Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Metro is Here!

My very first morning in the DR, my organization's driver gave me an informal tour of the city on our way to the office. I commented on the crazy traffic and he said, "Oh, but it'll get better soon- we're getting a subway!" Although inaugurated in early 2008, it just opened last week.

The Metro is controversial. In a country as poor as the Dominican Republic, is a multimillion dollar rapid transit system the best use of resources? Those in favor often cite the horrible traffic found in Santo Domingo. Traffic here is truly awful- I will not get into how bad because losing my temper twice a day (driving to work and driving home) is too much. To give you an idea, I have a 20 - 25 minute commute, depending on what time I leave.

I live about a mile and a half from my office. Imagine how early my coworkers who live on the outskirts have to wake up in order to get home. In this sense, yes, the Metro might help. The bus drivers who make the route are already threatening protests and blockades, so it must work somewhat if they are mad!
Those against point out that the amount of money being spent on the Metro is disproportionate to the benefit. According to Wikipedia:

... as of February 2008, the budget allocated for the Santo Domingo Metro
was higher than the added budget of three important ministries and 5 pivotal
governmental institutions, including the ministry of superior education, science
and technology. For example, during the single month of February, the Santo
Domingo Metro received more than 231 million pesos (7 million US dollars), while
during the month of January, it received twice that amount.
Seeing how much is spent on the Metro when there is an inconsistent supply of electricity , poor health care, poor education and corruption everywhere is a bit infuriating.

I think it's too soon to judge whether or not the Metro is a good thing or not. I haven't been on it yet, although I'm lucky because there is a station less than a block from my house.

However, I do have one complaint: the station names. I looked at the map and tried to figure out which station was the one near my house. The station sits on Avenida Maximo Gomez; is across from the American consulate; and is in front of the Teatro Nacional (National Theater). So I of course look for a name implying one of those 3 things. I see a stop labeled "Maximo Gomez" and think, "Oh, that's it!" But when I look at the cross streets, it is nowhere near the stop I thought it was. Turns out they named all the stops after prominent Dominicans. Fine, but I guess they didn't stop to consider to match the Metro stops named after famous Dominicans with the streets that are ALREADY named after the same famous Dominicans. So the Maximo Gomez stop is not one of the numerous stations that is on Maximo Gomez Avenue. Sheesh.
Perhaps I'll be won over when I actually try it. Or when they open up the other planned lines. Too bad the other lines aren't happening anytime soon (2010 is the projected date).

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