October-December 2017 #4 (20)
Vladimir Mayakovsky once wrote about a city that’s great for cars, but not for people. He was talking about New York, which the famous Russian poet visited in the 1920s. The takeover of cars that New Yorkers had to deal with back then was only experienced by Muscovites over half a century later, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the country rapidly shifted from communism to capitalism. The number of cars on city streets started growing so rapidly that it soon led to a serious transportation collapse. Moscow started suffocating in traffic jams, which took up a lot of space and poisoned the environment. Statistics show that 90% harmful emissions come from cars.
I remember how a close American friend came to visit me in Moscow in the 90s. After meeting him at the airport, we took my Volga to Hotel National, which was located next to the Kremlin in the center of the city. At one point he asked me to close the window in the car, which didn’t have air conditioning, because the emissions from cars were making it difficult for him to breathe.
And although there are still a lot of cars in Moscow (3.5 million cars are on the roads here daily), the air in the Russian capital has cleared up a lot. Over the past seven years, the city administration has managed to lower the volume of harmful emissions from cars by 120,000 tons. This is a tremendous success, and it was the first time we were able to achieve it. Prior to this, the volumes of harmful emissions had increased every year.
How did we manage to do it? Competent urban development policies, improvements to public transportation, systemizing car traffic in Moscow, and regulating parking, which led to a reduction in parking spaces in the center.
But the government in Moscow is concerned with more than just air quality. The quality of water, soil, and green spaces are also on the agenda. They are all parts of the same important issue - the environment, which permeates all aspects of urban life.
The “environment” as a concept is not limited to nature. It also includes environmental aspects of city life like modern urban facilities, a developed transportation system, and welcoming public spaces where people can rest, interact, play sports, and engage in other leisure activities.
There are more and more places like this in the city. See for yourself. In 2012, there was a public opinion poll in Moscow. The respondents had to answer one question: “Where will you go if you got off work at noon because the electricity in the office went out?”. Back then, 76% of respondents said they would go home. Two years ago, just 50% of respondents said they would go home. 27% said they would walk around the city and parks, while 19% said they would go to the movies, a museum, or an exhibition. Today, people have places to spend their free time in Moscow other than home. In other words, the poll showed that the quality of the surrounding environment in Moscow is definitely improving. The city is becoming more friendly and comfortable. But we don’t need public opinion polls to tell us that. It’s obvious to everybody.
Editor in Chief
Moscow - a city where history is made
In September, the Russian capital celebrated City Day - Moscow’s 870th anniversary.
Sergey Sobyanin: Moscow is open to investments and joint projects
The Mayor of Moscow answered our questions in an exclusive interview with Capital Ideas.
Luc Jones: Why Russians don’t smile
We met with Luc Jones in the Moscow office of Antal Russia, where he has been working since 2002 as the company’s Commercial Director.
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