Just before the transit service began, locals saw this short film on television and movie screens across the city.

Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.

In the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, plans for an underground metro system were first hatched in the 1880s. But Lisboetas would have to wait until 1959 before they could ride in style beneath the streets: Construction only became feasible after World War II, when Portugal’s economy stabilized under the regime of dictator Antonio Salazar and Marshall Plan money started flowing in.

Just before it opened, a short film starring a nationally beloved voice explained the residents how the new transit system would work. O Metropolitano—made by the prestigious Tobis Portuguesa film production company and directed by Arthur Duarte—was released in 1959, appearing on televisions and movie screens across Lisbon. In it, radio and TV journalist Artur Agostinho gives a young local couple a thorough tour of the system down to every last detail a rider could possibly need in time for its December 29 opening that year.

The system didn’t fully blossom until well after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 in which the country’s authoritarian regime was overthrown. By the time the city hosted Expo ‘98, Metro had expanded to 36 stations and four lines and has since expanded to 56 stations.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a map of future climate risks in the U.S.
    Maps

    America After Climate Change, Mapped

    With “The 2100 Project: An Atlas for A Green New Deal,” the McHarg Center tries to visualize how the warming world will reshape the United States.

  2. photo: A man boards a bus in Kansas City, Missouri.
    Transportation

    Why Kansas City’s Free Transit Experiment Matters

    The Missouri city is the first major one in the U.S. to offer no-cost public transportation. Will a boost in subsidized mobility pay off with economic benefits?

  3. photo: a Tower Records Japan Inc. store in Tokyo, Japan.
    Life

    The Bankrupt American Brands Still Thriving in Japan

    Cultural cachet, licensing deals, and density explain why Toys ‘R’ Us, Tower Records, Barneys, and other faded U.S. retailers remain big across the Pacific.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. photo: an Uber driver.
    Perspective

    Did Uber Just Enable Discrimination by Destination?

    In California, the ride-hailing company is changing a policy used as a safeguard against driver discrimination against low-income and minority riders.

×