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03 May 2012

Moscow News: “Do the math” (as the Americans say)

Дворец Советов: now Kropotkinskaya
When I first visited Moscow, a ticket on the Metro was 5 kopeks
I am increasingly keen to read the Moscow News whenever I see it lying around, as it seems to me to be a steadily improving newspaper. From the unreadable bilge printed by its previous, crypto-Soviet editor a couple of years ago, it is now becoming interesting, controversial and authoritative, which is all one requires in a newspaper—except, of course, a reasonable freedom from weird mistakes. Unfortunately there was one such today.
     In a piece entitled Moscow Metro Blues (page 2), I saw the following sentence:
“Over 7 million people ride the metro daily, resulting in $68,100 worth of ticket sales each day.”
     You don’t have to be especially numerate to see that that does not look right. So I “did the math”. An average ticket on the metro (allowing for discounts etc.) costs rather more than 20 roubles. If 7 million people use a ticket a day, that is something over 140 million roubles. Call it 150 for ease of calculation. As there are about 30 roubles to the dollar, that means than daily revenue is 150 divided by 30, which is 5. So the system earns from ticket sales, not $68,100 per day, but about $5 million. Why did nobody notice that?
     Incidentally, $5 million per day equates to about $1.8 billion per annum. The next paragraph in the article noted that the city is going to spend $3.4 billion on new metro construction this year alone, or nearly twice the total revenue from ticket sales. That, surely, is the real story. Where is the money coming from; and where is it going—by which I mean: to whom, for what, on what contractual basis, and when?

At the risk of repeating myself: On the front page of the same issue, there is an interesting story entitled Bloggers Replacing Bureaucrats, which describes how the young poker king of Shchukino has offered to help the unconventional candidate for mayor of Omsk, Ilya Varlamov, try to win his election. The article says: “Another famous blogger, Artemy Lebedev, is slated to develop design and infrastructure in Omsk in case Varlamov wins.”
     The piece was written by Yulia Ponomareva, who wrote the article that provoked my post, on 26 March, Common mistakes #7: “in case”. In that piece, Ms Ponomareva made exactly the same mistake as she did today. Clearly she does not read my words as carefully as I read hers. What she should have written is “in the event that Varlamov wins.” See the earlier post for the reason why.

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