Post image for METRO!!!!!!!

by Michael Hancock-Parmer on 4/16/2010 · 5 comments

The long-promised metro system in Almaty is nearing completion.  Wow!  WOW! Can you believe it!?  No, I mean, for real.  Seriously this time!  They HAVE a WEBSITE!  The website is pretty new.  And AWESOME!

I spent the summer in Almaty, and I asked everyone I knew over and over Қашан метрокурылыс бiтетiн шығар?  I apologize for my bad Kazakh – I was trying to ask “When is the Metro-construction going to finish?”  I specifically recall the construction near Abai and Furmanov, with the busy streets made busier by one-lane traffic.  The picture is from that site, where I was walking some night with my camera.  There was all sorts of racket from down below, and it certainly made me wonder how things were going.  And yet, with the Кризис on everyone’s minds and lips, people were understandably pessimistic.

Myself, I’ll need more than a little assurance from the construction crews that this Metro can withstand the annual tremors and the possibility of larger earthquakes.  Unlike Tashkent, this Metro doesn’t seem to be just beneath the surface, but quite a ways down…  not where I want to be when the earth begins to quake.

In any event, it allows us to consider what effect this might have on Kazakhstan’s future, especially with regard to the continuing development of its urban centers.  I also wonder how long before Astana gets some sort of light-rail or other mass transit system, considering how much like a тентек бала [spoiled child] Astana can be, what with their sharks and aquariums and lego-tastic plastic government edifices.

As to the metro itself, it seems that the first line – the “Red Line” is what I’m sure most will call it – will open within the next year.  Hopefully the Blue and Green Lines will follow not too long afterwards, as they will let people get from the train stations up the mountain in a hurry, and really alleviate some of the congestion on the streets.  Earthquakes or no, Almaty needs some kind of mass transit solution.

Consider this – the advent of the subway allows Almaty to finally eclipse Tashkent as the “first city in Central Asia,” a title it’s had in all but name since the early 2000s.

I have to say that although I didn’t grow up in Almaty and despite the fact that I don’t the city so well, I think the plan they have provided is very promising.  Abai and Tole Bi streets both seem to have good stops planned, and the blue line seems to be traveling down Furmanov (the future Nazarbaev Street, of course).  In any event, I am optimistic for this great subway line – definitely on route to be another addition to the beautiful subways of the former Soviet Union.  What better place to have wall-to-floor-to-ceiling marble?

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This post was written by...

– author of 20 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Michael earned an MA in Central Eurasian Studies in 2011 and remains a student at Indiana University pursuing a dual PhD in Russian History and Central Eurasian Studies. He served 6 months in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan in 2005. After the events in Andijan and the subsequent closure of the program, he served 2 years in southern Kazakhstan, returning to the Midwest in 2007. His general area of interest is on post-Timur Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, centered on the Syr Darya river valley.

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Brian April 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm

That’s great about the subway. I’m always a big fan of public transportation systems.

I would guess that building a subway tunnel deeper would make it more earthquake resistant, not less. The same way that a tsunami is almost unnoticeable in the open ocean (an extremely fast, low amplitude wave) I would think that the waves would get less violent the you were underground. That’s just a guess though.

KZBlog April 17, 2010 at 12:54 am

I don’t see how this will stop the traffic problem in Almaty. Riding the subway will never be as cool as driving so you will still see Land Cruisers, Range Rovers and Mercedes and BMWs all over the streets. I wish they had used the money to improve driver’s ed, cut the buying of driver’s licenses, and to put more traffic cops on the street. That would do more to improve traffic in Almaty.

Michael Hancock April 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

I see your point. I was kind of hoping this would force the other forms of transportation to re-consider their downward spiral into cancerous capitalist greed… specifically, that the bus system downtown would become trustworthy, timely, and cheaper, and better funded [more and better buses]. This will push more cars off the street, which is better. Cars will remain a status symbol in Almaty for a while yet… but eventually it should hit critical mass and turn into a Chicago or New York, where most people don’t see the point of wasting money on an item they don’t really need.

Your point on the driver’s training/license fiasco is absolutely timely as well. This may sound totally pie-in-the-sky, but I’m kind of hoping that in ten years time this will become less of a problem, as the Bolashak kids return, get jobs, and try to make what they learned in Europe, Australia, the US, etc. a reality in Almaty, Astana, etc.

Metin April 17, 2010 at 11:48 am

the metro is by far reliable form of transportation compared to others (at least in Tashkent). You never have traffic jams; you can never be late if you use metro. However, public transportation has its common disadvantage – different people use it – tidy and unhygienic, healthy and sick. Nowadays security concerns also matter – sometimes you get checked by police if your documents are alright (the road police does the same routinely).

In non-rush hours metro is really cool – it is perfect if you want to go out for beer evenings, surely better than taxi.
I think people in Almati will be happy with their Metro.

Joe April 18, 2010 at 7:10 am

What an achievement!

Almaty has a serious congestion problem, and this will go a long way to alleviate this.


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