Madrid bases parking-meter prices on how much a car pollutes

May 22, 2014

Cars that pollute more will pay more for parking; cars that pollute less, such as electric vehicles, will pay less, say city officials in Madrid. The two-tiered pricing system will be the first of its kind, they claim.

Madrid has been pushed to such measures because it regularly ranks above the EU’s average for pollution levels. The city consistently exceeds EU limits for nitrogen dioxide—released primarily by car-exhaust systems—with rates that have jumped five times above what the EU considers safe. Indeed, the EU has threatened Madrid with hefty fines if it fails to improve its air quality.

madrid parking

Pollution-wracked Madrid is set to give low-emissions vehicles a break on their parking, as part of a broader scheme to lower the city’s carbon output. From Amio Cajander.

The city is responding with multiple measures. It’s planning to include energy efficient buses in its city center and to begin a bike-sharing program in June. “Now, with the economic situation improving a little, we have more opportunities to put all our ideas in motion,” said Elisa Barahona, head of Madrid’s sustainability division.

The revisions to Madrid’s parking meter pricing, which will take effect on July 1, are the most complex of the changes being introduced. Costs are determined by a car’s engine and its year. Drivers of diesel autos made in 2001 or earlier will pay 20 percent more, for example, while those with hybrids will pay 20 percent less to park. Electronic cars get a free pass.

“We thought it would be fair if the cars that pollute more, pay more and compensate those who use more efficient vehicles,” said Barahona.

Pricing will also depend on the traffic flow of any given street. Empty streets will cost less to park along, while busier streets with just a few available spots will charge up to 20 percent more.

City officials say most drivers will see little change in costs, which will range between €0.66 and €3.29 per hour. Only one in four motorists is estimated to see an increase, but “for those who have cars that pollute, we hope that having to pay more will make people think twice before using them,” said Barahona.

The changes to the city’s parking prices could lower the number of cars entering Madrid daily (currently 1 million), but the system emphasizes a vehicle’s age at the cost of other factors, noted Mariano Gonzalez of Ecologists in Action. “Maybe you bought a large vehicle this year, say a sports utility vehicle,” he said. “It could actually have higher emissions than an older, smaller car.”

Gonzalez believes that changes in the behavior of Spain’s political leaders will also be key. Esperanza Aguirre, who used to head Madrid’s regional government and is currently president of the Madrid People’s Party, was recently photographed illegally parking her car in a bus lane on one of the city’s busiest streets. “It’s an image quite revealing of the attitude of our politicians towards environmental issues,” said Gonzalez.

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Category: Green Parking, Parking Tech, Regulations

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