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Speech at meeting on traffic problems in Moscow

October 28, 2010, Gorki, Moscow Region

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,

Not long ago, when I was making the decision to submit Sergei Sobyanin’s candidacy for the position of Moscow mayor, he and I discussed the problems Moscow faces as an extremely large Russian city, the capital of the Russian Federation, and a very large, global metropolis. We agreed that Mr Sobyanin will focus on this problem from the very beginning of his work as the new Moscow mayor, because it truly is very serious and needs to be resolved urgently.

The way traffic is organised and managed in Moscow, and the number of traffic jams in the city flag the spirits not only of millions of Muscovites, but also of a huge number of people who come to our capital; this also affects the operation of government and administrative institutions. Let me remind you that we have agreed to work toward turning Moscow into a major financial centre, a world-class centre. Our success in advancing this and other major goals will depend on our ability to resolve this issue.

“Resolving this challenge [traffic organisation and management] in Moscow could facilitate resolving similar problems in other cities.”

Granted, the most important aspect is simply to create normal, comfortable living conditions for Moscow residents, to provide them with a level of service and comfort that is no worse than in any similar metropolis. We can achieve this, though it is no easy task. I know that this problem has already been undertaken by federal authorities, as well as the city’s new mayor. So let’s focus today on practical options for solving this problem, especially since resolving this challenge in Moscow could facilitate resolving similar problems in other cities.

Road traffic is developing very actively in our nation; the number of cars we have is huge. And even cities that did not have major traffic problems before have now become very difficult to drive through. This is a problem in cities with over a million residents and even in cities with population significantly less than that.

Let’s be frank: we have never used a complex, systemic approach to resolving these issues. The explosive growth in the number of motor vehicles in the early 1990s has made this matter – the proper traffic organisation – one of the most acute issues for our nation.

I am not even getting into another serious problem, which is the enormous number of people killed in road accidents. And the reasons here include, among other things, the way our traffic is managed, the quality of our roads, the opportunities to manoeuvre and move about more easily, and alternative route options. Overall, we have many problems in this area, and our citizens’ lives are at stake. This is not even merely about ease of using the roads in our nation; it is simply a question of life and death for a large number of our people.

* * *

I specifically gathered you all here, including Cabinet members and heads of departments and law enforcement agencies, because Moscow is a model situation. I already spoke about this earlier. In general, our ability to resolve this problem – the ability of the entire nation, and not just Mr Sobyanin, who is the new mayor of the city – is a test of the authorities’ viability. This is a tough challenge, and that is precisely why it should be resolved by everyone, and not just the new mayor, or Mr Sobyanin and a group of ministers, or the governor of Moscow Region. Everyone must work on it together.

But we need to identify a set of priorities here. Today, they have been specified. The priorities cannot consist of administrative measures, regulatory measures, or money alone. I remember the words of your predecessor: ‘Give me a couple trillion rubles, and I’ll fix everything.’ Well? Everyone understands that this was just a way not to solve any problems.

There are small things, actions that may not lead to a drastic change in the situation, but which can nevertheless improve it. These things are listed here. Mr Sobyanin, you as the head of Moscow, and other colleagues, who keep a check on this process, you truly need to mobilise. Because it is easy to declare a temporary moratorium on land grants for building large commercial warehousing facilities. But even the Moscow city administration is a large group of people, with its own bureaucracy, and we all understand what can happen. We will be discussing it here, while these new terminals, buildings, and warehouses will keep popping up. Moscow has its limits as a city. Therefore, you should issue a firm instruction to all your agencies and departments that you will be making such decisions personally; otherwise, you will wake up tomorrow morning to find out that half of Moscow territory has been given away to build such facilities.

We also need to think about the law-enforcement component. I am not expecting any special report from the Interior Minister or the head of the traffic police right now, but this matter is our common goal, and here, too, we have things to work on. We have serious problems with traffic organisation in Moscow, and we know it.

I want to say again that this kind of attention toward Moscow –from the part of the President and the Government – is also due to the fact that this is a model situation and because Moscow has such a large population, because it is a major metropolis, and because we need to move toward resolving more complicated problems.

Thus, in spite of the fact that this is a seemingly regional problem, it needs to be monitored by federal authorities. This problem cannot be resolved in one move, but still, it can be solved. We can analyse the experience of other major cities where things are complicated too but where, nevertheless, everything is also more streamlined. We will need to deal with this problem as it currently stands. We cannot take down new houses that were built thoughtlessly and without pity for either their own residents or the nearby environment. Unfortunately, the situation is jumbled, but we will need to sort it out. Thus, I am instructing the Russian Government, Moscow mayor, and the governor of Moscow Region, in coordination with relevant ministries and departments, to draw up a comprehensive solution to this problem. And I would like to say that I will keep this matter under my personal control.

October 28, 2010, Gorki, Moscow Region