ALL RIGHT, AREA MOTORISTS, stand by -- or drive by, if that's what it takes -- for you just may be the next lucky winner of a free $1 Metro farecard in the mayor's new taxpayer-sponsored traffic lottery. So far, some 6,500 car owners have been surprised through the mail, as part of an elaborate and somewhat wacky promotion aimed at commuters who have been using 13th Street NW as their oneway rush-hour drag strip to and from work every day.

The cards have been sent to owners of cars that were spotted on 13th Street during the week after Labor Day (a big time, for that's when District officials calculated that hardly anyone would be on vacation).The prizes were meant -- would you believe -- to lure drivers out of their cars by Jan. 7, when 13th Street will stop being one-way during rush hours. Here's how the game was set up:

Back in September, the District's traffic wizards asked the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to trace commuters using the street. Then to the tune of about $10,000 in federal and local funds, COG wheels dispatched employees to an intersection to spot and record license-plate numbers. Then, for about six weeks more, the spotters worked with Maryland and District officials to match plates with owners and addresses. With each free farecard went a little kit containing information on computer car pools, bus schedules and maps.

What next? Perhaps in the name of cost-effectiveness, the District will coordinate with COG in fielding another team on or about Jan. 8, to take the total number of plates using 13th Street both ways, dividing it by two for the operative lane subtotal, matching that against the September returns and sending every 42nd car owner a free Metrobus and the addresses of the other 41 drivers. We're all for promoting Metro use instead of car use, but is this any way to run a promotion?