Urban Transport

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Urban Transport


the complex of various forms of transportation that transfers people and cargo within the territory of a city and the immediate suburban zones and that performs work related to planning and provision of public services and amenities. When there is a system of satellite cities and of mass-recreation zones far from residential areas and industrial regions, urban transport connects all of these various entities. Urban transport is an important sector of municipal services.

The development of modern cities (especially with populations of 100,000 and more) is accompanied by the territorial growth of the city as the population migrates away from the center, so that distances are continually increasing between residential and work areas. This results in increased commuting distances to work, greater use of existing transport facilities, and a greater average number of trips per inhabitant per year. The volume of freight traffic inside a city also increases rapidly. The development of urban transport and the improvement in public services, particularly passenger transport, influences the population’s time budget.

Urban transport includes transport facilities (rolling stock); rights-of-way (railroad tracks, tunnels, trestles, bridges and overpasses, stations, stops, and storage yards); piers and boat docks; power supplies (electric traction substations, cable and conductor networks, and filling stations and gasoline pumps); repair shops and plants; depots and garages; technical servicing stations; motor vehicle rental facilities; equipment for communications, signals, and switching; and dispatching control. Urban transport is divided into passenger, cargo, and special categories according to its characteristics.

Passenger urban transport encompasses mass public transport carrying passengers along predetermined routes subdivided into street (streetcar, trolleybus, and motor bus) and nonstreet (subway, rapid transit, monorail, or conveyor), passenger car transport (taxi and departmental or private motor vehicles), two-wheeled transport (motorcycles, motorscooters, mopeds, and bicycles), water transport (river “streetcars,” motor and paddle boats, and ferries), and air transport (helicopters).

The rapid growth of motor vehicle production during the second quarter and particularly at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century within the developed capitalist nations has saturated the cities with automobiles, most of them being used for passenger transport. Thus, in the cities of Great Britain and France passenger cars transport about 70 percent of all passengers, and in the cities of the USA they transport about 90 percent (1967). The spontaneous development of automobile transport without the necessary coordination with the overall urban transport picture particularly as it concerns street-road traffic capacity, has sometimes led in the large and especially the largest capitalist cities to “transport paralysis,” mainly in the cities’ central areas during peak traffic hours. This has made it necessary to introduce a number of limitations on the movement of personal transport (in the Manhattan area of New York and in the City area of London) and forced the municipalities of a number of large cities to focus attention on the use of mass public transport, particularly nonstreet transport.

In the USSR the main role in urban passenger movement belongs to mass public transit (particularly for trips to and from work; 98–99 percent of these trips are made using public transit). Passenger cars occupy a minor place within the total movement of urban passengers in the USSR (about 4 percent in 1967).

A new type of passenger transportation appeared in the middle of the 1960’s in a number of countries—rapid transit. This system has spread throughout the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and the USA. Rapid transit is being planned for Leningrad, Kiev, Riga, Volgograd, Saratov, Perm’, and other cities in the USSR. The possibility of organizing route movement (which unlike a subway does not have to be restricted to set routes) in combination with sufficiently rapid speeds (25–50 km/hr) and significantly lower construction costs (compared with subway costs) makes rapid transit a very promising type of transport for many large cities in the USSR.

According to data furnished by the International Union of Public Transport, in the entire world (excluding the USSR) in 1967 there were 36 cities with subways, 401 with streetcar systems, and 271 with trolleybus systems. In 31 of the world’s cities there are monorail systems, but only two of these systems are in normal operation—in Wuppertal (Federal Republic of Germany) and Tokyo, each with a length of about 13 km. The other systems of this kind are either experimental or used as tourist attractions.

In prerevolutionary Russia there were 42 cities (within the present-day boundaries of the USSR) with a total of 1,690 km of individually operated streetcar lines and an annual volume of 1,128,000,000 passengers. The use of motor buses was very limited—they were found mainly in intercity travel to the health resorts of the Crimea and the Caucasus. During World War I (1914–18) and the Civil War and military intervention (1918–20) the urban transport facilities were in complete decay. The Soviet state had to rebuild and then develop the streetcar system while simultaneously constructing new types of transportation. Motor bus transport development began in 1924, a trolleybus system was built in Moscow in 1933, and in 1935 the first subway line was opened.

In 1970 all the cities of the USSR were being served by mass public transit. All types (subways, streetcars, trolleybuses, and motor buses) can be found in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Tbilisi, and Baku; 56 cities have trolleybuses, streetcars, and motor buses; 54 have streetcars and motor buses; and 55 have trolleybuses and motor buses. The remaining cities are served by motor buses only. The USSR’s mass public transit system carried about 36 billion passengers in 1970, and suburban motor bus lines and railroads served another 7 billion passengers. During 1970 subways transported 6.4 percent of all passengers; streetcars, 22.2 percent; trolleybuses, 17.0 percent; and motor buses 54.4 percent. At the end of 1970, subways extended 214.5 km (double track); streetcars, 8,261 km; and trolleybuses, 8,142 km (single track). Motor buses served a total of 87,800 km in cities.

The development of urban transport in the USSR is shown in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1. USSR cities with passenger mass transit (as of end of year)
Motor bus......................3254591,2412,017

In December 1967 the Council of Ministers adopted the resolution entitled On Measures for the Improvement of Urban Passenger Transport Service for the Populace which will determine the direction of technological policy in developing urban transport in the immediate future.

Urban freight transport includes the general and specialized motor vehicle cargo transport that handles basic cargo movement within cities; freight taxi motor transport, which serves the cargo-moving needs of individuals; electric cargo transport, which includes streetcars and trolleybuses used in some cities for the shipment of freight along established routes; and horse-drawn transport (cartage), which is found in small cities and urban-type settlements. This last is used to move small loads for short distances. Cargo transport in cities is also carried by industrail railroad facilities that

Table 2. Annual passenger volume In USSR cities (in millions of passengers)
Motor bus.................5509578,93219,518

serve individual enterprises of heavy industry and warehouses and by water transport, which serves cities located on the banks of navigable rivers and seas.

In cities of the USSR freight transport is generally carried out by huge centralized transport enterprises that have at their disposal the major part of the freight vehicle stock.

Specialized urban transport consists of a pool of specialized motor vehicles that serve the needs of cities and their populations—snowplows, snowloaders, and sand spreaders for roads in winter, street sweepers, sidewalk cleaners, water-sprinkling vehicles, garbage vehicles, tower vehicles, fire engines, and health-service vehicles.

The directives of the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU on the five-year plan of 1971–75 for developing the national economy of the USSR specifically call for the expansion of urban passenger-transport facilities, particularly an increase in the production of large-capacity motor buses.


Petrov, V. K., and V. G. Sosiants. Gorodskoi transport: Uchebnoe posobie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Stramentov, A. E., and M. S. Fishel’son. Gorodskoe dvizhenie, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.
“Gorodskoi transport No. 4 (Organizatsiia dvizheniia).” In the collection Nauchnye trudy Akademii Kommunal’nogo khoziaistva imeni K. D. Pamfilova, issue 45. Moscow, 1967.
“Problemy perevozok.” Trudy Instituta inzhenerov po elek-trotekhnike i radioelektronike, 1968, vol. 56, issue 4.
Galonen, Iu. M., and V. S. Naumenko. Sovremennoe sostoianie i tendentsii razvitiia obshchestvennogo transporta v krupnykh gorodakh: Obzory po gorodskomy khoziaistvu. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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