Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Route 210 (Indian Head Highway) runs from the Capital Beltway to Indian Head in Charles County, a distance of about 30 miles. Unfortunately, the route has about 13 traffic lights.

Both Routes 5 and 50 are speedways compared with Route 210. Why? Because their traffic lights were replaced with interchanges.

Are you aware of any plans to relieve the congestion on Route 210?

Mark Williams

Indian Head

Sadly, the state doesn't have plans for much in the way of road improvements on Route 210. The state is looking at addressing a couple of intersections in the future, but it's too far off for dates, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

What you can do is press your county officials to support the installation of interchanges in the Route 210 corridor.

The state has done a wonderful job with replacing traffic lights with interchanges on Route 29 in Howard and Montgomery counties, and on Routes 4 and 5 in Prince George's County. I would think Route 210, with its many traffic lights, should be a high priority for interchanges.

Anti-Theft, to Boot

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here's an idea to discourage car thefts that's no more odd than others I've seen. I wonder how much it would cost to buy a "boot" such as the ones the District government attaches to one of your vehicle's wheels if you're too much of a scofflaw.

Seems to me that it would be bulletproof and ought to discourage a car thief.

Mark LaBarre

Rockville

That's a novel approach. What does it say about the number of cars stolen in our area that we now have to boot ourselves for protection?

I haven't heard of citizens booting themselves to keep their vehicles from being stolen. Anyone out there have any knowledge of that?

Drop the Coins

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metrobuses recently started using fare boxes that require more careful, one-by-one depositing of coins. Fare-paying with coins now takes longer.

Metro might prefer that people use SmarTrip cards on buses, but some of us don't want to. It would be helpful if Metro resumed selling bus tokens and tickets that can be used for the regular and the elderly/disabled fares. Those slip into the fare box more easily.

Rachel Hecht

Washington

Here is a response from Candace Smith, a Metro spokeswoman:

"Metrobus fare boxes were outfitted with a new coin insertion slot last month to eliminate coin jams. Just like vending machines, riders have to insert coins one at a time. Previously, riders would dump a handful of coins in the fare box coin cup, which caused the machines to malfunction and caused delays for passengers waiting to pay their fare.

"Metro encourages customers to use SmarTrip cards, because of the security, speed and convenience. However, we still sell and accept Metrobus tokens for regular-fare customers and students.

"Tickets were discontinued over 18 months ago, as they cannot be inserted into the new fare box. Seniors and people with a disability can purchase a weekly $6 Metrobus flash pass that provides unlimited travel on all Metro buses for that week.

"Information about these passes, and tokens, can be found by clicking on this link: www.wmata.com/riding/passes.cfm.

"Seniors also can pay half the one-way fare upon presentation to the bus driver of their WMATA Seniors card, or a Medicare card."

Thank you, Ms. Smith. I hope that covers your questions, Ms. Hecht. It sounds like a flash pass would be the quickest way to board if you are a senior citizen and/or disabled.

Otherwise, tokens could be the way to go. Let Dr. Gridlock know how this works.

Lumps in the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What's with the asphalt lumps every 45 feet or so across all lanes on the Capital Beltway outer loop between St. Barnabas Road and Route 5?

Like minor speed bumps, they are extremely uncomfortable, and you can't avoid them.

Michael R. Kelley

City of Fairfax

What you're seeing and feeling is patchwork on the Beltway. The Maryland State Highway Administration is going to resurface the inner and outer loops of the Beltway between Routes 210 and 5. First comes the patching, then the overlay.

Elsewhere on the Beltway, the highway department is doing the same work from the Prince George's-Montgomery county border to Route 193 (Greenbelt Road).

Each of those projects is about three miles long and scheduled to be finished next spring.

HOV Alternative

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I travel Route 50 in Maryland between Davidsonville Road and New York Avenue every day. There are HOV-2 lanes between Route 197 and the Capital Beltway, yet at least half the cars in the HOV lanes have only a single occupant in the vehicle.

What agency is responsible for HOV enforcement in Maryland?

Are there any plans to create HOV lanes on Route 50 inside the Beltway?

Andrew Wilson

West River

There are no plans to extend the HOV lanes, according to Chuck Gischlar of the Maryland State Highway Administration. The Maryland State Police are responsible for policing the Route 50 HOV lanes. They are having no more success than the Virginia State Police are with their HOV lanes. The violation rate is about 25 percent in both states.

That is unacceptable. The federal government and states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build express lanes used by too many traffic violators.

The next wave of express lanes in Maryland, express toll lanes, will attempt to address the problem by walling off new interstate lanes, charging a toll through electronic transponders and using cameras to catch toll violators. Those lanes would be open to everyone, meaning no need to enforce HOV lanes.

The state is considering adding two of those lanes in each direction for all or part of the Beltway in Maryland, Interstate 270, and Interstate 95 between the Capital and Baltimore beltways.

It's too soon in the planning to have dates yet, but the express toll lanes seem like a reasonable way to address the problem of chronic HOV violations.

Drivers, Be Patient

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm responding to the letter from the driver who was annoyed at children dawdling while entering and exiting school buses [Dr. Gridlock, July 7]. That driver should chill out. Maybe the children in his area are getting on the bus slowly, but perhaps there is more than meets the eye.

My son looks like any other young child waiting for the bus, but looks can be deceiving. He is autistic and requires a few extra moments when getting on the bus.

My son is unavoidably delayed in boarding the bus by our efforts to improve his social skills and secure him in his seat. The bus is not legally allowed to move until he is strapped in.

Those two efforts take little time, but there have been several instances when drivers have honked at the bus and, on at least one occasion, the bus driver was reported to the Anne Arundel County transportation office for standing too long.

I ask all drivers to be patient. Please allow yourself a few extra minutes when you know you're going to encounter a bus along your route.

And in the end, treat each bus as if it is carrying your own most precious cargo, your children, and give the school bus drivers a break.

Lori Skalitzky

Crofton

Amen. 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.