Four Changes that Made Tehran a More Liveable City


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Tehran is a megacity and the capital of Iran, with a day population of 14 million and a permanent population of about 10 million people. The city’s size, its non-stop traffic, polluted air, and overpopulated streets are just some of Tehran’s well-known characteristics. Though Tehran’s previous Mayors have done many great things, when I last saw the city four years ago it was clear that in terms of new urbanism and sustainability there was a lot of room for improvement.

Today, the current mayor of Tehran – Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf -  has done many great things for the city, from a planning perspective at least. Here’s four of his successes:

1. Increasing the amount of green space

Tehran has 22 major neighborhoods. Though these neighborhoods are more like “mega neighborhoods” as a result of their size, the mayor’s office managed to develop 70 new or renewed parks in one neighborhood alone within the past five years. Using parks and green space is a very big part of the Iranian culture, and many of these spaces are used and managed daily. The mayor’s website states that over 800 parks and green spaces have been introduced to the city over the last 6 years, as well as 26 green corridors along the city’s major highways.

2. Increased use of public transport

The mayor’s office has used various methods in order to encourage the use of public transportation on a daily basis, including building an underground network. Though the metro is relatively new (only about 5 years old), it already carries more than two million riders every day. Compare this to New York’s more established and larger metro network which carries about 5 million people per day*. The city’s public transportation also includes buses, and ‘line taxis’ – vehicles with four passengers that drive in a certain direction.

3. Reduced amount of road accidents

Iran, in general, has a very high number of deaths resulting from road accidents. Tehran used to have a similarly high number of these unfortunate events, however, with strict rules and traffic controls introduced mayor’s office, these numbers have decreased greatly. A 20-day test found a 20% decrease in the number of accidents and total tickets given to drivers in Tehran.

4. Less incorrect parking

Some of most confusing traffic in the city used to result from incorrect and double-parking. The mayor’s office has started using parking polices to enforce correct parking throughout the city, with parking police available at every major corridor and street in the city to guide drivers. There are also new parking lots available near major shopping centers and attractions in an attempt to decrease the number of incorrect parking. The overall outcome of this change has been a significant decrease in hit-and-run accidents and unnecessary traffic throughout the city.

Images courtesy of kamshots, Ivan Milinaric, danchitnis and bijan.tehrani on flickr

*corrected – our last figure was way off!

  • Aaron M. Renn

    New York City has over 5 million riders per day. It is one of the busiest systems in the world.

    • Ian Daniels

      That is what the article said! What is worth noting is it took over 150 years to get to 5 million – whereas Tehran has taken only 5 to get to 2 million. So, Yank, a bit of difference in growth rate!

      • Timothy Mathews

        After the first year of NYC’s IRT existence, the first subway line carried over 600K riders per day. Another three years later in 1908, it averaged 800K – more than one-third above its planned maximum capacity. Oh, and with a population of about 4.5 million at the time, I’d say NYC was doing quite well for itself.

  • Neginhosseini_ir

    It is necessary to build more popular Parkings through the streets in Tehran. Because the amount of cars are more than park places and all free places in the streets are forbidden by the police!!! When this Problem would be resolved,  we had a more beautiful and clean city :)

    • Tom_ie

       We got the same problem here in NYC.  They are trying to forbid all free parking on the streets but expect that will bring access and mobility to all. 
      We all hope for a more beautiful and clean city, but we differ on how that would work.

  • Alex Shams

    I believe that the picture at the top of the article is in fact Tabriz, not Tehran.

    Compare the mountains (and buildings) in this picture of Tabriz:

    with the mountains and urban fabric of Tehran:

    Great article otherwise!