Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Upset that some left-lane drivers block his progress, Errol Waits asked, who gets to decide what illegal speed is okay [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 20]? The fact is, the state has already decided that no illegal speed is okay, thus the reason for its illegality.

Those of us who wish to illegally go faster do not have the right to expect others to move out of our way, and that is especially true when the person who we want to move is already going faster than the posted speed limit. So-called passing lanes do not entitle anyone to drive over the posted speed limit.

If I encounter someone in the left lane who is traveling slower than me but still above the posted speed limit, I patiently wait until I can pass him on the right (which is, in fact, legal), or I relax and enjoy whatever song is on the radio.

While I will sometimes move out of a hothead's way (if traffic in the right lane is not traveling too much slower than I), nobody should feel pressured to move to the right in crowded conditions just to let some self-centered idiot speed by.

And certainly, no HOV driver who is traveling at a legal speed should move out of the HOV lanes, regardless of how quickly Lynn Pina feels she is entitled to get to her destination.

I suggest that both Mr. Waits and Ms. Pina cut down on their coffee intake.

Jeff Schomig


A Step Solution

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing to suggest that Metro provide access for higher volumes of people and lower repair costs by replacing short escalators with steps. This would give more room for riders to enter and exit the stations.

The extra room on steps, as opposed to escalators, could be very important in an emergency, especially with the power out. Putting in steps would also be a one-time expense, freeing up resources for elevator repair and the maintenance of long escalators.

Thomas Sigler


Ironic that Metro has the most escalator-dependent subway system in the world because planners wanted to save customers the long trek up and down stairs.

Now, with the escalator system apparently broken indefinitely, it may be time to consider your proposal, Mr. Sigler. Tear out the short escalators and put in steps.

I'm not aware of a better proposal at the moment.

HOV Scofflaws?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute to work in the HOV lanes on the Dulles Toll Road and on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway. I very often see individuals driving alone along those routes in their Crown Victoria or Marquis, or the occasional Lumina.

These cars have some indication of being affiliated with a law enforcement agency, such as red/blue light boxes on the rear counter or inside the grille.

The license plates are standard state plates from Virginia, Maryland and the District -- certainly not government plates of any description. Clearly, the state patrol cars leave them alone.

The drivers are usually in typical business attire. Near as I can tell, they are really just federal employees who are on their way to work. I know that the rest of our dedicated federal employees arrange their commutes to either beat the rush or use the HOV lanes appropriately, or endure the traffic.

Those of us who do carpool get tired of seeing others ignore the law and drive down the HOV lanes. Why should we feel differently toward these federal employees, whatever agency they work for?

Bob Acker


I can sympathize with your frustration. But drivers of police vehicles are given an exemption from HOV restrictions. It doesn't matter if they are responding to an emergency or just commuting.

I'd focus instead on the bigger problem in HOV lanes: the run-of-the-mill cheaters. They are the ones who bollix up the lanes.

The General Assembly needs to increase the fine to several hundred dollars per offense. I haven't heard of this being considered in the current session. Too bad.

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.

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.

Riding the Red Line

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I applaud Robert M. Nichols' thoughts on the Red Line Metro. I ride from Union Station to Farragut North. This seven-minute trip can take up to 30 minutes at least three days a week. And, if there is the slightest bad weather, even longer.

I am so tired of being yelled at, every morning and evening, by aggravated Red Line train operators to move into the center, stand away from the doors and the ever popular "There is another train directly behind this one." Why are they blaming me for crowding the trains when they are not sending trains often enough to accommodate the riders? Metro's ridership is at an all-time high. Where is the money going? It's is not being spent on train service, elevators, escalators, new train cars or leaking, crowded stations.

It must be the current management! How dare they raise fares while delivering terrible service.

How dare they charge rush-hour fares when they are sending trains 10, 15, 30 minutes apart. I bet commuters in Boston, Chicago and New York are glad they don't have a train system that closes when it snows and takes a week to recover from a snowstorm.

Janet Gerety


Motorcycles and HOV

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." /us50hov/welcome.asp

"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.

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, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.