Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vall d'Hebron Metro Station

I've lived in Barcelona now for about four months and so far it's been super fun. I've met great people, seen beautiful things, had some amazing experiences, and eaten some tasty food. Overall, it's a great place. One of the things that I've been really impressed by is the Barcelona public-transportation system and I thought that I'd write a little about it and my personal experience living near the Vall d'Hebron Metro Station.

The public-transportation system is operated by the Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB). The system is made up of eight different Metro train lines, over 100 bus routes, the Tourist bus, and a couple of other smaller transportation options. It's very good and covers the city well. Having lived in southern California for 20 years, I can appreciate what they've built and love that you can basically get anywhere in the city in less than 30 minutes. It is worth noting, though, that the area covered is MUCH smaller and much more population-dense than say San Diego for example.

I currently live in a high-rise apartment building in the Vall d'Hebron (buy day bron) area of Barcelona. It's not the most centrally located area of the city and it's actually pretty devoid of local attractions and restaurants--we lovingly refer to it as the Vall d'Bronx... There are a couple of things going for it though. It's a relatively cheap area in a fairly expensive city; it's next to the Parc de Collserola recreation area, which has hiking and biking trails all over it; it's one of the quietest places in what is considered one of the noisiest cities in Europe; and it has a Metro stop on what I consider the best Metro line in the city (L3- Green Line) which allows me to get most places quickly.

What's been a drag about living here recently is all the construction that's going on to extend the L5 (Blue Line) to its new terminus at the Vall d'Hebron station. The station's been torn up since before I moved here and, recently, construction's really gotten noisy as they are rushing to catch up for the opening, which happens very soon. Construction has been going 24 hours a day, seven days per week and it's dusty, inconvenient, and loud. Walking through the station under construction exposes you to exceptional noise levels, high amounts of god-knows-what-type of dust, and lots of smoke. I do understand though that, when it's done soon, we'll have even better access to the city than before. This is the view of the construction from the window of my apartment:

Watching the construction has been entertaining at times. Recently, I saw them construct two sections of walkways over the course of two days, which they then completely ripped out the following day. You can see the two areas in this photo. The first is the walkway (which has been redone) between the two white barriers and the other is the area that is still torn up in front of the backhoe:

For about a week straight, there were teams of about 50 guys on each of three shifts that did nothing but carry raw materials from street level down a very large flight of steps to the metro level only to emerge several minutes later carrying construction waste. It was like watching those leaf-cutter ants that carry the pieces of leaves on their backs.

The construction has had other, more-severe problems than this. In January 2005 near the El Carmel station being built on the L5 line, there were a series of collapses that led to the destruction of several apartment complexes in the area. It was a bad time for the area and it ended up causing serious delays to the whole project.

I love stuff like this - it's fun for me to watch the construction. It'll be a little sad when the area no longer has so much action right out in front of the building though it will be nice to sleep without the jack hammers and other equipment going all night. Hopefully the rest of the construction will go off without a hitch and it'll be nice to have another route into and out of our beloved Vall d'Bronx. I can't wait... :-)

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