Speech at the Plenary Meeting of the III Moscow Urban Forum

05 December 2013

Sergey Sobyanin: «Dear Guests and Colleagues, It is not the for first time we are holding the Urban Forum, and every year it attracts more and more professionals, urban planners, and those people who are interested in the development of their cities. I’d like to particularly welcome my colleagues – the representatives of the constituents of the Russian Federation, mayors of the cities, guests from the major metropolitan areas of the world that are here today and will help us to discuss the issues and trends of the development of cities of the world, as well as of our beloved city of Moscow.

The interest in the problems of urban development continues to grow, and I believe that such forums will be held in future years, gathering participants, interesting projects and the results of serious research. Popularization of the main idea of "the city, comfortable for the living of residents" has also reached the architectural environment and the politicians, responsible for the development of their cities. It would seem that the theory is very clear, but nevertheless, when we face the practice, we see that this is certainly not the case, and sometimes our cities become less and less attractive with their global growth and rapid development. We all have to understand that these trends, in fact, lead to cities dying. And we need growing and prosperous cities, and the prosperity of these cities should be primarily based on the prosperity of their inhabitants, and the residents of these cities should feel comfortable.

I should say that the subject of urban development is essential not only in Moscow, the city that has been developing rapidly over past few decades, and I believe, will continue to develop in the next few years, but it is essential around the world due to the fact that the urbanization process covers all continents of our planet. Today more than 50% of the world's population lives in cities, and this trend is growing every year.

I must say that today's topic, the main topic of this forum – the urban peripheries and their development – is most essential for our city too. The majority of Moscow residents live in so-called dormitory communities that have been formed throughout the history of the city. Nevertheless, I must say that those are not just dormitory communities, they are the places where people spend most of their lifetime, and we must do everything possible so that they feel comfortable in these areas.

In addition to the development of the urban periphery, we will discuss many relevant and interesting topics of urban development. I hope all of you will actively participate in these roundtables and workshops. And, outside workshops, I invite everyone to get acquainted with Moscow – with Moscow getting ready for Christmas, New Year, with Moscow decorating itself. So, I not only wish you to do a great job, but also to have a nice break. I wish you all the best!»

***

Surprisingly, when you listen to the representatives of London, or Sao Paulo, you have a feeling that they are talking about the city of Moscow, because the problems actually existing in the development of cities are probably the same everywhere. With no changes in the strategy, the development of the cities and metropolitan areas is obviously impossible, and all speakers agree.

The decisions on changes in the global urban planning policy have also been taken in Moscow. We are moving away from the centripetal development of the city to the polycentric development, and a number of specific and very serious decisions have been taken.

In particular, in recent years, we have cancelled the implementation of various types of urban planning projects with a total area of 25 million square metres. If all this had been built, it would be a huge city. We rejected these constructions, but retained the dynamics of the development and general investments in the city development, and redirected them to the development of industrial areas, undeveloped land, and to the periphery of the city in the first place, trying to make the periphery more comfortable for living, more complex in terms of both residence and places of employment. We believe this is one of the most important tasks of the city authorities, in order to, on the one hand, ensure the city development, and on the other hand, in order to make this development more appropriate and promising. Our colleagues talked about the need to ensure the connectivity of the peripheries, and we are dealing with it. We have created a large, one of the world's largest, transport programmes, I mean the construction of the metro, which at present does not reach one quarter of Moscow micro-districts, and after the implementation of the programme of metro construction, the number of such districts will be many times smaller.

We are building roads, including chord roads, to cut the distances of journeys through the city centre, as Yuri said. It is also very important that we build two large interchange circuits on the railway and the metro. Our colleagues from Tokyo have said that they have three interchange circuits – connection of railways and metro lines. In the next five to seven years, we will also have two interchange circuits in Moscow, which will provide the interconnectivity and reduce journey distances through the centre by underground lines and radial railway lines.

When we talk about the peripheral areas of Moscow, we always think about how to make these areas as developed, and as comfortable as the city centre. And if you have a look at the distribution of the budget of Moscow in terms of land redevelopment, it turns out that two-thirds of these funds are allocated to the peripheral areas. I must say that in terms of redevelopment they, perhaps, favorably compare with many of the central districts of the city of Moscow. The spaces are cramped in the city centre, and it is quite difficult to undertake such work there.

Only this year about 30 kilometres of pedestrian paths were built in the peripheral areas. Another programme is also planned for his year, because it is necessary to understand where the largest movement of people is and where there is the most demand for pedestrian zones and for redevelopment. We have identified that, in fact, the largest movement of people is at the hubs and metro stations, which is obvious. Currently, we are developing a vast programme, considering all pedestrian paths within a radius of 1.5 kilometres from each metro station, for pedestrians’ comfort and to simplify the access to the nearest transport hubs.

Of course, in this context and within these tasks not only the City Government, but also the local authorities play an enormous role. We consider their development to be one of our priorities. We have assigned our powers to local authorities, and already this year local authorities have allocated the funds (either under their control, or directly by them) of about 800 million U.S. dollars for this purpose. These funds are allocated particularly to the improvement of the local environment and redevelopment of the micro-districts. Of course, nevertheless, our colleagues have focused on the analysis of our urban environment on the boundaries of the Moscow Ring Road (MKAD); we still clearly understand that our cities are not limited by their administrative boundaries. We actually live in the real city, which is much larger than the MKAD boundaries. And I must say that in addition to 12 million residents of Moscow, there is the Moscow region around the city of Moscow, with a population of about 8 million people. And, of course, drafting the development plans, we shall definitely consider not only the city of Moscow, but the entire region with the population of over 20 million people.

That is why today we are implementing such programmes as the development of suburban railways, including the reconstruction of railways and construction of 200 kilometres of new suburban railways; the construction of the Central Ring Road, which will be launched next year; the construction of outbound highways in cooperation with our colleagues from the Ministry of Transport and regional authorities, which is also gathering pace.

In general, I want to thank our colleagues for their interesting reports. They are very interesting indeed for all cities of the world, but I believe, they are particularly valuable for Moscow. Thank you for the great number of interesting reports. Thank you for being here.

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