May 20, 2009

Clearing the air: Milan’s Ecopass

Jim Harris
Magazine Article

By: Jordana Levine

Milan’s Ecopass is curbing pollution and traffic. The city has one of the highest levels of car ownership in the world, in a country known across Europe to be heavily polluted.[1]   However, the Ecopass is changing Milan’s grimy image.

The Ecopass involves a toll that is based on the amount of emissions a vehicle gives off, and is meant to control the levels of emissions and congestion in the streets of downtown Milan.

The eight-square-kilometre area controlled by the Ecopass, called the ZTL (Zona a Traffico Limitato), has 43 electric gates to enter and exit from with cameras to monitor the area.  To come in, drivers must buy a daily or annual pass that admits them into the area. The price of the ticket is based on how kind their vehicle is to the environment.  While hybrid and electric cars can enter for free, old or large vehicles that pollute the air can be charged up to 10 Euros (approximately $16 Canadian) every day.

The test period in 2008 was a success, causing the scheme to extend until the end of 2009. In 2008, over 21,000 fewer vehicles entered Milan’s ZTL every day and an additional 19,100 people began using public transportation daily. The largest drop in cars was seen with those that polluted the most, since it’s so expensive for them to enter the ZTL zone.[2]

With the decrease in traffic, the smog has begun to clear. Milan Ecopass noted that the number of high pollution days in the ZTL dropped by 60, compared to the average number of high pollution days between 2002 and 2007.[3]

Congestion pricing, which charges vehicles to drive through congested areas, is used in several cities around the world, including London, Stockholm, Singapore, San Diego and Minneapolis.  They charge vehicles to drive through specific passageways during peak hours, though, rather than having a barrier around a large area the way that Milan does.[4]

Singapore became the first city with a cordon-based congestion pricing system in 1975.  Since then, an ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) system was initiated in 1998 that automatically charges for different times and locations as the vehicle passes through.[5]  Singapore now has 25% less accidents and 45% less congestion.[6]

In London, congestion has dropped 30% since its program was put in place in 2003.  Buses are faster and more reliable, more people ride bicycles, and, while the city used to have the most polluted air in the UK, London has seen a 20% drop in fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions.[7]   Although the city was originally concerned that the Congestion Zone could mean less business in the area, London is the UK’s leading city in economic growth.[8]

The systems have maneuvered their way towards both of their destinations, lowering pollution and traffic levels in every city.  They have also increased road safety, the use and quality of public transportation, and gained the majority of the public’s approval.

1  BBC.  “Milan introduces traffic charge.”  2 Jan 2008.
2  Ecopass.  “Report Ecopass.” 9 Dec 2008.
3  Ibid.
4  Transportation Alternatives. “Congestions Pricing | International Examples.”  2009.
5  Ibid.
6  Environmental Defense Fund.  “Congestion Pricing.” 1 Apr 2009.
7  EDF.  “Congestion Pricing.”
8  Transportation Alternatives. “Congestion Pricing.”

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