I bailed on the conference this afternoon; went into DC to spend some time at the new National Museum of the American Indian. I got on the Metro going the wrong way (!) and two amazing things happened.
First, I met a “road engineer” (if I remember his title correctly), who I’d name but….don’t wanna get him in trouble (if there’s any chance of that). It’s a pretty high-up job in the hierarchy of train engineers, he troubleshoots on the tracks themselves. We’re sitting there on the bench, and start chatting.
The trains are, of course, having more and more breakdowns and problems ’cause the whole system is aging. They used to buy new cars from Italy, but have been using a new company in Spain for reasons that may not be fully above board? Who knows, it’s an interesting story though. The train cars from Italy always arrived on time and functioned beautifully. But the administration (?) apparently wanted more “bells and whistles”, which the Italian company didn’t want to (wouldn’t?) provide and tried to convince the Metro folk that they didn’t need. Stubbornness prevailed however, and a company in Spain agreed to provide everything. Unfortunately, they couldn’t deliver, and when they did, things broke down. Sounds like a debacle. However, the Metro just renewed a contract with another company in Spain (which could be the same people, essentially, under a new name). Folk wisdom is that the upper management already had their villas in Italy and now they want ’em in Spain. ugh
For the second “amazing thing” see the next post, “overheard on the metro”.