With the area struggling to recover from the Presidents' Day blizzard, the predictable torrent of excuses has poured forth from Metro officials concerning the storm's paralyzing effect on the mass transit system.

Metro Deputy General Manager James Gallagher [Metro, Feb. 21] defended the decision to continue normal service hours on the evening of Feb. 16, which cost the system precious time to reposition subway cars from exposed rail yards into tunnels. Metro's decision not to strand unprepared riders during a major winter storm has merit. But "single-tracking," or using only one track for trains going in both directions, could have balanced the service needs of Sunday night riders and protected weather-sensitive rail cars.

Metro single-tracks trains during off-peak hours to perform track maintenance and other routine service. Why not single-track on that Sunday, when forecasts for a record storm neared certainty?

Metro's previous response to weather-related service collapses has been a blizzard of new spending with dubious returns -- as witnessed again this month. Before submitting another multimillion-dollar winter weather wish list, Metro should consider the full range of existing alternatives.

ROCH TURCO

Arlington

Lon Anderson, spokesman for the Mid-Atlantic AAA, criticized Metro's decision to keep trains running on Feb. 16. But what about the people who needed Metro that night?

On Sunday evening, my youth group took a train back to Washington from New York. We faced impassable streets. If the Metro had not been running, I have no idea how we (or anyone else on our packed train) could have gotten home. We might have had to spend the night at Union Station. So congrats to Metro.

After all, AAA wasn't there to take us home.

TOBY KATHAN

Chevy Chase