I’m a big fan of mass transit systems in general. They provide a much more intimate connection with the local population when traveling and they’re often both inexpensive and efficient, especially outside of the United States. The Metro system in Kiev is reasonably new, built by the Soviets starting in 1949 and opening for service eleven years later. And it is built in the classic Soviet style of grand, beautiful stations. They even had speakers throughout the stations with piped in classical music to keep riders entertained.
It also hasn’t seen a lot of upgrades since the original construction, with the exception of routes being added. The cars are not air conditioned, though the stations are. And much of the rolling stock is more than 30 years old; we rode in one car with a 1966 date on the plaque at the end. Both very neat and a bit crazy, all at the same time.
Another quirky thing about the Kiev Metro construction is that it is nearly entirely built on a level grade. Despite the ups and downs of the land around town the trains run almost completely flat. If the land is higher they just tunnel deeper for the escalator systems. This leads to some ridiculously long escalator runs – more than 60 meters in elevation and more than 100 meters in total length in a few cases – and some long rides. The escalators were, by far, the fastest I’ve even been on. Like ridiculously fast. And even with that speed one of the longer rides down in to the platform was two minutes long. Most impressive.
The trains were clean and punctual. The longest wait we had was well under 5 minutes. Transfers at the few stations where they are possible were reasonably easy, though the walks could be a bit long. Oh, and did I mention it was cheap? Each ride was only $0.25. That’s a great bargain, especially when considering how much of the city the Metro covers so well. And even more so when considering how well the stations are cooled, even in the peak of summer heat when little else around town is. That said, I have no idea how well they are heated in the winters so that could be an issue.
Station announcements were made in English and either Ukrainian or Russian; I’m honestly not sure which. The stations were all signed at least somewhere in English (transliterations) and also numbered so figuring out where to go and how to get there was incredibly easy, even with language issues. And I had plenty of those otherwise on the trip. But not on the Metro. It was easy, efficient, economical and elegant (at least reasonably so in the stations). Gotta love that.
Read more from this Trip Report under the Ukraine2012 tag here.
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