For the second time in three weeks, Madrid City Hall has restricted the traffic in the center of the Spanish capital in a bid to combat high pollution levels. Drivers will not be able to park in any metered public parking spot between 9am and 9pm today, unless they have a residents’ permit.
The council took the decision – which was made public at 9.30pm last night via social networking sites and its communication department – after a number of city measuring stations gave readings of more than 200 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter for three consecutive days.
City Hall has warned that this time it will be stricter when it comes to fining drivers who do not observe the parking restrictions
What’s more, the speed limit on the M-30 beltway and access roads into the center has been set at 70km/h.
The protocol was put in place by the previous administration, run by the Popular Party’s Ana Botella. But it had not been executed until the arrival in City Hall of Ahora Madrid, headed by former judge Manuela Carmena.
As well as the aforementioned measures, the city’s electronic road signs are urging drivers to leave their vehicles at home and use public transportation instead. The council is also recommending that people with respiratory problems limit the amount of physical exercise they take outside.
City Hall has warned that this time it will be stricter about fining drivers who do not observe the parking restrictions. The first time these measures were introduced, on November 12, the municipal authorities showed a great deal of leeway and did not fine people who disregarded the rules.
On that occasion, traffic in the downtown area fell up to 10%. However, outside of the center the change was not notable – many drivers simply parked in areas outside the M-30 beltway and then took public transportation from there.
If the air conditions in the city do not improve, the third phase of the traffic-calming measures may be put into place over the weekend. This would mean that only cars with even-numbered license plates would be permitted into the center on even dates, and only cars with odd-numbered plates would be allowed in on days with an odd date.
To guarantee that citizens can make their way around the city, the Madrid region has provided 132 extra subway train carriages during the morning and evening rush hours, boosting capacity by 42,000 people. The City Council will meanwhile increase the service on 55 bus lines.
English version by Simon Hunter.