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Dear PoPville – Police and Rock Creek Park

by Prince Of Petworth January 9, 2014 at 2:30 pm 26 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Wayan Vota

“Dear PoPville,

Tuesday night around 5:30PM, I was driving home from work along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park when I ended up behind a vehicle that was driving 5 – 15 mph and weaving in their lane. I suspected the driver was elderly and momentarily hesitated calling the police, but decided to do so due to the danger presented.

Upon calling 911, I was connected with MPD, who transferred me to U.S. Park Police. By the time I provided all of the information to the USPP, the offending vehicle was on Piney Branch on its way out of the park. The operator ended the call saying ‘someone would respond’ (she did not ask me to remain on the phone) as the weaving vehicle proceeded onto Arkansas Ave. I then called MPD back and reported it again.

While I understand that U.S. land requires federal law enforcement, it’s pretty ridiculous that Rock Creek Park is “served” by its own USPP emergency call center. The park is mere meters in width in some sections, and having two 911 functions prevents both MPD and the USPP from promptly responding to emergency situations.

Has anyone else dealt with this?”

  • WestEgg

    I agree that these sort of jurisdiction distinctions are frustrating. On the other hand, I’m not sure what kind of chaos would ensue if they didn’t exist. I suppose in this case they have to be separate because of the law involving the Park Service’s responsibility for Rock Creek Park. It’d certainly streamline things to remove the USPP from the equation and move those resources over to MPD, but that’s never gonna happen. (I’ve lost track of how many different police forces there are around here. MPD, USPP, FBI, Secret Service Uniformed Division, DCHA Housing Police, Metro, etc etc…)

    Semi-related rant: I love Rock Creek Parkway but that section in the picture drives me nuts during rush hour. Traffic has to slow down as the speed limit lowers on Beach Drive (and for some reason it’s also necessary to brake when you enter the tunnel, it seems), which causes traffic to back up considerably. But that’s not the part that drives me crazy. What I can’t abide are the people who cut the line and force the hundreds of cars behind them to brake, in turn making whole situation even worse. I know it’s a small thing, but as far as I’m concerned, people who cut the line at everyone else’s expense are some of the most selfish people in DC. And that’s saying something ;-)

    • Mary

      Yup- that intersection makes me nuts. Often times I go up and get off at calvert/cathedral because I don’t like who I turn into when cabs cut the line. As far as safety- USPP are pretty visible along the parkway during rush hour. I leaned out my window (in stopped traffic at a light) and reported an injured runner before. There’s also a little station just south of the tunnel if you need help.

    • annonny

      These line cutters are the WORST if for no other reason that 20% of the time they get blocked by a rightfully indignant line sitter and then clog the lane going to the Calvert Street/Cathedral Avenue exit. I’ve often thought the park police could make a mint by ticketing these jerks, but the risk is that (1) there’s nowhere to force the line cutter to pull over, creating further backups and (2) is line cutting really illegal anyway?

      • Amen

        I’m usually that driver not letting them in. The indignant looks on their faces is priceless. I’ve been driving that route daily for years and the line usually backs up half a mile or so, and every car you see fly by and try to jam themselves in at the last minute is either a cab or a car with MD plates. The sheer self obsessedness of them really floor me. I wish more people would stand firm and not them them merge last minute.

        • The real problem with this split is that people do back up in a lane for a half mile instead of the much more efficient “zip” at the start of the split. Some good signs and smarter drivers would make a world of difference.

          • Anonymous

            No, it is not “more efficient” to “zip” – the backup continues past the point where it goes down to one lane, and the problem is capacity beyond that point. To see it intuitively, you can put as many cars as you want at the start of Beach Drive, but they’re not going to move any faster than Beach Drive is moving.

            So no, you’re not being “more efficient” by cutting past all the people in line in the backup. You’re being a jerk.

          • johnv

            Interesting post. But I don’t think the zipper merge applies here — it’s for a situation where two lanes merge down to one. In this case the second lane doesn’t end: it’s a through traffic lane. Moreover, the wikipedia article says it “has not been found to increase throughput” and I think it is supposed to happen while the cars are still moving — “before the bottleneck”, so that it could be done without causing the car behind to brake.

            So I’ll continue to shout +100 to the others complaining about how people do this merge and not letting them in. If nothing else, I want the park police to ticket the MANY people who do this illegally, after the solid line.

            That said, you’re right about the signs.

          • Anonymous

            You’ve said this before but it’s not right. The zip merge works when it’s two lanes going down to one, but that’s not what’s happening at this intersection. You can put up all the signage you want but people are probably not going to pay much attention. I think most of the backup occurs because people are flying up the lower part of the parkway and then *have* to slow down when they reach this portion. If people would follow the speed limits (and there’s already signage for that!) on the lower part of the parkway, cars wouldn’t flood into this intersection at such a high rate which would reduce some of the congestion.

    • Anonymous

      Sometimes the “line cutters” are really just people who made an honest mistake and didn’t realize that the road split. I don’t use that stretch of road often, it’s happened to me once or twice.

      • Amen

        RCP is really a commuter route so the people who drive it are regulars. I obviously don’t have the stats but I would venture a guess that 90% or more drive that route regularly and know what they are doing.

        • gotryit

          So, just to run with your numbers, 10% of the people are not regulars, and some percent of those will be in the wrong lane for the split and need to cut in. Which leads to a good chunk of the people cutting doing so out of ignorance rather than malice. That was me when I was still learning the road.

          • Anonymous

            there’s your problem. you shouldnt’ be cutting – if you got in the wrong lane by mistake, you should get the fuck off at that exit and then get back on, instead of doing something that’s a danger to through traffic as well as making you a jerk.

    • Anonymous

      Why wait in line when people aren’t paying attention and on their phones and not keeping the line moving? I would never cross the line when it becomes solid, nor stop to wait for someone to let me in, but I never have had to, I always just drive along and have time to merge into a giant gap someone has left. Call me a jerk, but I am cooking dinner at home being a jerk

    • pluscachange

      I am all for the cops pulling over people who cut in at the last minute and then referring them to the IRS for audit. I strongly suspect the Venn diagram of cutter-inners and tax-cheats has a lot of overlap.

  • Graham

    The best you could hope for is a consolidated dispatch center, so that MPD would dispatch all the USPP calls in DC., but that’s probably not going to happen. Your best bet is to call 911 back when you’re leaving Rock Creek as dumb as that sounds.

    • Anonymous

      Right, I think that’s what the OP is requesting. Otherwise one is left to redialing and redialing the two, separate 911 systems as the source of the problem travels in and out of the park. The way it is now is seriously flawed.

      • Anonymous

        exactly. consolidated dispatch makes a lot of sense in DC across all the various services. strangely, it doesn’t allow everyone to keep their bureaucratic turf – so what do you think is the result?


    This is also an issue when driving on the BW Parkway out of town… If there is an accident, and you call 911, they they will always transfer you to Park Police and not State Police.

    Jurisdiction in this area is a huge dick measuring contest. Remember what happened to the woman who ran her car into the barriers at the WH, but was shot on Cap Hill….The reason that shit happened was because neither the Secret Service or Cap Police or DCPD were talking to each other.

    A fusion dispatch center would be ideal.

  • ShawGuy

    I had a friend who was mugged once and immediately went to a marked cop car a few feet away for help. They said all they could do was call MPD for her; that she was not in their jurisdiction so they could not take a report or pursue the mugger. It was pathetic.
    Agreed on all the calls for a unified call center. Why different numbers for all the police jurisdictions? Especially if you don’t know which one you need? Could you imagine having to call hospitals one by one and describe your symptoms to see if they had the right people to treat you and an ambulance available to come get you instead of just calling 911? Or having to call different fire stations and describe the type of fire (electrical, grease, etc) to see if they would come help you?

  • anon

    Yes, I live in a building that backs up to the park. There is an alley between my building and the park. Depending on where the crap is going down (in the alley or in the park) I call the respective number. However, the time a guy was trying to climb my fence and then passed out half on the alley and half in the park, I called 911, because Park Police usually respond in an hour. MPD or the fire department generally respond quickly back there.

    • annonny

      Surprised that MPD didn’t just cuff the guy’s wrists or ankles and then say “USPP has to deal with the other half.” :D

  • Michael

    Oh Rock Creek Parkway. How I love/hate thee. Let me count the ways.

    -That I live in Woodley Park and I can be out of the city in 10 mins with no traffic.
    -The beauty of the road

    -That inbound exit from the Roosevelt Bridge down to Independence Ave. Why do they not widen that empty plot of grass on the right to two lanes? Depending on the time of night, the line can back up really far because of people trying to cross the parkway when no car’s are coming, but everyone (going in either direction) has to wait. Just widen the road to two dedicated lanes (a straight (SB) and a right (NB) and it will move these along a lot faster.

    -Jurisdiction, as stated. So who will pull you over? There are about 20 different police units in this city and not that I’m actively trying to zoom down the road, but may be going 5-10 over the speed limit… Who could pop me? And please don’t waste your time commenting, “Well if you slowed down and didn’t speed, it wouldn’t be an issue.” C’mon now.

    • Michael

      I want to apologize for that rogue apostrophe in cars on the 8th line.

  • moweezy

    I had an issue with this when trying to help rescue an animal out on the GW Parkway. There was an injured cat on the side of the road and it was in a dangerous place for me to stop in the pouring rain, right where the exit from the airport joins the parkway where the shoulder is basically non-existant. Since it was south of DCA I assumed Alexandria City or Fairfax County Humane society would be the place to go (the shelter off Duke St looked like the closest). They refused as it wasn’t their jurisdiction.

    I desperately called the Arlington Animal Welfare League who immediately confirmed that they would go get the little guy and call me back with his situation. Sadly he had already passed (apparently at least a day before
    :( ) but they were the most considerate and kind people on the phone. Basically, you suck Fairfax County and Alexandria City for being like “oh that’s a federal road, we don’t deal with it.”

    Very upsetting. Don’t dump your domestic animals in “wooded areas”. They’re not wild, and it’s not safe. Take them to a no-kill shelter or try to find alternate accommodations among your friends. Or honestly? Don’t get a pet.

  • Anonymous

    This may be a dumb question, but when calling the police to report something like this (I did it once because a bus had “call 911” on its sign), are you breaking the law yourself by being on a cell phone while driving?


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