The newly elected mayor is from a right-wing political party that said congestion is part of the "identity of our city."
Madrid's new mayor has halted the city's congestion pricing program, despite initial evidence that it eased traffic and reduced pollution after it took effect last November. It is the first major European city to reverse the creation of a low-emission zone, an idea that has become more popular in recent years as the European Union seeks to enforce new clean air regulations across the continent. The movement prompted thousands of citizens to protest in the streets of the city last weekend.
The former mayor of Madrid installed the low-emission zone in the center of the city known as Madrid Central at the end of last year. Using security cameras, the city government fined offending drivers in high-emission vehicles 90 euros, or about $ 102, for entering the area. Public transportation, residents, some delivery vehicles, and low-emission certified or electric vehicle drivers were exempt.
"The returns were immediate"
The returns were immediate. One month after the program was launched, traffic was reduced by an average of about 24 percent, nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels dropped by 38 percent to their lowest point since 2012, and emissions of CO2 fell 14 percent, according to The Guardian. At the same time, the drop in congestion increased the speed of buses.
But during the May elections, several right-wing politicians came to power in the region. Madrid elected a new mayor of the Popular Party, named José Luis Martínez-Almeida. He vowed to roll back the low-emission zone throughout his campaign, arguing that it drove congestion towards the outer parts of the city and hurt businesses in the downtown sector. A leading presidential candidate in the region, who belongs to the same political party, has said that congestion is part of the "identity of our city" and that it shows "that the street is always alive." Madrid's nightlife "goes hand in hand with traffic jams," he said.
"Spain faces fines and other sanctions if it does not reduce its pollution levels"
The European Union's legislative body has threatened Spain with fines and other sanctions if it does not reduce pollution, which is linked to some 30,000 deaths in the country each year, according to a 2015 air quality report from the European Environment Agency. Ambient. Major European cities have increasingly been adopting various congestion pricing schemes to combat pollution problems such as those in Madrid, before outright bans on gas and diesel cars. New York City recently became the first city in the US to agree to implement a congestion pricing solution for its traffic and pollution problems.
Martínez-Almeida says he is only suspending Madrid's low-emission zone for three months while he studies "alternative ways" to improve air quality, according to The New York Times. One solution he is reportedly considering is digging a tunnel to create a passage under the main road that runs through the center of Madrid.