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.

The Journal 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

Alexandria

Much Ado About SUVs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I finally figured out why we're buying so many gargantuan SUVs! I bet if you compared the percentage of the population that is obese, that figure would closely match the percentage of SUVs sold!

Mark Fiumara

Arlington

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Allow me to add my two cents' worth to the SUV debate. I own a mid-size SUV that I use primarily to tow a boat, haul building and landscape materials and move my two college student children and their stuff to and from dorms and apartments.

The SUV is 2 years, 7 months old and has only 13,000 miles on it. I ride the OmniRide bus to work.

My question is this: Who uses more gas and does more harm to the environment? Me or the person who drives a car (including a relatively fuel-efficient model) 20,000-plus miles a year, drives every day to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic (not in the HOV lanes) because they think they either must have access to a car at work or are too good to carpool or ride public transportation?

Let's not stereotype all SUV owners, please.

Ron Buchholz

Dumfries

Okay. Thanks for the perspective.

Hybrid Fans and Foes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Brian Broadhead claims that the answer to the question, "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?" should be pretty obvious [Dr. Gridlock, Feb. 27].

Well, apparently it is not, at least not to Mr. Broadhead. The correct answer is: "Most likely the hybrids."

What Mr. Broadhead fails to consider in his analysis is the fact that hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight (super ultra low emission vehicles) produce emissions that are 90 percent cleaner than those of the average 2003 vehicle.

In other words, the three ride sharers are creating more pollution than the three solo hybrid riders.

Mr. Broadhead might also be interested to know that diesel engine cars, while more fuel efficient than most conventional cars, emit a higher level of pollutants than conventional gas-powered cars.

Mara C. Hurwitt

Alexandria

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I disagree with Brian Broadhead [Dr. Gridlock, Feb 27].

The Toyota hybrid cars have a huge advantage over his 45 mpg diesel. When idle, the Toyota uses no fuel at all.

So when crawling over the bridges into D.C. or sitting through three or four traffic light changes, the hybrid driver is not wasting a drop of diesel or gas or ethanol or natural gas.

Maybe this doesn't make much of a difference in Washington, Ind., or Fairfax, Okla., but here the hybrids hold the promise of cleaner air.

Fil Feit

Annandale

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

That a Prius gets 50 mpg, so what? Geo Metros, Ford Festivas and Hyundai Accents have been getting 50 mpg for decades, and their owners never got to travel solo in the HOV lanes.

When Ford comes out with, say, a hybrid Expedition and everybody and their brother buys one, all these Civic hybrid people will be wanting them to observe the HOV rule.

David Creede

Annandale

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In the March 6 Dr. Gridlock column, you printed a letter singing "Praises for Hybrids." I have serious concerns about the future use of HOV lanes by these hybrids.

While I commend these hybrid owners for helping to keep our environment clean, I feel they should still have to conform to HOV policy like the rest of us non-hybrid owners.

I've been a longtime carpool rider who commutes from Springfield to D.C. using the I-395 HOV lanes. In the last year, I've seen more congestion, and my commute has become longer by about 10 minutes each way.

One of the culprits is the hybrid. At this point, the increased congestion is not yet intolerable, but I fear that if this practice continues, we'll see backups on the HOV lanes rivaling those on the main lanes. If that happens, I will no longer have any incentive to continue in a carpool and will venture out on my own, thus contributing even more to the problem.

The primary objective of HOV lanes was to get more people out of their cars and into carpools. This serves two main purposes. One, it helps the environment by eliminating some vehicles from the road. Two, it eases congestion.

While they're environment-friendly, these hybrids are not "easing" congestion. Rather, they're creating more of it. Give them their tax break but ask them to comply with HOV laws.

Dion Pifer

Burke

When the HOV lanes become as congested as the conventional lanes, we can declare HOV a failure, although I suspect more because of lack of enforcement and meaningful fines than hybrids. Keep us posted.

Rules of the Left

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After reading for weeks about left-lane cruisers, I recently found myself trying to manage the left exit for I-66 off the Beltway.

I was unwilling to exceed the speed limit by more than 10 miles an hour, so I gamely limped along at 65 in the left lane for about a mile before my exit, while drivers tailgated me, made rude gestures and blew by me in the right lane.

What are left-turners to do? I have had the same problem on the Fairfax County Parkway and on Braddock Road. I wish I had a sign: "Sorry about not speeding more. I have a turn coming up!" Sorry, sorry!

Diana Keene

Fairfax

The inner loop Beltway exit to westbound Interstate 66 is easily solved because there are both left and right exits. Stay in the right lane for another quarter mile, past the left exit and make a right exit onto I-66 westbound.

As for the other locations, leave your left-turn signal on. That should back off some of the impatient drivers.

Enforcement a Plus

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On behalf of my carpool, I would like to publicly express our thanks to the Virginia State Police for their HOV enforcement along westbound I-66 near the Route 7 entrance March 3 and 4 between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

We sometimes see them at this time at the entrance to I-66, stopping single drivers as they enter I-66. But on these two days, they were also pursuing single drivers westbound on I-66, which is somewhat unprecedented.

We can only hope that this impressive visible enforcement effort will deter some of the multitude of HOV scofflaws and will be continued.

Jim Culbert

Fairfax

That will be truly good news to many in Northern Virginia.

Selfish Parkers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have become increasingly frustrated with the selfishness of some drivers in parking lots at shopping centers.

These drivers seem to think that they don't need to find a parking space, they will just park along the fire lane and hop into the place of business for a few minutes or longer.

This selfish and lazy (very lazy) act not only is strictly against the law but impedes the traffic through the parking lot.

Please tell me that others are as upset with this behavior as I am.

Ilona Kierstead

Fairfax

Well, I am, for one. How about the bozos who park in the grocery pickup lane, forcing those of us who are picking up groceries to do some Olympic maneuvering to get near the curb? I don't like those people.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Alexandria Arlington 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.