Congestion Charge Is Traffic-Cutting Magic in Milan

Uberto/CC BY-NC 2.0

When we think of congestion charging, we generally think of London, or possibly Stockholm - two cities that have persevered with congestion charges amid some consumer opposition, and reaped lower traffic and improved air quality.

Now Milan is giving congestion charging a try, and though it's early, results are positive. Milan's system runs from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. each weekday and requires a car to purchase a ticket for 5 Euros (about $7.50) to enter the central city zones. Forty three sensors in a ring around the city check to see if entering cars are equipped with a pass.

During the first week the new charges were implemented (the third week of January), incoming traffic was reduced by 37% compared to the previous week.

The number of cars accessing the center of the city dropped from 122,000 to 77,000 in the 12 hours of the charging scheme. That decline in the number of cars reduced harmful emissions: black carbon – a component of particulate matter considered by experts to be the most toxic to human health – dropped 30%. According data from Milan's Mobility, Environment and Territory Agency, in the first two days of congestion charging, ammonia, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and particulates dropped between 14 and 37%.

Will the new cleaner air continue? Milan is hoping so. Funds from the congestion charging will be used to improve pedestrian and bike infrastructure. Bikes, scooters, and electric cars are exempt, and a few other eco-vehicles can get a sticker exempting them from the congestion charges.

Here's a list of cities that have or are considering congestion charging:

Durham in Britain, Znojmo in the Czech Republic, Riga in Latvia, and Valetta in Malta. Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim have introduced car tolls. Other cities that will possibly come next are San Francisco, Turin, Kiev, Dublin, Auckland, Guangzhou and Beijing.

Tags: Appropriate Technology | Commuting | Congestion Charge | Italy | Transportation

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