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Public Transit in Russia

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Public Transit in Russia"

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Elana Schor writes up a new survey of international transit usage:

Sadly, only one nation can boast that a majority of its population rides transit at least once a day… the surprising answer comes after the jump.

Russia ranked the highest on the Greendex scale, with 52 percent of respondents reporting daily or near-daily use of transit. Hot on its heels was China, where 43 percent reported very frequent transit rides. More than four out of five Chinese surveyed ride transit at least once a month, according to the Greendex.

I wasn’t surprised by this, Russia has excellent public transportation and a highly urbanized population. The Moscow Metro is absolutely lovely, and the Nizhny Novgorod Metro is pretty good, too, and at least when I was there Nizhny also had a good system of streetcars and trolleybuses.

And when you think about it, none of this should be that surprising. Without real market prices, the Soviet Union was horrible at producing mass market consumer goods. But when it comes to things for which there is no real free market, Soviet production was fine. Soviet nuclear missiles, fighter planes, etc. were just fine. That’s why the USSR wound up falling apart over popular discontent rather than an inability to militarily deter the west. Cars, of course, are a consumer good. But there’s no free market in subway systems. So the Soviet Union had crappy cars but great subways, which led to transit-oriented lifestyles, and that legacy continues today.

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