add your thoughts to it. Then I've got a mix of issues for you about traffic and transit.

What is it about Washington, DC drivers and traffic enforcers that there is no culture of "don't block the box" in DC. If drivers have a green, or even a yellow, light, they feel entitled to pull into the intersection knowing full well that they can't make it all the way through and will block cross-traffic when the light changes. In New York (and many, many other cities), drivers know they shouldn't do this, both because it's obnoxious and because they can get a big ticket. Which agency is responsible for changing the culture here (MPD? DDOT?) and why aren't they trying?

First, I like the commenter's note that this is the literal definition of "gridlock." You know I'm a stickler about that. You can't have gridlock on a highway. No grid, no gridlock.

But the commenter's question about which agency is responsible for changing the culture is bigger than any particular police or transportation department -- not that they can't play very important roles.

This should start with driver education courses, and continue with public education campaigns. That's where I think NYC did particularly well. That was the first place I saw the Don't Block the Box signs, backed up by lots of publicity about the campaign.

Traffic safety experts often talk about the "Three E's": Engineering, education and enforcement. I certainly agree with the E's.

But some tougher minded experts will translate the Three E's this way: Enforcement, Enforcement and Education about Enforcement.

That might work here.

 

Conn Ave at Chevy Chase circle has a sign that says to expect delays due to roadwork on 3/22. I couldn't find much information on what was being done. Do you know? Should we plan an alternate route entirely or just try to leave a bit earlier? Is it just 3/22?

Please write back and tell me whether you saw this sign heading into DC or heading into Montgomery County. I took a quick look at my lists of upcoming roadwork and didn't seen anything near Chevy Chase Circle.

Did the sign specify work hours? It would be very unusual to have work scheduled during peak periods on a major commuter route like Connecticut Avenue.

The only work I spot affecting Conn Ave is up at the Beltway, where paving is underway.

This will unfortunately sound like a rant, but not sure where also to go with the question. We live near the Capitol Beltway in Silver Spring, near the infamous roller coaster between Connecticut and Georgia Avenues. We go through cycles where one or more of the morning news stations feels it necessary to send their choppers out to give live feeds on "traffic". What this means is that they arrive on scene right before 6 a.m. and then hover for a half-hour or more until called upon to shoot a 15 second feed to the morning news. Imagine what a racket that makes as they hover about 300 to 500 feet over your roof, robbing you of that precious hour to half-hour of sleep before a busy day. With the extensive TMS camera surveillance readily available on the internet, WAZE and traffic reports, are these reports useful for anything but station ratings? Help!

Like you, I frequently wake up to the sound of the chopper. Being in the news business myself, the noise doesn't bother me so much when there's actual traffic news. But often, I think, the mission is just to get a live shot to run as background.

When there's real traffic news, I think  a helicopter view puts more public attention on a problem than is possible from any internet site. Most travelers just aren't going to be looking at online camera views before leaving home.

A prediction: The future does not belong to helicopter traffic views, or traffic camera views or even radio traffic reports. At some point, you will just get in your car and rely on the internal navigation system to pick the quickest route with the least traffic. After that, the navigation job will be turned over to self-driving cars.

VDOT's I-66 Outside the Beltway procurement demonstrated that private firms believe there is sufficient toll revenues from new managed lanes in the region to support a major new expansion without any public funds. Has this success encouraged Maryland to reconsider similar projects for the Maryland side of the Beltway and I-270 or the District on I-295?

No. Gov. Larry Hogan's administration has shown no interest in projects that involve tolling.

The District has studied the possibility of adding HOV or HOT lanes on its few highways, but there's no proposal before the public to do that.

I think that's unfortunate. You know there's a lot of talk about a trillion-dollar infrastructure program. I don't see that happening.

Rather, I think the federal government will encourage more of these public-private partnerships to improve people-moving.

For public-private partnerships to work, the private partner has to wind up making money on the deal. With highways, that's done through tolling. Virginia is a national leader on this.

It won't solve all travel problems within the corridors where tolled lanes are built. And there are many routes that don't have the volume to support toll revenue.

So private partnerships and tolling are an imperfect solution. But I haven't seen a perfect one, even in theory.

Hi. I thought the rush hour parking ban on 16TH Street was temporarily extended to end at 7:00 PM, but many of the signs with the new times have been removed. Anyone riding the bus along 16TH would advocate for a permanent extension of the ban, so what gives?

I guess my recollection matches yours: The parking restrictions were "temporarily extended" during Metro SafeTrack projects that affected the 16th Street corridor.

When the issue of parking restrictions on 16th Street comes up, as it does when discussing proposals for bus lanes, I find that people who live along 16th Street object to additional parking restrictions.

A separate issue: People violating the existing restrictions and blocking rush hour traffic. I frequently see complaints about that for 16th Street and for Constitution Avenue.

A couple of years ago, my arm was inside the car door as the train pulled away. A by stander was able to pull me out as the train took off. Has anything been done to sensitize the door closings to this happening again? I do feel lucky to be alive and wouldn't want to see this happen again. I did write to Dr Gridlock at the time of the incident. Helen DiGiammarino

Back in 2013 when Helen wrote to me, my understanding of the incident was different. I thought she had an experience that many Metro riders have observed: Doors close on a bag or a limb. I saw it happen last Thursday evening.

But I think in her comment for the chat she is clarifying my understanding: The train started moving with her stuck in the door.

That's a big safety hazard, and shouldn't have happened. The train shouldn't move unless all the doors are shut, and if a person is stuck in the door, the door isn't shut.

Over the years, we've had reports of this type of thing: A person gets stuck and the train moves, or the doors open when the train hasn't reached a platform, or the doors open on the wrong side.

When I answered her letter in 2013, I was very hopeful that by now we'd have a lot more of the 7000 series trains in service. The doors don't work the same way as on the older cars. The new ones will bounce back far enough to remove a stuck object -- like you're foot. But they won't go back all the way to allow more people to board.

I like that. We talk about Vision Zero programs with the goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on streets. Our transit system also should have a Vision Zero program for riders that includes the design of its equipment.

 

Does it seem to you that Metro didn't think thru all of the effects adopting the new 7000 series cars in the form that they ordered would cause? From what I have read they are much heavier, which is taxing the actual rails, and apparently causing issues in some of the actual structures of the tunnels. They also (because they are full of more modern electronic gizmos) suck up a lot more volts per car, meaning that an 8-car 7000 train uses up much more electricity than an 8-car train consisting of the older models, when there is a problem right now with the amount of voltage available to run trains in the entire Metro system. Plus they went with a design that makes it difficult to run the trains in anything but an 8 (or 4)-car train. I get the sense that nobody thought through how all of these knock-on effects would filter thru as more and more of the trains come online.

We haven't seen a resolution on the issue of whether the new trains are rumbling the homes of Metro's neighbors, though I think my colleague Martine Powers did a terrific job in illuminating that issue. See Martine's story.

More generally, I think the biggest breakthrough on Metrorail customer service has been the introduction of the new trains. I just wish there were more of them.

There are some bugs, as is common with new equipment, but I think they will be worked out. (The rumbling would be more than a "bug." That would be a major issue.)

And I think Metro needed to stop introducing new rail cars that were really just newer versions of the 40-year-old designs.

That will be all knowing about DC area traffic and whom will have weekly chats with us?

"All knowing?" Well, that would be a first.

I'm not sure what the editors have in mind. They don't need to consult me on that.

Have others noticed an increase in the number of people driving without their lights on at night, or is it just an anomaly that I am seeing so many?

Talk about "all-knowing" -- or the lack thereof: Travelers report many trends to me, and I have no idea whether they're just things we notice because we see a couple of cases in a short time, or whether they really are long-term trends.

Other examples: Drivers not closing the gap with the next car at stop lights and signs, drivers with snow on the roof, drivers who don't move out into the intersection to make a left turn ...

But on the headlight issue, we've had some discussions of this lately. My speculation: Some drivers may be confused about the light switches on newer cars that have an automatic setting. They may not realize when the automatic setting is off.

What do you think?

I've ridden numerous subways around the world, and I've seen several where big mirrors are mounted at the end of the platform directly in front of the train operator. He can tell at a glance whether the doors are clear. A cheap, low-tech solution to a potentially serious problem. In D.C., operators seem willing, even eager, to slam doors on people who are actually trying to enter trains.

That's another issue we've talked about: Train operators closing the doors on people trying to board. That discussion goes back at least a decade.

It's Metro schedule maintenance versus courtesy. Or some  might argue it's one form of customer service versus another: Allow everybody who wants to board to board, or try to keep on schedule for the benefit of people down the line.

With the mirrors: A train operator is supposed to be leaning out the window, looking back and watching for problems. There are indicators in the operators' cabs to signal that the doors are fully closed, and the train shouldn't move with doors ajar.

First, sorry to see you leave! Thanks for all your investigations and reporting. Enjoy retirement! Second, I'm traveling with my son on Friday morning, and would like to take metro from RFK to National Airport. If I use the Metro Trip Planner, does it account for the SafeTrack work? It's indicating I can take a blue all the way at 10:20am or an orange/yellow at 10:22am. I assume it's safer, schedule-wise, to take the blue all the way there?

The one thing I can say with certainty is that you should allow extra time for the trip to the airport because of SafeTrack.

Trip Planner should reflect the schedule, including SafeTrack, but it's the schedule, not the real-time departure from Stadium-Armory and arrival at Reagan National.

Single-tracking very often -- very, very often -- throws the trains off schedule. An incident, like a train getting taken out of service because of a door or brake problem, magnifies the effect of the scheduled disruption.

So don't cut this too close. You might want to back off one train from what Trip Planner is showing you, depending on what time you absolutely need to be at the airport.

I once asked VDOT to put up a "don't block the box" sign at a problem intersection and a very nice man called me to discuss it. However, he said they wouldn't put up the sign and didn't give me a satisfactory answer why. When I said "but these drivers block the intersection every day and nobody going the other way can get through" he replied, "they need to get to work, too." I gave up at that point. What's the answer?

I don't have a solution. I like the sign campaign and I like enforcement, but neither is going to cover all scenarios -- especially not enforcement.

I wouldn't make signs ubiquitous. They'd be so commonplace that drivers would stop noticing them.

In some cases, portable message boards can have an effect. They're quite popular in neighborhoods where people want the traffic to slow down, because the electronic signs are unusual enough to get drivers' attention. Seems like they could be used in a "Don't Block the Box" version, too.

That's true, but they should know that your regular readers would be interested to know whether there will be a replacement, and since you are in contact with us, they should ask you to tell us something. Since you've been so good at encouraging Metro, for instance, to improve its communication system to reach riders, it's a little ironic that you and/or your editors are not applying this to your own readers.

A little history for those who may not have been around so long: I'm The Post's second Dr. Gridlock. The column was created in 1986 by Ron Shaffer, and he did it till he retired in 2006.

My recollection is that there was a gap of a few weeks between Ron's retirement and when I started writing. (I had been The Post's transportation editor before that, but I wanted to get out and play in traffic.)

So it doesn't surprise me now that we wouldn't all know what happens next.

Maybe the editors will want to maintain the transportation column but call it something else?

Back in 1986, it was Eugene Robinson (who went on to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist) who came up with the name "Dr. Gridlock." At that time, the word "gridlock" was very new. It became a popular term in 1980 when a New York City transportation official, Sam Schwartz, wanted to warn commuters about the consequences of driving into the city during a transit strike.

But in the 21st century, you might want to have a different name that captures all the ways people get around these days.

What do you think? And what would that name be?

Because of DC's love affairs with red light cameras I am guilty of no longer doing this. I've witnessed people doing this, well within the law, and then seeing the flash. I rather back up traffic than pay a fine for driving legally.

Hard to tell about the flash. I see the camera on Colesville Road in Four Corners flashing sometimes when drivers have a green light. (Any such images are supposed to get tossed out before they become tickets.)

At intersections -- and just about everywhere else -- drivers tend to do what they think they can get away with. If there's a camera set up to photograph a driver crossing a stop line against a light, or making a right on red without stopping, drivers eventually stop breaking those laws.

Where there's just a sign saying "Don't Block the Box" without any enforcement, drivers seem to feel freer about entering the intersection and taking a chance on blocking the box when the light changes.

In some cars, there is also clear feedback whether lights are on. In older cars, gauges were unlit when headlights were off, so it was easy to notice. Now gauges are lit regardless. If anything, they get somewhat less bright when headlights are on, but that's harder to notice. Even indicators are misleading, for example my car has one indicator which is on for low-beam headlights and parking lights and off for DRLs and all lights off. So even if one looks at the indicator, its easy to drive with only parking lights on, and never know unless one looks at the lights stalk, or the surroundings are really dark. On top of that, some cars have automatic lights and some don't, so people switching between the two may prone to forgetting.

I notice the sort of thing the commenter describes when I rent cars of different makes. I sure wish there was standardization on the dashboard indicators across manufacturers.

I do appreciate it when the rental assistant tells me "Automatic lights are on."

You have been the voice of reason in a region where most drivers and commuters have lost their minds. Enjoy your retirement - you earned it.

Thanks very much. I present myself to readers as the Dear Abby of Transportation. Travelers write in and tell me their troubles and together we work on their relationships -- with our transportation system.

About half the travelers I hear from want to complain about something the government did or didn't do. I expected that.

The part that surprised me was that the other half of letter writers and commenters wanted to complain about each other.

But now I appreciate that too. I'd much rather have people use a forum like this to vent than to see them take it out on each other on the roads, platforms, sidewalks or trails.

What are the odds it gets canceled? If it does do you think it would come back in a few years with a different political climate?

My colleague Katherine Shaver wrote a good story about the concerns local leaders have about the new budget's threat to transportation projects like the Purple Line.

I think it's way too early to tell what's going to happen with specific projects. You all probably remember a time a few years back when we were pretty sure the Silver Line was dead.

With the Purple Line, you probably remember how a lot of folks were sure Gov. Larry Hogan would kill it.

Sometimes, a transportation project reaches a point in its development where it gets so deeply embedded in larger plans that it's nearly impossible for it to be killed.

As Miracle Max said, there's a big difference between being mostly dead and all dead.

Would there be any benefits from splitting the agency into a rail centered agency and a bus centered one? It seems like all the jurisdictions have their own bus service except DC.

I think there already are too many agencies involved in local transportation. I wish we could have more regional coordination on transportation improvements.

For example: I thought our best bet for improving local travel in a relatively short time would be enhanced bus services. Real bus rapid transit routes across the region.

Well, that didn't happen like I thought it would. There are too many agencies involved. Among other things, you've always got one agency controlling the buses and another controlling the streets.

So with Metro, I wouldn't split up rail and bus. I want some regional agency thinking it's in the people moving business. (That's my dream. I'm not saying it's today's reality.)

Blocking the box - I imagine it's a prisoner's dilemma, because if you don't nudge forward, and everyone else is doing it, you start to think you're going to be stuck there forever. Which leads to gridlock that means people are stuck there forever. I don't enter the intersection unless it's clear, but I get screamed at for doing it. People are too stressed in their cars. As for no lights at night - most cars have automatic lights. But when I got my car serviced, they switched it to the non-automatic setting. It took me awhile to realize my lights weren't coming on.

One thing I've noticed in travelers' letters over the years about intersection behavior: The driver behind is always very bold regarding what the driver ahead should do to clear the way for the driver behind.

I'm a Metro and pedestrian commuter but I do understand one reason people pull into intersections without full clearance and end up blocking the box, if you stay at the stop line then inevitably you see jerks turning right on red in front of you thus keeping you from ever having clearance. It is no excuse but it is a reason. Much of the problems I see with driving are from the absolute right to do right on red without any stopping. It is the LAST thing on the list of priorities. Also if the sign says No Turn on Red that means No Turn on Red.

Because my consciousness about travelers' behavior has been raised by commenters and letter writers, I'm extra alert to what people do in various scenarios. (Not sure if I'll be able to shake this habit in retirement.)

One example: I stand at the side of an intersection and see if drivers stop before turning right on red.

Almost never.

"Stop" doesn't mean what they think it means.

Yes, it might have been coined in the 1980s, but the majority of people still drive (solo) to work. Furthermore, given the state of Metro, "gridlock" could be a way to describe problems with getting anywhere on the rail system. And the Metro buses are caught in all that automobile traffic. And pedestrians and bikes still have to deal with it, too.

I know most people drive. I've always been conscious of that as a column writer, even though about half the letters and comments I get are about Metro.

Metro is the regionally shared experience -- plus, it's had a lot of problems over the past decade -- so I understand why I get so many complaints about the trains and buses.

I don't have a favorite type of traveler. And I try to use all modes. That's been a personal and professional choice. I want to share as many travel experiences as possible.

Has there been any further information about the accident where a cyclist struck and killed a pedestrian at 13th & I? I walk that intersection every day and I know what my guess would be about culpability but I want to hear the Police issue a finding before I get on my soap box. Short version, RED LIGHTS apply to bikes also.

I checked with my colleague Peter Hermann, who covers D.C. police. Peter says it's going to be a while before we hear any results from a police investigation into the death of Kiplinger's editor Jane Bennett Clark after a collision with a bicyclist near Franklin Square.

Meantime, I don't see much value in speculating.

I walk that intersection, too. It's a block from The Washington Post newsroom.

When you look back at the biggest muscle movements (or lack thereof) for regional transportation (all modes) in the 10 years of your tenure, what strike you as the biggest successes and failures?

The biggest positive change I've seen is the new consciousness about travel safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. That doesn't mean we're anywhere near where we should be on safety. I appreciate what Vision Zero programs are trying to accomplish.

More specifically: The creation of the HOT lanes network in Northern Virginia is the biggest change I've seen in the transportation system in the D.C. region.

Downside: The decline in Metrorail safety and reliability. I hope history will show that this is reversing, but that's very tough to tell right now.

Something I think I overplayed: The possibility that the District would be well on its way to a streetcar network by now.

Dr. G, you are one of the reasons that I attended the Rosslyn Transportation Workshop, where 10 teams of citizens, experts and Arlington County officials discussed, field-tripped, and mapped-out ways we could make Rosslyn more multi-modal (car, bus, bicycle, train) and safe. Thanks to you, our "Platonic" online discussions seem to arrive at mutually-agreeable, common-sense recommendations, if not solutions. Thanks for all your good work and God speed in your retirement!

Thank you. Even though I've tried to write about all modes of transportation, I still feel like I'm a late-arriver at a very basic idea: The 21st century isn't going to be like the 20th century.

It's not just the changes in the infrastructure and equipment. There's a different sensibility. What the car was to travel freedom for my generation, the smartphone is for younger folks. They start with a destination and then figure out the options for getting there. It's liberating in its own way.

You are so right about buses being a good way forward. GPS has revolutionized bus travel. Being able to know (about) when a bus will arrive makes a huge difference - you're not stuck in a cold, rainy shelter wondering if a bus will ever come.

I think GPS has revolutionized many forms of travel. And I'm still hopeful for buses in many ways. I hope that next-bus systems will evolve further and show greater accuracy.

Good as the new smart travel system are, with real time predictions, I think people will look back a decade from now and consider our current state very primitive.

Can't Get There from Here

Don't be so negative!

Well, maybe "Dr. Gridlock" sounds negative to some. But at least there's the doctor part, which implies a cure awaits.

First of all, there is no better term to apply to rail commuters. Gridlock applies to bus commuters too. Second, you have done an admirable job maintaining the good name that Ron Shaffer established. "Dr. Gridlock" is a brand, and it's hard to build reliable brands.

I do think there's something to the branding thing. Three decades worth now.

I have noticed that most of the 7000 series trains run on the red line. I think about 60-70% of red line trains are 7000s. Why doesn't Metro run more new trains on other lines? All lines except the red and green don't have many of them.

There's no reason the new trains can't run on all lines, but it's very noticeable to me how many now operate on the Red Line compared to others.

That's bound to change as the new cars continue to arrive at a good pace now from the manufacturer.

A more subtle change: I think I'm noticing fewer of the old 1000 series cars in the middle of trains.

In many cities, police officers are stationed at major intersections during rush hours to keep "the box" unblocked and keep traffic moving. You never see that in D.C. Occasionally there are non-police traffic "directors," but there aren't many of them, and their assignment seems to be random. Downtown traffic would move better with more uniforms on the corners.

There are more traffic control officers now, but still not enough. I'd very much like to see the numbers grow. And I'd stick with them rather than assigning D.C. police to the intersections. I like that form of specialization.

I do think people often don't think to turn on the headlights, especially in the evening/dusk/just dark. They can see 'OK' but they don't realize that others can't see them without the lights on. And sometimes it's just that folks are clueless. :-)

Dr. Can't Get There from Here...Yet

That's better.

Can you finally admit your disdain for driving? And that you wish everyone lived within walking distance to METRO or used a bus and no one ever drove ever. Or that cyclists are never at fault or any traffic issue? Let it all out, you'll feel so much better going into retirement

One of the first questions I got asked during my initial online chat in 2006 was what type of car I drove. (Toyota RAV4 in those days. Put a lot of miles on that one. Now, it's a Subaru Impreza.)

I love to drive and look forward to doing more of it in retirement. I also look forward to getting a Senior SmarTrip card and riding trains and buses around here. And I'm going to hit some more trails on my Novara Forza bike.

 

Never have I had a driver stare me in the eyes as he proceeded to block the intersection that I was waiting to turn at before I arrived in the DC area. It was infuriating.

I have forgotten to turn on my car headlights a few times recently. I live in a exurban area that is pretty dark. So when I start my car and it is dark, I know I need to turn my lights on due to the environmental cues of it being dark. However, when I start up my car in a well lit urban area, those cues are missing. Plus my car has a prelit dashboard so there are no cues for me to turn on the lights until I drive into a darker area and realize my error. I am not sure how to correct for this.

If you find yourself forgetting recently, maybe just turn the lights on everything you turn the ignition. It's better to back off when you realize you don't need them than to start with them off at night.

I understand the urban lighting issue you're describing. I notice many times in well-lit parking garages that drivers fail to turn their lights on when starting up at night.

When you come upon a car driving at night w/o headlights or just their running lights (quite noticeable when you're behind them and they have no tail lights illuminated), what's the best way to get their attention to let them know? I'm thinking about their safety - and others - and hopefully saving them a ticket if a police car spots them. If they're approaching me, I can flash my brights, but if I;m behind them, the message is less like to get through. Do you have any suggestions?

I know what you mean about misunderstood messages. But I can't think of any better way of communicating this problem besides flashing lights.

As you say, it's an easier call when approaching a driver, because the driver is likely to look at the dashboard than to look up at the rear view mirror.

Dr. Safetrack? (You might think Safetrack is almost over, but we could have years more of it to come!)

Too limiting! We need something inclusive of all types of travel -- though I like the "safe" part.

(Believe me, I've tried, but thought of no short name for a local travel column that comes off better than "Dr. Gridlock.")

Perhaps they can paint the "box" that you aren't allowed to block onto the road as a start. Maybe there's some way to automate enforcement at key intersections, or at least have a flashing sign shaming you if you are blocking the box.

I like paint. I think that gets drivers' attention in various scenarios.

Well, cameras do, too, eventually.

I also enjoy riding on my Novara bike, mine's a Tranfer and I've been Biking to Work on and off for almost two years. Never would have believed that at age 65 I would start, and now I look back and consider that any commute of six of less miles, and I had plenty of those, could have been accomplished the same way. The streets of Western Fairfax are wide and relatively flat and I encourage others to join me.

Great to hear that.

So in the time you've been Dr. Gridlock, what have been some of the most memorable questions or most memorable guests you've had?

I've had many great guests for the chat, and I appreciate all of them dealing with the chat technology, which oddly enough can be more intimidating than appearing on TV.

My favorite question of all time from a reader went like this.

"Dear Dr. Gridlock:

"Is your name really Dr. Gridlock?"

For all your hard work. I know I have given you a hard time over the years but you hard work is appreciated. Since Michael and Tony left the WP you are the only WP writer that I would say this about. The WP should bring Mike and Tony back to host the Dr Gridlock chat. I would pay $20 for those 2 to host it. Clifton, VA

So they can divide it up any way they like?

I'm a new transplant to D.C., but I have greatly enjoyed your live chats (or transcripts when I missed it) since I moved here. These chats have been very helpful for me as I have acclimated to the transportation options and systems in D.C., giving me some more insight into how the system runs (or doesn't). Just wanted to say thank you for providing timely and helpful advice (along with a nice dash of personality).

Thanks for the kind thoughts. I think nobody could enjoy these chats more than I do.

You will be missed. Enjoy your Bucket List.

I'm going to start small: Smithsonian museums, bike trails, books I was supposed to have read in college.

Eventually want to drive across Canada. I've been to nine provinces. Still need Newfoundland.

You've had a difficult job here, trying to manage a lot of frustrated people spouting angry opinions, and you've always remained calm and on-topic. Enjoy your well-earned retirement!

Travelers wh0 write in are the job's greatest benefit. I expect people to be frustrated with the difficulties of getting around. I am, too. They can be angry. I just want them to be safe.

"Well. it's actually an honorary Doctorate." :)

Amazing how authority is conveyed in our society. I didn't even have to go to graduate school.

Think of it as Dr Who. Doesn't matter who inhabits the body, it is still Dr Gridlock.

Thank you Dr. G and enjoy your retirement! I am sad to see you go as reading the weekly chat is one of the highlights of my week! Take care!

I'll miss the chats, too. And thanks for joining me.

San Francisco painted problem ones with a cross-hatch back in the '80s. It was combined with stepped-up enforcement. If your car got caught in that painted area and a cop was there, you'd get a ticket.

That's a good combination.

Thank you so much for your weekly online confabs and other reporting. Sometimes I strongly disagree with you, but you always explain your POV, and your replies are still helpful. Other times, of course, I agree 100 percent! I enjoyed updates on new roads and trends, like the Beltway express lanes and initial accidents, tips for people leaving for family before holidays or the beach before Fourth of July, your dueling trips on the Silver Line, by car, and otherwise, and advice on all matters, including car-bike interactions, etc. Traffic is still a top concern and local political focus, but you have been the one person to talk to about it all. I hope these talents make retirement travel more fun.

You sure know the way to a writer's heart.

No question...today. Just a note of thanks for being the Dr. Frazier Crane of DC commuters -- always listening, always calm, always helpful. As sailors say, "Fair winds and following seas."

That's a great way to close today. Thank you.

And thank you all for joining me today.

Thank you for joining me for the past 10 years!

We'll do it one more time next Monday. Meanwhile, stay safe, however you're traveling.

In This Chat
Robert Thomson
Robert Thomson is The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock. He offers therapy for that most intimate relationship: the one between you and your commute. You can read his work on the Dr. Gridlock blog, as well as in the Metro section of The Washington Post.
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