Operation of this new system was assigned by DDOT to a French company called RDMT, which stands for "RATP Dev McDonald Transit." (I am not making that up. It's literal.) DDOT hired them to "handle the day-to-day operations of the 2.2 miles of track along H Street and Benning Road NE for the next five years. The company also will oversee training and maintenance facilities." A platoon of new hires sporting international-yellow vests emblazoned "RDMT" were all over the west end the day I was there (August 5), awaiting their turn to take the controls.
Join me now as we go in search of moving streetcars, from the west end (3rd and H Street NE) to the east end of the initial line segment (Benning Road and about two blocks beyond Oklahoma Avenue NE)
We begin, however, by backing up a few days before operator training began, to July 25. That day I visited the site where a car barn is being erected in the front yard of the now permanently-closed Springarn High School (corner of Benning Road and 26th St NE):
Five days later, on July 30, I returned for another look.
As I head east across the top of the Hopscotch Bridge, this was my view through the Jeep's window. One of the streetcars was parked at the top.
Two more were parked near the bottom. Note the RDMT employees with their bright yellow vests.
And here's that moving streetcar! It has come all the way from the east end of Benning Road. I am intercepting it near H and 4th Streets NE, breathing hard. Time: 1208.
And there it goes westward, disappearing behind me as I continue east, toward its parking spot on the bridge. I shot this through the side-view mirror, then flopped the image. (Thank you, Photoshop!)
Thinking the operator may reverse and return to Benning Road, I continued to the east end of the line, parked, and stood around for an hour without success. Having arrived at noon, I concluded they'd broken for lunch. I headed back to the Hopscotch Bridge, arriving at 1312.
So long for now, D.C. streetcar! It was 1400, stomach was growling, time to head home for a late lunch. My next post will likely come when DDOT launches full service to the public, currently predicted for November 2014.