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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Drivers Pick Up Speed as Crisis Thins Traffic

Moscow's beleaguered motorists are enjoying an unexpected upside to the worst economic crisis in a decade as stalled construction and purse-tightening cut the number of vehicles on the city's streets by a fifth.

The journey by road from the city center to Sheremetyevo Airport could take "anything from two hours to eternity," as state television channel Vesti-24 put it in October. Now, taxi driver Vasily Tabankov says he can get you there in 40 minutes.

"The last time I saw something like this was during the 1998 crisis," said Tabankov, who drives for the New Yellow Taxi company. Russia defaulted on $40 billion of domestic debt in August of that year.

The number of vehicles on Moscow's roads is down about 20 percent from last year, according to Yandex.Probki, an online service that monitors the city's traffic. Drivers who spent an average of 12 1/2 hours a month stuck in traffic jams last year now stand a better chance of getting home from work in time for dinner, according to Yandex.

"We can tell, visually, there are fewer cars on the road now than a year ago," said Igor Koloskov, a spokesman for the Moscow traffic police.

While the city still suffers an average of 800 traffic jams a day, they start later and end earlier, according to Yandex.

But bad weather and accidents can still turn a 15-minute ride into a 90-minute slog. Traffic jams stretched 700 kilometers on Feb. 4 as snow fell faster than Moscow's plows could clear the streets, Vesti-24 reported.