Moscow is the capital of the Russian Federation and officially has 12.3M citizens (current Moscow density is 4931 people/km² on 2561.5 km² area). It forms the largest agglomeration in Europe with over 17M inhabitants. Moscow GDP per capita in 2009 was USD 40.800[1] or on the average OECD countries level (national indicator was USD 10.200[2]). The main Moscow problem is that most of all places of employment are concentrated in the City center, within the 3d Ring Road (TTK in Russian), while most citizens live near or further towards Moscow Automobile Ring Road (or MKAD) – see the picture below. It causes a massive daily migration – commuter traffic in the Greater Moscow region reaches 600M passengers per year[3] (57% of national level) and 77% of them are daily commuters. It causes a very high inefficiency in the transport system usage.

City center is the main working area, generating intensive daily migration from the suburbs. Source: Yandex[4]

More importantly is that a lot of citizens use their private cars to get to their job in the City Center. And within the last 25 years the amount of private cars has increased 5 times (0.9M in 1990 and almost 5.5M by the midyear 2016). The city transport infrastructure is able to accommodate simultaneously no more than 0.4M cars – midyear 2016 we already had on the roads 0.8M cars every day or double amount[5]! It is no wonder why in 2013 Moscow traffic was ranked as worst in the world by the TomTom Traffic Index[6].

Pathway improvement: Further public transport development

Sergey Sobyanin[7], a new mayor, appointed in 2010, clearly understood the situation urgently needed improvement. The new state program of Moscow “Developing of Transport System 2012-2016 and Further Prospects for 2020” was launched in 2012 and received a status of Federal Program (overall budget till 2020 is 4.5T RUR or approximately USD 80B[8]). The program “Developing of Transport System…” has several individual subprograms, each with its own particular aspect. 

  1. The Moscow metro system is the fifth most highly used metro in the world with 8.8 M daily passengers (206 stations with 339 km[9]). To facilitate its convenience, an electronic transport card “Troika” was introduced in 2013. It works with metro, trams, buses & trolleybuses, express routes and now on the Moscow Central Circle. The construction of the new metro stations in suburban areas was also intensified.
  2. To promote usage of above-ground transport the city government introduced the dedicated road lines for public transport – we have already 250 km of such lines and another 83.4 km is coming in 2017-2018. The next step was made by the introduction of a new express network called “Magistral”[10] which currently includes 17 high-frequency routes, crossing City Center and linking it with middle zone of suburban areas and metro (it’s used by 0.45M passengers per day).

Moscow city landscape. Photo by Sergei Maltcev


The Shift Pathway: Decreasing of private car usage

Along with the massive public transport development the city government also restricted the private car usage by expanding of paid parking in the City center. More than 67K parking spaces have been made since 2012. To help those citizens who use cars to get to their jobs in the center from the suburbs and the Moscow region there were implemented a system of intercept parking places near metro station at the entrance to the city. Another aspect of relieving the center of Moscow City was to restrict heavy trucks from entering between 6 am to 10 pm.Simultaneously the process of unification and further development of taxi services was begun as well as the development of car sharing businesses – now we have 5 different companies with 1500 cars in all.

Cherry on the cake: Moscow Intelligent TransportSystem

Subprogram of Federal Program called “Organization of Traffic in the City of Moscow. Creating an Intelligent Transport System” has an overall budget for 2012-2020 of 95.78B RUR or USD 1.7B[11]. The 1st stage of ITS was introduced by the beginning of 2015. It’s key part has become a situation center which now is under operation of The Moscow Center of Organization of Road Traffic (MCORT), a subsidiary of The Department of Transport and Communication of the Moscow City Government.The main challenge within the development of such comprehensive system was its uniqueness and complexity. We had no experience in the integration of all the separate elements of the ITS before and had to study in detail some bright world examples, taking into account our own national specificity. The other problem was in communication and collaboration between different City government departments, municipal institutions and federal government agencies, as well as integration of their information systems.

Moscow city landscape. Photo by Sergei Maltcev

Nowadays MCORT is able to react to almost all traffic problems, including easing congestion by synchronization of the traffic lights[12]. “On the ground” Moscow ITS includes[13]:
– >10K units of public transport equipped with GLONASS/GPS and integrated to common public transport management systems;
– >2K connected streetlights for optimization and real time management to change traffic flows;
– >6K traffic flow detectors and >2K cameras for visual controlling of the roads;
– >157 information displays with road arrows to inform drivers about new routes, traffic flows, upcoming weather conditions, etc.;
– >800 complexes of photo-video recording of traffic offenses with followed imposition of fines through web-services;
– >Advanced parking management system covering about 100K parking places with information displays to inform drivers about remaining places.

The MCORT situation center is a cornerstone of Moscow ITS. It has comprehensive abilities to analyze information from all subsystems on a basis of Big Data. At center there were about 50 employees on the first stage with a goal of providing 24/7 work for 255 people[14]. To simplify the process of managing the city’s transport system in real time the static transport model was created. It allows the prediction of situations, taking into account various options for change on the roads due to weather, blocking some streets or intersections, commissioning of new roads, etc.

The other transport model is a dynamic one. It means that this model is alive, reflecting the changes on the city roads in near real time. It analyses the data flows from the roads. Current transport situation map is available through mobile apps, city’s TV channels and on the official City Mayor site[15] (see the picture above).

Results by 2016

As a result of all these changes, the number of cars in central Moscow was reduced by 25% from 2012 whereas average traffic speed was increased by 12%[16]. Average waiting time of public transport in the city center has been reduced from 16 to 8 min and for taxis this figure fell by more than 4 times (!) from 30 min in 2010 to 7 min currently[17]. In May 2016 Moscow City became a Tomtom Traffic Index Parking award winner[18] when search time for a parking space was reduced by 65%. The resulting reduction of congestion had such a significant effect that  translated into a reduction in the TomTom Traffic Index. If in 2013, Moscow traffic was ranked as worst in the world then in the 2017 edition it has improved to 13th place (44 from 57%)[19]. Based on these achievements, in 2016 Moscow won an International Transport Award by International Transport Forum (ITF) for tackling traffic gridlock[20].

The changes in daily passenger traffic between 2010-2016, divided into different modes of transport


Even such dramatic improving efficiency in usage of the current and future transport infrastructure, will not help Moscow to solve all its traffic problems. So it requires an even more holistic approach to city planning with dramatic changes. City government simply has to change one city planning model to another – from a monocentric to polycentric model with the creation of several new business districts, dispersed throughout the city. A new wave of city transformation has to be based on the further development of public transport along with building of peripheral roads that connect radial ones. I could speculate that they understand this task and have already begun to work on such radical plan. But it will require, probably, decades, – we can’t shift citizens habits and an infrastructure at the click of a finger.


  1. Mobilizing Sustainable Transport for Development. High-level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport, 2016.
  2. The World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No 1477. “Cities without land markets: location and land use in the socialist city” by Alain Bertaud & Bertrand Renaud. 1995.
  8. The Big Mac index





















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