Moscow pays drivers for going green

With the New Year holidays on the way, the number of cars on Moscow's streets is seeing a dramatic increase. The traffic jams are causing growing frustration at a time when people are hoping to celebrate.

Traffic in Moscow increases by about 30% during the festive shopping season. The city's roads, however, are not equipped to take the annual jump in numbers with parking also at a premium over the holidays.

Moscow authorities have introduced petrol cards to solve the problem by decreasing the percentage of big cars on the road. The cards are given out to owners of compact vehicles with engines of a size of less than 1.3 litres.

The card, worth about $US 1000 dollars of petrol, is already changing people’s choice of vehicle.

Student Aleksandra Bykova is happy she doesn’t need to spend much on petrol: “The programme helps people who buy their first cars to make a choice, because, for a small car like mine, for example, the card means its basically free petrol all year long”.

Aside from decreasing the number of large cars in the city, the petrol card also aims at improving the city's air quality. The card is only given out to compacts with ecologically sound engines. The experimental cards will be issued to Muscovites who register their vehicles until the end of 2009 and will last for a year.

So far the number of card holders in Moscow is still relatively small, while the number of cars increases by nearly 500 every day, and with 4x4s growing in popularity.