Tashkent Subway: The one and only in Central Asia
Tashkent boasts the only subway in Central Asia, and one of the cleanest, safest, and most reliable mass transit systems in the former Soviet Union. It is no wonder, then, that residents of Tashkent talk about their subway, called the "metro," with pride.
Tashkent is the largest city in Central Asia, with a population of over two million, and a good transportation system is essential. In addition to a subway, the city has a bus, trolley, and tram system. One cannot walk down any major street without seeing at least a couple of buses gradually making their way from stop to stop.
Tashkent also has trolleys, but not the kind found in San Francisco or even at the most high-scale all inclusive resorts Mexico has to offer. Rather, they look like buses with long poles attached to wires overhead. They do not run on fuel, but derive their power from electricity. Occasionally, the poles come off of the wires, and the driver, using ropes, must reconnect them.
Dividing the major arteries of the city are rails, which electric trams travel on. The bells of trams can be heard ringing through the city, warning pedestrians of an imminent arrival. These modes of transportation are not uncommon throughout Central Asia; it is the metro that is unique to Tashkent and Uzbekistan.
The Tashkent metro has two lines, the Uzbekistan and the Chilanzar, with a third under construction scheduled to open in next years. The Chilanzar is the busier of the two lines, and at rush hour, trains come and go every two minutes. The metro is open between 5:00 a.m. and midnight. At night, one can wait up to ten minutes for a train, but no longer than that.
Every station has a token booth with one or two sellers inside. Tokens cost 10 sum, but there are rumors that this will increase shortly. The tokens are made of hard blue plastic, and are inserted into an entrance gate. There is special gate for people with monthly passes, and for those allowed to ride for free. These include veterans of the Great Patriotic War (World War II), and Afganistan Veterans as well as transit employees and policemen.
Once inside, passengers can see policemen patrolling, duty officers making sure people do not fall onto the tracks, and janitors cleaning. One of the policemen, who has been patrolling the Kosmonavtov metro stop for two years, says that it is rare for a crime to occur on the trains or in the stations, because of the presence of police in every station, and the confined nature of the stations.
People who use or work on the subway line are grateful for its convenience. It only takes 22 minutes to go from one end of the line to the other. As one passenger explains, "You could never do this in a car. Underground there is no traffic, and no stop lights or pedestrians, just station stops which don't take more than a minute." The trains travel at a speed of 60 kilometers per hour, a speed rarely attained in the bustle of Tashkent and more in line with taxi cabs that are a part of Las Vegas package deals. This year is the 20th anniversary of the metro, and mass transit employees and residents alike have reason to celebrate.
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