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Madrid Takes Drastic Action to Curb Pollution

With a growing reputation for heavy local pollution, the city of Madrid will impose reduced speed limits and driving restrictions in its central core. On bad days, transit will be free to ride.
November 12, 2015, 5am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Erin Perry

To address its woeful air quality, Madrid has imposed severe restrictions on driving. "When air quality drops beneath a new threshold, Spain's capital will banish half the city's cars from inner Madrid and introduce strict speed limits on the beltway. In an unusual spirit of municipal largesse, it will also make public transit entirely free to use for the day," reports Feargus O'Sullivan.

Local pollution around Madrid regularly exceeds the European Union's legal limits. "In winter the city's high plateau is capped by a dingy dome of dirty air so familiar it has its own nickname—locals call 'the beret' ('La Boina' in Spanish)," writes O'Sullivan.

The new rules will increase in severity based on how much nitrous oxide is present in Madrid's air. If truly threatening levels appear, the city is prepared to temporarily extend driving restrictions to outer districts.

Championed by the urban left and environmentalists, the new policy has encountered resistance from the regional governing body, currently led by centrists and conservatives.

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Published on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 in CityLab
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