The city of Milan, one of the most car-dependent in Europe, is also among the few to have introduced a road pricing measure. The story of how this happened is of great interest, for it shows how EU regulations, scientific evidence and political action at the local level have concurred to change the city transport policy.
Unlike the well-known cases of London and Stockholm, it was concern for the levels of pollution (rather than congestion) that initially led to the introduction of the ‘Ecopass’ scheme in 2008. In the following years, public debate focused on the effectiveness of this pollution charge in reducing PM10, a pollutant with adverse health impacts.
The dubious effectiveness of Ecopass in reducing PM10 levels has had two consequences: First, the scheme was upgraded to a congestion charge in 2012, following the results of a city-wide referendum in which 79.1% of voters demanded both an upgrade and an extension of the Ecopass area. This was in stark contrast with the experience of other cities, where voters have rejected charging schemes, for instance in Edinburgh or Manchester in the UK. Even in Stockholm, another reference for the introduction of road charging, the voters approved the local congestion charge with a mere 51%.
Second, the new city administration has recently implemented a monitoring system for Black Carbon, a new PM metric that is more suitable to prove the effectiveness of traffic restrictions.
Milan therefore is the only city which can boast two types of road pricing measures, pollution charge and congestion charge, making Milan a reference point for those cities aiming to implement solutions for sustainable mobility and traffic regulation policies.
What is ‘Area C’?
Area C is a road pricing measure launched by the Municipality of Milan to improve life conditions of those who live, work, study and visit the city. It was introduced on January 16, 2012, following a referendum in December 2012 that approved the measure with 79.1% of the vote. In March 2013 the Municipal Board has confirmed AREA C as a permanent and strategic measure.
Area C is the restricted traffic zone in the Milan's center. The area subject to the congestion charge is called Cerchia dei Bastioni, a Limited Traffic Zone (LTZ) of 8.2km2, 4.5% of the whole territory of the Municipality of Milan. The access is limited on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 7.30 to 19.30, and Thursday from 7.30 to 18. Cars entering Area C are detected by a system of 43 electronic gates (of which 7 are reserved for public transport vehicles), equipped with ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) technology.
The entrance ticket costs €5.00. Mopeds, motorcycles, electric cars, vehicles for disabled people, vehicles for public utility services, vehicles for public transport services, taxi, hybrid*, methane powered*, lpg* and biofuel* cars are exempted from the charge (*until 31/12/2016. From 01/01/2017 they will pay). Residents have 40 free accesses per year free and pay a reduced rate of €2.00 from the 41st access.
The overall goals of the Area C are: Decreasing vehicular access to the Area C; decreasing traffic congestion; reducing travelling time of private transport; improving public transport networks; decreasing the demand for public space occupation for on-street parking; reducing road accidents; reducing pollutant emissions caused by traffic; reducing the health risk related to the air pollution; increasing the share of sustainable modes of travel; improving the quality and the attractiveness of the urban center; raising funds for the development of soft mobility infrastructures: cycle lanes, pedestrian zones, 30kph zones.
How did the initiative improve mobility?
Area C comprises an area of 8.2km2, but its effects have an impact on the entire city traffic. The Milan area, corresponding to the Municipality of Milan and 32 municipalities of hinterland, has a population of 2.4 million people, 1.3 million of which are concentrated in the capital. The population density of Milan is particularly high, with 7 186 inhabitants per square kilometre. During business hours, on average, 850 000 people come from out of town. The city thus reached a daily peak of nearly 2 million visitors, considering the number of people who left the city during the day. The population density within Area C is 9 480 inhabitants per square kilometre, which becomes 39 000 on average with a peak of nearly 140 000 at the time of daily peak. Every day there are a total of 5.3 million journeys involving the territory of Milan. 58% of these take place within the city; the remaining 42% take place between Milan and the municipalities of the metropolitan area.
The area subjected to a congestion charge has an outstanding attractiveness because of the activities and services there. As a result, an average of 39 000 person/km2 with a peak of almost 140 000 person/km2 are accumulated in the historic center between Duomo and San Babila during the central daylight hours. Due to the large presence of commercial activities, public services and recreational activities, this area has 295 704 employees working in it, amounting to almost 37% of the total employees within the Municipality of Milan.
What was achieved?
One of the first effects of the Area C measure was the reduction of the traffic in the city center and throughout the city. Thanks to Area C, the performance of the transport system has improved. According to a recent statement of the president of AICAI (Courier Aircraft Association), Area C has resulted in an increase in productivity of 10% on freight deliveries in the city.
A detailed analysis shows that all the objectives set have been achieved:
What made this success possible?
Area C was also created to respect the vote expressed by the citizens of Milan in the referendum held on 12-13 June 2011. The text of the question, approved by 79.1% of voters, asking for a plan of action to enhance public transport and alternative mobility, the extension of the road charge to all vehicles (except those with zero emissions) and the progressive widening of the area subjected to the pricing. An amazing accomplishment when compared with the liking of other popular urban toll schemes in force in Europe. Suffice it to say that the referendum established in Stockholm to confirm the new system of road pricing passed with only 51% of voters, while the most famous example of road pricing, London's Congestion Charge, was established in 2003 without going through the popular consultation. The Area C measure was always accompanied by public consultation initiatives since its beginning. During the process that led, in March 2013, to the final adoption of the measure, several meetings have been promoted by the public authorities in order to define a common path and strategies shared by citizens, associations, entrepreneurs, environmental and civic associations, and by all those most directly affected by the measure. The constructive confrontation led to improvements that have mitigated impacts towards the categories immediately subjected to the measure: for example, new incentives for public and private parking have been proposed, and the cameras on Thursday were turned off one hour before to push the city shopping and commercial activities.
What the Jury said
The jury recognised that the introduction of the Area C congestion charge by the City of Milan demonstrates a significant achievement in improving the urban transport system. After identifying that the existing congestion pricing scheme was no longer achieving its objectives, the Municipality of Milan had the foresight and political courage to design a more effective replacement, and the capability to implement this successfully. The jury applauded the successful securing of public support, and noted that this initiative provides an excellent example of bringing together the two dimensions of congestion and environment.
Demand-based parking rates ensure that scarce parking resources are better used, and also that it is easier for drivers to find a spot, again implying a reduction of cars circling to find spaces. A clear example of how demand-based rates can improve the use of parking is that of an area with both shopping and office use. If parking is free, or far below market rates, office workers arrive first and take the spaces directly in front of the shops for a full working day. This means that shoppers need to park further away. In this case parking spaces are not used efficiently. Many shoppers that come for half an hour need to walk. If instead the office worker would park further away, only one person would walk. A small increase of the price of parking in front of the shop would exactly achieve this. Since the office worker needs to multiply the increase by eight hours, it soon becomes interesting to walk a short distance.
Demand-based pricing will automatically detect the optimal rates where such local optimisations take place. They also reduce the inefficiencies that are inherent of maximum durations.
What does Merge® do, and how does it work?
The Xerox Merge® parking system is a first-of-its-kind, city-wide sensor based, smart parking solution. It is a smart grid for parking. It enables guided parking, predictive enforcement, meter and pay-by-cell management, demand-based pricing – all layered with analytics. Because of its cloud delivery and open architecture platform it can be deployed both in green-field deployments and existing paid parking systems.
Merge® was deployed in downtown Los Angeles as part of the LA Express Park project in June 2012. It uses the data from smart meters, off-street parking lots and over 6 000 on-street parking sensors to get a complete view of parking demand and behaviour in a 6 square mile area. The system feeds this data in real-time to smart phone applications and a vehicle’s navigation system to provide guided parking, i.e. to provide motorists with actual parking rates and guidance to available spaces.
A pay-by-cell system allows drivers to pay for, and top up their parking meters using a cell phone or smart phone. The enforcement systems are automatically updated so that mobile payments are automatically visible to enforcement officers. The overlay of parking data and occupancy data allows for optimised enforcement routes and the monitoring of special parking permits.
Merge®’s smart pricing algorithms use the parking sensor data to make parking patterns insightful to parking managers using dashboard capabilities, and to refine rates based on demand. This is done at one-month intervals for time-of-day pricing and in 30 minute intervals for real-time dynamic pricing (in operation in small zones since December 2013). Blocks that are often full see their rates increased; blocks that are often underutilised see their rates decreased. The result is that drivers get an incentive to use a different mode, or to park slightly further away to help reduce congestion. When rates are set appropriately there is a high probability that spaces are available in every block, this reduces the need to circle around looking for parking resulting in less time lost, reduced congestion, safer driving and better access to shops.
Merge® works by monitoring the 20 nearest parking spaces for each space and for every minute. Grouping spaces into:
This allows for space time averages in four categories that coincide with L.A. Department of Transportation’s stated parking goals. In most cases demand patterns suggested that rates go down rather than up: 39% of blocks saw a rate decrease, 14% a rate increase. The biggest effect of rate increases in congested areas was around 7pm with 15% occupancy reduction. The biggest effect of a rate decrease was at 1pm, with an average occupancy increase of occupancy of 10%.
What are the results?
Merge® focused on achieving two overarching goals: saving time and improving traffic flow. Time is a valuable asset that is wasted in congestion, looking for spaces, and figuring out how to pay meters. Guided parking has a clear advantage to motorists looking for parking spaces since they spend less time and energy finding a space. But since the need to circle around looking for parking is reduced it also benefits general traffic and citizens by reducing congestion and pollution. Studies have shown that 30% of urban congestion is attributed to drivers looking for parking.
The results of introducing the Merge® system in Los Angeles included increased space availability of between 10 to 30%; a 10% reduction in parking congestion (i.e. less cars cruising and circling looking for a space); good levels of acceptance from users, and a small (2%) increase in revenue from parking fees. Future work in 2014 will look more at mode change impacts.
Figure 1. (Click to enlarge) Pre-project rates, rates after first main rate change, and rates to go into effect February 2014.
Figure 2. (Click to enlarge) The impact of demand based rate changes on under use and congestion. Both under use and congestion are down. The curves show the number of spaces on average in under-used state (more than 70% free in the nearest 20) and congested state (more than 90% full in nearest 20). Solid lines show averages before the first rate change, dashed the averages over the first 6 months of the project. (Click to enlarge)
What made this success possible?
Xerox made a significant investment in the R&D and software development to build Merge®. This happened simultaneously with the issuance of an RFP by the LA DOT and US DOT for the LA Express Park project. The main policy change that made the RFP possible, was the City of LA empowered DOT to raise and lower parking rates to address congestion.
Merge® was implemented for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for a project mostly funded by the United States Department of Transportation. Recently, the Washington DC Department of Transportation signed a contract with Xerox to implement Merge® citywide.
What the Jury said
The jury was impressed with the capability introduced with this initiative, in particular with the achievement of dynamic pricing. The jury also noted the possibility for this initiative to evolve by providing additional information for users regarding alternate options for travel, and that this would offer significant additional benefits for passenger mobility.
The majority of goods transported around the world rely on the container as an instrument for efficient and safe shipping. There is no country today where containers are not used for transport. And the rapid economic development of countries like China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa has significantly increased their share of container movements in the last decade, which has seen huge increases in the volumes of containerised exports from China to Europe and the USA.
Considering that China has a positive trade balance and new containers are manufactured there, ocean carriers continuously have to reposition their empty containers to their next point of cargo. Ocean carriers end up spending about €25 billion a year on repositioning empty containers to the point of their next cargo. On average 20% of the containers transported on sea, and 40% transported on land are empty.
The issues with empty containers are felt strongest in countries with large ports, but any country that deals with trade imbalances is affected. The economic inefficiency of empty container shipments cuts into shipping lines' profitability and increases unfavourable greenhouse gas and fine particle emissions. It hurts retailers and companies that need to ship goods around the world and who are charged an extra fee by the shipping lines when they transport goods on the dominant leg to account for the empty return.
The costs and environmental issues caused by this empty transport can be significantly lowered when shipping lines use foldable containers. The 4FOLD is the first 40ft High-Cube foldable container in the world that successfully has passed the tests of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO certification proves that the steel foldable container meets the same requirements as a standard container.
How does it work?
When empty the 4FOLD collapsible container can be folded to a quarter of the height. Four folded containers can be bundled; one bundle of four folded containers has exactly the same dimensions as a standard container. A bundle of folded containers can thus be handled in the same manner as a non-foldable, normal container.
Folding and unfolding of the container is done with standard lifting equipment. Operation of the container is completely done from the outside. The (un)folding time is around four minutes. This results in fast, easy and save folding and unfolding of the container.
The 4FOLD container is currently in use around the world by three major shipping lines and one leasing company. A pilot project is running between the Netherlands and Spain to assess the performance of 4FOLD containers in economic, environmental and technical terms.
In this project, 4FOLD is used a logistic supply chain that originates in Venlo (Netherlands), from where containers are transported to Valencia and Bilbao in Spain. In the Netherlands, transport by inland waterways is used. The project was set up by the shipping line MacAndrews (a subsidiary of CMA-CGM), the Rotterdam-based leasing company CARU, the developer of the 4FOLD container HCI, the network orchestrator CAROZ and the retailer BVB Euroveen. The consortium is supported by expertise from the Delft University of Technology.
By using 4FOLD containers, the costs of the empty transport back from Spain to the Netherlands are reduced by such an extent that it becomes cheaper to use a container in a multimodal setup than to use a truck on the road. Thus, modal shift is stimulated in a natural way. Since the transport is cheaper and does not require more time, this is an attractive proposal to retail companies. In comparison to the current transport, approximately 10 to 20% of the total transport cost is saved and between 30 and 40% of all CO2 emissions resulting from it.
4FOLD is the first foldable container in the world to receive the official ISO certificate, which was granted on 27 March 2013. It has passed all tests in the ISO certification process under supervision of classification society Korean Register (KR). The ISO certificate guarantees that the foldable container meets all industry requirements and can be used in the existing logistic system. In November 2013 a next series of 4FOLD containers was granted the same certification, this time under supervision of the classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and again Korean Register (KR).
The jury awarded a Special Mention to Singapore’s Land Transport Authority for their ‘MyTransport.SG’ initiative, offering a one-stop integrated transport companion for motorists, commuters, cyclists, citizens with special needs, students and tourists.
In the eyes of the jury, ‘MyTransport.SG’ is “an excellent example of bringing the customer to the centre of transport policy” through integration of all transport modes, the provision of tailored information about travel optimisation, the standardisation of data provision, and the financial support for new ideas.
About the Award
This new award recognises an innovation that has the potential to significantly improve the transport industry. The innovation could be based on technological change, operational change (e.g. business process), or organisational change (e.g. business model) or a combination of these. The innovation must have either received financial or regulatory approval for implementation or be in early implementation phase (less than 2 years).
Civil engineering professor at George Mason University named ‘Young Researcher of the Year’ at Summit of Transport Ministers.
Dr Shanjiang Zhu, assistant professor of engineering at George Mason University in Virginia, USA, is the recipient of the International Transport Forum’s 2014 Young Researcher of the Year Award.
Dr Zhu was selected by an international jury of experts for his work on choosing the best strategies against traffic congestion.
He will be presented with the distinction on 21 May in Leipzig, Germany during the opening plenary of the Annual Summit of transport ministers organised by the International Transport Forum. Ministers from the ITF’s 54 member countries and several invited countries will be present.
Various policy options to combat traffic congestion exist. However, these are difficult to compare in their impact. Dr Zhu developed a new multi-dimensional analytical framework for comparing travel demand management policies and then applied the model to the city of Beijing. His winning entry is entitled "Rationing and pricing strategies for congestion mitigation: Behavioral theory, econometric model, and application in Beijing". Abstract of the winning paper
“In facing increasing congestion, governments must be very creative in their choices of travel demand management strategies”, says Dr Zhu.
“Some emerging approaches, such as ‘vehicle lotteries’ and ‘one day without a car’, have been tested in mega-cities. While sharing the results of these experiments is useful for other cities or in other parts of the same city, not all successes are transferable. The development of analytical models moves the practice from simply reapplication of empirical learning to methods of analysis that take into account the special features of the city or area in question.”
Dr Zhu added: “In my research, I developed an analytical approach that integrates a city’s traffic network adding economic considerations and traveller behaviour which have a strong effect on the outcome. Our research team built on past experience and then tested the model on Beijing’s congestion problems. This research promises to assist those making policy decisions in the world’s most congested cities using technically sound approaches.”
The research work is a collaboration with Dr. Lei Zhang and Longyuan Du from the University of Maryland.
The winner will be available for media after the award ceremony on 21 May at the ITF stand (16:00-16:30, Level +1 of Congress Center Leipzig)
About the winner
Dr Shanjiang Zhu has benefitted from education on three continents. He is a dual-degree graduate of Tsinghua University, China, and the Ecole Centrale de Nantes, France. He obtained his doctorate from the University of Minnesota, USA, in 2010. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Transportation Planning and Engineering in the civil engineering department at George Mason University, USA. One of his main research interests is Big Data in transport. Photo of the winner for free download
About the Award
The ITF Young Researcher of the Year Award aims to highlight the importance of transport research for sound transport policy formulation and implementation and to foster closer links between transport policy and research. The award carries a prize of 5 000 euros. It is open to young researchers under 35 years of age who have undertaken their research in an institution, university or consultancy firm located in a member country of the International Transport Forum. See 2014 shortlist for the award.