Panama’s Metro (Subway) Line One Opens to Public

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As we mentioned in our previous Guide to Panama’s New Metro, Panama has completed the region’s first partially subterranean rail system, which aims to alleviate heavy traffic, and reduce travel time for daily commuters. This week the Panama Metro officially opened “Line One” to the public with much fanfare, and high expectations. The Metro, which currently consists of just one line, will have four main lines once the project is complete, and connect all major areas of the city, as well as outlying suburbs and the airport.

The Panama metro opening could not have come at a better time, as national elections are a few weeks away. The Metro project has been used as a rallying point for the country’s current political leadership, and a great source of national pride for Panamanians of all backgrounds. The project was completed in record time, with Line One up and running after only three years of construction. It is considered the centerpiece in an array of public works projects spearheaded by the Martinelli administration that include the redevelopment of city roads, parks, and the coastal greenway known as the Cinta Costera.

Passengers Flock to Get First Ride on Trains

The first few days of public use have been nothing short of remarkable, with each train filled to capacity, as regular train service gets underway. Some Metro officials have even reported that passengers are staying on the trains for round-trip service without de-boarding, in order to get the full experience of the new rail system. There have also been reports of overcrowding at the principal stations, with excited crowds waiting in line up to an hour just to board.

This type of congestion is expected to subdue considerably as the novelty of the Metro wears off, and commuters get into the rhythm of using the new system for its practical purposes. In order to ease the transition of passengers who have never experienced this type of transport before, the city government has launched a campaign called “Metro Cultura.” The Metro Cultura campaign consists of PSAs (video below), as well as illustrated guides that instruct people of the Metro’s rules, as well as common courtesies and practices of riding an urban subway system.

Hours of Operation/Cost to Travelers:

During its first month of operation, the Metro will be free to all passengers, and maintain regular hours of 5am-10pm daily. After the first trial month, passengers will be required to pay for each trip using their Metro Card, which is the same card pay system that the new city Metro buses have been using for the past year and a half.

Though paid rides will begin in a matter of weeks, the government has yet to release the price of a ticket. According to a study done by the Cato Institute, the cost will range anywhere from $3-$5 USD, although many locals speculate that it will cost far less. The predicted high cost is mostly due to the high expense of the project, roughly $2 billion, and the cost of maintaining and running the new trains.

For now, the Panama Metro is one of the hottest tickets in town. It represents a new sense of modernity and progress for the Panamanian people, and an example to the rest of the region, of Panama’s prosperity. Only time will tell if this euphoria will last, but for now, the city is buzzing with Metro excitement.

About Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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