THE RECORD-BREAKING snowstorm produced plenty of unsung heroes in the region's transportation crews. Kudos to them. But, alas, some brickbats are in order as well.
One goes to Baltimore's Department of Public Works, the other to the Maryland Transit Administration.
The DPW failed miserably in its duty to keep the city's snow-removing equipment in good working order. At one time Tuesday, nearly half of the 188-snowplow fleet was out of commission due to transmission problems, broken salt-spreaders, engines blowing up or windshield wipers failing.
Yes, the circumstances were unusual and city plows were working 24 hours a day. But they didn't have such problems in Baltimore County. Only five of its 259 pieces of snow-related equipment were broken down Tuesday.
The huge discrepancy is troubling.
Is Baltimore County better off because it replaces equipment more often? (That seems to be the case.) And is the county able to take better care of snowplows because its Glen Arm repair facility deals only with public works and firefighting equipment, while the city's overburdened Dickman Street garage services all city vehicles, including the huge police fleet?
In light of this week's alarming equipment troubles, the O'Malley administration must diagnose the problem and make the necessary changes in vehicle policies. What good is the expensive equipment if it doesn't work when it is needed?
As for the Maryland Transit Administration, it needs to improve its Internet site.
That site (www.mtamaryland.com) was almost worthless shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday, when commuters were trying to figure out whether transit lines were running and could take them from Point A to Point B. There was scant information about bus lines, for example. Yet MTA's traffic updates on television and radio kept referring people to the Web site and the agency's switchboard, which was overwhelmed and jammed.
Yes, MTA's information did keep improving after 11 a.m. But that was too late to do morning commuters any good.
This is not the first time the MTA Web site has been unable to provide timely information in unusual commuting circumstances, when the need is greatest. That should be even more reason for the state agency to make sure that it is better prepared next time.