Madrid's New Parking Meters Charge More For Gas Guzzlers

Drive a diesel car in Madrid and soon it'll cost you in more than fuel. The Spanish city is introducing new smart parking meters which will add a surcharge to your tariff if you're driving a heavily polluting car.

The new initiative, which starts on July 1st, will use a complex pricing table—dictated by engine type and the year of car manufacture—to raise and lower prices depending on the vehicle you're parking up. Hybrids will pay 20 percent less than the average; a diesel car made in 2001 will pay 20 percent more. Electric cars will be able to park for free.

It's a long overdue solution to Madrid's pollution problem. The city regularly fails to meet the EU average for air quality, often exceeding guideline limits for nitrogen dioxide. Adjusting parking fees is thought to be one of the best ways of discouraging car use in city centers.

In fact, the smart meters won't just adjust price based on vehicle specs: they'll also vary according to how busy a street is. Empty streets will cost less; streets that are practically full will charge up to 20 percent more. Pricing will, depending on the car and how busy the street is, vary between €0.66 and €3.29 an hour (or just just be free, if you're in an electric vehicle).

It's estimated that 1 in 4 drivers will suffer significantly higher parking costs as a result of the new meters. With any luck, that will discourage some of the 1 million drivers per day that Madrid's road hold from driving into the center. [Guardian]

Image by Jose Maria Cuellar under Creative Commons license