February 6, 2014

Michael Geller in Moscow – 2: The Transit System

More from our man in Moscow, Michael Geller, with excerpts and pics from his blog here.


I’ve often thought you can learn a lot about a city by its public transit system. … The Moscow Subway is perhaps the most remarkable transit system I have ever experienced.  …

It opened in 1935 and for the next 20 years many of its stations were built, some as much as 240 feet below grade…that’s equivalent to a 27 storey apartment building below grade! You ride down very long escalators. When I inquired why the stations were so deep, I was told many were designed as bomb shelters in the event of a nuclear war.

While a few lines have digital indicators to let you know where you are, most do not and it is difficult to know exactly where you are. However, the stations are announced (in Russian of course) and I was surprised to learn that a male voice announces the next station when traveling towards the  centre of the city, and a female voice when going away from it.

Many of the stations have this circular design with the entrances clearly separated from the exits.

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The system carries up to nine million passengers a day.

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But what makes it most remarkable is the design of the stations, which truly are incredible works of art.

These colourful murals must surely delight on a cold, grey winter day!

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While the stations are often fabulous, the subway cars are not. While there may be some newer cars in the system, every one that I saw looked like this:

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