Thursday, November 25, 2010

Getting to the congress

Getting to the conference has been a bit of a chore, since we have to take the public transportation.

First of all, the conference is in Xochimilco, a city far to the south of the Federal District, meaning that there is no direct route via public transport. Furthermore, the conference is in the Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco, which is not easily accessed from Xochimilco proper, meaning that one must take a bus along one of the "ring" roads from a point north of Xochimilco itself (ie, we don't get to see the canals for which Xochimilco is famous).

Our mornings start by leaving the hotel - located in Calle Viena in the downtown - and walking about one km to the Insurgentes station station. If our hotel were a little further north, we likely would take the metrobus to the Insurgentes station, but as it is, our walk is about five minutes to the station.

Once in the station, we head in the direction of Pasqueña station, getting off after five stops at Pino Suarez station, where we change from the pink to the blue line, and take it all the way to the terminus, Tasqueña (aka Taxqueña). As the train pulls out of Pino Suarez, it emerges to street level, then running above it, gliding between the two directions of traffic. At rush hour, it leaves the cars, buses, trucks, and taxis behind. However, at other times, the train plays a game of catch-up with the traffic, passing it at stop lights, being passes at stations.

At Taxqueña station, there is a mad dash by some to transfer to the light rail (tren ligero). At rush hour, people shove to get into the two somewhat long cars, but after rush hour, people appear to be content to wait for the next train if no seats are to be had.

The light rail runs with metal wheels on tracks, like most rail systems around the world. This, howver, is in contrast to the smooth ride of the subway, which runs on tires along wide tracks, making for a ride that - likely for a fraction of the cost - rivals the EuroStar. This mode of el tren ligero makes the much slower ride seem much more jarring than the subway.

Since el parque ecológico is not (apparently) accessible from Xochimilco proper (due in part to the many canals that lie between the park and the UNESCO city), we have to disembark el tren ligero at the Perifrico station. This stop is not very inviting: a narrow strip of platform surrounded by dusty streets running below the Periferico ring road/highway overpass. To exit this station, one needs to cross over the tracks (watshed over by a security guard-cum-crossing guard), climb up to a pedestrian bridge, backtrack across the walkway so as to return to the same side of the road as we were dropped off, walk under the Periferico road, and then walk up to it, along the exit ramp, and then another 100 meters or so, to where one can catch a bus or taxi. (Walking this distance is necessary so as to allow the taxi or bus driver enough distance to merge onto the Periferico road, instead of being forced off of one of the many off-ramps found at this point.)

Once in the taxi or bus, it is a straight shot to the Parque Ecológico, with the road changing from an eight-lane road (two lanes going each direction on the outside - accessible to and from other roads - and two lanes in each direction on the inside, separated by medians, that act as express lanes) into a six-lane road (three common lanes in each direction) separated by a reed-lined canal-cum-wetland.

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