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Bleg for Help re Morning Commute Down Clara Barton/MacArthur:

I haven't been able to locate a good D.C. traffic discussion board, but maybe a V.C. reader can help: how is traffic around 8:00 a.m. on the Clara Barton Parkway/Canal Road or MacArthur Blvd going south from Cabin John/Glen Echo/Bethesda? How long does it take to get past Georgetown? Thanks.

David Krinsky (mail):
Potentially pretty bad. It's my preferred route from home (near Rockville) to downtown DC at non-rush times, but I avoid it at rush hour, not because it consistently takes a long time, but because the standard deviation seems unusually high. There are few escape routes, so if something bollixes it, there's little to do but wait.

Sorry if this is unhelpful--the more precise answer is, I think, something vague like "between 15 minutes and an hour." (Sometimes it's just fine, and the more-spread-out evening rush seems to help enough that I regularly take it then without incident.)

Where are you coming from and going to?
5.28.2007 12:03pm
bobolinq (mail):
This is really about the silliest, most self-indulgent Volokh.com post I've ever seen.
5.28.2007 12:57pm
ALB (mail):
I take Metro, but the WaPo does have a lot of discussions related to traffic (though, you may be referring to them when you say you haven't found a "good" traffic discussion board).

WaPo -Local-Traffic
5.28.2007 1:12pm
Oren (mail):
Quite the opposite - the problem of traffic congestion is essentially and information problem. The most economically efficient way to solve it is to distribute the information as widely as possible.

That does screw over the lucky few that are getting better-than-average times because nobody knows about their tricks. Arbitrage is rare and fleeting.
5.28.2007 1:14pm
MGoBlue (mail):
I used to commute that way down to the Hill; it's not easy but it's better than taking GW and going over the Key bridge.

Another good way from Bethesda is Mass Ave - to Delacarlia pkwy - to Nebraska - to Foxhall - to Canal Road. When I lived in SW I used to take that way back and forth to Bethesda to see friends.

Hope that helps.
5.28.2007 1:47pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
When I lived in the area, I rarely had to take that route, but avoided it whenever possible. Is it possible, from your location, to get over the river and (1) come down the GW Parkway or (2) get to a Metro?
(I should add -- get to a Metro early enough to find a parking space).
5.28.2007 2:17pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Re-reading it -- why not just hit the Metro? They have a stop with a big parking garage at Bethesda, and others at White Flint, etc.. Given the rather poor highway access of the MD suburbs, I suspect Metro would be much faster than driving.
5.28.2007 2:20pm
Anonymous Hoosier:
David:

What David Krinsky describes above is unfortunately typical: vastly uneven. Since people seem inclined to suggest alternate routes, perhaps you might tell us where you're going "past Georgetown" -- obviously your alternatives look very different to: 1) the Hill; 2) K Street; 3) Clarendon; etc.
5.28.2007 2:23pm
Cornellian (mail):
This is really about the silliest, most self-indulgent Volokh.com post I've ever seen.

I had the opposite reaction - I thought "this post is more useful than at least 50% of law review articles." I wish we had this thread for LA.
5.28.2007 3:37pm
jimbino (mail):
Yeah, who does this Bernstein guy think he is, polluting the blog with queries about traffic in DC, for chrissake?
5.28.2007 3:38pm
Curt Fischer:

I had the opposite reaction - I thought "this post is more useful than at least 50% of law review articles." I wish we had this thread for LA.


And I wish we had this thread for Boston, but I am not sure if any permanent VC bloggers hail from there. Maybe we can expect Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Chicago traffic threads in the future. But while such posts may be very useful to some, to many (most?) VC readers they are likely to be even less useful than even the 50% of those law review articles you mentioned.
5.28.2007 5:57pm
Jameso:
"Yeah, who does this Bernstein guy think he is, polluting the blog with queries about traffic in DC, for chrissake?"

Yeah. My sense of this blog is that the authors &commentators are overwhelmingly not from DC, and the comments section often devolves into anti-DC rants about traffic. (see, again, e.g., THIS COMMENT THREAD (sigh))

Against that backdrop, you have a post that specifically calls upon Washington drivers to ask them about, what ... not their views on abortion &substantive due process, not their take on the Presidential race or the U.S. Attorney controversy, but THEIR FRIGGING TRAFFIC EXPERIENCES.

I personally had a sense that the very fact that you considered this a valid and substantial enough topic (and set of suggestions) to make a special plea for input from DC readers, was strange and somewhat trivializing of them. As in: "hey, it's cool that we have virtually no DC input around here when we're talkin' 'bout the REAL issues, but now that we're on TRAFFIC STUFF, let's see what the Washington folks have to say??"

And to try to stave off at least ONE otherwise inevitable set of comments: I AM NOT SUGGESTING THAT DAVID (OR OTHER AUTHORS) SHOULD MAKE SPECIAL PLEAS FOR DC INPUT ON OTHER ISSUES EITHER. My point is simply that the general lack of Washington voices around here, combined with rampant anti-Washington sentiment in a number of threads, combined with THIS instance of seeking-out DC driving expertise for special, mystical driver-knowledge about traffic, created a tone that could seem insulting.


--With apologies to anon female prof from the menstruation thread, and the general community--
5.28.2007 6:19pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Thanks for the serious responses, and the rest of you have too much time on your hands--this is not supposed to be a substantive post, just a bleg.

To be more specific, if one had to commute from Cabin John, just south of the Beltway, on MacArthur, to the area around the Holocaust Museum, how long would it take? It would take about an hour by metro bus and red line to blue line, and I'm wondering if it's substantially shorter by car, and if so, at what time?
5.28.2007 8:40pm
Joromo:
Why the hostility to this post? Is it really that hard to skip a post you are not interested in? At least it was shorter than your boring comments.

Back to the question at hand, I took Canal downtown for years before my job opened an office in Bethesda. In my opinion it is the best way to go. That does not mean it is good, but it is the way with the fewest traffic lights. The other posters who noted the variability in the ride (15 minutes one day, 60 the next) are exactly right.

As far as getting through Georgetown, if you take the Whitehurst Freeway you miss the entire mess. I have rarely found a backup on Whitehurst, though obviously you are screwed when it dumps you back off on K Street.

There's no other way to go. If there was, all the crappy old houses in NW D.C. would not cost so much.
5.28.2007 8:41pm
Local:
I can give you most of the definitive answer, insofar as there is one, as I drive the drive from Cabin John downtown every day at different times of the morning, using either MacArthur or Clara Barton.

If you go before 7ish, Clara Barton will get you from Cabin John to about the Kennedy Center (where our paths apparently would diverge) in about 15 minutes; MacArthur will take about 3-5 minutes longer, depending on whether you catch the light at the one-lane bridge.

By 7:30, though, traffic backs up on Clara Barton/Canal first at the merge from Cabin John Parkway and Glen Echo exit and second, slightly later in the morning, where Canal meets Foxhall. That's where the standard deviation issue comes in -- often the trip to the Kennedy Center is less than 25 minutes, but one bad event and it can be an hour. Down MacArthur after 7:30 is slower than the optimal time on Clara Barton but much more reliable. Takes about 30-35 minutes between 8-9 if you take MacArthur.

I don't know the traffic to get on Independence and down to 14th SW, but that's the trip down to the Kennedy Center.

Finally, I used to take Mass Ave down, but there are many more variables there. One car not moved out of the right-hand lane, and suddenly you've added 10 minutes to your commute.
5.28.2007 9:35pm
Jake (Guest):
I would prefer that my free ice cream be provided in chocolate flavor only, as I find vanilla intolerable. Thank you.
5.28.2007 11:54pm
Porkchop:
Check in w/ Dr. Gridlock at the WaPo.
5.29.2007 12:27am
superdestroyer (mail):
As a co-worker who used to commute from north of Baltimore to springfield Virginia used to say, you get there when you get there. Trying to take short cuts, listening to the radio constantly, and taking backroads almost never works. By the time something is being reporting of traffic radio, it is too late to act.

Give in the the Zen of driving and go with the flow.

that said, never take canal drive when it is raining. Being at the bottom of a hill creates large puddles that create huge traffic jams.
5.29.2007 10:25am
The Reverend Xenophon Fenderson, KSC (mail) (www):
I guess that, as a former DC-area resident, I could give you an accurate but imprecise answer: The traffic sucks, and however long it ends up being will seem like forever.

Ok, well, that's not so much an answer as it is pure snark. Sorry. I couldn't resist. :)
5.29.2007 6:31pm
Local:
Superdestroyer's right. Never take Clara Barton/Canal Road when it's raining. Also, the worst time to take it in the evening is 7:15, when it shifts from two lanes to one -- at that time, you're better off on MacArthur.
5.29.2007 7:20pm
vsd (mail):

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5.30.2007 4:52am