Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A few weeks ago you asked if anyone could tell you about the behavior of riders on BART compared to those on Metro.

It's been several years since I was in San Francisco, but at the time I was amazed at the fact that BART riders actually queue up at the places where the car doors open. The doors open, people get off, people get on, the doors close and off it goes. It's like being in a foreign country.

John Sietsema


I'm interested in other subway systems where the point the train stops is marked on the platform. When the train stops, people get off, then people get on, then the train leaves. Sure beats our system of everyone for him or herself.

You Call Those 'Improvements'?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have lived here for 60 years and have seen all of the great highway improvements come to pass, and not a one of them relieved our traffic jams.

My favorite one, which brings me great laughs, is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

I used to go to Ocean City when we sat in long lines to ride the ferry across the bay. Then we get a bridge! I still sit in long lines to cross it. There is not 10 cents difference.

[A newspaper] recently printed a letter from me about the Springfield Mixing Bowl, in which I offered to place bets with anyone who believes that when the bowl is finished, the people in Woodbridge can get in their cars and drive up to the Pentagon without any traffic jams. I will still take bets!

I could go on and on about all of these improvements that were going to solve our traffic, but I will give you just one more. We were told that when the Beltway and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge were completed, all the big trucks and New York to Florida traffic would go around Washington, and the traffic jams would be eliminated. Does anyone want to comment on that?

I firmly believe if the Potomac River was completely cemented over, from Rosslyn to Tappahannock, Va., it wouldn't help traffic one bit.

There is only one thing that will stop this madness, and that is population control. Something has to be done about the urban sprawl. You can't pour enough concrete to keep up with it.

Wendel Allen


Too Much Ado About SUVs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Some people are just complainers by nature. If there were no SUVs, they would be complaining about something else. SUVs are no different than full-size vans, which have been around forever. SUVs are smaller than buses, tractor-trailers and dump trucks. SUVs are stylish and useful, and as long as they make them, I will buy them.

Life is too short to sit around complaining about a vehicle you don't even pay for. Instead of complaining, these SUV haters should do something positive with this extra energy -- go exercise, call your mother or go hug your kids.

Kermit Nored


A Better Way to Be Seen

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Jeff Blanc suggested that drivers of broken-down vehicles could enhance their vehicles' visibility to oncoming drivers by raising the trunk lid. I'm not so sure this is such a good idea.

Many vehicle models have red reflectors and even hazard flashers and brake lights mounted into the portion of the trunk lid that would be facing skyward if the trunk lid is lifted, rather than facing the oncoming traffic.

I agree with your suggestion of using flares or some other means of making your vehicle more visible. Even raising the hood would be better than raising the trunk lid, in my opinion.

John Braun


Bright Ideas

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the problem of bright lights in your eyes from side mirrors, try tilting the mirror slightly up or down.

You should be able to keep the reflected light out of your eyes and still see objects in the mirror(s).

And remember not to rely strictly on any mirror alone. A quick glance over your shoulder is still the best way of seeing what may be behind and to the side.

Dane Gleason


Two Sides to Route 50 HOV

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have used Route 50 between Davidsonville and D.C. on and off since 1983, commuting various ways and at various times.

The last couple of years, there seemed to be a consistent backup in the mornings at the Route 197 on-ramp (westbound) and in the afternoon at the Route 704 on-ramp (eastbound).

Now, however, those two backups are gone. Even though the HOV lanes are not heavily used, it appears to have improved traffic flow in all lanes.

I travel Route 50 between the Beltway and Davidsonville, so I have an opportunity to monitor the entire length of the HOV lane.

The first day it was open, I saw no vehicles using the lane. Now it is used but not heavily. I am amazed at the number of vehicles that pass me in the HOV lane with only one driver.

It is also interesting to see vehicles in the regular lanes with two-plus people in them. They could go HOV and make better time but don't.

Have seen zero enforcement of the HOV lanes.

Don Opedal


Keep me posted.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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