Marshrutka

Kyiv, Ukraine | C.1938

Photo Credit: Dimitri Bogachuk

A Marshrutka is a form of public transportation that originated in Russia and is used in other countries today including Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine. First introduced in Moscow in 1938, the vehicle is a blend of a taxicab and a bus. The term marshrutka is Russian for “routed taxicab.”

While marshrutkas perform the same services as today’s public transit systems, customers paid a premium to experience these routed cabs. At first, marshrutkas were meant to carry tourists in ZiS luxury cars reserved for high ranking Soviet officials. Marshrutka services ceased during World War II, but resumed after the war with inconsistent quality.

A booming economy in 1992 brought the marshrutka back into favor and public attention. The need for faster and more reliable public transit also came with a desire to pay extra for such a service.

In response, Russian automaker GAZ (Gorky Automobile Plant) built the GAZelle, a cheap, easy-to-repair and lease minibus that was favored among local Russian governments. The barriers to entry for public transportation were significantly lowered, thus modernizing the entire transit system to make it more reliable for riders.

Depending on the city, students, law enforcement, and civil servants (known as pass holders) ride for free. Marshrutkas will not take on more free passengers than the limited quantity per vehicle and do not carry pensioners or the disabled. Because of this, there are usually more marshrutkas in the cities than ordinary buses, trolleys, or trams altogether.

 

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