The new map of Athens

It appears that the extension of the Athens metro and suburban rail network have brought about those essential changes that had not been achieved, at least at such speed, by decades-long social changes. The extension of Metro Line 3 to Aegaleo, which is scheduled to reach Haidari in the near future, appears to have had a profound effect – both political and social – on the geography of Athens. This is not just because it has reduced the travel time from the western suburbs to the center or even to the east, but because it has erased the boundaries – both physical and psychological – separating different spheres of Athenian life. Naturally, the tools we now have at our disposal are much different to those available 10 or 15 years ago. Aegaleo today is not the same as it was in 1990 and the same can be said of Gazi, Patissia and Mesogeia. This reversal of the Athenian «hierarchy» is possibly the biggest change that the capital city has undergone in recent decades. Economic activity has spread to the suburbs, which until recently depended on small-scale retail and real estate activities, narrowing the divide between working- and middle-class areas (irrespective of other criteria). To take the example of Peristeri, house prices are almost the same as those in the eastern suburbs. Demand for new housing that meets a certain set of standards, in any part of the city, has upended entrenched biases and had an impact on the movement of people and capital. However, the movement of boundary lines is not always a smooth transition. In London, for example, the aged Underground network never succeeded in upgrading the eastern parts of the city. But Athens is not London. Its social structures are different and there is much greater mobility between the different social strata. For example, the way Peristeri now looks is indicative of the progress – or its lack – seen more or less in every part of Attica, as the entire region rapidly expands beyond the city boundaries. As the limits of the broader area are pushed even farther, the older, central and historical districts of the city – those that convey the mood and trends of the city’s core – will have to redefine their roles. As access to the heart of the city gradually becomes easier, so the competition between its suburbs will increase.

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