Side windows on dozens of Metrobuses have been scratched so badly by the system's bus-washing equipment that passengers cannot see through them. As a result, all the scratched windows are being replaced.

John P. Shacochis, a Metro director, said at a board meeting yesterday that he recently got what he regarded as the ultimate complaint - chartered buses were being dispatched for sightseeing trips, but the sightseers couldn't see the sights.

Philip Price, Metro's general superintendent of bus maintenance, said the scratched windows are made of a transparent plastic material that - unlike glass - has a relatively soft surface.

The plastic has been badly scarred by bus-washing machines installed at Metro's Arlington division, which dispatches all the buses serving the Rosslyn subway station, and the Southeastern division, which dispatches most of the buses serving Anacostia.

Price said the main trouble has been in the filters that are part of the washing machines. These permit sand and grit washed off buses to be recycled, acting as an abrasive when it is ground against the sides of the buses by large whirling brushes.

"We're replacing windows like crazy, but they're back again (scratched) in a week," Price said. He said Metro is experimenting with a new plastic window with a harder surface.

He had no estimate of the number of buses with windows that need to be replaced, or the cost of the replacement. In the last two months, he said, the windows in 42 buses at Southeastern alone were replaced. CAPTION: Picture, A Metrobus passenger is barely visible through this heavily scratched window. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post