The Ecopass in Milan


The city of Milan introduced a special Traffic Tax on Wednesday, January 2nd 2008, in an attempt to reduce pollution and traffic in the city center. Every resident, and perhaps even each visitor to the city, will certainly appreciate the Mayor’s attempt to turn her attention to the ‘health and well-being of its citizens’. Nobody can argue that taking a long deep breath in the city today is not easy to do without a cough or two.

The new tax will charge some motorists from €2 to €10 a day (about US$15) to drive into Italy's business capital city center from 7:30am to 7:30pm from Monday to Friday. The first of its kind in Italy, the Ecopass has lead to a lot of frustrated drivers in the first few days as many residents coming back from their Christmas holidays were not prepared for its application. To make things worse, a few logistic and technological glitches made it difficult for drivers to buy the passes or to call into the city’s info center.

The rates of the so-called Ecopass are based on the class of car, with the least polluting ones totally exempt from these fees altogether and the most heavily polluting ones charged the most. Some exemptions to this ruling include those vehicles driven by disabled drivers, vans carrying fresh food products, and Politicians riding in “official vehicles”, who are all exempt from paying the tax. (Does this mean that there are some Politicians driving around in ‘pollution causing cars’?)

Milan expects to generate 24 million Euros (US $35 million) each year from the tax alone. Cameras mounted at forty-three locations surrounding the city record the comings and goings of every motorist will generate significant additional revenue by charging between 81 and 285 Euros (US $120 to $420) on anyone who either neglects to pay the tax 24 hours after entering the zone.

Only time will tell if this new attempt to clean the city’s air will bring the results hoped for. The entire program, which will be in effect for one ‘trial year’, is part of a broader plan to increase public transport and create more green spaces in the city.

As far as other cities are concerned, new data shows that London's congestion tax has actually increased bottlenecks, while voters in Stockholm, Sweden tossed out the political party responsible for creating a congestion tax in 2006. In 2005, voters in Edinburgh, Scotland rejected a congestion tax with a decisive 3-1 vote against the idea in a referendum, but New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, hopes to have his own congestion tax system operational by 2009.

As we can see, the topic is truly a controversial one.

The MY-MILANO.COM Team will be following the evolution of Milan’s Ecopass and its effect on the quality of the air and the traffic conditions in the city. Look for an update on the situation in a few months time!

AM Jan. 08

Back to In & On