Down under

Metro waiting

Anyone who has money in Mexico City -- and some people who don't -- drives a car because of the status they think it brings them. However, owning one doesn't get you where you are going any faster during rush hour. At only three pesos per ride, the subsidized-by-the-government metro is the cheapest and fastest way to get around Mexico City. About four million people ride it each day.

Metro parfum

It has some problems. As the city grew much more quickly than the metro system, it is hardly comprehensive, and at rush hour you feel as if all the four million are in the same car with you. Women have to be on red alert for guys trying to cop a feel.

Metro escalator

But if you ride during the off hours it's a much less fraught experience. On any given journey you can watch a woman applying eyeliner despite the seismic movement, lovers in a passionate clinch, or a blind and lame beggar crying for alms. The staircases and platforms are a souk, and so are the cars themselves, as an endless procession of enterprising salespeople comes and goes, hawking CDs, candy, calendars, flashlights, coloring books and cough drops.

Metro abarrotes

The apartment where I have lived since October of 2010 is two blocks from a metro station. In all my years here I had never lived so close to one. I can't say that it solves every single transportation problem in the city. But it sure helps with most of them.