Dear Dr. Gridlock:

More and more, drivers on downtown Washington streets are making left turns on red lights, from a one-way street onto a one-way street. For example, west on M Street NW to a left on southbound 19th Street NW.

Is left on red permissible in the District?

Jerry Pruzan

North Bethesda

No. Not in Washington. However, in Maryland and Virginia, you can turn left on red if you're going from a one-way street onto a one-way street, so long as the turn is safe and not prohibited by a sign.

Perhaps you are seeing confused motorists in the District, or ones who know better but figure that red lights are for others.

Metro Service Slipping

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro is perpetually in need of money, yet fares have increased, parking rates have gone up and ridership is at an all-time high. Where is the money going?

I have ridden Metro for 20-plus years and have seen service steadily deteriorate. Problems collecting money at parking lots and garages show a total lack of awareness and accountability.

Elevators and escalators are in constant need of repair. Cleanliness has declined. Expensive electronic signs don't work.

We are paying more and getting far less in return in service and comfort. Thank you for saying it appears there are deeper issues with Metro that have not been investigated.

I think it is long past the time that we elevate our expectations and take a close, hard look at Metro's management.

Tim Ralston

Kensington

I know, I know. But to be fair to Metro, the system is showing its age, and is functioning without the kind of dedicated revenue (in tax subsidies) other transit systems have.

I am getting more and more of the above letters, though. It's a definite trend upward in the 18 years I've been doing this column.

Readers are complaining about trains lurching, riders eating, garbled announcements, failure to stop at fixed locations, off-loading entire trains for one sick passenger, jam-packed trains and trains with too few cars.

The Metro board, composed of elected officials and appointees, should know that we are counting on them to scrutinize Metro's operations and recommend necessary changes.

Scenic Route to Maine

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Some time ago, you published some routes to New England that avoided the New York City area. I didn't need them at the time, but now I do. Any chance you could provide one or more of them? Our destination is Maine.

Ron Lang

Kilmarnock, Lancaster County, Va.

Hello to the scenic Northern Neck! Here's one alternative:

Take U.S. Route 301 north, across the Governor Nice Bridge, to Route 50 in Maryland. Continue north as Route 301 turns into Route 3. Connect with Interstate 97 headed toward the Baltimore Beltway (I-695). Take that Beltway north to the exit for I-83 north (York, Pa.).

Near Harrisburg, I-83 will join I-81 north (toward Hazelton, Scranton). At Scranton, connect with I-84 east, crossing New York and Connecticut. Avoid Hartford, Conn., during rush hours.

I-84 will connect with I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Take I-90 east to link with I-95 outside of Boston, and proceed north into Maine.

This is one alternative that avoids most of I-95, metropolitan New York City, and all of the Capital Beltway. It is certainly more scenic than the I-95 corridor, and it saves on tolls. It may also be a bit longer.

P.S. I hope you are not going to drive this in one day. The Harrisburg-to- Scranton segment might be a good place to rest.

Tip for the Parking Challenged

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Thank you for your informative column. Here's a small tip to help judge how far away from the curb you are when parallel parking: With your interior remote, angle the side mirror down as far as it goes, and you will see the curb. .

Betty Drachman

Bethesda

Join Me Online Tomorrow

Dr. Gridlock will be online tomorrow, between 1 and 2 p.m., to take your questions about local transportation matters. Log on to www.washingtonpost/liveonline.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at drgridlock@washpost.com or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.