The public transportation is clean, efficient and fast. There are 13 metro lines with over 213 stations, more than 170 bus lines with stops less than a block apart from one another, and the InterBus and 10 Cercanias lines take you from the city center to the suburbs and other communities within the Community of Madrid. The most commonly used if living in Madrid however are the Metro and the EMT buses.
The Metro is extremely easy to use. The lines are identified by both number and color, so knowing Spanish is not even necessary and if you miss one the odds of one coming in the next three minutes are high. The Metro trains run from 6:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. and the frequency of the trains depends on the line, time of day and day of the week. On average the trains come every two to three minutes and every five minutes during rush hours: 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., it is not recommended to travel during rush hour, unless you want to feel like a sardine in a can. At night and on the weekends the metros run every 10 to 15 minutes. It's all very convenient and when in doubt hop on the main line called the grey, six, or circular, which continuously goes in a circle around the city center. All lines, at one point or another, connect directly with this route and if they don't they connect to one that does. Also, if you are directionally challenged, don't worry. There is a new application Madrid Metro iPhone application that calculates the easiest route to your destination for you, it even estimates the time. A personal treasure of mine.
The EMT buses:
Buses come all the time in Madrid. The stops are equipped with electric signs that countdown the minutes for the next four approaching buses. All EMT buses are air-conditioned as well, which is a great thing in the hot Spanish summers. They are fast, frequent and if one is completely full you won't wait more than five to ten minutes for the next bus. The most common buses in Madrid are the C1 and C2, the Circular, just as the frequent Metro line is Circular. The route runs in a wide circle around the city, stopping at major Metro stations such as Atocha, Plaza de España, Moncola, Retiro, Argüelles and more. During the night the day buses do not run, but there are 24 Búhos (owls) that run from 11:45 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. every 15 to 30 minutes and are numbered N1-N24. They all begin from Plaza de Cibeles (metro stop is Banco de España) and go to the suburbs and within the city, while Metro Búho, weekend night buses, leave from the bus stops closest to the 11 central metro lines. They are L1-L11. For all night buses the times vary though you should never wait for more than 15 to 30 minutes.
If you are worried about your safety, don't be. If you are conscious of your surroundings you will be just fine in the Metro and on the EMT buses. At each Metro station there are also guards and plenty of security cameras to ensure that you are safe.
Spain is in an economic crisis and one way people in Spain are showing their opinion of the matter and actions made by the government is through strikes. The unions representing Madrid's public transportation companies have followed suit and have both planned and spontaneous demonstrations. In the past two months I have experienced delayed and packed bus rides and hot and uncomfortable Metro rides during the times of 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.. On the days of the strikes the Madrid Metro operates at 50 percent of the usual services, and though the EMT buses only strike for two hours on the designated days, you never know what time of day it is going to occur.
I use the metro and bus more than three times a day and wouldn't have it any other way. If I had to pay for each individual use I would mind but Madrid makes it cost-effective with an Abono. An Abono is a transportation card you renew every thirty days and it is valid for all modes of public transportation except the InterBus and Cercanias, but you rarely, if ever, take these. The cost is 52,20 euros for adults (ages 23 and up), €33,50 for 22 and younger and €11,80 for the tercera edad, or senior citizens. If you break down any of those prices and take the metro twice a day that is less than a single euro round trip, the price of single trip is 1,50 to 2 euros. I think you have a bargain on your hands with the Abono.