Leg room on Mexico City’s shuttle buses – the green and white microbuses – is somewhat more limited than on the crummiest of airlines, and aisle seats are at a premium. So much so, that when a passenger in the aisle seat gets off, the person sitting at the window will shuffle across in less time than it takes for the person standing nearby to even register that a seat has become available, let alone consider whether it’s worth sitting for what’s left of the journey.
Now, if you decide that it is worth sitting, you have to ask the person who just shifted places if they would excuse you – ¿me da permiso? – to which they grudgingly turn their knees toward the aisle and let you try to squeeze into the space as deftly as possible, if you absolutely must insist on pestering them. The procedure is more or less repeated if you’re getting off first, and you try to twist past without accidentally clumping them with your bag, or umbrella, or anything else you happen to be carrying.
The new Metro cars – on Line 2, the blue line – have solved the problem of aisle seats by doing away with them altogether. Groups of four plastic seats, two on each side back-to-back, have been replaced with aluminium benches running along the sides. Here, you definitely want to rush for the end seats, where there’s a bar to grab on to when, for reasons known only to drivers, the train jars to a halt just as it gains momentum leaving the station, for an instant squashing six people into a space which, under normal circumstances, is occupied by four. The six then collectively choose to obey one of Newton’s laws and snap back into their original position, with perhaps only their hair out of place or a bag or book on the floor, some smiling apologies, others muttering unflattering things about the driver’s intellectual attainments, and yet others silently and summarily passing judgment on the entire faceless bureaucracy that runs these things.
Public transport may not be the finest way to get around, but with 3 million cars in the city and 300,000 new ones registered each year, city authorities say they intend to stress the development of mass transport systems as they address the problems of mobility over the next five years or so. That includes plans to build a new Metro line, remodel several big stations, and build nine more Metrobus lines like the one that runs down Insurgentes Avenue. They also hope to foster the replacement of 20,000 microbuses with full-sized buses that meet stricter standards of quality. It all sounds quite promising.
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