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Madrid’s Bold Car Ban May Become a Thing of the Past

A new conservative administration says it wants to do away with the ban on cars in the city center.
June 24, 2019, 1pm PDT | Camille Fink
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Feargus O’Sullivan reports that Madrid’s ban on cars in the city center may be rolled back as the result of political shifts after recent elections. "A new three-party coalition will now govern the city, involving a right-wing, a centrist and an extreme-right party. All have previously declared themselves in some form against the car ban introduced by Madrid’s outgoing left-wing mayor, Manuela Carmena."

The new political leadership is taking aim at the policy even as pollution levels have dropped substantially in Madrid since the car ban was instituted last year and as property values have increased in areas where the ban is in effect. "The extreme-right party, Vox, supports another option: Keep the cars off the Gran Via and channel that traffic into a cross-downtown tunnel. This would appease the pro-car lobby without alienating locals who have grown fond of the pedestrianized main street," writes O’Sullivan.

That plan is unlikely, however, because of the logistical difficulties and costs involved in tunneling in Madrid. And even relaxing the ban by allowing cars back on certain streets could prove to be politically challenging, notes O’Sullivan. "And it could prove expensive in other ways: Madrid has in the past incurred millions of euros of fines from the E.U. for exposing its citizens to unacceptably high levels of pollution—levels that have since dropped, thanks to the car ban. A traffic spike that pushed pollution back above safe levels would be both costly and embarrassing."

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Published on Thursday, June 20, 2019 in CityLab
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