Moscow Metro Station    (Christophe Meneboeuf)



The Moscow Metro opened its doors in 1935.  The line was 11.6 km.

“Thirteen stations built on the initial section had island platforms long enough to take eight-car trains.  They were the first stations in the world to be completely faced with granite and marble and all had unique designs.”

When I arrived in Moscow, it took me a while to get up the guts to tackle the metro on my own.  All the signs were in Russian so I would have to sit down and concentrate to figure out what the Cyrillic writing said in order to know which way to go.  Once I started riding it regularly, people would always be asking me something I could not understand.  I had no idea why they kept asking me questions.  Like, were they lost or something?   Eventually I figured out that most of them were asking me if I was getting off at the next stop because they wanted to position themselves for the push to exit.

Today there are 12 lines running 305.5 km through 185 stations.  On my first visit I was impressed with the Metro.  All the stations were different.  Some had beautiful chandeliers hanging down the main hallway, some had marble statues and archways, some had mosaics in the ceiling, and one had colorful stained glass windows.  By the time I left, the stations were starting to look a little run down and were not very clean.  Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the number of people who could live in Moscow and use the metro was limited.  By the time I left 9 million passengers were using it on a daily basis.  It was taking its toll.  Today it is one of the busiest metros in the world – 2.3 billion rides per year.  Just for comparison, New York City has 1.6 billion rides per year.


The Mexico City Metro opened in 1969,  just as we were leaving.  It had 16 stations. During construction many important archeological finds were documented and rescued.  Today it has eleven lines and 451 km of track with 163 stations.  I remember going on it a couple of times when it first opened but I didn’t like riding on it.  When I went back in 1989 with my friends Jane and Tina, we decided to take the metro  home one day after being out sight-seeing and ended up getting onto a car jammed full of men.  Jane and Tina managed to make their way over to the window and somehow, found seats.  I stayed nearer to the door because the whole car was so full.  The men closed in around me and there were a million hands all over me.  I looked around to see who the guilty parties were and everyone I looked at was staring at the ceiling.  Finally I decided I had to take some action.  I managed to get my elbows perpendicular to my body and I rotated with as much force as I could.  They all scattered to the far corners of the car, which made us all laugh.  I then managed to make it over to where my friends were.  When we got back to the condo where we were staying, we found out that there were separate subway cars for men and women to reduce groping.  A little late for that!


Boston is home to the first subway in the United States dating back to 1897 – the Tremont Street Subway (now known as the Green Line).  I remember riding on it many times during my year in Boston.  It was not air-conditioned and at rush hour was very crowded and hot!  Hopefully it has been upgraded since then.  The Red Line was brand new when I was there and was quiet and comfortable and never seemed to be too crowded.

Washington DC 

The Metro in Washington DC is modeled after BART in San Francisco. I met and became friends with a guy in Moscow whose family built the DC Metro.  It is clean and sterile.  It is expensive.  There is nowhere near enough of it.  It opened in 1976 and has five lines with 86 stations and 171.1 km of track.  It is the second busiest subway in the USA after New York City.  They are currently extending it out to Dullus Airport.  What they need is a ring line around the city.  But nobody asked me.

Do you have a favorite Metro?