JEN: Transportation in Russia

21 Mar

Hi Everyone!

Today I’m writing a little bit about, in my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of life in St. Petersburg- Transportation. In Glastonbury, my experience with public transportation reached no further than taking the bus to and from school, which doesn’t really even count. Burlington was no better, I used the city bus once- ended up getting hopelessly lost and walking home anyways, and another time I took a taxi from the airport. Granted, I used to take a bus from Hartford to Boston to visit friends with some frequency, but that was easy all I had to do was get on and get off. No random stops or transfers- very straight forward. I’ve only been two New York twice and never used the metro. Needless to say, prior to coming here I was little concerned about navigating my way around such a big city!

St.Petersburg has many different methods of transportation, Metro, Tram, Trolleybus, Marshrutka, Cabs, “Gypsy Cabs” just to name a few.

Lets start with the metro.

Seeing as St.Petersburg was built over what was once a swamp, it comes as no suprise that it is acutally the deepest metro system in the whole world. The first metro station, Ploshad Vostannia, was opened on November15th, 1955.

Each metro ride costs 25 roubles, 50 for round trip. I have a metro pass, which I find much easier to use than tokens, because it is just a card you swipe at the tourniquet each time you get on the escalator down.

On average, most metro stations have about a 3-4 minute escalator trip down to reach the platform. Trains ususally come about once every minute and thirty seconds, so it really is a very efficient way to get around the city. Most of the time, it is easy to get on the car, find a seat and sit down for the duration of your ride, but during rush hour the same can not be said. Rush hour on the metro in St.Petersburg, both in the morning and evening, is insanity. The sheer volume of people trying to get in and out is unbelievable! Sometimes it is so crowded that you don’t even need to hold on to anything as the metro starts and stops, the people pressed up on all sides of you are enough support. A ot of the time, you get pushed off at different stops due to the sheer force of the people moving out around you. Culturally, Russians do not have as much of a respect for personal space as I have found in America. There is literally no way to avoid being extremely close proximity to other people during peak metro hours. It was a little disconcerting at first, but you get used to it quickly, it doesn’t even bother me anymore- I have just accepted is as a part of life here in St.Petersburg. I just bring along a book or my iPod and deal haha.

The metro opens at 6 am and runs until about 12:15. This can be somewhat inconvenient if you happen to miss the last train. All other forms of public transportation like buses and marshrutkas close earlier, so if you happen to miss the metro or just want to stay out later, your only options are walking or my next topic of discussion- taxis!

The majority of taxis operate the same as in the U.S- either call up a service and wait for them to pick you up or hail one down somewhere in the city. Get in, tell the driver where you’re going, pay and get out. Easy. However, cab fares are expensive in the city, so I prefer not to take them, I either get the metro or walk. St.Petersburg is also filled of what are commonly referred to as gypsy cabs. Gypsy cabs are just random people with cars who wait around main streets of the city, calling out to passerby, promising a cheaper fare. We were told never to take gypsy cabs during our stay here, and after hearing a couple of horror stories, I agree with this advice. I don’t know if it is the same for Russians, but I would feel extremely unsafe getting into a car with a random person, even if I had plenty of friends with me.

Bus: There are bus routes all over the city. Apparently once you figure out the system they are the most convenient form of transportation. I, however, can not manage to get a handle of the whole situation. I take one every Tuesday and Thursday to the university where I teach English and that is easy enough but besides for that, I don’t take the bus that often, I’m more of a metro girl. One bus trip costs about 21 roubles, roughly 80 cents- not a bad deal. The city is also full of trolleybusses which are the exact same thing as buses but electric- meaning they run along electric cables.

Marshrutka: Basically privately owned buses minus the person who sells tickets. The drivers do this all by themselves, making stops, doling and tickets and passing back change all while navigating the ever crowded St.Petersburg streets. Luckily I live close enough to the metro that I don’t really ever need to take the “Shrutkee” as we’ve started to call them for short. Kind of scary haha

So that’s just a little overview of how I get around the city…I’m almost half way done with my trip here! I can’t believe it, time is just flying by. This weekend I am going to Moscow- check back later for a post about my travel plans during vacation!

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