John Reeder, who opposes a widening of I-66 inside the Beltway [Close to Home, Oct. 10], doesn't realize the difference in commuting patterns from the 1970s to the present.

In the '70s car pooling was popular, and we were told that Metro eventually would reduce congestion by transporting many workers downtown while breaking even on fares.

Now, more than 20 years later, Metro hasn't come close to fulfilling that vision and with so much growth far outside the Beltway, it is serving a smaller portion of the commuting public each year.

Car pooling also has been a victim of lifestyle changes. Now commuting is mixed with errands and family activities. Car pooling continues to decline as a commuting option to the point that HOV-4 on I-66 is down to HOV-2. As Mr. Reeder observes, the traffic flows freely once the non-HOV traffic has been weeded out, and westbound traffic would flow even better if the non-HOV traffic ever faced enforcement.

But if the heavy traffic on I-66 has not persuaded commuters to try other alternatives, HOV restrictions won't either -- commuters simply will switch to Route 50, Lee Highway or other nearby routes, causing more of an impact on Arlington residents than an expansion of I-66 inside the Beltway would.

Mass transit has failed as the single answer to congestion in this area. Meanwhile fewer than half the freeways planned for this area in the 1950s and 1960s were built or built to full capacity. Doubling the freeway miles now available would mean a tremendous improvement in traffic flow and quality of life.

MIKE McGUIRE

Falls Church