Vendors Being Bounced From Metro

Metro passengers accustomed to doing some shopping in the cavernous underground hallways may soon have to look elsewhere for theater tickets, household items and other various knick-knacks.

Under metro rules set to come into force, vendors peddling everything from newspapers to television antennas are to be expelled from stations, as will those who sell small items like pens and batteries on the trains themselves.

The booths where theater tickets are sold will be left untouched, though ticket scalpers -- who often work from makeshift stands in the hallways -- will be banned.

The new rules, posted on City Hall's web site, will come into effect by Oct. 11.

The decree largely brings rules for public behavior on metro premises in line with citywide rules that came into effect on Jan. 1.

The rules could result in hassles for passengers who, upon seeing long lines at the ticket windows, opt to buy from metro ticket scalpers hovering about. Those scalpers will be banned under the decree.

The new decree is not lacking in curious statutes.

Under currently rules, homeless people -- who often seek refuge in the metro, particularly during the winter months -- are not allowed on metro premises while wearing "dirty" clothes.

The new rules toughen that ban, prohibiting "clean but malodorous" clothes as well.

Fortunetellers fare little better than those in fetid clothing: They, too, are banned from the metro.

Moscow Metro spokesman Dmitry Golovin conceded that metro police would hardly be able to prevent peddlers, beggars and fortunetellers from popping up here and there, Golovin said.

"It's impossible to have one guard for every person who breaks the rules," Golovin said.

Vendors, beggars and fortunetellers are subject to fines of up to 500 rubles.

Muscovites are legendary for the often-dangerous speeds with which they traverse metro escalators, and the current -- albeit widely ignored -- rule against running on the escalators remains in place under the new decree.

It does, however, relax certain aspects of escalator travel: It scraps the previous ban on leaning on the moving handrails.

Up to 9 million people ride the metro on weekdays and up to 7 million on weekends, according to the Moscow Metro's web site.

The city's ground traffic congestion is impeded by about 800 traffic jams every day, with 400,000 cars that drive out to the city's roads daily.