Area C is a restricted traffic zone in Milan’s city centre where vehicles are subject to a congestion charge. Launched by the Municipality of Milan, the area is called Cerchia dei Bastioni, a Limited Traffic Zone (LTZ) of 8.2 km2 – 4.5% of the Municipality’s total area. Implementing the scheme in a congested city like Milan has not been easy. As in other European cities, car use is the second source of GHG emissions behind road freight. The individual car ownership in Milan (52/100 inhab), even if decreasing, is still higher than in other EU capitals and the concentration of particulate matter (PM) in the air is among the worst in Europe. Consequently, road congestion around the city, road casualties and public spaces occupancy are great challenges for the city. Interestingly, and in contrast to the experience of other cities trying to implement similar programmes, Area C came about as a result of popular demand. In 2012, the Ecopass (Milan’s original pollution charge scheme) was upgraded to a more comprehensive road pricing policy – Area C – following the results of a 2011 referendum in which almost 80% of Milanese asked for an upgrade and an extension of the Ecopass area.
The Area C (Cerchia dei Bastioni LTZ ) is home to almost 25% of Milan’s businesses and approximately 500,000 people coming from outside it enter it every day. Access to Area C is limited to certain hours on weekdays, and entering cars are detected by a system of electronic gates equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology. The entrance ticket costs €5 with few exemptions (i.e. mopeds, motorcycles, and electric cars), as well as discounts for residents.
The effects in terms of reduction of road congestion are highly visible and generates new uses for urban spaces. A 15,800 sq. m. area has just been converted into a full pedestrian area. Public transportation has also been significantly improved: 15 surface transport lines throughout the city have better service, and an additional 32 underground trains circulate daily (thanks to Area C incomes and an additional €10 million investment on Public Transport).
So far, Area C has seen a 28% decrease in road congestion. In addition, a 24% reduction of all road casualties has been observed between 2011 and 2012, to be compared with an 11% reduction city-wide during the same period. Polluting vehicles are circulating less in the area: their numbers have decreased by 49% (-2,400 vehicles daily) and the share of cleaner vehicles has gone from 9.6 to 16.6% of the total traffic. The successes of Area C have led the Municipality to further the debate on a more comprehensive Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan with the aim of transforming the public spaces in Area C and outside it in pedestrian and cycling areas and further implementing road and park pricing measures city-wide. Beyond maintaining Area C, also a city-wide Low Emission Zone is currently being considered.