Reader Mike Cather explained in a letter printed Nov. 17 that he won't let certain vehicles merge in front of him. These include local vehicles trying to exit at the last moment (they can "learn the hard way to queue up safely like everyone else"); drivers weaving in traffic; and a Mustang or other "muscle car" ("I call this an offensive version of defensive driving").

His attitude did not sit well with a number of readers. Some examples:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I would advise Mr. Cather that hostility has been shown to be a risk factor for heart disease. People might live longer (and certainly healthier) if they choose a kinder and gentler approach to life.

Michelle Chenault

Montgomery Village

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The Nov. 17 letter from Mr. Cather was a perfect, telling example of the major problem on our roadways: the egotistical driver who believes that the road belongs to him; who decides what rules should apply to him and what rules should apply to others; and who takes on the role of enforcer of his own special rules of the road.

I would not even presume to refute each and every one of his rules for "allowing" others to merge onto his private road, because I am certain that countless numbers of readers are already fuming or laughing at every one.

It's horrifying that drivers like him believe they are making things safer and setting a good example.

Gene Cowan


Bus-Riding Benefits

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Gaithersburg and work in Bethesda. I usually take a Montgomery County Ride On bus to work and reverse coming home. It generally takes less than an hour (about 40 minutes at best). I could drive it in about 20 minutes.

The main reasons I like public transit are the price (I am cheap; it only costs me 75 to 80 cents a day), and I do not have to drive. My employer participates in the Fareshare program, and I do not have to face aggressive drivers.

I let the experienced bus driver deal with any unsafe conditions. I arrive at work refreshed.

Steve Babor


And, you are doing your bit to reduce gridlock for all of us, Mr. Babor. Plus, you're making a contribution to the environment. Thank you.

A Hot Spot for Commutes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The one-traffic-light towns that you have mentioned as a counterpoint to this area sound quite peaceful, but I can't imagine that there are many jobs available for new residents.

I'd like to suggest Albuquerque as a city with an easy commute. Although I did not drive while I was there, I had occasion to walk around the "downtown" area, which is about eight square blocks of buildings up to about 25 stories. (The rest of the city did not seem to have a building over three stories.)

At 8:30 a.m. on a weekday, I saw no more than four or five vehicles waiting at any given red light.

With a population of 500,000, the job market should be a bit more flexible than that of a small town.

I, however, dislike the heat, and with the summer temperatures regularly in the 100s, Albuquerque is out of the question for me, but maybe not for those who bask in our area's summers and are miserable all winter.

Max Handelsman


Thanks for the recommendation. Any other escapes from our gridlock?

Alternatives to Baltimore

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My wife and I live in Greenbelt. She commutes to the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore.

Morning trips are relatively good, averaging 35 to 45 minutes via I-95. The evening trip is another story. Without fail, there is horrendous southbound traffic on Greene Street in the city, and then on Maryland Route 295 at the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) exit.

Her I-95 south traffic is slightly better than Maryland 295, but she slogs through at least 15 to 30 minutes of congestion at I-395 south (Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue).

Are there any less congested routes out of Baltimore that provide access to Maryland 295 or I-95? She has been averaging 70 to 85 minutes of southbound travel time, and my familiarity with Baltimore is limited to the Inner Harbor area.

Kurt Flick


I have often made the same commute, Mr. Flick, without the congestion you mention. I take Fayette Street away from the medical center and then turn left onto MLK. I've never run into much traffic on either Fayette or MLK, even at 5 p.m.

Then, after only a few blocks on MLK, I can turn right onto Russell Street, which runs into the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, or I can take the left ramp onto I-395 connecting with I-95 to Washington. I prefer the parkway, because it's more restful.

One of the nice features about Baltimore's rush-hour traffic, compared with Washington's, is that Baltimore has more police at intersections to move traffic along. There is a more orderly flow to it.

That said, maybe I'm just lucky. I'll happily pass on observations or helpful alternative routes that readers may offer.

A Source of Md. Tags?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One of the reasons that Virginia drivers see so many cars with Maryland plates during their commutes is the fact that virtually all rental cars have Maryland tags.

I'm sure this has some financial advantage to the rental companies; probably the lack of a required yearly inspection.

Paul Katsanis


Next time you rent a car in Northern Virginia, folks, see to what extent this is true. Ask the customer representative if this is so, and why. Let me know. Thanks.

Escalating Efficiency

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Another idea to save wear and tear on the Metro escalators is to turn one of the "extra" escalators off during the slow periods. I often see two escalators (both going up) when there are only a handful of people using them. Two are needed only during the peak periods.

Mary Kull


Clearing the Smoke

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You might want to inform your readers complaining about smoking on Metro escalators that it is impossible for someone to be allergic to smoking. That is because tobacco smoke contains no allergens. This is why no one has an anaphylactic (i.e., life-threatening) reaction to smoking.

It is, instead, a pollutant, and the symptoms your readers describe means they are sensitive to tobacco smoke pollution.

By the way, I, too, am very sensitive to tobacco smoke, so my only agenda here is to educate, not diminish their very valid concerns. Check with an allergist if you think I'm not correct.

Erin Gilland Roby

Ellicott City

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Montgomery Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.