Internal Docs Reveal Distressing Alternate Ending for DC's Streetcar Promo Video
The Freedom of Information Act has given us this extra piece of cinematic genius.
Alternate ending starts around 3:40
For two years I lived in the H Street neighborhood of Washington DC. For those two years, an essentially complete streetcar track ran down the street next to my home. But no streetcar. A comedy of errors led to massive delays for a project the late mayor-for-life Marion Barry called "ill-planned, ill-thought-out, ill-engineered, ill-everything."
The streetcar was announced in 2006, construction started in 2009, and the streetcar was supposed to open in 2013. The city laid the track in short order, but wasn't able to actually buy the cars in time to hit that deadline. All the while, DC's X2 bus continued to service the exact same line that the streetcar did, raising questions about whether the streetcar was even needed.
There is an alternate ending that takes DC Streetcar: How to Ride and turns it into a heartbreaking commentary on missing love when it's right under your nose
The streetcar started running "simulated service" in fall of 2014, meaning the cars ran completely empty up and down H Street for roughly a year-and-a-half (like DC's Metro, the streetcar had a habit of catching on fire) before safety officials finally allowed it to open to the public in February of this year.
When it did open, we were treated to the incredibly lame but admittedly informative DC Streetcar: How to Ride video, which follows a hapless DC resident named Dan whose OKCupid date wants to ride the streetcar as their first encounter. Dan enlists his friend Kim to help him learn the simple rules of riding the streetcar, but the whole thing plays out like a bad 80s movie as Dan fumbles his way through a series of streetcar workouts in a Rocky-esque montage. It's as weird as it sounds and, like the streetcar, it seems kind of cool at first, but it's also twee and unnecessary and took way too long.
I had to know more.
And so I filed a Freedom of Information request with the DC Department of Transportation trying to learn how this thing got made. I asked for all emails regarding the video, as well as budgets, scripts, and extra materials. I figured that because DC handled the streetcar situation so poorly, maybe there was something more to learn about how this video got made. I got back nearly 500 pages of emails, most of which are redacted, making me think my initial instinct may have been correct.
But most importantly: There is an alternate ending that takes DC Streetcar: How to Ride and turns it into a heartbreaking commentary on missing love when it's right under your nose. See, Dan loved Kim all along and, in this alternate ending, realizes it a second too late. Crushing. The alternate ending starts at 3:40 in the video above.
Other things I learned from the emails, which are embedded below:
- DDOT decided to make DC Streetcar: How to Ride back in April of 2014, it was filmed in August of 2014, and was ready and mostly approved by September of 2014. It ran in February of this year, when the streetcar opened.
- DDOT had to push back filming a few weeks because the streetcar was apparently not ready to ride for the purposes of the film in time.
- So much was redacted. If this involved something more important I would definitely appeal the redactions.
- One of the filmmakers also thought the film was far too long.
- DDOT employees and DC Streetcar employees filled in as extras.
- This redaction, oh my god.
Government transparency: It works.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mixed up the names of Dan's OKCupid date and his helpful streetcar expert friend. Motherboard regrets the error and thanks Molly Monahan for her vigilance in pointing it out.
Here are all the emails, which are in no particular order and don't seem to be grouped by any theme. These are exactly as they were provided to me by DDOT:
- washington dc
- public transportation
- motherboard show
- DC Streetcar
- H Street Streetcar