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If travel is driving you crazy, blog the DOT

/ Source: The Associated Press

Forget long layovers, longer security lines and delay-induced dinners of Auntie Anne's Pretzels at the airport, the Transportation Department wants you to think of life in the fast lane when you travel.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Tuesday launched the agency's new Fast Lane blog, which she described as an online community to share comments, ideas, announcements and breaking news.

"After all, if I'm going to insist on 21st Century solutions for our transportation system, I better communicate in a 21st Century way!" she wrote in the blog's maiden post, which attracted about 20 generally positive "thanks for doing this" type comments by 5 p.m.

An agency spokesman said comments will be reviewed to make sure they're free of personal attacks, slurs or inappropriate language. If a topic attracts hundreds of comments, a representative sample of them may be posted instead.

The agency also plans to start hosting Web chats with Peters and other senior DOT officials as well as building a video page some time this year.

In Peters' second post, she announced from Chicago that the city was awarded a $153 million federal grant to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Guest blogger Mayor Richard Daley followed with a post of his own thanking the department.

Darrell West, a public policy professor at Brown University, said that government blogs represent an opportunity for officials "to shape and be shaped by public opinion."

"Blogs inherently are interactive and help agencies learn what is on people's minds," he wrote in an e-mail. "I see this as a plus for agency responsiveness."

There are at least three dozen active and archived government blogs, including online musings from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and updates from the stacks of the Library of Congress.

In late January, the Transportation Security Administration, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, introduced its "Evolution of Security" blog for travelers to air their grievances about security at American airports.

The blog — the brainchild of TSA Administrator Kip Hawley — has been a hit of sorts, attracting hundreds of comments from travelers, employees and others within the first two weeks. However, comments have also shown deep public contempt for the TSA, which is among the least-liked federal agencies.

TSA has said that it wasn't worried about such harsh criticism and that it welcomes such feedback.