THE PASSENGER CAR IN THE USSR

A KEY TO THE SOVIET APPROACH TO THE PASSENGER AUTOMOBILE TRAFFIC PROBLEM LIES IN THE BOLSHEVIK BELIEF THAT THE CAPITALIST, FREE-MARKET RESPONSE TO THE AUTOMOBILE HAS BEEN UNSCIENTIFIC, EVEN IRRATIONAL. WHEN KHRUSHCHEV TOURED THE UNITED STATES, THE MORNING HE LEFT SAN FRANCISCO HE WAS ESCORTED TO THE AIRPORT BY WAY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO FREEWAY. THEY WERE BUCKING THE INCOMING MORNING RUSH-HOUR TRAFFIC. KHRUSCHEV WATCHED THE STREAM OF INDIVIDUAL CARS GO BY WITH GENERALLY ONE PASSENGER PER CAR, AND FINALLY EXCLAIMED THAT IT WAS IRRATIONAL. KHRUSHCHEV DECIDED TO ESTABLISH IN THE U.S.S.R. A SYSTEM FOR THE USE OF AUTOMOBILES THAT WILL DIFFER FROM THE ONE IN CAPITALIST COUNTRIES. IT TURNED OUT THAT WHAT KHRUSHCHEV HAD IN MIND WAS A KIND OF MUNICIPAL RENT-A-CAR SERVICE, UNDER WHICH EACH CITY WOULD HAVE A FLEET OF AUTOMOBILES ITS CITIZENS COULD RENT FOR VACATION OR WEEKEND TRIPS. SINCE THE SOVIET UNION HAS ROUGHLY ONE PASSENGER AUTOMOBILE FOR EVERY 230 PEOPLE, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AMERICAN AND SOVIET AUTOMOBILE VOLUME IS OF THE ORDER OF 100 TO 1. SIX FUNCTIONS ARE IDENTIFIED THAT ARE PERFORMED BY THE PASSENGER AUTOMOBILE. FIRST, A CAR IS A TIME-SAVER IN GETTING TO AND FROM WORK. SECONDLY, DOOR-TO- DOOR MOVEMENT BY CAR ELIMINATES THE DISCOMFORTS OF WINTER COLD AND SNOW, SUMMER HEAT AND DUST, AND THE RAINS AND MUD THAT MARK THE INTERVENING SEASONS. THE PRESENT GENERATION OF RUSSIANS IS PERHAPS TOUGHER IN ACCEPTING THESE INCONVENIENCES THAN WE HAVE BECOME. THE SOVIET CONSUMER- GOODS SHORTAGES LEADS THE REGIME TO SEE INDIVIDUAL CARS AS POTENTIAL INSTRUMENTS FOR FLAGRANTLY ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR, THIS PECULAIRLY SOVIET ASPECT OF THE PROBLEM MUST FIGURE HEAVILY WITH OFFICIAL POLICIES TOWARD AUTOMOBILE USE. THE CAR AS A STATUS SYMBOL IS WELL KNOWN IN THE WEST. CAN THE NEW SOVIET MAN BE DISABUSED OF THIS MOTIVATION{ PASSENGER CARS ALSO PROVIDE UNCHAPERONED PRIVACY FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, OR MEN AND WOMEN AND THIS FUNCTION MAY WELL HAVE SPECIAL IMPORTANCE FOR SOVIET URBAN CITIZENS WHO STILL FACE EXTREMELY CROWDED LIVING CONDITIONS. FINALLY THERE IS THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL PASSENGER AUTOMOBILE IN PROVIDING UNREGULATED MOBILITY TO ITS OWNER. IT IS, THEREFORE, DIFFICULT TO CONFINE INDIVIDUALS TO OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED USES OF THE AUTOMOBILE. THEY MAY BE INNOCUOUS RATHER THAN SINISTER, HOWEVER, THE POINT IS THAT THEY ARE UNORGANIZED. THUS ONE CAN FORESEE A SILENT CONTEST BETWEEN IDEALOGIES VISUALIZING A RATIONAL FUTURE AND CITIZENS THIRSTING FOR PERSONAL CARS.

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Tables;
  • Pagination: pp 64-70
  • Monograph Title: Transportation and economic development
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00200032
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Nov 18 1994 12:00AM