Moscow steps up war on congestion to boost business

Thu Nov 1, 2012 11:22am EDT
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By Sonia Elks

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow authorities stepped up a war on traffic congestion by introducing paid parking in the city centre on Thursday, responding to appeals by Vladimir Putin to make the Russian capital more appealing to business.

Chaos has ruled on Moscow's roads since cars became more affordable after the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago. Traffic often grinds to a halt and drivers resort to double parking or block pavements, making them impassable.

Until now, drivers have often been able to bribe their way out of traffic or parking offences, and many foreign investors cite the congestion and pollution among the reasons they find Moscow an unattractive place to live and work.

All that is supposed to change under a pilot project to charge drivers 50 roubles ($1.59) an hour to use one of 500 parking spaces on central streets.

Drivers who do not pay will be sent automatic fines of 2,500 roubles ($79.94). That compares with an average monthly wage in Moscow of around $1,470, Russian news agency Itar-Tass said.

"I think the project will benefit Moscow," professional driver Sergei Polikov, 45, said in a central street where the new paid-for spaces filled up by noon.

"I don't know if the authorities will succeed yet, because all of the previous attempts have been doomed to failure. But in any case they are working in the right direction."

He hoped the latest attempt to control the traffic would succeed because illegally parked cars will be photographed and a letter with a fine sent automatically by post.   Continued...