Riders reported panicked and uncomfortable scenes on the stuck trains and little information on what was going on or how long it would last.
Once the trains made it to the stations, there was crowding and confusion. At Navy Yard/Ballpark, Anacostia and other Metro stops, passengers were frustrated by the absence of shuttle buses and lack of official direction.
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles apologized publicly to riders Thursday and promised a thorough review.
In a statement, he said, “there is more that can and will be done to better assist our customers during such incidents. The responsibility for improvement rests squarely on our shoulders at Metro.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, he said that what happened was “unacceptable to customers and unacceptable to me.”
During Thursday’s evening commute, Sarles went to the Navy Yard station and greeted customers, saying it was “good to hear unfiltered comments” from commuters. “There were some who were very unhappy, and I don’t blame them,” he said at the station.
The statements, the interviews and the visit to the Navy Yard station were part of an unusually aggressive public-relations response by Metro, which is in the midst of a campaign to build support for major improvements to the aging transit system.
This is just the latest in a string of problems for Metro’s operations. Dozens of riders were stranded Sunday night for two hours on an Orange Line train that lost power near the Cheverly station. And on a sweltering July day, about 150 riders fled a stalled Green Line train near College Park after it lost power and air conditioning.
Several months ago, The Post filed a request for reports and other materials related to July’s incident on the Green Line, but the transit agency has not released the information.
Sarles said Thursday that the transit agency has begun an investigation into the most recent incident and that the results will be presented next month to a committee of board members. The final report will be made public, Metro officials said.
The problems began about 4:40 p.m. Wednesday when Metro crews responded to a smoking piece of the third rail outside the Anacostia station.
As a result, trains had to share a single track between Navy Yard and Southern Avenue, which caused delays and crowding for Green Line riders as the evening rush hour was getting underway.
A slow, inconvenient commute became a potentially dangerous one just after 5:30 p.m., when the power was cut in the tunnel between Navy Yard and Anacostia with two trains still on the tracks.
Sarles said a Metro employee “hit the emergency power down button” — which killed power to another segment of the track — because the employee “perceived it was a safety issue.”