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The transformation of Moscow

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The city Government, with the support of President Putin has decided to convert the city into a smarter one

Electronic transport stops and polycentralised projects are part of a future strategy


Moscow is preparing to get smarter. The city's Government has decided that a megalopolis of this size should be more functional, because otherwise it will end up strangling itself with the flow of traffic and people.

Basically, the idea of the “smart city” project consists in both the inhabitants and the local institutions receiving the greatest possible amount of information on what is happening at any given time in Moscow and planning their activity on the basis of this information. First of all, the project plans to solve traffic and logistics problems. For more than a decade the Russian capital has been in a constant state of traffic collapse: every commuter takes, on average, two hours to go to and from work. And throughout this time the capital's authorities have tried in vain to solve this problem.

Transport, at a standstill

Members of the Town Hall reached the conclusion that this problem would only be solved by totally reviewing the city's economical-geographical and construction policy. There are four factors preventing them from avoiding traffic jams without high costs.

First of all, the city of Moscow has a radial layout. A series of main avenues reach the city from the outskirts, and are joined by several ring roads. There is no alternative to reaching the centre by car.

Secondly, more than 80% of the labour activity is concentrated in the central district and the outskirts are occupied by homes. Consequently, every working day most of the population travels to the centre in the morning and makes the reverse trip in the afternoon. The number of people in the central district is multiplied several times during the week

Furthermore, Moscow is an old city and in many districts, particularly in the centre, it is impossible to increase the traffic supporting capacity of the streets due to their large-scale urbanisation. The streets were laid out in times when there were ten times less cars on the road. And finally, making public transport more popular is a measure that could be a partial solution, but the metro is completely saturated and land transport is also subject to traffic jams.

In order to simplify life in the city, the authorities have decided to develop the smart city project.

Electronic stops/p>

A first trial was conducted immediately after the Christmas holidays: smart stops for public transport appeared. They have electronic panels that offer useful information for users: the time the bus or trolley bus arrives, its real time localisation on the city map and the full route of all the buses and trolley buses that travel passed that stop.

For the time being, these panels are only erected in Tverskaya street, one of the main roads. Before the end of the year, they should be available throughout the city, according to the comments by the press secretary of the Moscow Information Technology department, Elena Nvikova.

We will see how passengers adopt this system and if they have any proposals. Once the tests are completed, together with the transport department, we will decide how it should be and if it is worth installing the system all over the city or only in the centre. The system may also be available in English, as more and more tourists are coming to Moscow, the Town Hall representative told us.

But the smart stops are just a small part of the overall idea.

Business centres

Today Moscow is a mono-centric city. All the “neurological points” are in the centre.

Here is where we find all the state institutions, the business centres and the leisure infrastructures. Every person, regardless of the area they live in (except in the centre), needs about half an hour to get to work.

However, a smart city has to be polycentric. According to the experts, having just one centre is something that only a small town can have, but never a megalopolis.

The centres of gravity of business, leisure and homes should be distributed equally throughout the city, assures Aleksander Vysokovski, deacon of the Higher School of Urban Planning.

Moscow's main architect, Serguéi Kuznetsov, agrees and manifests categorically against building so-called Dormitory Towns. In his opinion, this is a one-way street in terms of urban construction.

At present, the most important project in this respect is extending the city. Some territories have been added to the capital that has increased its surface area by 2,500 square kilometres. It is hoped that most of the state institutions will be moved to these areas, so that large business centres can be created there.

One of the basic elements of a smart city should be the no-less smart traffic monitoring system. At the moment, they are working on a traffic control office, a traffic jam follow-up system and a single traffic lights control system. Thanks to these changes it will be easier to administer what to do in the case of an accident and when crimes are committed on the highways. It may be launched in 2013.

The capital's institutions assure that if Moscow does not become a smart city, it will end up virtually paralysed. Many planning practices will have to be reviewed, says the capital's deputy Mayor, Marat Jusnulin. “We have to create new urban construction models, because what we do and plan today is already in the past”, explains Jusnulin, closing the Moscow Urban Planning Forum held last year.

An article by Aleksander Kiliakov