Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It's very scary to watch someone drive by you, fully engaged in a cell phone conversation, with one hand on the phone and the other, animated in the air. It takes only seconds for a disaster to happen, and you have seconds to respond.

I've also observed drivers not only on the phone, but also reading a map spread out across the steering wheel. What's wrong with these people?

Having laws against cell phone use is fine, except the laws are not enforced. New York state has such a law, and many people there still use hands-on cell phones while driving.

Police are not actually pulling people over for using a cell phone. They may issue summonses for breaking this law after you have been pulled over for a traffic violation or expired registration and the officer notes that you were using a hand-held phone.

What to do? Stay off the phone while driving! Pull off the road if you need to talk. Use the hands-free devices. At least you'll have one hand on the steering wheel!

Terri Wujick

Sterling

The District has outlawed use of a hand-held cell phone while driving. I think Virginia and Maryland should follow suit. It's dangerous.

Hybrids in HOV Lanes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Are hybrid vehicles required by law to have the Clean Special Fuel/CF license plates to legally use HOV lanes on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway?

Steve Berto

Annandale

Yes. Those license plates qualify a vehicle for an exemption from HOV rules in Virginia.

Metro Cleanliness

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As a daily user of the Capitol South Station on the Blue and Orange lines, I am appalled at how dirty the outside escalators are. They are filthy, constantly breaking down and with lights burned out. Did Metro stop cleaning them to save money?

Davin Peterson

Woodbridge

Many readers ask if budget cuts have affected Metro's ability to clean its rail cars and station areas. Metro says no and says it has a full complement of custodians who regularly clean cars and station areas.

Every three months, Metro samples 400 users about service and cleanliness and generally gets a grade of B, according to Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman.

"If riders have concerns on cleanliness issues, we encourage them to call us at 202-637-1328," he said.

Let Traffic Steer Your Vote

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I continue to be amazed at the planning/traffic/political situation in Virginia. It is the same in Chesterfield County, just south of Richmond, as it is in Northern Virginia, where I have lived for the past 17 months.

Local politicians and planning staffs keep allowing developers to build and build. But it is the commonwealth that controls the roads. And we have a quasi-political entity without any revenue-producing authority that controls Metro.

We need an authority in the D.C. area similar to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with the autonomy to act and the legal authority to raise revenue.

And next year, when the General Assembly members and the governor are up for election, upset Metro riders and people tired of gridlock need to show the incumbents who got us into this mess the exit!

Larry Kelly

Alexandria

Further, every one of these county supervisors who have approved endless residential subdivisions while there is no road system to handle the extra traffic should be given the boot. It is about all a voter can do.

Develop Vienna Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is my response to the proposed development around the Vienna Metro station. First, there is something that everyone here is overlooking. You cannot stop development in Northern Virginia, anywhere. So why not put the density around the Metro stations so people will ride the rail and not drive?

This really is a no-brainer. We pay Metro in subsidies and, by golly, they can add cars or we stop giving them funds. Period.

I am a native of Northern Virginia. I lived around the Vienna Metro all my life. I was raised on Fairlee Drive. We did not ask for the townhouses behind Maple Street and the condos and apartments behind Fairlee Drive. But they came and ruined the only quaint place where my family felt comfort and peace in Fairfax County.

With the development of this area and the neighborhood gone, use the space wisely. Promote mass transit, not Interstate 66 or Lee Highway.

The county will bring in much-needed revenue with the tax base generated from the assessments of homes around the Metro. Another point is that condos are likely to bring single people, and that means no need for additional schools and other resources families might use. Make it a self-sustaining community that uses mass transit.

Fairfax cannot go back. We can never be a small town again, so use our space and resources wisely.

Anne Ney McCord

Fairfax

Fairfax does not gain by having eight residential towers at the Vienna station. The extra tax revenue will not pay for the services needed. They generally don't.

Metrorail on the Orange Line is jammed to capacity. So are the adjoining roads of Route 29, Route 123 and Nutley Street. Can you simply keep adding vehicles and riders by building up?

It would make sense if the road and Metro capacity were there to serve it. But it isn't, and there is no relief in sight.

Take Car, Train and Bus

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have never driven to FedEx Field and never will. I drive from Annandale to Metro's Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Station and take a shuttle bus to the stadium. Every once in a while I take Metro from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Station to the Addison Road Station and transfer to a shuttle bus. Works for me.

When the shuttle started running to the stadium, there were three stations for pickup, and that distributed the crowd better. Now the shuttle serves only Addison Road and Landover. With the opening of the Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center stations on Dec. 18, it will be interesting to see if we can walk in to FedEx.

Whatever, hail to the Redskins, from a 50-year ticket holder.

George S. Parsons

Fairfax

Congratulations for figuring out the transportation system and commuting by Metrorail and bus.

I drove to the Dallas game on a Monday night. The trip from Braddock Road and the Beltway via Interstate 395 and D.C. Route 295 to Route 50 east to Landover Road took 21/2 hours of inching along. Never again!

The gradual increase in stadium capacity, now to 91,665, is going to cause more commuting difficulty for some patrons. I'm interested in other ways you folks have conquered the congestion.

Reckless Motorcyclists

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to "Hog-Wild Riders" [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 23], I can offer this perspective from law enforcement.

Our regular police cruisers are no match for the type of motorcycles I believe your reader is commenting on. Sport motorcycles are extremely fast and maneuverable. The police are very cautious about engaging in any pursuit and weigh the decision to pursue against the violation committed, the highway conditions and the safety of the public and the police officer.

We have not, however, given up on attempting to apprehend these dangerous drivers. We have had great success with the use of our police helicopters, which follow these drivers from high above and eventually let the officers on the ground know where they end up.

In addition, we have experienced success in using unmarked cruisers to get close enough to record the license plate numbers so we can follow up without engaging in a chase.

When we do catch them -- and we are catching more and more as we perfect our strategy -- they at the very least face reckless driving charges, which can and often do result in jail time and a significant license suspension in Virginia.

The few sport motorcycle riders who choose to engage in this dangerous behavior on our roads and highways give the rest of the sport motorcycle riders a bad reputation.

Motorists can continue to report this activity to the police (#77 on a cell phone or 911) and we will do our best to catch them, keeping the safety of everyone in mind.

Capt. J.F. Bowman

Commander, Traffic Division

Fairfax County Police

Department

Thank you, captain. It is good to know law enforcement is concerned about these high-speed, lane-weaving, reckless motorcycle operators.

I wonder if I could ask for an example of a recently cited violator(s), as well as the number of citations issued for 2004, and the disposition of their cases in court, if possible.

That would amplify your points.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.