Dear Dr. Gridlock:

HOV-2 on Maryland Route 50 is a failure. Yes, it has just opened, but the indications are there.

Two-thirds of the vehicles using the HOV-2 lane today were violators. There is no place for police to sit to monitor. The diamond markers are spread so far apart that many drivers don't understand the lane's purpose.

Also, it is open 24 hours for two passengers only. Why? This doesn't make sense.

You know as well as I that there is a class of people who simply don't intend to obey. I for one can't partake of this luxury.

From start to finish this morning, I saw 10 legitimate vehicles in the HOV-2 lane. Is this really worth it? Instead of relieving congestion, it is causing more because single-occupant drivers are weaving back and forth between the conventional lanes and the HOV lane. This is a huge hazard.

What is your take on this?

Tim Buck

Annapolis

It's new. Let's give it some time and see what others say. The state planned to build pullouts into the median for police to wait and pull people over. Are those not there?

Maryland officials told me they decided to go with HOV-2 round-the-clock because that would be simpler to understand (and enforce) than any juggling of lane use. I'm not sold. Let me know what you are seeing.

Police as Bad Example

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In Prince George's County you can speed down Route 1 through College Park, weaving in and out of traffic, so long as you are in a police car. The person driving this squad car did not appear to be on duty, as he had on a black T-shirt.

What gives these police officers license to drive in such an unsafe manner?

Paul Holzer

Bowie

The driver could have been an undercover officer; it's hard to know the circumstances. Police officers, unless they are responding to an emergency, should set a behind-the-wheel example for all of us. Everybody is looking at them.

Blink for Tailgaters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the tailgating in the right lane, I know what my friend would do if it happens. She simply turns on the emergency blinkers. This way, the tailgater would either slow down or move to the left lane avoiding that "slow car."

Adele Shuart

Ellicott City

Why D.C. Tags?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read with interest your recent column, which appeared in the Southern Maryland Extra, that satisfactorily explains all of the Virginia tags in Maryland. While it is fully understandable that the Virginia tags stem from Virginia workers coming across the Harry Nice Bridge (and from Virginia transfers to Patuxent River), my concern is the number of D.C. tags that I see every morning and evening going to and from Charles County in the same direction as rush-hour traffic.

For a while I was even seeing an official D.C. government vehicle being driven to and from St. Mary's County. A short time after I reported that to Mayor Anthony Williams, I no longer saw it.

There are literally hundreds of D.C. registered vehicles being driven from St. Mary's, Charles and Prince George's counties going with the traffic flow at rush hour.

The only rational explanation I can come up with is that all of these people are living in these counties but still have their vehicles registered in the District.

Jack M. Hughes

La Plata

Don't Block Metro Doors

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute to and from graduate school on Metro every day, and I, too, am irritated by the number of people who block the open doors of the trains [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 2].

The doors are wide enough to allow two people to enter or exit the train side by side; however, there are often people leaning on the little partitions on both sides of the doors, narrowing that gap to the size of one person.

Rather than step outside the train for a few seconds, they think they are being considerate when they suck in their stomachs to take up a teeny bit less space. Or, people outside the train who are eager to get on quite effectively reduce their chances by crowding the doors and allowing only one person off at a time.

I agree that some solution needs to be found to this problem to reduce the time it takes to load and unload at each station. That would help trains move faster through the system, reducing crowding on each train.

Perhaps an automated message would help? There is already a pleasant voice that says "doors closing." Maybe one should be broadcast when the train comes to a stop that says, "Please move away from the doors so passengers may board and exit more quickly."

I have noticed that train operators will sometimes make such announcements during very busy times; an automatic one would probably be cheap to implement, just as effective and would allow the drivers to focus their attention on other matters.

Sarah Christianson

Washington

The way we get on and off Metrorail cars seems to be a constant complaint. Here are some comments from Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman:

"We used to have a message that told people to move farther into the rail cars, but we received complaints from customers that they did not like the message.

"Often customers will hear their train operators encourage people to move into the cars, and into the aisles, where there is more room to stand. I like to stand there and hold onto a handrail behind a seat."

For more on this subject, please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I just came back from a business trip to New York, where the people don't crowd at the door to get out. They are distributed throughout the subway cars. Why? Because there are poles every few feet across the subway car -- and a bar on top that's easily reachable. There are plenty of places to hang onto and keep your balance.

Contrast this to the D.C. Metro, where the only poles are near the doors. That is why people crowd by the doors. If you walk to the middle of the car, you'd better have great balance if you don't want to fall. The only place to hold onto are the backs of the seats.

It makes me uncomfortable to put my hands so near the shoulders and heads of the seated passenger. You are forced to invade the person's space, and sometimes inadvertently touch them.

It looks to me like it would be fairly easy to put plastic or metal poles in the aisle. Or a metal rod connecting the ceiling and the seat near the aisle, so you could grab it without touching passengers.

Here is my question to you, Dr. Gridlock: How do we get the people who work at Metro take the suggestion seriously? I suspect it's one of those incremental improvements that tend to be overlooked in American organizations. It isn't to anyone's career advantage to push it. So Metro management proposes expensive solutions while simple suggestions get ignored.

I've noticed these poles in a lot of subways in many cities. We may be unique in not having them!

Dale S. Brown

Washington

Again, Ms. Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman:

"Customers like to stand by the doors. They do so because often they are going only one or two stops, and they don't want to bother to sit down or to move farther into the car.

"Sometimes they do it because they want to rush off the train when it arrives at their stop. Sometimes they do it because they want to be one of the first up an escalator.

"For whatever reason, they like to stand at the doors and hold onto those vertical poles. The overhead bars aren't lower because we don't want people to bump their heads."

What remains a mystery is why other subway systems find it efficient to use more vertical bars and apparently lower overhead bars, but our Metro system does not. Any thoughts?

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Anne Arundel Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.