Keith's Panamanian Travel Ramble

The wanderings of Andrea and Keith around Panama

Panama City’s New Metro

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We are traveling with a transit expert, my brother. Thanks to his transit interest, we began investigating the local transit system to get around. There is a brand new subway here, which just opened in April. It is the first sub way in Central America and it is crowded much of the time. This is the first of four legs to be constructed, to aid residents in getting around without using cars.

According to our expert, the mark of a successful transit system is one that takes less time to get from A to B than it would by car. This system certainly meets those criteria, given the completely unpredictable traffic here in the city.

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A new Metro bus system was introduced here, starting around four years ago. The old Diablo Rohos were individually owned ex Miami school busses, imported and rehabbed for use as transit buses. They were an art form as each is individually painted with the characters that the owner considered either good or bad. It is interesting to see a Roho heading down the street with Osama Bin Laden air brushed on the hood and Jesus Christ on the rear with Mickey Mouse on the side along with an image of his girlfriend. Each design is personal. These are seriously customized hot rods, with lots of chrome, lights, noise, strobes and dual six-inch tail pipes that roar like a lion. They achieved their name of Diablo Rho (Red Devil) because, as individually owned busses, they would race to the next stop to beat the other buses and capture all the fares. Traffic suffered the consequences. Sadly, standard Metro busses are replacing this art form. Currently, many of the old Rohos can be found stored in a field behind the Westin Playa Bonita, where the resort has carefully frosted the windows looking out on the storage area. Rumor has it that they are scheduled for yet another overhaul for service as school busses here in Panama.

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Here, you cannot use cash on public transit. You buy a card and load it with cash. Simply tap the card at the entrance and exit to the bus or subway to gain access. Fares are $0.25 for the bus and $0.35 for the train. There are no transfer privileges.

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We managed to get in a couple of day trips via transit before Andrea arrived. We successfully got to the tip of the Amador Causeway, which contains a number of restaurants at the entrance to the canal and an incredible view of the downtown lights. We also managed a visit to the Miraflores canal locks, where there is a large visitor center and museum for the canal. A number of visits to Albrook Mall were also part of our schedule. Albrook is a popular mall with a large transit center, called the National Transportation Center, where the train and many busses arrive and leave. (We are in the rainy season)

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Since our arrival, there has been a large ice cream consumption increase! It seems that Janine and Robert cannot get by a place selling ice cream without sampling the stuff. I’m not sure if it is the price, $US 0.90, or the driving need to find the best ice cream in Panama. I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

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