Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I got on board with progress!

O sea... me subí al progreso! 

Two weekends ago I finally went on Santo Domingo's brand new Metro.  I'm pleased and surprised to say that I am a Metro convert. 

I was skeptical. I wasn't sure that the Metro made sense.  I still don't know that I can justify the millions of US$ being poured into it, but the system itself is quite nice.  

Since there is little negative to say, I'll start with the things I didn't like.  
  1. Perhaps I'm too accustomed to the other subway systems of the world, but I was totally thrown by the little green button you have to press in order to enter and exit the cars.  A. and I stood there for a second until the guard pointed out that we had to push the button to get the door open. 
  2. My main complaint about the system still stands: there are too few postings of street names, neighborhoods, whatever, along with the stations.  You still don't know where the heck you are going! There are a few street maps in the cars, with the stations marked on them, but they are very hard to read. 
For example, this is station near my house, only 2 blocks away. (Too bad there's not a station close to work, otherwise I could forget the horrible traffic in this city. )  Here you can see the flawed logic of the planners: the station is located at the Plaza de la Cultura, where the natioanl theater and some museums are located.  Therefore, they named the station after a famous Dominican actress.  Don't know who Cassandra Damiron is? Well, then you're out of luck if you are wondering where you are, because that's all the description you'll get for the station!

The best things about the Metro:
  1. It's clean! Like every other city in the developing world, Santo Domingo is dirty. Trash is everywhere and  capitaleños don't think twice about throwing trash on the street, at their feet, or wherever they please. Not the case on the Metro. 
  2. It's quiet! "Quiet" is not a word many people use to desrcibe Dominicans, so it's truly amazing that the Metro is so calm and sedate.  Most people just sat there, but those that were talking did so at a soft level, almost whispering! 
  3. It's protected!  There is a Metro guard in every car. S/he walks up and down to make sure that people are respecting the Metro.  The poor guard we saw looked bored out of his mind, amidst the serenity and lack of bachata and mambo. 

There were other Metro Tourists as well.  We got on with a group of about 3 men.  We loved eavesdropping on their conversation. They could not believe how clean and well-run the Metro was. "Bienvenidos a Europa! Welcome to Europe!" they kept saying.  

A. was on the Metro the other day. He saw a fellow rider break out a Halls mint and the Metro cop stationed in the car came over immediately.  "You can't do that. That's not allowed." Yes folks, a breath mint! I only wish the same respect and compliance with the laws were applied outside the Metro as well...

Here you can see the clash of the modern and the traditional.  Right below this Metro station, you can see a horse-drawn carriage. (Upper right, above the white care.) By the way, I was chided by the station cop for dawdling too long after getting off the Metro and shooed out of the station!


Kate said...

Door open/shut buttons are actually fairly common for subways, trams and trains in Europe and Australia. I had my embarrassing moments when I first moved to Scotland, and it's always a bit awkward somewhere new when you're not sure if you need to press the button or not.

Sir Chancelot said...

That is an awesome-looking Metro. Hopefully people will pay to use it and it will develop further. Not sure about the guard in every car, though! That seems a bit excessive. But better to start strong and then make adjustments.

Leslie said...

Luckily all the cops they have posted are used to it and promptly show people how to get on the darn thing!