Dear Dr. Gridlock:

So the latest idea from Metro is to remove seats so people will fill the gap in the middle of the train [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 17]? Won't happen.

Anyone who has ridden the New York subway, the PATH trains between New Jersey and New York City or the Chicago subway at rush hour knows that regardless of the seating configuration, people stand by the doors. In fact, some people stand by the doors even when there are empty seats -- and even if they are traveling long distances.

New riders have to fight their way through the standees to get to empty seats in the middle of the train, much less to get to standing room in the middle of the train.

Metro does need to plan for more riders. It can do that immediately by (1) adding more cars, so every train is eight cars long, and (2) reducing the times between trains during peak periods to three minutes (which is what the PATH system does).

On a long-term basis, Metro needs to figure out how to double track the system -- how to do that, I don't know, because the system was poorly planned with only a single track in each direction -- and to provide more parking spaces.

Finally, no one in Metro's management or its board of directors should be permitted to drive to work. It's easy to dream about making people stand when you're riding in your car. It's another thing entirely to dream about standing when you're the one doing the standing.

Joel Whitaker

Silver Spring

Here is the timetable for expanding Metrorail to eight-car trains:

* By the end of 2006, 20 percent of all trains will have eight cars.

* By the end of 2007, 30 percent of all trains will have eight cars.

* By the end of 2008, 50 percent of all trains will have eight cars.

The question of which lines get the eight-car trains has yet to be determined.

That is all that is in the pipeline now. Eight cars is the longest train Metrorail stations can accommodate.

It would be nice to have an extra track to allow for express trains, as in New York, but the cost of installing a new track now would be prohibitive.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've written to you before with this idea. In order to stop the crowding at the doors of Metro trains, make the doors on each train one way, such as reserving the end doors for entering and the middle doors for exiting.

Why won't that work?

Nick James

Potomac

Controlling the flow of passengers works elsewhere. Of course, each side of a Metrorail car has three sets of doors: one at each end and one in the center.

On the BART subway system in the San Francisco Bay area, customers line up on marked areas on the platform and board the cars politely in single file, I'm told, in contrast with the mad rush here to get on and off.

For a long time, Metro officials told Dr. Gridlock that marked entry points couldn't be used here because the Metro trains didn't have precise enough braking systems to halt at a specific, marked place on the platform; hence, lining up wouldn't work.

Now, however, Metro has made braking adjustments and plans to test platform markers at three stations: Union Station, Metro Center and Gallery Place-Chinatown. Test results could be ready by spring. A new, more urgent "Doors Closing" announcement also will be tested.

This is an important concept. I'm hoping it works here.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

No other subway system in the world besides Metro has train entrances and exits that routinely are blocked by riders. This is not a new issue. The problem has existed since the system opened in 1976, but the system has always been run, and is still run, by people who don't use Metro.

Metro is proposing to respond to the doorway crowding problem by removing some seats and the aisle poles, as if the two features are related. The stupid pole, which is in the way of foot traffic, has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of seats. We could get rid of the pole and have more, fewer or the same number of seats.

William Samuel

Silver Spring

New Metro trains, arriving now and over the next three years, will not have poles. I suspect the poles in existing cars will give way once the various car reconfiguration plans are evaluated.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I spent four months in Brussels about two years ago and used their subway every day. Their train interiors had few seats and a lot of standing room, a design our own Metro system is testing.

During rush hours, the cars were crowded. There were few people in wheelchairs because the system was not easily accessible, although each car had a number of seats reserved for disabled people, pregnant women, etc.

People there apparently had learned to move toward the center of the cars, away from the doors, until they had to leave the trains. There were no problems.

Michael K. Hoffman

Bethesda

It is nice to know that order and efficiency work in some systems. I wonder if the Brussels system handles 700,000 passenger trips a day, as ours does.

Taxi Zones vs. Meters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The zone fare system gives taxi drivers the incentive to take the fastest, most direct route to the destination; meters create a disincentive to do that.

I agree that the District's taxicab zone system is a bit complicated, but so is the Metro Farecard system for first-time users, and people figure it out pretty quickly. The solution is to better publicize the zone map, both in cabs and in tourist information.

District residents have no excuse for not learning the zones and their fares. And while you suggest tourists will have a harder time with zones, I am pretty sure they would be the ones paying the most for circuitous routes under a meter system.

Jeffrey S. Lubbers

Takoma Park

I'm still asking if anyone knows of anywhere else in the world where there is a similar zoned taxicab fare system. I haven't had a positive answer. Wonder why.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. 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.