Vans registered before 1 October 1994 and cars registered before 1 September 1997 under the Catalan government’s authority will now face restrictions within a special environment zone when an air pollution episode is declared owing to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Starting in December 2017, this is one of several new measures that will be activated in such an event in the city of Barcelona and 39 surrounding municipalities, as part of the Agreement for Air Quality Improvement in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona signed in March.
The special environment zone consists of areas in Catalonia that consistently record levels of NO2 and suspended particulate pollution above European Union standards. While levels of PM10 (particulate matter of 10 micrograms, the width of a human hair) in the region have stayed within EU limits since 2014, they still exceed World Health Organization recommendations, prompting Catalonia to continue strengthening measures to improve air quality.
When a high pollution event is triggered, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the local authorities will increase public transport service to maximum operational capacity in order to take the pressure off roads, and activate traffic restrictions in the low emissions zone in Barcelona’s ring road area, where cars without an environmental badge from the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) will not be allowed to drive.
Exceptions will include emergency service vehicles, vehicles for people with reduced mobility and vehicles providing essential services. These restrictions will remain in force between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., from Monday to Friday, starting on the day the episode is declared and ending when the episode is over, and are set to become permanent after January 2019.
The traffic restrictions are part of ongoing efforts by Catalonia to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and to promote cleaner and more-efficient vehicles. The Agreement establishes a 10 per cent reduction of transport and mobility emissions within the Special Atmospheric Environment Protection Area within five years and a 30 per cent reduction of overall emissions within 15 years.
Apart from boosting public transport capacity and access, complementary measures include:
- Encouraging citizens to reduce non-essential travel (smart mobility measures).
- Encouraging citizens to use public transport.
- Workplace and school schedule flexibility, obtaining the involvement of companies to reduce emissions.
- Promoting the use of company transport by large companies, increased services during environmental episodes, and incentives for fleet renewal.
- Deployment of an Urban Master Plan for Park and Ride.
- Increasing the construction of Bus-VAO (high-occupancy vehicle) roads.
The measures to promote the purchase of cleaner and more-efficient vehicles include:
- Discounts on tolls of 30 per cent to 100 per cent for electric vehicles.
- Financial assistance for taxis and commercial fleet renovation.
- Renewal of the public fleet of vehicles.
- Promotion of environmental label for vehicle fleets.
- Promotion of recharging points for electric vehicles and other alternative fuels.
- Support for the system of quality labels for vehicles.
Awareness-raising and communication efforts include:
- Providing air-quality data.
- Publishing educational material.
- Launching media campaigns in newspapers, television and radio.
For more information on the Agreement for Air Quality Improvement, click here.