Transport Problems of St. Petersburg: Identification and Solutions

Abstract

St. Petersburg is a unique city with a complex transport infrastructure. The cultural capital of Russia is trying to keep up with modern times and to meet the needs of the 21st century people who strive to manage to do as many things as possible in various places in a day. Historically, the city has never been designed for the current population and the huge amount of means for locomotion. Since “commercial and personal transportation are a daily necessity that tightly linked to economic activity” [1], the city needs to improve its unsatisfactory condition it terms of logistics. In this paper I will discuss different transport problems that are faced by our city today and propose some solutions that can be implemented both in the near future and in the long term. For ease of discussion, I will divide city residents into 3 categories. First one is drivers who have and use cars either personal or rented. Second is people using various categories of public transport, for example, tram, bus, trolleybus, subway, etc. Last but not least is those who get to the places they need on foot or on a small personal vehicles like bicycles, scooters, monowheels and so on.

Introduction

Obviously, the topic is of current interest. St. Petersburg grows in terms of population and territory. Since most of the city was formed in past centuries, now the average distance of buildings occupied by housing from the central part of the city is increasing. This in turn gives rise to an increase in the number of cars, since this type of transport is currently considered to be the fastest and most comfortable. Table 1 shows the dynamics of population degree in the last six years according to federal state statistics service [2].

Years 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Population 4 953 219 5 028 000 5 131 942 5 191 690 5 225 690 5 281 579 5 351 935
Increment + 74 781 + 103 942 + 59 748 + 34 000 + 55 889 + 70 365

Table 1. Population of St. Petersburg (in millions of people) [2].

All factors such as the increased population’s need for displacement, growth in number of city locals, enhanced construction volumes of large residential areas and a rise in the number of automobilized people are undoubtedly connected and they do influence each other. In fact, they cause many problems one of which is the impossibility of the city to cope with large passenger traffic with any means of transportation. To my view, the reason for this issue is not only the frame and architecture of the settlement formed through years but the irrational, inefficient and ill-conceived usage of city space and the deficient logistics system.

Automobile traffic problem

Private Transport

Currently in urban agglomerations like Moscow or St. Petersburg car traffic dominates the use of urban space. Drivers are provided with improvement of the road surface by perforce, widening of the carriageway, increasing the number of lanes, priority passage of crossroads when it comes to interaction with pedestrians, etc. However, this does not help to solve the problem of overcrowding roads and riddance of traffic jams. There are many reasons for slow and blind traffic. For instance:

Increased number of moving units

As the streets in the central part of St. Petersburg mostly have few lanes, overflow and congestion are inevitable.

Poor road control system

Traffic lights are uncorrelated with each other. Situation is usually as follows: when the lights are green, cars enter the intersection but they cannot continue the motion because there is a traffic jam in front of them as the next traffic light is red. When in crossed street the “green” lights up, other cars simply cannot drive because of a roadblocking of several lanes with vehicles in front of them.

Poor quality of road surface

Nowadays it is not a great deal for St. Petersburg, however, there are still some sites difficult to pass (e.g. rough asphalt, holes in paving, etc.).

Lack of parking spaces

While owning a car, you not only drive it but need to leave your vehicle somewhere for some time. As there are a lot of those who come to the central areas of the city by car from other districts, most of the parking spaces are occupied throughout the day. For those who are in search of parking spaces, this is a big problem since they have to cut circles going around several blocks (quarter) in search for unoccupied place. To notice it people need to drive slowly in the right lane that inhibits the flow of traffic on the road. Moreover, due to the overcrowding of individual parking lots, their small number and inaccessibility, people leave cars on the sidelines and sometimes even on the extreme lanes of the roadway. This in turn has a more detrimental effect on the throughput of city streets

Inexperienced drivers

During the training for a driver’s license, “students” for the most part drive around the driving school and follow simple and small routes in the city. They still do not feel the overall dimensions of the car and its possibilities on the road. Moreover, they have not yet been taught to predict the action of the other participants in the movement. Thus, newly-minted drivers do not always know how to move quickly in the flowing environment of roads and often get into accidents both by their own and by someone else’s fault;

Irresponsible drivers

Unfortunately, in our society there are people who consider themselves above the rest both in social life and on the roads. Such individuals often violate the highway code. They endanger not only lives of themselves and other drivers but also exacerbate the difficulty of driving on different parts of the road. For example, they go to the roadside and then try to come back into the lane or they drive along the sidewalks. That is how they cause more bad effect on traffic jams than if they could just move in the initial lane;

Disunity with public transport (both state and commercial)

Public transport constantly interacts with single drivers on the roads but in these relationships there is no harmony at all. Car owners do not respect state public transport. They do not let this type of transport fit into the lane and want to “slip” in front of it faster, they enter the designated lanes making it difficult for buses and trolleybuses to move quickly, they stop or park at or near the stops what interferes public transport in safely and fast disembarkation of passengers. As for the trams, situation is a little bit different. Traffic Laws regulate the interaction of trams and cars and in some cases trams have a strict priority in movement.

Considering commercial public transport, it is a huge “pain in the finger” for state. Now these minibuses are probably the most dangerous form of transport in the city. The drivers of these vehicles are mostly foreigners who do not know or do not respect the local traffic regulations. Moreover, “marshutki” are very dangerous and unpredictable on the road. The passengers themselves are forced to hold tight to something in the cabin of the minibus because it moves and brakes very sharply;

Lack of alternative ways for movement (including when unforeseen circumstances happen)

Many road sections of our city are the only way to transfer between different areas. With a large number of cars there is a multi-hour traffic jam, which will disappear only when all drivers go through the unfortunate part of the road. Accidents can also occur and that way they sometimes completely paralyze traffic especially public transport (e.g. trams form a long traffic jam if one of them breaks down or the tram lines are blocked for some other reason).

To start with, I would like to mention that in the coming years road transport still will be a priority and there is no point right now in forcing people to change cars to public transport as this system is not yet ready and barely copes with the current flow of passengers. Besides, the city is not yet ready for increased pedestrian traffic. Therefore, now the aim is to pay equal attention to both automobile traffic problem, imperfect public transport system and pedestrian oriented organization of the city space. Considering all the above, I want to begin with offering of several solutions to the problem of car traffic.

Solutions

Firstly, it is necessary to make changes in the work of traffic lights simultaneously with the reorganization of intersections [3]. As I see it, the Committee on the development of transport infrastructure in St. Petersburg should make adjustments to the traffic rules and organize a new marking at the intersections of the city (so that cars will not be able to enter the intersection if there is a congestion in front of them; consequently, they will not obstruct movement for drivers from crossing street). Crucial point here is that government must control the abidance by rules among citizens so that they will not have an incentive to deviate and violate the Traffic Laws. In addition, people responsible for logistics should redistribute traffic in the city so that there will not be a conglomeration from transport means. For example, introduction of “green corridors” (when the green light is on at all intersections of a particular avenue) will allow cars to drive through the whole street non-stop). In addition, change in navigation by implementation of modified traffic along the lanes will ease the pressure on further road sections (e.g. on one lane only direct movement will be allowed while on the other cars will be able only to turn into the crossed street).

Secondly, city needs to improve the parking conditions. In order to make parkings more efficient their characteristics should correspond to “existing streams and points of attraction of each specific place / street and also depend on time days and weeks (different prices for different streets and different prices at different times of the day / week)” [3]. There is a need in expansion of the paid parking zone and an increase in the number of intercepting car parks (so that it will be convenient for drivers to leave cars and keep going with the help of public transport). Moreover, “it is advisable to do the allocation of a separate group of parking facilities, including garages, car parks that do not break the line of buildings and are located outside the street level” [4]. Such off-street parkings can be organized as single and multi-tiered on a surface, underground, semi-underground, under water and built in edifices as “saving the facades of historic buildings with the change of their functionality is an urgent task for St. Petersburg” [4]. At the same time residents of the paid parking area should be provided with personal lots or preferential tariff for use of paid parking. Regarding the first, every inhabitant of a residential community who has a personal vehicle and claims to have a parking space in the yard of house he or she lives in should have a place where to park his or her car with the condition that this lot will not be occupied by other persons. Regarding the second, government should provide those people who do not have an opportunity to leave their means of transport outside paid parking zone (e.g. residents of the central regions) with the affordable prices so that temporary storage of the car will not cause a hole in the family budget and will not be a big expense. Last but not least it is possible to introduce new technologies that will ease the life for drivers. For instance, SF park is a new tool that helps drivers to “circle less and live more” [5]. This system notifies the driver of free parking spaces in the city and helps reduce search time for parking.

Thirdly, developed short-term car rental systems will decrease the number of vehicles on the roads and reduce the desire to have a personal car. When renting a car drivers do not need to pay for fuel, transport tax and vehicle’s insurance and do not need to make expenses on technical service. Drivers only need to handle leased property with care.

Fourthly, it is necessary to correct the attitude of drivers to mutually respected movement on the roads regarding both other drivers and public transport and pedestrians. This can be done both with the help of social advertising and with the help of social institutions where people are brought up and learn how to live in society.

All of these decisions will help city in various ways: drivers will save time and money, undesirable parking in the extreme lanes of streets will be prevented, accidents of the roads will be reduced, mood of the society will become kinder and more respectful for the governance, etc.

Public Transport

Low level of development of public transport is one of the reasons for transport problems of St. Petersburg [3]. The imperfection of this system can be described as follows:

Poor availability

Nowadays, urban public transport routes do not cover all populated areas of the city (especially they do not reach residential areas) where people are in need of means for transportation.

Time consumption

A compulsion to wait for public transport which often does not follow the schedule due to various reasons and also takes a long time to get to the desired destination does not cause the population satisfaction.

Lack of vehicles

Buses, trolley buses, trams and subway cars are often crowded (especially during peak hours in the morning and evening) due to the small number of public transport units.

Necessity in transfer

As different types of transport follow varied routes in the city, people sometimes have to make several transfers in order to reach their destination.

Expensiveness

The cost of a single trip for 2018 in the St. Petersburg metro is 45 rubles while on land-based public transport (tram, bus, trolleybus) it is 40 rubles. Reusable tickets for underground trips for different segments of the population vary from 300 to 3000 rubles. If we calculate the final cost of using this type of transport for the year, then a large amount will be released which, in general, does not pay for the disadvantages of public transport. Moreover, given the fact that prices for public transport have risen dramatically over the past few years, the desire to use it has fallen among citizens as they see such expenses irrational and thriftless.

Unpleasant atmosphere

Being in public transport usually does not cause passengers positive emotions. The reasons for this could be individuals who behave provocatively and create scandals, disrespectful relationship between passengers (e.g. persons not inferior to those in need), conductor’s slighting attitude to passengers, those who are engaged in illegal activities (e.g. illicit trade, begging, pickpocketing), etc. Furthermore, most public transport vehicles are old and neglected which causes hostility when using them.

Discomfort

Due to the high demand in movement and poor provision of necessary routes and the number of mobile units, the density of people in all types of public transport is very high (again especially during peak hours). Even when the means of communication arrive completely clogged with people the new passengers have no choice but to squeeze themselves into the transport because they have no other alternative. In addition, it is inconvenient to carry medium and large luggage in both ground and underground public transport. Last but not least high noise level almost always accompanies travel on trams and subway.

Infectiousness

Many people are worried about the bad hygiene as a huge number of people pass through the means of public transport in a day. For example, the largest share of all local passenger traffic (more than two million people a day) is provided by metro. [1] It contributes to the spread of viruses and some dangerous diseases.

Pollution

Currently ground-based public transport consists mainly of old vehicles that are not only very rattling and noisy, but also produce a huge amount of exhaust. Traffic fumes, obviously, come from cars also but since those are produced in the majority with the help of modern technologies, public transport seems to have more dangerous impact on air pollution.

Slow pace of construction

Changes in the system of public transport are rarely made and do not always meet the expectations of the population. In the case of the subway, the pace of its development for many decades has been lagging behind the targets outlined in the General Plan of St. Petersburg. [8] At the present time, the construction of new stations as “Novokrestovskaya” and “Begovaya”, to my mind, was accelerated only because the World Cup 2018 was held in our country and St. Petersburg was one of the cities receiving guests from other countries. It seems to me that if these events would not take place, then the opening of these metro stations would have been delayed for a while.

Low competitiveness

Due to the lack of a tram, trolleybus or bus routes at a specific location [3], long trip time, price increase and other reasons mentioned earlier the network of commercial public transport takes place. “Buses, trams and trolley buses have no advantage over minibuses, as they lose in speed and frequency of movement.” [3] Thus, “marshutki” cover the weak points of state transport to some extent. However, they also cause damage to the urban public transport system. If to talk in a business manner, minibuses steal the clientele as well as interfere with competently and efficiently conduct state business of locomotion. As an example, drivers of “marshutki” stand for a long time on or before public transport stops and wait for passengers, thus preventing buses and trolley buses from disembarking people in the right place. Hence the movement of the entire flow of vehicles is hindered. Therefore, “the lack of competitiveness of public transport is an additional motivation for purchasing a personal vehicle.” [3]

Solutions

In order to make public transport more effective and attractive for citizens to use following measures should be taken.

Buses and trolley buses

It is crucial to increase the length and number of dedicated lanes for this type of transport and strictly control road rules compliance so that cars which movement is prohibited on such lanes will not enter these extreme lines. In addition, an increment in transport units is necessary at least during peak hours to prevent the crowding and let passengers feel more comfortable and freer in the cabin. Moreover, enlargement of routes and rise in their quantity focusing on uncovered areas of St. Petersburg will help its government to reduce the impact of commercial buses by covering their travel routes as well as save people living in isolated areas from buying cars. Last but not least the commissioning of new travel units that will be more environmentally friendly and pleasant to use will improve the welfare of the city.

Trams

Current tram system needs a reboot. First, the “rolling stock should be modern, comfortable, fast’ [3] as well as quiet and not vibrating. Second, tram lines should be well-maintained and separated from the road (so that car traffic will not affect the timeliness of vehicles arrival at the stops), built with an even rail cover and protected from the car traffic.

Subway

Underground is not an exception and also needs some improvements. To my view, it is better to start with the update of the fleet of wagon trains. New once should be commodious and protect passengers from high noise level. Countless annoying ads should be replaced with beautiful design or meaningful information. Sightly and interesting design of trains and stations will cause interest and pleasant emotions in people what actually will provoke a desire to use this type of transport. If possible, it is necessary to build tunnels using new technologies so that the passage through them also becomes quieter. Besides, fair and uniform use of escalators will help to avoid crowds (e.g. currently approximately only half of escalators works and people need to wait for their turn to go up from and go down to the metro). Furthermore, strengthened control over illegal activities will settle down citizens and convince them of their safety.

En masse

Considering all types of public transport together there is a need for the following changes.

Initially, creating convenient transfers from one type of transport to another will provide citizens with fast and comfortable trips. Tram, metro and bus / trolleybus paths should intersect and meet at the start and end points of the routes what will also allow to choose an alternate path and mean for movement.

Subsequently, organization of uniform and affordable tickets and fares for various types of public transport as well as improving the availability of their purchase will simplify process of use.

One of the most important point is creating comfortable conditions for passengers both at the stops and in the cabin and special care for people with limited mobility and abilities. The temperature level in the cabin should be such that in the summer passengers will not freeze and get sick because of the air conditioners while in the winter they will not suffer from the heat of stoves and will not be forced to unbutton their jackets. All public transport stops should be safe and convenient as well as accompanied by a local traffic map and electronic arrival schedule. Disabled people should not have any obstacles with entering, indwelling and leaving from the public transport.

Creative approach to the design of public transport should not be bypassed. If St. Petersburg attracts people with its beauty and singularity, then its public transport system should be consistent. Unique and eye-catching design for different means of transport and stations will allow commuters and passengers to discover something new for themselves every day. Thus, the desire to drive cars in traffic jams will fall if a person can spend time in an interesting interior, for example, reading poems by a famous Russian writer from the walls of a subway car or a stylish tram.

Pedestrian space problem

Unfortunately, now the urban space is not properly adapted for pedestrians due to the priority of the car flow. Narrow and poor covered sidewalks, obstacles and low pedestrian connectivity, bulky and overground crossings, unsafe sidewalks and embankments bring pedestrians the inconvenience and discontent.

Solutions

  • Expansion and improvement of sidewalks so that it will be able to accommodate dense pedestrian traffic;
  • Creating safe traffic lights / lightless transitions;
  • Additional highlighting of pedestrian crossings (e.g. rise of the pedestrian crossing to higher level of the road surface, backlight, etc.);
  • Installation of benches and various landscape design;
  • Creating infrastructure for bike movement (bicycle parking and lanes);
  • Creating a comfortable and safe inside yard environment;
  • Use of city territories for social functions;
  • Creating new urban sub-centers and spaces of new quality of the environment on the basis of existing urban squares and parks, filling them with services and residents [3].

Water transport

Since one of the main points of this article is the rational use of space in the city, water source immediately comes to mind. St. Petersburg was originally built on water due to its strategic position. Peter the Great wanted to make the city similar to Venice so that the inhabitants would move along it in boats. Unfortunately, over the centuries this trend has rolled down to only tourist routes in the central areas of the city and to the nearest settlements or historical sites (e.g. Shlisselburg).

In the 2000s, attempts were made to create a water transport network. At that time the governor of the city was Mrs. V.I. Matvienko. She said: “Not to take an advantage of the city, the water surface for the organization of public transport would be a big omission.” [9] – and I fully agree with her point of view. However, years later and after numerous changes in the functioning the network of water taxis on the Neva was abolished due to its unprofitability. I see the imperfection of this system of movement in the following. Firstly, not numerous small-sized ships could not accommodate majority of passengers. It led to overcrowding of stops and passage by them of ships. Secondly, water transport was more expensive than classic public one. Then aqua buses were noncompetitive at long distances due to their low speed. The last reason that I see as the most influential is the lack of competent promotion of a new vehicle.

I want the authorities of St. Petersburg to make a second attempt but with some certain conditions.

Price

Payment in water taxis should be integrated into the general system of tickets for state transport.

Spaciousness

Each vehicle must contain at least 60 sits in order to avoid overcrowding of stops.

Speed

Aqua buses must be competitive among other means of transportation. Thus, the speed of movement should be increased (e.g. for 80 km/h) at those parts of rivers where it is possible.

Tracking

Citizens should be provided with the ability to track the movement of boats in real time that corresponds to reality.

Recall

People responsible for the project should allow passengers to leave feedback so that it would be further possible to improve this transport system based on the needs of users.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, all transport problems of St. Petersburg will not be solved instantly even by a click of the leadership of the country and city. All measures that were mentioned in this paper require detailed and thoughtful planning, a long time and a huge amount of money for competent implementation in the life of the city.

From my point of view, it is very important to consider the opinions and needs of all categories of residents (drivers, pedestrians and those who use public transport). It is necessary to introduce changes in different aspects of the transport system gradually and contemporaneously in order to avoid collapses, sharp public discontent and wrong prejudice.

“The state of the economy of the city and the region as a whole depends on the quality of roads, their capacity and the convenience of public transport for citizens and guests of the northern capital” [8], St. Petersburg authorities should start taking measures as soon as possible to improve the well-being of this area, improve the quality of life of the inhabitants and also reduce the pollution of our planet whenever possible.

References

(in order of appearance)

  1. Anastasia A. Lantseva, Sergey V. Ivanov. (2016). Modeling transport accessibility with open data: Case study of St. Petersburg. Procedia Computer Science.
  2. Federal State Statistics Service. [Electronic resource]. Access mode: http://www.gks.ru
  3. Greater Petersburg of the XXI century. Conceptual development strategy of the metropolis. Chapter IV Image of the desired Petersburg XXI century. [Electronic resource]. Access mode: http://spb.yabloko.ru/sites/default/files/big-spb.pdf
  4. Ushakova, A. (2016). Development of underground space as transportation problem solution in St. Petersburg. Procedia Engineering.
  5. SFpark – official website of system for managing the availability of both on and off-street parking. [Electronic resource]. Access mode: http://sfpark.org/about-the-project/
  6. Pitertransport – news feed of events in the life of public transport in St. Petersburg and its suburbs. [Electronic resource]. Access mode: https://pitertransport.com/tariffs.php
  7. Official site of the State Unitary Enterprise “Petersburg Metro”. [Electronic resource]. Access mode: http://www.metro.spb.ru/pricetickets.html
  8. Amosov M.I., Safina S.S. (2015). The main problems of the development of transport infrastructure of St. Petersburg and possible solutions. News of St. Petersburg State University of Economics.
  9. Russian internet journal seamedia.ru – all about yachts and boats. [Electronic resource]. Access mode: http://www.seamedia.ru/news/909/

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