Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Transportation Woes in Buenos Aires

Man on man, today was a mess for public transportation. For me anyway. I had the news on this morning like I do every day, keeping an eye out for any word about serious traffic problems. There was nothing eye grabbing, so I went down to the Subte as usual. Once there, however, I discovered that service was "interrupted." It doesn't mean that it's stopped altogether, but you'll definitely get to work late.

Subte by Armando Maynez.It's important to always have a Plan B for transportation here, but I'd already swiped my card and didn't want to waste the $1.10. The train finally moved, but at each stop spend 5 minutes idling. Four stops in at Pueyrredon, everyone got off as word got down that the subway would no longer move. I followed the mass of people slowly trudging upstairs and saw a police officer handing out pieces of paper.

I thought it would be a complimentary ride on the subway, but instead found that it was a permission slip for work. It had to be a joke. This cop, who was more of a hall monitor keeping people moving while they yelled in disgust, was giving an excuse to our bosses for our late arrivals. Were we the children or were they?

Now, I understand that buses and trains break down from time to time. It happens, and I myself have been on a handful of trains in Boston that have broken down. But when they did, the T service always had buses ready to take us to the next stop and make up for it. And that was over the course of my life in Boston. Here, they provided no alternative transportation. In the 7 months I've been living here (and really just 3 months since I frequently use the Subte) the train breaking down is more of a weekly or daily thing, and it's expected that you will generally arrive somewhere late as a result. I've written previously about how you can't help but show up somewhere late at least once a week, but you never know when it will be.

The problem here isn't that there are issues with the Subte. The problem itself is the Subte. It just doesn't function well and I have to say after traveling around the world that it's the worst subway system I've had the privilege to know. Having it there keeps you from bothering with the buses when traffic is at its peak in the morning and after work. It's deceivingly convenient. I'd be willing to pay another 10 cents or whatever it would be if they could just guarantee that you would show up on time and not be totally shocked. Isn't that normal?

So anyway, I got in line for a bus, then had to walk about 15 blocks to finally make it to work, luckily just a half hour late. As for the ride home, it turns out the D line was down all day. I had planned to go to an Anuva wine tasting to do some research for an article for Argentina's Travel Guide, but because of the mess with transportation, I wasn't able to make it. Even lining up for a bus meant getting behind about 100 other people.

So finally upon making it home, I had to pop open a bottle of red and just relax for a bit. Just another day in Latin America.

Above: Photo courtesy of Armando Maynez

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