In the Sept. 19 column, I noted that motorists seemed to have yellow decals in the shape of ribbons on the back of their vehicles. The decals say "Support Our Troops." I asked where they could be obtained.

In response, readers suggested that these magnets (not decals) could be purchased at Hallmark or Total Crafts stores, or by logging on to www.magnetamerica.com, among others.

Reader Chris Bennett of Springfield wrote, "I hope your column does not encourage people to get these magnets.

"If you put one on your trunk, no troop will see it. No life will be saved. If someone does or does not have a magnet on their car, is the war closer to being won or lost?

"What purpose does empty, more-patriotic-than-thou symbolism serve?"

Dr. Gridlock responded: "I think you have to be stationed abroad to appreciate the meaning of a care package . . . or 'Support Our Troops' magnets, which our soldiers can see while on home leave. They are serving for you, Mr. Bennett. You can salute them, or not."

Among those commenting:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I must take exception to your response to Chris Bennett's letter regarding the display of yellow ribbons. Mr. Bennett raises a fair position that displaying yellow ribbons (and flags, for that matter) is not the only way to support American troops, and that, conversely, not displaying those symbols does not mean you do not support the troops.

I think all fair-minded Americans support our armed forces because of the sacrifices they make for all of us, and just because some people choose not to "salute" the troops by displaying these images does not make them less supportive or less American. To imply otherwise is a bit like asking "Do you still beat your wife?" and stating you are un-American to not display a ribbon or flag. Patriotism is not defined by symbols.

I choose to support our troops not by displaying symbols but by seeking to elect politicians who will truly keep our troops out of harm's way unless absolutely necessary and who will properly recognize their service and sacrifice.

Because I do not display the yellow ribbon does not mean I do not support our troops.

Lynn Myers

Arlington

Fair enough.

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 have lights burned out. Metro used to clean these, but they have stopped since last summer. Did they 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," Taubenkibel said.

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 the Addison Road and Landover stations.

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 at 91,665, is going to cause more commuting difficulties for some patrons. I'm interested in other ways you folks have conquered the congestion.

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.

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.

Let's see: 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 greater 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, probably through bonds.

And next year, when the General Assembly members and the governor are up for election, the upset Metro riders and people tired of gridlock need to show the political 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.

Rush-Hour Parking Woes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wrote to you in April and suggested that the folks who illegally park in the right (or left) lane during rush hour should be fined $500 per occurrence.

Since writing that letter, I actually witnessed a police cruiser on E Street systematically pull up behind illegally parked folks and turn on a siren-type noise; those folks quickly moved away from the curb.

Why can't that be done daily for a month and repeated as necessary? Please beg those people you know in power to try it. The excuse that there are not enough police to do that does not fly.

Sheila Wing

Washington

A lot of the vehicles illegally parked in the curb lane during rush hours have no drivers. What good would a siren be? Also, the siren alert that sends some illegal parkers scurrying for cover simply reinforces the notion that there is no penalty for illegal parking. Police will warn, but not ticket. That encourages more violations.

What we need are higher fines (they were raised to $100 last year) and meticulous enforcement to get these scofflaws off the streets and help traffic move.

Slowing Tailgaters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have to side with Don Juran [Dr. Gridlock, Extra, Sept. 23] in thinking that slowing down gradually is the best way to deal with tailgaters.

I know you suggest moving to the next lane on the right, but what does one do when she or he is tailgated in the right-hand lane?

That has happened to me a number of times, most often on Interstate 95 north of Baltimore. The apparent reason is that the driver is planning to make a right exit -- some five or 10 miles ahead. These people are lazy as well as stupid!

Each situation has to be judged individually, but generally I think that allowing these maniacs -- as you aptly call them -- to run the rest of us off the road is counterproductive.

Carl Yaffe

Rockville

We want to put the maniacs ahead of us as fast as possible. That's why I suggest moving to the right.

Tip Thwarts Tailgater

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I usually pull over when it is safe and let tailgaters go by. After reading your Thursday column on the subject in Southern Maryland Extra, I told my husband, and he had occasion to try it that evening. It worked.

Mary Shifflette

Prince Frederick

Now that's results! Let them zoom on by, out of your way.

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.