By the second half of the twentieth century, Mexico City had serious public transport issues, with congested main roads and highways, especially in the downtown zone, where 40 percent of the daily trips in the city were concentrated. 65 of the 91 lines of bus and electric transport served this area. With four thousand units in addition to 150,000 personal automobiles peak hours, the average speed was less than walking pace.
The principal promoter of the construction of the Mexico City Metro was engineer Bernardo Quintana, who was in charge of the construction company Ingenieros Civiles y Asociados (Spanish for Civil Engineers and Associates). He carried out a series of studies that resulted in a draft plan which would ultimately lead to the construction of the Mexico City Metro. This plan was shown to different authorities of Mexico City but it was not made official until 29 April 1967, when the Government Gazette ("Diario Oficial de la Federación") published the presidential decree that created a public decentralized organism, the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, with the proposal to build, operate and run a rapid transit of subterranean course for the public transport of Mexico City.
On 19 June 1967, in the crossroad of Chapultepec Avenue with Avenida Bucareli, the inauguration ceremony for the Mexico City Metro took place. Two years later, on 4 September 1969, an orange train made the inaugural trip between stations Zaragoza and Insurgentes, thus beginning daily operation up to today.
The first stage of construction comprised the construction and inauguration of lines 1, 2 and 3. This stage involved engineers, geologists, mechanics, civil engineers, chemists, hydraulic and sanitation workers, electricians, archaeologists, and biologists; specialists in ventilation, statistics, computation, and in traffic and transit; accountants, economists, lawyers, workers and laborers. Between 1,200 and 4,000 specialists and 48,000 workers participated, building at least one kilometer of track per month, the fastest rate of construction ever for a subway.
During this stage of construction workers uncovered two archaeological ruins, one Aztec idol, and the bones of a mammoth (under exhibit in Talismán station).
By the end of the first stage, namely on 10 June 1972, the STC Metro had 48 stations and a total length of 41.41 kilometres (25.73 mi): Line 1 ran from Observatorio to Zaragoza, Line 2 from Tacuba into the southwestern Tasqueña and line 3 from Tlatelolco to Hospital General in the south, providing quick access to the General Hospital of Mexico.
No further progress was reached during President Luis Echeverría's government, but during José López Portillo's administration, a second stage began; the Comisión Ejecutiva del Metro (Executive Technical Commission of Mexico City Metro) was created in order to be in charge of expanding the STC Metro within the metropolitan area of Mexico City.
Works began with the expansion of Line 3 towards the north from Tlatelolco to La Raza in 1978 and to the current terminal Indios Verdes in 1979, and towards the south from Hospital General to Centro Médico in 1980 and to Zapata months later. Construction of lines 4 and 5 was begun and completed on 26 May and 30 August 1982, respectively; the first one from Martín Carrera to Santa Anita and the latter from Politécnico to Pantitlán. Line 4 was the first STC Metro line built as an elevated track, owing to the lower density of big buildings.
This construction stage took place from the beginning of 1983 through the end of 1985. Lines 1, 2 and 3 were expanded to their current lengths, and new lines 6 and 7 were built. The length of the network was increased by 35.29 kilometres (21.93 mi) and the number of stations to 105.
Line 3 route was expanded from Zapata station to Universidad station on 30 August 1983. Line 1 was expanded from Zaragoza to current terminal Pantitlán, and line 2 from Tacuba to current terminal Cuatro Caminos. These latter were both inaugurated on 22 August 1984.
Line 6 first route ran from El Rosario to Instituto del Petróleo; Line 7 was opened from Tacuba to Barranca del Muerto and runs on the bottom of the Sierra de las Cruces mountain range that surrounds the Valley of Mexico by its west side, outside of the ancient lake zone; this made possible Line 7 to be built as a deep-tunnel.
On the morning of 19 September 1985, an 8.1 Richter magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City. Many buildings as well as streets were left with major damage making the transportation on the ground difficult, but the STC Metro was not damaged because a rectangular structure had been used instead of arches, making it resistant to earthquakes, thus proving to be a safe means of transportation in a time of crisis.
On the day of the quake, the Metro stopped service and completely shut down for fear of electrocution. This caused people to get out of the tunnels from wherever they were and onto the street to try to get where they were going. At the time, the Metro had 101 stations, with 32 closed to the public in the weeks after the event. On Line 1, there was no service in stations Merced, Pino Suárez, Isabel la Católica, Salto del Agua, Balderas or Cuauhtémoc. On Line 2, there was no service between stations Bellas Artes and Taxqueña. On Line 3 only Juárez and Balderas were closed. Line 4 continued to operate normally. All of the closed stations were in the historic center area, with the exception of the stations of Line 2 south of Pino Suárez. These stations were located above ground. The reason these stations were closed was not due to damage to the Metro proper, but rather because of surface rescue work and clearing of debris.
Fourth stage saw the completion of Line 6 from Instituto del Petróleo to eastern terminal Martín Carrera and Line 7 to the north from Tacuba to El Rosario. Line 9 was the only new line built during this stage; it originally ran from Pantitlán to Centro Médico, and its expansion to Tacubaya was completed on 29 August 1988. For Line 9, a circular deep-tunnel and an elevated track were used.
For the first time, a service line of the Mexico City Metro ran into the State of Mexico: planned as one of more líneas alimentadoras (feeding lines to be named by letters, instead of numbers), line A was fully operational by its first inauguration on 12 August 1991; it runs from Pantitlán to La Paz, located in the municipality of the same name. This line was built almost entirely above ground, and to reduce the cost of maintenance, steel railway tracks and overhead lines were used instead of pneumatic traction, promoting the name metro férreo (steel-rail metro) as opposed to the previous eight lines that used pneumatic traction.
The draft for Line 8 planned a correspondencia (transfer station) in Zócalo, namely the exact center of the city, but it was cancelled due to possible damage to the colonial buildings and the Aztec ruins, so it was replanned and now it runs from Garibaldi, which is still downtown, to Constitución de 1917 in the southeast of the city. The construction of line 8 began in 1988 and was completed in 1994.
With this, the length of the network increased 37.1 kilometres (23.1 mi), adding two lines and 29 more stations, giving the metro network at that point a total of 178.1 kilometres (110.7 mi), 154 stations and 10 lines.
Assessment for line B began in late 1993. Line B was intended as a second línea alimentadora for northeastern municipalities in the State of Mexico, but, unlike line A, it used pneumatic traction. Construction of the subterranean track between Buenavista (named after the old Buenavista train station) and Garibaldi began in October 1994. Line B was opened to public in two stages: from Buenavista to Villa de Aragón on 15 December 1999, and from Villa de Aragón to Ciudad Azteca on 30 November 2000.
Plans for a new STC Metro line started in 2008, although previous surveys and assessments were made as early as 2000. Line 12 first service stage was planned for completion in late 2009 with the creation of track connecting Axomulco, a planned new transfer station for Line 8 (between Escuadrón 201 and Atlalilco) to Tláhuac. The second stage, connecting Mixcoac to Tláhuac, was to be completed in 2010.
Construction of Line 12 started in 2008, assuring it would be opened by 2011. Nevertheless, completion was delayed to 2012. Free test rides were offered to public in some stations, and the line was fully operational on 30 October 2012. With minor changes, Line 12 runs from Mixcoac to Tláhuac, serving southern Mexico City for the first time. With 24.31 kilometres (15.11 mi), it is the longest line in the system.
Line 12 differs from previous lines in several aspects: no hawkers are allowed, neither inside the train nor inside the stations; it is the first numbered-line to use steel railway tracks; one must have a Tarjeta DF smart card to access any station, since Metro tickets are no longer accepted.
In the book Los hombres del Metro, the original planning of Line 12 is described; although it was to begin at Mixcoac as it does today, Atlalilco and Constitución de 1917 stations of Line 8 were to be part of Line 12. The same map shows that Line 8 would have reached the Villa Coapa area and that it would not have had a terminal at Garibaldi, but at Indios Verdes, linking with Line 3. In addition, the book shows that Line 7 would have terminated at San Jerónimo. None of this plans have been confirmed by the Mexico City government.
In 2015 mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera announced the construction of two more stations and a terminal for Line 12: Valentín Campa Salazar, Álvaro Obregón and Observatorio, both west of Mixcoac; these are to be built by 2016. With this Line 12 will be connected to Line 1 and provide a new metro access to the Observatorio zone, which will become the terminal for the intercity train between México City and Toluca, planned to complete in 2018.
The metro system's construction has resulted in more that 20 thousand archaeological findings, from various time periods in the history of the indigenous people. The excavations needed to make way for the rails gave opportunities to find artifacts from different periods of the region's inhabitants, in areas that are now densely urbanized. Objects and small structures were found, with origins spanning from prehistoric times to the 20th century. Some examples of artifacts preserved by the Mexican National Institute of Anthopology and History ( Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México (INAH)) are: parts of pyramids (like an alter to the Mexica god Ehecatl), a sculpture of the goddes Clatlicue, and remains of a mammoth.The altar to Ehécatl is now in Pino Suárez station, between lines 1 and 2, and is called by the INAH the smallest archeological site in Mexico. the metro has led to a large quantity of archeological findings, and has also let us understand more about the pattern of ancient civilizations in the Mexican capital by analyzing its underground from various time periods.
Distinguished architects were hired to design and construct the stations on the first metro line, such as Enrique del Moral, Félix Candela, Salvador Ortega and Luis Barragán. Examples of Candela's work can be seen in San Lázaro, Candelaria, and Merced stations on line 1.
Each line offers one service only, and to each line a number (letter if feeding line) and a color are assigned. Every assigned color is present on square-shaped station logos, system maps and street signs, and neither colors nor numbers have been changed. Line B is the only exception to color assignment, as green (upper half) and grey (lower half) are used, producing thus bicolor logos and signs. Grey only may be used to avoid confusion with line 8, which uses a similar green.
The names of metro stations are often historical in nature, highlighting people, places, and events in Mexican history. There are stations commemorating aspects of the Mexican Revolution and the revolutionary era. When it opened in 1969 with line 1 (the "Pink Line"), two stations alluded to the Revolution. Most directly referencing the Revolution was Metro Pino Suárez, named after Francisco I. Madero's vice president, who was murdered with him in February 1913. The other was Metro Balderas, whose icon is a cannon, alluding to the Ciudadela armory where the coup against Madero was launched. In 1970, Metro Revolución opened, with the station at the Monument to the Revolution. As the Metro expanded, further stations with names from the revolutionary era opened. In 1980, two popular heroes of the Revolution were honored, with Metro Zapata explicitly commemorating the peasant revolutionary from Morelos. A sideways commemoration was Metro División del Norte, named after the Army that Pancho Villa commanded until its demise in the Battle of Celaya in 1915. The year 1997 saw the opening of the Metro Lázaro Cárdenas station. In 1988, Metro Aquiles Serdán honors the first martyr of the Revolution Aquiles Serdán. In 1994, Metro Constitución de 1917 opened, as did Metro Garibaldi, named after the grandson of Italian fighter for independence, Giuseppi Garibaldi. The grandson had been a participant in the Mexican Revolution. In 1999, the radical anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón was honored with the Metro Ricardo Flores Magón station. Also opening in 1999 was Metro Romero Rubio, named after the leader of Porfirio Díaz's Cientificos, whose daughter Carmen Romero Rubio became Díaz's second wife. In 2012, a new Metro line opened with a Metro Hospital 20 de Noviembre stop, a hospital named after the date that Francisco I. Madero in his 1910 Plan de San Luis Potosí called for rebellion against Díaz. There are no Metro stops named for Madero, Carranza, Obregón, or Calles, and only an oblique reference to Villa in Metro División del Norte.
Each station is identified by a minimalist logo, first designed by Lance Wyman, who had also designed the logo for the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Logos are generally related to the name of the station or the area around it. At the time of Line 1's opening, Mexico's illiteracy rate was high. As of 1960, 38% of Mexicans over the age of five were illiterate and only 5.6% of Mexicans over the age of six had completed more than six years of school. Since one-third of the Mexican population could not read or write and most of the rest had not completed high school, it was thought that patrons would find it easier to guide themselves with a system based on colors and visual signs.
The logos are not assigned at random; rather, they are designated by considering the surrounding areas, such as:The reference places that are located around the stations (e.g., the logo for Salto del Agua fountain depicts a fountain).
The topology of an area (e.g., Coyoacán—in Nahuatl "place of coyotes"—depicts a coyote).
The history of the place (e.g., Juárez, named after President Benito Juárez, depicts his silhouette).
The logos' background colors reflect those of the line the station serves. Stations serving two or more lines show the respective colors of each line in diagonal stripes, as in Salto del Agua. This system was adopted for the Guadalajara and Monterrey metros, and recently for the 2005, 2009 and 2011 Mexico City Metrobús. Although logos are no longer necessary due to literacy being now widespread, their usage remained.Colours according to the official STC icons.
The Mexico City Metro offers in and out-street transfers to three major rapid transit systems: the Mexico City Metrobús bus rapid transit system, the Mexico City light rail system and the Ferrocarril Suburbano (FSZMVM) commuter rail. None of these is part of the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo network and an extra fare must be paid for access.
Metrobús Line 1 was inaugurated in 2005. According to the 1985 STC Metro Master Plan, Metrobús Line 1 roughly follows the route planned for STC Metro Line 15 by 2010, which was never built. Every transfer is out-of-station, but the same smart card may be used for payment. All five lines (Line 5 to be built during 2013) offer connection to at least one STC Metro station. STC Metro stations that connect to Metrobús lines include Indios Verdes, La Raza, Chilpancingo, Balderas, Etiopía/Plaza de la Transparencia, Insurgentes Sur and others.
The sole light rail line running from Tasqueña to Xochimilco is operated by the Servicio de Transportes Eléctricos and is better known as Tren Ligero. Line 2 terminal Tasqueña offers an in-station transfer, but an extra ticket must be purchased.
In 2008, the Ferrocarril Suburbano commuter rail, commonly known as Suburbano, was inaugurated with a sole line running from Cuatitlán to Buenavista as of 2013. STC Metro offers two in-station transfers: Line B terminal Buenavista to the Suburbano terminal of the same name, and Line 6 station Ferrería/Arena Ciudad de México into Suburbano station Fortuna. An extra fare must be paid, and a Ferrocarril Suburbano smart card is required for access.
Another commuter rail, Tren Interurbano de Pasajeros Toluca-Valle de México will be completed in 2018. This line will connect Mexico City with Toluca. It will terminate at Metro Observatorio.
The price for a single day ticket is currently MXN $5.00. A discounted rate of MXN $3.00 is available upon application for women head of households, the unemployed, and students with scarce resources. Mexico City Metro offers free service to the elderly, the physically impaired, and children under the age of 5 (accompanied by an adult). Tickets can be purchased at booths.
Until 2009, a STC Metro ticket cost MXN $2.00 (€ 0.10, or US$ 0.15 in 2009); one purchased ticket allowed unlimited distance travel and transfer at any given time for one day, making the Mexico City Metro one of the cheapest rail systems in the world. Only line A's transfer in Pantitlán required a second payment before 13 December 2013. In January 2010 the price rose to MXN $3.00 (€ 0.15, or US$ 0.24), a fare that remained until 13 December 2013; a 2009 survey showed that 93% of citizens approved of the increase, while some said they would be willing to pay even more if needed.
STC Metro rechargeable cards were first available for an initial cost of MXN $10.00. The card would be recharged at the ticket counter in any station (or at machines in some Metro stations) to a maximum of MXN $120.00 (around € 6.44, or US$ 7.05 in 2015) for 20 trips.
In an attempt to modernize public transport, in October 2012 the Mexico City government implemented the use of a prepaid fare card, or stored-value card, called Tarjeta DF (Tarjeta del Distrito Federal, literally Federal District Card) as a payment method for STC Metro, Metrobús and the city's trolleybus and light rail systems, though they are all managed by different organisations. Servicio de Transportes Eléctricos manages both the Xochimilco Light Rail line and the city's trolleybus system. Previous fare cards that were valid only on STC Metro or Metrobús remained valid for the system for which they were acquired.
As of April 2012, 14 types of standard gauge rolling stock totalling a number of 355 trains running in 6-or 9-car formation are currently in use on the Mexico City Metro. Four manufacturers have provided rolling stock for the Mexico City Metro, namely the French Alsthom (NM-73, 79), Canadian Bombardier (MP-86, FM-95A and NM-02), Spanish CAF and Mexican Concarril (NM-83 and FM-86) (now Bombardier Transportation Mexico, in some train types with the help of Alsthom and/or Bombardier).
The maximum design speed limit is 80 km/h (50 mph) (average speed 35.5 km/h or 22.1 mph) for rubber-tyred rolling stock and 100 km/h (62 mph) (average speed 42.5 km/h or 26.4 mph) for steel-wheeled rolling stock. Unlike the rolling stock of other metro systems in the world, the trains do not utilise air-conditioning; instead forced-air ventilation is employed in all trains and the top portion of windows can be opened so that passenger comfort is ensured by the combination of these two types of ventilation. Like the rolling stock used in the Paris Métro, the numbering of the Mexico City Metro's rolling stock are specified by year of design (not year of first use).
In chronological order, the types of rubber-tyred rolling stock are: MP-68, NM-73A, NM-73B, NM-73C, NM-79, MP-82, NC-82, NM-83A, NM-83B, NE-92 and NM-02; and the types of steel-wheeled roling stock are: FM-86, FM-95A, FE-07 and FE-10.