A 30-year-old Silver Spring man was arrested last night during an argument with an attendant at the Silver Spring Metro station as a crowd of several dozen commuters, angered by malfunctioning fare machines, shouted their support for the man.

The man, Michael P. Totten, an energy consultant, was led away in handcuffs. Shortly after the 6:30 p.m. incident, the crowd dispersed without further incident.

Totten was charged with disorderly conduct at the Montgomery County police station in Silver Spring, and then released. He told a reporter he was returning home with his wife, Jill, and was able to use his farecard to exit the station, but his wife needed to add fare to her card and waited in line at one of the station's three "add-fare" machines. Mrs. Totten said the machine next to her line ran out of change, then the machine at the head of her line broke.

"I went to the gate and tried to give him [the attendant] the extra money my husband was already on the other side of the barrier, and I wanted to get home to my children," she told a reporter. She said the attendant told her to get back in an addfare line or be arrested and she then tried to give him her farecard and a dollar bill but was told she still had to join the line. h

Then, according to Totten and a witness, Totten began arguing with Metro personnel and took out a pencil and paper and demanded the identity of the personnel. At that point, as the crowd heckled Metro attendants, Totten was arrested.

A Metro spokesman said the arrest was made after Totten used a racial epithet. Totten denied making any racial remarks. The Metro personnel involved in the dispute were unavailable for comment.