Metro, E-Scooter and Aerotaxi – modern approaches for urban public transportation – 7 Questions to Konstantin Trofimenko

The Moscow Metro is one of the most famous public transport systems in the world due to its unique architecture and its capabilities. Even though, it transports millions of people a day, it is loud, crowded and full of bad air. How do you see the quality

by Jonas Prien, Ausserer & Consultants

1. The Moscow Metro is one of the most famous public transport systems in the world due to its unique architecture and its capabilities. Even though, it transports millions of people a day, it is loud, crowded and full of bad air. How do you see the quality of the metro in Moscow 2019? Will the Moscow metro stay being the spine of the local transportation?[1]

Of course, for such a huge metropolis as Moscow, the metro will remain a backbone mode of transport for many years to come. On some routes, more than 100,000 people per hour are formed during rush hour, and only the metro can take out such passenger flows. At the same time, the quality of trips in the subway is growing (although they are still far from ideal). First, this is due to the emergence of new trains of the “Moscow” type – more spacious, having a system of concussion and air purification, USB sockets and interactive screens with transmissions for passengers (in the days of the 2018 FIFA World Cup they even showed football matches). Secondly, the Moscow metro is developing at a tremendous pace – every year new 5-10 stations are built, not only in new directions, but also parallel to the old lines to unload them. In addition, the launch of the Moscow Central Diameters – an analogue of the Berlin S-Bahn, which will begin before the end of 2019, should play a role in unloading the traditional underground subway.

2. Last week, Premier Medvedev announced, that Russia would build a new highway between Moscow and Kazan.[2] How do you evaluate the current condition of highways around Moscow and its capacity? Does Moscow need to invest more into those streets?

All Federal roads (and the road between Moscow and Kazan of course refers to Federal Highways) in Russia are at the Federal level of subordination, for their operation and building there is exist a special authority called “Rosavtodor” (of the Federal Road Agency), subordinate to the Ministry of Transport Of Russia. Therefore, Moscow as a city does not manage the process of building of intercity highways and can not invest in it. However, now the Federal highways on the around of Moscow are the roads with quite good quality (even from the German point of view). Nevertheless, sometimes they are overloaded in the hour-peaks in the summer due to the “dacha effect”.

3. Two years ago, you stated in an article[3], that car sharing would be a dominant type of mobility in the future relieving the public transportation. Can you still confirm that car sharing will have this significant impact?

Yes, especially when there will be a much-unmanned car sharing, that is, the taxi market and car sharing will combine into a single service of urban mobility. However, this is the prospect of 2030. In addition, as I said above, in such a metropolis as Moscow metro will remain a general mode of transport for most passengers. However, many users of personal cars and ground public transport will really switch to “connected car sharing”, and I am sure that the city authorities will support this form of mobility.

4. Meanwhile many cities in Europe (especially Amsterdam, Utrecht and Oslo) invest up to 132 Euro per citizen in roads for bikes; Moscow still has a very limited network for bike roads – will this trend eventually come to Moscow?[4]

As a leisure activity in the summer, bicycles are popular now, as well as for trips inside the center. However, there is an obstacle for the daily transport function. In most European cities, due to the current mix-used development, the average resident can find the favorite job within a radius of 5 kilometers from his/her home, as well as satisfy any of household and cultural needs. Moreover, for this distance is often really easier and more convenient to ride a bike. In Moscow since Soviet times, there was a division into “sleeping” and “business” areas, and often the average Muscovite has to move 15-20 kilometers per day in one direction. This is much less convenient with a bike. Nevertheless, there are prerequisites for the further development of cycling in Moscow.

5. It sounds like a scene from a science fiction movie, but Flying Taxis could become reality in a few years. How do you regard those projects (look on the Guardian’s article)?[5]

The question is not the appearance of flying taxis as such, but how many of them will be in the city. If thousands of them, they will simply occupy the market niche of modern private helicopters. If hundreds of thousands – than the urban environment will become very uncomfortable because of the issue of parking for them such as takeoff and landing places. In addition, what is the point then to live in a high-density city, if you can fly to the business center in an hour from the forest, which is 1000 kilometers away? Therefore, the cities will be emptied, the process of deurbanization will go on. However, the city authorities are not profitable to lose taxpayers, so there will be measures to discourage flying taxis, as today discourage non-ecological cars. I see such logic of process.

6. The German government passed a law this year legalizing the use of electronic scooter on public roads; in Russia, you can also see many people using them. Due to the limited space on the sidewalk and the high speed of the scooters, do you think there is a need for restriction to decrease the number of accidents?

Yes, this is an important security issue. For pedestrians, it is uncomfortable to be in the same space with a vehicle capable of accelerating to a speed of 30-40 km / h. In turn, releasing them on car lanes is already very unsafe for the electronic scooters themselves and their users. I think that this issue in Russia (and Moscow) is more acute than in Germany, and so far, about the permission of the departure of electric scooters on the automobile roads we are not talking exactly.

7. Rural depopulation can be seen in many countries nowadays and may be a macroeconomic trend in the 21st century. Moscow already has a population of more than 15 million people. At one point of time, the technological and spatial limitations might be reached in public transport. Do you think there must be a curfew for some groups of people in the rush hour or other approaches for limitation?

In the case of Moscow, population growth is not so much due to rural residents (the process of turning peasants into urban workers was completed in the USSR in the 1980s) as from residents of other cities in which the standard of living and wages are lower (and this is 90% of all other cities in Russia). I do not think a curfew for public transport is a good idea. The very phenomenon of congestion of transport networks at certain hours is a legacy of the industrial city, where many hundreds of thousands of people need to be at work about the same time and stay there for 8 hours a day. In a post-industrial city, a hightech and robotic city (and Moscow will certainly develop in this direction too) – all people will simply not need to go out at the same time. Everything will be in balance with regard to the division in space and time; no repressive measures will be required.

Konstantin Trofimenko works in the Moscow School of Economics as an associate professor for more than 7 years. In his position as the Director of the Faculty of Urban and Regional Development, he focuses on the ongoing developments transport and logistics in megalopolises like Moscow.

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[1] https://www.rbth.com/travel/330930-complete-moscow-metro-guide

[2] https://owc.de/2019/11/07/autobahn-moskau-kasan-entsteht-bis-2027/

[3] https://ostexperte.de/carsharing-in-russland/

[4] https://twitter.com/katapultmagazin/status/1164097506260725760?lang=de

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/oct/26/need-a-flying-taxi-these-two-firms-can-get-a-cab-to-you-by2022

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