Madrid downtown parking ban pushes traffic to outskirts

City says overall vehicle volume was not significantly different from that of last Friday

A man rides a bicycle in downtown Madrid.
A man rides a bicycle in downtown Madrid.JAIME VILLANUEVA

Madrid’s experiment to reduce traffic as part of anti-pollution measures was showing mixed results by Friday afternoon.

While there was a noticeable drop in the number of vehicles in the downtown area, the overall traffic volume in the city remained practically unchanged from last Friday, said Paz Valiente, director general of mobility affairs.

Meanwhile, the association of private parking garages said that while it had no hard figures, the general feeling was that “occupancy rates were similar to any other day.”

The decision to introduce the ban appeared to catch regional Madrid authorities off-guard

The ban on downtown parking for non-residents which City Hall introduced to deal with high levels of pollution in recent days instead pushed traffic to the outskirts, where drivers left their cars in areas near public transportation before taking a bus or the subway to the city center.

While central Madrid experienced an 80-percent drop in the use of parking-meter-regulated spaces known as “blue zones,” outlying districts were filled with parked vehicles.

“The whole street was full of parked cars, some even double parked,” said Jorge, a resident of Arturo Soria neighborhood, in eastern Ciudad Lineal district.

Delivery trucks, school buses, taxis, vehicles adapted for people with mobility problems, and zero-emission cars were all exempt from the ban.

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The decision to prohibit downtown parking, which was confirmed on Thursday evening shortly after Mayor Manuela Carmena had claimed it would not be implemented, also appeared to catch regional Madrid authorities off-guard.

Regional premier Cristina Cifuentes, of the Popular Party (PP), said her team was still waiting for a call from the city council  controlled by Carmena’s leftist Ahora Madrid coalition to discuss reinforcing public transportation.

While the city’s bus operator, which depends on municipal authorities, increased frequency on 55 routes, the subway system, which answers to the regional government, did not.

English version by Susana Urra.


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