Sick and tired of wasting time and money driving everywhere? Excepting some big cities, namely New York, American life typically consists of spending an exorbitant amount of time behind the wheel — something which many folks grow tired of very quickly. If that’s the case, than Madrid is definitely the place for you! Boasting one of the best public transportation systems in Europe, and perhaps even the world, Spain’s capital is extremely easy to get around. Due to the layout of the city and efficient transportation network, any American will soon realize that there is nothing better than hanging up the car keys and trading them in for a fare card.
The Metro and the bus in Madrid
First inaugurated in 1919, Metro de Madrid originally had just one line measuring 3.48 km (2.16 mi) which consisted of eight stations: Sol (now Vodafone Sol), Red de San Luis (now Gran Vía), Hospicio (now Tribunal), Bilbao, Chamberí (out of service), Martínez Campos (now Iglesia), Ríos Rosas, and Cuatro Caminos. Today the network has expanded to well over three hundred stations and upwards of 300 km (over 180 mi) of track. There are currently thirteen conventional lines — lines 1-12 and line R — which are broken down into the regular metro network, MetroSur, MetroNorte, and MetroEste. There are also three tram lines which are referred to as Metro Ligero.
Unlike many other metro systems in the world, Madrid’s metro is extremely easy to use. Each line has its own track and each platform goes only one direction, thus, it’s almost impossible to make a mistake even if it’s you’re first time. The stations are normally very clean and brightly illuminated, so if you’re not sure where to stop, it’s just a matter of looking out the window at the many signs on the platforms indicating which station you’re at.
In addition to the excellent metro system in Madrid, the city also has an extensive bus service, known as the Empresa Municipal de Transportes. The EMT has a fleet of close to 2.000 buses which service over 200 routes all throughout the capital, covering a distance of over 3.500 km (2.000 mi). With more than ten thousand bus stops, the EMT runs 24 hours a day and seven days a week, 365 days a year. Although the Metro covers most parts of the city and surrounding areas, the bus provides a lot of direct route options in cases where the Metro doesn’t. Also, because the bus runs all night, you always have a way of getting home regardless of what time it is. What’s more, the EMT now has a 24-hour express bus line to and from the airport, making it much easier and economical to catch early morning flights.
Not only does the city have buses and a metro — Madrid also boasts its own commuter train network, servicing the capital and other cities and towns in the region. The beginning of the current Cercanías system dates back to the 19th century, when in 1851, the railway between Atocha and Aranjuez was built. Over one hundred years later, it would be become Cercanías line C-3. In the same fashion, other railways were built throughout Madrid and the surrounding areas, which would eventually be unified to form the proper commuter train network in 1989.
Although somewhat confusing at times, the commuter trains are extremely useful in that they further connect an already well-connected city. It may take studying the map a little bit before using them, but the trains will certainly be necessary for anyone living outside of Madrid city to commute, and certainly for everyone to help cover longer distances within the city itself.
In January of 1987, the Consorcio Regional de Transportes de Madrid, a then recent institution, launched the Abono Mensual de Transportes — a fare card which allowed users access to all means of transport in the region under a unified ticket. Initially projected to service 300.000 users in its first year, nowadays a million and a half people travel on the Metro, EMT, and Cercanías with an abono. Currently, the old-style abono with an oversized card and removable ticket are being phased out and a more modern credit-card-sized fare card is being used. Also, as opposed to purchase service for each calendar month, the new transport cards can be recharged for 30 days on any day during the month.
Don’t Look Back!
Once you get to Madrid and begin using the public transport, you won’t miss driving ever again. You may even ask yourself why you put up with it for so long. The change is as easy as getting a fare card and jumping on the Metro, bus, or train. Most Americans who come to Madrid are extremely content with the freedom that the city’s public transport provides them. If for whatever reason you dislike it, though, you can always try one of the new electric bicycles that have popped up all over the city!