A GUIDEPOST REPRINT: “Madrid’s Public Transportation–‘Best in Europe’,” 15 September 1972

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“In essence, because it offers more variety, economy, comfort, and speed, Madrid’s
transportation system is the best in Western Europe.”



by Ronald G. Watson
15 September 1972


Madrid’s  transportation system has been deemed the best in Western Europe by experts in the field because it offers the swiftest and most economical transportation available.

There are three other major transportation systems which are comparable: Rome, Paris, and London.

An old MR200 train on Rome’s Metro Line B1, which line became Termini-Laurentina in 1984

Rome’s Department of Transportation has taken radical measures to cure its present problems by permitting passengers to ride free during their rush hours. Obviously the plan falled since it was recently discontinued, and her officials are at a loss as to what measures they should take next.

Paris’s prices are astronomical, and the growth of its system has not coincided with the growth of its population.

London, though it has taken great strides to improve, has been unable to meet the increasing demand for faster transportation within the range of its subdivisión dwellers.

Madrid, however, has not only been able to keep transportation costs down to a mínimum but has worked side by side with private enterprise to provide an excellent system.

Presently there are four classes of transportation: metro (subway), autobús (bus), taxi, and tranvía (trolley). They vary greatly in size, cost, and speed.

The metro, according to the Ministry of Transportation, is the fastest and safest. There are a total of nine lines: five operational, one nearing completion, and three in the planning and financing stage.

The five that are operational carry one and a half million passengers daily and consist of trains of either four or six coaches; the modern ones six. The six-coach train has a capacity of 500 passengers.

The line nearing completion, line seven, will run from Arturo Soria to Diego de Leon and will be ready by January 1, 1973.

Madrid Metro historic rolling stock

Lines six, eight, and nine, as presently planned, will be serviceable by 1980. . .

In financing the construction of the metro lines, the Metropolitano, S. A. pays for the mobile materials (the trains, rails, etc.), and the Spanish Government pays for the non-mobile parts (the tunnel, steps, etc.). This is a superb example of the Government’s policy of encouraging enterprising companies to invest in the system by sharing the cost of construction and maintenance.

The price for subway tickets has risen recently from three to four pesetas, and as with all means of transportation, the price is regulated by the Commission of Asuntos Economicos. . .

Three subclasses of buses operate in Madrid: microbús, autobús, and orguas.

Bus service at the Madrid Barajas airport in 1972. Photo shows Spanish motorcycle champ Angel Nieto on his arrival at the airport  that year.

Microbuses, whose ticket prices are eight pestas, are faster than the larger buses. There are 200 of this class with 33,000 passengers using them daily.

The long and sectional “oruga” (caterpillar in English) bus  at the EMT Museum in Madrid

Autobús and orugas are the second and third. Autobús (normal size buses) have a capacity of 60, and orugas (large buses) carry up to 100. Daily, these buses transport 1,428,000 passengers. The price varies depending on the company and length of the line. E.M.T.  (Empresa Municipal de Transportes) charges five pesetas and Preferred Lines charges between two and a half to four pesetas. Presently 1,720 buses are in operation.

Taxis can be divided into three classes: taxis, microtaxis, and touring taxis.

The first has a red stripe and charges 11 pesetas [for the basic fare] plus the amount incurred from point of departure to your destination. There are 9,650 of these in operation.

Microtaxis, the second class, are smaller and each has a yellow stripe. They began with six pesetas on the meter and 350 run throughout Madrid.

Taxi, Seat 1500: The model was manufactured between 1963 and 1972 and was a favorite with taxi drivers.

Taxis are used for convenience and are the most expensive. . . [among others] they are used in the early morning hours when other systems have closed down.

A third class of taxis, the touring taxis, exists and should only be used for one-day excursions. But most of Madrid avoids using them since they are not under government control and charge exorbitant prices. They are not identified by a stripe, but are simply black. Their should only be used by the most adventurous tourists.

The fourth class of transportation is the tranvía. Because of an increase in traffic density, the trolleys were discontinued two months ago. These artifacts ceased to be of any value in the last year, and their expulsión from the system marked a definite trend in Madrid public transportation: the deleting of a means of transport which does not add to the total picture of Speedy, economical transportation.

Madrid’s system of transportation has to be the best in Europe and the most varied because Spanish society has placed a heavy burden on it. That innate burden is the custom of the siesta which means that, unlike Paris or London, there are four rush hours instead of two.

Spaniards place a heavy burden on transportation due to siesta!

The Spanish go to work in the morning, return home for siesta and lunch, go back to work at five, and go home at eight. This doubles transportation responsibilities and means that Madrid’s citizens are the most mobile of any in Europe. . . In all, three million use public transport daily. . .

Speed depends on distance and time, and only Madrid can boast of having the fastest since it takes only 25 minutes to go on the metro from one extremity to the other. And costs? Where else in Europe can you travel the length of a city for seven cents? Only in Madrid.

But how can a passenger know which means is best and where the routes are? The answer depends on the passenger: how much he wants to pay; how fast he wants to reach his destination; how much comfort he requires; and which route he wishes to take.

For instance, if a passenger were not in a rush and wanted to go from the Generalisimo section to José Antonio, he would have to take microbús number three. . . The price for the ride is eight pesetas and is very comfortable since the microbús is permitted to carry only 24 passengers at capacity. It is fast but not as fast as a taxi. If you made the trip daily, however, you would take an autobús since it is more economical.

Madrid Metro map 1967-1977

Should any question arise about the desired destination of a bus or metro, the answer would lie on the provided map. At each metro stop, a map is on display showing the different lines and stops. The same is true of the buses.

There are basic hints on traveling in Madrid, and the first is not to use a taxi without a stripe. They can be used as touring cars, but should not be used for quick trips inside the city. This is learned quickly when a newcomer becomes a Madrileño.

The second is that parking is more time-consuming and uneconomical . . . Its best to leave your car at home unless you are going outside Madrid.

The third is that the metro is the fastest, safest, and most dependable.

The fourth is to use the system and learn which means is best for you.

Certainly there are many more, but these have been learned through practice and use of the system.

In essence, because it offers more variety, economy, comfort, and speed, Madrid’s transportation system is the best in Western Europe.


> Rome Metro train MR200/Smiley.toerist, CC BY-SA3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped.
> Metro historic rolling stock/Saim Virji, CC BY-SA2.0
> Oruga bus © Ayuntamiento de Madrid, CC BY
> Barajas Airport bus service/Iberia Airlines, CC BY2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
> Taxi Seat 1500/Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA3.0, Wikimedia Commons
> Siesta/VALDITRASH, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
> Metro map 1967-1977. No machine-readable author provided; Benedictine 16 assumed, based on copyright claims. PD v ia Wikimedia Commons