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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Struck in Traffic, Footballers Ride the Metro

MTA driver talking on his cell phone as he and other motorists sit in a traffic jam on the Garden Ring on Wednesday. The road usually sees 20 accidents per day.
How do you know when you've got a traffic problem? When a top football team is forced to ride the subway to a big game.

Despite a police escort, Spartak Moscow players got stuck in Moscow's increasingly brutal traffic before their Champions League match against Inter Milan on Tuesday night. They only made it to Luzhniki stadium by kickoff by swapping their team bus for the metro.

"Luckily, they didn't make us wait in line to buy tickets," Spartak spokesman Vladimir Shevchenko said Wednesday. "They just opened up the service gates for us and let us go through.

"It's a good thing, too," he added. "The bus made it to Luzhniki only by the end of the first half."

Spartak, however, ended up losing, 0-1. The coach blamed the traffic.

Spartak's route to Tuesday's game may have been unusual for a professional club, but the suffocating traffic that forced the team off their bus is all too familiar to Moscow drivers.

More than 3 million cars are currently registered in Moscow, 12 times more than just 15 years ago, and Konstantin Korolevsky, a senior Moscow city official, said this week that the number of cars on Moscow roads was growing by 102,000 every year.

Among the proposed solutions for the traffic jams are new, wider roads, computerized traffic-control systems, toll roads, metro expansion, more parking garages and even water taxis on the Moscow River. But in the meantime, the jams are getting worse.

An unusually high number of car accidents contributed to Tuesday night's jam, said traffic police spokesman Igor Koloskov. A total of 1,753 accidents were registered, about 500 more than the daily average.

"There were 28 accidents on the Garden Ring alone from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.," Koloskov said. "The average for an entire day on that road is about 20 accidents."

Drivers typically do not move their cars from the scene of a fender-bender before police arrive to determine who was at fault, which further impedes the flow of traffic.

Koloskov said the surge in accidents was due largely to the fact that drivers have not yet adjusted to winter driving conditions following the city's first snowfall last weekend.

Spartak's metro ride even made it to the floor of the State Duma.

Noting the "curious incident" involving Spartak, Alexei Mitrofanov, a deputy of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, lambasted city officials for the situation on Moscow roads.

"Is Moscow capable of fulfilling its role as the capital?" Mitrofanov said. "What are we giving them subsidies for?"

Igor Tabakov / MT
Even bicyclists have trouble wending their way through bumper-to-bumper traffic on one of Moscow's clogged roads.

City spokesman Sergei Tsoi dismissed Mitrofanov's remarks as populist.

Spartak head coach Vladimir Fedotov said the traffic jam played a key role in his team's poor performance early on. "I had to give the pre-game talk in the train," Fedotov said at the post-game news conference.

The players, trainers and coaching staff boarded the train at the Sukharevskaya metro station and rode nine stops, changing trains at Turgenevskaya, to reach the stadium just an hour before kickoff.

With just under a minute gone in the game, Inter's Julio Cruz scored the only goal of the night.

"They scored a goal right as we stepped off the metro," Spartak captain Yegor Titov said after the game.

Spartak's spokesman, however, said the players were blaming no one but themselves. "We had a police escort, but even that didn't help us in traffic like that," he said. "And we had several chances over the course of the entire game. It would be funny if it weren't so sad."

Titov said he could hardly remember the last time he rode the Moscow metro before Tuesday, though he guessed it was some time "at the end of the 1980s or the beginning of the 1990s."

"It was amazing," Titov said. "We were all sweating quite a bit, though. It was extremely hot. But no big deal. We arrived just fine."

Soccer historian Aksel Vartanyan said this was the first time he had heard of a traffic jam forcing professional players to take the metro.

But in 1937, Spartak players on their way to Dynamo stadium to take on a touring Basque team got stuck in traffic and had to change into their uniforms in their cars.

"They went straight from their cars to the field dressed in their uniforms," Vartanyan said.