Four buses got stuck on the ice, about 100 drivers more than usual called in sick, and one train had to be unloaded during each of yesterday's rush hours.
Despite those problems, Metro officials said yesterday they thought the transit system had operated well in Washington's worst winter storm so far this year.
"I would rate our train service as excellent, and our bus service very good," said Nicholas Roll, Metro's assistant general manager for transit services.
One group that might disagree were those in the Rosslyn station at 8:54 a.m. yesterday. After they boarded a train for Washington and the doors closed, they were told by public address, "Everybody off this train, right now - it's an emergency."
John Hartigan, a Securities and Exchange Commission employee, was approaching the train when sparks began shooting from under the car and up the wall on the tunnel side.
"Needless to say," Hartigan said "it scares the hell out of you when you're 10 feet from the car and it starts sparking." Nonetheless, he said, "people pushed ahead to get aboard the train, even when they saw the smoke."
The sparking was caused by failures in two electric motor-generators, which power heating and air conditioning equipment on the trains. A Metro maintenance man noticed the sparks and sounded the alarm.
After orderly unloading, the train was pulled out of the station, and the public address announced "there will be a long delay." There were groans. The total delay was actually nine minutes - the time it took for another train to enter the station, take passengers and leave.
There were minor disruptions at other stations - most notably the Pentagon, as rush-hour commuters backed up on the platforms while waiting for trains that had to wait for the Rosslyn problem to clear.
Because of the snow, many buses were arriving at the rail terminals later then usual, and the morning hour, which is usually tapering down by 9 a.m., was still in full swing at the time of the Rosslyn incident.
Roll said that some bus run were eliminated because of driver shortages and the unusually high sick-call rate.
One commuter stood on Connecticut Avenue south of Porter Street for 15 minutes yesterday waiting for buses that are supposed to run every 3 or 4 minutes. Nothing. Then an express bus passed, jammed full. (Express buses do not stop south of Porter.)
Two minutes later another express came by carrying only three people. It did not stop, because it's not supposed too.
"On a selective basis," Roll said, "I would agree that we should open the doors of express buses in such conditions." One of the reasons it was not done during the storm, he said, was "because I didn't think of it."
He said he would discuss an open-door policy on the Connecticut expresses during storms with other key Metro officials. "My predilection is to open these doors," he said. "They're going to have to convince me otherwise."
Roll is new to the job of being in charge of the buses. He will find that the policy of not taking passengers on almost-empty express buses is a long-time sore point with commuters who live south of Porter, and has been the subject of many complaints.
One train with a minor mechanical problem was unloaded at Foggy Bottom in the evening rush hour, but no other problems were reported.
Metro officials said that more than the usual number of people seemed to be riding the subway on a Friday, although hard numbers will not be available until Monday. Long lines of people stood at Farecard machines at both the Pentagon and Rosslyn stations in the morning. That means that many people who do not normally use the subway were buying fares. Rushing hour regulars avoid Farecard machines in the mornings.
Metro has been avaraging more than 130,000 people a day, and on Monday of this week carried 142,000. More than 97 per cent of the Metro trains scheduled have completed their trips in recent weeks, a far cry from the 75 to 85 per cent experience in the early months of the Blue Line last summer.
Bus ridership seemed lower than usual yesterday, Metro officials said.