Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While traveling the area's highways and byways, I've noticed a phenomenon that seems to take place here more and more every day, and that is: Does anyone around here really know what a yield sign means? I know that it doesn't mean, "Move over I coming through . . . even though you have the right of way." I've never been in an area where the total lack of regard of the yield sign is so prevalent and blatant. It just burns me up.

Suggestions?

Rick Pantaleo

Stafford

Let's ask the readers.

Aggressively Slow

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'd like to know when and where your reader Mike Paulson drives (in the left lane at the speed limit plus 6 mph) so I can ensure that I avoid those areas.

He doesn't have the right to hog the left lane, or to inflict his opinion on anyone else.

Attitudes like that are a form of aggressive driving, and he is the one who needs to "relax," worry about his own driving and stop trying to enforce his will on the rest of us.

Lynne Finch

Lake Ridge

Metro Is the Way

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Did you notice the proposal for linking Bethesda and Silver Spring by Metrorail in the Post on Wednesday [Jan. 8]? In an arc, it would connect the Orange, Green and both ends of the Red lines. Hopefully, Virginia will hop on board and support this beginning of a Metrorail beltway around D.C.

Although occasionally addressed in various publications, the public seems oblivious to the severe shortage of oil that will begin to appear during the 2020s as the world's oil reserves are depleted. Some think that fuel cells or hybrid engines will replace current engines, but most of us will find their cost beyond our reach.

Between then and now, every metropolitan area should have mass transportation lines nearing completion.

Consider, it was in 1976 that Metro took its first passengers for free rides on opening day. Think of it, 25 years to build the system, not including planning, arranging financing, obtaining the rights-of-way and contracting. And we are still trying to get enough cars for the system.

Some still think that more and wider highways are the answer, as another million people populate the area in the next 20 years. Since the 1970s, we tried that solution, and proceeded to build and/or widen the Beltway, Routes 7, 50, I-66, I-270 and I-395.

I don't know anyone who thinks those efforts solved the problem. Metro lines, and ready access to them, appear to be the best answer. Time is running out.

Thomas S. Evans

Arlington

Somebody needs to tell me why an elevated monorail system -- clean, quiet, taking up little room -- wouldn't work better and less expensively than either road expansion or more Metrorail.

Taxing SUV Drivers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Calling attention to Keith Bradsher's book "High and Mighty" was helpful, but you did not mention one of the effects of the SUV epidemic, of concern in this area: congestion.

In Bradsher's words, "SUVs are particularly ill-suited for urban use. They make traffic congestion worse. They are hard to see around."

If SUVs are adding disproportionately to traffic congestion, maybe their owners should pay a premium on their county decals? Or, alternatively, discount the decals of cars?

Gene Wunderlich

Annandale

Probably not a politically popular choice to tax SUV owners extra, although I see your point.

Smooth Driving in Calif.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments made by Nancy King of Woodbridge concerning California vs. metro D.C. drivers. When I was transferred here several years ago from California, I was amazed at the average metro D.C. driver's lack of courtesy toward other drivers.

As a result, I bought a condo two blocks from my office and walked to work for more than five years! Today, it still seems to me that most metro D.C. drivers were either aggressive -- tailgating, driving at inappropriate speeds -- or indecisive.

In either case, I feel that a great many metro D.C. drivers are oblivious to their role in driving safely in heavy traffic.

Mark Fiumara

Arlington

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Nancy King is absolutely right about driving in California, where learning road courtesy remains a central component of driver's ed classes.

In our California high school driver ed classes, we were taught to change lanes when possible, to allow drivers to enter the freeway, to allow others enough room to change lanes and to always stop at corners and crosswalks for pedestrians.

Pedestrians in California always have the right of way at crosswalks and even unmarked intersections, and these rules are enforced.

I still remember my D.C.-bred husband's horror the first time he saw me step into a crosswalk on a busy California street. To his amazement, all the traffic stopped -- as it was required to do.

The roads are more crowded now in California, and some politeness has been lost, but the essential attitude of common courtesy on the roads still prevails.

I've lived in this area for many years now, but I still yearn for the politeness of California streets, especially as a pedestrian. Californians obey the rules of the road because they have been taught to do so and because the police make the effort to enforce the laws. This does not seem to be the case here.

Kathy Kavalec

Arlington

I think you hit it in your last paragraph. Without the education and the enforcement here, it's every pedestrian for himself. Too bad.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, have driven in California, Los Angeles and environs to be exact, and I agree with Nancy King, who said that drivers out there are more courteous.

I found there was not one incident of tailgating -- which is the local sport here -- merging was a breeze, drivers used their turn signals, and not once was I cut off even in exceptionally heavy traffic that would make the infamous Mixing Bowl look tame.

I minded my manners, like any good guest, and found the whole experience a wonder of smoothness in spite of all the mileage I put on the rental car.

Susan King

Arlington

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Prince William 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.