Car traffic passing by the bullring in Calle de Xàtiva, Valencia

Car traffic passing by the bullring in Calle de Xàtiva, Valencia

Mobility  |  Sustainability  |  Cities

Revolutionary roads: Ecopeatge, an eco-tolling system for Valencia

The Spanish city is testing an urban road usage and pollution charge, based on satellite and cloud technology provided by Abertis Mobility Services: here's how it would work, once implemented

Technologies, competencies and purposes are converging in Valencia to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable traffic management: Ecopeatge is the revolutionary road which could ultimately bring a cleaner urban environment, better air quality and health for its citizens. A satellite-based tolling system, supported by cloud computing would help achieve the goal of 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. The initiative was recently presented but it's still at pilot-test phase. It is promoted by the Mesura Association, along with Valencia City Council and relies on the technical expertise of Abertis Mobility Services, an Abertis Group company.

The Ecopeatge is part of Missions València 2030, a program to improve the quality of life in the city, which is on track to become one of the 100 carbon neutral urban centers in Europe by that year. Moreover, the implementation of a pay-per-use system is within the guidelines included in the state law on Climate Change for the 149 Spanish cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, which from the year 2023 must be implemented to discourage the entry of cars into polluted or congested areas.

As explained by Xavier Querol, Research Professor at the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) “congestion charges are widely known in the forum of air quality as one of the most efficient measures abating the number of circulating vehicles in the cities and we have know that where it has been implemented - like in Stockholm or Milan – it has helped decrease urban traffic by 35%. There are no equivalent measures that can reach this.

There can be social discrimination but this can be reduced by introducing car pooling lanes.

We believe this is one of the main measures and in the project Air use supported by the European Commission we had already devised a strategy to reduce air pollution derived from traffic through several actions.

The first one is to improve the metropolitan public transport with park and ride/bus lines, secondly the urban charge as it decreases car access, third parking restriction policies, fourth low emission zones and regulated urban freight distribution and fifth and most important an urban re-design to include more pedestrian and biking areas. To do this we have to first reduce the number of vehicles in the cities and congestion charging is one of the most effective measures.”

Currently, more than 50% of the emissions within the city comes from transport and therefore one of the most effective solutions is drastically reducing the use of private vehicles, both combustion and electric. “To this we must add the lack of public space that the cars coming from the metropolitan area fundamentally already take away from the residents of Valencia - says the Mesura Association -. Given this, technological change is necessary, but not sufficient, it is necessary to implement a green taxation system based on the Urban Toll. Low air quality must be replaced by an inclusive model based on efficient public transport”.

The Mesura Association brings together various professionals and entities to join forces in obtaining and using data at the service of social transformation initiatives. The Ecopeatge involves academic researchers, innovators, designers and administrators from Càtedra de Dades Catedrades, Càtedra de Governança de la Ciutat de València, València city council Climate change service, Las Naves and València city council Data infrastructure working group.

The project is studying different scenarios for the implementation of the urban toll system, based on an inclusive mobility regulation to determine how prices should be set, on five criteria: functional diversity, large family, self-employed, electric vehicles and residents. The pilot itself contemplates the implementation of different rates for specific situations such as workers who need to use a private vehicle to access their job, people with functional diversity or less polluting vehicles, and so on.

Fifty volunteers with different profiles (individuals, delivery vehicles and services) have had the collaboration of satellite technology and a connected car to measure parameters, such as the distance traveled for pricing, to carry out the test. Based on this, some examples of simulated rates have been established, along with a maximum cost per day of €8, which in no case will be exceeded, regardless of the number of kilometers traveled within the perimeter of the city's urban toll.

A worker from the University of Valencia who lives in Alaquàs and drives an Euro 4 diesel vehicle, on a working Monday at rush hour, would pay a fee of €1.87 for a journey of 8.8km within the eco-toll. A person with reduced mobility would have a rate of €0, since the car is essential to guarantee his mobility. A resident of Valencia who goes to work in Pobla de Farnals, benefits a discounted rate for 4.6km traveled within the eco-toll perimeter on a weekend, since he is a large family member.

The reduction of traffic obtained in the simulated scenarios is between 18.6% and 23.2%, which would contribute to improve air quality and reduce the current GHG emissions of the entire city between 13.3% and 16.7%. In addition, taking into account the indicators of air quality, it would be significantly improved by a decrease in emissions, as in the case of NOx gases (nitrogen monoxide NO and dioxide NO₂), which would be reduced by up to 21%.

"According to data from the Spanish Ministry of Transport, 35% of greenhouse gas are emitted in urban environments and more than 75% of NO₂ and PM in the air is provided by road traffic in cities - says Christian Barrientos, CEO of Abertis Mobility Services (AMS) -. We must work together and implement systems such as charging for use, to fight climate change and change the paradigm in the management of urban mobility, drastically reducing traffic within cities, managing to improve the quality of the air and, therefore, the quality of life of the citizens”.

The distribution of the Kms traveled by vehicles in the test area was 26% by private ones, about 10% service vehicles and the remaining 64% are delivery. As a result of the Ecopeatge implementation, space in the city for pedestrians, public transport, bicycles and scooters would be prioritized.

AMS is the competence center of the Abertis group, with a presence in 10 countries, focusing on mobility services and technological platforms for infrastructures. It has already implemented a cloud solution for intelligent traffic management through payment for use and pollution, based on satellites and connected vehicles in the United States, in the interurban environment in Oregon and Utah, and it will soon be available in Virginia.

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