Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Madrid bans polluting vehicles from city centre (theguardian.com)
250 points by purple_ducks 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

A while back I told my friends "in the next 5 years a major European city will ban non EV. And if it's a success, the flood gates will open and there will be no way back".

I'm surprised (and pleased) that this initiative is being implemented in Spain, since the infrastructure for supporting EVs there is less developed than other places (say, Germany). I sincerely wish it turns out to be a success, which would quickly accelerate similar initiatives in other places.

I agree with your assessment, but I don't agree that this ban is it. The headline really oversells it. The actual rule from the article's body is: "All petrol vehicles registered before 2000 and diesel ones registered before 2006 will be banned from the area, unless they are used by residents of the area or meet other exemptions."

They only plan to ban enough polluting vehicles to "cut nitrogen dioxide levels by 23% in 2020", so this is a very far cry from EV only. I think this is a step in the right direction, but it seems like a convoluted one that could be a whole lot more ambitious.

Isn't this similar to the variable ban that's been in Paris for the past year or so? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crit%27air

Worst than particle pollution on a day-to-day basis is the noise pollution. Big/Sport motor bikes and car horns should really be regulated inside cities, they make everything more stressful.

They installed a new sound on public buses, which sounds like a nice old bell and is less noisy than the usual car horn. It should exist on all cars.

Seriously, no one gives a f* than someone is stuck in traffic, and yet it alerts everyone on a 200 meters radius, which is many people in a city's density.

And yet inexplicably 2 stroke scooters / bikes are still legal, which contribute the most air and noise pollution.

Still can't wrap my head around that.

Those 2-strokes are a menace. That they didn’t ban those demonstrates that the Paris “ban” is just political posturing rather than a desire for actual improvements. Not only are 2-strokes heavy polluters, they are the noisiest vehicles on the street.

I thought they where all banned in the EU for several years now certainly the last vespa 2 stroke was seems to have been made in 2005.

Well, you know, my vespa 50s from 1972 is still almost as good as new.

1990s 50cc japanese scooters are indestructible, esp. Hondas, as are later, early-2000s Yamaha/MBK 100cc models. They are not going anywhere until there appears a 80 kg, 12" wheel electric model that can go 100km on a single charge and carry two people at a cruise speed of 70-80 km/h. And charge from zero in at most 15 minutes.

I love the smell of burning 2T oil in the morning.

But your probably a scoterist who lovingly maintains and restores classic Vespa's and Lambrettas and only rides them in good weather.

I believe the expensive version on the electric vespa can do 100km

> They are not going anywhere until there appears ...

Check NIU, they are getting close.

are they actually the noisiest? don't all vehicles have to be measured under the same dB threshold?

Only scooters right? Bikes / motorcycles 2 stroke are dead and gone.

Nope, mopeds, bécanes and motorbikes - all still there, and incredibly annoying at 3 am in the morning.

Yes, Amsterdam also has it. No diesels from before 2001 I think is the rule. It's going to be implemented in other cities in NL as well. My dad got kind of screwed because he converted an old van into a camper, for traveling around, and now he won't be able to use it to get into cities anymore.

Of course it is objectively a good thing, especially when they implement the export restrictions so they won't all simply be offloaded to Africa.

> Of course it is objectively a good thing, especially when they implement the export restrictions so they won't all simply be offloaded to Africa.

Why export restrictions (especially to Africa) is a good thing? I think that it is quite opposite:

* from looking at basic car sales statistics EV are basically non-existent in Africa, there is no infrastructure etc. (apart from fact that almost nobody could afford them)

* 2000-ish cars are usually quite simple to repair, no advanced electronic etc.

* producing new car probably will waste more resources and emit more pollution than using and repairing old one

It's already implemented in at least on other city (Utrecht), but only for the city center. As a diesel owner, it's a minor inconvenience whenever I visit the town. Most people I know live outside the zone.

There's an index to all the European cities with similar restrictions on http://urbanaccessregulations.eu/

It's a baby step, but that was to be expected. You can't realistically expect everyone to switch to an EV overnight, but this kind of plans will accelerate adoption, which AFAIK isn't going so well in Spain.

If this experiment works, then new, more aggressive ones will be put in place elsewhere.

Just to be clear, anything that is not a hybrid or EV cannot drive through the centre unless going to a public parking garage. Licence plates are collected by the garages and cars entering the central area are monitored by cameras.

So, anything that is not hybrid/EV is actually effectively banned.

I don't know why you are being downvoted, but providing a source would be welcome, I guess.

Are you saying that it's OK for (certain) polluting vehicles to enter the zone to visit someone and park in a garage, but it's not OK for them to pass straight through the zone and out at the other end? That would be possible, but it sounds even more convoluted.

Correct. I can only find sources in spanish.


> Sí, se puede llegar al centro de la capital en vehículo privado. Los residentes tienen permiso para entrar y aparcar en su barrio. Los coches de los no residentes, siempre y cuando cuente con etiqueta ambiental, pueden entrar a Madrid Central. La clave es dónde aparca el vehículo: la medida prohíbe aparcar en superficie excepto a residentes o coches Eco o 0 emisiones. Los vehículos B y C podrán aparcar en cualquier parking de acceso público.

This, only talks about parking in the zone but not about the case where a class B or C vehicle wants to pass through the zone without stopping.

I live in this new Madrid Central zone - I promise that is truly the case.

Here's another article that makes it a little clearer - http://www.telemadrid.es/madrid-central/Madrid-Central-pregu...

No vivo en el centro. ¿Puedo circular?

Depende de varias circunstancias y del etiquetado de tu vehículo:

* Sí, aunque no seas residente, siempre que tu vehículo sea 0 emisiones o ECO.

* Si tu vehículo tiene la categoría C o B, sólo puedes acceder para estacionar en aparcamientos de rotación.

* Si tienes movilidad reducida, también puedes acceder, independientemente de la etiqueta.

That implies that the impact of "non-resident" vehicles is much higher than that of "resident" vehicles in aggregate.

That seems intuitive for a big capital city... but would it be the same for all neighborhoods?

It doesn't imply that at all -- it appears to be a political choice. Many cities give free parking passes to residents of the city center to park in their local neighborhood, for example.

I think they are managing outrage, so they need to pick a subset of cars that isn't that common anymore.

And much more polluting. Emissions standards have tightened at least an order of magnitude every decade or so.

The car lobby is very strong here (Germany).

And guess what, one of the punishments for them regarding diesel (selling cars at discount to affected consumers), turned out to become yet another profit, because in the end they just sell more cars anyway.

Mercedes has ads across the country how they are just a nice company and want to help the planet by giving the opportunity to Euro 4/5 car owners to exchange their cars at affordable prices, while avoiding to mention why they are actually offering it.

It's a strange twist that the only country that punished VW/Audi group for dieselgate with sanctions that had any kind of teeth was the U.S. -- not exactly known for its environmentalist tendencies.

There VW was forced to pay for a huge EV charging infrastructure in addition to the vehicle buyback. In Canada, the gov't did basically nothing and it was only a class action lawsuit that accomplished much, and the deal we got was far less than what they got in the U.S.

Still, the money I got from dieselgate buyback paid for most of my Chevy Volt. So that's something.

Well that may prove it was a political motivated punishment (for the US at least) not related to the environment damage. VW got fined in Europe (i.e few billions) as well but not as much as in the US.

> political motivated punishment

You mean, they didn’t like the “politics” of a company installing devices in their cars whose only purpose was to cheat emissions tests, and then afterward lying about it?

Yes, it’s not really so much about the “environment” per se, and more about the criminal cheating followed by criminal coverup.

I think the unsaid assumption, although it is near impossible to prove, is that this was motivated by desire to punish foreign conglomerates and provide a nice advantage to domestic producers. While I'm sure this is near impossible to prove I would be really surprised if lobbyists for the US auto industry weren't trying to get as many sanctions as possible for VW.

The US doesn't really have a pro-deisel lobby, so they were able to impose punishments without internal political pushback.

not exactly known for its environmentalist tendencies.

I think that for once, the US regulations are stricter than the EU ones. Diesel emissions standards are higher in the US than Europe.

Not much of a twist really since Germany (the state) owns part of VW and they also want to protect jobs.


Yeah, the governments are either not thinking about the long-term survival of the population and the planet, or they would rather just placate their citizenry by making sure they have jobs. Because a jobless populace will vote you out of the office, so, fuck the environment?

Nitpick: Not Germany, but Lower Saxony (a German state). They own 20% of VW and have a special case in the law that gives them special veto rights on (some?) supervisory board decisions.

Yet German cities have serious problems staying within EU regulations for particulate matter, and with the health risks of suspended particulate matter becoming increasingly more evident those regulations won't go away.

Pushing non-EV vehicles out of cities isn't the only viable measure, but it is by far the easiest and quickest and has very positive side effects for quality of life in the city. And with VW getting more serious about EVs the lobbying may well reverse direction in a few years. After all once you sell an attractive EV lineup, getting every city dweller to replace their petrol car with an EV is great for your bottom line.

I'm not so surprised. Some mid-sized cities in Spain (e.g. Pontevedra, Oviedo) have banned all cars from most major streets since the mid 1990s. They are remarkably focused on pedestrians. You can walk anywhere.

Actually, I'd say the ban on those cities I mention is in some ways more restrictive than what was just implemented in Madrid. It's much simpler to accomplish due to their size, though.

I'd love for that to be true. But I've thought the same thing about other laws and the floodgates never opened. For example, in 2001 Portugal decriminalised all drugs. The obvious thing happened: the drug situation slightly improved. But more than 15 years later not one country has followed.

Still, I would like to share your optimism. Let's rid our cities of cars completely.

Same thing in London.

From April 2019, diesel cars older than ~2014 and petrol cars older than ~2005 will have to pay 12.50GBP a day to drive in the centre.

A few years later, the zone will be expanded to cover an area with a radius of approximately 5-10 miles around the centre (so basically everywhere apart from far-flung suburbs).

12.50 a day is pretty much as good as a ban (for most it'd make driving into and out of London cost more than 5x more for example).

I was surprised to find my small petrol car made in 2001 is exempt from the London charge. I realise the primary aim is to reduce diesel emissions, but it seems a bit sad that our expectations today can still be met by a 17-year-old petrol vehicle.

Diesels are terrible engines for city cars. They don’t in fact meet even the post scandal standards. Petrol is a fundamentally cleaner technology.

I don't like that very much. It's equivalent to saying "only the rich can drive in the city", another example of cities being turned into "playgrounds of the rich". Why should the gas-guzzling obnoxious Lamborghini get to drive and not my comparatively clean city car? Just say "vehicles with more emissions than x are banned" rather than pricing them out or even going by fabrication year.

I think you've missed something here - the emissions bands are based on, well, emissions. (I used years, but it's not model year, it's Euro emissions standards, which happen to track model year fairly closely (hence the ~)).

A clean car will be allowed in free.

A dirty car will have to pay.

A new Lambo is Euro 6, just as a new city car would be.

It's not about fuel efficiency but particulate emissions, i.e. stuff people breathe in that's bad for them.

If it's the 'pay for it' aspect you're bothered about - eh. I like the idea that if I want, I can pay to drive in the city. Most of the time I won't, but if my Grandma comes to visit, we'll use my car.

>the emissions bands are based on, well, emissions. (I used years, but it's not model year, it's Euro emissions standards, which happen to track model year fairly closely (hence the ~))

Ah, gotcha. I didn't realise that, thanks.

Is a Lamborghini euro6? I don't think they are, I don't see how they could be, and the data I can find says they're not (but I could only find Dutch energy standards, where a 2017 Aventador is class g, which is the worst there is).

This doesn't take away from ypur point, I'm just saying that real performance cars don't compete on emissions, and subsequently will be affected by all these bans (eg in Belgium when road tax eas changes to reflect emissions 6 years ago, performance cars became significantly more expensive, while some suvs (like my x3 :) ) became significantly cheaper)

energy standards != emission standards

Apparently the current models Huracáne and Aventador are Euro6 according to their website.

E.g. https://www.lamborghini.com/en-en/models/huracan/huracan-per...

Oh TIL, I had a completely wrong mental image of what euro6 actually means, thank you.

All cars built 2014 or later are Euro 6, which is the standard for diesel, after the earlier cars were caught cheating.

All cars built 2004 or later are Euro 4, which is the standard for petrol cars.

These are increasing strict emissions standards for maximum quantity of various pollutants.

>Enforcement of the ULEZ will be based on the declared emissions of the vehicle rather than the age. Generally speaking, petrol cars that meet the emissions standards are those registered after 2005. However cars that meet the ULEZ standards have been available since 2000.

So you can avoid it just by driving a fairly normal low polluting vehicle.

I've you've ever tried, you'll know that only the rich can park in the city at least, so it isn't that different.

Well, banning everything except Lamborghinis would be very much more effective than, say, the <5yo cars, since there are a few dozen Lamborghinis in the city where I live, compared to a six-digit number of newish cars.

If you want to compare like with like, the fair basis of comparison would be the Lamborghinis against the few dozen newest cars, or the few dozen least-polluting cars.

This is basically a regressive tax as it will affect more the poorer segment of the population, meaning those that don’t have money to purchase newer cars (let alone EVs). The same applies to Paris and Northern Italy, where similar measures are in place.

What this will also “accomplish” is that it will make these poorer people tourists in their own city/region, as the downtown areas will be more easily accessible by the “richer” people. As such, I expect revolt movements like the “gillets jaunes” protest now happening in France to become more widespread and more frequent.

Poor people in Inner London (the future expanded area of the scheme being discussed) use public transport. Only 35-40% of households there own a car, and those are concentrated in wealthy households. It is expensive to have a parking space yourself and expensive to park at your destination.

I think he means people who live outside inner London and commute in? I agree that many of those folks will still be taking public transit, but it's mostly the wealthy will actually live there, no? (I have no local knowledge.)

"Many" is an understatement.

People do not drive cars in to their jobs in Central London. It's just not done. Not even CEOs. The vast, vast, vast majority of people take public transport in because it's completely impractical to drive and not for cost reasons.

I would be completely unsurprised if there were less than 1 parking spot per _building_ inside the inner ring road.

Wander about, find a big, multimillion suburban house in Zone 3. You may well see a fancy car.

That fancy car barely ever sees the inside of London. It's for the country jaunt, the holiday, the supermarket run.

That's demonstrably false if you look at the sheer volume of cars driving through Central London. This[1] suggests that about 25% of commuters arrive by car.

[1] https://londontransportdata.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/week...

No, that is non rail. Rail is 80% (it is the chart above this one where you cut it out of the article) so car is 25% of 20%, i.e. 5%.

Er, that shows that 25% of road users are cars.

I haven't seen trains on roads much.

Perhaps in Croydon.

Inner London is a large area, it’s not just the city core, it has a population of 3.5m. It’s mixed, there are poor areas of Inner London and rich areas of Outer London. Traditionally Outer London was where professional families lived, along the suburban rail lines.

Most employment is in the core of the city (Central London), which is where the charge currently applies. People commuting there overwhelmingly use public transport, across all classes. Parking costs £30 a day.

Also, by the time the charge applies to Inner London (2021), the minimum standard for petrol cars will be Euro 4, which at that point will be 16 years old. Households at in income level to be operating a 17 year old car would be priced out of car ownership in London by other factors, and would be using the bus, the trains or the tube.

I’ve coomented elsewhere about poorer people being left out of car ownership because of the current tax system, which is also pretty regressive. Afaik the cost for a public transport pass can easily reach 200 pounds per month (anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s more than 100 pounds per month) at which point it would be a lot better from a financial point of view for a poor person to purchase a 15-year old 1,000 pound Vauxhall Corsa and use that instead. But that financial alternative is made non-viable by the current tax system because of the high taxes on gasoline, because of higher taxes on older, more polluting cars and one can also add the higher insurance premiums affecting the younger (and so poorer) people more.

What's your point here?

Do you want to make it cheaper and easier to own a car?

What's the endgame? London turns in to a complete gridlock, we all breathe in more crap and get ill, and of course, climate change accelerates a bit more.

It's fairer, but everyone is worse off. Why?

(As an aside, no, it's not cheaper to drive a car in to London for work, and it wouldn't be without taxes, because you'd spend more _per day_ on parking than you would on transport for the _week_).

> it would be a lot better from a financial point of view for a poor person to purchase a 15-year old 1,000 pound Vauxhall Corsa

Are you sure about that? Are you taking into account petrol, maintenance (a 15-year old car will need a lot of it), parking, insurance, registration fees? Those would cost at least another GBP 100/month + unproductive time spent in traffic. Not to mention the poor person would first need to save up GBP 1000 to be able to afford the car (or pay interest and more insurance).

GBP 200/month for a transport pass sounds insane though, so maybe they should focus on funding that better.

A bus pass is 80 GBP / month.

The fares for outer zones on the Tube are deliberately expensive as a way to reduce demand. There are explicit discounts for avoiding Zone 1 to ease congestion.

So whilst there probably do exist people spending 200 GBP a month on transport on minimum wage, it's not really intended, more of an ephemeral state whilst someone finds a job closer to home.

Funnily enough, London's public transport is actually pretty _cheap_ when compared with e.g. intercity rail. It's only expensive when compared with other countries, and I think it's difficult to compare due to London's high CoL in general and the age of the network.

The walk-up prices for trains are basically robbery. If it's outside of the Oyster zone, you're either driving, booking it well in advance, or it's a business trip so you take the hit anyway.

London's the most expensive place in the world to park during working hours, to the point where parking space sharing sites are advertising "from £11 per day" to entice people in. Street parking is upwards of £5 per hour.

Obviously there are some companies with parking spaces of their own, but companies with parking spaces in the restricted areas of central London aren't giving them to employees they don't pay enough for them to afford public transport. You're unlikely to be poor or limited in your transport options if you've got resident's parking in the Congestion Charge zone either

>GBP 200/month for a transport pass

Seems pretty normal depending upon the type of transport covered. If I bought monthly passes to commute into Boston from my house, I'd be something like $600/month between commuter rail, commuter rail parking, and subway/bus. Driving to subway parking (which fills up by 7 something) would still cost something $100/month plus about $10/day for parking. Commuting into most big cities in the West isn't cheap even if you use public transportation.

Still sounds expensive. You can take a train + bus/tram/subway from Waterloo to central Brussels for about $125/month. A bus pass in Luxembourg to the city center costs like $30/month. Lisbon will cap all public transport passes (even multi-modal) to $50/month, or $100/month for a whole family.

Why would you buy a pass rather than rely on daily and weekly maximums? The latter are almost universally cheaper.

It's not clear it's regressive. It will hit older car drivers but benefit those riding the bus (less congestion, less fumes at the bus stop).

As a central London user of mostly public transport I'm all in favour. Though I've got an old petrol car I'd be happy enough if they banned everything except zero emission vehicles. In fact I think that would be a good idea for Oxford Street. Kahn wanted to pedestrianise it but that wasn't really practical as people need to do deliveries and get from A to B but electric busses could work. (Oxford St has some of the highest NO2 in the world plus very large numbers of people standing in that https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/calls-for-action-on-t...)

Pretty much in the same boat here.

I have a crappy old petrol car because it makes economic sense for me to do so. It's sometimes cheaper than public transport, sometimes not, but overall I have it because it has a lower TCO than a less polluting vehicle would.

"It's a regressive tax" is a flawed appeal to emotion because poor people don't really have cars. Really poor people don't even have parking spaces because they're in unregistered flatshares or whatever and they can't get a permit.

Zone 1 driving is a leisure activity. It really is. I love it - I do it, it's gorgeous to bomb it down the river or wave to tourists at Harrods. But the idea that large numbers of individuals will suffer in an economic sense by restricting it is just bonkers, it's trivially disprovable by living here for about a week and trying to drive about and park with a car.

My car which cost about 300 quid is _still_ within the ULEZ recommendations. It's really not an issue at all.

You say it yourself it has become a tourist area, so my point stands. Anyway, last time I visited London (which was 10 years ago though) I was pleasantly surprised that there were still some 1960s brutalist blocks left in the downtown area which were housing “poorer” people (I think I remember seeing one close to Kensington). But I think many of them have been taken down in the meantime (or have burned to the ground because of official negligence).

The solution would be to create new downtown areas close to the places where the poorer people live, meaning areas with cinemas, theaters, libraries etc and leave the current downtown area for tourists, rich people and foreigners who want to launder their money.

Kensington is well outside of the central congestion zone (the western extension was scrapped ages ago).

That said, you seem to have a weird obsession with driving.

I can afford it and I don't drive into London because it just doesn't make sense. I've done it. Drive in to the West End, takes me way longer than cycling or taking a bus/tube, and then.... oh, it's going to take me 15 minutes to even find a parking spot.

It's more of a hobbyist/enthusiast thing. It's fun. I sometimes do it because one day you just know it won't be allowed any more.

I've lived centrally before and probably will again at some point. I'd sell the car, because it'd be pointless. Not because of cost, but because the only journeys that would make more sense to do by car are massive supermarket runs and country getaways.

Everything else is faster, quicker, and less stressful via public transport in London.

London is plenty big enough that places far away from the center already have cinemas, theatres and libraries.

London is not one city that grew. It's not even two cities that grew (London and Westminster). It's tens of towns, plus hundreds of villages, sometimes very old and now grown together, sometimes planned in the 19th or 20th century and now part of the greater city.

Example cinemas from one franchise: https://www.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/london/

I was getting the impression you don't know London very well. Zone one has many tourists and also the government, the world's largest financial centre (well part of it) and many residents, rail stations, museums, hospitals, universities and all sorts of stuff.

Driving is already cheaper for poor and rich people alike because we're all subsidizing it, by taking on the costs of all their pollution, noise, congestion, danger, infrastructure, policing, etc. The only difference is that the guy driving the old beater pollutes more locally (exhaust), while the EV driver pollutes regionally perhaps (power plant externalities). But they both fuck me climate-wise, so I'm not sure that's even that much of a difference.

Most societies make armed robbery illegal. Is that a "regressive tax" too, because a poor guy is more likely to physically steal my wallet? If so, I accept that. Fuck him. Fuck the rich guy who steals in other ways, sure. But being poor doesn't mean you deserve to screw everybody else, any more than being rich does. My point is that going to the hospital with an asthma attack (or a cracked skull and internal bleeding) is not a good way to subsidize the poor or redistribute wealth. If that's what somebody wants to do, they should just write a check. It's much cleaner.

The per-mile pollution of an electric vehicle (compared to a petrol or deisel vehicle) depends on the upstream power source.

In England, that's about 20% nuclear, 38% natural gas, 35% coal, and remainder other.

Overall, the electric vehicle is cleaner and less impactful on global warming.

Yes, if you want to reduce the incidence of something by increasing its' cost, poor people will probably stop doing it first, because they have less money.

Making polluting cost more is a very explicit goal of the policy.

The 2021 changes may bring protests because they hit wide swathes of the city - existing homes with drives etc.

The 2019 ones I very much doubt - driving in Central London is more of a leisure activity than anything remotely practical.

It's fun to drive down Whitehall. Barely anyone parks outside the National Gallery for a visit.

The French protests are about people outside of metro areas who don't have access to the same quality of transportation infrastructure. London has world-class infrastructure and many options for entering the city center without a car.

Tokyo has world class infrastructure.

London has expensive, unaffordable, dirty and always late transportation infrastructure.

That was the initial reason for the protest, yes, right now it’s a more general thing. And about London, afaik public transport is expensive as hell and once you get outside the M25 we’re talking trains and such, if I’m not mistaken, which are even more expensive and with a lot more time delays.

So my point about this being a regressive tax stands, because it would be way cheaper for a blue collar English guy to commute using a 1000 pounds beater Vauxhall than to pay hundreds of pounds each month for public transport passes. But the current tax system prohibits this because that beater Vauxhall Corsa also pollutes the air breathed by the rich guy who pays 20 million pounds or more for a London condo, and it’s at that precise moment that you can hear that rich guy remember about “externalities” and “the tragedy of the commons”, but when his wealth manager invests in some copper company listed on the LSE that feeling about needing to cover for “externalities” totally goes above his head. Marx would have had a field day with the current political and societal situation in the West, it screams hypocrisy and “schizoid way of being” from a mile away.

The current proposals will only extend as far as what is classed as 'Inner London' (contained by the north/south circular roads). As it is now, to drive within this area you will need to deal with lots of congestion and expensive parking fees (if there is even parking available at your workplace).

The proposals coming into effect in 2021 will mean you need a petrol car no older than 16 years old or a diesel car no older than 7 years old, or have to pay for the privilege. Given the average age of cars in the UK is 8 years, it seems very few people would actually be affected by these changes. It's a small price to pay to improve the health for the 3.3 million people living in this area.

This is really weird. I don’t know what to tell you. Very few people in England want to commute to Central London by car. The traffic is terrible, parking is hard to find and expensive, and you lose all the time you spend driving.

You’re fighting a war on behalf of someone who doesn’t really exist.

Pretty much. For the benefit of anyone else reading who doesn't know London:

The North/South Circular restrictions are actually a thing that will hit many families, especially around the borders of the area, because it is actually a lot more convenient to drive around, there are some gaps in transport, it's more suburban, it's actually a more car-oriented part of the city, most streets will have cars lining both sides, etc.

In 2021 this will happen and a non-negligible number of individuals will end up upgrading their cars (it probably won't cost them that much, a 500 quid car passes the bar).

None of this stuff is really any sort of humanitarian disaster because it's all comfort/luxury stuff. It's nice to drive about there, useful, not essential though, and yeah, the 'barrier to entry' is basically not driving a shitbox.

By contrast, "Central London" as defined by the inner ring road is an area that can be walked across in approximately an hour or cycled across in 20-30 mins, and has a bus stop on pretty much every street corner. It's plastered in traffic lights, it's difficult to even stop your car anywhere to pop into a corner shop without getting ticketed. At some point in the next few decades I can see a lot of it becoming "semi-pedestrianised" a bit like Krakow town center or something as attitudes change.

This area will be covered in a few months time by the tax (it's already covered during business hours, it'll just be extended to 24/7). Realistically, in practice, it might mean the odd journey in on a Sunday will be replaced by parking just outside the zone and getting a bus in or something.

The idea of it being a 'regressive tax' just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Barely anyone will actually end up paying it at all because it's cheaper to just get a better car. It's more like a soft-ban.

My car cost 300 quid (yes, three hundred GBP - about 1-2 weeks rent in London).

It is exempt from the ULEZ charge, both the 2019 and 2021 one.

It's really not a high bar to hit. It actually should be going way further and faster.

Once you get outside the M25, if there's a possible journey by rail it's going to be better than driving to central London 99% of the time.

I used to work in Zone 4 (out of 6, 1 is the centre) and most "blue collar" people still came in by train. Even if, as was sometimes the case, the rail journey was 10-15 minutes slower than the fastest possible road journey, it was at least reliably that fast. Road journeys were regularly delayed by ½-1-2 hours!

True. And it's been happening at the global level for years. Developed countries have been setting pollution goals that they want even developing countries to meet, and the latter complain that the former didn't have to go through their development phase under such restrictions.

(Would England have been economically dominant without the industrial revolution? Could the industrial revolution have happened under today's emission laws? We're pulling up the rope ladder after we climbed it.)

It's been difficult for people in first-world countries to see this effect, since it mostly happens slowly, and far away. I'm glad this is starting to hit closer to home, and on timescales that impact us directly. I don't have a solution, either, but perhaps the new immediacy will help drive progress in this area.

Something I'm not seeing commentary on:

the initiative is as much about public health as public transport.

“Air quality has been breaching acceptable levels for 10 years and people in the city are being exposed to air that has clear effects on their health, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as children and older people,” said Inés Sabanés, councillor for the environment and mobility.

“There’s research that shows clear links between pollution peaks and hospital admissions. It has a very clear effect on health – on the number of deaths and premature births.”

A lot of poor people are poor precisely because they are in poor health. It tends to simultaneously run up bills and curtail earning capacity. A city full of healthy citizens is going to be more economically vibrant at all levels.

I agree with your main point, but as regards "run[ning] up bills" doesn't Spain have a pretty effective, universal, single-payer healthcare system?

Yeah, I've heard that (kind of) objection before. It's nonsense. That's not the only way that sick people have additional bills.

If you are healthy and living on a limited budget, you cook from scratch. If you are sick, you get take out or you eat a more expensive TV dinner that further hurts your health. If you are healthy, you shop the sales, you travel a little farther to the cheaper store, etc. If you are sick, you go to the closest store because it's the only one you have the energy to make it to.

Etc. ad nauseum.

Even without medical bills, sick people will spend more for convenience items just to get through the damn day. There are myriad ways in which it is vastly cheaper to simply be healthy.

I'm not saying you are wrong, but the scale is very different from the stories you hear from the US.

I'm a Spaniard, from a working class family. My grandma, uncle and father died from (different) cancers in the last 3 years, yet my family didn't go broke nor anything close to that. Money was simply not an issue: all medical expenses were paid for by the state, and all of them kept receiving their (state-funded) retirement pensions until they passed away.

All the things you mentioned were cared for by my mother, myself and my siblings. Not having to care (extra) about money during such tough times is a blessing, and the reason I am more than happy to pay more taxes than citizens in other countries do. Of course the system can (and should) be improved, but the US state of affairs on everything health-related sounds just crazy to me.

The only poor people in Spain who are poor because of health issues are the mentally ill (including life-destroying addictions). The remainder of poor people are poor mostly because they're lacking education / accessible jobs.

Money was simply not an issue: all medical expenses were paid for by the state, and all of them kept receiving their (state-funded) retirement pensions until they passed away.

All the things you mentioned were cared for by my mother, myself and my siblings

I've known people in countries with state funded healthcare, like Canada, with serious health problems in the family, especially among minor children. I've heard how much of a hardship that can be even if medical bills are not part of the picture.

I'm glad your family was fortunate in that regard. But your assumption that I am projecting the American experience onto foreigners is in error.

It's certainly better to not also have the medical bills. But being unable to work full time while having greater than average need remains a hardship, even in countries where the state covers all medical bills.

It's just vastly better to be healthy, even if medical care is completely free.

It’s not like that money comes from nowhere.

I believe it’s estimated that NOx pollution in Berlin kills more than automobile accidents.

I wouldn't say Madrid is the first. I live in Ghent (Belgium) and only taxis and public transit are allowed in the city centre. In Antwerp only cars with low emissions are allowed in the city centre, or have to pay iirc.

Ghent is awesome to live in thanks to this, everyone bikes everywhere when you live in Ghent regardless. There also are a ton of UberEATS, Deliveroo, Takeaway, and Bubblepost (post delivered by bike) in the city centre.

Another example is Groningen in The Netherlands where roughly 60% of the journeys within the city are by bike [1] and cars are banned from the city center.

> In 1977, the traffic circulation plan was implemented over a single night. Hundreds of new signs were put up to create one-way streets or change their direction. Overnight, the centre of Groningen became impenetrable for cars. The next morning, hostesses greeted confused motorists with flowers and leaflets that explained the new situation.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jul/29/how-groningen...

It’s quite impressive what they did. They divided the city into 4 sectors and it’s impossible to get from one sector to another without using the motorway around the city, which lengthens these trips. Bicycles can travel freely.

Here’s the sectors map: https://stad.gent/mobiliteitsplan/het-circulatieplan/princip...

Indeed, the city centre is (nearly) free from cars here, and that is great.

However, the 'traffic circulation plan' is a horror. There are so many one-way streets without a logic to it, that finding your way is near impossible. Really, without some navigation system, there is no navigating the smaller streets here.

I recall hearing (no source sadly) that is was one of the first 'calculated' traffic plans. Apparently, that calculation didn't take robustness of the solution into account.

The policy against cars is great, but the 'traffic circulation plan' really isn't. There is a long standing plan for light rail transport, but a lot of resistance from those living near the proposed rail.

> I live in Ghent (Belgium) and only taxis and public transit are allowed in the city centre.

How do they deliver stock to shops, collect waste, or do construction?

Most Dutch cities have automatic gates, so that kind of traffic, we call it 'destination transport' for some reason, can use a remote control to open the gates and enter the city. For example police and ambulances can also enter the city.

Of the moderate size cities I've recently been to only Amsterdam still allows regular traffic in its center, and I think that's because it has such a large center for a Dutch city. You can't really park at the edge and then walk in.

No one said they were the first(because actually they weren't, neither in Europe or Spain itself)

Fun story. I bought a very fuel efficient diesel car (build: 2001) 3 years ago. It does 94 mpg or 1L per 30KM. Since then, many cities in my country decided to introduce "pollution zones", banning diesels of 2000 and older. My old home city decided to go one step further and ban diesels of 2004 and older. When I visit family and friends, I actually have to actively route around it. Which is ironic, since my car is more fuel efficient then most cars currently produced. But I guess the NOx exhaust also matters (which is much higher with diesels).

To be frank, it surprises me that I can go around in my car still at all. Burning diesel to move people should be banned by now, especially with the market flooding with EVs.

And diesel cars like yours are THE reason why these type of legislation is being put into place. Your 2001 diesel is most likely a euro 3 emission type and that put on average 3x more NOx and 10x as much diesel particulate matter in the air per km driven than a 2010 euro 5 diesel (1).

Of course you can do a calculation on how it is economically better to drive a car for a longer period of time compared to factories using resources to make new cars. But at this moment all the focus is to get NOx and particulate matter emissions down, preferably in cities.

So noone, except you, cares about how fuel efficient your old car is because even the biggest modern Mercedes, BMW or Audi luxury barge is more environmentally friendly than yours. Buy any modern (less than 5 years old) normal everyday car and immediately you lower the amount the amount you pollute in your everyday driving.

1: http://ecoscore.be/nl/legislation/european

Yeah, low-emissions diesel branding is a criminal oxymoron.

It’s 100% the particulate and NoX emissions that are the major problems for those of us living in urban populations.

This is one of the reasons why I was surprised Tesla revealed a semi before a city bus. Getting the air and noise pollution out of city centers alone is a big win.

City busses also dont have as much energy-density issues (can swap busses or batteries) and regenerative braking would also be a big win, especially with the way bus drivers drive.

Electric buses is a competitive business; semis less so, from what I can tell. Tesla probably has a better head start there.

Semis outside the city avoid stop-and-go, which drastically affects mileage. City buses are almost strictly stop-and-go, if for nothing more than alighting of passengers.

Unfortunately optimizing combustion for fuel economy can increase emissions dramatically. Two primary examples- 1) efficiency rises with combustion temperature; however over a certain threshold temperature NOx starts to spontaneously form much more rapidly 2) efficiency rises with combustion pressure; however a high compression engine tends to have a combustion chamber shaped like a pancake instead of a sphere or cylinder, which tends to cause incomplete combustion raising particle emissions.

Edit: I forgot another, a leaner mixture (more air less fuel) helps get the most complete combustion for maximum efficiency and low particulate, but the more air in the chamber, the more free oxygen and nitrogen there is to form more NOx

Every engine strikes a balance between fuel economy, particulate, and NOx emissions. They are like the three corners of a project management triangle.

If you're in europe(UK by chance?) then your car is built to a standard that allows 87.5% more NOx emissions, so in this regard you're polluting as much as a diesel burning over 5.6l/100km[0].

[0] Comparing to a car produced in 2006. This standard has been updated since.

>To be frank, it surprises me that I can go around in my car still at all. Burning diesel to move people should be banned by now, especially with the market flooding with EVs.

Do you think everybody can afford to buy a new car, especially an EV?

The reason these bans are in place is because they are necessary, and they are necessary because most cars are old because most people can't afford to switch. It's effectively a tax on the poor.

Everything that increases the cost of doing _anything_ is a "tax on the poor"; that's just a particularly emotional way of describing exactly what it is that poor people don't have (money/power).

In a city like London there is actually no reason to drive around a diesel car in the centre. It's done for convenience only. Non-diesel vehicles exist, electric vehicles exist, very soon there'll be enough to fill the roads (Central London is really quite small), done.

I don't think it should be banned - I think a tax is far more appropriate (that's actually what we're doing) - but ultimately, yes, poor people will be hit harder.

We don't allow burning rubbish to heat homes either. That's a "poor tax" too.

As a possible counterpoint, consider the following image:


I used to drive past this block fairly often and I'd shudder every time. I can't imagine living there. (It's worse in person than in the photo, really, the building is black).

Poor people are overwhelmingly more likely to live in those sorts of conditions in London - more likely to live near traffic lights, close to busy polluted roads, on major arterial routes, and generally just in the pollution hotspots.

By contrast, the wealthy are more likely to live in luxury apartments with proper AC, or leafy suburbs, or just on side streets that aren't front-line pollution (compare Euston/Marylebone Road to side streets).

(I say more likely, because it's true on a statistical level, but it's also just obviously true. I can afford to not live there so I don't. It's obviously horrible, look at it, there's a massive road on one side and a railway line on the other. You'd better have some bloody good sound insulation if nothing else).

So actually reducing emissions is in some ways an inverse tax on the poor - because poor people inhale more of the shit anyway.

> It's effectively a tax on the poor

I live in a European city with comparatively bad public transport, and I still don't own a car. Sure, going somewhere by public transport often takes twice as long as going by car, but it's cheaper and I am free to do stuff in that time. In the rare case I need one I could always rent one or use a car pool and still be much cheaper than owning and operating one.

In rural areas it's a different matter, but the poor in the city rarely need cars in Europe. Many want it for the convinience, but taxing luxury goods is accepted practice.

Allowing people to pollute is effectively a subsidy for them, paid for with a tax on everyone’s health. Wealthy people are more able to take advantage of this subsidy and more able to avoid some of the tax, so the old way is also a tax on the poor. Except instead of just taking their money, they’re being slowly killed.

I am not the person you replied, taxes on pollution affect the poor, it is true but I seen people buying a 20 years BMW rather then a new or newer less cool model car, so the pollution taxes and measures should affect this purchases and push people into buying petrol, smaller engine cars.

Yes but these people had a choice. Poor people don't.

Europe is different from the US, we don't need cars here. I'm from Romania and I don't even have a licence. The only reason to have a car here is for work or comfort. I've travelled around the EU quite a lot and could always get around with public transport or taxis.

So no, in the context of the EU, banning cars is not a tax on the poor, it is a comfort tax at best and one which increases the comfort of every other citizen while punishing "poor" people who want cheap comfort at the expense of everyone else around them.

It depends. For city-dwellers, that's true (I'm one myself, 29, living in Germany, no driver's license either). But someone living in a village will find it pretty impossible to run their errands or bring their children to school without a car.

>But someone living in a village will find it pretty impossible to run their errands or bring their children to school without a car.

It is not impossible, I know people that live in villages in Romania and use public transport to go to the city where they work. Usually this people don't own a car because they don't have a driver license, there are enough such people since the common transport is profitable for the companies that offer it.

Is not that true, there are cheaper cars, they may be missing some comfort features, the engine will be smaller (very cool how for example Ford has now peformmant 3 cylinder engines), the regulation will push people on cheap newer and cleaner cars instead of cool cars but 10-20 years old.

I know what I am talking about since my family is not rich, in my extended family (in Romania) nobody bought a new car. I think is OK to sacrifice electric windows, parking camera, other non essential comfort features and getting a cleaner car.

Do you have a better idea on how we push things in the right direction , except the vague "free market and deregulation solves everything bullshit"

A 20 year old BMW is a beater car that can be bought easily for less than 5000 EUR. Banning old cars is the way to drive those cars out of the market.

If a poor person needs to replace a broken car, the new laws will limit the valid options to 2006 or newer cars. You can buy a 2006 car for cheap nowadays.

I own car but also take advantage of the transport networks.

What I really dislike with this kind of bans is the complete disregard how people can afford to reach their usual destinations with a fragile transport network, if at all.

One of the customer sites I used to travel to, takes 30m with the car and almost 2h with public transports.

I would not call Madrid's public transportation network fragile. Not at all. For most practical cases, public transport won't take longer than if you need to park a car.

Not if one is lucky enough to live close enough to the city center.

From my experience in Lisbon, it took me 1h to do 30 km during rush hour and 2h outside rush hour.

As the trains/bus/boat connections get drastically reduced outside rush hour.

Ah, and good luck returning back home after mid-night.

Talking with Spanish friends, their view of Madrid network isn't much different from my experience.

In any case I was talking in general, because outside the major European cities, the transports are even worse, like 1 bus connection every two hours until 8pm and such.

I don't know Lisboa, but I can tell you this is not the case in Madrid. Neither it is in Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, ...

There can be very particular routes for which 30km can take very long (although I do not see how a 30km trip is relevant when we're talking about the centre of the cities), but this is not common. And 8pm is not late at all, it is quite easy to move at that time. Again, I do not know Lisboa, but your generalization does not fit with my experience at all.

Nice, I talk about the general case, and you list capitals and people living on the city center.

A 30km trip is relevant, because there is a large set of population that works on the city center, yet it can only afford to buy a house 30-100km away from it, and commutes every day.

I lived in middle size cities where after 8pm there are no more buses, only taxis.

You were talking, and I quote you, about "major European cities". You can easily reach most major European cities from 30km away in less than 1 hour using public transport, also after 8pm. Most middle size cities are also quite well covered, depending what you mean by middle size, but 30km away may easily be in the middle of nowhere. If this is the case you are describing, it does not apply to the case of Madrid we are discussing. It is not a generalization, it is a totally different problem.

I guess we have a complete different view what a "major European cities" city is all about.

For me major doesn't necessary mean country/region capital.

Example Coimbra and Porto are major European cities, and good luck getting in less than 1h if you happen to live outside of the happy path of bus/subway lines.

But "these kinds of bans" are also more likely to be impose on the centers of capitals.

In what middle sized cities can people only afford to buy a house 30-100km from it?

The sensible way to go about this would be making new cars with ICE progressively more expensive, starting some time twenty years ago or so, so that people naturally switch over to clean alternatives. What we get instead of incessant lobbying by car manufactures until perfectly fine, new, cars need to be banned from city centers because the air quality is too bad. Now it is too late for a painless switch to less polluting transportation and the poorest suffer most.

By thinking about the fuel efficiency of your diesel as somehow being relevant to the pollution zones shows you have made an error that is pretty commonplace.

One shouldn’t confuse fuel efficiency with fewer emissions. Motorcycles for example are very fuel efficient for getting a person or two around without a lot of stuff as compared to a car, but they cause way more pollution per mile (which makes it even worse than measuring by per gallon, exactly because they are so fuel efficient, making it strikingly bad because to achieve worse emissions per mile, their emissions have to be truly extraordinarily bad).

(Yes, other commenter who wants to retort that the type of motorcycle matters, it’s true that it does. This is a general point about internal combustion engines where some motorcycles are being used as an example.)

Have you ever had the DPF replaced? On most diesels they get so clogged up after around 150,000km so that the engine can't work efficiently anymore (and it can actually break the engine if it gets clogged enough).

You can pay to have it replaced (a few thousand Euro) or in a lot of countries it's quite popular to just remove the guts of it, so the there is no filter, meaning your polluting car pollutes even more. It's usually illegal, but as particulate emissions are not part of periodic inspection most European vehicles undergo, it's usually not found out.

(They weren't required until Euro 5 came into affect, so maybe your car doesn't even have one.)

What car did you buy? I'm curious what car can do 1L per 30km!

3.3L/100km doesn't seem that hard. I get 4.7 in a mid-size sedan so this is probably a small Volkswagen with a 3 cylinder engine.

The best I ever really hear about are ~4L/100km, from small VW sedans as you say.

I'm curious what can get better!

It's probably one of these:


It also explains where the 94mpg number comes from.

Not sure how you're doing the conversion but 3.3l/100km is only 71mpg according to Google. 94mpg would be 2.5l/100km or 1l per 40km.

US gallon vs Imperial gallon? It's a ~20% difference.

That would be 85mpg, not 94 from what I can see online

bans some polluting vehicles:

> The plan, known as Madrid Central, establishes a low-emissions zone that covers 472 hectares (1,166 acres). All petrol vehicles registered before 2000 and diesel ones registered before 2006 will be banned from the area, unless they are used by residents of the area or meet other exemptions.

Nevertheless a good step!

Quite a few young people without a degree or other good secondary education that do not have a lot of money make their living as couriers. Because courier companies are in a powerful position compared to their couriers everybody is classed as 'independent contractor' and they are required to bring their own vehicle.

They can't afford new ones so they end up buying older ones, and as couriers they drive a lot so they end up buying diesels, which, given the form factor of their cars (small delivery vans) is usually the only option.

At their income level the only cars they can afford are the older diesels, which are now no longer legal to drive in the cities where they have their work.

Effectively these rules put a whole slew of kids out of a job.

Not only young people, this measure hits hard a lot of people with just a few months warning. There are many sectors that will be affected: live music (no way to move sound gear), tour operators (buses from the airport to the centre), repairmen, music schools... not to talk about regular people working in the center with no money to replace their cars.

I'm not against this measure in the long term, but the way it has been put in place is terrible.

Did they really introduce it with a few months warning? The London equivalents slowly ramp up and are made public half a decade before implementation.

The situation in the council is peculiar. The major's party is a far left coalition with the support of PSOE, the party of prime minister Sánchez. While PSOE is a mature party, Ahora Madrid is a melting pot of radical people with some interesting ideas and no experience. They've shown very little management ability and an "us vs. them" mindset.

It was surprising that PSOE refused the offer from former major's party (PP) to govern without conditions and instead voted for AM without even entering the council gov. team. That would have brought some experienced people and softened the politics.

Oh and BTW, a few hours ago PSOE has sunk and lost government in Andalusia, their main vote silo. It seems that their erratic pacts politics (they're governing Spain with the votes of anti-Spain separatist parties) is harming them.

The courier companies will still need someone to drive for them, though; if these kids are out of the job, who will take up their place?

People able to afford the vehicles that are allowed outright, or that have enough credit to be able to buy one on a payment plan.

Does anyone actually consider glovo a real job? They really seem to try hard to avoid branding it as such.

Hopefully not, they do motorcycle deliveries. But TNT Post and a whole pile of other companies use the same general strategy of avoiding employees at all cost to general detriment of tens of thousands of people that would otherwise be part of a large company and that are now left to fend for themselves.

The 'gig economy' is one ugly aspect of the un-bundling of the social contract and this has only just begun. You can look forward to an ever larger number of jobs re-classed as independent contractor.

This is already happening in health care, contracting, taxi driving and so on. The long term effects are most likely very negative but still over the horizon. Companies love it because they get all the benefits of having employees without the downsides.

I see this to be a mirror of the trend of replacing products with services all across the board. Everyone keeps saying "opex is better than capex", but there's something really wrong about this. I can't put my finger exactly on what it is, but I feel it disenfranchises people.

Lesser of two evils by one or two orders of magnitude.

Yes, this always is the case with any decision. But usually the ones making those decisions are not on the receiving end of the downside. See also: automation.


The OP said this eliminates some jobs. I saw nothing about climate denial. Your post seems really over-reactive.

Are you replying to the same comment that I just read? He's just pointing out the potential economic impact of a hyper-targeted restriction.

Seems to me like "any ban on diesel is good" is not a great approach to policy making, Mr. Gore.

It's just a fact, no need to get your panties in a twist and no need to make it seem like I deny climate change.

I've seen a couple of kids in exactly that situation and this is what happened to them. Any kind of rule has unintended side effects, it does not hurt to point those out even when you are in support of the rule.

Quit jumping to conclusions. FWIW I built a house that was off the grid powered by windmill and solar and experimented with building electric vehicles before Tesla came around because I believe that to be the future. To call me a climate change denier is hilarious.

Madrid is completely covered in the smell of diesel fuel. When I smell a diesel car drive by it reminds me of Madrid. It’s a great city but I can’t take the headaches and the smell. I am amazed people can live there.

As far as I understand, it would be relatively feasible to engineer air-filters that filter out car-exhaust. I'm glad there's finally some pressure for this externality so that we begin taking the most basic steps to help the whole.

Soot from old diesel cars is undeniably a problem, but large part of particulate matter is from tyres, not from engines. It will be interesting to see if and how that's going to be resolved.

Half of it is from brakes. Electric cars mostly brake using the engines so they also improve this aspect.

You want to know how you get populists uprisings? Regressive taxes that hurt the poor.

The poor in European capitals don't go around in cars, they use public transportation. Unlike the US, moving around in a car is somewhat of an unneeded luxury, as the city is perfectly livable using subway and buses - and more recently, the myriad of bikes, electric scooters and the like that you can rent with apps and leave wherever.

You want to know how we save the planet? Force people, including the working class, to stop relying on dirty fossil fuels. If there’s no forcing function, nothing will change.

Believe it or not, people don’t respond well to force. Force only breeds contempt. It simply hurts your cause in the long run.

Tbf, I'm not sure we have a long run at this point

also: running out of food and habitable space on the planet

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact