Sunday, October 4, 2015

Service Change: Portugal, Part 9 - Porto Metro, Lines A and B

The Porto Metro is actually the biggest metro system in Portugal. Despite being twice as long as the Lisbon Metro, though, it only gets a third of the ridership. Unlike Lisbon, Porto's Metro system is light rail, and is mostly above ground. But hey, that second bit is a plus, isn't it?

My Andante Card, otherwise known as the bane of my existence.
Okay, so the Porto Metro fare system certainly is...something. First of all, they have this really, really confusing zone system. They try to explain it on the website, but it really makes no sense at all. Then there's this whole "validation" thing. Basically, the Metro uses an honor system, but you have to "validate" your card on these little machines for it to be considered valid. It must be done "at most, with 10 minutes of antecedence before beginning the travel." Uh-huh...

A validator, otherwise known as the other bane of my existence.
The thing with validation is that when you validate your ticket for the first time, it puts a time limit on it. But if you validate again, you get extra time on the ticket. This means you could theoretically get off at each stop and run out to validate, then run back onto the train to get more time - and people did do that. Plus, sometimes validators at stations are broken, so you have to run out of the train at the next stop in order to validate. And since it's an honor system, they have occasional checks, and if your ticket isn't validated, that's 95€ out of your pocket.

The list of existence banes keeps getting longer...
Okay, the ticket machine situation was horrible. I mean, having only one ticket machine at above-ground stations makes sense, since most of them are simple and quiet. But having just two of them at one of the busiest stations on the system is ridiculous! The Sao Bento subway station had this huge mezzanine with nothing in it! How about investing in a few more ticket machines so there's not a massive line at the only working one, huh?

Yup, that makes so much sense.
If this is too confusing for you, you can read the longest FAQ ever on the Metro website.
Right, now that we've gotten that madness out of the way, we can talk about the Metro itself. It has six lines, five of which take the same path through the city. The A is one of those five, and it's also the shortest of those. Unfortunately, on the day I took the A, my camera was out of batteries, so this will be purely text. Sorry about that.

This is an E, but it gives you an idea of what the trains look like on the outside.
On the inside, the trains are pretty nice. They have really wide doors that are opened by buttons, which I always like. The seats mostly forward or backward, and there are simple automatic announcements saying the name of the next station.

Looking down the train.
The A started in this full-on industrial area at Senhor de Matosinhos Station. As we travelled down the side of Av. Eng. Duarte Pacheco, we went by huge cranes and shipyards. After the next stop, Mercado, we got a private right-of-way, running right through Matosinhos, going by lots of restaurants and businesses.

We then turned onto Avenue da Republica, running in the median. There were still some businesses, but it shifted to a lot of apartments, too. After going through a rotary, we turned onto R. Dom Nuno Alvares Pereira, then onto the median of Av. Villagarcia de Arosa. Shifting to the side of the road, we went by a park (Parque de Real), then a hospital.

We had our own private right-of-way for a bit, running under a highway, then we entered the median of Av. Calouste Gulbenkian. The street turned north, lined with apartments. We turned onto Av. Vasco de Gama, then Rua da Lagoa, and then Av. Fabril do Norte, joining Lines B, C, E, and F on the "main line" into Porto.

After Senhora da Hora station, considered to be the western "hub" of the system, the street was mostly residential. We turned onto Rua Fonte das Sete Bicas, then went down below ground level. Returning to the surface, we stopped at Ramalde, then crossed over a highway.

Ha! I got pictures of the main line when we were on a different train! This was when we were below ground level.
Going over the highway.
Going by a residential area.
We had a proper underground station at Casa de Musica, then went elevated. There was a nice view of the city between Carolina Michaelis and Lapa Stations, then we went into a longer tunnel. When we came out again, we were at Trindade, the hub of the system. This is where you can also change for Line D, the one line that runs separately from the other five.

Alas, this was the best picture of the elevated section I could get.
The mezzanine at Trindade.
The platform.
There were tunnels on either side of the station.
We went into another tunnel after Trindade. This is the only legitimate subway section on the main line, as stopped at three underground stops. At Campanha, we popped above ground again, stopping right next to the suburban station. We continued, following the suburban line tracks, which eventually went under a highway. From there, we reached the last stop, Estadio do Dragao, right next to a huge stadium. The only line that continues past here is the F, but that's for another post.

And now...
...Line B!
Line B is by far the longest line on the system, running way out to Povoa de Varzim, northwest of the city. It's so long it even has an express service! You may have also noticed that it uses different trains. Lines B and C use these sleek ones that can go faster and are also more comfortable. The only problem with them is that they don't have doors in the middle articulated section, which can be annoying if you happen to be in the middle of the platform.

I mean, just look at those cushioned seats!
The screen showing the stop names.
After Senhora da Hora, where Line A turns off, we continued, the C splitting off at the next stop, Fonte do Cuco. Our line went elevated, going over a highway. After that, it just got rural all of a sudden, with farmland on either side of the line. We went over a small river, then passed some huge...tarped mounds? I don't know what to call them.

Fields between us and a highway.
I see you, factory.
Some apartments loom beyond the field.
At Verdes, Line E finally split off and we were on our own. We went through a small town, then it was back to open farmland. After an even smaller town, we passed through a forest, then the fields were back. There were some tiny settlements, then all of a sudden we went by a massive suburban mall (no stop, though).

A train at Verdes.
A town.
What is this, Kansas?
We passed through a small industrial area, then it went back to houses and fields. After a nice bridge over the River Axe, we entered Vila de Conde, which is a legitimate city with some actual interest to tourists. The Metro doesn't really go to the downtown area, though, running in the medians of various streets.

That's lovely.
There's a nice-looking church!
Look! It's a...lighthouse?
We passed through an undeveloped area on our own right-of-way, then it got urban again at Sao Bras station. We travelled in a street median from there to the next and last stop, Povoa de Varzim. This station had a small parking lot and even its own cafe! Overall, it was a nice simple terminus to the longest line on the Porto Metro.

Another inside shot.
The plaza next to the Povoa de Varzim.
Povoa de Varzim's shelter.
Two trains side-by-side, with a third one off to the left.
The train heading back to Porto.
Oh, yeah, that's an aqueduct from the 1700s! This was on the way back.
The aqueduct looms in the distance.
And finally, the other side of the River Axe, with a more urban view!

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