Before arriving to Mexico City, I had heard about how packed the public transportation was, but you never really understand something until you experience it yourself. During my third week in Mexico City, I was coming back from a meeting in the Bosque de las Lomas, 17km from my house, in the Western part of the city, an area poorly connected by public transportation. It took me over two hours to get back to my house.
First, I waited for the microbus near the location of my meeting. The stops are not indicated, so I walked along the large boulevard and asked in a local shop where the bus stopped. Following their instructions, I walked further along the road and found a small group of people waiting together, partly on the sidewalk and partly in the street. The first bus to arrive was so full that it passed right by. The second was almost as full and when I got in, I stood in the stairs for the first ten minutes before there was enough room to advance into the bus. I remained standing for the rest of the hour’s ride to the metro, squished up against and pressed between the other passengers, who, I imagined, make this same trip every day. I could not help but wonder what this would be like on a hot, summer day.
As we arrived at the metro, everyone got out of the bus. Relieved, I enjoyed the view of the Auditorio Nacional and made my way to the metro station. Little did I know then, this was just the beginning of my rush hour experience. Auditorio is in Polanco, a neighbourhood full of offices. As I arrived around 7pm, I was joined by the throng of people finishing their workdays and heading towards the metro and home.
I entered the metro and made it to the platform. The platform was full of people when I arrived, but little did I know it would become even fuller. I walked to the front of the platform, the area that is usually reserved for women and children during peak hours. Normally it is closed off and guarded by a police officer. That day it was not blocked off, which meant that the area was awash with women and men alike.
When the metro pulled up to the platform it was already full. As the doors opened, a few people exited and a mass of others tried to enter, although only a couple were successful in squeezing in before the doors closed. The doors closed and opened again several times, as various parts of people’s bodies, their clothing or their belongings were stuck in the door. Finally, once all the doors closed, the metro pulled away, packed to capacity.
This process repeated itself over and over. More and more people arrived on the platform and the metros arriving remained just as full. Each time the metro arrived, people exited at the same time as others tried to enter, pushing each other, those entering lifting their bags over their heads to take up less space.
No matter how close I got to the edge of the platform, I couldn’t manage to get into the metro. I got shoved and remained standing on the platform. It also felt very unsafe, as there were so many people behind me and packed in so tightly, I was afraid to get pushed onto the tracks below.
I was amazed by how calm most people remained. I guess if you do this every day it becomes a normal part of your commute. As it was my first time stuck in this rush hour traffic, I was very agitated, but, deciding that I was in no rush (and valued my life), I stood back against the wall and waited for the traffic to die down. Forty minutes later, the platform was just as full, as were the arriving metros. I decided I would try to enter again. I made my way, closer and closer, until I was right beside the edge of the platform. As the metro arrived and the doors opened, a women behind me tried to push in front of me to get into the metro. Realizing there was no other way to get into the metro, I pushed back (just a little, I promise), and got absorbed into the mass of people inside the metro. Holding my purse above the crowd, I stood, not needing to hold onto anything, as I was completely crammed between the other passengers.
I rode the metro for a few stops before needing to change lines. Saying “Con permiso!” loudly and pushing my way towards the door, I emerged onto the platform and into the crowd of people walking in the station. The crowd was so thick, that I could only take small steps forward, following the signs and the people to the next platform. Luckily, this one was not as busy and I managed to get into the metro and arrive at my destination in just a few minutes. Emerging from the metro, I was desperate to get out of the crowd in the station and along Avenida Insurgentes. I walked quickly and entered my neighbourhood, making my way home. I arrived at my door and checked the time: It was after 8:00pm, over two hours had passed since I left my appointment in Las Lomas de Sante Fe.
Bref, I rode the metro in Mexico City.