Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You published the hours for the HOV lanes, but once again you did not mention motorcycles. I would think that with their small size and great fuel economy that the doctor would want to encourage their use. These are the rules according to the indicated Web sites. I think this info should be included any time you present HOV rules:

"Exemptions to the Rules: Motorcycles are permitted to use HOV lanes throughout Virginia during HOV hours."

"The U.S. 50 lanes will be designated HOV-2 lanes, meaning they are restricted to motorcycles and any vehicle with one or more passengers in addition to the driver."

John Hollowell

Port Republic

I support commuting by motorcycle. It is an efficient way to get to work. Each motorcyclist is one less larger vehicle on the road.

Clear Handicap Spaces

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is it stupidity, ignorance, disdain -- not giving a damn or just being lazy?

The majority of parking lots (shopping center, standalone business parking, apartment and townhouse subdivisions, etc.), a week since the last snowfall, still have their handicap parking spaces being used as the repository for snow removed from the major portions of the parking lots.

Paul D. Lane


Complain to the shopping center owner or manager. Piles of snow don't have to be deposited on handicapped parking spaces .

Hybrids Rule

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing in response to your question about owner's opinions of their hybrid automobiles.

I have owned my Toyota Prius since April 2002 and am quite impressed with its technology, comfort, lesser environmental impact and economy.

I live in Dale City and use the HOV lanes every day. While it is usually convenient to have that exemption, it is not the reason that I purchased the car. I was very impressed with the solid engineering that went into bringing this car to the mass market, and the impression has not diminished over time.

I encourage anyone in the market for a new automobile to at least consider the hybrid vehicles available today. I have been driving this Prius for 13,000 trouble-free miles and, at this point, I would not trade it in for anything other than another Prius.

I would really appreciate your passing on to your readers, however, that automobiles with the clean fuel license plates (ending in the letters CF) issued by Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles are authorized to be in the HOV lanes. Please stop shaking your fists (and other things) at us.

Rick Pearce

Dale City

Thanks for that report, Mr. Pearce. I'm excited about the cleaner-emissions and super gasoline mileage of this vehicle, and its cousins, the Toyota Insight and the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked how hybrid drivers like their vehicles. I love my Toyota Prius! I have owned it for one year and have almost 25,000 miles on it. Aside from routine maintenance and oil changes, all it has needed is an alignment because of the deplorable condition of the surface streets in the District.

Pros: HOV-1 saves me about an hour a day; 48 mpg on regular gas with virtually no emissions; and a one-time $2,000 federal tax deduction for clean fuel make it both economical and environmentally friendly.

It is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside -- good head room, good leg room, plenty of space in the trunk for a large suitcase, golf clubs or more groceries than I ever purchase at any one time. It can fit into a whole world of parking places that I can't put my SUV.

And, no, you don't have to plug it in at night -- the battery for the electric motor is recharged from the gasoline engine.

Cons: We can't put our bikes in the back like we do with the SUV.

Summary: This is the perfect commuter car! I hope that auto manufacturers will produce more vehicles using hybrid technology.

I see no good reason every vehicle couldn't be a hybrid.

Lynn Simon


Dulles to the Rescue

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You've surely heard many stories of woe stemming from the great blizzard of February. I'd like to share a positive story with you.

My wife, 18-month-old daughter and I arrived into Dulles International Airport on Feb. 16 at 3:30 p.m., in the height on the snowstorm. We were on a Swissair flight from Zurich, one of the handful of flights to land on Dulles's single open runway that day.

We spent three -- yes, three -- hours in the airport waiting for our bags to arrive, because the baggage cart was stuck in the snow, and because customs agents wouldn't allow passengers to leave without our bags. The agents finally relented, and we headed out of the airport at 7:15 p.m., fatigued from the trip and the long wait and worried about our prospects of getting home to Arlington.

We boarded the shuttle bus to the economy parking lot. (Our first surprise was that the shuttles were even running during the storm.) When we arrived at the Green Lot, we were met with a surreal scene: a sea of white with hundreds of white lumps, one of which was our car.

Since we have an all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback, we were fairly confident that we could make it home if we could manage to get the car unstuck from the snow. What happened next was nothing short of amazing.

Dulles officials had made appropriate arrangements for this situation. First, a courtesy van showed up to keep us warm. Then, a plow came by and cleared our parking lane as well as a space behind our car. Then, a man popped out of another truck with a heavy-duty shovel in hand and dug out the nearly two feet of snow around and on top of the car.

After only about a 20-minute delay, we made it out of the lot and then slowly made it home on a relatively clear Dulles Access Road and Interstate 66.

We are exceedingly grateful to the operations managers at Dulles for taking the initiative and ensuring that customers like us were able to make it out of the airport under such terrible conditions. I hope their action sets an example for other Washington-area service providers.

Mike Brown


Thanks for an extraordinary story. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority can take a bow.

A Foggy Issue

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It may be possible for some of your readers to answer the question of why do people drive in daytime traffic with their fog lights on when there is not a cloud in the sky.

In fact, two of these people I saw today were inside the parking garage at Landmark Mall.

George Bogart


I'd like to know. I'll bet that our accumulated aggravation over fog lights exceeds the benefits to drivers who own them. Now I've seen fog lights as big as headlights, meaning you get four big lights in the face instead of two. They might as well mount a searchlight on the roof.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Southern Maryland 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.