Pollution levels in Milan continue to remain high, and PM10 levels are worrying, despite an attempt by the Milan city authorities to bring traffic pollution levels down through the introduction of the Ecopass congestion charging system.
Milan’s authorities have also decided to persue foreign drivers caught within Milan’s Ecopass system, and around 40,000 (!) fines will soon be dropping through Swiss letter boxes, according to an article in the Milan edition of Italian daily La Repubblica. The head of Milan’s municipal police, one Emiliano Bezzon, is quoted as saying ‘finally, we are able to track down foreign motorists‘, which would seem to indicate that not only Swiss drivers will be receiving Ecopass related fines.
Still, in spite of managing to find a way to fine foreign offenders, there remains the problem that many Italian drivers are successfully contesting fines received for driving into the Ecopass area. The fines are being contested on the grounds that it is at times unclear which streets within Milan’s Ecopass area are subject to the congestion charge. One argument being used to have fines annulled is that on certain routes traffic cameras are not permitted to shoot and fine – as this can only be done by real life municipal police personnel
The confusion is wasting time in courts, and pushing traffic related pollution levels up. Still, talks are under way to clarify the issue and a few options are being considered.
The Expansion of the Ecopass area and Charging Goods Vehicles
Milan’s mobility chief, Edoardo Croci, has stated that an extension to Milan’s Ecopass area is being studied.
A new zone known as a Low Emissions Zone or ‘LEZ’ is under consideration. This may extend to the city’s inner ring road which is the circular route taken by the city’s 90 and 91 electric powered buses. Heavy goods and other commercial vehicles with emissions levels considered to be above acceptable limits may be subject to a charge in order to allow them to circulate in the proposed new secondary congestion charge zone.
The details of the implementation of this system are being thrashed out with bodies representing Milan’s tradesmen and shopkeepers. Apparently, the lower the emission level of the vehicle concerned, the longer it will be allowed to circulate. Virtually zero emissions LPG powered vehicles, for example, will be allowed to circulate more or less freely. This may encourage transport companies and store owners to invest in low emissions lorries and vans. All well and good, but the vast majority of traffic in Milan appears to be private transport, more specifically, cars.
No mention has been made of the introduction of a ‘park and ride‘ type system similar to that which exists in a number of UK cities, such as Oxford and Durham, but then the current infrastructure probably could not support this, in that car parks near out of town metro stations simply do not have a great enough capacity.
The Washington USA based Sustainable Transport Award Committee acknowledged Milan’s anti-pollution efforts, which includes the provision of 1400 bicycles for rent, by awarding the city an ‘Honorable Mention‘. Very good, but something needed to be done long before it actually was.
Better late than never, one supposes.
For your information, New York won the Sustainable Transport Award for 2009.
La Repubblica Milan Edition – Ecopass, 40mila multe per le auto svizzere – in Italian
Metro Milan – print edition of March 20th, page 11