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MOSCOW, December 31 (Itar-Tass) —— What will the people of Moscow remember the outgoing year for? The city’s growth in size, the resignation of the Mayor Office’s last veterans Vladimir Resin and Lyudmila Shvetsova, many-kilometer-long lines of worshipers to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior eager to see Virgin Mary’s Belt, brought from a Greek Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos, rallies For Fair Elections, a terrorist bomb blast at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, reservation of dedicated lanes for public transport, replacement of asphalted pavements with tiled ones and a campaign to clean the city of excessive billboards and banners.
Most of the events that influenced life in the city happened in the second half of the year. The first half was overshadowed by a terrorist blast at the Domodedovo airport. The bomb that went off in the international arrivals lounge on January 24 killed 37 and injured 170 others.
The second half began with a piece of news that was stunning in all respects – Moscow will grow 2.5 times in size. At the end of December the Federation Council approved of the expansion of Moscow’s city limits. The Russian capital will take over a vast territory in the southwest to approach the border with the Kaluga Region. However, the 250,000 residents of the 21 municipalities, including two urban districts – Troitsk and Shcherbinka - and also 19 communities will get the status of Muscovites on July 1, 2012.
By that time the city’s borders will take the final shape – the authorities of the city and the region are still to cope with voluminous legislative work. It is expected that next year the program for the development of new Moscow territories will be finalized and made public.
Moscow’s government has undergone fundamental overhaul. Nearly two-thirds of the top managers and officials have been replaced. At the end of December Vladimir Resin and Lyudmila Shvetsova moved from their offices at the Moscow Mayor’s Building to the State Duma. There are some new appointees, including the chief of the transport department. The chiefs and deputy chiefs of some departments are out. After Shvetsova’s resignation Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has decided to pool the departments of social protection, education and health service into one again. The heads of more than 100 districts have been replaced.
Having upgraded themselves, the city authorities set their eyes on yards, building’s entrances and parks. This year they have put in order 20 green spaces and another 50 are on next year’s list. Parks will become ‘benchmarks of culture’ – when they have been restored to their original grandeur and historical look, of course. The people of Moscow, as the authorities hope, will be coming to parks in search of healthy pastimes.
The housing stock was another big chore. Yards, entrances to buildings and elevators have begun to be put in order. About 24,000 yards and about 30,000 entrances have been repaired. There has been much talk about Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s idea of replacing asphalted pavements with tiled ones, which, he argues are more environment-friendly and durable and look better. This large-scale work will be continued next summer.
This year the city authorities have decided to face the people’s needs in earnest. For the first time ever a hotline with the Mayor’s Office has been opened. On special websites Moscow people are invited to complain about poor cleaning of the roads and yards, and cases of negligence by the district officials, utility service personnel, builders and doctors.
In the outgoing year Muscovites walking the city streets at last were able to see the sky overhead and the true look of many architectural monuments and buildings – for a long time they were screened by huge billboards, banners and streamers. Mayor Sobyanin banned advertisements from the roofs of buildings and also from construction nets, covering the facades of building undergoing repairs. In just one year 50,000 square meters of illegal advertisements was removed from the city streets. Gone are nearly 4,500 billboards. And tobacco and alcohol ads were outlawed inside Moscow’s metro.
The subway now has a new chief. He is a professional railwayman Ivan Besedin. His predecessor, Dmitry Gaiev, is faced with criminal charges for abuse.
The Moscow metro got three new stations, and several older ones are in the process of fundamental repairs. The management has promised to reinstall ticket selling machines and upgrade the ventilation system. Construction work is in progress at ten sites – in five years’ time the length of Moscow’s underground railways is to increase by 75 kilometers.
In the outgoing year the city built 78 kilometers of roads, 27 bridges and 49 pedestrian overpasses. Moscow’s bus fleet got 2,000 new vehicles. Dedicated bus lanes are to be created on 230 kilometers of Moscow roads. So far only 50 kilometers of bus lanes are effective, but even that increased the speed of public transport by a third. The roads are being equipped with electronic panels showing speed limits and traffic jam warnings.
Up and running are 150 sets of cameras registering traffic violations, such as bus lane driving, speed limit abuse and others. Fines for traffic violations are to go up.
Public transport fares will remain unchanged.
Car park spaces have expanded considerably by 600,000 slots in addition to the existing 1.2 million. At least 200,000 car park slots will be built next year. Rationalizing parking lots in the city center is high on the agenda. So are the construction of major transport junctions and railway development projects.
However, even these vast measures will be able to improve the traffic situation no earlier than in two-three years time, so both officials and city dwellers will have be patient and wait a little bit more. Outbound highways will begin to be built next year.
Moscow in 2011 built 2.2 million square meters of housing. Housing construction projects in the city center have been restricted. The Moscow authorities shifted to a new urban construction policy. Construction work will expand, but it will be done differently and away from the center.
The outgoing year saw the re-opening of the Bolshoi theater and the Moscow Planetarium. The Bolshoi had remained closed for six years, and the planetarium, for 17.
Moscow for the first time over 23 years saw a natural population growth. The birth rate exceeded mortality. Over 122,000 babies were born. The city’s immigration growth reduced by 20 percent in contrast to the previous year. Moscow now has a population of 11.5 million. The city is a home for nearly every tenth Russian.
The Moscow resident’s average age is 40.7 years, and women outnumber men by 800,000. The number of retirees is growing. Wages are on the increase. The Muscovite’s average earning was 43,000 rubles. For the first time over Moscow witnessed an increase in the fixed assets by four percent, and the industrial production index was up by 5.4 percent. For the first time ever Moscow managed to repay part of the state debt ahead of time and to approve a budget for three years to come. The problem of waiting lists for childcare centers has been addressed and Moscow’s schools are introducing a new education and financing standard.
Social issues next year will be a priority of the Moscow authorities as before. Public sector wages will grow as before. The social standard for the retirees will be no less than 12,000 rubles. There will be rises in benefits for children, war veterans and veteran workers and families with many children. All retirees will be able to use public transport free, as before.
The weather in the outgoing year brought no surprises, except for the effects of the freezing rain last January, which destroyed 50,000 trees in Moscow. In all other respects the weather was merciful – no heat waves in the summer, no harsh frosts in the winter.
This December will be in the top three warmest months over 130 years of weather monitoring – it saw unusually high temperatures and heavy precipitation.
2011 will be remembered for an upsurge in civil activity – the outcome of the December 4 State Duma elections gathered mass demonstrations. The city authorities allowed two rallies, which, according to police estimates brought together about 50,000 demonstrators, who demanded fair elections. Next year Moscow, just like people across the nation, will be voting for a president.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin believes that in 2011 Moscow managed to change its development ideology and take a step forward in all spheres of life. It remains to be seen whether this movement will be steady.