So what’s the Buenos Aires metro system like?

Inside a Line B Metropolitan Cammell car, circa 1938. Image: Archivo General de la Nación/creative commons.

Alright, we all know you come here for information about underground transport systems, and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Without further ado, let’s start learning you a thing or two about Subte, Buenos Aires’ underground system; the thirteenth largest subway network in the world.

First, history. Much like the District Line, the Subte was a long time coming. Porterños – the inhabitants of Buenos Aires – had been talking about building an underground network since the late 1800s. Really, this is no surprise, given that the tram network operator was the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company, and London had just recently opened its own underground.

With a large tram network, many considered an underground system to be unnecessary. Nonetheless, the first stage of the new network opened in 1913, becoming the first underground rail system in Latin America, the first in southern hemisphere, and the first in the Spanish speaking world. (Madrid’s arrived five years later.)

A geographical map, with planned extensions in grey. Image: JoshuaPers/Wikimedia.

The Subte system boasts six lines — A, B, C, D, E and H — with 86 stations that extend finger like from the area near the Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosado (yep, “The Pink House”, where the president lives). While, technically speaking, many of the lines intersect with each other, they only do so at the extreme eastern edge of the network. In land, only the C and H lines, which act like barriers to catch wayward tourists, have any chance of returning you to the line you want to be on should you lose your way. As such, vigilance is an important part of riding the Subte – especially since it is not always possible to change directions without paying for a new journey if you find yourself heading the wrong way.


There’s also a ‘P’ line, which intersects at the end of the E line. The P stands for PreMetro, which is a 7.4km tramway that runs along the outskirts of Buenos Aires. While not technically part of the Subte subway network, it does appear on the map and passengers can use their Subte cards (basically an Oyster card) on both, as well as buses and other public transport.

The architecture of the stations has been copied from the A line ever since its inauguration over 100 years ago, keeping the theme running across the entire network. Originally owned by the state, the Subte system was privatised in 1944, the same year that the E line was officially opened. The most recent line, H, was officially opened in 2007. Now, some 10 years later, it is due to be extended with an additional 20 trains running on the line.

While not as large as the Tube, or serving quite so many people, the Subte can still get suitably rammed during the rush hour period. In that time, you’re just as likely to find your face wedged into someone else’s armpit as you are on the Central Line. There are considerably more buskers, who operate like those you’ll see in the New York Metro. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to see a small group set up a literal band — complete with drum kit — in the space between the doors. They do appear to move when the train stops but, on the occasion that they don’t, be careful not to trip on your way out. 

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Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.