Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Given the construction on the Bay Bridge, those of us who use it on weekends would appreciate your help in figuring out the best time to travel.

It was evident on a recent Friday that leaving even as early as 2 p.m. won't help.

I'm not sure that even leaving on Thursday evening would change the situation.

Any suggestions?

Susan Brown

Chevy Chase

I checked with the Maryland Transportation Authority, and here is the advice of spokesman Bryon Johnston:

For those heading to the Eastern Shore, try to use the Bay Bridge between 7 and 10 p.m. Thursdays; before 2 p.m. or after 11 p.m. Fridays; anytime Saturdays; and between 7 and 11 a.m. (in both directions) Sundays. Otherwise, expect delays due to lane closures, he said.

The authority is redecking and resurfacing the westbound bridge, which is scheduled to be finished by Memorial Day 2006. The reason there are backups on the eastbound bridge is that the authority often converts one lane of the westbound bridge to eastbound traffic during peak eastbound travel hours, and that practice will be interrupted by the construction.

So, Ms. Brown, leave a little earlier, so you can be on the bridge by 2 p.m. Friday, or between 7 and 10 p.m. Thursday night, and you should be okay.

If you want to check traffic flow on the 4.5-mile bridge, you can call 877-BAYSPAN and press zero to talk to an employee at the bridge, or you can see what a live video camera at the bridge is showing by logging on to www.chart.state.md.us and click on "Local Traveler Information." Other facts and advice about the bridge can be found on www.mdtransportationauthority.com.

Please keep me posted about your crossings.

Advice From an Ex-Metro Rider

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The most direct way to voice displeasure with the state of Metro's affairs is to vote with the wallet. Choose another form of commuting.

I have been carpooling from Fairfax into the heart of D.C. every day for several years. The difference in my professional life is almost beyond measure.

I have saved thousands of dollars and do not have to deal with overcrowded trains, obnoxious station managers, being exposed to the elements and crumbling rail infrastructure.

The HOV lanes save me time coming and going, and I spend much less time in traffic.

Start a carpool. Share the costs. Send Metro a message. Empower yourself.

Christian Monlezun

Fairfax

If people are voting their displeasure with Metro by withholding their presence, it's not working. Metrorail has had more passengers in the past year than ever, with some days surpassing 800,000 trips.

However, as you point out, carpooling can be a wonderful alternative, especially if that leads to qualifying for the HOV express lanes. To learn more about carpooling and to find matches, call 800-745-RIDE, a free service offered by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

MADD's Campaign

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is conducting its annual "tie-one-on" red ribbon campaign.

Free MADD red ribbons are available for anyone interested in reminding drivers not to drink and drive.

However, since most cars now do not have radio antennas, magnetic red ribbons are also available for a suggested donation of $5 or more.

Please submit your red ribbon request in writing to MADD, 18620 Darden Court, Leesburg, Va. 20176. For more information, call 888-500-MADD.

Thank you for giving this public exposure.

Terence McCarthy,

MADD Program Director,

Leesburg

You're welcome. A good cause. Anything to help remind people of the dangers of drunken driving.

Know of a Good Samaritan?

Dr. Gridlock is welcoming your stories about how some Good Samaritan helped you in a time of distress on our transportation system, roads or public transit. Please send them in for the annual Thanksgiving column. Thanks.

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. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.