METRO SAYS service should be normal this morning. Why don't we feel more grateful, eight days after a major snowstorm? Metrorail gambled last weekend and lost big time -- with a decision that left the system limping for the entire week. Had managers shut down the system a few hours early during Sunday's snowstorm, they would have been able to stash as many as 250 rail cars in the tunnels instead of stranding them along with the rest of the 872-car fleet on icy tracks outdoors. Result: Trains froze up, only 70 cars got underground, and only 48 were available for Monday service. The rest suffered various underbelly wounds that sent repair crews into round-the-clock surgery and left passengers crammed on platforms for up to an hour. By Friday the system still was at only 80 percent of typical service.

Metro officials explained that they didn't want to strand Sunday night passengers who were relying on rail, many of whom had ridden downtown to see ice shows at MCI Center. A noble intention, but a terrible tradeoff: A total of 10,000 determined troupers got Sunday rides, and a whole week's worth of commuters got shoddy to sub-par service or dug out their cars to join the jams on lane-deficient roads. Now public confidence in the system, like Metro's equipment, needs repair.