Panama City: Putting the “Metro” in Metropolitan

You may have already heard that Panama’s capital will be the first city in Central America to get a metro or light rail system, but did you know that the first line is nearly complete? When the project was announced, regional rags dismissed it as yet another Central American pipe dream. But Panama is the kind of place where big projects come to fruition. Just days ago, Panama President Ricardo Martinelli presided over the first ever Metro de Panama trial run.

El Presidente embarked on a brand-new wagon and completed a round-trip run between the Plaza Cinco de Mayo and Albrook, site of a busy mall and national bus terminal. During the one-mile ride, the President “took the wheel” briefly, conducting the train.

The test run was a success, and the government says the $1.8 billion line will be open to the public by the 2013 year end. The 8.5-mile trip will cover 13 stations in approximately 23 minutes.

A second Panama Metro line, running along the city’s north-south axis, is scheduled for completion by February 2014. Full build-out is expected to take till 2035, with lines three and four covering Panama City’s easternmost suburbs. Per government sources, a special police unit will be trained to ensure the Panama Metro is safe for the 1.5 million tourists and locals who are expected to benefit from the system.

In the 1990s Panama City traffic was known for its legendary rush-hour gridlocks. But transit and infrastructure projects—completed by the current and previous administrations—have transformed the city.

Today, the North and South Corridor Highways and the Coastal Belt along the Bay make it a cinch to get around metropolitan Panama City. New traffic lights and overpasses help regulate the flow and shorten driving times. Panama Metro construction has slowed things down temporarily with multiple detours and lane-closings, but the end result will be well worth the inconvenience.

The new Panama Metro line will launch with a capacity to carry 15,000 passengers an hour…and climb gradually to 40,000 passengers an hour. In a city of under two million people, these are staggering numbers.

In cities like Paris, with well-established metro systems, high-cost apartments will often list a nearby metro station as a justification for price. In May The Moscow Times real estate website ran a detailed piece on how a slew of rail and transit projects would boostreal estate prices in the region by 2015.

Based on what we know about the “Metro Effect” around the world, it is possible Panama real estate will be affected by the new metro line. You may want to take this into account if you’re looking for a home here anytime soon. Find a map bearing the new station names and locations at Tunnel Talk.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about Panama and other countries in IL’s daily postcard e-letter. Sign up here for these free daily postcards and we’ll send you a FREE REPORT – Panama: First World Convenience at Third World Prices.



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