D ear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm a frequent Red Line Metro rider from Union Station to my office in Rockville. I have a few points in response to Robert Nichols's recent complaints about the Red Line [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 20].

(1) We Red Line riders do pay more going to and from stations near the ends of the line. But the Red Line extends farther out to the suburbs than any other line in the Metrorail system -- about eight miles past the Beltway on the Shady Grove side. Because we're traveling farther, it's only fair we should pay more.

(2) In my experience, service on the Red Line is far superior to that offered on the system's other lines. I, for one, almost never see a four-car train. At the Rockville Station, trains come roughly every four to eight minutes during rush hour (compared with roughly three to six minutes on the inner Red Line between Grosvenor and Silver Spring).

In contrast, on the Green Line (that perennial poor stepchild of the Metrorail system), four-car trains are far more common and trains simply do not run as often, despite the new cars Metro placed on the line.

(3) Despite its cost, Metro is still considerably cheaper than driving and parking downtown, particularly with Montgomery County gas prices at or near $1.80 per gallon.

And, while trains are undeniably packed going inbound in the morning and outbound at night, I invite Mr. Nichols to try sitting on Interstate 270, Rockville Pike or the Beltway instead.

Metro has made some big mistakes, no doubt about it. Broken escalators and exposed electronics underneath the vintage cars are right at the top of my list. Despite its warts, it's still the best subway system in the nation because it's user-friendly, clean and safe.

Michael A. Stodghill


Thanks for an upbeat report on Metro. I suspect most users share such positive views of the system. I usually hear the complaints.

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


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.

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.

Metro Can Do Better

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In the big snowstorm, the mayor of New York City told everyone to stay off the roads and take the subway. But here, Metro basically says, tough luck, sorry, we can't run normally in the snow.

I come from New York City and have lived in Boston and Toronto, all of which have older transit systems that seem to be able to run in bad weather.

Can't Metro learn anything from them? This is ridiculous.

Linda Lombardi

Silver Spring

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in District 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.