the morning commute

The morning commute crowd at Palats Sportu (Палац спорту) Station.

Kyiv Metro

Published: July 7, 2013

Kyiv Metro /
Київський метрополітен (or Київське метро)

Opens daily between 5:30am and 6:00am (depending on the station)
Closes daily at midnight

Fares: 2грн ($0.25) per trip
Unlimited half- or whole-month plans available:
half-month: 48 грн ($6.00) | whole-month: 95 грн ($12.50)

If you make a trip to Kyiv, you’ll inevitably encounter the city metro system, and it can be a bit intimidating at first, especially given the system’s magnitude, large quantity of passengers, and high speed. But becoming acquainted with some operational practices and navigation guidelines can turn your metro experience into an enjoyable, easy, and efficient way to travel the city and immerse yourself in some culture of Kyiv. While city busses, trolley-busses, and taxis also provide transportation in Kyiv, the metro system is arguably the most popular, cleanest, safest, and easiest way to traverse the metropolitan area at a low cost.

A bit of history: Although plans for a metro in Kyiv had been proposed as early as 1884, construction only began in 1949. The concept for the current system originated as a set of plans conceived and materialized by Papazov, an Armenian graduate of the Moscow University of Transport Engineering. The first completed section held 5.2 kilometers of track and five stations from Vokzalnaya (Вокзальна) Station to Dnepr (Днiпро) Station and was operational and open to the public in November, 1960.

This initial segment of railway comprises the central part of the east-west line that today is known by three names: “Line 1” (Лінія 1 “M1”), “Red Line” (красная линия), and “Sviatoshynsko-Brovarska Line” (Святошинсько-Броварська). Subsequent extension of this line across the Dnieper River and into residential areas preceded construction of a second, north-south line, which began in the early 1970’s. This “Line 2” (Лінія 2 “M2”), “Blue Line” (синяя линия), or “Kurenivsko-Chervonoarmiyska Line” (Куренівсько-Червоноармійська) opened in 1976 and continued to expand while construction commenced on a third, northwest-southeast line in 1981. This “Line 3” (Лінія 3 “M3”), “Green Line” (зеленая линия), or “Syretsko-Pecherska Line” (Сирецько-Печерська) completes the current set of operational routes, but expansion of existent lines and installation of new ones are presently underway.

Transfer sites: There are three intersection, or “transfer,” locations in the central area of Kyiv, where passengers may switch from one line to another: Blue ↔ Red, Green ↔ Red, and Blue ↔ Green. These transfer stations are connected to one another underground, so passengers may follow signs through subterranean passageways to change from one railway to an intersecting one. These transfer stations are the most crowded portions of the metro system and can seemingly resemble the herding of cattle during rush hours: 8:30-10:00am, and 4:30-6:30pm (based on my own experiences). Expect extreme crowding with your fellow passengers if you use these stations at peak commuting times.

Transfer station Ploshcha Lva Tolstoho
Transfer station Ploshcha Lva Tolstoho (Площа Льва Толстого).

Fares: A single trip within the system costs 2 грн ($0.25), and admittance to the trains is granted through the purchase of either blue plastic tokens or contactless cards. The blue tokens are each good for one trip and can be purchased from cashiers or automatic token machines located at each station. The electronic dispensaries change 2- and 10-грн bills for tokens which can be inserted into turnstiles that permit passage to the trains.

Contactless cards allow passengers to “load” prepaid trips onto a card which can be “refilled” with subsequent purchases and scanned at the turnstiles. Unlimited half-month and month plans can also be programmed onto a contactless card. This allows passengers to use the card as many times as he/she wishes within the allotted time-period. Note that these plans put a lock on the card for seven minutes after every use in order to prevent abuse. The unlimited half-month and month plans cost 48.00 грн ($6.00) and 95.00 грн ($12.50), respectively. For someone like me, who uses the Kyiv metro many times each day, the unlimited monthly pass is the best way to go, and NovaMova (the school through which SRAS classes are held) conveniently included a monthly pass as part of my study and home-stay program.

Some tips, cautions, and interesting facts:
Traffic: The Kyiv metro accommodates over 1.4 million passengers each day, carrying 38% of all public transportation in the city through 50 stations. Over 600 cars cover more than 40 miles of track, which means that the trains move fast, don’t stop for very long at stations, and get extremely crowded at certain times and locations. The number of trains running at a given time and the distance between them depends on the time of day. During rush hours, trains follow one another at intervals of about a minute or less. During lower traffic times, trains may run five to ten minutes apart.

Hold on: The trains accelerate and decelerate very rapidly, which means that if you’re not sitting down, it would be very wise to hold onto one of the provided hand rails. If you’re unable to reach a hand rail because the car is too crowded, spread your feet apart in a wide stance so that you are facing the side of the car and adjust the distribution of your weight as the car moves so you don’t fall over. It is normal to see people stumbling as the trains start and stop, but it doesn’t seem to be much appreciated when people fall onto one another. (Again, I’m speaking from my own experiences.)

Public displays of affection: The metro system seems to be a prime venue for demonstrations of affection to significant others, so don’t be surprised if you regularly see a lot of smooching and caressing on the cars, platforms, and escalators.

typical Kyiv metro car at non-peak traffic time
A typical Kyiv metro car at non-peak traffic time.

Bags and seats: If you are carrying any kind of bag, hold it close to your front while on the cars to prevent pick-pocketing and inconveniencing other passengers. Although it is not expected that you give up your seat to the elderly, children, and women, it is always greatly appreciated.

Long escalators: Arsenalna station (Red Line) is the deepest metro station in the world at 105.5 meters, and other stations follow close behind in depth. Sets of long escalators and stairs lead to and from the ground level to these stations (Some stations, however, are above ground). Some people sit on the escalators during non-peak hours, but I don’t recommend this practice, since the stairs are not clean. Generally, if it is not extremely crowded, people will form a single-file line on right side of the escalator and allow fast-moving stair-climbers to pass on the left. Rushed individuals seem to appreciate this while getting a bit of a workout in transit to their destination.

Serious faces: Unless people are traveling together, they do not seem to engage in friendly conversation with other passengers. I’ve managed to get some smiles out of kids and folks who thank me for my seat, but otherwise it seems to be the norm to remain outwardly dispassionate while riding the public transportation.

Nevertheless, riding the Kyiv metro can be an incredibly enjoyable adventure – both a means and an ends to experiencing the city, its history, people, and culture.

For groups and faculty-led tours: The Kyiv metro system might not be the most convenient way to group-travel around the city, especially during busy hours. Tour busses probably offer a better sight-seeing mode of transportation for big groups, but the metro system can and does accommodate large numbers of people and is a cost-efficient way to travel around the city and makes for an interesting site in and of itself.

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About the author

Marie Forney

Marie Forney is a Master of Public Affairs student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington. She holds M.M. and B.A. degrees in music theory and flute performance from Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively, with special emphasis on Russian ballet. Her artistic studies are serving well as a gateway into policy analysis and international development, and she is in Ukraine on an internship program arranged by The School of Russian and Asian Studies, studying Russian at NovaMova International Language School while interning at the Institute of World Policy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Program attended: Challenge Grants: Funding for Study Abroad

View all posts by: Marie Forney