MOSCOW - The traffic jams in Russia’s capital have become world-famous in the last several years, so bad that in 2010 the Federal Government decided to address the problem directly.

At the time, then-President Dimitri Medvedev commissioned a plan for the development of Moscow’s transportation system through the year 2020 that aims to get Muscovites and suburbanites to leave their cars at home and take suburban trains and light rail. 

In the past two years, the city of Moscow has built 13 kilometers of new subway track and six new subway stations, bought 546 new subway cars, and created 700,000 new parking spots.

Minister of Transportation Maksim Sokolov says the project’s goal is not to make drivers’ lives easier, but rather to convert them to public transportation, particularly those who are coming into Moscow from outside of the city.

In particular, the city intends to develop current rail tracks that are used only for freight at the moment, so that they will be able to transport 285 million people per year by 2020. Unfortunately, the department is also facing budget shortfalls that may threaten the ambitious rail-development projects.

As a way to alleviate the traffic jams in the city, Sokolov is also proposing to limit trucks in the city limits. He said that nearly 30 percent of the vehicles on the Moscow Ring Road are trucks, and that nearly half of the trucks are not going to Moscow, but simply passing through on their way to another destination.

Moscow city authorities also announced late last month a new 34-kilometer pedestrian zone in the city center that is part of the city's attempts to make it more livable as well as more attractive to tourists. The areas will be turned into pedestrian-only zones by the end of this year; this will involve closing 14 kilometers of roads in the city center.