Moscow's New 'Silent' Subway Won't Disturb Underground Bolshoi Theater

Moscow is trying to get people out of their cars, with expanded connections and swanky new subway cars. The project also includes special anti-vibration tracks and tunnels designed to protect the Bolshoi Theater’s brand new underground concert call.

A Moscow subway station
A Moscow subway station

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

MOSCOW – The Russian capital is as famous for its maddening traffic as for its world-class ballet and borscht. Hoping to ease the congestion, Moscow is set to spend a record 2.2 trillion rubles, ($70 billion) to update the metropolitan area's transport system. That is more then twice the amount spent for any single municipal program in Moscow in the past five years.

The lion's share of the money is going to be spent on new roads, including improvements in Moscow's connections to other regional cities, and the development of the municipal subway system. By 2016, the city expects to have built 474 kilometers of new roads and 85.6 kilometers of new metro lines.

Although the city is planning to expand the roads for private cars, the real hope is that improvements in the public transportation system will entice commuters to leave their cars at home. To make public transport more attractive, the city is making the buses, trams and trolley-buses more comfortable, and replacing 2,373 subway cars and 119 escalators at subway stations.

As part of the improvements in the metro system, Moscow's Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has also promised to install special anti-vibration tracks and tunnels in the area surrounding the Bolshoi Theater. Home to the famous Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera, the theater has been closed for reconstruction since 2005, with the much anticipated reopening set for next month. Part of the reconstruction was a new 330-seat concert hall located underground, less than 30 meters from the closest subway station, and officials consider these special anti-vibration measures necessary to protect the acoustics of the new hall.

In addition to the public transport changes, the city will add 15,000 taxis to the current fleet of 10,000. Getting a cab will also become easier: Passengers will be able to order a cab by sending an SMS, and the wait time is expected to drop from 30 to 15 minutes.

Read more in Russian here and here.


*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Why Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

Ad scuba-diver and brain coral

Stefano Lupieri

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Addictions to sex and social media

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image

Lindsay Hanford and Geoff B Hall via Wikipedia

Tweaking genetics 

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Les Echos
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