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Political Limbo Puts Buenos Aires Subway at Standstill

Scenes from a city dealing with added congestion as a transit strike drags on.


The subway system of Buenos Aires has been at a full stop for more than a week, frustrating commuters and cramming the city's surface streets with a million extra people trying to find a way to get into and around the city. 

Subte typically sees between 600,000 and a million riders each day, a sizable chunk of the commute crowd in Buenos Aires, a city of 3 million in a metropolitan area of 12 million. But more than 2,500 transit workers are upset with their wages, and called a strike beginning August 3. They are demanding a 28 percent increase in pay, according to this article from the AFP.

The reason the strike has lasted so long is that nobody's willing to own up to being in charge of the transit system. The system was nominally privatized in 1991, but it still receives heavy government subsidies. These were paid by the national government until January, when the president tried to hand funding responsibilities to the city government.

Mayor Mauricio Macri backed out. Macri, the leader of an opposition party, says President Cristina Kirchner reneged on a promise to fund the subway system for a year as the city took over. The national government says it already gave the train system to Buenos Aires and doesn't want it back. Transit workers and riders are left hanging in limbo.

Overseeing the train system will be expensive for Buenos Aires, which will likely end up taking the reins. With outdated train cars and vast infrastructural needs, keeping the trains running will be an ongoing challenge. But for now, no resolution is in sight.

Here are a few scenes of how this transit strike is playing out on the ground.

Commuters crowd a downtown bus depot. (Reuters)
The streets of the city have been jammed with traffic as more people are forced to find alternative ways to work. (Reuters)
Commuters line up at a bus stop on this winter morning. (Reuters)
Striking transit workers walk through an empty and shuttered subway station. (Reuters)

Photo credit: Enrique Marcarian / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.