Transportation Field Note

How do people get around?

One thing that I really like about living in Buenos Aires is how easy it is to walk around and get what you need. Where I am from in Indiana, you have to drive by car if you want to do practically anything! Here in Argentina, I do not have to walk more than a block to visit a grocery store, hardware store, or a variety of restaurants, cafés and ice cream parlors. I am going to post a video of me running a quick errand so that you all can get a feel of what it is like to live here in Buenos Aires!

Like most large cities, it is almost impossible to walk everywhere you want to go in Buenos Aires. Similarly, because of the amount of traffic and the lack of parking spaces it is quite difficult and expensive to drive within the city. Therefore, Buenos Aires has a large public transportation system that utilizes various types of transport.

The two most popular types transport in the city are the city buses, or collectivos as they are known in Argentine Spanish, and the subway system. Not only are these forms of transport quite quick and reliable, they are also not expensive for me! The average bus fare costs around 1.60 Argentine pesos, or about 20 U.S. cents. The subway costs 2.50 pesos or about 40 U.S. cents. I personally prefer to use the subway system, as it is usually faster than buses. Plus, I live a block from one of the subway stops, which makes getting around the city quite easy!

Sometimes though, public transportation is not the most efficient way of getting around. At night or when people are in a rush, taxis are also a good alternative. While more expensive than buses and the subway, taxis are good for big groups friends traveling together, or at night when the subway is closed.

One of the neater forms of public transportation that I have seen here in Buenos Aires is related to bicycle travel. While many people here in Buenos Aires ride their own bicycles around the city, the city government has a really interesting program that allows people to rent government owned bicycles for free! The only requirements are that you provide identification and return the bicycle to one of the many renting stations located throughout the city. These are especially helpful not only for Argentines, but also for people visiting Buenos Aires who want to take in the sights at a fast pace. I will talk a little bit more about this program later own in this post!

How did I feel when I tried this way of getting around? 

Depending on the time of day, the subways and buses here can be filled to the brim! Usually when I take the subway to class in the morning I have to force myself into the car. Otherwise, I would not fit because there are so many people taking the subway in the morning. It has been quite an adjustment for me as I am not used to not having a lot of personal space. During rush hour, the cars are filled with people from all walks of life including tourists from the United States or Europe, businessmen in suits, people on their way to work construction on one of the new high-rise skyscrapers in the financial district, and students like me on their way to school. Most days, there are people playing music for tips or selling things as well

While quite different from where I live, I really enjoy having the opportunity to see people from another country go about their daily lives. This is because I like to think that it is easier to learn about a different culture by living how the locals do, as opposed to going about seeing the stereotypical tourist sights like monuments and things like that on private buses.

One can really get a good feel for any city by taking a stroll and experiencing its sights, sounds, and smells. In this sense, Buenos Aires is no exception. The area that I live in is quite commercialized, in that there are many shops and restaurants. Because of this, the sidewalks are filled with people running errands alongside others who are going to and from home. While Buenos Aires can be quite packed with people at times, I do get not get the same feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed that sometimes afflicts me when I visit large cities in the United States. Perhaps this is because the buildings are not as tall, or maybe the people seem friendlier to me. I have observed that the divisions between work and home are not as defined here in Buenos Aires as in many of the U.S. cities I have visited. I think that this helps people to have a more relaxed take on life.

Is this way of getting around connected to the culture or environment?

Buenos Aires is located on the flat plains of the pampa and has few geographic obstacles. This allowed the city’s founders and early leaders to create an organized urban area that is conducive to public transportation. As there are no mountains, hills, or rivers that people must cross to get from one side of the city to the other, it is quite easy to go in a straight line from point A to point B.

Combined with Buenos Aires’ history of being a significant railroad hub, the city’s subways can be traced backed to 1913. This makes the city’s subway system one of the oldest in the world. In fact, the Buenos Aires subway system is the oldest not only in Latin America, but of any outside Europe and United States!

There has been a recent push in Argentina to be more environmentally-friendly. As a result, public transport has received a growth in support as many people view it as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to driving their own cars as it leads to less pollution.

The bicycle program I mentioned earlier in this post is a great example of porteños (people from Buenos Aires) efforts to be “green.” Along with recycling programs, the city government has touted bicycle travel as not only a way of lessening traffic, but also as a way of cutting down on pollution and making the city more beautiful in the process.

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