Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Due to rising gasoline prices, the number of commuters who ride the Mass Transit Administration buses to the District and park at the Harry S. Truman park-and-ride lot near Annapolis has increased significantly.

The lot is now full to overflowing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And Anne Arundel County police have begun issuing parking tickets to those who park along the curb.

Is there a logical reason why -- especially at a time when use of this MTA mass transit service is on the increase -- the county is ticketing commuters who are keeping their cars off the highways? Isn't the whole point of mass transit and the park-and-ride concept to save gas and reduce traffic congestion and emissions?

Those of us who utilize the excellent bus service provided by Dillon's Bus Service and the MTA put up with some of the inconveniences of mass transit knowing that, in the end, we have a much more sane commute, with the added bonus of saving fuel and reducing emissions.

My cynical side thinks the county is avoiding the public hearing process by creating a de facto parking fee through ticketing, but I'm sure there must be another reason for this absurd ticketing. Doc, can you help?

Bob Wiggans

Arnold

Sgt. Shawn Urbas, Anne Arundel County police spokesman, says that if "No Parking" signs are posted at a curb, then motorists can't park there, regardless of the civic good one may accomplish by using mass transit.

I need to know more about whether the areas where you are getting ticketed have posted parking restrictions.

Parking Impasse

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While driving one-way 18th Street NW between F and G streets during a recent morning rush hour, I noticed a car parked in the left lane, which is supposed to remain clear during rush hours. Any blockage of these rush-hour lanes can cause severe backups. When I noticed a police officer looking at the car, I thought, "Good! That illegally parked vehicle will be removed."

The next morning, what did I see but the same car parked in the same place, apparently unmoved since the previous morning! The car was not identified as a government or official vehicle, but it was displaying handicap plates.

Now, if it were up to me, I wouldn't even give the president a pass on parking illegally during rush hour. Do you know why this vehicle was allowed to remain in its illegal spot?

Rick Johnson

Burke

No, but you can report such chronic problems to the mayor's command center at 202-727-1000. Keep track of your report. If nothing happens in a few weeks, please write back to me, with license plate numbers and vehicle location, and I'll contact the police.

Illegal parking is the biggest cause of downtown gridlock, and police should be all over violators.

Route 5 Intersections

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What happened to the plans to upgrade Route 5's intersections with Surratts, Brandywine and Accokeek roads to overpasses and underpasses? Are there still plans to go ahead with these upgrades?

Darrell Francis

Fort Washington

No small question, with 80,000 vehicles a day passing through those intersections, but the state has not funded interchanges at Surratts, Brandywine and Accokeek roads.

The state did install some turn lanes at Surratts a couple years ago. Currently, a developer is installing more turn lanes, and the state is trying to get the developer not to work during morning rush hours. His work is causing additional inbound traffic congestion, according to Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Coordinated Lights

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there anything we can do to coordinate the traffic lights on Route 5 in Brandywine? In the morning they back up traffic from Waldorf for miles. There are two lights together, and they don't always change at the same time.

It would seem that Prince George's County could improve this situation or create an interchange there like the one in Clinton.

Whom could I contact about this?

Kimberly Grotenrath

Waldorf

You can call the Maryland State Highway Administration for Prince George's County, at 301-513-7300, and ask for Prince George's traffic operations.

Also, see the related letter from Mr. Francis in today's column.

We all marvel at the Route 5 interchanges built at Allentown and Woodyard roads, closer to the Capital Beltway. Pardon us for clamoring for the same treatment closer to the Charles County line.

One-Plate Mystery

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The number of Maryland registered vehicles carrying only a rear plate is a widespread problem. I have probably seen a dozen Maryland vehicles each day with only one plate.

I have also seen several vehicles with expired tags, only one registration sticker or no stickers.

Tom Lansford

Laurel

The Maryland MVA says it is not aware of such problems. If readers could get more details -- such as the license plate number, which plate is missing and where the vehicle was spotted -- I can ask the MVA to look into the matter.

A Police Pretender?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I know you're probably tired of hearing complaints about HOV offenders on westbound Route 50, but here's a new one.

This morning, my wife and I were in the HOV lane heading to work in the District. Traffic was flowing fairly smoothly, for a change, so there were few, if any, solo drivers in the HOV-2 lane.

We had just passed Freeway Airport in Mitchellville when I noticed a green Ford Taurus coming up behind us.

As it got closer, I noticed a woman driving solo and a weak red light flashing on the dashboard. This was definitely not a police car. The light looked like one available at Lowe's hardware store.

This woman did not pass us until the very end of HOV at the Capital Beltway. Farther down Route 50, where it narrows to two lanes, I passed her in traffic and noticed the light was no longer on the dash.

I reported the incident to the Maryland State Police as an impersonation of an officer. When an officer ran the tag, the number came back as unknown.

The officer explained that a federal agency probably owned the car and the driver was misusing her position -- i.e., using HOV -- for her own needs. This was just another case of me-first.

Barry P. Catelinet

Bowie

It could also have been a legitimate use of the HOV lanes by a law enforcement officer.

Do stores really sell portable red or blue lights that can be put on dashboards? As I understand it, blue lights -- not red -- are used in police work.

Never Too Young

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Parents need to realize that they start influencing their children's future driving habits when the kids are about 3 years old. Like it or not, children tend to imitate the behavior of those around them. Parents who ferry their kids around are setting an example that no amount of driving instruction can overcome.

Jean Busby

Manassas

Adult Refresher Courses

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You've often observed that many commercial driving schools in our area are little more than certificate mills, and you have warned that parents need to take direct responsibility for properly teaching their children how to drive.

What about middle-aged adults who lack confidence in their own driving ability, are terrified of Washington-area traffic and could benefit from a good behind-the-wheel defensive driving course? I have a friend who admits she could use a good accident avoidance skills program but has been able to find local courses geared only to teenagers or traffic court defendants.

Are there any programs in the Washington area that you would recommend for an adult refresher course?

My suggestion that she look into the well-regarded BSR program at Summit Point, W.Va., was shot down as being "too far away." Any advice you might have about more accessible options would be most appreciated!

Ken Gaul

Burke

BSR is just over the Virginia border, near Charles Town, W.Va. Another program is run by Car Guys of Rockville (800-800-GUYS). The Potomac Driving School in Rockville was recently recommended by a reader.

Good luck!

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in Extra and Sundays in the Metro section. 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 telephone numbers.