TRAMVAI

stop 3 - everyday life


The tram network grew rapidly and came to serve an expanding section of the city’s population: within a year of the opening of that first line in 1907 there were nine routes; by 1912 thirteen, extending now out of the central areas as far as Novaia derevnia in the north; by the Revolution there were twenty-three routes. The network grew in response to (but never manage to keep up with) public demand. Later, after the Revolution, the requests of factory workers were heeded for earlier starts to the tram schedule and for stops placed closer to factories.

The tram was not initially the cheap and democratic form of transport that it came to be known as: originally there were two classes of travel – five kopecks for first class, for the “cleanly attired public” and three kopecks for the second class. (The price is for one stage of the journey; routes were divided up, so that to cross the city, say, from the Finland Station to the Baltic Station comprised three stages and would cost fifteen kopecks.) At a time when the salary of a tram wagon cleaner was nine roubles per month, and that of a tram conductor forty-six roubles, these sums were not necessarily small.



Seen from above, the pattern in which pedestrians occupy the streets shaped by the tram lines

In 1905, before the advent of the tram, an average of 58 journeys on public transport were made per citizen per year; in 1914, this figure had risen to 140. The two classes of travel were quickly done away with, and in 1916 seats were removed to make more standing room in an attempt to deal with the fierce over-crowding. Viktor Shklovsky, in his characteristically wry style, observes the perils of the over-filled carriages:

"It's a real squeeze. One of my friends got his rib broken, and another one's got pleurisy now as a result of these tram contusions."

Alas, still greater perils—misadventures and severed heads—became incorporated into the field of associations around the tram. As the volume of traffic–both pedestrian and vehicular–increased on the streets, the tramlines acquired a fatal notoriety. Gruesome headlines became stock in trade for the city’s newspapers as they announced the latest victims. April 1912 saw the following headlines in Peterburgskii listok:

"Two victims of the tram"
"The tram’s deeds"
"Girl falls under wheels".

So frequent were the casualties, that the subject was taken up by the journal Satirikon as early as 1908, in the mock diary entry of a jaded member of the “streetcar commission”:

"Another person cut in half! But they will always clamber onto the rails when the tram has to go by!"


Satirikon, No. 19 (1908)