For years a strip of 14th Street NW near the Mall has served as an unofficial pickup point for an informal car pool system used by motorists and passengers heading home to Virginia from the District on weekday evenings.

Briefcase-toting suburban residents hoping for a ride to Virginia lined up on the west side of the street just south of Constitution Avenue, and motorists stopped their cars to pick up enough of them as passengers to make possible the use of the HOV lanes on the Shirley Highway.

This exercise in creative commuting was threatened almost four years ago when the D.C. police tried to intervene. The police said motorists who halted to pick up passengers were blocking rush-hour traffic on busy 14th Street. An officer stood at the pickup point, preventing motorists from stopping.

But an outcry arose, and the pooling resumed, continuing without apparent challenge until recent weeks.

Sgt. A.W. Miles, of the police traffic unit, said motorists have been complaining about snarls caused when drivers stop at the pickup point and wait for passengers.

In recent days, he said, officers have been "trying to discourage" vehicles from stopping on 14th Street. "Sometimes they wait, and tie up the travel lane and cause a backup," Miles said.

On Dec. 21, several days of commuter grumbling gave way to a new arrangement, whereby the old business went on at a new stand. On that day, apparently for the first time, would-be riders gathered around the corner from the old spot.

The new site was on the north side of the 1400 block of Madison Drive, which runs between 14th and 15th streets. From Madison Drive, Miles said, motorists can go north on 15th Street, then turn right on Constitution Avenue to reach 14th Street again.

And, he said, even if motorists may wait a bit on Madison Drive, "on that side street there is no tieup."