Moscow is a city for the people!
Member of the State Duma Irina Belykh, who was elected in the Khorvinsky-Moscow district, talked about transportation changes that will take place in Moscow in the future, how the reconstruction of the city center and the residential building renovation program will affect traffic jams, and which legislative changes are necessary to avoid a transport collapse in an interview with Capital Ideas.
Ms. Belykh, what can you say about transportation in Moscow today? In your opinion, how has the situation changed over the past few years?
I think it has changed drastically since 2010 and this is obvious to everyone, both city residents and experts. The transportation system is better-planned and has become more balanced: there is no obvious bias toward cars, which was beginning to develop in the beginning of the 2010s. It’s entirely obvious that Moscow is a city for the people! Cyclists and pedestrians have their own space on the streets and crossings. New interchanges and roads have been built, and transportation in the city has become more convenient – there are modern buses, electric buses, trams and metro cars, new suburban trains.
According to the Moscow Department of Transportation, people take a total of 19 million trips on public transportation every day, which is a 14% increase from 2010. During rush hour in the mornings, 68% take the metro, buses, trams, or suburban trains to work. This means people trust public transportation in the city. Over 70 new metro and MCC stations have opened, and over 752 kilometers of roads, interchanges, and tunnels have been built or renovated. There are 300 km of lanes in the city specially designated for public transportation or taxis. 2.7 million passengers are transported along these lanes on buses, trolleys, and electric buses.
Taxis in Moscow have also become an important part of the transportation system. I remember when it took a very long time to call a taxi, and they were very expensive. Flagging down a car used to be common practice. Now there are legal companies, the taxis come within 5 minutes, the price is very affordable, and many capital residents prefer taxis to taking their own cars. Of course the taxi sector has its own problems, but we just have to keep working on them.
Another important change is the implementation of the parking space project, which has eliminated chaotic parking in the city. The turnover for parking spaces has increased, and a safe and convenient environment for pedestrians, city transport, and drivers has been established. By the way, this was a difficult and unpopular decision for Moscow. It was tough to make, but, in my opinion, it was a very important measure. Without organized parking spaces, it’s impossible to imagine traffic flows in a huge metropolis.
Judging by the decisions made by the Presidium of the Moscow Government, the construction and development of the city’s transportation system will continue to move along at a rapid pace over the next few years. Half of the city’s budget over the next three years is allocated for the social sphere, and one article that stands out in particular is infrastructure development: the funds allocated for the metro, roads, bridges, interchanges, and transport will amount to 600 billion rubles.
When it comes to the Moscow agglomeration as a whole, especially neighboring satellite towns, what do the trends look like in terms of joint transportation development between Moscow and the surrounding regions?
Moscow and its nearby regions are a unified area in terms of employment, transport infrastructure, and passenger volumes. With a total area of 47,000 square meters and a population of about 20 million people, it’s one of the largest agglomerations in the world.
The level of labor migration between the regions is extremely high. Every day, about 3 million people come to work in the capital from neighboring satellite towns and then return home. In order to reduce congestion, we’re building interchanges and reconstructing highways. But during rush hour, highways are significantly overloaded, and this is the case for just about every road to Moscow from the suburbs.
For both regions, the main objective for the government is to provide people with fast and convenient transport that would be a fair alternative to a personal vehicle.
To make this happen, the city is actively developing suburban railways. Since 2012, the Government of Moscow and the Government of the Moscow Region have been working together with Russian Railways to implement a large-scale program for the development of railway infrastructure. There are no similar programs in other regions in Russia. Even now, passenger traffic through the Moscow railway network amounts to over 650 million people, which is 31% higher than in 2010 (495 million passengers). The city plans to introduce an additional 240 kilometers of additional main lines, which will enable the city to increase the frequency of suburban train arrivals and ensure the trains arrive on schedule, by 2023.
The TomTom Traffic Index, which provides unbiased information about traffic congestion all over the world, has moved Moscow up to 13th place in 2017. In 2013, Moscow was 1st on the list. According to TomTom’s data, traffic congestion in Moscow amounts to 43% in 2017, which is a 9% decrease from 2013.
Yes, the pace of construction in the Moscow suburbs is so fast that the roads aren’t able to accommodate the traffic volumes. Moreover, most city residents have summer homes (dachas) outside the city. The city’s plans with respect to constructing new roads, suburban trains, and metro lines aren’t able to keep up with this pace of growth. In your opinion, how can we avoid a transport collapse?
Here is the key to dealing with high traffic volumes on highways – all big cities in the world, with no exceptions, resolve traffic jams by developing public transportation. This is currently a priority for the Moscow agglomeration. The implementation of megaprojects that will create a new transportation infrastructure for many years down the line and will make travel in the city fast and convenient for all residents of our agglomeration has already begun. This project includes the development of the metro and the MCC, the construction of new roads, and the launch of the largest and highly anticipated project – the Moscow Central Diameters (MDC).
1,300 km of new roads are to be constructed by 2023, and we’ve already completed half. Further plans include a Central Ring Road in the region and four chords in Moscow. The implementation of these projects will enable us to unload the road network and increase throughput capacity.
The Government of Moscow, the Moscow Region, Russian Railways and the Ministry of Transport of Russia are updating the lines of suburban trains and integrating them fully into the urban transportation system. By 2023, the total length of the diameters, which will operate as an above-ground metro, will amount to 446 km and will have 211 stations. This project is called the Moscow Central Diameters. The point is to connect the existing lines and create new routes that will directly connect the cities of the Moscow region through the center of Moscow.
The MDC will be split up into different stages. The first two diameters, the MDC-1 Odintsovo-Lobnya and the MDC-2 Nakhabino-Podolsk, are scheduled to be launched somewhere between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. The remaining diameters will be running by 2023. The MCD will have fast, comfortable trains, with transfers to the Moscow metro, MCC, and above-ground transport.
Just after the first implementation stage, public transport will become more accessible to 3.7 million people.
A lot of Muscovites have complained that reconstruction in the center of the capital will be a problem for both public transportation and personal vehicles. As a member of the State Duma, do you get questions about this a lot?
There is no way to prevent such a large-scale renovation program from causing some level of inconvenience, just like with any renovation project. But if you’re renovating an apartment, it’s better to do the whole thing quickly instead of stretching it out over a long period of time. It’s the same in this case. The work is complete now, and I think that the benefits are obvious to everybody. I live in the center of Moscow, so it was an inconvenience for me along with everybody else. But the end result is great, it’s very beautiful. The city is alive, it needs to be updated occasionally in order to meet our requirements. You can’t want to live a convenient, modern lifestyle but do nothing to make it happen. The city is its people, and everybody has to be comfortable, both Muscovites and our guests. A lot is changing. Cycling is one the rise, and it’s turning into something bigger than a sport or a hobby now.
The reorganization of the city’s space enabled us to allocate more areas for places of leisure and green spaces. Over the past 3 years, more than 7,000 trees have been planted throughout the city.
The program has also had a positive impact on business. The city’s streets and squares now have new services: summer cafes and street stands, for example.
Aside from broadening the sidewalks and setting up new pedestrian areas, we were also able to implement a lot of important transportation solutions. The introduction of designated lanes became the foundation for bringing above ground transport back to the center, with the new “Magistral” network. The buses in the center recently broke a record – they’re now transporting 540,000 passengers a day.
The whole set of measures has started to drastically change the transportation habits of Moscow residents. More and more people are opting for taking public transportation, cycling, or just walking over taking their own car.
According to the information provided by the Moscow government, the number of trips in the city bicycle rental system is growing by 87% per year on average. In 2018, it counted a total of 4 million trips. There is less noise from cars on streets that have undergone renovations. About 30% of city residents started walking more in the past two years. Muscovites are becoming more active and mobile.
Are legislative changes necessary in order to resolve the transportation problems in Moscow, like with the renovations?
I’ll name a few that are really key, in my opinion. First, transportation in the city has gone through significant improvements in many ways because Moscow has successfully solved the problem of providing accessible and affordable taxi services to city residents. Taxi services play a very important social role in terms of making transportation accessible for the general population. Plus, the flexibility, comfort, and personalized nature of taxi services create stable customer demand for this type of transportation.
Together with the appearance of taxi aggregators (taxi ordering services), which essentially link vendors with contractors through IT platforms, have changed the structure of the market and the method for ordering taxi cabs.
For example, in our city aggregators set high fees for taxi companies for providing order transfer services. In some cases, these fees account for 30% if the transfer cost. They’re taking advantage of the fact that the market for receiving and (or) transferring orders for passenger and luggage taxis is controlled by only a few large companies.
This situation brings about negative financial consequences for taxi companies and drivers, leads to an increase in working time for driver to 10-12 hours. This is one factor that may be contributing to the increase in accidents involving passenger taxis.
Currently, aggregator activity, which has a direct impact on the shaping of the taxi market, is not regulated by law. Their rights and obligations have not been established, like the degree to which they’re responsible for what happens to passengers, and unscrupulous market participants take advantage of this.
Because of this, the current model we have for regulating the taxi market needs to be changed.
Right now, a draft of a federal law “On state regulation of relations in the sphere of organization and implementation of passenger taxi transport and passenger taxi order services” is under consideration by the State Duma. It needs to be amended in order to ensure effective legislative regulation for aggregators and the introduction of concepts for these business entities that correspond to civil law. Moreover, the legal regulations for the whole taxi market need to be optimized. In particular, we need to transfer part of the authority to regulate taxi transportation to the level of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, which to a large extent ensure the organization of passenger taxi services for the public (issuing permits for the transport of passenger taxis, regional state control in this sphere).
Second, the taxi industry sector needs to address the number of traffic accidents that involve taxis driven by people who don’t have Russian driving permits and are operating vehicles with foreign driver’s licenses.
In the first seven months of 2018, 468 traffic accidents that involved taxis were registered in Moscow. In 71 of these incidents, the driver was a foreign citizen who was breaking Russian traffic laws because they lacked the necessary qualifications and didn’t have enough experience driving in cities and heavy traffic.
Because of this, it’s important to limit taxi drivers to people who have Russian driver’s licenses. To do this, we would have to recognize as no longer applicable a guideline in the law “On road safety,” according to which a ban on driving with foreign national or international driving permits for business operations directly related to driving does not apply on citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as citizens of countries that use Russian as their official language. A bill like this has already been submitted to the State Duma.
The third initiative I want to talk about is also under consideration by the State Duma. It will introduce changes to the Administrative Code that provide for the option to give the Moscow government the authority to review a number of traffic-related administrative offenses when they are recorded automatically via an agreement concluded between the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Moscow Government. The bill has passed in the first reading.
This bill is necessary because Moscow, as a city of federal significance, has higher traffic volume density and a larger number of traffic-related administrative offenses compared to other subjects of the Russian Federation.
The Moscow Government also has more opportunities in terms of adding more staff to the bodies (divisions) in charge of traffic-related administrative offenses compared to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
We’re accumulated enough positive experience with transferring this type of authority to the Moscow government within the scope of the existing agreement with the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs on the transfer of the authority to review cases on violations of traffic signs that prohibit stopping or parking vehicles. Adopting this law and subsequently concluding an agreement on the transfer of authority will lead to improvements to traffic and road safety in the city, making it easier to implement the principle of the inevitability of punishment for traffic-related offenses.
So Moscow deputies have their work cut out for them. Creating new laws isn’t done overnight, and it’s tedious work. So we’re going to continue working on it.