Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Moscow center to become huge car trap

Traffic jams have become one of the biggest problems in Moscow. They paralyze the city every day during rush hours. The Moscow authorities try to take measures to fight against the disaster on the roads, although to no avail. Now they have come up with a new idea - to make drivers pay for entering the city center.

Charging privately-owned vehicles for entering the center of Moscow is not the know-how of the Moscow government. The practice exists in many cities of the world, but in Moscow, if introduced, it may lead to disastrous consequences indeed.

Officials of the department for transport and communication of the Moscow government prepared a draft decree about the concept of development of the passenger traffic in Moscow for 2011-2013. According to the document, drivers will have to pay on a daily basis for their right to enter the central streets of Moscow. The authors of the document believe that it will make many car owners in Moscow switch to buses, trams and the metro. This will supposedly improve the situation with traffic jams on the city roads.

Experts do not think, though, that such measures can be acceptable in Russia.

"It's unacceptable for the Russian mentality and for our organization of the road traffic. It will inevitably result in corruption and other forms of illegal activities. One would have to install control systems and barriers inside the Garden Ring (the ring road around the center of Moscow). The city will be paralyzed for good, if it happens; Moscow will become a car trap. For example, a car approaches a checkpoint somewhere to drive into the center, but then it just so happens that the driver does not have any cash in his pocket. What will he have to do? To turn around and go back? But what if it's a one-way traffic road? His only escape would be to fly," Viktor Travin, the chairman of the committee for protection of drivers' rights said.

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In the meantime, Zhanna Terekhova, the press secretary of the department for transport and communication of Moscow, said that introducing a payment for entering the city center could be an alternative for distant future, not present.

"It's one of alternative measures for remote future. It's just a possibility, but it does not mean that it will have to become reality. It's not something that we intend to do now," the official said.
Gennady Gudkov, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Security does not support the above-mentioned idea at all.

"I am strongly against such a measure, because our authorities seem to be following the principle "the drowning saves the drowning at the expense of the drowning." What is the essence of the problem of traffic jams in Moscow? There are no paid parking lots in the city where people would be able to temporarily leave their cars. That is why people use 30 percent of all streets and squares in the city for parking their cars. There is no other place where they could park. This is a fault of our officials, who sold many good locations in Moscow for construction of commercial objects. I do not know any country in the world where the problem of parking lots in large cities hasn't been solved. It's been solved everywhere. In Monaco, for instance, they built multi-level parking lots in the mountains. In London, one has to pay if they want to drive into central streets, but the city has everything very well-organized when it comes to car parking. There are wonderful multi-level surface and underground parks and good traffic circles.

"The work of the Moscow road police is another big issue. All they do is get involved in collecting penalties, they do not organize traffic at all. We do not have any organization that would be responsible for the proper organization of traffic. The number of cars that we have is much smaller than that in Europe or in the USA, but we have catastrophic traffic jams.

"All our authorities can do is to paralyze the city. Now they want to arrange the system to stop people from driving at the time when the public transportation system leaves much to be desired - it's overcrowded. Taking a ride in the Moscow metro during a rush hour is quite an adventure. You don't walk there - the crowd carries you. There is no proper surface and underground transportation in Moscow. It's chaos."

Ksenia Obraztsova
Read the original in Russian