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. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

  2. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  3. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  4. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

  5. 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.

×