Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have read several times in your column where people are instructed to back in while parking; or to pull through a parking spot so that they do not have to back out when leaving. I am not sure that this is the best advice.

I just had an unpleasant encounter with a woman at the YMCA in Silver Spring, and I am still incredulous over her actions.

The parking lot is narrow, and a line of cars was waiting to find parking.

This woman approached from the opposite direction and appeared to be waiting for a parking spot. I sat and waited for her to pull in to this wide-open space.

Instead, she pointed past my car and attempted to drive past me on the wrong side for more than a car length. I figured that she wasn't parking and proceeded to pull in.

She began to honk her horn and go ballistic. She backed up. I backed out. We rolled our windows down. She informed me that she intended to park and she was trying to back in.

Mind you, this entire event is preventing anyone else in the parking lot from moving. I had to tell this woman that, with room for only one lane of traffic, if she wanted the space she would have to pull in.

I could tell that she was very angry. After she drove into the space, she told me that she wanted to back in so that she would have an easier time leaving later.

Is it fair that she would paralyze an entire parking lot so that she could back in? I am still incredulous.

Lauren Rodgers

Silver Spring

It was bad form of her to paralyze a parking lot so she could back into a parking spot. Parkers should move into an empty spot promptly, in deference to others waiting. That said, when there is time, backing into a spot -- or pulling through -- to exit headfirst is a safer way to proceed.

Trashing the Roads

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A surprising source of litter on our roads and highways is garbage trucks, especially those serving institutional customers.

On several occasions, I have seen such trucks spewing paper from the top. Motioning to the driver is as useless as a telephone call to the garbage collection company.

Michael Rae


Provide me with details. I can call a garbage company. It may be that neither the employees on the truck nor the company is aware of the problem.

It is somewhat ironic that a company that is supposed to pick up trash is spewing it onto roads.

Twinbrook Lot Fills Quickly

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In Thursday's [Feb. 20] column about parking at Metro, a reader suggested that the Twinbrook Metro parking lot was a good place to park. That column was probably written before the White Flint parking lot closed for the construction of the convention center. I know that Metro wrote a detailed explanation to riders about where to park at meters (Nebel and Marinelli streets and Old Georgetown Road) in lieu of the White Flint lot.

At this time, I do not know how many people are parking on the streets, but the Twinbrook Metro lot is filling up by 8 a.m.

Gen Collins


More Traffic News Needed

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wholeheartedly agree with writer Teresa Duncan's suggestion that radio stations allot more time for traffic reports [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 9]. There is nothing more important than the area's traffic report, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours.

Traffic reporters should be allotted five minutes of time if that is what they need to make the report clear and complete.

Sue Benson


Perhaps stations can convince advertisers of that, and the stations can devote more time to traffic reporting.

Hybrid Style Suits Just Fine

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked how drivers are enjoying the hybrid vehicles. We bought a Toyota Prius in October, and I am using it on my daily commute on the Fairfax County Parkway. I couldn't be happier.

It is designed for the type of driving the parkway demands: medium speeds (usually), lots of stopping and starting, etc.

It is great in traffic jams because it just shuts off and quietly waits until it is time to go again (that was a little unnerving at first). The fuel consumption seems to be dependent on the temperature more than in a regular car, since my mileage is running about 47 mpg in warmer temperatures and nearer 42 mpg in the frigid cold weather.

The car is comfortable for our three-person family to use on weekends, and great as a commuter car. I don't feel guilty about my single-person commute anymore, and it's cute!

Jenny Pate


Few things in life are as satisfying as owning a car you love.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to Brian Broadhead's "Hybrids' Fuel Efficiency Goes Only So Far With One Occupant" [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 27], I have to point out that Mr. Broadhead is grossly uninformed as to the efficiency of hybrids.

Mr. Broadhead asked: "What pollutes more, three people sharing a ride in a car that gets 25 mpg, or three people each riding in their own hybrid getting 40 mpg?" Mr. Broadhead needs to perform a simple mathematical calculation. Which is better for the environment, a regular car with two to three occupants, putting out 100 percent of the pollution that a regular car puts out, or a hybrid with one occupant putting out 10 percent of the pollutants of a regular car?

The question is asked, Why should hybrid owners get special HOV exemptions when Mr. Broadhead doesn't? It's because we get better mileage and put out 10 percent of the pollutants of a regular car.

My Toyota Prius averages 45 mpg. While driving solo in the Interstate 66 HOV lanes during rush hour, I have had a man and woman in a large black Ford SUV hold up a sign that says "HOV-2," with the man then holding up two fingers. In return, I smile and hold up one finger. Guess which one?

What should be banned from HOV lanes are large SUVs and smelly diesel vehicles.

Bob Cochran


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Brian Broadhead's comments [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 27] regarding emissions prompted me to write. Even before the current rise in prices, I had been tinkering with the idea of purchasing a hybrid car to ease the fuel cost of my 60 mile reverse commute from Gaithersburg to Owings Mills, north of Baltimore. I noticed that every hybrid I looked at received a SULEV rating, so I did some research and found the actual emissions standards at

The SULEV standard requires less than 1/30th (a 97 percent reduction) the emissions of the current federal standard for some pollutants. Brian states, "What pollutes more, three people sharing a ride in a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, or three people each riding in their own hybrid getting 40 mpg? The answer to that should be pretty obvious."

It sure is. Three hybrids produce less pollution. Hybrid cars use half as much or less gas and pollute far, far less. One Web site,, broached the question of how to test emissions when vehicle exhaust is cleaner than the ambient air.

D.C. does have horrible traffic congestion, but it also has horrible air. Because federal road-building dollars are connected to clean air, Virginia is trying to improve both with its HOV program. I say let the exemption for hybrids stay.

Cary Abend


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute from Lake Ridge to D.C. via an OmniRide bus. If I were to purchase a hybrid car, I could and probably would drive to work via the HOV lanes.

Because the bus I ride would continue to operate without me, the net effect of my action would be to increase the amount of pollution and fuel burned, because I would be adding a vehicle to the HOV lanes that previously didn't exist.

In fact, if just one person from every commuter bus and vanpool were to buy a hybrid and drive to work, the net effect would be a significant increase in the amount of fuel burned and pollution generated because of the increase in the number of cars on the road. Remember, not everyone commuting on the HOV lanes can afford a hybrid -- or any car, for that matter -- and they rely on public transportation to get to work. Buses and vanpools will not be replaced.

Some will argue that commuters who drive alone on the regular lanes and replace their gas guzzlers with hybrids to use HOV lanes are helping to reduce pollution and fuel consumption -- this is true.

But at some point, so many people will replace their gas guzzlers with hybrids and opt to use HOV that the increase in congestion will negate the decrease in pollution and fuel consumption.

An increase in cars on HOV will increase congestion in those lanes, resulting in longer commutes for everyone. And because pollution is directly related to fuel consumption, the longer cars, vans and busses will have to stay in congested traffic, meaning the more fuel they will burn and the more they will pollute.

We do need hybrid cars to help reduce pollution and fuel consumption, and the government needs to keep providing incentives for their purchase. But granting HOV exemptions to hybrids is not the answer.

Bob Clements

Lake Ridge

One of the balancing factors here is that some bus riders can't afford to buy a hybrid vehicle, at $22,000 to $25,000. Others, I suspect, would rather let someone else do the driving and would stay on the bus.

We'll be monitoring the arrival of hybrid vehicles in our commuting patterns and measure the effect.

Kiss This Idea Goodbye

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Now that most Metro parking lots -- even Greenbelt's at the end of the line -- fill up in the morning, causing many folks to park illegally (and receive tickets), how can Metro justify all of those empty Kiss and Ride spaces day after day?

Greenbelt has dozens of Kiss and Rides, and short-term metered spaces, that are never used. If Metro were to install some long-term meters in some of those spaces, they could have guaranteed income, every weekday -- and fewer people parking illegally (and dangerously).

If government officials want us to take public transportation, they need to provide us the means to do so, which includes parking spaces for those of us not near a bus line.

Jennifer Manning


Metro should keep Kiss and Ride spaces available at all times because dropping off customers is an efficient way to use the property (as opposed to parked cars).

That said, Metro and the local governments have fallen behind in providing enough day parking for customers. I can't think of a better contribution to our transportation system than constructing more parking at Metro stations.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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