We make it no secret that we’re big fans of public transportation. Not only is it friendly to the environment, but public transportation creates a friendlier environment, too. Cities are so much more enjoyable when left open to their residents and not choked by traffic and the smog it produces. Public transit is also very cost effective and much easier than trying to drive AND navigate in a foreign city. Finally, public transit is used by the residents of every city. If you want to get a glimpse of how the locals live, public transit is a good, cheap, and easy way to get it. While Mexico City is known for its horrendous traffic, it’s also home to a substantial public transit network consisting of busses, light rail, and a metro rail system. Want to see what getting around in Mexico City is like? Take the Metro.

The Mexico City metro covers the bulk of the city proper, with a couple lines extending into the satellite towns in the surrounding state. The network is not quite as extensive as other cities of similar population (like New York City), but the system is heavily utilized. Its 141 miles of routes move 4.6 million people a day. That’s 32,600 people daily, per mile of route. By comparison, the New York City Subway system carries 5.6 million people daily on 234 miles of routes, which is 23,900 people daily per mile of route. So yes, the Mexico City Metro is crowded.

But the crowd is part of the experience. When the doors open and people pour out you’ve got some absurdly small amount of time to elbow your way in. During rush hour, it can be so crowded the only way to keep yourself upright when the train starts is to press your hands against the ceiling. The thing is, people expect that here. In many cities, being so close that you physically rest against others on the car, would be unacceptable. In Mexico City, people tend to bear it. It’s part of the experience, every day.

The metro is great. The trains run frequently, efficiently whisking you from one side of this massive city to the other, usually in under an hour. The system maps are easy to understand, and the stations, which were originally laid out to assist the illiterate in navigating the system, are all represented by a unique icon. Each icon is tied somehow to the station name, location, or nearby history. If that sounds interesting to you, check out the Mexico City Metro Twitter account, @MetroCDMX, which explains the story behind a different station icon every day.

No matter what city you visit, public transit is a good way to see how a huge portion of residents move around the city. Especially in larger cities, public transit serves as the background for much of life. The crowds flowing into stations, the vendors hawking on the cars, the musicians everywhere form a part of city life that shouldn’t be missed.