Public Transportation in Madrid

This blog entry could’ve been titled “Some people like to complain about everything” or even “Some people just don’t know how good they’ve got it.”

[See price updates at the bottom of this entry] I’m referring to, of course, Madrid’s public transportation system. I LOVE IT! And it’s cheap, too! With a 10-Trip MetroBus ticket for 6.70 Euros – that’s just 0.67 Eurocents each trip – you can travel throughout Madrid City. Make a lot of metro connections and it costs you the same, just 0.67 Eurocents.

I have some Spanish friends whom love to complain about taking buses or the metro. “It takes too long for the bus/metro to come!” they’d say sometimes. I say, “Yeah, but once it comes you get there a lot faster than in a car/taxi and you don’t have to look for – and pay for – parking upon arriving! Some people are just impatient.

My only complaint IS just that. Once at the bus stop or metro station, you might have to wait 5 minutes, 10 minutes, even 15 minutes (for buses). Metros come more frequently – depending on the hour of the day. During peak times, metros come along no later than every 5 minutes. Buses are mostly at the mercy of street traffic.

Fortunately, I have a bus stop JUST outside my door which takes me directly to OPERA. From there I walk everywhere in downtown Madrid. Other times I’ll take the metro along the Number 6 GREY circular line and can go to Príncipe Pío, Moncloa, Arguelles without changing trains. I love it. The metro station from where I live is a bit of a walk, taking about 15 minutes. This isn’t bad at all but if you’re carrying a new television or something heavy then it can seem far.

During the PEAK PEAK travel times at 8:30am – 10:00am the metro cars can be absolutely PACKED. Sometimes you can’t even get in because the cars look like cans of sardines. Impossible. Wait for the next one – only to find it’s the same as the previous one. Luckily, I NEVER travel at this hour.

Buses are a little better at peak times with regards to fullness. But at those peak times there’s more traffic so it can be much slower too.

While on the metros when the cars are FULL of people I can’t imagine how “Juan Público” can possible keep his sanity while in full suit and tie, jammed together with all the others, insufficient or no air conditioning, and HOW can he keep from sweating. I swear. Some Spaniards don’t sweat no matter the temperature! Makes me crazy.

I almost prefer the buses because there are more stops along the way, more chances to get closer to your destination. The buses themselves are all modern, most with air conditioning, comfortable, clean, and large. It’s amazing to me how they can meander through the narrow two-way traffic between the rows of double parked cars on both sides. Just amazing. The guys (and one or two women) are excellent drivers, oftentimes very “cool” looking with their designer sunglasses, usually young, and always friendly when you say your “Buenos días” upon getting on. And these drivers MAKE CHANGE WHILE THEY’RE DRIVING! It’s amazing to me.

The new, modern metro cars are also great. They’re always air conditioned (and you feel it when it’s not FULL of people), clean, you don’t have homeless people sleeping on them. Oftentimes you will get the “street performer” with their speaker-on-wheels with MP3 background music while they play a pan flute, accordion, guitar, or simply sing. Yesterday I was on the metro and an older woman, presumably Romanian, had her Peavey speaker duct taped to the luggage stroller, an MP3 player taped to the top of that, and she sang the most beautiful songs – IN ROMANIAN. I couldn’t understand a word she sang but had a beautiful voice. It’s rare to see older people performing on these metro cars. Usually they’re quite young. You NEVER see performers on the buses as the drivers wouldn’t allow it. I don’t usually hand over spare change for the performers because I don’t feel comfortable opening my shoulder bag and fishing out my wallet to expose what I’m carrying. It’s silly, I’m sure, but that’s how it is. I don’t carry change in my pants/shorts pockets.

If I’m meeting friends on the Plaza de Chueca or going to Las Ventas I’ll take the bus to Opera and then the direct train to these other destinations. Usually while waiting on the bus I’m worried I’ll arrive late. Always the punctual American. But more often than not I arrive with plenty of time mainly due to the speediness of the metro. There’s something about exiting the stairs of Plaza de Chueca and encountering a SEA of terraza tables and umbrellas and chatty people. It’s SO welcoming!

Taxis, well, aren’t considered PUBLIC transportation so I won’t talk about them here. They’re usually a last effort to arrive somewhere ontime – OR if you’re carrying a load of something – OR a group of people going to a specific address. I like taxis, they’re great and easy to find – and cheap too – but when I’m not in a hurry I always take the bus IF I understand their route (which can be challenging) or easy-to-understand metro to get where I’m going.

February 2011 UPDATE: the 10-journey MetroBus ticket has risen in price at least twice since this blog was written in 2008. Now, the ticket is 9.30€ and a single-trip ticket costs 1€.

 
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