New Tickets, Higher Prices

MT
Arriving at Kievsky Station early on a cold winter morning, the last thing most people feel like doing is joining a long line for a metro ticket. Many choose instead to buy a forged single ticket from one of the touts who hang around near the booths.

But this practice may now be a thing of the past. Since Jan. 16, the Moscow Metro has replaced the paper, magnetic-strip tickets valid for one and two journeys with the 'contactless' tickets already used for more than five trips.

One reason for the changeover is that the increased security of Ultralait tickets makes them impossible to forge. They also offer other advantages to the consumer. They are more durable than the old paper versions, which would easily get crumpled and folded in your pocket and simply stop working.

The Ultralait tickets, first introduced in January 2007 for 10, 20 and 60 journeys, should also speed up the lines at turnstiles with their microchip technology. They just have to be pressed onto the yellow pad rather than pushed through the machine -- a process that takes three to four times as long. They also display on the turnstile how many rides you have left.


Vladimir Filonov / MT
A single ride on the metro now costs 19 rubles, nearly four times the price in 2000.
The new-style tickets have already eased the process for those entitled to ride for free. There are 80 different types of concessions who used to be let through by the ticket inspector -- war veterans and disabled people, for example -- a process known as going cherez babushku, or through the old lady, since the inspectors are often elderly females. But since 2005, those entitled to concessions have been able to obtain a social card, which works as a ticket.

Another well-known way of going cherez babushku is by slipping her a few rubles to let you past, thus avoiding lines and perhaps getting a cheaper ride. This is perhaps what the Moscow Metro bosses had in mind when they wrote on the official web site about removing the element of manual control from letting people through the turnstiles.

The Ultralait tickets, however, are not without their problems and critics. Stories abound in newspapers and on Internet forums of the tickets cheating metro-users out of money. Many have complained that their tickets have been debited twice when they fail to get through one turnstile and use the ticket again to get through another. But instructions on the Moscow Metro web site and in stations make it clear: If you hear a beeping noise and see a red light when you press your card on the reader, wait a few seconds before pressing it on the same reader again. This will prevent you from being charged twice. If the ticket still doesn't work, you'll have to contact the station's chief ticket clerk or the Metro Passenger Office.


For MT
All metro passes sold are 'contactless' Ultralait tickets.
Ultralait tickets can also, apparently, be demagnetized -- wiped of information -- and simply stop working at the turnstiles. Izvestia reported earlier this month that they are sensitive to computers, PDAs and mobile phones.

And the touts are adapting quickly, too. At the Savyolovskaya metro station one recent evening, a young man was taking advantage of people's impatience with the lines, which stretched back from the ticket booths right to the entrance doors. For 20 rubles he offered to let through those unwilling to wait at the turnstiles, and many people took him up on it. He tapped something concealed in his hand -- presumably some sort of ticket -- on the turnstile and produced a green light.

Others didn't even bother with that and simply vaulted over the turnstiles or glided through right behind another person who had activated the turnstile, tricking the system into believing only one person had gone through.

When the ticket changeover was announced in December, it was claimed that these tickets would cost no more than the old type. Strictly speaking, they haven't, since fares went up anyway on Jan. 1 2008. A single ride now costs 19 rubles instead of 17. "A typical postelection gift," said one contributor to the online forum at Dolgopa.org.

In Soviet times, metro tickets were very cheap -- from 1961 until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the price was 5 kopecks. But since 1991 the prices have been steadily increasing -- the cost of a single ticket has almost quadrupled since 2000.

But perhaps we shouldn't complain too much. After all, in New York a single trip costs $2 and in London it's an astronomical ?4 ($8). So Moscow's 19 rubles (80 cents) seems something of a bargain.

Contacts



Official web site of the Moscow Metro mosmetro.ru

Metro Passenger Office 6 Boyarsky Pereulok, M. Krasniye Vorota, 688-0261