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.

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.

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.