Drive a Polluting Car? In Madrid You’ll Pay More to Park

Smart parking meters in Spain’s capital will charge not-so-eco-friendly vehicles extra.

(Photo: Susana Vera/Reuters)

May 6, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

In Madrid, a brown cloud of smog hangs in the sky so often that residents call it boina, or “beret.” It’s a cute moniker, but it’s a clear sign of the city’s regular failure to meet the European Union’s air-quality guidelines. Now, to the dismay of Madrid’s SUV drivers, a new initiative will charge some air-polluting motorists more for street parking.

Starting this summer, drivers of diesel cars made in 2001 or earlier will have to shell out 20 percent more to park on the street. Hybrids will be charged 20 percent less, and electronic cars will be able to park for free.

“We thought it would be fair if the cars that pollute more pay more, and compensate those who use more efficient vehicles,” Elisa Barahona, head of Madrid’s sustainability division, told The Guardian.

“Particularly for those who have cars that pollute, we hope that having to pay more will make people think twice before using them,” she said.

The Spanish capital releases five times the nitrogen dioxide limit considered safe by the EU. Mariano González of the group Ecologists in Action told The Guardian that the move is an attempt to win over the EU, which has threatened to fine the city if it doesn’t improve its air quality.

Will the initiative work? The United States has enacted similar efforts to reduce air pollution. Hybrids bought after 2005 are eligible for tax credits, and electric and low-emission vehicles get access to faster freeway lanes in car-heavy cities like Los Angeles. While nearly 50 percent of Americans breathe unhealthy air, the nation continues to improve its overall air quality. Driving hybrid cars has even become a trend of sorts. But we all know what’s better than smart parking meters and hip E.V.s: public transportation and riding a good old bicycle.