Metro has bad days. And then it has really bad days.

Wednesday qualified as the latter, after five insulators in a row shot off sparks on the Red Line, bringing the morning commute to a standstill.

Tracks started smoking on opposite ends of the Orange Line.

One of the agency's detectives shot and killed a man after a shootout in Prince George's County.

And Metro admitted that another piece of brake equipment broke off a train the day before -- the same equipment that broke off twice before from other trains in the past six months.

All this amid a week of confusion on all lines but the Red Line as Metro rolled out its Rush Plus service change. And topping it off, the system had its usual hot rail cars and buses during a day with temperatures in the high 90s.

The one bright spot: Riders were told they could drink water on the system because of the intense heat, breaking the usual ban on Wednesday and Thursday.

The problems started off about 8:30 a.m. when the third rail that supplies power to trains started to have problems between Woodley Park and Dupont Circle. Insulators on the third rail started to arc, which means spitting off sparks.

Crews normally would be able to remove the insulator until permanent repairs could be made, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said, but they found five bad insulators in a row on the inbound track. On the other track, three others were showing problems, possibly due to the high humidity, Stessel said.

The agency forced all trains to share a single track between Van Ness and Dupont Circle, which caused massive backups during the morning rush. Crowds formed so thickly that Metro barred anyone from entering the Dupont Circle station for 13 minutes, Stessel said.

The transit agency continued to keep one track closed on the Red Line throughout the morning.

But the problems continued.

At the same time that a Metro Transit cop shot and killed a man during a shootout about 12:30 p.m., crews extinguished smoke coming from a smoldering crosstie on the Orange Line tracks near Deanwood.

At 1:10 p.m., crews had replaced the bad insulators on the Red Line, opening up normal service to riders. But another crosstie was smoking on the Orange Line, near Ballston.

Meanwhile, the agency announced that track inspectors had found a brake part, known as a friction ring, on the side of the Red Line. Officials believe it broke off a 3000 Series rail car Tuesday. Similar parts fell off different model cars in December and January, wreaking havoc, but the parts were made by different manufacturers, which adds to the uncertainty about the cause.

Evening riders were not spared, either. Just before 5 p.m., Metro reported more delays on the Red Line due to a signal problem at Grosvenor. On the Green and Yellow lines, riders had their own waits soon thereafter when a train malfunctioned outside Mt. Vernon Square.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com