Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You ask: "I'm beginning to wonder whether the HOV lanes are a failure. Are they?"

I think you already know that the answer is implicit in the question.

I've ridden the Shirley Highway, morning and evening, since 1985. It's been clear to me, for many years, that the number of HOV violators is consistently around 40 percent. The infrequent attempts by various police agencies to enforce the restrictions cause as many traffic problems as they attempt to solve.

Until a group of non-government professionals -- perhaps you, radio station traffic reporters and the like -- decides to assume a leadership position and generate a politically directed groundswell among the citizenry toward solutions, things will continue to deteriorate.

Leadership is the key, and it's not going to come from anyone in government.

So, from where I sit -- you're it!

K. C. Nelson

Lorton

Thanks for the nomination. I don't believe I've got that power. I can't even get the Virginia Department of Transportation to erect overhead signs along with its traffic lights, an inexpensive and helpful gesture to motorists. With the HOV violators, I'll keep running your complaints and looking for the impact of cheaters, such as gridlocked HOV lanes.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Over the last week I've seen a number of police cars -- unmarked but with a dashboard-mounted light -- using the HOV lanes on eastbound I-66 in morning but with only a single occupant.

Today I noticed not one but two such vehicles, both of which had D.C. plates. They were making no attempt to hurry; it seemed as if they were just commuting with the rest of us. These were not uniformed officers but people dressed in suits and ties.

From the unknowing bystander, it seems as if there is a double standard in place. If the police are doing it, why should anyone else bother to obey the traffic laws? Thoughts?

Rob Pixley

Fairfax

Police are allowed to use HOV lanes, even as single occupants, and even if they are off duty. Maybe they could pull over an HOV violator to "pay" their way.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was gratified to read your expression of wonder about the obvious failure of the HOV concept in this area. It has been evident for a long time that creating additional lanes for traffic and then denying their use to the majority of motorists was a bad idea, notwithstanding all the hype about carpooling, fuel and environmental savings, etc.

The idea itself flies in the face of the ethic of "the greatest good for the greatest number." Perhaps we may live to see HOV lanes become available to all motorists in our lifetimes.

Mike Motsko

Springfield

The only thing I can see that will doom HOV lanes is if the number of violators creates the same amount of congestion in the HOV lanes as in conventional lanes.

Metro's Door Way

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I board the Blue Line at Rosslyn in the evening, and there is often a great deal of people disembarking so they can change to the Orange Line. It takes time to let them get off, and I have heard the doors-closing chime before everyone has gotten off. I grew up in Philadelphia and took the "el" to school every day. I remember people blocking your way as you tried to get off, but never did I see the doors close before everyone had boarded.

Raymond Alwine

Woodbridge

Welcome to Metro.

Litterbugs Should Be Squashed

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Just read your column that contained a piece on littering. That is also one of my pet peeves!

I do not understand why we, as citizens who witness a crime being committed (littering is a crime), cannot report the offender to the appropriate law enforcement officials and have the miscreant arrested.

It wouldn't take a lot of arrests before some, at least, would get the message and quit trashing our environment. But I guess you just can't trust us common citizens, now, can you?

John Drake

Sterling

The problem with a citizen alerting authorities about a litterer is what you do when the litterer denies the transgression and no law enforcement official saw it. That said, I'm with you in spirit.

An Idea to Sit On

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the proposal to install bench seats on the Metro: I realized as I was sitting next to the bench seat that when people are sitting in them, their feet stick out into the aisle and they take up as much room as the regular seats. Where's the advantage?

John T. Bennett

Alexandria

More room for standees.

Beltway Selfishness

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If you want to see really selfish drivers, all you have to do is travel the outer loop of the Beltway, approaching the Springfield interchange, most any afternoon.

The right lane is always backed up with drivers waiting to exit onto I-95 south, and the next two lanes are full of drivers speeding along until they get right to the exit -- at which point they decide they have to merge in and exit!

Since they think they are too important and too busy to have to wait in line with everyone else, they expect others to get out of their way and let them in. To me, this is the height of selfishness.

These people should stop punishing those of us who have been waiting dutifully in line for our turn!

Bill Miller

Springfield

I couldn't agree more.

Bad Behavior

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Many of us have had to read, usually with disgust, letters from readers who either won't let drivers merge when they don't meet their somewhat twisted criteria or who simply can't be delayed because they might let another car enter the traffic ahead of them. When a car in front of you signals, even in heavy traffic, let them in! Otherwise, they may be the car forced later to make a rather tenuous move in front of someone else. Or worse, your car.

The single biggest reason, in my humble opinion, for traffic difficulty in our area is the way people choose to drive. Gone are the days when you always signaled a lane change. Or used the left lane for passing, instead of making many left lanes the slow or, in worse cases, the "speed limit vigilante" lane.

Remember when flashing your brights behind the car in front of you meant that you wanted to pass? Today, you're lucky if flashing your lights doesn't encourage road rage.

If people merely took the time to drive with some regard of the laws on the books, I don't think we would have the problems we do today. And it could start with merging.

Mark L. Solomon

Vienna

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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

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