Russian Transport

| Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Getting to and from the city is only the first part of the battle. Next up, you have to get around the city. Over the past couple of years a lot more cars have shown up on the streets of Russia with the big credit boom that was going on. However, there is one big problem for everyone with cars in Russia – parking. There is hardly anywhere to park for all of the cars that already are on the road so I don't expect everyone to own a car, like in the United States, anytime soon without a major rethinking of how cities are lain out.

That being the case, there are 3 primary modes of transportation that are in basically every city and used by everybody daily, 1 form of transportation that is in every city but used rarely, and 2 other forms of transportation that are less common but still fairly prevalent.

The first mode of transportation is the bus (aftobus). The bus system is very intricate and will get you basically anywhere you need to go. I have never seen a bus schedule, or any other schedule for that matter, for what time the bus is going to be at the stop or anything like that. Transportation comes when it comes and it doesn't wait for anyone, literally. The biggest thing I dislike about the bus is that it is only so big. However, don't think that stops people from trying to cram in like sardines. At the busy times of day, you should be prepared to get real close to your lovely smelling neighbors, who if you're lucky have showered within the past couple of days and don't wreak of some form of alcohol (more on that to come). The bus however will get you where you need to go in a decent amount of time and was the form of transportation that we most commonly used as missionaries.

Anya getting on the bus.

Inside the aftobus.

Next up is the trolleybus. This isn't the bus and you will get corrected quickly if you call it the bus. It's the “trolley”bus because it runs on electricity which comes through the overhead connection it has, just like a trolley. The trolleybus is extremely slow and mainly older folks use it to get to their destinations. The trolleybus is slow because it can't go to fast or it will get disconnected from the overhead connection. If you want to take a nap, then the trolleybus might be the way to go (I have already ridden on the trolleybus once since we've been here).

The trolleybus - you can see the connection above the bus.

The last form of transportation that is in every city is the gazelle. No, these aren't little gazelles running around the city that people sit on, but vans, usually yellow, that sit from 8-14 people. Obviously, this mode of transportation is much quicker than the first two, but with so few places, often you will have to wait for awhile to get a spot and the cost is higher. However, if you want to get somewhere in about half the time, then a gazelle is the way to go. Be ready to tell the driver when you want to stop though because unlike the buses, the gazelle only stops when needed and not at every stop.

A picture of a very nice clean gazelle.

Inside the gazelle.

Me inside the gazelle.

Next up is the most expensive way, and that is by taxi. There are plenty of taxi drivers around, but be prepared to pay a good price. If you are super late though, a taxi driver is the way to go as they usually know the fastest way, and they will get you there quickly (more to come). You can usually just stick your hand out to flag down a passing by driver or actually call and order a taxi. You can get a great deal if you catch the right driver who is passing by.

Next up, the two forms of transportation that are not in every city, but still common. First up is the tramvai. This is another form of a train and if you live in salt lake, you can think of it as the 30 year old version of TRAX. It runs throughout the city and gets you where you need to go, but once again is pretty slow so make sure you've planned your time ahead.

A typical tramvai in Russia.

Finally, one of the coolest modes of transportation is the metro. The most intricate metro is found in Moscow and is has the smartest layout that I have ever seen. The metro has several levels in it and you can get pretty deep down into the earth at some of the stops. Other cities in Russia have a metro as well, but they are nowhere near as complex as the Moscow Metro. The Metro is one of the quickest ways to travel as the trains fly and there is no traffic to worry about. It still takes about 1 hour to get from one end of the Moscow metro to the other, which goes a long way in showing how big Moscow is.

A metro stop in Moscow.

The Moscow Metro map.