Tag Archives: Traffic

App will help fight parking tickets


WASHINGTON — There seems to be an app for everything these days, and soon there will be one to fight bad parking tickets.

The app, called Fixed, allows drivers to upload a picture of their ticket, then explain why the ticket shouldn’t have been written. Fixed takes care of the rest.

Fixed is launching first in San Francisco, and the developer hopes to expand to the District.

“A common misconception with parking violations is that they’re black and white. But frequently it’s actually a gray issue. That’s where we’re here to help, to get you off those tickets that are gray issues,” says David Hegarty, co-founder of Fixed.

“We have a team of legal researchers that pour over the parking regulations and ordinances that apply to parking. But what’s clever about our system is that it learns. We have an algorithm to know, for a given type of violation, what are the most common types of errors and what are the most effective defenses. The more tickets we put into the system, the smart the algorithm gets.”

Once a photograph of the ticket is uploaded, the app will asks why the ticket is wrong. It could prompt users to take more pictures, then will forward the information to the legal researchers. Fixed then helps challenge the ticket and write a statement of defense with legal reasons why the ticket should be dismissed.

For nearly a year, WTOP Ticketbuster has profiled the persistent and repeated problems with erroneous tickets written in Washington and the problems adjudicating those tickets at the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

District of Columbia ticket writers issue about two million citations per year, mostly from the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Hegarty says he’s a victim too, that’s why he started the app.

“I was working with my co-founders last November and we were kicking around ideas. One day, I came back to my car and I found two tickets on my windshield. It was frustrating because I just paid four others. I was fuming. But someone told me that I could contest them,” says Hegarty.

“I learned how to contest tickets, all the rules, and I won both cases. I told my friends about this and they suggested to put it into an app, so everyone could do it. That was the genesis for Fixed.”

The app launches the first week of March in San Francisco for Apple and Android phones and will be free to download. There’s a waitlist to join.

Hegarty hopes to expand to Washington, D.C. within the next 18 months, but will make that decision based on demand.

“The demand is so great that we’ve put in a wait list process. The way we’ll determine what cities to expand to next is the number of downloads we have in that city. So my advice to the listeners in D.C. want it to come to the D.C.-area sooner, they should download it and get on the waitlist now,” he says.

Follow @WTOPTraffic on Twitter and Listen Live to WTOP.

© 2014 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.



Report: Speed cameras reduce crashes, injuries in D.C.


WASHINGTON – A new report from the D.C. Department of Transportation finds that speed cameras are doing a good job at reducing accidents, injuries and slowing drivers down.

DDOT teamed up with engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to study 295 speed camera locations within the District of Columbia. These include existing, planned and proposed locations for the cameras. According to the executive summary findings, total crashes dropped 16.83 percent and the number of injuries 20.38 percent after cameras were installed.

“Using the analysis results from the speed data analysis and the crash data analysis, as well as reviewing the field assessment results, the team was able to determine the nexus between traffic safety and the speed camera at most locations,” the report finds. “Overall, all of the results supported the nexus between traffic safety and the speed cameras at all 295 existing, planned and proposed locations.”

DDOT Chief Traffic Engineer James Cheeks, who co-authored the report, says the 100 block of Florida Avenue NW is a perf ect example. A camera was installed there in November 2011.

“We noticed people, prior to putting that camera there, would speed to try and go through the signals along that roadway. Now they’re more cognizant of the fact that there’s a park there, kids are crossing, parents are taking their children, there a lot of elderly people walking in the area. So drivers are being more cautious as they drive through that area,” he says.

At each location, engineers compared the number of crashes and the overall speed of drivers to determine the safety impact. Cheeks says drivers do slow down for cameras.

“Speeds were 10 to 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. We put in cameras and we saw the speeds one to five miles over the limit,” he says, although he wishes people would slow down more.

John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs, applauds DDOT’s detailed analysis.

“Given what has befallen the Baltimore automated traffic enforcement programs and the speed camera program in smaller jurisdictions in Maryland, such as Fairmount Heights and Morningside, this report delves into a salient and essential rubric. The nexus between crash sites and incidents data and speed camera location, and most of all, safety for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, school children, seniors and joggers,” he writes in an email to WTOP.

Townsend says he hopes people in Morningside and Fairmount Heights and other small Maryland jurisdictions will read this report and make their goal about safety, not raising revenue.

However, if you look closer at the 3500 Massachusetts Avenue NW speed camera, you’ll notice mixed results bring up an issue hotly debated in automated traffic enforcement. The report finds that while drivers are now traveling much slower than the speed limit, the number of crashes have increased since the camera went up in January 2010. In particular, a spike in the number of rear-end collisions.

Critics point out that such crashes often spike at red light and speed camera locations, when drivers slow down to avoid a ticket, forcing the driver behind to slam on his breaks. The critics add that when you increase rear-end collisions, such cameras are not improving traffic safety.

However, the authors of the report did not come to the same conclusion here.

“The increase in the number of crashes after the installation of the speed camera suggest an outlier and a more detailed safety analysis is needed to determine the cause of an increase in collisions,” says the report .

And yet the conclusion seems to back up the camera.

“The speed data analysis showed the mean and 85th percentile speeds to be lower than the posted speed limit, and the crash data analysis showed elevated number of speed-related crashes at this location. Due to the analysis results along with the specific site characteristics and pedestrian generators, there is a nexus between traffic safety and the speed camera at this location,” the report says.

Critics also point out that while drivers slow down when passing a camera, they often just speed back up once they pass it. So while 85 percent of drivers at 3500 Massachusetts Avenue NW went 12 mph in the 30 mph zone, drivers likely sped up short after passing the camera.

Nonetheless, Cheeks thinks the camera works and hopes that the new stop sign, pedestrian and intersection cameras recently deployed will help make roads safer.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

© 2014 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Which way to D.C. works for commuters south of Beltway in Virginia?

The Post tested two routes, one via Metrorail and the other a drive all the way to downtown.

Which way to D.C. works for commuters south of Beltway in Virginia?

We invited travelers to suggest commutes we could test for them, to compare routes or travel modes. On Thursday morning, Post reporter Mark Berman and Robert Thomson, Dr. Gridlock, took up a reader’s suggestion to test routes between the Kingstowne area, south of the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia, and downtown D.C.

As a starting point, we chose a McDonald’s parking lot at the corner of Franconia and Brookland roads. The finish line was the lobby of The Post, at 15th and L streets Northwest. Berman drove all the way. Thomson drove to a Metro garage and took the Blue Line.

We’ll be testing other readers’ suggestions and can add a bike route. Send ideas to ­drgridlock@washpost.com.

Taking the train

7:55 a.m., Franconia Road. Depart McDonald’s parking lot for 3.2-mile trip to Franconia-Springfield Metro station. At Van Dorn Street, I bypass the sign pointing right toward the Van Dorn Street Metro station. That’s only 1.7 miles away, but I worry about parking. (And Mark later tells me I would have encountered a lot more traffic.) I wasted several minutes by mistakenly heading toward Metro parking at the Springfield Mall garage.

8:28 a.m., Franconia-Springfield Metro platform. Blue Line train arrives. Many people on this chilly platform have spent the past nine minutes in a rigid pose, gazing north in search of an incoming train. Metro’s online Trip Planner had told me to expect a train at 8:22, but the 8:28 arrival is the first I see.

8:47 a.m., Crystal City station. My car, the first on this six-car train, is now very crowded. The last seats have been taken, and the aisles and doorways are full of people standing. At Franconia-Springfield or any station up to Pentagon, I have the option of boarding a Rush Plus Yellow Line train, then transferring at L’Enfant Plaza to complete the trip, but Trip Planner did not recommend that, so I stay with the Blue Line.

9:04 a.m., McPherson Square station.The $5.40 rail trip ends. (But I have yet to pay the $4.50 parking fee back at Franconia-Springfield.) The train trip has been problem-free, with brief pauses before the Rosslyn station and in the Potomac River tunnel. Many riders exited my car at Foggy Bottom, opening up plenty of seats.

9:13 a.m., The Post. I reach the lobby after exiting the Metro station on the 14th Street NW side and walking briskly through McPherson Square to 15th Street. Total commute time: 1 hour 18 minutes.

Driving all the way

7:55 a.m., Franconia Road. Had to wait a minute to make the right turn out of the McDonald’s lot. Had to wait another minute before making the right onto Van Dorn Street. Once on Van Dorn Street, I run right into fairly heavy traffic. I’m sure this is just a momentary thing. It’ll clear up after we pass the Beltway.

8:17 a.m., Duke Street. Nope! I just got onto the Duke Street ramp. It took me 22 minutes from the time I was waiting to leave the parking lot to the time I got to this ramp, most of that time spent sitting in traffic on Van Dorn Street that moved very slowly — when it moved at all. Google Maps says the 2.5 miles from McDonald’s to Duke Street should take about six minutes without traffic. I’m on Duke Street very briefly before merging onto pretty slow traffic on I-395 North.

8:35 a.m., I-395 North. The first chunk of the I-395 trip was fairly congested, which meant plenty of stop-and-go traffic. (We cracked 40 miles per hour at one point, but we were mostly in the 20 to 25 mph range, or inching along.) Now, though, I’m around Exit 8B and traffic has slowed to an utter crawl. From here on through to the 14th Street bridge, it’s nothing but congestion and a seemingly endless line of cars waiting to get into the District.

8:58 a.m., 14th Street bridge. After about 23 minutes spent studying brake lights along the northernmost part of I-395, I cross onto the bridge. Weirdly, traffic flows without interruption while we’re over the water (I’m not sure I can adapt to this form of driving, where you use the gas pedal to accelerate) before promptly grinding almost to a halt again a minute later once we’re near the Jefferson Memorial.

9:19 a.m., The Post. I sat through some slow-moving traffic on 14th Street, with the slowest stretch being between the 14th Street bridge and the Mall. However, it did improve a little once I got to Constitution Avenue and beyond. I finally pull into the garage on 15th Street NW at 9:17 a.m. ($12 for all-day parking). Two minutes later, I enter The Post’s lobby to meet Dr. Gridlock. Total commute time: 1 hour 24 minutes.

Final thoughts

Berman said it was nice not to stand outside on a freezing Metro platform waiting for a train. On the other hand, he spent 45 minutes of his trip barely moving and is worried that everything since has been a pleasant daydream and he’s actually still waiting to get onto the 14th Street bridge.

Thomson noted that results can vary. He might have caught an earlier train and gained some time on Berman. On the other hand, Metrorail was having a pretty good morning Thursday, compared with other days during the cold snap. A problem with a track switch or a train brake can darken the day for thousands of commuters.

Options on I-66: Toll lanes, extending Metro discussed at meeting


VIENNA, Va. – At the first of two public meetings to update commuters on I-66, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) told drivers about options such as adding general-purpose lanes, adding toll lanes and transit options such as extending Metro, VRE or light rail.

Late last year, 19 companies responded to a VDOT request for information on how to ease congestion on I-66, and each touted the benefits that toll lanes would bring to the corridor from the Beltway out to Haymarket.

The 495 Express Lanes were the first major experiment in Northern Virginia into the toll-lanes concept, with more such lanes opening in early 2015 on I-95 between Stafford and Alexandria.

“Whether we have managed (toll) lanes has not been determined. We have 10 concepts (rail and road) and we will look at all of them. We realize not one concept in and of itself will be the answer. It has to be a combination of many modes of transportation,” says Rene’e Hamilton, Deputy District Administrator for VDOT in Northern Virginia.

But she admitted that she thinks the 495 Express Lanes have been a success at offering drivers and bus riders a convenient and predictable option to avoid traffic for a fee.

“When the I-95 Express Lanes come onboard, we’ll start to see a network of managed lane projects that connect together. Will I-66 complement that? We don’t know at this time, but that will be figured into our study. As we look into each option, the connections between these interstates will be taken into consideration,” Hamilton says.

Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity is a strong supporter of toll lanes to I-66.

“An express-lanes concept is absolutely what we need on I-66. It provides a corridor for express bus and other mass transit. It maintains free carpooling and it offers congestion relief,” he says.

“It offers guaranteed speeds. If you don’t want to pay the toll and get to work, you’ll still get less-congested roads in the regular lanes too. So we’re not forcing people to pay the toll. The average person gets that choice every day.”

But drivers coming out to the public meeting weren’t sold on the toll lanes as a solution.

“It puts people who cannot afford the lanes at a disadvantage,” says Leigh Kennedy, who commutes from Fairfax to Falls Church. “People with higher-paying jobs get to avoid the traffic and other people don’t. I think that’s an unfair system.”

Other drivers worry tolls on I-66 will constantly go up, like on the Dulles Toll Road or the Dulles Greenway.

“Let’s face it — once toll lanes are there, they can always finds ways to raise it, making the tolls higher and higher, and give whatever reason they want,” says Judy Perich, citing the Dulles Toll Road drivers paying for Phase II of the Silver Line.

She’s also worried drivers would avoid the toll lanes, similar to how drivers avoid the Dulles Greenway. Del. David Ramadan sued the owners of the Greenway to get the tolls lowered, but lost the first round of the fight on Wednesday. The decision over Greenway tolls will likely head to the Virginia Supreme Court later this year.

On I-66, most commuters seemed to agree that better mass transit options, such as extending Metro’s Orange Line, would have a huge effect on traffic.

“If they made it really convenient for [commuters] to park out in Gainesville or Manassas, then people, rather than putting up with the traffic, they would get on public transportation,” says Jim Lynch.

He suggests the crunch of people coming from Gainesville and Manassas to Vienna, Dunn Loring and East/West Falls Church could be eased if with Metro extends west. While the Silver Line will take away some of the volume from the Orange Line, riders who live along I-66 will likely stay put.

“When somebody says ‘go into D.C.,’ I cringe because of I-66 traffic. I think the Orange Line was meant to go out west. They have the roadway set up there. I would go [to D.C.] a lot more often if I had Metro as an option,” says Perich.

“Either extension of Metro, some type of light-rail or bus rapid transit, ideally Metro would be preferably, but any improvements would help,” says Kennedy.

Others think certain spot improvements would make huge improvements and save lots of money.

“The one critical bridge that needs to be replaced is the 123 overpass at I-66. It’s the only 1960s-era still left in this region. If that were totally replaced, it would solve a critical problem we have with traffic in the morning and afternoons,” says Doug Francis, of Vienna.

He says there are too many accidents after the Vienna Metro station and bottlenecks are too common and could be fixed with a new bridge.

VDOT hopes to narrow down the list of options and begin a more specific study before the end of 2014. It hopes to get bids in 2015 and move quickly towards construction shortly thereafter, which could take at least 18 months.

VDOT will hold one more meeting next Wednesday evening at the Wyndham Garden Hotel at 10800 Vandor Ln. in Manassas.

Follow @WTOPTraffic and @WTOP on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

D.C. area’s longer-than-average commutes could be taking a greater toll on women

Adeyinka Ogunlegan remembers sitting at a red light on Georgia Avenue when the text-message alert came through. Her main route home to Laurel was blocked because of emergency utility repairs.

In an instant, her run-of-the-mill commute, a drive she does daily, generally without incident, turned into a logistical nightmare.

Her son, who is now 4, was waiting to be picked up at preschool, and her daughter, now 3, from the babysitter’s. The clock was ticking, traffic was crawling, and she still had at least 20 miles to go. She knew instinctively that a trip that normally takes her about an hour would take far more time unless she came up with a plan.

“I was like: ‘Oh my God. Oh my God,’ ” she recalled. “There was no bailout. It wasn’t pretty.”

Ogunlegan took a deep breath to keep herself from panicking. As her car idled, she could feel her blood pressure escalating. She checked Google Maps in hopes of finding a way out of the traffic jam. Ahead, she spied a few cars turning off onto side streets and decided to take a chance. She managed to navigate her way through side streets (thank you, GPS) to New Hampshire Avenue and from there to the Intercounty Connector, on which — for a fee — she sped to Laurel, arriving at her son’s school with a minute to spare.

Washington Post poll of area residents this past summer found that women and men who drive average a roughly 30-minute commute. But for about one in six women — about one-third of whom have children at home — that sometimes harrowing daily commute is getting longer. While D.C. area drivers are seeing less congestion on local roads, they still spend seven more minutes commuting each day than the average American, according to the Census Bureau.

Those lengthy rides could have implications for women’s health and stress levels, particularly because their commutes often include stops other than home and work. A growing body of research shows that when it comes to commute stress, women feel the impact more than men.

In a 2010 study, researchers in Britain found that women reported having higher stress levels related to commuting than men did — even if they had shorter commutes.

“The theory was that it was a question of flexibility in time use,” said Jennifer Roberts, a professor of economics at the University of Sheffield. For women, “there were more deadlines for where they had to be. It was not just an issue of, ‘I have to be at my desk at 9.’ It was, ‘I have to get my kids to child care. I have to pick up the dry cleaning.’ ”

Roberts and her colleagues found the impact was particularly acute for women with preschool-age children. Researchers found the psychological effect on them was four times as great as for men with children of the same age.

Add a longer commute into the equation and it could be even worse for women, Roberts said.

Rori Pollak, executive director at Little Beginnings Child Development Center, has seen more than her share of harried moms and dads flying through the doors of the Arlington County day care.

“Most are very apologetic,” she said. “The hardest part is really for the child if they’re the last one here.”

Like many day-care centers, Little Beginnings charges a fee for late pickups. Parents who are one to 15 minutes late pay $20, and the fee escalates from there. Those who have more than four late pickups within a certain time frame face possible dismissal from the center. But Pollak rarely has to enforce the rule.

Pollak said she and her staff understand the stresses and work closely with parents to ease the anxiety. For example, center officials encourage parents to have backup plans in the event of emergencies.

Independent travel behavior analyst Nancy McGuckin said women may find commuting more stressful because they tend to do more than just travel to and from work. They make additional stops — at the market, at day care, at the dry cleaner — a phenomenon known as “trip chaining.” Men, by contrast, are more likely to drive straight from work to home.

In her research, McGuckin, who has worked as a consultant to the Department of Transportation, found a difference in men and women’s attitudes about commuting.
“The commute for men is a moment of respite in the day, where they can sit and listen to the radio,” she said. “But I think, for women, it’s simply another tense, mind-racing trap because you should be somewhere or have just a few minutes to get to day care before you get charged.”

And despite women’s advances in the workplace and as wage earners, that dynamic has not necessarily changed.

“Though we see some changes in the younger generation, women still do the majority of housework and child care,” said McGuckin, who has examined the effects of commuting on men and women. “Commutes women do are more often populated with stops. And they’re more likely to do pickup in the afternoon.”

Federal statistics illustrate the disparity. Among households with two working parents who commute, women make more than half — 63.3 percent— of the trips for drop-off and/or pickup.

Ogunlegan, a lawyer at a Rockville-based public-affairs firm, is one of those women. The family has one car, and her husband takes a commuter bus and Metro to his job at the Commerce Department in downtown D.C., which means she is responsible for both drop-offs and pickups.

As a result, she has carefully calibrated her 50-mile daily drive. Mornings can be hectic, but it’s the drive home that is the real stressor.

“It can be crazy,” Ogunlegan said about her commute, which includes two drop-offs, at the babysitter’s and at school, before she heads to her office. “It’s just this juggling act that you have to manage.”

She knows that if she does not leave work at 5 p.m. on the dot, she risks missing the 6:15 p.m. pickup deadline at her son’s preschool. She’s had a couple of late pickups — including one when she was in such a rush, she couldn’t remember if she had even closed her car door. Center officials were understanding, but even so, she does not like to be late. She knows her son’s teachers have children, too.


“You feel bad,” she said. “You just don’t want to be that parent.”

Some women said that, when they are able, they’ve tried to make adjustments to their schedules and to the places they choose to work to ensure they can be close to where their kids are. But even then, they know they are just one snowstorm or traffic tie-up away from a late pickup.

Susan Burkinshaw, a comptroller who lives in Germantown, has turned down higher-paying jobs in the District and Virginia so she can work within a 10-mile radius of her children’s schools and avoid the frantic last-minute scramble that comes with traffic delays.

For Kellie Reynolds, a mother of two from Gaithersburg, pickup always felt stressful, particularly when her children were younger.

“I never wanted to pick them up late,” said Reynolds, who works for the Federal Drug Administration. “It wasn’t the [late fee]. It was thinking about how bad the kids would feel if it was closing time and I wasn’t there.”

For years, Reynolds handled afternoon pickup and shuttled the kids to doctor appointments and practices because she had a more flexible work schedule than her husband, who worked in Frederick, Md. But after he took a job in Rockville, she became the one with the longer drive. As a result, he is able to pitch in more often, easing some of the stress.

Some women also acknowledge that they may put more pressure on themselves.

“I think it’s just the way our brains are wired. [We’re] always planning our next event — the laundry, calling about the doctor’s appointment,” said Bridget Dunn, a mother of two from Alexandria. “I don’t know that men do the same thing. We get hung up on these kinds of things because we’re sort of the conductor. I think the stress lies in that.”

Scott Clement contributed to this report.


Metro General Manager Richard Sarles

Many long-anticipated changes are coming to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Streetcars are expected to begin service on H Street NE and the Silver Line is slated to start running to Reston and Tyson’s Corner. New fare cards and rail cars are also in the works systemwide. But many old problems and concerns about on-time performance, maintenance and safety remain. Kojo and WAMU 88.5 reporter Martin DiCaro talk with Metro General Manager Richard Sarles about where the system is headed.


Richard Sarles

General Manager and Chief Executive Officer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Martin Di Caro

Transportation Reporter, WAMU

Related Links

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles explains why WMATA doesn’t use the transportation industry’s standard for measuring on-time performance. Sarles said WMATA compares measurements against their own internal numbers, rather than industry numbers, to check improvement. “The standard we use was here before I got here,” Sarles said.

Weather causes road problems, school and flight delays

Light snowfall in the D.C. region overnight created challenges for commuters Wednesday morning, as some schools closed and others announced delayed openings, airlines canceled flights and police closed a usually busy ramp onto the southbound lanes of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway because of downed wires in the roadway.

U.S. Park Police said the wires toppled overnight onto the ramp that leads to the parkway from Route 193 in Greenbelt. They are not sure when the ramp will re-open, as they are waiting on a repair crew.

Police warned drivers throughout the region to use caution because some roads are slick and icy.

Metro had troubles on four of its five lines Wednesday morning due to the extreme cold weather.

VRE sent an email alert Wednesday morning to its passengers warning that power is out at its stop at the L’Enfant Station at 6th and C streets SW. VRE officials said riders should use caution when getting on and off trains because the platforms are dark.

Schools are closed in Prince William, Stafford and Culpeper counties. Schools in Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Frederick and Arlington counties, and in Alexandria, are opening two hours late.

Air travel has been affected by the latest round of snowfall. About 250 flights across the country were delayed and another 950 were canceled as a result of the winter weather, according to FlightAware.

Eighteen flights were canceled at Ronald Reagan National Airport. Another 15 were canceled at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and four were canceled at Washington Dulles International.

For more transportation-related stories, click here. For updates on the Washington weather forecast, go to the Washington post’s Capital Weather Gang.