ASthousands of Dominicans watched on live television, President Leonel Fernandez drove the Metro wagon forward, formally inaugurating the country's first Metro system. Despite heavy initial resistance and opposition, many Dominicans cheered the February 2008 event and were even more enthusiastic when the Santo Domingo Metro formally opened to the public in January 2009.
Today, an average of 65,000 passengers use the Metro every day, and that figure is expected to jump to more than 170,000 when the second line--linking even more areas of Santo Domingo--opens next year.
The reason for the popularity is simple: The cost is low, and passengers save considerable time compared with the public bus and taxi systems. Average Metro users save 11 pesos by buying the 20-peso ticket, and they save 49 minutes per trip, according to a United Nations report.
The cost of the 20-peso [US$0.571 ticket compares favorably with other cities in Latin America, even in relative terms. Whereas the fare in Santiago, Chile, represents 28 percent of the minimum wage there, in Santo Domingo it's the equivalent of 25 percent.
Meanwhile, drivers using roads also benefit, as congestion goes down. The standard way to measure a vehicle's con tribution to road congestion is by measuring the number of passenger-car-equivatent (PCE) units a vehicle represents. A PCE measures a vehicle's contribution to traffic relative to a private car--the base case. "Estimates ... indicate that the Metro has potentially displaced 22 percent of the total PCEs on the road during the morning inbound peak hour, and a weighted average of almost 12 percent of PCEs across all time periods," says a report from the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development.
Other benefits include reduced accidents and pollution, a local economic stimulus and transfer of technology, according to the report. "Santo Domingo will likely garner reductions in their current rate of...