The recent Maryland Department of Transportation study on the Silver Spring-Bethesda trolley {front page, Jan. 12} and plans for Metro fare increases and possible service cuts {Metro, Jan. 5} have renewed my concern about the lack of resolve of government officials to handle our region's transportation crisis.

I grew up as a member of the auto-oriented, suburban culture in a family with a car for every driver. However, I realized the wastefulness of this aspect of the "American dream." My husband and I made life decisions -- including the purchase of our homes, choice of job opportunities and leisure activity -- that allow us to leave one car at home during our daily commutes and frequently in our leisure hours, as well.

It's time for Americans to realize the consequences of our selfish pursuit of individual freedom of mobility. If individuals continue this disregard for our environment, depleting natural resources and the general welfare of our population, the government should make policies that force individuals to reconsider the decision to drive.

Some local officials want to expand the Connecticut Avenue-East-West Highway intersection and widen upper Route 355 in Montgomery County at the expense of a 10-year delay in providing a cross-county rail transit link. What will the expansion and widenings buy us? A little time, but then even more congestion. The trolley would serve as the first link in providing better cross-county service.

Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter recognizes this "trolley line probably will be needed and built along the corridor within 10 years, as congestion and environmental concerns push more county residents out of their cars." His reasoning is correct; the cars will continue to multiply as long as there's a road to occupy. However, the rationale for delay is ill-advised; these people need to be pushed out of their cars now. We need to build the Georgetown Branch trolley now. Then we need to add the links to make a true regional transit network.

I agree that local and state governments need to gradually raise Metro fares so riders pay a higher share of the cost. But under no circumstances should there be a reduction in service; instead Metro should strive for service and fare improvements to attract riders. Rail users should be allowed discounts for weekly or monthly passes, for their assistance in clearing the roads and air.

At the same time, make single-car commuters and recreational drivers think twice every time that car is used by increasing the gasoline and parking taxes. Americans pay substantially less at the pump than any other major industrialized country, all of which have more advanced mass transit networks.

Planning decisions on the location of residential and employment centers must address linking these sites with the transit network, not just the roads. And planning must take into account the need for sidewalks and bicycle paths.

Making hard choices might mean the loss of some political offices and friends. But it would also mean cleaner air and water; forests and fields remaining intact, instead of being cut down and paved over; and Americans coming home alive, instead of dying half-way around the world to ensure a steady supply of oil. BARBARA M. SANDERS Silver Spring