Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I seem to remember several years ago someone voted or pressured the D.C. Taxicab Commission to replace the zone system with meters by 1998. I haven't heard much since, and we've still got the zone system.

For instance, I use a taxicab regularly to go from Georgetown to my residence at 16th and U streets NW. The fare for the same trip at the same time ranges from $5.50 to $8.80. You never have any idea what the fare will be until the cabdriver finishes the trip and announces it.

Is there any hope for a metered system in the District?

Phil Catelinet

Washington

It seems so. This current zone system is so hard to figure out and inconsistent (as you point out) that you would think the customers would prefer meters.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) sent the meter concept, which is backed by the D.C. Taxicab Commission, to the D.C. Council on April 13, and the matter was referred to the council's public works and environment committee, which convened a hearing on May 11.

At that time, commission officials told committee Chairman Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) that they had not computed a rate structure for the new meters. Schwartz said she couldn't decide whether to convert without knowing what the rates would be, so the matter was deferred. It is expected to be resubmitted later this year.

How do you folks feel about the zone system used in D.C. cabs?

There Should Be a Law

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is any legislation planned or in the pipeline to impose additional stiff penalties on the morons like the guy who tied up traffic on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge by threatening to jump or the lady trucker [transporting explosive powder] who lost control of her rig on the Beltway?

I'm not talking about average accidents, but events that paralyze the entire metro region.

The economic losses from these incidents are unbelievably high. There should be major penalties for the idiots who cause these huge problems.

Katherine Kellogg

Alexandria

I'm not aware of any such legislation. We'd both like to know about it. The Wilson Bridge jumper was not charged with anything for his role in the nearly six-hour standoff that paralyzed the evening rush hour. The trucker with the highly explosive black powder, whose rig overturned on a Springfield interchange ramp and halted traffic on the Capital Beltway, Interstate 395 and Interstate 95 in Virginia, was charged with reckless driving, which, upon conviction, carries a penalty of up to $1,000 and a year in jail. The maximum seldom is imposed.

History Behind the Answer

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding your license plate riddle ISLEOF. Could that refer to the "Isle of Capri," meaning a Ford Capri? If I am right, this is the first license plate quiz I've gotten.

You said others complained these riddles were too easy, but I was always stumped. This time it jumped off the page. I don't know if I have ever seen a Ford Capri. So I looked it up on the Web and found this:

The Ford Capri first hit the roads of Britain in 1969 and continued through 1986 when production ceased. By then, over 2.5 million had been produced.

Although the Capri was sold worldwide, by the end of its life it was only available in Britain; all models being made in Cologne, Germany.

Ford celebrated the Capri's demise with a final limited edition model known as the Brooklands 280. This high-spec V6 Capri came in one color only: Brooklands Racing Green, and had a complement of full leather trim and low profile Pirelli tires. Only 1,038 of these Capris were made, and they are now highly-sought-after collector's items.

Mike Dailey

Chantilly

Congratulations, Mr. Dailey. And thanks for the car history. The key to getting "Isle of Capri" was that it was the name of a famous song in the 1930s, the words by Jimmy Kennedy and music by Will Grosz. It was introduced in the United States by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. The first U.S. recording was by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra.

Dr. Gridlock, being a generous soul, also grants full credit to those readers who guessed Ford Granada and Chevrolet Corsica. The doctor will grant no credit, however, to the gentleman who said the mystery car must contain pine-scented air freshener (Isle of Pines).

Now, here's the next one.

A Riddle From Rockville

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been entertained by the license plate riddles. Here's one I saw on Frederick Road (Route 355) near Rockville:

1 DIV 0.

What kind of car does that mean?

Scott Reilly

Rockville

On the River of Grass

Last week, Dr. Gridlock mused about life in Flamingo, Fla., a settlement at the bottom of the Florida Everglades that has no apparent gridlock, or even traffic.

A reader immediately sent a job posting from the Internet. The company that runs the place is seeking a night auditor to keep the lodge books. Benefits include "dormitory-style housing ($25 per week) or an RV site ($30 per week) and inexpensive meals." Call 941-695-3101.

Tempting as that sounds, I'm not sure I'm ready quite yet to trade tailgaters for alligators. Particularly worrisome is something there I've never seen before: an outdoor swimming pool and patio enclosed with mosquito netting. Still, they don't have a Beltway.

Do you know of any places in the United States that have no gridlock (islands excluded)? How appealing a place is it? Perhaps a few hundred thousand of us could move there.

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column. Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at drgridlock@washpost.com. The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.

UPDATE: SPRINGFIELD INTERCHANGE

I-95 Lane Closures, Traffic Stops

Monday - Thursday:

* From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one lane on southbound Interstate 95 between the Commerce Street bridge and Old Keene Mill Road will be closed for construction of a temporary bridge. Two lanes will remain open.

* From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the right lane on westbound Franconia Road between Elder Avenue and Frontier Drive will be closed for installation of a storm drain. The left lane will remain open.

* From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the left lanes of both eastbound and westbound Old Keene Mill Road between Amherst Avenue and Loisdale Road will be closed for median paving.

* From 9 From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., two lanes in each direction will be closed and traffic shifted to one side of the road on both eastbound and westbound Old Keene Mill Road between Commerce Street and Loisdale Road, for demolition work on the Amherst Street bridge.

Tuesday-Thursday:

* From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the right lane on northbound I-95 between Newington and Franconia roads will be closed for sign work. Two lanes will remain open.

Wednesday or Thursday:

* From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., traffic will be stopped along the complete length of I-95 HOV lanes for the setting of steel beams of a temporary bridge. (NOTE: Northbound HOV lanes close at 11 a.m. daily; they reopen southbound at noon. This work will cause HOV lanes to reopen at 1 p.m., or earlier, if work is completed before 1 p.m.)

All week:

* 24 hours a day, until further notice, right lane on Amherst Avenue southbound between Bland Street and Springfield Boulevard will be closed for the demolition of a bridge wall.

For updates on lane closures, check www.springfieldinterchange.com or call toll-free 1-877-95-95-222 to reach VDOT information operators.

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Transportation