Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Please add me to the list of those who complain of no HOV enforcement. From Woodbridge via Interstate 95 northbound at 6:30 a.m., the violators easily number 70 percent to Springfield, and then it's 40 to 50 percent into the District.

Suggestion: Up the fine to $250, request volunteer off-duty troopers to staff the on ramps, and provide them a bonus of splitting the proceeds from the fines. This may also solve Virginia's budget problems.

Richard Young

Woodbridge

Much as we might like to do that, traffic fines go into the general treasury and not to the officers who issued them. That's probably for the best. But we do need better enforcement of HOV violators.

I think the key to solving this problem is to drastically raise the fines, to levels like those in California, where a violation costs hundreds of dollars.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have sent at least 10 messages to the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia State Police regarding the nonenforcement of the Interstate 95 HOV rules, and their stock response is that they issued over 17,000 citations last year.

I can understand the limited resources available for this activity. But a change of the laws could allow the fines to be used for the enforcement activities. You are correct; soon, HOV will be not be an advantage.

Ron Selepak

Dumfries

Make Drunk Drivers Pay

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm sick to death of reading about traffic fatalities and major accidents that were caused by individuals driving drunk and/or on suspended licenses . . . including the death of one of my neighbors last year. Obviously, the fines and other penalties are insufficient to deter first offenders and are ignored by repeat offenders. So, what is to be done?

I recommend that those receiving citations for drunken driving be fined to the max on the first offense. Anyone convicted of a second drunken driving offense should have their vehicle confiscated, even if the one they were driving was not theirs. . . . This would deter "friends" from allowing someone to use their vehicle while drunk or on a suspended license.

The rationale? Currently, when anyone is caught with drugs in their vehicle the vehicle is subject to forfeiture, no? So why not drunks?

As for those with suspended licenses, given the apparent laxity of our courts, a suspended license indicates to me that these are folks who are finally being punished and that they truly shouldn't be driving. Therefore, their licenses should be taken during the suspension, their vehicles' license plates should be held for the period of the suspension, and they should not be allowed to register any other vehicles during the suspension.

And, like drunk drivers, if they are caught driving during the period of suspension, the vehicle (even if not theirs) should be immediately confiscated and sold at auction. Harsh? You bet, but the end result will not be as harsh as the needless accidents, injuries and deaths that these individuals cause.

Edward D. Duclos

Nokesville

Harsh, yes, but if these measures were to save lives of the innocent, maybe that's what we need. What do you folks think?

Keeping Bikes Safe

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As an avid bike rider, I, too, have had lots of bikes stolen. One key to prevent this is to have two types of bike locks. Police report that usually a bike thief only carries one instrument to steal bikes, not two.

Larry Ray

Washington

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The $70 annual bike locker fee Metro charges (plus the one-time deposit of $10) seems to me much cheaper than having to replace bikes!

I have had a bike locker at Cleveland Park for several years, and for the security, peace of mind and convenience it offers, it is well worth the money. Plus, it's lighter to use the locker instead of carrying around a lock plus cable!

A. Grace Lopez

Washington

Escalating Spin Control

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein's spin on the escalator debacle makes for good reading, but the "un-spun" story was already published in The Post.

By December 2002, the blue ribbon panel had completed its review of Metro's escalator and elevator problems (undoubtedly after consultation with the mechanics), and drafted a report laying the blame squarely at the feet of those mechanics, citing both incompetence and lack of training.

That report was about to be issued when, not surprisingly, the mechanics objected. Rather than risk alienating their employees, Metro decided to "review" the matter further.

The mechanics' new "ideas" now cited by Ms. Farbstein are a combination of the mechanics' desire to save face and Metro management's attempt to assuage their employees.

The irony of Ms. Farbstein's spin is that it gives the impression that Metro management is to blame (and not the mechanics) for never consulting their employees regarding these fresh, new "ideas."

Rather than hold anyone accountable (and thereby risk alienating them), it's now clear that Metro will simply continue down the same old path. The result? More of the same.

Neil Schuldenfrei

Alexandria

That's my read also. It is incomprehensible that Metro's own mechanics have ideas to fix the problem that were not shared with anyone until after a blue ribbon panel of outsiders spent six months studying the problem. But that is what seems to have happened.

I hope these mechanics can fix the problems; so far, they have been unable to do so.

Green Light for Hybrids

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is in response to Bob Clements, who suggested that hybrid vehicles should not be allowed to use the HOV lanes [Dr. Gridlock, Jan. 2]. I think he is a bit confused about why the HOV lanes were created. It was not necessarily to reduce the number of cars on the road but to lower pollution from vehicle emissions.

The Washington area desperately needs to reach healthy air pollution attainment levels. Right now, the region is not in attainment with federally mandated pollution standards and is dangerously close to losing federal highway money.

Hybrids are allowed in the HOV lanes for one simple reason: The amount of pollution emitted from these cars is significantly less than that emitted from a regular car or SUV.

We should give people as many incentives as possible to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. For every gallon of gasoline your vehicle burns, it emits 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And, with gas prices skyrocketing, it is important for every driver to realize that if fuel economy for cars and trucks was increased to 40 miles per gallon, U.S. oil imports could be eliminated by 2010.

I recently traded in my SUV for a Toyota Prius, not only because I am allowed to take the HOV lanes as a single driver but also because I realized that while I was sitting in traffic, my SUV was contributing to the spewing toxic emissions that are harmful to all of us.

Allowing hybrids in the HOV lanes encourages more commuters to invest in these vehicles, and that could help us all breathe a little easier.

Karen Burcham

Alexandria

Cell Phone Not a Luxury

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing in response to the reader Ralph Blessing, who submitted a New Year's resolution wishing that Metro would ban ringing cell phones on its trains [Dr. Gridlock, Jan. 9].

A blanket ban on cell phones in Metro trains is unwarranted. Mr. Blessing has no way of knowing why each and every person in the train has a cell phone. Some people must be reachable for their jobs. Some people must be reachable because of different factors at home.

I myself have a very sick family member and therefore must be reachable. I know if Mr. Blessing were to approach me about my cell phone, my response to him would be unprintable. Metrorail is a form of transportation, and travel can last 30 minutes to an hour, more if you must transfer. Why must someone be out of touch just because Mr. Blessing doesn't want to hear a cell phone on a train? It's not like it's happening in a movie or a play.

J.D. Walker

Fairfax County

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. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.