[By Shideh] During my last years in Iran, 1998-1999, Tehran Metro seemed like a dream that would never come to reality. We knew that the plan for its construction had begun a long time before the revolution but was stopped during the war and that the construction had finally started after all those years but there was no hope as it seemed to take a long time. Tehran’s traffic continued to worsen, the pollution lead to numerous social/economical/health problems, and the need for metro was at its peak. On march 7th, 1999, Tehran-Karaj express electric train finally started a limited service of 31.4 km between Azadi square in Tehran and Malard in Karaj with one intermediate stop. The construction works of stations, tunnels, and bridges on a few subway lines were eventually finished and a great number of Tehranies use the Metro every day now to get to their destinations.
Iran khodro with an annual production of over 1,000,000 vehicles continues to contribute to the congestion of cars in Tehran and other cities, while there is an ongoing parallel attempt to increase public transportation and metro lines in Tehran and complete construction of metro stations/tunnels in other major cities (i.e. Shiraz, Tabriz, Mashhad, etc.). The limits imposed on the amount of gas available for each driver last year seemed to be successful in reducing traffic for a short time, but people have found a way around the limitations and selling gas on black market has become a common scene in Tehran.
Photo and map courtesy of TehranMetro
I noticed many Tehranies were becoming increasingly more comfortable with using public transportation. Taxi was always popular, but now busses and especially Tehran Metro are in high demand among most people I talked to. The common complaint about the metro was long lines and crowdedness of the cabins, which is a good sign in my opinion. New Tehran Metro lines are being extended and are currently under construction to address the high demand and to reduce traffic. It is interesting to add that most Tehranies who live close to the new tunnel excavations are extremely worried about possible collapse of their buildings. This was the case for one of our relatives, and we had to ask a friend working for the IIEES (International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology in Tehran) to make sure things were safe and there were no geotechnical hazards associated with the tunnel’s proximity to the buildings around.
Despite new upgrades and additions to public transportation in Tehran, many still like to drive to work or to school. With all the restrictions placed on driving to the financial district or being stuck in traffic jams for long hours, they prefer to drive their own cars. Los Angeles suffers from the same psychological phenomenon which I call pure selfishness. It is easy to forget about our roles and duties in the community and city we live in sometimes. I understand that public transportation can get crowded and not ideal in many cases, that there is need for additional metro lines in Tehran or Los Angeles (both), and that we need to interact with other people even when we are not in the mood and want to listen to our music in our own space when we are on the way. But none of this justifies our selfishness to hurt our city in so many ways by driving alone. There are many alternatives to driving and every city has its own ways. Why not think about this more and accept responsibility for our actions starting today? Why don’t we accept responsibility for Tehran’s gray sky and think about the Tehran we will offer to our next generation. Every one of us matters; we only need to start caring and stop blaming.