Access Restriction Schemes: a European study
An increasing number of European cities is engaged in the design and implementation of demand management strategies based upon the concept of "controlled access", which entails the more or less gradual interdiction of selected urban areas to traffic. Access restriction policies vary a great deal, depending on the chosen exclusion criteria. Popular examples include closure of inner city areas and other sensitive zones to less clean and energy efficient vehicles or to freight vehicles above a certain weight, to private vehicles owned by non-residents in the restricted area, or to motorized vehicles altogether.
The current situation is characterized by a high degree of heterogeneity, on several accounts:
- the objectives of the Access Restriction Schemes (ARS): so far schemes were mainly driven by air quality targets, but other strategic objectives are forcefully emerging, including e.g. transport efficiency, economic growth etc.
- the type of access restriction: i.e. which traffic is specifically targeted? (passengers Vs freight, vehicle technology, time slots, etc.)
- the instruments adopted: they can be regulatory/prescriptive (bans, vehicle standards, etc.) or/and market based (road and/or parking pricing, bonuses, paying permits, incentives, etc), while information based instruments can supplement/facilitate the implementation of both regulatory and economic instruments – the technical/technological solutions adopted to implement and enforce the schemes
From the EU perspective, the heterogeneity of the schemes experimented/planned so far entails major drawbacks, notably:
- higher costs (no mainstream technological/organizational solution)
- undue/undesired discrimination (vehicles/users authorized in City X may be unauthorized in City Y)
Although subsidiarity and proportionality principles limit the scope of EU intervention, the recent Urban Sustainable Mobility Action Plan calls for a proactive role of the EU, focusing on the identification of best practices and their diffusion across European cities.